Body of Toledo soldier of fortune cannot be found
Search of Cuba cemetery leaves question of Castroís involvement
By MICHAEL D. SALLAH
BLADE NATIONAL AFFAIRS WRITER
When the widow of William Morgan asked the Cuban government to allow
his body to be returned to the United States last month, workers at the
Cemetery in Havana were certain they knew where he had been laid to rest.
The Toledo soldier of fortune, who had been executed by a Cuban firing
in 1961, was one of the most celebrated rebel fighters of the revolution,
attracting visitors for years after he died.
But four decades after his highly publicized death, Morganís corpse - like a Cold War secret - has vanished.
After searching for the last month, cemetery workers say they are unable
to find the grave of the charismatic tough man known as the Yanqui
The missing corpse is expected to add more mystery to the memory of
the high school dropout who stunned his family in 1957 by leaving his Toledo
home to join a revolution 1,400 miles away.
"I just canít believe this," says his widow, Olga Goodwin. "They are playing games. I know heís still there."
The Cuban-born woman, who lives in West Toledo, says she will continue to push for the return of his body to his hometown.
Another person who is just as perplexed over the whereabouts of the
remains is Theresa Del Pino, whose relatives allowed Morgan to be buried
The 60-year-old woman attended the burial service for Morgan and her
husband, Jesus Carrera, in Colon Cemetery on the morning after they were
executed. She says she knows precisely where Morgan was interred.
"I was there. I saw his body. How do you just lose a grave?" says Mrs. Del Pino, who now lives in Miami.
Luis Fernandez, a press attache for the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The news is a blow to the cause of Morganís 65-year-old widow, who has
been petitioning the Cuban government for the last month to return her
husbandís corpse to Toledo.
Her story has drawn the attention of Miamiís exile community - where
Morgan is still revered - as well as ardent supporters of Fidel Castro
in Cuba, where
Morgan is considered a traitor.
Though the American fought on the same side as Castro during the revolution
in 1958, he was openly critical of the bearded leader after the war for
forging ties with the Soviet Union.
Two years after the revolution, Morgan crossed the line by running guns
to the anti-Communist guerrillas - crimes for which he was shot by a firing
on March 11, 1961.
Olga, his widow, says she believes her former husbandís remains are still buried at the historic cemetery, but others are skeptical.
"Castro does not permit the veneration of his dead enemies," says Dr.
Antonio de la Cova, a college professor in Indiana who has studied Morganís
"There are many cases where the bodies of his enemies have been dug up, discarded, you name it. Itís a well-known practice."
Dr. de la Cova believes the Cuban government deliberately discarded
the grave to destroy the memory of the blond-haired guerrilla who was raised
Toledoís Old West End.
"I firmly believe the day that Olga asked for that body, it was thrown
out," said the professor, a Cuban native who teaches at Rose-Hulman Institute
Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.
Though there is no proof the corpse was thrown away, the graves of other
Americans accused of treason in Cuba have been destroyed, according to
In 1961, the remains of American Bobby Fuller, who was accused of plotting against the government, were never buried.
In another case, the corpses of U.S. citizens Howard F. Anderson, 41,
and Angus McNair, 25 - buried side by side - were dug up and tossed away
cemetery in Pinar Del Rio.
Mr. Andersonís daughter, Bonnie Anderson, visited her fatherís grave
in 1998 when she was a CNN correspondent covering the Popeís visit to Cuba.
the gravesite she discovered an empty four-foot-deep hole in the ground and burst into tears.
"It was done out of spite," claims Ms. Anderson, 46.
Twenty years earlier, she visited the grave while she was a reporter for the Miami Herald, and everything was intact.
She believes her fatherís corpse was destroyed because she wrote critical articles of the Castro regime for the Miami Herald after her 1978 visit.
"He even responded to my articles in Gramna [the state news agency],"
says Ms. Anderson. She and her family took her case a step further in December
by filing a $16 million wrongful death suit in a Florida court against the Castro government.
With the help of cemetery workers, British and American reporters began
searching for Morganís grave after The Blade published a three-day series
about his widow last month.
They learned the corpse had been in the marble crypt belonging to Mrs. Del Pinoís family but was moved in April, 1971.
When they went to the second grave site, it was gone.
Cemetery workers said they were convinced they knew the location of
Morganís remains. But when they opened a crypt containing 14 boxes, Morganís
body was not there, according to a Dallas Morning News correspondent in Havana.
The reporter, acting on information and sources from The Blade, did not turn up the body anywhere else.
Morganís widow says she recalls visiting her husbandís grave after her release from a Cuban prison in 1972. "It was there with his name on it," she says.
Experts say if anyone qualified as a traitor to Castroís government, it was Morgan - and that could account for the mystery.
According to several published accounts, the 32-year-old rebel was upset
about the revolutionary governmentís ties to communism and began delivering
guns to hideouts in the Escambray Mountains of Cuba.
Though Morganís widow believes her husbandís gun running was done solely
to ensure her and her husbandís protection from Castro, Cuban scholars
say he may have been planning a coup. "He very well could have been preparing to overthrow Castro," says Dr. de la Cova.
Others say thereís a chance the corpse is still buried in Colon Cemetery, but it may take years to locate since it may be in a crypt.
With its ornate mausoleums, columns, and sweeping boulevards, the 132-year-old
cemetery is covered with more than 500,000 graves. Set in the heart
of Havana, it remains a repository of Cuban history, with the graves of generals, poets, and even peasant rebels who fought with Castro.
On a bright morning on March 12, 1961, the bullet-riddled bodies of Morgan, 32, and Carrera, 27, were carried to the cemetery for a brief service.
"It was a very sad day," says Mrs. Del Pino, who attended the event with former rebels who fought with Morgan and her husband.
A Spanish priest at the service recalls the sight of sobbing men and women.
"I remember it very vividly because of how emotional it was," said the
Rev. Jose Luis Via Corta in a telephone interview from Spain. "I remember
men crying around the graves. It was a very difficult period in Cuba."
Morganís widow was hiding in the mountains at the time but was arrested two days later.
She says sheíll continue asking for help to find her former husbandís resting place, even if it means pressuring the Castro government.
The Toledo Hispanic Affairs Commission sent a letter last month to the
Cuban government seeking help in returning Morganís corpse. Now the
commission says it will ask for help in finding the grave.
"I am going to ask questions until I get a response," said Baldemar Velasquez, commission chairman.
Ms. Anderson, whose fatherís remains were tossed away by the Cuban government,
says "Olga should not get her hopes up too high. I understand what
sheís going through, and my heart goes out to her," said Ms. Anderson.
"I still remember seeing the deep indentation in the ground where my father was buried -and crying."