At the Bay of Pigs, Grayston Lynch and his band of Cuban brothers learned — first in speechless shock and finally in burning rage — that their most powerful enemies were not Castro’s Soviet-armed and led soldiers massing in Havana, but the Ivy League’s Best and Brightest dithering in Washington.
Lynch trained, in his own words, “brave boys most of whom had never before fired a shot in anger.” Short on battle experience, yes, but they fairly burst with what Bonaparte and George Patton valued most in a soldier — morale. They’d seen the face of Castro/Communism point-blank: stealing, lying, jailing, poisoning minds, murdering.
They’d heard the chilling “Fuego!”” as Castro and Che’s firing squads murdered thousands of brave countrymen. More importantly, they heard the “Viva Cuba Libre!” from the bound and blindfolded patriots, right before the bullets ripped them apart. They set their jaws and resolved to smash this murderous barbarism that was ravaging their homeland. And they went at it with a vengeance….
By the second day, nearly half of these almost suicidal brave Cuban exile pilots had met a fiery death from Castro’s jets.
This was too much for their enraged and heartsick American trainers at the base in Nicaragua. Four of them suited up, gunned the engines and joined the fight. These weren’t pampered Ivy Leaguers. They were Alabama Air Guard officers, men with archaic notions of loyalty and honor. They were watching the decimation. They knew the odds. They went anyway.
All four died on that first mission. All four (Pete Ray, Riley Shamburger, Leo Barker, and Wade Grey) have their names in a place of honor alongside their fallen Cuban comrades on The Bay of Pigs Memorial, plus streets named after them in Miami’s Little Havana, plus their crosses at Miami’s Cuban Memorial cemetery.