The Guatemalan president and CIA had been beating the anti-Communist drum for months. The Guatemalan president is described as spreading lies about a Cuban warship off his countrys coast there was none, says Pfeiffer and as a byproduct helps brigade recruitment in August 1960.
Then on Nov. 13, 1960, a large group of dissident Guatemalan Army officers led an uprising against the presidency. The military seized the Caribbean banana port Puerto Barrios, and junior officers disarmed the chief of staff at La Auroria Air Force headquarters.
The president, for his part, blamed Cuban Communists and appealed to the CIA for help. Pfeiffer called it a convenient lie.
The charge that the revolt was Castro-backed would be repeated throughout the period, Pfeiffer wrote on page 34. But no evidence was ever found to indicate that it was anything other than an internal uprising of dissident Guatemalans, principally elements of the Army.
Either way, the special CIA-Guatemalan relationship was in peril, as was the future of the Cuban Brigade.
Cuban foot soldiers, believing that Cuban Communists were behind the rebellion, volunteered by the hundreds. American pilot C.W. Seigrist reported he and another CIA pilot flew sorties aboard B-26 Invader planes, each with Cuban pilot-observers in the cockpit. At Puerto Barrios, they strafed the area with rockets and .50-caliber machine-gun fire. C-46 Commando planes followed carrying members of the Brigade.
The ambassador was kept in the dark about the operation. Seigrist said he and the Cuban fighters were all volunteers. We felt that what we were working for would all go down the tubes if the revolt was successful and we were exposed, he says in the official history.
Former Bay of Pigs pilot Esteban Bovo, whose son is a Miami-Dade County commissioner, was on standby to join a second Brigade wave defending Ydígoras Fuentes. About 200 Cuban exile infantrymen were dispatched to Puerto Barrios, he recalled, but the rebellion was over by the time they arrived.
If we lost the friendliness of the Guatemalan government, the operation would have to be disbanded, he said in an interview with The Miami Herald. Not transferred. Disbanded.
The episode so rattled the Americans, according to Pfeiffer, that U.S. officials considered pulling up stakes and transferring the Cuban exile rebel force to another country.
Secrecy was still crucial to the naive U.S. view that it could portray the invasion as a wholly Cuban exile, not puppet, operation a notion that the Bay of Pigs veteran Juan Clark, a Miami Dade College sociologist, finds laughable even now.
Everything was provided by the CIA, and the other American agencies involved, he said. Cubans only provided the sweat, the blood and the dead.
Besides, the training of the Cubans in Guatemala was hardly a secret. The U.S. ambassador to Guatemala, John J. Muccio, was not a party to the CIA negotiations and says in the history that he learned about the details not from the Americans but President Ydígoras Fuentes.
He couldnt keep anything to himself ... assumed that I knew what was going on and he talked, Muccio said.
A former U.S. military attaché to the CIA in Miami at the time, Manny Chavez, says Ydígoras Fuentes complained that the Cuban exiles couldnt keep a secret. Theyd get homesick and sneak off the base clandestinely at night, they were hitting the bars and the cathouses.