But how to get the tons of goods to Cuba without involving the government?
The idea came up to recruit the American Red Cross to handle the delivery of the loaded-down cargo ships. They would leave Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale loaded with medicine and come back loaded down with Cuban refugees.
Gloria Villa, back then a 20-year-old active in winning the release of the brigadistas, was quickly recruited by the Red Cross to travel to Cuba and help process the prisoners because she was a bilingual U.S. citizen.
It was very emotional for me; I knew many of the men from school and the entire experience was heartbreaking, said Villa, who works at a downtown law firm. Her job was to check-in the prisoners for the flight to Miami. Today. I consider it the most important thing I did in my life, including having children.
On the second day of the prisoner flights Dec. 24 more drama broke out.
At one point, my mother, Castro and Donovan were standing on the tarmac of the military airport as Castro demanded that no more prisoner flights take off until he was paid $2.9 million in cash, Perez-Cisneros Barreto said.
Castro had been promised the money in April 1962 when he released 60 wounded brigadistas.
Finagling by RFK, with help from wealthy friends, secured a bank note for the Castro to get the money.
The prisoner flights to Miami continued until the early morning of Christmas Day.
Fifty years since his release, the one bright spot in the invasion effort, Andreu is still haunted by its failure and how it plummeted Cuba into communism and sent him permanently into exile.
I dont know if I have ever been truly happy since then, he said.