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Bay of Pigs: In the Skies Over Girón
The Sea Fury FAR 541, piloted by major Enrique Carrera, sunk the main CIA supply ship
Supply ship Houston`s remains
A crashed B-26, one of the CIA-sponsored invaders
Castro, lower right, watches from a tank near Playa Giron during the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961
15 April 1961
In the early morning of april 15 1961, eight CIA B-26B (Solid Nose), with Fuerza Aerea Revolucionaria markings but piloted by cuban exiled crews, took off from Happy Valley in Nicaragua and headed to Cuba. At 6:00 AM, the planes attacked La Libertad airbase where they destroyed a Sea Fury, among other planes. Seven people were killed. Later that same morning, another Sea Fury was destroyed in a hangar of the MOA bay mining company. Shortly after, the San Antonio de los Banos airbase and the Antonio Maceo airport were attacked by the B-26Bs. By the end of that day, the Fuerza Aerea Revolucionaria was left with less than half of its original air power. There remained only two B-26C, two Sea Furies, and two T-33A at San Antonio de los banos airbase, and only one Sea Fury at the Antonio Maceo airport. On the other hand, two of the attacking B-26 were damaged by ground fire, one of them managed to reach Key West with one engine feathered and low on fuel, and the other landed at Miami International Air Port in almost the same conditions.

Around 2:00 AM on april 17, the CIA/cuban exiled assault force reached the shore at Playa Giron but soon they were discovered by an army patrol. The soldiers alerted the nearing bases and several skirmishes broke up. The two surviving Sea Furies were deployed from the San Antonio airbase, and within fifteen minutes they were over the area, making several low passes and strafing the invading forces. When the FAR B-26Cs arrived and began to attack the invaders, the Sea Furies headed to the sea in search of the mother ships. Soon, they were located and the Sea Furies began to attack them. The Sea Fury FAR 541, piloted by major Enrique Carrera, damaged with rockets the command and control ship `Marsopa` and later, sunk the main supply ship `Houston`. Now the invading forces had no command post and almost all the supplies of ammo, food and communications for the invasion were in the bottom of the sea with the `Houston`.

One of the Sea Fury (FAR 542), piloted by the nicaraguan Carlos Ulloa, was lost to AA fire from an invading ship while he was trying to shot down a curtiss C-46 of the invading forces. Soon after, the four T-33A arrived and began strafing the ships while they were trying to reach international waters. With the worsening of the situation for the invading forces due to the swampy terrain and the strong defense showed by the cuban Army, four B-26B were deployed from Nicaragua, but after entering the area, one was shot down by a T-33A and another by the Sea Fury piloted by maj. Carrera. A third B-26B was badly damaged by a Sea Fury (possibly FAR 543) piloted by Lt. Douglas Rudd. Both surviving B-26B managed to scape to Miami.

Near the end of that day, the Sea Fury 541, this time piloted by Gustavo Bourzac, strafed the invading ship `Rio Escondido` near international waters. From then on, the two surviving Sea Furies concentrated only on ground attack missions against the invasion forces.

Within the next 72 hours, the Fuerza Aerea Revolucionaria gained total air superiority over the invading force. By april 20, two more B-26B were shot down by the FAR’s T-33A, and on april 21, ten of their twelve B-26B were destroyed. Attempts to escort the bombers with Nicaraguan Mustangs were made by the invading force, but the idea was quickly discarded; the Mustangs could not reach Cuba, engage in combat and then return to Nicaragua. These planes just didn`t had the range to do the job.

By wedneday april 21, the invading troops were pushed back to their landing zone at Playa Giron. Surrounded by the cuban army and constantly hammered by FAR aircraft, some began to surrender while others fled into the hills. In total 114 men were killed during the failed invasion.
by Mario E. Overall
Article ID 241
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