Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Words & Warnings

More Schooner Western Union History

Time Magazine reported this article

Friday, Apr. 14, 1961

If bullets were made of paper, the U.S. and Cuba would have annihilated each other last week. The Castro dictatorship charged that U.S. planes "violated" Cuban airspace 49 times in a single month, that a U.S. cruiser fired on a Cuban plane three weeks ago, that a rebel flare-up in Oriente province was "fed ideologically, economically and militarily" by the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo. The U.S., in turn, charged that Havana had maltreated 22 imprisoned Americans by failing not only to provide "needed foods and medicines," but by preventing the neutral Swiss from helping the prisoners.

To these undiplomatic exchanges. President Kennedy added a broadside drafted by Harvard Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., now a White House aide. The 36-page White House paper paid respects to the professed original purpose of the Cuban revolution, but charged that "what began as a movement to enlarge Cuban freedom has been perverted into a mechanism for the destruction of free insti tutions, more drastic than the most ruthless of the hemisphere oldtime military dictatorships."

The Castro Cubans, who knew the accuracy of the indictment, paid it the tribute of calling it "trash cunningly dreamed up by eggheads"; but unfortunately, it seemed to miss the rest of the hemisphere almost completely. The text went unpublished in Bogota and Caracas, drew not a single editorial in Lima, Rio or Buenos Aires.

More than mere talk was involved in an incident last week, six miles at sea north of the Oriente coast, when a Cuban gunboat drew alongside the 96-ton American cable-repair schooner Western Union and ordered it into the Cuban port of Baracoa. Well outside Cuban territorial waters, the unprepossessing Western Union moved slowly to comply, while the skipper sent off a quick message that reached the Guantanamo Naval Base.

Within ten minutes, two swept-wing U.S. jets whooshed over, buzzed the Western Union at high speed, encouraging several Cuban 6-26 light bombers in the area to withdraw. Four hours later, as the Western Union was half a mile off Baracoa, a U.S. destroyer arrived, openly blinker signaled the Western Union an offer of full protection. Minutes passed, and then the Cubans approached the schooner, shouting "Key West." The Western Union eased off for home. The tight moment spelled a clear message: to rescue the Western Union, the U.S. was prepared to use force.

No comments: