Text & Pictures: Robert Vrydagh ©SBAP 2014

 

The Museo Del Aire was a national aviation museum located in the south-western suburbs of Havana, Cuba. Until August 2010, the Museum address was: Museo Del Aire, Avenida 212, between la avenida 29 and 31, La Coronela, La Lisa. The Museum of the Revolution (Spanish: Museo de la Revolución) is a museum located in the Old Havana section of “La Habana”. The museum is housed in what was the Presidential Palace of all Cuban presidents from Mario García Menocal to Fulgencio Batista. It became the Museum of the Revolution during the years following the Cuban revolution. The museum's Cuban history exhibits are largely devoted to the period of the revolutionary war of the 1950's and to the country's post-1959 history. Portions of the museum are also devoted to pre-revolutionary Cuba, including its War of Independence waged against Spain.

Behind the building lies the Granma Memorial, a large glass enclosure which houses the Granma, the yacht which took Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba for the revolution. Around the Granma an SA-2 Guideline surface-to-air missile of the type that shot down a U.S. Lockheed U-2 spy plane during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the engine of the U-2 airplane is displayed. There are also various vehicles and tanks used in the revolution display. Near the museum is a SU-100, a Soviet tank destroyer.
In August 2010, the museum was closed, and the entire
aircraft collection was moved to
San Antonio de los Baños Air Base.

San Antonio de los Baños Airfield (ICAO: MUSA) is a military air base located near San Antonio de los Baños, a municipality in the province of “La Habana”. It is located approximately 4.8 km southwest of the city of San Antonio de los Baños and about 50 km southwest of the Cuban capital, Havana.

 

History:
World War II

The station was built in 1942 and was first used by American forces on August 29, 1942. The U.S. forces called it "Cayuga".  The first United States Army Air Forces aircraft arrived at the airfield on October 16, 1942. It was used for antisubmarine patrols and also as a training airfield for B-29 Superfortress crew who flew training missions from airfields in Nebraska and Kansas.

On September 09, 1942, Cuba and United States sign a new naval and Military Agreement of Cooperation for a second airfield that would later be known as San Julian Air Base. The Pinar del Rio area was considered ideally situated for further development and the Army began construction by expanding an existing Pan American emergency landing airfield on November 01, 1942.

When construction was completed on July 1, 1943 the new facility was re-designated Naval Air Facility (NAF) San Julian. Between 1943 and 1945, major assigned units were:
15th Antisubmarine Squadron (26th Antisubmarine Wing).  From July 25 until October 01, 1943 (Lockheed B-34 Ventura).
23rd Antisubmarine Squadron (26th Antisubmarine Wing).  From February 28 until April 24, 1943 (Lockheed A-29 Hudson).
417th Bombardment Squadron (25th Bombardment Group).  From April 13 until August 1943 (B-18 Bolo).
89th Combat Crew Training Wing.

From 1943 until 1945 also, numerous B-17, B-24 and B-29 group air echelons where deployed for training at Batista.

 

Post-World War

With the end of the war, the United States withdrew its military forces from the airfield and this was turned over to the Cuban government on April 30, 1946. It was known as the Batista AAF (1953–1959). In a 1962 briefing paper on the Cuban Missile Crisis prepared by officials at the United States Department of Defense, the base was identified as "the headquarters for the Cuban revolutionary Air Force and the assembly point for all MIGs except the MIG-21, which had previously been received in Cuba.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet Armed Forces elements, deployed as part of “Operation Anadyr,” were based at the airfield of San Antonio de los Baños. The 32nd Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment of the Soviet Air Forces, flying MiG-21F-13s, had also elements there. Initially the regiment sent its 2nd Squadron from Santa Clara air base to San Antonio de los Baños and then later the whole regiment was concentrated at this latter base. In 1963 the regiment transferred its aircraft to the Cuban Air Force and returned home. In Cuba the regiment served under the title of 213th Fighter Aviation Regiment.

 

Today

The airfield is an active Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces airbase and the current based units are:

UM 1779 Regiment
UM 2661 Squadron-
Mikoyan flying MiG-29A and UB, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23ML and UB fighters UM 5010 Intercept Squadron flying Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21BIS fighters and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21UM fighter trainers.

North American P-51D Mustang
Douglas B-26C Invader
Vought-Sikorsky OS2U-3 Kingfisher
Hawker Sea Fury FB 11
North American Harvard Mk 4 Antonov An 2
Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star Mikoyan Gurevitch MIG 15UTI
Aero L-39C Albatros Mil-Mi 4
North American T-28A Trojan
Mil-Mi 17 Mil-Mi 8T
Mikoyan Gurevitch MIG 17AS Mikoyan Gurevitch MIG 21-F-13
Mikoyan Gurevitch MIG 19P
Mikoyan Gurevitch MIG 21UM
Mikoyan Gurevitch MIG 23ML
Mikoyan Gurevitch MIG 23ML & MIG 23BN Cessna 310C
Mikoyan Gurevitch MIG 29UB
Iliyushin Il 14 Yakovlev Yak 40
Antonov An 26
Mikoyan Gurevitch MIG 21R
Mikoyan Gurevitch MIG 21R cockpit Knowing the russian language is clearly an advantage
Mikoyan Gurevitch MIG 23 cockpit
Old planes...the ideal shelter...

Tracked anti-aircraft guns

Surface to air missiles:
S-125 Neva left and  S-75 Divina right of the picture
The Bay of Pigs invasion: Operation Puma
 

The landing on Pig's Bay in April 1961 was a failed military invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles supported by the United States. Planned within the administration of Dwight Eisenhower, the operation was launched at the start of the mandate of John F. Kennedy.

The aim was the disembarkation on Cuba on April 17, 1961 of 1.400 exiled Cubans recruited and trained by the CIA in the USA, to overthrow the new Cuban government of Fidel Castro, who led economical politics adverse to the American interests and looking to get closer with the USSR. The whole operation was a failure.

In the morning of Saturday April 15, six American B-26 bombers in Cuban colours, violating the international conventions, took off at Nicaragua to attack the airbases of Havana and Santiago (south). Most of the Cuban army and civilian airplanes were destroyed on the ground. Only nine aircraft, who were not on the ground at that time, stayed unscathed and played a major role in the following 48 hours. On April 16, during the funeral of the seven victims fallen during the bombing raids, Fidel Castro said, comparing the invasion to the attack on Pearl Harbour:

"What the imperialists can not forgive us, is the fact that a socialistic revolution triumphed right under the United States nose".

The morning after, on April 17 at about 01.15 AM, the Brigade 2506 landed at two places, Playa Larga and Playa Girón, at the end and the eastern entry of Pig's Bay some 202 km south-east of Havana. Off the coast, numerous cargos and other American warships to strengthen this bridgehead. The Cuban exiles, who landed in an agricultural region of which the residents gained from the agrarian reform set up by Catro's government, did not receive the awaited support of the local population.
The intervention of Castro's militia and troops, supported by a dozen Cuban military aircraft, put an end to the invasion and the anti-Castrist fighters surrendered to the Cuban army on April 19.

Cuban Sea Fury's armend against the invasion force (Cuban archives) (Cuban archives)
(Cuban archives) Cuban B-26 invaders during the Bay of Pigs operations (Cuban archives)
Sea Fury engine Remain of B-26: with US registration and disguised with the acronym of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. It w&as shot down near the Australia sugar mill during the Bay of Pigs actions in 1961. The corpse of one of the two crew members, Captain Thomas Willard Ray of the USAF, remained in Cuba during 18 years. The US government did not make the official arrangements to take him back since it would prove to the world their direct involvment in the aggression on  the island. The remains were sent back in 1979 during Jimmy Carter's term as President.
Cuba Missiles Crisis
 

The Cuban missile crisis is a consequence of the events that took place between October 14 and 28, 1962 opposing the United States and the Soviet Union regarding the Russian nuclear missiles facing towards the United States territory from the Cuban island and which brought both countries very near to a nuclear war.

Paroxysmal moment of the Cold War, the Cuban crisis emphasized on the limits of peaceful coexistence and ended with a withdrawal of the USSR in return for a public concession and two confidential promises granted by the Kennedy administration. Apparently insignificant at that time, they were considered very constraining by the Western world through the next decennia regarding the foreign policy of the United States.

After the crisis a "red telephone" was installed connecting directly the White House to the Kremlin as to establish a direct communication mean between the executives of the two superpowers. But also to avoid that a new crisis of this kind could lead up to a diplomatic deadlock, depicted in Stanley Kubrick's movie "Dr Strangelove".
The resolution of this crisis was the start of a new period within the Cold War... the Relaxation.

 
Russian missile launch site
(US DOD)
USAF RF-101 Voodoo during recce flight over Casilda port on November 6th 1962, we can see a Russian freighter with 6 covered missile on the deck (US DOD)

USAF Major Rudolf Anderson
was the only one American victim of this crisis (US DOD)
The Lockheed U-2A and the wrecks of
the 56-6676 shooted down in Cuba on October 27, 1962 (US DOD)
Major Andersson U-2 engine remains A part of the wing
Other view of the U-2 wing Inscription and bullet impacts
Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez
   

Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez was selected as part of the Soviet Union's seventh Intercosmos program on March 01, 1978. His backup in the Intercosmos program was fellow Cuban José López Falcón. Tamayo, along with Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko, was launched into space aboard Soyuz 38 from Baikonur Cosmodrome on September 18, 1980, at 19:11 UTC. After docking with Salyut 6, Tamayo and Romanenko conducted experiments in an attempt to find what causes the space adaptation syndrome (SAS) and perhaps even find a cure. They also experimented on the crystallization of sucrose in microgravity for the benefit of Cuba's sugar industry. The SAS experiment involved wearing special adjustable shoes for six hours every day that placed a load on the arch of the foot. After 124 orbits around the Earth (for a total of 7 days, 20 hours and 43 minutes), Tamayo and Romanenko landed 180 km from Dzhezkazgan. The landing was risky, as it was during the night.

Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez space suit
exhibed in the
Museo de la Revolución
Yuri Romanenko & Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez
(Russia Space Agency)
Museo Playa Girón
   

In April 1961, Playa Girón was one of two landing sites for seaborne forces of about 1,500 armed Cuban exiles during the Bay of Pigs Invasion, an American CIA sponsored attempt to overthrow the new government of Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro. Over 72 hours, fighting took place in many parts of the Cienaga de Zapata, with Playa Girón being the last remaining area occupied by the invaders. Today, the Museo Girón is a small museum dedicated to this historical conflict.

Hawker Sea Fury FB 11... the workhorse of the FAR during the "Bay of Pigs" campaign
Originating from Russia, a T34/85 tank Remaining material of the "Bay of Pigs" invasion

 

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