• : Episodes of the Revolutionary War, Ernesto Che Guevara

    Episodes of the Revolutionary War, Ernesto Che Guevara

  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Alegria de Pio
  • Battle of La Plata
  • Battle of Arroyo del Infierno
  • Air Attack
  • Surprise Attack at Altos de Espinosa
  • End of a Traitor
  • Bitter Days
  • Reinforcements
  • Forging the Temper
  • A Famous Interview
  • On the March
  • The Arms Arrive
  • Battle of El Uvero
  • Nursing the Wounded
  • The Return
  • Treason in the Making
  • Attack on Bueycito
  • Battle of El Hombrito
  • "El Patojo"
  • Air attack

    following our victorious battle against Sanchez Mosquera's men we traveled along the banks of the La Plata river. Then we crossed the Magdalena and returned to a zone familiar to us: Caracas. But conditions there were much different to those existing when we had first hid in that very same hill. At that time, everyone in the area supported our struggle; now Casillas' troops had passed by, leaving a trail of terror. The peasants had disappeared and all that remained was their huts and a few animals which we had to kill in order to get some food. Experience had shown us that it was not safe to stay in the houses, so after we spent one night in one of these lonely huts we returned to the woods and set up camp near a waterfall, almost at the top of Caracas hill.

    There I received a note from Manuel Fajardo, asking me if it was possible that we might lose the war. Our reply, independent of the state of euphoria following some victory, was always the same: the war would be won. Fajardo explained that he asked the question because "Gallego" Moran had told him it was impossible to win the war; that our cause was lost. Moran had ended by inviting Fajardo to give up the struggle. I reported to Fidel, but I found out that Moran had taken care of telling Fidel that he was going to lay out a few "feelers" to test the troops' morale. Fidel and I agreed that this was not the most adequate system and Fidel addressed the troops urging a more strict discipline and explaining the perils involved if discipline was not observed. He also announced that the crimes of insubordination, desertion, and defeatism were to be punished by death.

    The situation was not a happy one. Our column lacked cohesion. It had neither and ideological awareness nor the esprit de corps that can only be attained through hard, bitter struggle. Day after day, more comrades would ask to be released and to be assigned to missions in the cities although this involved even greater dangers but it was evident that they simply could not stand the rough going. Nevertheless, we maintained our day by day routine. Morin went here and there, trying to locate some food and making contacts with neighboring peasants.

    This was the general state of affairs on the morning of January 30. Eutimio Guerra, the traitor, had asked Fidel's permission to go visit his sick mother; Fidel had agreed, and had even given him some money for the trip which Eutimio had said would take several weeks. We were still unaware of many strange things which later became quite clear due to Eutimio's behaviour following his return. He said he had been near Palma Mocha when he found out that the army was hard on our trail, and had tried to warn us but all he found was the bodies of dead soldiers in the house of Delfin, a peasant who lived near Arroyo del Infierno, where the battle had taken place; he had followed our vague trail until he found our camp. What actually happened was that Eutimio had been captured by the army and now he was working as an enemy agent. He had been promised a large sum of money and a military ranking as a reward for murdering Fidel.

    As part of his plan, Eutimio had left the camp on the night of the 29th. In the early hours of January 30 we heard the sound of airplane engines. Our field kitchen was set up 200 yards downhill, near a brook. Suddenly. we heard a plane diving and the rattle of machineguns, followed by the bombs falling. We still lacked experience and it seemed us that the gunfire came from every side. Fifty-caliber shells explode on contact with the ground, and we received the impression that they came from the woods, in addition to the air strafing. We thought we were surrounded by the enemy.

    I was assigned the mission to wait for the members of the advance guard and pick up a few utensils we had abandoned following the attack. Meeting point was La Cueva del Humo. Accompanied by Chao, a Spanish War veteran, I waited for our men but they did not show up. Carrying a heavy load, we followed a trail and finally sat down to rest. Then we heard sounds and saw Guillermo Garcia now a Major and Sergio Acuna coming from the same trail we had followed. They were members of the advance guard. After a brief consultation, Garcia and I returned to the camp to be met by a scene of desolation. Everything was silent now, and the planes were gone. In a unique display of marksmanship, never again repeated throughout the entire war, the Air Force had hit our field kitchen smack on the nose. The stove was cut in half. A bomb had hit our advance post but luckily, the men had already abandoned it. Moran, who had gone scouting with another man, returned alone, saying that he had seen the planes five of them and that there were no soldiers in the vicinity. All five of us started out, carrying our heavy loads. Suddenly, we came upon a scene of horror: our peasant friend's house had burned to the ground. All that was left was a cat, meowing sadly, and a pig that took off into the woods as soon as he saw us. We had heard about Cueva del Humo but were not sure about its location. We spent a sleepless night, waiting for our comrades and fearing an encounter with the enemy.

    On January 31, we camped atop a hill overlooking some orchards. We explored an area we believed to be Cueva del Humo but found nothing. Sergio thought he had seen some men wearing baseball caps, but he was late reporting to us and we could not see anyone. We went with Guillermo to explore the bottom of the valley near the Aji. A friend of Guillermo's gave us some food, but everybody in the area was scared to death. This man said that Ciro Frias' merchandise had been seized and burned by the guards, his mules had been impounded and the muleteer had been killed. The soldiers, who had arrived that morning, were under the command of Major Casillas who had spent the night near the house.

    On February 1, we were still in our camp, in the open air. At 11 a.m. we heard shots followed by the sound of someone calling for help. This was too much for Sergio Acuna, who silently dropped his rifle and cartridge belt and disappeared into the woods, deserting his post. Taking our campaign diary, we entered a list of items he had taken with him: a can of condensed milk and 3 sausages. We were very sorry about the milk and sausages. A few hours later, we heard noises and not knowing whether Sergio had betrayed us, we prepared to defend ourselves. It turned out to be Crescendo, leading a large group including some of our men plus a group from Manzanillo led by Roberto Pesant. Missing from our group were:

    Acuna, the deserter; Calixto Morales; Calixto Garcia;

    Manuel Acuna; and a new recruit who apparently got lost during the shooting.

    Once again we started toward the valley and on the way down we distributed the items the men from Manzanillo had brought. This included a surgery kit for me and a change of clothes for every man. We were moved by the sight of initials that the girls from Manzanillo had embroidered on our uniforms.

    The following day, February 2, two months after the "Granma" landing, we were a homogeneous group: we had ten more men from Manzanillo and we felt stronger and more confident than ever before. We held long discussions on the subject of the surprise air attack and we all agreed that the smoke from the open field-kitchen had served as a beacon for the planes. For many months perhaps for the duration of the war the memory of that surprise attack remained with us and no open-air cooking was ever again done for fear of unpleasant consequences.

    At that time, we would have found it impossible to believe that Eutimio Guerra, the traitor, had been a passenger in the observation plane carrying Casillas, and had pointed out our hiding place. His story about his mother's illness had been a pretext to go out and locate Casillas and tell him about our location.

    For a long time Eutimio Guerra played an important negative role in the development of our war of liberation.

    : kubinets@mailru.com