On March 13, 1957, with guns blazing, they exited their vehicles and attacked the unwary guards at the Presidential Palace. Running, the attackers stormed into the dining room and then on to the offices on the lower level, only to find them empty. Since the elevator was up on the third floor of the building, the attackers were momentarily stymied. Although they had previously studied a floor plan of the palace, they became disoriented, perhaps from the intense fighting that had already claimed about ten of their number. An equal number or more of the president’s elite guards also lay dead on the presidential grounds. For a moment those attackers still alive had difficulty in locating the grand marble staircase to the second floor. Once they did, they were repelled by a hail of gunfire from the guardsmen, now fully aware of what was happening. When Carlos Menoyo was fatally hit on the stairs, Menelao Mora Morales took charge of the assault and managed to ascend to the top of the stairs, where he also was shot dead. About nine men made it to the second floor, but without leadership, they didn’t know where to go from there.
Trapped on the second floor, they searched for a way out. The hapless, amateur warriors couldn’t retreat down the stairs where their leaders lay and where the shooting was still intense. Stuck, they didn’t know how to get up to the third floor or back down the staircase and out of the building. Batista was on the upper floor with his family, as the remaining attackers were now being methodically killed. To them the third floor could only be reached by elevator, which was effectively being kept in place at the top of the lift shaft, thus preventing the assault from reaching Batista and his family.
Although some few managed to escape during the next few hours, thirty-five of the attackers were killed in and around the palace. A final count revealed that five of the palace guards were killed along with one tourist, who just happened to be there at the wrong time. Only three of the rebels managed to find a way out and escaped.
Photo Caption: The delivery van used by the attackers of the Cuban Presidential Palace. (See Captain Hank Bracker Facebook page.)
Captain Hank Bracker, who served with the U.S. Military Intelligence Corps, is the author of the multi-award winning book, “The Exciting Story of Cuba” His books have been nominated to be at the NYC Book Exhibit this summer and are available at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, BooksAMillion.com and many Independent Book Shops.