Atrocities – War Crimes

There have been a lot of posts re: a. the video released by WikiLeaks about the Apache helicopter shooting here, and here and b. the 12 Feb killing of three women and two men here.

The soldiers involved in these events are young or at least relatively young. Under thirty years of age, probably.

When I was twenty years old, I was part of ship’s company (crew) of the USS John W. Weeks (DD-701), a WWII Sumner class destroyer.  In April or May of ’61 the Weeks had just completed an extensive overhaul at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, VA and was in Gitmo for refresher training.  One evening as we were making it back from the Op Area, the Weeks was dispatched on a rescue mission.  The crew, at least the enlisted men, was unaware that the Bay of Pigs attempted invasion was occurring at the other end of the island of Cuba.  We steamed around the eastern tip of Cuba up the north eastern coast.

In some harbor, whose name I have long forgotten, the Cuban Navy had captured a U.S. flag and owned by the Western Union company, cable repair ship. We arrived on scene around midnight.  On the radar scope that displayed the returns from the surface search radar one could distinctly make out the harbor, quay wall, sea wall and ships in the harbor.  In a show of force, because the Cubans had no idea what we would do, the Weeks stood off the entrance to the harbor.

Over head were two Marine F-8 Crusader fighter jets.  To be a pilot, one must be an officer.  So there were two officers up there, one probably a captain, flying around trying to intimidate the Cubans.  The pilots or at least the senior of the two, implored us to fire star shells (airburst shells that illuminate a large area) so the Marines could then strafe the Cuban ships.  Apparently our Skipper did not have authorization to do that because when the Marines got low on fuel, they had to violate Cuban airspace to get back to Gitmo.

Sometime before dawn, the Cubans released the Western Union cable repair ship and we escorted her up the Cuban coast to a point that was halfway between the U.S. and Cuba.  From that point on She was provided air cover by either the U.S. Navy or the Air Force.

The point being:  As much as the Marine pilots wanted the Weeks to fire star shells to illuminate the harbor so the Marines could strafe the Cuban gunboats, they were just doing what they were trained to do.

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