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The Brigade 2506 invaded Cuba on April 17, 1961. Captain Willard Ray, an American born Air Force pilot, disappeared in the day of the invasion. It was the night of April 18, 1961 less than 48 hours after the landing in Cuba, the sands of the Bay of Pigs’ beach was full of cadavers and blood.

Captain Willard Ray

In the Air base of the Brigade 2506 in Nicaragua the pilots returning from Cuba brought news that the soldiers of the Brigade were running out of ammunition. Each minute that went by the Brigade was loosing positions they had gained the first day when they had supplies. The air battle was not too different. The Air Force pilots of the Brigade with their slow B-26 were not a match for the T-33 Jets of the Communist government.

Map. Nicaragua - Cuba

Captain Thomas Ray had been designated by the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] to train and supervise the Air Force of the Brigade in Central America. At first the Cuban exile pilots did the flying. The pilots returning from operations kept saying that without air support from jet fighters the Brigade would be destroyed. The B-26-s the only airplanes of the Brigade, had been modified to be able to fly the long run from Nicaragua to Cuba.

The tail machine guns had been removed to accommodate more fuel tanks. The Cuban pilots immediately noticed this and attacked the Brigade airplanes from behind. There had been an air raid on April 15 before the invasion to destroy the Communist Air Force. The White House canceled a second air raid against Cuba’s airfields on April 16. The Brigade pilots complained to their superiors that without the raid of April 16 things would be very different. This allowed T-33 Jets to survive.

Captain Pete Ray was aware of his responsibility with his mission and the Brigade. When he heard the seriousness of the situation, he walked to the airfield. Disregarding the warnings of the Cuban exile pilots of the danger, he took a B-26 and flew to Bay of Pigs, Cuba. The Communists shot down the B-26 that Captain Ray piloted on April 19, 1961 north of Larga beach an area they controlled.

The daughter of Captain Ray was a minor in 1961. As time went by she began to search with her government in Washington DC and with the Communist government in Cuba to find out where was her father buried. After 18 years she found out that the Cuban dictatorship had frozen and preserved Captain Ray’s body. With the help of a few Congress persons finally she was able to bring her father’s body back to the States so he could rest in peace.

The other American born pilots that were shot down while fighting over Bay of Pigs were: Wade Carrol Gray, Leo Francis Baker and Riley W Shamberger, rest in peace.

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