With Cuba's signature of the Rio Treaty of 1947, the Cuban Army's armoured strength was further augmented with the receipt of seven M4 Sherman medium tanks from the United States in February 1957. The Batista regime in Cuba used Shermans against Castro's rebels, and these remained in service after Castro's take-over. At least one Castro Sherman fought against the M41s landed during the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion.
The battle for Santa Clara
(Please click on the photos (as applicable) to jump to large-scale copies)
|Shown left is Che at the
beginning of the battle, with a Sherman M4A3(76)W
HVSS in the background. He broke his
left hand at the beginning of the battle (he fell from the second floor
of a house during the battle). The white bandage on his left hand and black
bandage around the neck to support the hand is visible in the photo.
The man who speaks with Che, wears a typical "revolutionary" uniform: a mixture of Batista's uniform (yellow khaki), peasant, and armed with an American Garand M1 rifle. Nobody in Cuba in 1961 was armed with Garands (only with Belgian FALs and Czech M52 and type 26 pistol/machine guns) and nobody had this uniform, but for the olive green of the "rebel army" and the green/blue of militias.
|The photo on the left is
from the book Che, A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson, and
shows Che's men on a captured Sherman driving through Santa Clara toward
There is this observation a little later in the book: "When he arrived, Fidel enacted his triumphal entry to Havana like a grand showman, riding into the city at the head of a noisy cavalcade on top of a captured tank."
The photo is interesting as it portrays the triumph of the moment, signs of the heavy US influence in Cuba, and the 3 cent cup of coffee!
|Fidel After 40 by
(Insight on the News, January 25 1999, p.31)
Forty years ago this month,
Fidel Castro emerged from the Sierra Maestra to establish a communist dictatorship.
A veteran newsman was on the spot and recounts it here:
Photo: Triumphant entry: Fidelito (top), Fidel (right, gesturing) and leaders of the guerrilla movement ride a tank into Havana on Jan. 8, 1959.
After the revolution
In January/February 1959, Fidel Castro
reportedly trained himself firing a Sherman in Managua, a military camp
near Havana. Castro personally fired and competed with Lopez Cuba (see
below) in firing the gun at palm trees near the camp. He said: "Well, we're
empty, but we can't shoot anymore at the palm trees because they are national
tree, and it is prohibited by the laws and the Constitution of Cuba ".
Later, during the Bay of Pigs invasion, Castro also fired a tank gun, this time a T-34 and a SU-100, to a ship of the invaders in the bay.
One of the best known Cuban "tanker" Generals, the Division General Néstor López Cuba, began his career as a tanker in a Sherman by orders of Castro in january 1959. He later trained other crews in the Sherman, and the 25 best trained Sherman crews manned the T-34/85 and the SU-100 in 1960. Lopez Cuba fought in Syria in 1973 against Israel and in 1976 in Angola against the South Africans.
English, Adrian J. Armed Forces of Latin America. London: Jane's Publishing Co.Ltd., 1984. Skelly, Jack, 'Fidel After 40'. Insight on the News, January 25 1999, p.31. Zaloga, Steven J. The Sherman Tank in US and Allied Service. (Vanguard series no.26). London: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 1982.
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Last update: 01-08-2002
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