Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Haiti Bombing Story

                                                    The Haiti Bombing Story
                       A true story about how I was almost killed in Haiti and how I met
                                            a real soldier of fortune, Ralph Edens.       
                                 Written in 1/2011, and rewritten 05/14/2016 unedited
                                                           Howard Yasgar

    In 1991, I was just starting to change my automotive parts rebuilding company, into a military parts supply business. I had come to the conclusion that the automotive business in the United States was in decline due to Japanese imports, and I was looking to get into something that was more profitable.
    At the same time, in 1969, my fiancé Katherine, was managing the Miami office of a British freight forwarding company called MSAS. They were a very large British company specializing in shipping cargo all over the world.
     One day an unusual client came to her office, he wanted to ship several F16 Fighter Planes from Aman Jordan, to Bangkok Thailand. Katherine thought this sounded like a rather unusual type of military parts request, and she wondered if the client was perhaps involved in other areas of the military parts business. When her client heard that I was in the military parts business he asked Katherine if we could meet, so that’s when Katherine called me up, and she suggested that we all get together for drinks that evening after work. She mentioned a nice place called Rousseau’s which was located at the Doral Golf Course Hotel. So that evening, we all met at Rousseau’s, and Katherine introduced me to Ralph Edens, he was the fellow that wanted to ship the F16 airplanes to Thailand.
      Ralph appeared to be a pretty average looking guy, about 45 years old, with a short solid build, and light colored hair that was just slightly graying. We ordered drinks, and to make conversation I asked Ralph what his business was. He said that he had been a career soldier, but now was semi-retired, he went on to say that he had just recently returned from Central America where he had been training troops. I had heard rumors that we were training soldiers in Central America but we were not supposed to be doing it at the time.
     After we all had ordered a second round of drinks, Ralph mentioned that he had soldiered in Cambodia, and that he was in Cambodia when the United States was not supposed to be in Cambodia. He said he had also been on several missions into Viet Nam before the United States was in Viet Nam. Ralph said, that after retiring from the military, he did a stint as a mercenary in South Africa. So it appeared that Ralph was not only a soldier, but he was actually a real Soldier of Fortune.  After hearing what Ralph told us, I naturally assumed that at one time Ralph must have worked for the CIA. But then again, I also wondered if Ralph was telling us the truth about all his exploits.
     After listening to Ralph’s military history, I was a little embarrassed because I had only been in the Army Reserves for 6 months, and I had never done anything like Ralph had done. Then Ralph mentioned that he had also spent some time as a photographer and contributing editor for Soldier of Fortune Magazine. That’s when I realized Ralph was telling us the truth. Because I was a subscriber to that magazine and I remembered seeing Ralphs name as a credit under a lot of the photos.  
      Now, I was really hard pressed to have any kind of conversation with Ralph, because he had been involved in so many clandestine things while in the military and I hadn’t, done anything, so I had to think of something to talk about that might be of interest to him, something that was a little more interesting than my meager 6 month stint in the Army Reserves.
     So as the next best thing, I thought about telling Ralph about my close call with death when I was in Haiti, because I knew it involved the C.I.A. It was in June of 1969, when I was in Haiti when there was what I believed to be, a C.I.A. sponsored plot to bomb the palace and take over the country, and when I said that, I thought Ralph looked interested. So I told Ralph that in 1969, I was working on a railroad project in Haiti, I was there assisting my friend Lou Gladstein, helping him to disassemble and sell the Haitian railroad. When on one sunny morning Lou and I were in Port Au Prince driving near the presidential palace, where Papa Doc, the Haitian dictator lived.  As we drove closer to the Palace I could see the big impressive white building, coming up on my right.
    It was then that I heard the noise of a large aircraft above us, it sounded like it was struggling to gain altitude. The noise was right above us, and then suddenly there was a dark shadow. As I looked up into the sky, I saw a big Lockheed Constellation aircraft, it was right over our heads, and the plane was so low that I could read the writing on the wings. Then we heard lots of gun fire, it sounded just like fire crackers going off on 4th of July. And just as we were trying to figure out what the hell was going on, a huge fire ball, like a monstrous napalm bomb exploded right in front of our car. It was so big I thought the fire would quickly engulf us, and here I was sitting in the passenger seat of my friend Lou’s Toyota station wagon, and right behind me on the wagons floor were two full oxygen, acetylene tanks for our cutting torches, all I could think of was that they looked like two big bombs just waiting to go off.
     Lou surprisingly, appeared to know evasive action, and he made the car do a complete 360 degree turn, and quick as a flash we were heading up the boulevard and away from the flames.
    As I was telling the story to Ralph and Katherine, I looked to see if Ralph was still listening to me, and he was, so I continued. I told him that Lou and I barely escaped that fire bomb, and we immediately headed, up the mountain to where Lou was renting a house.
     When we got to the house, all the electricity was off, as well as the television and the telephone, but considering that this was Haiti, that was not terribly unusual. However from our vantage point in the mountains, we could still see smoke coming from the Port Au Prince area of the palace. Naturally we were all curious to find out what the heck had happened, we thought for sure it was some sort of an invasion, and I knew that if it was an invasion, and if I didn’t get to Miami quickly, I could be stuck in Haiti for a long time. So, the next morning, taking a chance, we cautiously drove down the mountain and went to the airport in Port Au Prince, and fortunately I was easily able to get an early flight to Miami on Air Haiti. As we sat and waited for my flight, it appeared that no one at the airport was talking about what  had happened at the palace the day before, so we didn’t say anything either.
    It was several days later, when I was in Miami, that I learned from a newspapers article in the local paper that there had been an attempt to bomb the Haitian palace and take over the country. The article said that the Haitian government had reported that a couple of fire bombs were dropped but the invasion had failed. There wasn’t even one word about it on the television news, and I wondered why, then I saw there were a few follow up articles in the local newspaper that said the attack was paid for by some obscure Haitian group located in Canada. It appeared to me that the entire incident was being hushed up.
     It was getting late, and Katherine and I had work the next day, so I thought it best to call it an evening with Ralph. But before we left, Ralph suggested that he and I get together for a beer one evening. I thought that was a good idea, so I asked him when, and where. Ralph said, “How about meeting me tomorrow at 5 PM at a place near your office, it’s on 36th Street and called “Tom’s NFL Club”. I said great, I knew where Tom’s NFL Club was located, it was right across the street from Miami International Airport. The restaurant was not more than a couple of minutes from my office and it was right on my way home from work, so I agreed to meet Ralph there. Ralph was delighted and said, I’ll see you there tomorrow.
    On our way home that evening, Katherine and I both agreed that Ralph was a pretty interesting guy, assuming that half of what he said that he had done was true. We also both felt that Ralph would have no problem being a mercenary. He seemed to be the type of person that could do that kind of stuff.
    The next day I left my office about half past four, and drove to Tom’s NFL Club on 36th Street. When I got there I realized that the location of the place was almost across the street from Southern Air Transport, the famous C.I.A. owned airline. They were the airline that was supposed to be involved with shipping arms and supplies to the Contra’s in Central America.  It was then that I remembered Ralph had said he had just spent time in Central America training troops, so now I felt it was no small coincidence that Ralph wanted to meet me there for a beer, all the C.I.A. guys probably met there for a beer.
     Ralph was there waiting for me at the bar. He ordered another beer, and said, “I wanted to talk to you when Katherine, wasn’t around”.  He said, “The incident you experienced “In Haiti in 1969, well, that was me that was pushing the fire bombs out the cargo door of the Constellation Aircraft”. I couldn’t believe that Ralph, was talking about the fire bombs that had nearly killed me. Then Ralph said “I didn’t want to tell you that in front of Katherine”. He said that he had been recruited by another mercenary, a C.I.A. operative named Martin Casey. The mission was to rent an aircraft, load it with 50 armed Haitian soldiers, and then bomb the palace. Then they were to land at the airport in Port Au Prince where they would be met by a rebel Haitian army that was waiting for them, and they would take over the country.    
     Now between what I learned from Ralph, and later from information posted on the internet, this is what really happened. The attempted invasion and coup in Haiti was hatched in 1966. It was planned by a popular Miami Cuban exile leader, named Rolando Mas Ferrer. Rolando Mas Ferrer was working together in conjunction with a Haitian exile group located in New York and in Canada called the MDPF. Both Rolando and MDPF were funded by wealthy Cubans, and Haitians and also by the C.I.A. When the mission failed, the C.I.A. made sure that all the newspaper reports told a completely different story. They said that a Haitian group in Canada and New York called the MDPH had financed the mission. They said that the mission was headed up by a Colonel Rene J. Leon a member of the MDPH. His objective was to bomb the capitol and depose the dictator Duvalier and take over the country of Haiti, doing it by creating an internal military uprising. They said the MDPH had tried to do this in a similar raid the year before but failed. All the newspaper articles were just C.I.A. propaganda to cover up who was actually responsible for the invasion. There had to be a good reason, because who needed a country with several million starving people.
    Actually the C.I.A. in conjunction with the Cuban exile leader Rolando Mas Ferrer wanted to take over the country of Haiti to use the country as a staging area for a major attack against Communist Cuba.  Rolando Mas Ferer, was a very popular Cuban exile leader who was heavily involved with Alpha 66 and other para-military Cuban freedom fighting groups in Miami, All of them mostly funded by wealthy Cuban exiles and the C.I.A. It was said that Rolando Mas Ferrer was the next “Cuban president in waiting”.
     During the 1960’s there were so many Cuban para-military groups training in Miami that the police were always arresting one group or the other. They all dressed in military clothing and trained with live ammunition. For training they would attack, some abandoned radio tower or other target in the everglades, all of which was against the law. I had read once that there was a large crowd of Cuban para-military guys all dressed in military clothing and carrying rifles, pistols and ammunition. They had all stopped at their favorite Cuban restaurant the Versailles on South West 8th Street to have Cuban coffee. They so scared the neighborhood that everyone called the police thinking Miami was being invaded by Cuba.
     Ralph said that what really happened on the day of the invasion, was that all the C.I.A. recruited men met at the aircraft. There were a couple of Haitians from the MDPF in Canada, one was Colonel Rene Leon and one of his men. There were another 2 Haitian guys that had been recruited in Miami, and there was Ralph Edens and a fellow named Martin Casey and Lawrence Carlin who was the pilot, and then there was William Dempsey a C.I.A. recruit from London, Ontario. They were also expecting 50 Haitians to make up an invasion force. The airplane was a Lockheed Constellation and all the passenger seats had been removed from the plane to accommodate the 50 Haitian invasion force and their gear. The belly of the plane was loaded with guns, uniforms and web gear to outfit the 50 men, and more men that would be in Haiti.       
    When they met at the airport, and the two Haitians that were recruited in Miami found out what the hell was really going on, and they took off, and then the 50 Haitian attack force failed to show up. According to the Haitian Colonel Leon of the MDPF, They were supposed to receive bombs, but they never showed up.
    That’s when they all had a really big argument and finally Ralph Edens and Martin Casey convinced everyone to go ahead with the mission anyway. Ralph said that he and the other guys loaded on the plane 6 barrels of aviation fuel, and they taped flares onto the barrels. Ralph and one of the MDPF Haitian fellows were going to light the flares and push the barrels out the cargo door when they were over the palace in Haiti.
     They had a plastic bag of phosphorus so Ralph made a phosphorus bomb by hanging the plastic bag inside a water jug. The planes belly had already been loaded up with web gear and lots of other equipment that was supposed to arm the 50 Haitian men who never showed up.
     In later testimony, there was a comment by the New York branch of the MDPH that they understood that the C.I.A. was going to supply real bombs, they said that they thought the using barrels of aviation fuel was very amateurish.  
     Once the aircraft took off, and reached the Capitol of Haiti, they realized that they had no way to judge the trajectory of the barrels of fuel bombs. So on the first run they lit the flares and just pushed two barrels of fuel out the cargo door. Both barrels missed the palace completely, so they knew they would have to make another run. Ralph who was a photographer had a miniature Japanese camera hanging from his neck so he leaned out and shot some pictures. On the next run they pushed 2 more barrels of fuel out and Ralph kicked the phosphorus bomb out also. He said he looked out the door and he watched the glass jug zig zag its way down, missing the target completely. Now everyone aboard the plane was really nervous, some didn’t want to make a third run but they did. Ralph said that by the third run they were flying so low that when he looked out the cargo door it was like looking right down the barrels of the guns aimed at them. He said he could actually see the sweat on the faces of the soldiers and palace police as they shot at him. Then the communication intercom on the plane malfunctioned so as the  co-pilot yelled no, no, no, Ralph said he thought the guy had said go, go, go, so they pushed out the last two fuel bombs. One was the fire bomb that almost killed me, and the other bomb hit several stores across the street from the palace. Ralph said it was a miracle that none of the bullets fired at them hit the fuel barrels before they pushed them out. All the web gear in the planes belly had protected them. So as soon as the plane regained altitude they headed for the closest airport to land, which was at the city of Cap Haitian, but the Cap Haitian airport had already been contacted and they had parked fuel trucks on the runway. Ralph said that when they saw trucks parked on the airfield they had no choice but to head for a U.S. Radar station in the Bahamas that had a landing strip. When they landed they all got out of the plane to examine the damage, Ralph said the plane was shot up like a Swiss cheese. There were more than 34 bullet holes and some were from 50 caliber anti-aircraft guns. No one had realized it but the co-pilot had been knocked unconscious by a 50 caliber bullet that came through the plane right next to his seat. Ralph said that had it not been for the web gear stowed in the planes belly many of the bullets would have come through the floor and blown the plane up.
    When the employees of the radar site came to see why a constellation aircraft had landed on their runway, they immediately saw that the plane was all shot up and then they saw the plane was also loaded with military gear, so they asked Casey what was going on. Casey replied, “We were just out for a spin”, and that’s when the local Bahamian Police arrived and they were all arrested.
    Ralph said that he received 9 months in jail for violation of the U.S. Neutrality act, but I later read that Ralph and the others were released after only 73 days and William Dempsey the Canadian was just deported to Canada. Ralph said that as he walked through Miami Airport under arrest, he was handcuffed, but he was able to reach into his shirt pocket and he exposed the film he had taken from the cargo door with his mini camera. The entire episode was hushed up and the Haitian Government reported that there was an attempted coup that failed, with two fire bombs having been dropped which missed the palace.
    When Martin Casey died, several stories of the attempted bombing of Haiti came out, and were on the internet with Ralph’s involvement mentioned, so we knew every word he ever told us was true.


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