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cuba history .org - History of Cuban Nation

Attack on Moncada Barracks

The Moncada Barracks, a military barracks in Santiago de Cuba, named after General Guillermon Moncada, a hero of the War of Independence.

Attack on Moncada Barracks

On July 26, 1953, at 6:00AM, Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl led a group of approximately 120 rebels (with an additional 40 intending to take the barracks at Bayamo) in an attack on the second largest military garrison in Cuba, headquarters of the 400 (others say about 1,000) strong Antonio Maceo regiment, under the command of President Fulgencio Batista.

The group formed a sixteen-automobile caravan in order to give the appearance of being a delegation headed by a high-ranking officer sent from western Cuba. Their plan was that a first group of twenty men led by Abel Santamaría would take the civilian hospital at the rear of the barracks, a second group of five men led by Léster Rodríguez would take the Audiencia Building (Palacio de Justicia), and a third group of 90 men, led by Castro, would take the barracks, including the radio transmitter within it.

The attack began poorly. The caravan of automobiles became separated by the time it arrived at the barracks, and the car carrying the guerillas' heavy weapons got lost.

Furthermore, many of the rebels who would have taken part in the attack were left behind for a lack of weapons. The rebels also lost their possibility of surprise when Castro lost control of his car, crashed, and someone from the rebels opened fire to cover him. In Castro's autobiography, he claims that he drove his car into a group of soldiers at the gate who had realized an attack was in progress. The men in the cars behind him jumped out of their cars, believing they were inside the barracks, and the alarm was sounded before the barracks had been infiltrated. According to Castro, this was the fatal mistake in the operation. The net result of these events was the rebels being outnumbered more than 10 to 1.

Fifteen soldiers and three policemen were killed and 23 soldiers and five policemen wounded during the attack. Nine rebels were killed in combat and eleven wounded, four of them by friendly fire. (Castro recollects that five were killed in the fighting, and fifty-six were "murdered" later by the Batista regime.)

Rebels captured after the attack on Moncada barracks

Eighteen rebels captured in the Civil Hospital were immediately executed in the Moncada small-arms target range within two hours after the attack.

Their corpses were strewn throughout the garrison to simulate death in combat. Thirty-four fleeing rebels captured during the next three days were murdered after admitting their participation.

The stories of the tortures commited to the rebels, eye gouging, castration, and dismemberment, does not hold up to the impartial testimony of funeral director Manuel Bartolomé, who retrieved the rebel cadavers, and is not substantiated by forensic photographs, death certificates, court testimony, or newsmedia coverage of the subsequent trial.

A handful of rebels, including Fidel Castro, escaped into the nearby countryside but were apprehended shortly thereafter.