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A Sailor-Eyewitness to the Bay of Pigs

“Being in Cuba and Haiti Got Me Thinking — Working People Everywhere Are All the Same”

an interview with Bill Bader

Bill Bader (1940–1996) was a veteran midwestern trade union activist, a supporter of Labor Party Advocates, and an opponent of the U.S. blockade of Cuba and occupation of Haiti.

Bader enlisted in the navy in the mid-1950s, expecting to make a career of it But when his squadron was secretively assigned in April 1961 to an operation that turned out to be the abortive U.S.-sponsored invasion of revolutionary Cuba by anti-Castro forces at Playa Giron, a beach on the Bay of Pigs, that experience stimulated the beginning of a radical change in his outlook.

Bader was interviewed by Dave Riehle on October 5, 1994.

Q. When did you go into the navy?

A.: 1956.

Q.: Your intention was to make a career out of it?

A.: Yeah, there were a lot of things I liked about that life. I still like to go to sea.

Q.: What was your rating?

A.: I was a signalman.

Q.: What do they do?

A.: Visual communications between ships, by semaphore, by flags, anything you don’t want to go over the radio.

Q.: After you were in the navy a few years the Cuban revolution took place?

A.: Yeah, but we weren’t so much aware of that. You knew what was going on. You knew Castro was a Communist, and he was your enemy.

Q.: But you weren’t too convinced of that. Why not?

A.: Well, I just never thought that Cuba was a threat to the United States.

Q.: Even after they decided he was a Communist?

A.: I thought that they could have had him on their side if they’d wanted to. My idea always was that they could have supported him. He came to New York and everything, to speak at the United Nations.

Q.: You saw that he went to Harlem, you saw that on the news?

A.: Like I said, I always thought he did some­thing for the people. The Cuban people were behind him, and that wasn’t lost on the Ameri­can people, I think. To me it was — we didn’t use the word revolution — an uprising of the people.

Q. So along came 1961, and your normal station was at Norfolk, Virginia.

A. Yeah, we had just come back from the Mediterranean, six months there.

Q. You normally didn’t go to the Caribbean?

A.: No, they had another squadron of destroyers that were in Mayport, Florida Theyusually covered that area. Desron [destroyer squadron) 23.

Q.: You were in Desron 22?

A.: Yeah, out of Norfolk. Our primary mission was antisubmarine warfare. Whenever we went with a task group we’d screen it for submarines. We’d also run plane guard for the carriers. If a plane crashed, we’d pick up the pilot. That’s what we did.

Q.: Then in 1961 they told you that you were going to the Caribbean to protect a sail­boat race?

A.: We were going to Cape such-and-such and have a party.

Q.: That was to be the reward after the regatta?

A.: Right. We were to be stationed off of Cuba to protect any sailboats that came by. In case any Cuban government boats came out and tried to arrest them or hijack them, we were going to protect them.

Q.: And so you went there?

A.: Yeah, we went 26 miles off the coast of Cuba. There were supposed to be 50 sailboats, but you know, they weren’t necessarily right on course. That’s what we were told.

Q.: Did you see any sailboats?

A.: No.

Q.: They didn’t show up?

A.: No, we sat out there for week. Really.

Q.: What do you think now? Why were you really there?

A.: Probably some sort of espionage, or sur­veillance, some sort of relay or something for someone. We weren’t there for a sailboat race. This was an old World War II vessel. We didn’t have sophisticated gear. I don’t really know what the hell we were doing there, but I know there weren’t any sailboats. There never were.

U.S.S. Henley

Q.: You were there for a couple of weeks?

A.: Yeah, the regatta was over and everything.

Q.: Then they told you to go to Guan­tanamo.

A.: They didn’t tell us where we were going, but when we started going in there, they told us we were going into Guantanamo, that we were going to be doing training, and we’d probably be there for about nine weeks. Then when we got into Guantanamo theytold us about the water being cut off and there was a threat that the Cubans might try to invade the base. We had to run patrol every night for the water ships to come in. They were going to bring water in at night, so the Cubans wouldn’t know.

Q.: So one night you went out, and it wasn’t a water ship?

A.: No, one night we didn’t go out. We were tied up at the pier, and the water ship came in. But it wasn’t a water ship. It was a personnel attack ship. They offloaded combat infantry. Marines. It was an armored infantry regiment. They had tanks and infantry. They offloaded them, and they formed up on the pier, two or three boatloads of them, and they went up in the hills somewhere.

Q.: These were Marines?

A.: Yeah, Marines. They were from — Ten Pines? Tent Circle? — California, out in the desert, there’s a big Marine base out there. That’s where they were from, because I talked with a couple of them, on the pier.

Q.: What did they think they were there for?

A.: They were going to kick ass, kick the Cubans’ ass, because the Cubans were going to invade the base, and theywere going to break their back and then go to Havana.

Q.: They were going to capture a provincial capital?

A.: No, they were going to go to Havana. That’s what a couple of the gung-ho ones told me. I think the actual plan was they were going to bust out of the perimeter and they were going to capture this city, I think it was Guantanamo; that’s the name of a Cuban town right near the base. That was the only logical place for them to go. But they knew they were going to break out of there. They had been told that

Q.: When you say “up in the hills,” you mean up by the perimeter of the base?

A.: Yeah, they called the fence “the wire.”

Q.: How big is the base? Many square miles?

A.: About ninety or a hundred. It’s got airports on it, for fighter jets, transport planes. It’s real big, like a city.

Q.: One day you were going to the beer hall when the alarm went off?

A.: They call it “the geedunk”; it’s a bar, restaurant, and recreation place. There’s always alarms going off there, you know, Condition 3, Condition 2, Condition 1—that’s a threat that we’re being invaded. The alarm went off and the Marine Corps came around in these quarter-ton and half-ton trucks and picked up all these vagrant sailors that were wandering around. They’d ask you what ship you were on. I told them my ship was the Henley, DD762. They said get in the truck. We went up in the hills somewhere, and they had these slit trenches and bunkers. I was given an M-1 and a bandolier of ammunition and a helmet and put under the command of a gunnery sergeant. We were go­ing to be the twenty-first line of defense or something.

Q. What did you think about that?

A.: Well, we were nothing but a bunch of cannon fodder. We were sitting there with white uniforms on in dirt trenches and nobody knew anything. Now, when I was in boot camp I was trained with a 22. I had fired an M-1 before but I couldn’t say I was proficient at it. What ware we going to do if we were attacked? Get over­run, that’s what.

Q.: You didn’t have a lot of enthusiasm about being there.

A.: It was just a big joke. I think if any of us had taken it seriously, we’d have all run away. I’m serious. We knew about that sort of thing. Maybe the gunnery sergeant wouldn’t have run away, but I think the sailors probably would have. Of course, we were young and stupid. Maybe we would have stayed there.

Q.: That just happened one time?

A.: Yeah, nobody took that seriously. It was just a joke. We felt they were just doing that to make our life miserable.

Q.: So there was a lot of tension with the Marines?

A.: Yeah, the Marines were garrisoned there. They were — what would you call it? — goofy. They were at a high pitch, in a high state of readiness all the time, and they’d start giving the salts a hard time. They’d come into the bars all worked up. There was one Marine who would sit there and throw bottles into the mirror. They were under a lot of stress.

Q.: You said one of the things that got you thinking about all this was watching the Cuban nationals come in. They came in from Cuba to service the base?

A.: Right. If there was some sort of problem with the Cuban people, what were they letting them in there for? I talked with a few of them. The reason I knew they were cleaning officers’ quarters was that one or two of them told me that. But you never got a chance to talk with them about what was happening. They’d come by water and they’d get frisked by the Marine Corps.

Q.: How many in a day?

A.: They’d come in by the hundreds, a flood of them, about 8 o’clock in the morning. They’d come in and go do their jobs. I don’t think the Marines even took them seriously, considered them a real danger; they’d only frisk a few of them. They went through a Marine Corps checkpoint; they were primarily Black people.

Q.: Some of them spoke English?

A.: Yeah, but they wouldn’t let me talk with them that much. But once they were on the base theycould mostly go where they wanted, al­though there were always Marines around.

Q.: They were mostly there cleaning?

A.: They cleaned officers’ quarters.

Q.: Menial labor? Did they clean the en­listed men’s quarters?

A.: Are you kidding me? They didn’t clean the bars either. They were primarily there to clean officers’ quarters, and they did ground work—lawns and shrubs—and street work.

Q.: Sounds kind of colonial.

A.: It was. I don’t know if it was after that incident, but I started having thoughts like, What have we got against these people?

Q.: You said you thought they looked just like you.

A.: Well, they did. They were just trying to make a buck. Coca Cola. The Yankee dollar. I wasn’t any different than they we were. That’s when I first started thinking about these things. It wasn’t real clear, though. I just had this feeling, What the f— are we f—ing around with these people for? They’re not hurting anybody. They’re just trying to make a buck.

Q.: After you were at Guantanamo for about nine weeks, you went to Key West.

A.: Yeah, we were there for one day, and we were walking down the street and the Shore Patrol picked us up and took us back to the ship, because “there was a war going on.”

Q.: The captain told you there was going to be a war with Cuba?

A.: The captain told us there was going to be a “conflict,” that it was going to be real, and that it was going to be a shooting war. The Cuban people were uprising, he said, and were going to overthrow the Castro government and we were to go support them. And that there were Cuban brigades that were going to start a Pro­visional Government. And that this was for real.

Q.: Had you been paying much attention to what was in the media? To Kennedy talking about Cuba, and so on?

A.: Yeah, everybody listened to Kennedy. Kennedy was a popular person. People took what he said as gospel.  But there was no politi­cal rhetoric that we were aware of before this happened. I suppose there was some, but noth­ing that we were aware of, that would have let us know that this was going to happen. We thought they were coming after us—that’s what we thought. That’s what we were told so often. They were going to invade Guantanamo and we were going to defend it.

Q.: So you were retrieved from Key West and put on the ship and then headed to­ward Cuba?

A.: They didn’t tell us we were heading for Cuba. They just told us there was political unrest and there was going to be shooting and that this was for real.

Q.: Some weeks before this, when you were at Guantanamo, you unloaded some Marines onto Cuban national territory at night? Somewhere down the coast of Cuba?

A.: That’s right. For two or three nights when we’d go out we’d have these six Marines on board and they were called “beach jumpers.” Their mission was to go in ahead of an assault force and set up some sort of radio communica­tions. They’d be behind enemy lines. So this was supposed to be an exercise. We’d take them out and sail around, and one night we took them out and dropped them off. Supposedly off the shore of the Guantanamo naval base, but I know we were past that.

Q.: How did you know that?

A.: Because I know how to read a chart and tell what the position is, and my jobwas up on the bridge and I could see where we were, and we were beyond the base. Everybody figured they’d come back and report some figures or other information, that they were going out onto Cuban territory, because Cubans were coming onto the base and they were probably getting information. Well, wewent and dropped them off and we never saw them again.

Q.: Six Marines on a rubber raft?

A.: Yeah, with all kinds of radio gear. I think now they were probably part of that Bay of Pigs operation, and they probably went down there. They were highly mobile. Maybe they got picked up by somebody on thebeach.

Q.: Let’s go back to Key West then. You left Key West and got the announcement from the captain that you were going to be in a conflict and you were approaching the coast of Cuba, somewhere.

A.: We went out that night. In the morning we joined up with this task group, led by a carrier. And there were subs out there, because we got messages from them at night, on the radio. We knew they were there. Nuclear submarines. We knew that because nuclear submarines always have something special when they send a radio or visual message out, so you know they’re nukes. So we went with this task group to a location off of Cuba.

Q.: And you looked at the charts again and determined that you were off the coast of Cuba?

A.: Yeah, then when we separated from the task group, we went up into the Bay of Pigs. Our ship, alone. We were not that far from the task group. They were still in international waters, but they were in proximity, where they could have supported this assault.

Q.: But your ship went into Cuban terri­torial waters.

A.: Yeah, we went into Cuban territorial wa­ters. There’s no doubt in my mind about that, because I could see the beach. So anyhow this Cuban transport ship was there, and that was what the brigade was on.

Q.: This was a ship that had no official U.S. navy insignia on it—it was made to look like a civilian ship?

A.: It was a civilian ship, but it was part of this naval armada.

Q.: How close did your ship get in to the shore?

A.: Oh, I’d say we were a good two miles, to a mile and a half, to a half mile from shore, in and out.

Q.: In and out? As close as a half a mile?

A.: Yeah, when theywent onto the beach we were that close.

Q.: What was your function in relation to this landing?

A.: I assumed that we were in support of them, that we were in close for artillery support, be­cause we had 5 inch 38’s; we had six of them on there. Plus we had radar control fire. That’s when I thought maybe those beach jumpers were there up in the hills, because they could give you fire control.

Q.: By radio?

A.: And observing. But we were close enough where it was at point blank range with those guns.

Q.: Were they armed and ready to be used?

A.: Oh yeah. We had six five-inch 38’s and we had five 3-inch cannon on each side. We had dual mounts and there’d be like 7 or 8 guys in the turret, not counting the guys downin the ready room and down inthe ammunition room.

Q.: And then the Cuban brigade went in from the transport ship?

A.: They had micros, and other kinds of boats.

Q.: How many individuals?

A.: Four or five hundred of them that hit the beach. With their equipment. Then they went across the beach, where there were these scrubby hills. They went onto the beach and they started going up the hills. Some of than got up there, but some of than stopped to make a radio transmission. And then up on top of the hill there were forces with tanks, and they started shooting down on the beach with their cannon.

Q.: The Cuban army presumably?

A.: As far as anyone knows, it was the Cubans. Who else would it be? Anyway you could see artillery hitting the beach. Gray clouds would go up. And the Cubans were running all over the place trying to get up into the hills. Their equipment was all on the beach and got shot up. And that transport ship they had out there got hit with an artillery round. There was a big black puff of smoke. A lot of their equipment was on there. I knew it was on there because I was up on the bridge and I heard the officers talking. And the captain said, They won’t be able to get their heavy equipment off. See, I could eaves­drop on all this, because that was my station, up there in officers’ country, in the pilot house where the captain was, and that’s where all radio communications came in over a loudspeaker, unless you didn’t want them to, but there was combat going on and messages were coming in, oral messages, and written messages. And he was talking to his officers and saying they wouldn’t be able to get their heavy equipment off that ship now, whatever their heavy equipmeat was. They had been ferrying back and forth, picking up stuff, because they didn’t have that many boats.

So then I thought, “Well, they’re getting the shit shot out of ‘em, so now the task force will come in and support them.” And they didn’t. We made two or three passes up and down thebeach. One time was real close That’s when I saw them, some of them were lying on the beach, and I saw one artillery round come down, and I don’t know, maybe it’s my imagination, but I swear I saw a couple of people flying through theair. Then a couple of their micro boats got shot up, with shrapnel, close hits. And it was pretty heavy. It wasn’t as dramatic as you see in the movies, because we were pretty far away from it. But I saw some of them were running in the water, aiming to swim back to their boat maybe. But most of them went up into the hills and you couldn’t see than anymore.

Q.: You went back to Guantanamo?

A.: Yeah, but first we went back out into open water. And the task group wasn’t there any­more. By the chart we were back to that posi­tion, and they weren’t there anymore. So we joined up with the rest of our squadron and we went in a column into the base. And on the way in we had an aerial sweep made over us by the Cuban air force.

Q.: But there was no shooting?

A.: No shooting. I thought there was going to be, though. Scared the shit out of me. One guy sat up there and took a picture of them.

Q.: And the Cuban pilot waved at him?

A.: Yeah, he came in about 75 feet high.

Q.: When you got back to Guantanamo, did they give you any explanation of what this was all about?

A.: Not really. They still had this “condition of readiness.” When we went in there, there was nobody there. The whole base was damn near empty. Usually there’s a lot of Marine Corps troops and sailors all over the place, but they were all gone. We were told they were up at “the wire.” So that’s about it.

Of course later the unit found out this brigade had surrendered, been captured. They had pic­tures of them being taken prisoner.

Q.: Did the media report that the U.S. Navy had been there? In support?

A.: No.

Q.: Did anyone tell you that you weren’t supposed to talk about that?

A.: They never said you weren’t supposed to; there just wasn’t any talk about it. You were just never there. It never happened.

Q.: When did you find out that you weren’t there?

A.: During the Cuban missile crisis they were giving medals out to people.

Q.: That was a year and a half later. The Bay of Pigs Invasion was in April 1961 and the missile crisis, October 1962.

A.: Yeah, they were giving out medals for the Cuban missile crisis, if you were there.

Q.: Were you there during the Cuban missile crisis??

A.: No, I was in Norfolk. We stayed in Guan­tanamo only a week or less after this happened. And then we went back to Norfolk. So a year later theywere giving out medals for service in the Cuban missile crisis on the ship one day. So a couple of days later I went up to the executive officer and I asked him for my medal.

“Were you there in the missile crisis?” he asks.

I say, “No, I was there at the Bay of Pigs.”

“There was no Bay of Pigs,” he says. “You were never there.”

You know, I kind of remember what they said to us. You have to understand that when we got back in there to Guantanamo all we were look­ing for was a beer. We didn’t think about that stuff much.

Q.: But you started thinking about it af­terward? It stimulated some thinking on your part?

A.: Well, first, I thought it was a hell of a thing to do to those people out there, to promise to support them and then leave them there. I thought that was a bunch of bullshit.  And then I thought, “Why try something like this if you didn’t think you could do it?” Obviously they couldn’t do it. I mean, when we went in there I thought, If that’s what they’re going to do it with, they’re not going to make it. They had too few people. They said that some uprising would support them. But I always thought that Castro would come in there and smash them.

I started wondering what sense did it all make? It’s just working people on both sides. What’s going to come out of it? What’s the purpose?

Q.: Then you started telling other people what you thought?

A.: Yeah, the chief petty officer and people like that. [Laughs.]

Then they started isolating me once in a while. They couldn’t so much on the ship be­cause the guys there knew me. So they trans­ferred me.

Q.: Because you were talking about the Bay of Pigs?

A.: Well, I didn’t know it at the time. Really it didn’t start until later, when the Vietnam War was going on. I started shooting my mouth off.

Q.: What would you say?

A.: We gotta get out of Vietnam. Because we haven’t got any business there.

Q.: When was this, around 1964?

A.: Yeah, I didn’t do it all the time. They’d engage me in conversation and I’d tell them what I thought.                                                                                                                        

Q.: Was that affected by what you saw in Cuba?

A.: Absolutely.

Q.: And that’s when the real repercus­sions started with the brass?

A.: Well, I was in San Diego during the Viet­nam war, and I got transferred to an attack transport ship that was going to take troops to Vietnam. I didn’t want to do that.

Q.: Why not?

A.: Well, I didn’t want to go to Vietnam. And I didn’t want to take cannon fodder over to Vietnam. And I told them that. I told the officers that. I told them I didn’t want to go.

So they said, “Why don’t you transfer out of here?” So I said, “I will,” and I transferred to Seattle, Washington. I got transferred to a reserve ship, as a petty officer. I got put in charge of ten guys and a school bus. Clean the school bus every morning, that’s what I did. That’s all I did too.

Q.: Is that when you decided you didn’t have a future in the navy?

A.: Yeah, I got out of the regulars and went into the reserves. Then I came back here, still in the reserves. So once a month I’d go to reserve meetings, but when I shot my mouth off down there, I got sent off somewhere else for commu­nications classes. I was told that this was a mechanical division, and I was the only com­munications guy in there, and since I didn’t fit in, I had to go attend my reserve meetings at the base. But they didn’t have any people of my rating there either, so I went and sat in an empty room.

Q.: Looking back on it, do you think they were isolating you?

A.: Yeah, they didn’t let me talk to anybody. Even though I wasn’t that radical, I didn’t think.

Q.: What did you think about the antiwar movement?

A.: I had mixed feelings. The guys that were over there getting shot up? I didn’t want to be against them. I didn’t want them to be there. But I felt I couldn’t go against them. You know, coming from a military background and all that. And all my peers were for the war. Everybody I worked with and stuff— they were for the war.

Q.: You didn’t have any connection with the antiwar movement?

A.: Not really.

Q.: But your local union president sponsored an antiwar resolution?    

A.: Yeah, at the (St. Paul AFL-CIO) Trades and Labor Assembly (Ed Donahue, later International President of the Amalgamated Lithographers Union.).

Q.: A resolution presented at the Trades and Labor Assembly, and it passed?

A.: Yeah, and one on national health care.

Q.: Did anyone talk about this at work, about what the union president did?

A.: No. There wasn’t that much interest. You know, when I was in Cuba I didn’t think the Cubans wanted to fight us, and I didn’t think our boys there wanted to fight the Cubans. I sure couldn’t see any reason for doing it. Because they were just like me.

Q.: Even though they were Black and you weren’t?

A.: They were just people.

Q.: You also went to Haiti?

A.: Yeah, with the Navy Seals, the demolition guys. They were ensconced in the best hotel there. And I was up there drinking with them one time, and I asked them what the hell were they doing there. They were out there blasting the harbor to make the harbor bigger, so the tourist ships could come in. And they were in the Navy. I asked them what kind of bullshit was that? You’re working for some tourist company, blowing up obstructions, who’s paying for this? The Navy was paying for it. See, that’s what would happen. I’d get into these discussions, then people would start looking at me funny.

Q.: So what do you think they’re doing in Haiti now? (1994)

A.: Maybe they’re finishing that demolition project.  What a laugh. Maybe they’re blasting the harbor so they can bring carriers in.

Q.: What do you think Clinton’s objective in Haiti is?

A.: Well, there’s always been a big interest there. I think they’re there to protect U.S. cor­porate interests. To install a puppet government, and it’s not Aristide.

Q.: Your union endorsed Clinton for president?

A.: Yeah. Not unanimously, though.

Q.: Tell us about your experience as a delegate to your union’s international convention (in 1992 the Graphic Communications Workers—GCIU).

A.: Well, it was in Honolulu. The union wanted to endorse Clinton for the office of president, and they wanted to take a vote. We had electronic voting devices at our little tables, but they weren’t working, so they wanted to take a voice vote. One of the delegates stood up and said, “Why don’t we make it a standing count, so we all know it’s unanimous?”

I’m sitting there thinking, this guy doesn’t deserve a unanimous labor endorsement. He’s never done anything for labor. He has to earn it. Why should we give him a unanimous vote? And I thought to myself, “There’ll be fifty to a hundred people here who won’t vote for him. So I talked to my brother that’s sitting next to me, and I said, “Let’s abstain from this, so it won’t be unanimous and we won’t have to be a part of this.”

We were sitting there, and they took the yes vote, and everybody stood up, I guess. And the union president says, “Well, it looks like it’s — oh, I see some brothers sitting down.” Then he called for the no vote. And I thought, “Aw, f— it, I’m going to vote no.” And I nudged my brother gently, and I stood up and said no. And there was this big TV screen there, and I looked up and I saw myself standing alone. And actually I thought to myself—I’m not so much of a Crusader Rabbit now. I’m kind of a Chunky Chicken Soup. I hope I get out of this hall alive. I was scared to death.

Q.: It was about 500 to 1?

A.: Yeah, and the president said something like, “Well, we’re ninety-nine and forty-four hundredths per cent pure.” But I didn’t get any flak from the delegates there. A couple of them asked me why I voted no, and I told them. I was surprised there was no flak, because I thought I’d really get ridiculed.

Q.: Did you tell them you thought we ought to have a labor party?

A.: There was a guy from Cleveland who stood up at the convention and talked about it He didn’t make a motion; it was just a point of information. I hadthe courage of my convic­tions, but when I saw myself all alone on that TV screen it was evaporating fast. Looking back at it now, though, I’m glad I did it

Q.: Do you think if there was a real functioning labor party, U.S. policy on Cuba and Haiti might be different?

A.: Absolutely.

Q.: What would it be like?

A.: I would say this. If we had a labor party that was in control and they sent troops in to Haiti, I think they’d be sending troops in there for working people, not for the corporate pigs that own the place now. I’ve been to Haiti and I saw first-hand how these people live. And they’re good people. You can see it in their faces. I’ve been to some cruel places. Maybe other people have seen worse. In Vietnam or something. But that’s the worst poverty and mistreatment of human beings that I’ve ever seen.  It was absolutely vicious. And that always stuck in my mind.

If we had a labor party, I’d support them going in and overthrowing a vicious dictator­ship like that ifthey went in there to help working people. .

Q.: That would be a different kind of army.

A.: It certainly would. It’s like Somalia. We wouldn’t wait till they were all starving to death.

Q.: Do you think this is like when the Marines went into Haiti in 1915, and stayed there for 19 years?

A.: Absolutely, they’re there to protect U.S. Fruit, or whatever company it is.

Q.: You don’t think they’re there to cre­ate democracy?

A.: Absolutely not. I think they’re there to create Pax Americana. It’s just like the Bay of Pigs.

Q.: Do you think that experience made you a better union person?

A.: I think so. When I came back and got back into the working thing again, I was a union person from the get-go, as soon as I hit the ground. I went to all the union meetings, never missed one. I liked going to the union meetings because of the camaraderie. I wasn’t so much of an activist, but if there was a strike or some­thing, I’d always go there. So I think that Bay of Pigs experience, it just started something. It started me thinking that working people everywhere are all the same. There’s no difference. Some have it worse and some have it better than others, but we’re all the same. We all live from paycheck to paycheck.

Q.: So you think we’ve got more in com­mon with working people in Haiti than with U.S. businessmen?

A.: Absolutely. I think if you want to look at the word “exploitation,” go there once and you’ll really see what it means.

If you think you’re being exploited here, it’s nothing to what they get. It’s absolute arro­gance there.

After the Bay of Pigs, when I thought of those Cubans going in to work there at Guantanamo, I guess you’d say it started the fires burning, the spirit of solidarity with international workers.