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   Vol. 68/No. 15           April 20, 2004  
How Rebel Army took the town of Guisa
The following is an excerpt from a Dec. 1, 1958, speech by Fidel Castro, broadcast on the Rebel Army’s radio station, which reported on the victory of the revolutionary forces in the battle of Guisa in the Sierra Maestra mountains, one of the turning points in the revolutionary war that spelled the doom of the Batista dictatorship. A month later the dictatorship collapsed and Rebel Army forces entered Havana.

“Yesterday at 9 p.m., after ten days of intense combat, our forces entered Guisa; the battle took place within sight of Bayamo, where the dictatorship has its command center and the bulk of its forces.

“The action at Guisa began at exactly 8:30 a.m. on November 20 when our forces intercepted an enemy patrol that made the trip from Guisa to Bayamo on a daily basis. The patrol was turned back, and that same day the first enemy reinforcements arrived. At 4:00 p.m. a T-17 thirty-ton tank was destroyed by a powerful land mine: the impact of the explosion was such that the tank was thrown several meters through the air, falling forward with its wheels up and its cab smashed in on the pavement of the road. Hours before that, a truck full of soldiers had been blown up by another mine. At 6:00 p.m. the reinforcements withdrew.

“On the following day, the enemy advanced, supported by Sherman tanks, and was able to reach Guisa, leaving a reinforcement in the local garrison.

“On the 22nd, our troops, exhausted from two days of fighting, took up positions on the road from Bayamo to Guisa.

“On the 23rd, an enemy troop tried to advance along the road from Corojo and was repulsed. On the 25th, an infantry battalion, led by two T-17 tanks, advanced along the Bayamo-Guisa road, guarding a convoy of fourteen trucks.

“At two kilometers from this point, the rebel troops fired on the convoy, cutting off its retreat, while a mine paralyzed the lead tank.

“Then began one of the most violent combats that has taken place in the Sierra Maestra. Inside the Guisa garrison, the complete battalion that came in reinforcement, along with two T-17 tanks, was now within the rebel lines. At 6:00 p.m., the enemy had to abandon all its trucks, using them as a barricade tightly encircling the two tanks. At 10:00 p.m., while a battery of mortars attacked them, rebel recruits, armed with picks and shovels, opened a ditch in the road next to the tank that had been destroyed on the 20th, so that between the tank and the ditch, the other two T-17 tanks within the lines were prevented from escaping.

“They remained isolated, without food or water, until the morning of the 27th when, in another attempt to break the line, two battalions of reinforcements brought from Bayamo advanced with Sherman tanks to the site of the action. Throughout the day of the 27th the reinforcements were fought. At 6:00 p.m., the enemy artillery began a retreat under cover of the Sherman tanks, which succeeded in freeing one of the T-17 tanks that were inside the lines; on the field, full of dead soldiers, an enormous quantity of arms was left behind, including 35,000 bullets, 14 trucks, 200 knapsacks, and a T-17 tank in perfect condition, along with abundant 37-millimeter cannon shot. The action wasn’t over—a rebel column intercepted the enemy in retreat along the Central Highway and caused it new casualties, obtaining more ammunition and arms.

“On the 28th, two rebel squads, led by the captured tank, advanced toward Guisa. At 2:30 a.m. on the 29th, the rebels took up positions, and the tank managed to place itself facing the Guisa army quarters. The enemy, entrenched in numerous buildings, gave intense fire. The tank’s cannon had already fired fifty shots when two bazooka shots from the enemy killed its engine, but the tank’s cannon continued firing until its ammunition was exhausted and the men inside lowered the cannon tube. Then occurred an act of unparalleled heroism: rebel Lieutenant Leopoldo Cintras Frías, who was operating the tank’s machine gun, removed it from the tank, and despite being wounded, crawled under intense crossfire and managed to carry away the heavy weapon.

“Meanwhile, that same day, four enemy battalions advanced from separate points: along the road from Bayamo to Guisa, along the road from Bayamo to Corojo, and along the one from Santa Rita to Guisa.

“All of the enemy forces from Bayamo, Manzanillo, Yara, Estrada Palma, and Baire were mobilized to smash us. The column that advanced along the road from Corojo was repulsed after two hours of combat. The advance of the battalions that came along the road from Bayamo to Guisa was halted, and they encamped two kilometers from Guisa; those that advanced along the road from Corralillo were also turned back.

“The battalions that encamped two kilometers from Guisa tried to advance during the entire day of the 30th; at 4:00 p.m., while our forces were fighting them, the Guisa garrison abandoned the town in hasty flight, leaving behind abundant arms and armaments. At 9:00 p.m., our vanguard entered the town of Guisa. Enemy supplies seized included a T-17 tank—captured, lost, and recaptured; 94 weapons (guns and machine guns, Springfield and Garand); 12 60-millimeter mortars; one 91-millimeter mortar; a bazooka; seven 30-caliber tripod machine guns; 50,000 bullets; 130 Garand grenades; 70 howitzers of 60- and 81-millimeter mortar; 20 bazooka rockets; 200 knapsacks, 160 uniforms, 14 transport trucks; food; and medicine.

“The army took two hundred losses counting casualties and wounded. We took eight compañeros who died heroically in action, and seven wounded.

“A squadron of women, the ‘Mariana Grajales,’ fought valiantly during the ten days of action, resisting the aerial bombardment and the attack by the enemy artillery.

“Guisa, twelve kilometers from the military port of Bayamo, is now free Cuban territory.”
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