The American Who Fought For Fidel & Was Betrayed

In 1959, Cuba was one of the most poverty-stricken yet beautiful undeveloped countries in the world. The long serving dictator, Fulgencio Batista, also ran one of the most corrupt governments in history, and his people suffered. Fidel Castro and his rebels meant to put a stop to that.

Contrary to popular belief, Fidel did not initially spew a bunch of communist rhetoric. He needed support from many, and for many different things. One thing he needed was leadership in his rebel army. For this he turned to a few foreigners. One of those foreigners was a handsome young American named William Alexander Morgan. He was a rebel, an outlaw, a womanizer who was court-martialed by the US Army. He would be one of about two dozen Americans who would help Castro come to power, not knowing this would be an error in judgment and that Fidel would turn communist. It was to be a deadly mistake for William Morgan, due to a savage betrayal. It would show the world who Fidel Castro really was.

What Happened?

Morgan went to Cuba in 1957. He opposed the Batista dictatorship and led a guerrilla force of the Second National Front of the Escambray that operated against Batista‘s soldiers in the Escambray Mountains in central Cuba.

In 1958, he wrote a statement to explain his participation in Castro’s revolution, “Why I Am Here”. It said in part:

I am here because I believe that the most important thing for free men to do is to protect the freedom of others. I am here so that my son, when he is grown, will not have to fight or die in a land not his own, because one man or group of men try to take his liberty from him. I am here because I believe that free men should take up arms and stand together and fight and destroy the groups and forces that want to take the rights of people away.

In December 1958, Che Guevara joined forces with Morgan’s group and the Revolutionary Directorate guerrillas of the Escambray mountains. Together they captured the city of Santa Clara on 31 December. Twelve hours later, Batista fled Cuba. Morgan and his men occupied the city of Cienfuegos on January 1-2, 1959.

In January 1959, he told a reporter that “all I’m interested in is settling down to a nice peaceful existence” but worried how U.S. authorities would respond to his military activities in Cuba. In March 1959, officials of the U.S. embassy in Havana warned Americans that participation in foreign military service could jeopardize their citizenship.

In August 1959, Morgan helped to foil coup attempts orchestrated by opponents of the revolution in Trujillos‘s Dominican Republic by pretending to cooperate and then betraying the plot to Fidel Castro.

In September 1959, when most of the two dozen U.S. citizens who had fought with Castro’s forces had returned to the U.S., the U.S. State Department revoked his citizenship, a move Morgan promised to contest.

It is sometimes claimed that Morgan orchestrated the March 1960 explosion of the French arms ship La Coubre, but there is no evidence to support this.

Morgan being applauded and thanked by Fidel, only to be executed several months later. A very creepy photo.

After The Revolution Was Over

Morgan married a Cuban, Olga María Rodríguez Farinas, who was also a revolutionary and together they had two daughters.

Throughout the struggle against Batista, Morgan was vocal about Castro’s anti-communist beliefs. When asked during interviews about Castro’s political beliefs and where the new Cuban government was leaning, he remained firm in his belief that Castro was not a communist and that Cuba would become capitalist parliamentary democracy.

As Castro began to reveal his socialist leanings, Morgan became distressed, as did other members of the SFNE, who believed in a capitalist Cuba.

Morgan was arrested in October 1960 and charged with plotting to join and lead the counter-revolutionaries who were active in the Escambray Mountains.

Morgan was shot to death by a firing squad on March 11, 1961. He was 32 years old. Two months later, on 1 May 1961, Castro declared Cuba a socialist nation.

His wife was tried with him in absentia. She was found guilty of co-conspiracy and sentenced to 30 years in prison. She was released after 12 years. She left for the United States during the Mariel boatlift. In a series of interviews with the Toledo Blade in 2002, she admitted that she and her husband had begun running guns to anti-Castro guerrillas because he was disenchanted by Castro’s pro-Soviet leanings. She also said she wanted Morgan’s U.S. citizenship restored and his remains returned to the United States for reburial. The newspaper stories prompted two Democratic members of the United States House of RepresentativesCharlie Rangel and Marcy Kaptur, to travel to Cuba in April 2002 to meet Fidel Castro and ask him to return Morgan’s body and Castro agreed.

In April 2007, the US State Department declared that Morgan’s US citizenship was effectively restored, nearly 50 years after the government stripped him of his rights in 1959 for serving in a foreign country’s military.

Moral to the story: Don’t trust a power hungry psychopath.

Morgan, far right, in the Escambray Mountains with his soldiers.



The New Yorker.