Cuba, España y los Estados Unidos | Organización Auténtica | Política Exterior de la O/A | Temas Auténticos | Líderes Auténticos | Figuras del Autenticismo | Símbolos de la Patria | Nuestros Próceres | Martirologio |
Presidio Político de Cuba Comunista | Costumbres Comunistas | Temática Cubana | Brigada 2506 | La Iglesia | Cuba y el Terrorismo | Cuba - Inteligencia y Espionaje | Cuba y Venezuela | Clandestinidad | United States Politics | Honduras vs. Marxismo | Bibliografía | Puentes Electrónicos |
"He shared with hundreds of us exile Cubans a love and passion for our cause"Carlos Obregon, Cuban-American businessman in Miami
Jacob Donald "Jake" Esterline, a veteran of U.S. intelligence services and the CIA'S project director for the ill-fated 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, has died at age 79. Death came quickly at midday Saturday as he collapsed of an apparent heart attack while riding in a car with his son-in-law near his home in Hendersonville, N.C.
Esterline, who spent 27 years with the Central Intelligence Agency and its World War II forerunner, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), was a significant participant in the making of contemporary history.
In addition to his role in the Bay of Pigs, he commanded a battalion of Burmese guerrillas in a jungle war against the Japanese; was chief guerrilla warfare trainer at The Farm, a once-clandestine training school for CIA recruits at Williamsburg, Va.; headed the CIA's Washington task force in the 1954 overthrow of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz; served as CIA station chief in Guatemala, Venezuela, Panama and Miami during the height of the Cold War and as deputy chief of the agency's Western Hemisphere division.
Apart from the Bay of Pigs, it was as chief of the CIA's Miami office from 1968 to 1972, that involved him most directly in Cuban affairs.
His task in Miami was to quietly complete the phaseout of the unsuccessful post-Bay of Pigs secret war against Fidel Castro -- started by the Kennedy administration and known in its initial stages as Operation Mongoose -- without creating a scandal that might embarrass Washington.
That meant disposing of ships and boats, terminating leases on safe houses, marinas, boat yards, relocating the CIA's Miami offices and -- the most difficult task -- laying off the several hundred Cubans still directly on the payroll.
"I felt a sense of obligation to the Cubans after the failure of the Bay of Pigs,'' he said, explaining in a 1995 interview why he volunteered for the Miami assignment. If it was going to be done, I wanted to see it done right."
"I thought, Really, my heart will always be with these people, these Cuban exiles in all these years, starting with the Bay of Pigs, and I don't want to see them cast in the cold."
For better or worse, however, his role in the Bay of Pigs remains the event for which he will be most remembered and one that haunted him for the remainder of his life.
He had been recalled from Venezuela in early 1960 to undertake the project, which initially was envisioned as a guerrilla incursion at Trinidad, on Cuba's south coast. It eventually evolved into a full-scale invasion at the Bay of Pigs, an isolated swamp area 80 miles to the west.
Both he and Marine Col. Jack Hawkins, his paramilitary counterpart in planning the invasion, became increasingly doubtful of its chance for success. On an April Sunday, a week before the invasion, Esterline and Hawkins went to the home of Richard Bissell, the agency's director of clandestine services who was in overall charge of the operation, and told him they were quitting.
After a heated discussion, Bissell talked them out of quitting by appealing to their loyalty and warning that their resignations wouldn't stop the invasion.
"We made a bad mistake by not sticking to our guns and staying resigned," he said in the 1995 interview.
The invasion failed, with both Esterline and Hawkins convinced the change in landing sites had much to do with its failure, along with President Kennedy's reduction in the air cover that had been promised for the invaders.
Hawkins, in a telephone interview Sunday, recalled that Esterline, in his capacity as the invasion task force chief ``had struggled continually to persuade political authorities to provide all the support and protection necessary for a small force of Cuban exiles to be landed on the Cuban coast.
"Failing this," said Hawkins, "he warned his superior at the CIA that the landing could not succeed with the restrictions imposed by the president. He recommended cancellation, but his advice was not heeded. The result was a military, political and diplomatic disaster at the Bay of Pigs."
Hawkins praised Esterline as a man "whose dedication and abilities were recognized at the CIA throughout his long career" and who "devoted his life to the defense of the United States."
"Jake was a great leader," said Sam Halpern, a retired CIA colleague and contemporary of Esterline. "He believed in what he was doing and he saw trouble ahead at the Bay of Pigs and tried to stop the operation to no avail."
"I had the privilege and honor of serving under him during the U.S. intelligence community's secret war against Castro communism," said Carlos Obregon, a Cuban-American businessman in Miami. "He shared with hundreds of us exile Cubans a love and passion for our cause."
Born in Lewistown, western rural Pennsylvania on April 26, 1920, Esterline attended Temple University in Philadelphia for three years then enrolled in Officer Candidate School where he was when World War II war broke out.
He was recruited into the OSS, winding up as the commander of a Burmese guerrilla battalion fighting the Japanese, and was awarded a Bronze Star for his service.
He returned to Pennsylvania after the war, finishing an accounting degree at Temple. Ordered back to active duty in 1951 when the Korean War broke out, he took up a standing offer to join the CIA.
Survivors include Mildred, his wife of 53 years; two sons, Jacob Alan Esterline of Austin, Texas; and John Esterline of Peachtree City, Ga.; and a daughter Ann Hutcheson of Flat Rock, N.C.