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Flotilla de Guardia Desembarco del Granma
Cuban Naval Infantry

Desembarco del GranmaThe Flotilla de Guardia Desembarco del Granma - the Cuban Naval Infantry - was first noticed in 1979 in a naval parade. The name translates literally as "Flotilla of Guard Disembarkation of the Granma" but this might also be rendered as "Guard Flotilla Landing of the Granma". This unit is named after the landing of Castro's forces in Cuba aboard the yacht, the Granma. The "Landing of the Granma" was an event which marked the start of the Cuban Revolution.

After being released from prison on 15 May 1955, Fidel Castro and his younger brother Raul went to Mexico City to organize the war against dictator Fulgencio Batista. The two great problems were to train his expeditionary force and raise the money for arms and a boat on which to get to Cuba. A leisure yacht named Granma was secured for the trip to Cuba. Although seaworthy, the ship was not in the best shape. The landing of the Granma, in December 1956, was planned to re-enact the route that Jos Mart had followed to begin Cuba's War of Independence in 1895.

Desembarco del GranmaOn 02 December 1956 The rebels were forced to beach the ship at a spot called Playa de los Colorados, near the village of "Las Coloradas," about fifteen miles south of the designated spot. The new landing area was more of a swamp than a beach, and the rebels were unable to unload most of their weapons due to the muddy waters, the thick undergrowth plant life and small crabs. If they had debarked right on the beach instead of at the swamp, they would have found trucks, jeeps, gasoline. It would have been a walkaway. Of the 82 who made the trip from Mexico, only twelve made it to the Sierra Maestra to continue the struggle.

The "Desembarco del Granma National Park", in the SW corner of the the Republic of Cuba, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. These territories have historically been known as Marine Terraces of Cabo Cruz and Mais. The form of the system of terraces of Cabo Cruz and Maisr, resembling gigantic stepping stones, is one of the most singular landscapes that can be met by the human eye. There are from 7-8 regional levels of terraces (above sea level) defined for these systems, these terraces may have up to 20 levels.

Desembarco del GranmaAs it is likely that Cuban Naval Infantry looked to the former Soviet Union for operational techniques and doctrine, the battalion would consist of three infantry companies, with a 120 mm mortar and an anti-tank platoon. The elite Cuban naval infantry, the unit has not exceeded 1,000 marines in strength, and more recently it was estimated at some 500 strong.

It provides a motorized amphibious battalion for operating forces and also has security and special operations elements. The Formacion de Missiones Especial Naval - FEN - Naval Special Mission Formation - is a combat diver unit of about 200 personnel performing sabotage and reconnaissance roles. Zodiac and civilian craft (fishing vessels, yachts, motorboats) are the preferred transport.

Among Moscow's proxies, Cuba was undoubtedly the most important. The Castro regime was totally dependent upon Moscow's military, economic and political support. Cuba could have been a forward deployment base for Soviet naval aviation and surface combatants. In addition, Soviet naval infantry could operate along with Cuban naval infantry against stopover airfields in Central and South America.

In the early 1980s Soviet equipment and training allowed Havana to conduct its first integrated amphibious exercises, using Soviet landing ships and Cuban naval infantry. Cuba's increased power projection capabilities in the Western Hemisphere were demonstrated in May 1983 when Cuban forces conducted several amphibious training exercises involving Cuba's two POLNOCNY-Class medium landing ships and other elements of the Cuban Navy. These were the first observed integrated amphibious exercises using the recently-supplied Soviet-built landing ships and the Cuban naval infantry. Even though small in scope, these exercises showed Cuba's growing ability to undertake amphibious assaults, especially in the Eastern Caribbean area where many of Cuba's island neighbors have little or no armed forces of their own.

Desembarco del GranmaCuban Naval Infantry is reported to have about 400 BTR-60P wheeled APCs. But by the 21st Century Cuba had nothing with which to transport them (nor, particularly, the estimated 225 T-62 and 450 T-54/55 MBTs) by sea, either around the coasts or overseas, including her own offshore islands. It is assumed that these units exist for the defence of the Cuban mainland. Cuba is reported to possess 30 PT-76, light amphibious tanks. Naval Security units of various sizes and compositions guard the bases at Cabanas, Nicaro, Cienfuegos, Havana, Mariel, Punta Ballenatos, Varadero and Canasi.

Ana Belen Montes, the senior Cuba analyst at DIA, is the nation's highest ranking Castro spy ever uncovered in the US. In 1998 she helped write the threat assessment which concluded that Cuba did not pose a serious military threat to the US. Scott Carmichael, a Special Agent and counter-intelligence specialist with the Defense Intelligence Agency who helped apprehend her, later stated that while "Cuban amphibious forces may not be landing on Miami Beach anytime soon, the Cuban intelligence threat is serious."

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Page last modified: 01-12-2011 19:07:41 ZULU