A BOGEY OVER THE FLORIDA STRAITS
March 1958: CUBA
Captain Manuel Rojas and I had just delivered weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies to Fidel Castro’s rebels who were operating in the Serria Madre Mountains of Cuba. We had just cleared Cuban Air Space and were flying four thousand feet above the Florida Straits, heading northeast to Marathon Key, Florida, when Rojas suddenly called out.
“They got us!”
Slightly off our right-wing, two U.S. Air Force F-86 Saber jets from Homestead Air Force Base came sneaking up from behind us. They came alongside our C-46, almost touching our wingtips. They had us locked in.
One of the Saber jets drifted in closer to our left wing on Rojas’s side of the aircraft. The Saber pilot signaled for us to drop the landing gear. Rojas looked at the pilot, grinned, and then gave the F-86 pilot the one-finger salute. Rojas turned to me.
“Maintain this heading and altitude. I’ll deal with this guy.”
Rojas reached into his pocket and pulled out a nice fat marijuana joint. He held it up as an offering to the Saber pilot.
The jet pilot smiled, shook his head negatively. He again motioned for Rojas to drop the landing gear. Rojas gave the F-86 pilot a proper salute, and then again the one-finger salute, but did not give me the order to lower the landing gear. We continued onward toward the Florida coast and Marathon Key.
The ADF radio needle suddenly swung around, pointing toward “Swan Island.” A code song, ‘Moon over Miami,’ started playing in my headphones, signaling the coast was clear to enter the AIDZ- ‘Aircraft Identification Defense Zone.’ The F-86 pilot also received the same coded message. He gave Rojas a thumbs up, then a friendly salute. Both Saber pilots then departed – one banked hard left and the other hard right, each turning away, both disappearing into the wild blue. As quickly as they had appeared, the two Saber Jets disappeared.
The words “Moon over Miami shine on my love tonight” echoed in my headphones, indicating the coast was now clear. We could continue onward toward Marathon Key. In the distance, beyond the cotton-like clouds, I could see the faint evening lights of Key West, Florida.
Rojas leaned back in his seat and fired up the joint he had offered the Saber pilot. He offered it to me. I took it and inhaled a deep drag from the sweet weed.
“You got it,” Rojas said. “Now take us home.”.
I corrected our heading and set a new course for Marathon Key. Then I took another drag from the Marijuana joint. I handed the joint back to Rojas. He took a deep-deep drag. When we arrived at Marathon, he was sound asleep.
Later that night, we had a couple of beers at Jack Tarr’s Resort Hotel on Marathon Key. Another mission was completed successfully. Tomorrow would be another day, another mission, another memory – and too, another marijuana joint.
Navigate To Other Tosh Articles . . .
- Page 1: Growing Up Fast: Two Events I Witnessed
- Page 2: The Cubans and an Old Power Plant (1958)
- Page 3: A Cold War Incident
- Page 4: “A Mechanical Monster”
- Page 5: The Day Before that Dreadful Day
- Page 6: The Lady Saboteur
- Page 7: The Gringo and the Worms
- Page 8: The Death of a Reluctant Skydiver
- Page 9: A Bogey Over the Florida Straits
- Page 10: I’m Too Young to be Shot
- Page 11: The Last of the Mohicans
- Page 12: Two Good Friends: A War Story
To Go to Tosh’s Novel Page “Thinking That is Out of This World” Click HERE