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U.S. Apologizes to Cuba for Raid by Private Plane
February 20th 1960

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States, with a red face, admitted Friday that a small private plane had raided Cuba from a U.S. airfield. It apologized to Prime Minister Fidel Castro, bitter critic of America. The State Department ordered the top U.S. diplomat remaining in Havana, Daniel Braddock, to “express to the Cuban government this government’s sincere regrets that the plane managed to escape the vigilance of our intensified airfield patrols” in Florida.

Washington acted quickly after its own check had confirmed a new Castro allegation about U.S.-based planes fire-bombing Cuban sugar fields. Castro told a Cuban television audience the little craft had crashed Thursday while attacking a Cuban sugar mill. He said the occupants, both killed, were Americans. Cubans named them as Robert Ellis Frost of Portland, Ore., and Robert Kelly of the U.S. Civil Air Patrol, not further identified.

Asks End Of Raids

Castro called for an end to this kind of action by raiders, who, he said, had destroyed 225,000 tons of sugar cane in 30 attacks this year. State Department authorities had no further immediate identification of the two fliers. It said their inquiries disclosed that the plane had taken off from Tamiami Airfield near Miami. It believed the plane had loaded up with bombing material at another unidentified airfield south of Miami before making its run on the Cuban sugar mill.

Washington and Havana have been at odds over Castro’s anti-American statements and seizure of U.S. properties in Cuba. The United States has recalled its ambassador to Havana, Philip W. Bonsal.

Double Humiliation

Fridays development came as a double humiliation to the State Department because it had scoffed at previous Castro charges of U.S. based incendiary raiders and announced supposedly tight checks against any illegal flights from Florida. After one Cuban allegation last month, press officer Lincoln White said on Jan. 13 there was no sign of any American-based plane dropping fire bombs on Cuba. He described as absurd any implication of U.S. government involvement.

Evidence Mandatory

Until Cuban authorities can present incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, the United States vigorously rejects the allegation,” White said then. U.S. officials got the evidence this time. Castro accepted a U.S. Embassy offer to send a team of experts to the crash site. In his jibe at the United States. Castro suggested Uncle Sam’s defenses against Soviet missiles cannot be worth much if the United States is unable to detect and stop a little plane flying to Cuba.