Occupation of Imias´ barracks: a way to victory
After the victorious battle of the ambush of Guamá in Baracoa, on November 4, 1958, Commander Felix Pena Diaz began preparations for the siege and occupation of the Imias´ barracks, located between Baracoa and Guantánamo. It was not the first time that they tried to take the barracks from that place.
Previously, in support of the strike of April 9, 1958, the head of the Frank País Second Front, Raúl Castro Ruz had proposed the mission to Captain Ciro Frías Cabrera, who was under the leadership of Company E, to take that military enclave. The action failed due to adverse situations; there Ciro fell in combat, heroically, when he called for one last attempt to burn the barracks.
Ciro was a leader very respected and beloved by the troop, by Fidel and Raul, who expressed distinctive words before his fall: "We have lost one of the bravest men in the troop."
It was given the role to Captain Félix Pena to assume the leadership of the company. There was a second attempt to take the headquarters of Imías, on June 11, 1958, which was also unsuccessful. As a result of the development of the war in the vast territory that covered the Second Front, columns were created, including Column 18 Antonio López Fernández, commanded by Pena, promoted to commander.
Third time lucky
By data of the rebel intelligence it was known that the barracks of Imias had become, in practice, a fortress, made up of troops belonging to the 17th Squadron of the Baracoa´s Rural Guard. The head of the column, in addition to fencing the barracks and harassing it, placed ambushes on the road to Guantanamo and Baracoa to prevent the arrival of reinforcements, in addition to not ruling out the support by sea, which ultimately happened.
As a request of Pena, the head of the Front gave instructions to his second in command, the commander Efigenio Ameijeiras, so that with forces from his column he would go to Imias and coordinate the actions.
On November 9 the siege was narrowed and gradually increased the harassment of the barracks, mainly between10 to 13. During the night of the latter, the guards were ordered through loudspeakers to surrender, while their response was with fire volleys. In the last two days, the army aviation machine-gunned and bombarded the positions occupied by the guerrillas and the elevations around the town. A frigate of tyranny maneuvered in front of Imias.
The attempt to supply the besieged by air, with ammunition and provisions, was unsuccessful and fell into the hands of the insurgent forces.
On the 12th, Commander Ameijeiras arrived with the reinforcement of his column to Felicidad de Yateras, territory of Column 18. He left there at dusk on the 13th with the vanguard of the forces that were going to participate in the operation. During the night, commanders Ameijeiras and Pena met at the Command of the latter in Puriales de Caujerí. Efigenio assumed command of the entire operation. The missions were pointed out to each of the small units that would act in combat, as well as those in charge of rejecting the reinforcements.
The garrison of the barracks was under the command of an experienced military officer, Captain Cotilla. Seeing that the next day the pressure from the rebel forces would rise, he requested urgent reinforcement. The enemy aviation and navy began bombing and strafing the surroundings of the town, with the purpose of supporting the disembarkation of the Company No. 71 which was reinforced, belonging to Battalion 17.
The landing operation began at seven in the morning and lasted three hours. Once on land, these forces began the cross-country march, supported by aviation and naval units.
In their itinerary, they clashed with the forces of First Lieutenant Fidel Martínez Machado, who, faced with the superiority of the enemy troops, were forced to retreat. The entrance of Company 71 into the barracks took the rebel commander almost by surprise.
Efigenio decided to act immediately and begin the assault at 12 noon on November 14. Ameijeiras and Captain Samuel Rodiles would attack from the front; Pena would attack from the east, and first lieutenant Eduardo Céspedes from the north.
Captain Luis Artemio Carbó Ricardo would occupy a position in front of the barracks to beat the enemy trenches, and Captain Santiago Terry would remain in ambush on the beach path.
At dawn on the 14th, Ameijeiras, aided by fighters Edilberto Martínez, Yambi; Víctor Nicot; Miguel Guitar and the endowment of the so-called Don Paco cannon, which was under the orders of first Lieutenant Eduardo Céspedes, tried to place themselves in the intended position. When they made a detour and crossed the Imías River, they were positioned in front of the barracks, but they were detected by the guards, who shot them and forced them to occupy another place; finally they were located on the banks of the river, behind a natural parapet.
At ten in the morning the rebels had already taken their positions. At the appointed time, Efigenio ordered the cannon to beat the adversary.
In the presence of this situation, the chief of the enemy troops made the decision to break the siege of the barracks and the warehouse they had occupied, and evacuate to the frigate located on the beach.
The violent eruption of the enemy troops, which left both objectives at the same time, caused a momentary confusion among some combatants, but they were firmly rejected. Efigenio maneuvered with the forces of his column in support of the rebel counterattack.
After the combat, the commander Efigenio Ameijeiras rendered a detailed report to the head of the II Front.
The correlation of forces, from the point of view of armament and the number of soldiers participating in the combat of Imias, was far superior in favor of the enemy, in addition to the absolute dominion of the air and the support of the navy.
Despite this numerical advantage, the adversary was fenced several kilometers from Baracoa and even more distant from the eastern capital, in addition to its installation was located in a territory which access roads and surrounding areas were dominated by rebels.
The taking of Imias by the Rebel Army became a matter of honor. It was a bloody fight, men from both columns advanced with their chest bared. There was waste of courage and heroism.
This victory had great military and political importance and was among the significant actions of the II Front. On January 1st, 1959, the forces of Columns 6, 18 and 20 entered the city of Guantánamo, commanded by commanders Efigenio Ameijeiras, Felix Pena and Demetrio Montseny Villa.
Translation: Radio Baracoa