Cuban revolutionaries invaded their island homeland by air and sea today and clashed with Fidel Castro's forces in a violent waterfront battle just 90 miles from Havana.
Castro declared a state of national emergency signed a proclamation as "commander-in-chief" and in a radio broadcast to the nation promised to crush the invaders.
Launching a long-awaited offensive against Castro the revolutionaries invaded from the sea shortly after midnight. They struck into the swampy area around the Bay of Cochinos, south of Matanzas Province.
It was not known where the invaders came from. However, it long has been known that revolutionary Cuban forces were training in Guatemala.
Several hours after dawn the Cuban internal radio communications system -- commandeered by the army - reported the invaders were dropping by parachute, planes were bombing and strafing the beachhead area, and two gunboats were supporting the assault.
The radio said that five men were killed and three militiamen wounded in the initial attack. However, a Cuban Red Cross broadcast heard in mid-morning appealed for ambulances for the "many injured" at Jaguey Grande, about 17 miles north of the invasion area.
It was not known whether the reference to Jaguey Grande meant the invasion force had pushed inland or whether it was a hospital center for troops wounded in the coastal fighting.
A Cuban broadcast said the invaders had struck at three points: Cochinos Bay, Playa de Giron and Playa Larga. It said the Larga invasion by one boat had been stopped but that the Giron landing was "effective."
It said gunfire was growing "steadily more intense."
There was no immediate report from Guantanamo Bay, the huge U.S. naval base. However, it was expected the base was under alert in event of reprisal by Castro forces, who blamed the U.S., for the invasion.
This was the beginning of "the battle to liberate our homeland from the despotic rule of Fidel Castro and rid Cuba of international cruelty and oppression," said Jose Miro Cardona, president of the Cuban Revolutionary Council, in a statement released in New York.
Radio Swan, the powerful anti-Castro transmitter on an unidentified island off Honduras, broadcast Miro Cardona's proclamation of revolt to all Cubans.
This morning's big assault came sometime before 3 a.m. when radio reports of firing were received from Matanzas Province.
The first official acknowledgement of the situation came when CMQ, a government-controlled broadcast station in Havana, aired a general order that " all militia stations in Havana should join their units immediately." This was just before 8 a.m.
Previous reports came from a local transmitter of the Ministry of the Interior in Matanzas Province, which was relaying beachhead reports from defending Castro forces to Havana.
At 5:45 a.m. the Matanzas station told Havana that six landing craft had successfully discharged invasion troops. Asked if they were "North Americans," the Matanzas operator said he could not tell what they were.
Twenty five minutes later, the operator at the battle scene said he heard the "firing of cannon," and that two trucks and seven buses filled with militiamen had passed en route to the landing area.
At 6:13 a.m. the Matanzas station said a dark gray twin-engine plane with Cuban markings" was flying in the direction of Larga Beach.
Miro Cardona had told UPI earlier that the revolutionary forces had aircraft in the area.
Radio Swan, which often is able to drown out Castro's commercial stations with its 50,000-watt transmitter, called on the Cuban people to "attack the Fidelista wherever you find him. Paralyze transportation. Help in any way possible to aid the liberation of Cuba. Follow instructions you are being given by radio."
Castro's government network reported at 6:32 a.m. that anti-aircraft ground units had opened up on two planes flying over the beach landing area -- apparently identifying them as anti-Castro aircraft. It had identified one plane shortly before as a B-26.
At 7:05, the government network reported the four planes were bombing and strafing and dropping troops and crates of supplies by parachute.
Ten minutes later the station said the planes "up to now have dropped six bombs and about 20 paratroops."
In his broadcast to the nation, Castro said the invaders, whom he described as barbarians, were trying to take away the land, mines and factories belonging to the people. He appealed to Latin American nations to make known their feelings about "Yankee imperialist aggression."
"The glorious soldiers of the rebel army and the national revolutionary militia have already engaged in combat with the enemy at all points of disembarkation," Castro said.
"They are fighting in defense of the sacred nation and the revolution against the attack of mercenaries organized by the imperialist government of the United States. Already our troops are advancing against the enemy sure of victory."
Revolutionary sources in the United States said they had reports through the underground that uprisings stated in the center of the island.
They said they had reports that public buildings and the home of at least one top Castro functionary in the Camaguey city of Baraguabee had been set afire.
The signal to begin the uprising was a 56-word coded message which sounded like a poem. It referred to a rainbow, the running of fish, the sky and "Chico."
The fish has been the symbol of the Cuban underground for months. It has the same significance as the fish drawn on the ancient catacombs of Rome by the persecuted Christians.
Cardona said that "before dawn, Cuban patriots in the cities and the hills began the battle to liberate our homeland from the despotic rule of Fidel Castro and rid Cuba of international cruelty and oppression."
Last Thursday, as if giving the advance signal, two huge department stores were destroyed by fires started by phosphorus bombs-one in Havana and the other in Santiago.
On Saturday, three Cuban Air Force pilots defected and took off from Cuban fields with their planes. They bombed and strafed key targets before fleeing the country. Two landed in Florida and the third at an undisclosed site.