Press Reaction to
Castro Kidnap of 50 People
News Tribune June 24, 1958 page 5]
Press reaction to kidnap varied
The press' presence was both a picnic and problematical for
the 1958 Castro kidnap venture. Point of view and
rather than objective point of view - made the difference.
Possibly the lightest-hearted among the press gang who never
Navy base was Associated Press photographer Bill
Smith. He had
little to do, except to try unsuccessfully to solicit film
newsmen straggling in from the hills.
He otherwise occupied much of his time needling the homesick
reluctant such as a more mature William Warner's
oft-repeated "a pox on
both their houses," Batista and Castro condemned equally,
from Smith a statement he hoped to spend the entire summer
Guantanamo. The Navy was hospitable to the point of
on board taking to the hills. It also offered
amenities such as
the officers mess and clubs, and provided the some 250
at various times with special quarters.
Naturally the newsmen's billet, Bachelor Officers Quarters
christened "Playhouse 90," a then-current television
title. The christening probably was with Heineken's
most popular potable found, and in plentiful supply.
Possibly the most-harassed individual, even more so than
Navy Lt. (jg) Ralph Blanchard Jr., who would have preferred
been in his home duty station of Washington D.C.
Blanchard was press liaison officer for the event. All
newsmen's problems were his responsibility. Lack of
facts, other than the hostages still were in the hills, and
toward the Navy for its enforced hospitality annoyed the
of whom vented frustration on Blanchard with repeated
Blanchard's most vexatious problem, temporarily, was a
Washington, presumably, directing him to acquire and
one-page biography and photograph of each of the more than
in his command.
Blanchard was so relieved that even he was amused when he
order to be hoax by Jay Mallin, Time magazine and
correspondent based in Havana. Mallin had time for
pranks. he had
been among the first into the hills and had brought out the
on hostages, which was an exclusive in LIFE magazine.
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