Theodore's World: CIA Agent, Bay of Pigs Hero, Dies

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August 22, 2008

CIA Agent, Bay of Pigs Hero, Dies

August 18, 2008

Miami Herald


Grayston L. Lynch, a hero of the anti-Castro movement for his leadership in the Bay of Pigs invasion, where fired the first shot of the battle, died at 85 on Aug. 10.

Lynch, a wounded combat veteran of World War II and Korea who suffered multiple health problems, was hospitalized for foot surgery when he had a heart attack at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, near his Tampa home, said Karen Lynch, his wife of 18 years.

In his 1998 book, Decision for Disaster: Betrayal at the Bay of Pigs, Lynch detailed his role as CIA case officer in charge of the April 16, 1961, operation.

He fired the first shot of the three-day assault -- at a Jeep shining its headlights on Brigade 2506 frogmen landing at Playa Giron -- then returned to his ship and shot down two Cuban fighter planes.

Despite the invasion's disastrous failure, Lynch continued to direct clandestine assaults on the island from Miami until 1967.

His anger at the Kennedy administration's decision to cancel air support never abated.

Janet Weininger, whose father, American pilot Thomas "Pete" Ray, died in the attack, recalls how decades later Lynch's voice rose when he talked about the losses.

"You could tell he was emotional, and this was really coming from his heart," she said.

His wife said Lynch attributed Fidel Castro's longevity to the supernatural.

'He'd laugh and say, 'You can't kill someone in league with the devil.' "
Lynch, a Catholic, was "very spiritual," she said. "He prayed every day."

A strapping six-foot-two Texan, Lynch looked every bit the role he chose after lying his way into the U.S. Army at 15: highly decorated career soldier and undercover agent.

He's been the subject of several documentaries, and director Ron Howard optioned his book for Universal Studios.

"He was the John Wayne type, and you'd go to hell and back with him," said Amado Cantillo, a Bay of Pigs frogman, now a Miami-Dade County Public Works pilot.
A fierce anti-communist, Lynch "inspired respect and attention. He motivated his men and led by example. Whenever there was a mission, he was there up front. He took care of his men and kept them informed."

Lynch, whose mother died giving birth to him on June 14, 1923, was the son of an East Texas ranch hand and oil driller.

"He was meant to be a soldier," Karen Lynch said, given that June 14 is both Flag Day and the 1775 birthday of the Army.

Lynch joined in 1938: the 5th Cavalry (Horse). He later landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day -- where a hand grenade at his back peppered him with shrapnel. During the Battle of the Bulge, an exploding shell shattered his right leg.

He earned a political science degree from the University of Maryland and, after much surgery, he reenlisted for Korea, where he fought in the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge.

He served with the Special Forces in Laos and Panama before retiring from the military as a captain in 1960.

Lynch then joined the CIA and while recruiting for Brigade 2506, met Cantillo.

"He closed ranks with us," Cantillo said. 'He said, 'You have to work hard if you want to save your country.' "
In time, Cantillo came to "love him like a father. . . . He taught me discipline. He taught me never to surrender."

During the invasion, the two men went ashore together and before the fighting stopped, rescued 35 and buried four of their comrades -- as well as one of Castro's pilots.

A month later, a disillusioned Cantillo 'was mopping floors at Mount Sinai Hospital, and there he was with the cowboy boots. He says, 'Let's go, man!' He was in charge of [secret] missions to Cuba."

In all, Lynch oversaw 2,126 missions, participating directly in 113.

"He was best man at my wedding in 1975, and we were supposed to go to Laos together" with the CIA, Cantillo said, "but they sent me to Africa for two years. After that, I was working with him locally and internationally."

When Karen Hartley-Soben met him in 1987, Gray Lynch was retired from the agency and long divorced.

Twenty years his junior, she was involved in breeding racehorses and writing a spy novel. Already in failing health, Lynch was writing as well.

His book -- and his life -- became her cause.

Cantillo and Janet Weininger credit Karen with keeping him alive far longer than his poor health would have predicted.

"It took 10 years to pull the book out of him," said Karen, who married Lynch in 1990. 'He was so emotionally involved. He cried through the whole chapter 'Rescue.' "
In his speeches, she said, "he never said anything about his exploits, but he talked about how bravely the men fought. He never had a note and could have you crying at the end. It would get to the soul of the people listening."

In June, Lynch celebrated his birthday at the VA hospital. Karen brought a cake decorated with toy soldiers, tanks and American flags.

It would be his last birthday, he told Cantillo, who said, "Don't talk like that!"

Cantillo and other South Florida Bay of Pigs veterans plan to attended a memorial service for Lynch on Aug. 30. It's scheduled for 1 p.m. at the MacDill Air Force Base chapel in Tampa, where the Lynches were married.

The body will be cremated.

"We consider him a member of Brigade 2506," Cantillo said. "I'm giving the widow a flag of the brigade."

Wild Thing's comment..............

These Heroes walk among us and I am forever grateful.

....Thank you Tom for sending this article to me.

Posted by Wild Thing at August 22, 2008 03:47 AM


Grayston Lynch is an America hero. I realize that for many people today, being an anti-communist is passe', but the recent actions by Putin show that communism is always dangerous. Mr Lynch's anti-communism was based on his experiences fighting it and seeing it defeat weak American resolve in Cuba and Laos.

There are many Grayston Lynchs in America. Most go unsung. I wish I could attend the memorial service for this fellow Special Forces warrior and fellow Texan. RIP Grayston Lynch. There will never be a Fidel Castro in the Valhalla you have gone to.

Posted by: TomR at August 22, 2008 09:28 AM

Today Kennedy is held up as this great leader, except to us who know better. The Cuban missile crisis wouldn't have happened had Kennedy allowed the close air support needed for the invasion.

But like his successor LBJ he abandoned the troops on the ground and hung them out to dry. I guess Marylyn needed some attention which was far more important than liberating 'Cuber'.

Posted by: Mark at August 22, 2008 12:25 PM

""His anger at the Kennedy administration's decision to cancel air support never abated.""

Neither has mine!!!

Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Clinton all showed extreme errors in judgement relying on the UN to cover their asses, instead the UN left them out to dry and they in turn left our allies and our troops out to dry. What is this election all about? Same Old Story, capitulate, fail and blame the right wing for their culpability.

Posted by: Jack at August 22, 2008 01:09 PM

Tom, I agree so many don't care about this anymore...."being an anti-communist". I always have but that is also how I was raised, to know how dangerous communisim is to our country and to the world.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 22, 2008 07:49 PM

Mark, yes your right, except to us, we sure do know better about Kennedy.

Well said Mark.

Grrrrr Kennedy and LBJ.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 22, 2008 07:52 PM

Jack......"What is this election all about? Same Old Story, capitulate, fail and blame the right wing for their culpability.".

It sure is and they just won't stop. grrrr

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 22, 2008 08:06 PM