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companero che .com - the truth about Ernesto Che Guevara
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    - baptism of fire    
      - el Comandante    
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1957 - 1958

On 29th November 1957 Che commanded a battle against the troops of a notorious killer who headed the forces of the dictatorship operating in the Sierra Maestra. In this combat, which took place in Mar Verde, Ciro Redondo, an outstanding member of the Rebel Army, was killed. On 1st December 1957 clearly reflecting his concern over the publishing of El Cubano Libre and the topics that would be convenient to publish, Che again wrote Fidel Castro on the matter.


"As to the rest of the things, it is important for you to send me the fully developed topics of the items we should insist on, for I do not want to make any statement in the paper without your acquiescence. It would be useful to have a proclamation signed by you and reproduce it by the thousands. In a short time we'll be ready to do that."


On 3rd December 1957 Che moves his headquarters to a place known as La Mesa, in the Sierra Maestra. The need to have his camp in this area arose when the soldiers of the tyranny marched by surprise on El Hombrito. At La Mesa, over time, several facilities were built, which were very useful for the rebel fighters, such as an armory, a small field hospital, a printing shop, a school, a tinsmith's shop and a leather workshop. On 16th February 1958 the Rebel Army fighters scored a significant victory in the battle of Pino del Agua.


"The strategic plan was very simple: knowing that there was a whole company in the sawmill, Fidel did not feel confident that our troops could capture it. The aim was to attack it, liquidate the sentries, besiege them and wait for reinforcements, because we knew only too well that the troops that were marching were much weaker than those in the barracks. We laid several ambushes, of which we expected great results. We scattered the men among them proportionally to the probability of having the enemy approach through there."

On 24th February 1958 thanks to Che's initiative, and from his camp in the Sierra Maestra, Radio Rebelde started its regular broadcasts. The station was initially located between La Pata de la Mesa and Altos de Conrado and then placed at the Column 1 being one of the stations with the highest ratings till December 1958.


"At the end of this first year of war and the beginning of the second, we had a small broadcasting plant. The first formal broadcasts were made in the early days of February 1958, and our only audience was Pelencho, a peasant whose bohio was located on the hill right across from the plant, and Fidel, who was visiting the camp, preparing conditions to attack Pino del Agua, and he listened to the broadcast on our receiver."


On 30th March 1958 Che gave a message to Rigoberto Garces for him to show to the peasants in the area, with the aim of getting the weapons that some of them had. Evidence of his respect for other people's property, he specified in this message that the bearers were authorized only to ask for the weapons, not to seize them by imposition.


In May 1958 Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara, with Fidel Castro and the rest of the members of the Rebel Army, fought several battles against the biggest offensive of the dictatorship in the Sierra Maestra mountains, the so-called FF Plan. Despite they had fewer men and fewer weapons, the members of the Rebel Army managed to stop and thwart this offensive and immediately went into a counteroffensive. On 21th August 1958 an order signed by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro assigned Che the mission to lead an invading column from the Sierra Maestra to the province of Las Villas to help develop the war in the central part of Cuba. The Column was identified as number 8 and named Ciro Redondo. The military order also stated that Comandante Guevara would act as the chief of all the revolutionary forces operating in the province of Las Villas at that time.

On 31st August 1958 Che's invading column, made up by veteran guerrilla and young fighters picked up from the Minas del Frio Recruit School set off westwards from El Jibaro in the Sierra Maestra. The column was 140-strong, divided into a general staff and four platoons. The second chief was Comandante Ramiro Valds. On 9th September 1958 as they crossed the dangerous plains of the province of Camaguey without the very needed guides, the members of Che's column clashed with the soldiers of the dictatorship.


"The night of September 9, as we entered a place called La Federal, our vanguard fell in an ambush and two valuable comrades died. But the most regrettable outcome was that we were located by the enemy forces and from then on we had no respite. After a brief battle, we overcame the small garrison there and took four prisoners. We were then forced to march very carefully because the air force knew what our approximate route would be."


On 29th September 1958 the rebel troops under Che went through an extremely difficult situation, when they were surrounded in a area close to the Baragua sugar mill. On 10th October 1958 despite continued harassment by the forces of the dictatorship, the members of the Ciro RedondoColumn 8 kept on going. During the night they reached the Jatibonico River and forded it.


"Fording the Jatibonico River was like the symbol of the passage from darkness into light. Ramiro says it was like a switch that turned on the light and it's an accurate image. But since the day before, we perceived the blue of the sierras and even the most reluctant mountain climber was terribly anxious to get there."


On 15th October 1958 Che and the members of his column covered the last stretch of the epic invasion, to fully accomplish the mission Fidel Castro had entrusted to them. For 47 days they managed to overcome all hurdles over more than 500 kilometers.


"After an exhausting day in the bogs, crossing creeks and cane fields, we forded the Zaza River, which must be one of the widest in Cuba, and crossed the last line of soldiers on the road from Trinidad to Sancti Spritus on the evening of October 15th. Then our arduous political task began ..."


On 16th October Che established column headquarters at Caballete de Caza in the Escambray mountains. Over the next few days, in coordination with other revolutionary forces also fighting in the province of Las Villas, he carried on the rebel offensive in the central region of Cuba. Che worked for unity among all combatants in the Escambray mountains and for coordinating efforts in the development of the revolutionary struggle.


On 26th October 1958 during the night, a group of members of the column led by Che attacked a small garrison located in Ginia de Miranda in the Escambray mountains. After overcoming the resistance of the 14 soldiers stationed there, they occupied the military facility.

<- El Comandante Victory ->

A detailed chronology of Che's life you can find
in this book "A Brave Man" on Cuba Directo website


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