Mrs. Thames (Helen) Mauzy, of Warsaw, and her son, Lanny, 16,
were 'just across the street' from an uprising in Havana, Cuba
last night in which an attempted assassination of President Fulgencio
Batista ended in bloodshed, death and failure for the handful
of student revolutionaries who staged it.
A telegram, sent from Havana and received by The Times-Union at 8:57 this morning from Mrs. Mauzy, reads as follows:
"We are at the Sevilla Biltmore across from the palace where the uprising is taking place in Cuba. Unable to leave at present due to transportation being stopped. Give details later. Watch for us on TV show, 'Today', on Friday." Signed- Helen Mauzy.
Times-Union reporters learned by telephone later today that Mrs. Mauzy and Lanny, a Warsaw high school senior, were at Havana while Thames and a daughter, Sharon Kay, 10, a fifth grader at East Wayne, "sweated it out" in Key West, Fla.
The Mauzy family resides on Route 2, Warsaw. Thames is owner-operator of the Home Furniture Mart at the north edge of this city.
Hope to have Mauzys on WRSW tonight
Efforts were being made this afternoon by WRSW News Commentator Bill Mollenhour to interview, by telephone, Mrs. Mauzy and Lanny at 6:15 tonight over WRSW AM and FM.
Mrs. Mauzy and Lany believe they will be able to return to Key West by airplane from Havana tomorrow so that the family will be reunited for its vacation. She and Lanny are to appear on film on the Dave Garroway television program tommorw morning.
In a United Press dispatch from Havana this morning, it appeared that the uprising had ended.
President Batista labeled the attack on his palace late Wednesday as Communist inspired. The youthful members of the tiny band were either dead, captured or fleeing for their lives before searching police and soldiers.
At least 36 persons, including a U.S. citizen, were killed and more than a score wounded in the attack which reached the second floor of the Presidential Palace before it was beaten back.
At least 20 of the dead were members of the 100-man Palace Guard. Batista, who was in the palace at the time, was unharmed. Four rebels were captured. Five were seen escaping.
Scattered gunfire could be heard throughout the city until late Wednesday night, but early this morning Havana was like a graveyard.
Batista told newsmen shortly before midnight the attackers were "poor mad fools paid by people who looted the national treasury, carrying out directives of the Communist Party."
He said about 40 revolutionaries were involved in the attack. The Army placed the figure at 30. This correspondent counted between 25 and 30.
Civilians Off Streets
Constitutional guarantees have been in suspension since Feb. 15, but no martial law or formal curfew was imposed on Havana. Police asked civilians to stay off the streets Wednesday night and they did.
Identification of the first few rebels slain indicated the group comprised mostly university students loyal to Dr. Carlos Socarras, former president ousted by Batista in 1952 and now living in exile in Miami, Fla.
The American killed was Peter Korenda, 38, of Clifton, N.J. a clerk at Hayden Chemical Works in Garfield, N.J. He was hit in the neck by a stray bullet while watching the fighting from the doorway at the Hotel Regis a block from the palace.
Korenda was here on a two-week vacation with Edward Butts, of Garfield, N.J. Buts was wounded slightly.
2 Hours of Fighting
The attack started at 3:25 p.m. A red truck, a white bus and three black limousines pulled up near the palace. Some 25-30 young men armed with sub-machineguns, pistols and hand grenades poured out of them and stormed into the palace.
Eleven of them reached the second floor where the bloodiest part of the fighting took place in front of the door of Batista's office. The President and his family were on the third floor.
Batista said the rebels fired a bullet through his office door and hurled a hand grenade at it. The grenade did not explode.
The President said he kept a 45 in his hand all during the fight "with a bullet in the chamber."
The palace guard called for reinforcements. Some 300 police bringing all the city's 35 prowl cars roared up. The Army sent another 200 soldiers from Camp Columbia with a dozen tanks. The battle was over two hours after it started.
By Marguerite Sand, Times Union Women's Editor
Vacationing in Cuba and landing in the midst of a revolt is becoming a commonplace experience for Mrs. Thames Mauzy and son Lanny, of Country Club drive. The last incident which occurred during the middle of March could have ended tragically as one American tourist was killed, another wounded. Hundreds, including the Mauzys were caught in the middle as Cubans tried to kill their dictator, Batista.
From the terrifying experience they learned many things, but two were of the greatest importance. An American citizen means nothing to the people of a country in revolt. They are fighting for their lives and have no concern for the welfare of the tourist. They were struck by the similarity of the incident in Cuba to those that have occurred in Hungary and other places of the world where there are dictators.
Mr. And Mrs. Mauzy, Lanny, and daughter, Sharon Kay, had been enjoying the milder clime of Key West, Fla., the latter part of February and early part of March. Mrs. Mauzy and Lanny decided they would like to once again see Havana, a fabulous city they had visited in 1952. At that time there had been trouble, but they had heard the shooting only from a distance. The incident had made little impression on them. Mr. Mauzy and Sharon Kay did not care to go, but they had no objection to the others making the flight to Havana.
Arrive March 13
Mrs. Mauzy and Lanny arrived in Cuba via plane 11 a.m. March 13. It had been reported that it was a "hot spot," but the travel agency in Key West had assured them there was "no danger."
Lanny took pictures from the balcony of the Hotel Sevilla Biltmore where they had registered. Across the way, beyond a park, was the palace. To one side the museum. It was a beautiful day. The pastels of the stucco and cement buildings gleamed in the sun. Venders could be seen selling bananas and from one cart the hot, spicy aroma of food floated. An organ grinder played merrily as his companion, a monkey, passed the hat. Beggars followed all likely soft-hearted prospects. Begging is a lucrative profession there and many tourists are easy marks for them.
Havana is a fabulous city- - very rich and very poor- - no middle class. It is divided into two sections, the old and the new. Both are beautiful.
Drive Like Crazy
Cars careened madly up and down the broad streets with drivers leaning heavily on their horns. There were few stoplights and they went like crazy. The theory seems to be in Cuba that the driver who can make the most noise, drive the faster has the advantage.
People clad in American-style clothes hurried about their business. Where there was native color in garb there was a purpose- -to relieve the tourist of his money.
Following luncheon at 2 p.m. Mrs. Mauzy and Lanny went on a guided tour. They visited the nearby museum, one of the most beautiful in the world, cigar factories, rum distilleries, the capitol building, the famous Christopal Colon cemetery.
In the cigar factories they saw the workers rolling the Havana cheroots by hand, despite the fact that there was modern machinery available that could increase the output many times. There is labor unrest, the workers believe modern production innovations will rob them of their jobs.
While visiting the capital, the tourists were told to put away their cameras. The guide asked them if they remembered the incident in America when the Cubans went boom boom." He said, "We don't want any of that over here." What cameras and guns had in common, his listeners didn't know.
Never had Mrs. Mauzy and Lanny seen so much marble as that used in the ornate monuments in the cemetery. Every Cuban saves during his lifetime for an expensive marker to be used in the event of his demise, which in that volatile little country might happen any time. The guide gave off with the side remark that it would be better if "there were a little less marble and more money for living."
As the Mauzys were returning from the tour, two blocks from the Sevilla they heard shooting. For a short time others seemed unaware of the gunfire, attributing it to the noise of the current carnival time. Mrs. Mauzy murmured to Lanny, "Here we go again." A man called to the guide in Spanish and the driver of the limousine in which they had been making the tour pulled to the curb and told them to "get out."
The streets were deserted. Not realizing the seriousness of the situation Mrs. Mauzy and Lanny argued with the guide, insisting that they be returned to their hotel where at least they were known. He refused, told them to go into the Hotel Lincoln at which they had stopped, that there was "a war going on."
Not wishing to be left on their own, Mrs. Mauzy insisted that he remain with them. He frantically refused, saying fighting was in progress at the Sevilla and palace. She said something about contacting the American consul. He replied, "Your American Consul, Ha! What can he do, the war has already started."
He left. It was then that the Mauzys knew that the Cubans were not surprised at what was taking place. Later they were told that there had been fighting every night outside the city, and that many of the people knew that there was to be a revolution. Someone had betrayed the revolutionaries and Batista had been told of the coming uprising. As a result, it was staged earlier than expected (midnight March 15).
In the lobby of the strange hotel there was much excitement. People were saying that the war might last as long as 30 days. Most were resigned to waiting. There was but one thought in the minds of Mrs. Mauzy and Lanna-get back to the Sevilla where they were known and where they could contact their people in the states. No one would take them. The bellhop asked them, "You want to get killed?" There was no means of communication as telephone service had been cut. Planes at the airport had been grounded, even as many waited for scheduled flights.
All this time the Mauzys were not frightened, they only thought of one thing "How to get out?" It was later that fear entered their minds.
Hours passed, they were able finally to reach the Sevilla by telephone. When the switchboard operator learned who was calling, sh etold them to "hang on. Occasionally they were asked, "Are you still there?" After what seemed an eternity, as they still "hung on" they were approached by a bushy-haired Cuban who asked, "Are you from the Sevilla?" Upon confirmation they were told to "Come with me." Without question they followed the stranger out into the street. He had credentials that permitted them to pass through police lines.
In the square where the Sevilla hotel, museum and palace were located cards armed with machine guns patrolled the area, tanks with heavy artillery were stationed at strategic spots. The buildings including the hotel, were riddled by gunfire. Men had died here. Twenty of Batista's guards were surprised and killed. Everywhere blue- and kakai-garbed men Batista's police and army personnel moved through the streets.
The Mauzys where taken into the hotel by a side entrance. There tourists told much the same story. When the shooting started at 3:30 p.m. they had been left stranded by their guides. Shooting had occurred on the eighth floor of the Sevilla. Batista's men moved arrogantly in and out. They later learned they were searching for three of the revolutionaries. All were armed with machine guns. There was not reassurance or explanation for the people in the hotel. Most kept cool, although all were frightened. Some looked for places to hide. There were none. A woman cried. All rooms of the hotel were searched. People getting in the way of the police and soldiers were warned by the rap of gun butts on the floor or pavement.
Following a skimpy meal, one steak and a cup of coffee between, Mrs. Mauzy and Lanny stayed in the lobby until midnight. In the meantime her wire to Reub Williams and Sons here in Warsaw had been sent. They had been warned that it might not go through as there was a state of war. If it did she knew that her husband would be advised of their safety. She had contacted the newspaper, because she believed the press had more influence.
Gunfire All Night
Bolting themselves in, Mrs. Mauzy and Lanny spent the rest of the night in their rooms. Sporadic gunfire could be heard. In the morning they went out into the street to see what damage had been done.
The museum had been badly damaged; cars parked along the street had been shattered; large holes defaced the eighth floor of the Sevilla hotel. Streets were white with fallen stucco. In the park the marble statue had been hit. Right above their room in the hotel was a large hole. They had been lucky. They could not approach the palace for the guards. Tanks were still stationed around it and cars were still patrolling the streets. Surreptitiously Lanny took a few pictures. To their knowledge he was the only one to get out with them. Soldiers destroyed the cameras of others trying to get a pictorial account of what had happened.
Suddenly a company of soldiers pushed the crowd back into the buildings. Many thought the attack was on again. It turned out they were only clearing the street to let Batista go throught.
Rules by Fear
The Mauzys remained in the hotel the rest of the day. Their only contact with the world had been by telephone that morning when they had talked with Bill Mollenhour of the Warsaw Times-Union.
The next morning they left Cuba by plane for Key West. Their experience had been like the stories of intrigue you read in books; see portrayed on TV and in movies.
Batista; who rules the people of Cuba through fear, is hated. His men are trigger happy and during revolt fired into a group of people including an American correspondent. An absolute dictator, he rules by force. Following the revolt he tried to pass it off as a minor incident brought about by a few students. Mrs. Mauzy believes many were involved in the revolt. Arms were even found cached in a hospital. She believes that he is living on borrowed time. It was reported that for the sake of Safety he does not sleep in the same room on consecutive nights.
The lot of a dictator is not easy, but that of the people he rules is worse. Mrs. Mauzy says an American cannot realize being in such a spot. That when it does happen you keep thinking, "They can't do this to me!" But dictators do, and they are throughout the world.
Warsaw Times-Union Saturday May 4, 1957
Back to YesterYear in Print