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Details Emerge on Bay of Pigs Prisoner Swap

Dec. 25, 1962 - General Lucius D. Clay, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and others raised almost $3 million in cash this week to make possible the completion of the Cuban prisoners’ release. The money was raised in 24 hours ending yesterday afternoon. At 3 p.m., a $2,900,000 check drawn on the Royal Bank of Canada was in the hands of Premier Fidel Castro, who had been promised this sum and demanded its payment as evidence of good faith. Attorney General Kennedy set the campaign in motion on Dec. 1, when he stepped into the lagging ransom effort. He pledged Government support for what then seemed an improbable objective: to free the prisoners by Christmas. Over the next three weeks, an informal committee of officials and private lawyers who volunteered their services did these things:

— Obtained pledges of $53 million in food and drugs from American companies — the ransom price.

— Arranged for free transportation of the goods by railroads, airlines, and trucks all over the country.

— Assembled in Florida 20% of the goods and then shipped them to Cuba. Premier Castro had demanded this down payment before release of the prisoners.

— Worked out a complicated financial assurance to Premier Castro that he would be paid if the rest of the material failed to arrive. The transaction involved the Royal Bank of Canada, the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company, and the Bank of America.

The command post of the operation was the office of Assistant Attorney General Louis F. Oberdorfer in the Justice Department. A huge chart on the wall, marked with blue and red crayon, indicated daily progress toward the targets in drugs and food. Special telephones provided instant connections around the country.


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