|Miami News, Jan. 4, 1961|
Via the New York Times:
The Marines Who Took Down the American Flag in Havana
Mike East, Larry Morris and Jim Tracy, all Marine Corps veterans,
will help raise the U.S. flag in Havana on Friday, Aug. 14, alongside
Secretary of State John F. Kerry. They took it down for the last time on Jan. 4, 1961, as the U.S. ended diplomatic relations with Cuba. [via YouTube]
Around noon on Jan. 4, 1961, after spending hours feeding mounds of government documents into an incinerator, three American Marines assigned to the embassy guard force in Havana turned their attention to a solemn task: lowering the American flag.
As they stepped outside, the Marines were greeted by a throng of Cubans who had gathered. Many of them were clamoring for visas, hoping to get a ticket out before diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana were formally severed.
“We looked at the flagpole, we looked at them, we looked at the flagpole, we looked at them,” James Tracy, one of the Marines, recalled. “I guess they got the idea. They cleared the sidewalk.”
Mr. Tracy saluted the flag as Larry Morris pulled the halyard. Once down, Mike East grabbed the tips of the flag as his two comrades stepped in to help fold it. The Cubans gave them polite applause as the men headed back into the building.
On Friday, the three Marines will fulfill an old dream as they return to Havana with Secretary of State John Kerry, who is traveling there to mark the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. The American government has asked the men to raise the flag once again.
“We’re doing something that not too many Marines have ever done,” Mr. Morris, 75, said. “It’s thrilling.”