And such was the chaotic state of even disseminating intelligence as it became available that while the aircrews of the 8th Special Operations Squadron were told to expect little or no resistance, their passengers had been warned to expect heavy opposition. Even so, both aircrews and Rangers were going into harm’s way largely ignorant of what awaited them.
In what was yet another example of how chaotic intelligence information was disseminated, the aircrew saw that instead of the one anti-aircraft artillery site intelligence had told them to expect, there were six sites – and all were taking aim at the approaching AC-130.
It was later said that Taylor’s decision to fly over the airfield at 500 feet saved his men. The anti-aircraft artillery at Point Salines could not depress its barrels sufficiently to hit the aircraft, and the small arms fire, though heavy, was scattered. Though some of the aircraft were hit, not one Ranger in either assault drop was struck by ground fire.
Because the landing sequence was reversed, the first group of Rangers to land was heavy in communications equipment and light on weapons. As soon as the Rangers had left his plane, Hobson radioed for a gunship to come in and provide air support. His call was answered by an AC-130 Spectre stationed off the coast. In what was yet another example of how chaotic intelligence information was disseminated, the aircrew saw that instead of the one anti-aircraft artillery site intelligence had told them to expect, there were six sites – and all were taking aim at the approaching AC-130. A duel ensued, with the gunship quickly neutralizing five of the defensive sites. But a sixth stubbornly continued to fight back for several minutes before finally being destroyed.
While the defenders were concentrating most of their attention on the aircraft above, the Rangers were busy setting up a defensive perimeter and clearing a runway blocked with bulldozers, trucks, backhoes, tarmac rollers, 55-gallon drums, and 25 barbed wire barriers. Some Rangers hot-wired a bulldozer and used it to push away obstacles. Despite coming under small arms, mortar, and anti-aircraft artillery fire, by 6:30 a.m. the Rangers had the runway cleared for operations.
In about a half-hour, the Rangers of 2/75 arrived. By 7:30 a.m. all of Taylor’s men were on the ground, and though the unit integrity situation was “fluid” as a result of the chaotic drop conditions, Taylor was able to begin offensive operations. Taylor ordered Capt. John Abizaid to take his Company A and rescue a group of American medical students known to be in the college campus code named True Blue located near the eastern end of the runway. Noting defensive fire coming from the hills north of his objective, Abizaid ordered his 1st and 3rd platoons to attack the defenders while his 2nd Platoon advanced along the coastline to the campus.
The Cubans replied with curses and more gunfire, killing one Ranger. Sgt. Manous Boles dashed to a nearby bulldozer, succeeded in starting it, and after raising the blade to give him some protection, drove toward the Cubans’ positions.
As the two platoons attacked, the Rangers who spoke Spanish called out for the defenders, who were Cuban, to surrender. The Cubans replied with curses and more gunfire, killing one Ranger. Sgt. Manous Boles dashed to a nearby bulldozer, succeeded in starting it, and after raising the blade to give him some protection, drove toward the Cubans’ positions. As he passed his fellow Rangers, a number of them rushed up on both sides of the bulldozer and provided running fire support. The bulldozer smashed into the defensive positions and the Rangers fanned out and soon cleared the hill.