Fidel's 'Yankee Comandante' Could Return to US

William Morgan's widow wants his remains returned to Ohio
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2015 8:27 AM CST
Fidel's ‘Yankee Comandante' Could Return Home
A woman holds up an image of Fidel Castro, left, his brother Raul Castro, and Ernesto 'Che' Guevara in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba, May 1, 2012.   (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)

In America, he was William Morgan, a high school dropout from Ohio who worked for the mob. But in Cuba, he was the Yankee Comandante who fought the revolution alongside Fidel Castro and Che Guevara; as a biographer puts it, the "ne’er-do-well who found his cause, his love, and his redemption in Cuba. He became something he never was in America. He becomes a hero in Cuba." The Daily Beast takes a look at the curious and fascinating case of Morgan, whom a New Yorker profile once celebrated as "Holden Caulfield with a machine gun;" executed in 1961 after a failed counterrevolution against Castro's turn toward Communism, Morgan is buried in an unmarked grave in Havana. Now, with US-Cuba relations warming, his widow hopes that Cuba will at last return his remains to American soil. "For me, he is a hero," she says. "For the Cuban people, he is a hero. He gave his life for my country. I promised I would do this."

Morgan's story is the stuff of movies (and has in fact been optioned by George Clooney): He became the only foreigner other than Che to reach the Cuban army's highest rank, comandante; fell in love with and married Olga Rodriguez; and reportedly told the firing squad that executed him, "I kneel for no man." But "once he died, much larger events eclipsed his story," says Michael Sallah, the author of The Yankee Comandante. "He kind of got lost in history." Havana scrubbed mention of him, and his American citizenship was only restored in 2007, notes the Beast. But now, says a lawyer in Ohio, where his widow wants to bury him, "we're more optimistic because of recent developments." Says Sallah: "No one should ever doubt his love of America. This is where Morgan was from. This is where he learned freedom and democracy." Click for the Beast's full piece. (More William Morgan stories.)

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