Decorated Vet Remembered As 'Honest To God Hero'
(October 4, 2008)
Grayston L. Lynch
||August 13, 2008, TAMPA -
Grayston L. Lynch fired the first shot during
the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.
He fought his way through D-Day, the Battle of
the Bulge, Korea and Laos, was wounded three
times and decorated six times for valor.
Known as "Gray" to friends and family, he spent
more than 30 years in Tampa before dying
Saturday of heart failure at the James A. Haley
Veterans' Hospital. He was 85.
"He was a real honest to God
hero," his wife, Karen, said Tuesday.
Just before midnight on April 16, 1961, Lynch
landed in a 12-foot rubber raft to mark the beach
for the invasion when he and his men were
spotted by a two-man patrol from the
Lynch fired, taking both of the men out.|
"I had never been in combat before," remembers Amado
Cantillo, one of the Navy frogmen with him that night. "It
was very scary, but exciting at the same time because we
were going to liberate Cuba. The only thing that failed was
we didn't get the air support we were supposed to get."
The quick failure of that invasion is well documented in
history, including the first person account by Lynch in his
1998 book, "Decision for Disaster; Betrayal at the Bay of
Lynch, then the Central Intelligence Agency case officer for
the invasion, earned the Intelligence Star for volunteering
to return to help rescue 41 men from his assault brigade
that had landed.
"It was really bad - one of our men drowned in a foot of
water," Cantillo said. "Some fled, thinking we were Castro's
militia. We buried five of our men. We even buried one of
By that time, Lynch had already served 21 years in the U.S.
Army. He started in 1938 in the Horse Cavalry. He landed on
Omaha Beach on D-Day and was wounded shortly after. He was
seriously wounded in his leg at the Battle of the Bulge; was
shot off a ridge by a sniper at the Battle of Bloody Ridge
in the Korean War; and was a captain in the 77th Special
Forces Group in Laos.
Lynch was awarded three Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars and
a Bronze Star with V for valor. He retired from the U.S.
Army 77th Special Forces in 1960 and joined the CIA.
"He's a born, caring leader - he cared about his men. He
lead by doing," said Cantillo, who lives in Miami. He said
Lynch is revered by the Cuban people: "He believed in our
cause. He was there, up front all the time. To me, he's a
hero. I just want people to know how great he was."
It was Lynch's wife, Karen, who helped Lynch live with a
body weakened by his wounds and a failing heart, Cantillo
The couple met in 1987. Karen had traveled the world, was
breeding horses and had just written a spy novel. Lynch was
very ill and needed help to translate yellow pads filled
with notes into a book on the invasion.
It was an unlikely pairing: "When they invaded the Bay of
Pigs, I was dancing at my prom," Karen Lynch says.
But the two fell in love. He was tall - 6-foot-2 - and had a
presence. "When he walked in a room, you knew he was the man
The couple married in 1990 at the chapel at MacDill Air
force Base, and lived in Carrollwood.
"He was a wonderful person to talk to - he was brilliant,"
his wife of 18 years says. Some of his stories are told in
his book, the rights to which were purchased by Hollywood
producer Ron Howard and Universal Studios.
The couple started a Web site to continue telling their
story of the work of the intelligence community. "We blew
all the myths and misconceptions and lies at the Bay of Pigs
to heck," she says, vowing to keep up her husbands' work.
A full military memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Saturday at the MacDill Air Force Base chapel where the
Lynches were married. He will be cremated.
After that, Karen Lynch said, "I'm taking him home" to their
house in Carrollwood, filled with plaques and awards too
numerous to count.
The Lynches' Web site is
By Marilyn Brown
The Tampa Tribune
with permission from The Tampa
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