|This year marks the 30th anniversary of Fort McCoy’s
Cuban Refugee Operation.
Retired Maj. Gen. Max Baratz
(left) and retired Col. David O. Marshall reminisce about Fort
McCoy’s Cuban Refugee Operation during the 30th reunion of the
416th Engineer Command at Fort McCoy. Members of the 416th were
conducting annual training at Fort McCoy in May 1980 when the
installation received the mission. The 416th was tasked with
building a compound to house the Cubans. Members of the unit
received the Humanitarian Service medal for their work on the
fence. Photo by Linda
Fort McCoy was designated as a resettlement center for the Cuban
refugees. The mission began May 9, 1980 with a message from U.S. Army
Forces Command requesting information concerning Fort McCoy’s capability
to support the operation.
Later that month, Cuban refugees began arriving at the installation as
part of the “Freedom Flotilla,” when President Fidel Castro said they
could leave the country.
A special refugee area was built at McCoy, and capacity was set at
15,000. The first Cubans arrived May 29.
During peak operations, Fort McCoy had 13,334 refugees (June 15) and
1,683 temporary civilian workers (June 13) to support the mission.
On Aug. 5, the Army recommended Fort McCoy be the second resettlement
area to close after Elgin Air Force Base, Ill.
Refugees at Fort McCoy began to be transferred to Fort Chaffee, Ark., in
late September. The remaining refugees departed throughout October.
The last military support unit at Fort McCoy returned to Fort Knox, Ky.,
Nov. 7, officially ending the operation at the installation.