U.S.-born Cuba rebel repudiated Castro
DEATHS | NEILL W. MACAULAY JR., 72
U.S.-born Cuba rebel repudiated Castro
Posted on Fri, Nov. 02, 2007
BY ELINOR J. BRECHER
Neill W. Macaulay Jr., the University of Florida emeritus professor of
Latin American history who joined Fidel Castro's revolution as a
youthful idealist, then turned on Castro after he grew disillusioned,
died Oct. 28 at his Micanopy home.
The South Carolina native, 72 — son of a librarian and a dentist —
wrote five books, including the best-selling Sandino Affair, a 1968
study of Nicaraguan resistance to the United States' occupation in the
1920s and '30s.
As a 23-year-old Citadel graduate and Korean War-era veteran hungry for
excitement, Macaulay had met some rebels in New York, then connected
with the underground in Havana.
His book A Rebel in Cuba, published in 1970, reprinted by Wacahoota
Press in 1999, recounts Macaulay's 1958 sojourn with the rebels in
western Pinar del Rio Province.
Macaulay wasn't a newcomer to Cuba in 1958.
''He was fascinated with Latin America,'' his son said. “On breaks [he
and friends] would go there to raise hell and see the sights, on the
A 1970 Miami Herald review said the author “makes it clear he believes
the Cuban revolution is more a personal than an ideological one . . . It
was from the rural peasantry, believes Macaulay, that the revolution
drew its greatest strength.''
Macaulay wrote: 'Cuban governments had never been much concerned about
the peasants' right to live . . . The peasants thus had little
compassion for their enemies and no use whatsoever for legal niceties. .
. . The peasants belonged to Fidel without qualm or qualification; they
were the sword of the revolution.''
PULLING THE TRIGGER
Attached to a guerrilla squad, he quickly rose to lieutenant, training
fighters to execute those deemed enemies of the people.
In 1999, he told The Herald that he had, on occasion, pulled the trigger
''I did what I had to do,'' he said. “Those guys deserved everything
they got. They hurt the people.''
He described his targets as Batista henchmen notorious for their crimes.
''He thought of himself as a minor player in major history,'' said son
Robert, a Miami lawyer.
“There's a famous picture of him and Rafael del Pino, the general who
defected in 1967 — Cuba's highest-ranking defector. . . . I've seen
home movies of Che Guevara with my father.''
But he soon grew disenchanted and left Cuba, becoming an ardent
“In the late 1970s, when things were going darkly in this country, he
said that the Soviet Union can't last. He was always an optimist about
the demise of communism, and he was right.''
In his 1990 book, Proa a la Libertad, del Pino's wrote that Macaulay
returned to the U.S. “and Fidel Castro, in his paranoid hatred, took it
upon himself to erase from history the noble and unselfish gesture of
this valiant combatant.''
Macaulay tried returning in the 1970s, his son said, but was barred. In
1991, after the Soviet Union collapsed and Cuba grew desperate for
tourism and cash, ''he got on a charter from Montreal.'' Since then,
Macaulay sailed his boat from Tampa several times, returning to Cuba as
an authorized academic.
He rekindled friendships with former comrades-in-arms and did research
for himself and for documentary filmmakers, including Glenn Gebhard, the
Loyola Marymount University professor whose feature-length documentary,
Cuba: A Lifetime of Passion, premiered February.
He videotaped Macaulay for eight hours last month for a new film: Patria
''He went for altruistic reasons,'' Gebhard said. “He felt that Batista
was a bad dictator.''
He said that Macaulay “was one of the only Americans who fought in 26th
of July [Movement's] army.''
“I said to him that there are very few people who can say they led such
an interesting life. He was not a socialist or a communist, and he left
after he realized he couldn't make a living…He was a man of action and
After the revolution, Macaulay, his wife and their older son, born in
Cuba, on to run a tomato farm bestowed on him by the Castro government
as a reward. That didn't last long. ''He realized that capitalism was
not in the program for Cuba,'' said Robert. “They got the hell out of
town; things were getting pretty nasty.''
But he had trouble returning to the U.S.
''Once Castro took over, the movement became the government's army, and
he was still a lieutenant, so de facto he became a member of a foreign
army for a couple of months,'' Robert said.
South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, a family friend, intervened.
Years later, Robert Macaulay saw letters from his father to Justin
Gleichauf, CIA station chief in Miami, containing ''suggestions about
certain people who might help'' undermine Castro.
''He had regular contact with the guy,'' sharing information about
Nicaragua he picked up doing research.
He volunteered for the Bay of Pigs operation, his son said, but was
Once he had returned to the United States, Macaulay went on to earn a
doctorate from the University of Texas and began teaching at UF,
becoming an expert in guerrilla warfare.
''He wasn't,'' his son said. “But he knew people…He was a pretty hot
commodity: the rare college professor to cooperate with CIA and he was
proud to do it that way.''
He retired from teaching in 1986.
''He was regularly a guest at the Army War College and West Point,'' his
son said. “He had studied the war in Nicaragua and being in Cuba taught
him a lot about that area of warfare.''
On Sunday, Alachua County sheriff's deputies found Macaulay's body in
his yard. They believe he took his own life, though a medical examiner's
report is pending.
In addition to son Robert, Neill Macaulay is survived by his wife,
Nancy, sons Charlie of Seattle and Jim of Shreveport, sister Eliza
Carney of Fort Collins, Colo., and brother Alexander of West Union, S.C.
Services were held.