Upon arrival there I learned of voluntary duty available in Cuba ; and being much fonder of duty in the field rather than garrison duty ,I went. I have never regretted the decision.
It was probably about mid-March when the C-130 prop plane arrived at the Naval Air Station, Quantanamo Bay, Cuba. From the NAS we travelled by boat along dense jungle lined canal to the Naval Station and site of the Marine Barracks.
I was not stationed to the Barracks; but to 2nd Battallion, 8th Regiment (reinforced), H&S Co., 106mm recoiless rifle platoon.
Reporting there at the point was preceded by a long jeep ride past rather desolate looking terrain. of Click and drag photo to resize. Script from The Java Script Source
Most of the buildings there were white painted wood; but the 106 Plt. was quartered in the large yellow metal building where the guns were stored, the Jeeps lined up outside.
This was a hardship duty station, for which we were compensated an additional $2 per day ! I sometimes ran, even the obstacle course, for entertainment in the evenings ; but all in all, it was good duty.
I had been in Cuba for perhaps 4 months and the SeaBees were engaged in constructing new barracks for us. It was a shame to see what I considered the end of an era when the old wooden buildings were dozed.
We were engaged during the day in physical training, close order drill, gun drill, cleaning and maintenance, classes and other sundry routine common to service life, including a break for lunch with its attending rest period or free time.
"It was during such a free time period, in the middle of the day, that I was outside and witnessed the Pterosaurs."
It was a beautiful, clear Summer day, hot ( but we were pretty well acclimated to that), still; most of the platoon was in the new barracks "hanging out". I was looking in the direction of the ocean when I saw an incredible sight. It mesmerized me!
I am an artist with sharp eye for detail;and was determined to drink in the visage before me for future recording on paper. I saw 2 Pterosaurs (or Pterodactyls...what's in a name?) flying together at low altitude, perhaps 100 feet, very close in range from where I was standing, so that I had a perfectly clear view of them.
The rythym of their large wings was very graceful, slow ; and yet they were flying and not merely gliding, like turkey vultures do here in Ohio.
The rate of their wings was more like that of crows, perhaps a little slower; but very graceful. The structure and the texture of the wings appeared to be very similar to that of bats: particularly in that the struts of the wings emanated from a "hand" as fingers would ; except that a couple of the fingers were short (as for grasping) and the other ran out to the tip of the wing, others back to the trailing edge of the wing to stretch the wing membrane as a kite would.
The Pterosaurs I saw had the short hind legs attached to the rearwardmost part of the wing, and they had a long tail trailing behind with a tuft of hair at the end.
The head was disproportionately large, with a long crest at the back, long bill, long neck with a crook in it. The chest of the creatures was similarly prominent, protruding forward like the prow of an old ship.
The vertebrae of their backs was noticeable, mostly between the shoulders. I would estimate their wingspan to be roughly 10 feet.
It has been 30 years now since I was there, memory fades, even for something so startling as that. I recall running to a barracks as they were well past me, grabbing Sgt,Cunningham by the arm and trying to drag his reticent self outside to witness them and corroborrate my sighting, but by the time I could get him outside they were gone.
I rotated back to the States not long after that; and for the rest of my tour I never saw them again. Eskin C. Kuhn
The height I stated as about 100 ft and the range very close, the wingspan roughly 10 ft. I recall that immediately afterward I could not positively discern the size of the creatures or the altitude of their flight, precisely because there was no known point of reference visible within the frame of space they were observed to occupy.
In clear skies it is very difficult to determine distance or height, even clouds are hard to judge, try this yourself. The height of the birds may have been no more than 40 ft or 50...it was impossible to tell with any degree of certainty.
The size of the creatures was a little easier to judge, but not much, their span could have been 8 ft or 12 ft, with a body length of perhaps 30 to 40". That part has to remain a guess. They came in from the direction of the sea and flew inland.
In Cuba we swam a great deal on weekends. A group of us once explored some coast line and saw several caves. In one we entered we disturbed a large number of bats.Click and drag photo to resize. Script from The Java Script Source
Some of the guys saw sea turtles. I got very close to a large barracuda once (it is a humorous story). On another occasion I saw 3 of the men in our platoon swimming far out past our sanctioned area, and they were in the center of a circle of barracuda of perhaps a hundred or more feet in diameter ( tougue in cheek...measuring again).
The barracuda looked to be evenly spaced in a perfect circle with our friends in the very center. We watched as they swam to the edge of the circle and then shot through the gap of the barracuda to reach the safety of the nearly shear, rocky face of the coastline ; where they scrambled out.
Cuba is a land of mystery and many secrets I feel sure. If ever we reestablish trade with Cuba I should like to revisit Gitmo. Surely someone else there has seen such things.
I don't know why I made a rather obvious mistake...the "hands" of the Pterosaurs were strange, in that the "thumb and next two digits" were short - as depicted -but the other 2 were extremely large stretching as spars to brace the wing.
Click and drag photo to resize. Script from The Java Script Source
I have only depicted one such "spar" and I can only attribute that to my youth and lack of artistic discipline. I recall observing how those digits and spars radiated from the same "hand" but size was quite disparate.
National Geographic portrays pterosaurs as without the tufted tail; and to be generous,perhaps there were a variety which looked that way... but it would not have flown with the effortless grace the two I saw exhibited...
slow,pause, glide, slow flap and rise, etc.
There is no mistaking what I saw, it was middle of the day during our free time, a work day, no booze, no drugs, bright sun and full visibility with vision I wish I still had, eyes that qualified me as Expert Rifleman and the Pistol shot in the Marine Corps.
I saw what I saw...wish others would go there and see the same.