Bernard Leon Barker, Cuban-born of American parents (and a citizen of both countries since the age of 18, though an exile from the land of his birth for a half-century), died in Miami yesterday at the age of 92. At the age of 24 in December 1941, Barker became the first Cuban-American to join the American armed forces after Pearl Harbor, and served with distinction in Europe. When he was 44, in the spring of 1961, he was one of the organizers of Brigade 2506, the spearhead of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion.
But for the last thirty-six years it was more or less a given that his obituaries would focus on the fact that he was one of the five men arrested in the Watergate complex on June 17, 1972, along with Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, and James McCord. Unlike some of his colleagues (notably E. Howard Hunt) who expressed bitterness toward President Nixon in the aftermath of that break-in, Barker unhesitatingly told a reporter in 1997 that he considered RN “one of our best presidents.”
(This Miami Herald article is a fairly good overview of his career but inaccurately states that Martinez is the last survivor of the five men; in fact, McCord is still living in Colorado.)
This week, coincidentally, saw the emergence of a brand-new Watergate conspiracy theory: one of the bloggers at BleacherReport.com argues that the scandal was brought down on Nixon by “the gods of baseball” as punishment for not taking strong enough action to keep the Senators playing baseball in Washington in 1971. (Specifically, the post argues that RN should have theatened to draft the late Bob Short, the last owner of the Senators, into the Army unless he abandoned his plans to move the team to Texas.)