America Killed A Cuban Cow With A Failed Satellite Launch
In the 1960s, America built a launch system with the fabulous name of Thor-Ablestar. One early mission was to send up a navigation satellite for the Navy. It didn't go so great—the rocket signaled trouble before it got too high, so the military hit the self-destruct button, blowing the rocket up in a relatively controlled manner.
The rocket exploded over Cuba, not too far from Guantanamo Bay. Several large bits fell to the ground intact, and the Cuban government leapt on them, selling some pieces to the Soviets and others to the Chinese. So, it sounds like this was an embarrassment for the U.S. and a win for Cuba. But Cuba did still find a way to paint itself as the victim in all this. Because the rocket explosion had had a casualty: A cow named Ruhina.
This had been "further evidence of Yankee aggression," said Fidel Castro, who filed a complaint with the United Nations. Hundreds of student protesters (perhaps organized by the government) demonstrated in front of the American embassy in Cuba, chanting, "With cows or without cows, the revolution will win." They brought several cows and bulls with them as part of the protest, one draped with the following message: "Eisenhower, you murdered one of my sisters."
Sources are a little vague after the aftermath of these protests, but it's said that the U.S. paid Cuba $2 million in compensation for the cow. That's a lot for one cow, so the payment probably also had something to do with violating the nation's air space. It's also said that the country gave Ruhina a state funeral, and while we can't find details on this, it's hardly out of the realm of possibility. Fidel Castro had a well-known obsession with cows.
Forty years later, the US celebrated the anniversary of their satellite launching division, the National Reconnaissance Office. At the ceremony, the CIA director solemnly recalled the Ruhina incident, saying it was "the first—and last—time that a satellite has been used in the production of ground beef."
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