As for Morgan, his greatest mistake was to be taken in by the charisma and leadership skills of Fidel Castro, who he believed (against all evidence to the contrary) was dedicated to creating a democratic republic in Cuba and against making any deals with the Communists, whom Morgan thought Castro opposed. Like so many others in the gullible Western left wing, he overlooked anything that showed the reality: Castro was turning to the Communists as the one group whose members would guarantee that the revolution he led would survive, and that a Marxist-Leninist cadre was needed to provide ideology for the public and the mechanism for social control — so fully developed in the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites.
Morgan learned the truth much too late, after having done his part in helping Castro stem various attacks that might have succeeded in derailing his regime in its earliest years. Even Herbert Matthews, the gullible New York Times journalist who gave Castro free publicity during his guerrilla campaign, wrote Ernest Hemingway what may be the simplest and most direct assessment written about Morgan:
Here was an obviously uneducated and very simple, tough guy who yet went to Cuba, as he says, to fight for American principles of freedom and against Communism. He went on doing so for so long he got himself executed.
Morgan himself, writing from prison to one of his sons from an earlier marriage, told the boy: “Love your God- and Your Country- and Stand Up for both. And I know that your Country…will Always be proud of you.”
William Henry Morgan made a big mistake — trusting in Fidel Castro and his cause, only to learn that Castro’s goal was not the one Morgan though he was fighting for: democracy in Cuba. Now, David Grann has allowed us to learn about Morgan, and to honor him as one of our country’s great sons, who came to realize the nation he left was the one whose principles he loved and sought to fight for. For those deluded young people among us who believe they should spend their brief time on this earth working on behalf of tyrants who claim to stand for freedom and democracy, Morgan’s story should give them pause. It deserves as wide a readership as possible.