In the mid-'60s, the phrase embedded journalist had likely never been uttered, let alone ignited a controversy over newspaper ethics.
But that's exactly what Jim Nickless was back then: a freelance cameraman for NBC News who lived among members of the Movement for Revolutionary Recovery (MRR), Cuban revolutionaries plotting to overthrow Fidel Castro, with help from the CIA. He documented their daily activities, their training, the raids they ran. And because he was the only reporter welcome among the fighters, his photos offer the most intimate look inside their world.
You can get a peek inside it too. "Embedded: A Photojournalist Captures Conflict and Resistance" puts Nickless's photos on display Thursday at the Freedom Tower, giving them the respect they deserve as pieces of history and also as expertly composed works of art. From revolutionaries posing with tanks to ships fighting midbattle, the 50 photos invite the viewer into a little-explored corner of Cold War history.
We asked Nickless to share a few selections from the exhibit with us, and explain what's happening in the photos he shot.
Manuel Artime in the summer of 1964, visiting the Monkey Point, Nicaragua MRR Naval Base.
Photojournalist Jim Nickless preparing to leave on one of the MRR swift boats to raid Cuba. The swift boats later were used in Vietnam, but the first military use of the boats was by the CIA-supported MRR.
The Cubans in the MRR were first to use the M-16 rifle. This weapon was later the main semi-automatic rifle used in the Vietnam war. The Cuban exile group had many such weapons provided by the CIA to test in combat situations.
Monkey Point, Nicaragua, was the primary naval base of the MRR. The mother ship, Santa Maria, is seen in the bay. A swift boat is at the dock and the float plane is seen on the left side of the anchorage.
The Gitana backs into the dock on its return from the last mission carried out by the MRR. The two attack boats had gone to Coloma, Pinar Del Rio, Cuba, to pick up two infiltrators who were asking for help. It turned out to be a trap. The mother ship lost contact with the swift boats and feared the worst. The attack boats eluded the Cuban gun boats and returned to the Nicaraguan base, after a long sea voyage.
Left to right: Revolutionary leader Manuel Artime, former Cuban Prime Minister Jose Miro Cardona, President John F. Kennedy, and Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
The Gitana at sea. These 50-foot-high speed assault boats were armed with six 50-caliber machine guns and two 57MM recoilless rifles.
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In preparation for a raid, crew members of the Monty load 50 caliber ammunition belts in the twin 50 machine guns. In the background is the other swift boat, the Gitana.