America's embassy in Cuba never really closed

Here's the strange history of America's six-story Modernist compound in Havana

A car drives by the U.S. embassy in Cuba.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

On Friday, the three U.S. Marines who lowered the American flag for the last time at the U.S. Embassy in Havana 54 years ago will raise the flag again over the reopened embassy. Secretary of State John Kerry, officials from the Pentagon and other U.S. departments, and eight members of Congress will also be there, the highest-ranking delegation to Cuba in 70 years. "We're doing something that not too many Marines have ever done," one of the now-retired Marines, Larry Morris, 75, tells The New York Times. "It's thrilling."

Morris and the other two Marines, James Tracy (now 78) and Mike East (76), had just spent hours incinerating piles of government documents when they went out to lower the flag on Jan. 4, 1961. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in one of his last acts in office, had just severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, and Fidel Castro had given the U.S. 48 hours to vacate the island and the embassy, a six-story Modernist building in a compound across the street from the ocean along Havana's Malecón.

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