Machine guns and rocket launchers – bazookas – belong to the heavy weapons squad attached to every American infantry platoon. I was able to learn that the Fidelistas acquired machine guns as soon as they began raiding Cuban army outposts in the Oriente Province. I never found any mention of mortars, however, I am certain that the Fidelistas would have done everything in their power to procure a few. They've been popular with every insurgent movement through recent history. The Viet Cong in particular employed mortars effectively.
Every rifle company included a heavy weapons platoon that was equipped with mortars. These are indirect fire weapons that can lob explosive rounds over obstacles. They're highly effective at short ranges, but can throw rounds accurately at much greater ranges. They were used most often to provide final defensive fire; that is, they would drop explosive rounds along the front of a defensive position to help repel attackers.
Machine guns, bazookas, and mortars are crew-served weapons – it takes more than one man each to transport and employ them in battle. Serving a machine gun, bazooka, or a mortar is hard work. Both include multiple pieces, each of which is heavy. The machine gun has spare barrels and a tripod. The mortar has a tube, a bi-pod, and a heavy base plate. Also, the mortar crew chief carries the sight that is attached separately. The bazooka tube is fairly light, but the rockets themselves are heavy. Ammunition for machine guns and mortars are similarly difficult to transport because of their size and weight.
Mortars are usually fired in groups of three tubes. One round is fired from one of the mortars to confirm the accuracy of their fire on the target. The FO may then communicate corrections – add or drop range or adjust left or right – until the rounds are falling on or near the target. Mortars rarely hit targets with pinpoint accuracy. Then all tubes fire simultaneously – fire for effect – using the same targeting calculations.
Whereas mortars fire indirectly, machine guns and bazookas are direct fire weapons. The gunners aim at targets they can see. Both weapons employ a gunner and a loader. Both are devastating but expensive to operate. Ammunition bearers pay the price. A man may carry two or three belts of .30 caliber ammunition only to see a machine gun eat them up in a couple of minutes.
Fidel must have cringed when he heard a machine gun rattling away at the enemy. His little army was poorly financed. Most of his wealthiest potential donors were in Miami and they didn't want to finance the revolution unless they received assurances that they would play a major role in the new government, assurances that Fidel was loath to provide. Thus, he had to content himself with stealing ammunition from his adversaries.
Read Jack's novel, Rebels on the Mountain, the tale of Nick Andrews, an Army spy, who has Fidel Castro in his sights but no orders to pull the trigger. The mafia as well as the American business community in Cuba will pay a fortune for Castro's assassination, but Nick has his career to consider, his friends to protect, and a romance to sort out in the chaos of a revolution.