In 1964, the Congo was a country locked in a brutal civil war.
The Simbas, who were backed by the Russians, Chinese, and Cuban communists, had captured the major city of Stanleyville and 1,600 European and American hostages.
Several miles outside the city, 25 missionaries were also being held against their will.
Those hostages were all women and children except Hector McMillan. Most of the hostages in Stanleyville were saved by Belgium and mercenary troops, but also by Cuban CIA contractors, most from Miami.
Those Cubans had one more mission, according to author Frank Villafana.
"I never even looked back to say thank you but I can do that today,” said David McMillan, the son of missionary Hector McMillan, who was the only person of the 25 hostages who was killed by the Simbas before the rest were rescued.
In October, children of the hostages, including three of McMillan’s children gathered at the Miami International Airport to meet for the first time in 47 years.
Back in the 1964, these now middle-aged sons of missionaries were on death's door, and the children who were among them came within hours of being slaughtered by Simba warriors.
"It is a lot of memories. It is really nice that they took their time to come and see us. It is beautiful, beautiful,” said Manuel Rivero, who was one of the CIA-contracted Cuban rescuers.
Frank Villafana, who authored the book “Cold War in the Congo,” said “a few more hours and they would have all been dead.”
Missionary Al Larson begged Belgian and mercenary troops, who freed the hostages in Stanleyville to do the same for the women and children just outside the city, but he got nothing. He persuaded the battle-weary Cubans to rescue the 25 American missionaries. They went without hesitation, Villafana said.
“Those Cuban soldiers had been fighting a war and they just look at the kids tears started down their cheeks what can we do for you and one of them got candy,” Larson said.
The Cubans had to get through a narrow jungle road to the missionary compound, and they faced armed Simba warriors at roadblocks, Villafana said.
“They had to blast through every one of those road blocks by killing everyone," Villafana said.
Jane Larson, Al Larson’s wife, who was one of the people rescued, remembers the scene.
"I had my 3-year-old daughter on my lap. I remember looking at bodies on the street and I put my head down,” she said.
It was too late to save McMillan, but his wife and children escaped.
"He was the one that was killed. My dad, was killed that morning," David McMillan said.
A total of 24 people survived and went on with their lives. They made their getaway in a jeep and a truck. They were hustled aboard a U.S. Air Force transport plane bound for America. Ultimately, if these people hadn’t been rescued the families that were created years later wouldn’t exist.
Published at 12:00 AM EDT on Oct 14, 2011