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The story of the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of

Pigs, which is located on the south coast of Cuba about 97

miles southeast of Havanna, was one of mismanagement, poor

judgment, and stupidity (?Bay of Pigs? 378). The blame

for the failed invasion falls directly on the CIA (Central

Intelligence Agency) and a young president by the name of

John F. Kennedy. The whole intention of the invasion was to

assault communist Cuba and put an end to Fidel Castro.

Ironically, thirty-nine years after the Bay of Pigs, Fidel

Castro is still in power. First, it is necessary to look at

why the invasion happened and then why it did not work.

From the end of World War II until the mid-eighties,

most Americans could agree that communism was the enemy.

Communism wanted to destroy our way of life and corrupt the

freest country in the world. Communism is an economic

system in which one person or a group of people are in

control. The main purpose of communism is to make the

social and economic status of all individuals the same. It

abolishes the inequalities in possession of property and

distributes wealth equally to all. The main problem with

this is that one person who is very wealthy can be stripped

of most of his wealth so that another person can have more

material goods and be his equal.

The main reason for the Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba was

the change to communism. On January 1, 1959, Cuban dictator

Fulgencio Batista fled the country for the safety of the

Dominican Republic (Goode, Stephen 75). Fidel Castro and

his guerrilla warriors overthrew the old government dictated

by Batista. During the next couple of weeks, Castro

established a new government and on February 16, he was

officially declared premier (Finkelstein, Norman H. 127).

The United States accepted this new regime as a relief from

the harsh, corrupt, and unpopular government of Batista.

Soon after everything settled down, Castro and his men made

a rapid move to change their political course. He announced

his transformation to Marxism-Leninism and avowed his

friendship with the Soviet Union (Goode, Stephen 75).

These events upset the United States and there were concerns

about Castro becoming too powerful. One reason was the

friendship with the Soviet Union because Cuba was receiving

armed forces to expand and improve its army. Cuba received

30,000 tons of arms a year, which included Soviet JS-2

51-ton tanks, SU-100 assault guns, T-34 35-ton tanks, 76-mm

field guns, 85-mm field guns, and 122-mm field guns (Goode,

Stephen 75&76).

Fidel Castro took great pride in the armed forces. He

expanded the ground forces from 250,000 to 400,000 troops.

These figures put one out of every thirty Cubans in the

armed forces, compared to one out of every sixty Americans

(Goode, Stephen 76). Castro and communist Cuba was

generating a military establishment ten times larger than

that of Batista?s. Castro put together the best army any

Latin American country had ever had (Goode, Stephen 76).

Analysts in Washington were frightened by this news. They

were getting scared that Cuba might try to attack the United

States with Soviet missiles and missile launchers. Also,

they were afraid that Castro might attack other Latin

American countries. Both scenarios were not welcome in the

United States, and the downfall of Castro and the Cuban

government became the top priority of the CIA (Goode,

Stephen 76).

There were many Cubans that did not like Castro. They

flocked to the United States in order to escape communism.

These people were known as Cuban exiles (Goode, Stephen

76). On March 17, 1960, the CIA and President Eisenhower

got together and discussed the situation going on in Cuba.

They decided to arm and train these Cuban exiles for

guerrilla warfare against Cuba (Goode, Stephen 76&77). In

November 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected president. Upon

his election, he was informed of the Cuban crisis and after

being presented with the facts, he approved the invasion.

Many plans for the invasion were recognized, but the

best one came from Richard Bissel. He describes his plan in

a book entitled, CIA.

?The plan that was finally accepted was

a more complex and larger version of the

operation seven years earlier in

Guatemala. A force of Cuban exiles was

to secure a beachhead on Cuba?s

coastline while a fleet of B-26?s, the

most powerful war fighting plane, was to

put Castro?s air force out of commission

and disrupt transportation and

communication lines (Fursenko,

Aleksandr, and Timothy Naftali 95).

Once the beachhead had been secured and

a portion of Cuban territory liberated,

a group of Cuban exile leaders would be

flown to Cuba to form a provisional

government. The United States would then

officially recognize the provisional

government as the one true government of

Cuba? (Goode, Stephen 77).

The invasion started on April 16, 1961. It lasted for

about three days. At the beginning, the CIA purchased

several farms in Florida where the Cuban exiles could begin

training (Goode, Stephen 77&78). Guatemala, Honduras, and

Nicaragua helped the invasion because they gave their

approval for CIA camps to be located in these regions

(Goode, Stephen 78). The Nicaraguan?s dictator, Anastasio

Somoca, disliked Castro tremendously. He said, ?Bring me

back a couple of hairs from Castro?s beard? (Robinson, Linda


The invasion, which was code-named Operation Zapata,

consisted of around 1,400 to 1,500 exiles (Bay of Pigs

Revisited, The 3). The CIA chose Manuel Artime Buesa as

the leader of the troops (Goode, Stephen 79). He was a

former Castro soldier and his leadership abilities were said

to be excellent. His first move as leader was to get rid of

all he suspected disloyal or unqualified. Next, he replaced

many of the officials that had been training with the

soldiers in Latin American countries with officers who had

served in Fulgencio Batista?s army. These officers were

said to be ?thugs? who had been part of the former

dictator?s brutal government (Goode, Stephen 79).

President Kennedy ordered that there be none of Batista?s

men in the Liberation Army, which was the army making the

invasion, but these orders seemed to be ignored. About 200

of the exiles did not like Artime?s move to appoint

Batista?s men as heads of the Army. These men were given a

choice either to accept the officials or not accept it and

be flown to Guatemala to stay there until the invasion was

completed (Goode, Stephen 79).

Six months before the invasion, the United States did a

foolish thing. Ra?l Roa, the Cuban foreign minister, stated

in an interview at the United Nations, ?I have accurate

knowledge of the invasion?. He told them that he knew about

the exiles and their training in Guatemala, and he knew that

the CIA was in charge of the attack. Roa claimed that he

got the information from LIFE magazine, the New York Daily

News, and CBS (Goode, Stephen 79 & 80). Besides Roa,

Castro also acquired accurate and useful information. He

was very prepared for the invasion. Castro camouflaged the

small Cuban air force, and he constantly patrolled possible

invasion sites he heard were going to be targeted, including

the Bay of Pigs. The morning before the invasion, April 15,

1961, he ordered a nationwide alert (Goode, Stephen 80).

On April 14, 1961, the Liberation Army set sail on six

ships from Nicaragua. The Army consisted of about 1,500

troops and they had approximately five tanks, eighteen

mortars, fifteen recoilless rifles, four flame-throwers,

twelve rocket launchers, twelve landing crafts, and five

freighters to do battle with (Robinson, Linda 54). The

next day, the first strike was made on Cuba. The strike was

good for the Army because it destroyed at least half of

Castro?s planes, including B-26?s, Sea Furies, and T-33 jet

trainers (Goode, Stephen 80). This was an early attack on

Cuba, and Castro was not ready for this assault; therefore,

resulting in the destruction of half of Castro?s planes.

On April 16, the provisional government members

received word that the invasion was near. They flew to

Miami where they would hide out, and be ready to be taken to

Cuba if the invasion was successful (Goode, Stephen 80 &

81). The next thing the president did was very pivotal to

the success of the attack. President Kennedy canceled a

second scheduled air strike against Cuba. No one really

knew why he canceled the strike; however, he could have

believed the first strike did adequate damage to the Cuban

air force and a second would not be needed (Bay of Pigs

Revisited, The 4). In any case, the cancellation was

considered by the CIA to harm the operation and maybe

condemn it to failure (Nelson, Craig 1).

At midnight on April 16, the invasion began (Goode,

Stephen 81). Things got off to a bad start. The coral

reefs delayed several landing crafts and others experienced

engine trouble. Some of the exiles chose a ground invasion.

These troops penetrated about twenty miles into Cuba until

they ran into Castro?s militia. The militia had heavy

reinforcements which meant a quicker surrender for these

exiles (Goode, Stephen 81).

On Monday, April 17, the remaining planes of Castro?s

air force were able to impose great damage on the ships and

their invaders (Bay of Pigs Revisited, The 4). Two of the

Liberation Army?s ships were sunk, The Houston and

The Rio Candido, which sank with most of the Army?s

ammunition, oil, communications equipment, and men. Three

of the B-26?s that the Liberation Army had were shot down by

Cuba?s 20-mm cannons (Goode, Stephen 81). Later on that

dreadful Monday, President Kennedy approved a second air

strike, but it came too late. The exile force had been

thoroughly defeated. When the planes arrived, they were an

hour late because of the difference in time zones (Goode,

Stephen 81 & 82).

Of the 1,500 troops the army had at first, only 1,297

made it to Cuba. The others were killed at sea or deserted.

After the Liberation Army surrendered, 1,180 of the 1,297

were captured and taken as prisoners to Havanna (Fursenko,

Aleksandr, and Timothy Naftali 95). Most of the captured

exiles confessed their connection with the CIA and spoke of

support from the United States (Goode, Stephen 82). Castro

was very angry with the United States and he told other

nations the dangers that existed with the United States.

Representatives spoke with Castro and came to a compromise.

The United States wanted the prisoners back, and Castro

needed medical supplies. They negotiated and Castro

released the prisoners to return to Florida in time for

Christmas, 1962 (Goode, Stephen 82).

On April 19, one day after the failure of the invasion,

Castro announced over the radio,

?The invaders have been annihilated.

The Revolution has emerged victorious.

It destroyed in less than seventy-two

hours the army organized during many

months by the imperialist government of

the United States? (Goode, Stephen 82).

Many people believed that Kennedy was the cause of the

failure. CIA officials and Cuban exiles believed Kennedy?s

failure to approve air strikes to back up the seaborne

invaders doomed the plan (Nelson, Craig 1). President

Kennedy publicly shouldered the responsibility, but

privately he blamed the CIA and his military advisers. He

also said that the agency needed reorganization (Goode,

Stephen 82). Although some CIA officials blamed the

president, numerous others blamed the agency as well. The

CIA director, Allen Dulles, resigned several months after

the invasion. He was replaced by John McCone, a prominent

businessman (Finkelstein, Norman H. 134). Many other CIA

officials either quit or were fired by President Kennedy.

Lyman Kirkpatrick, the CIA inspector general, wrote a

report. He is said to be one of the harshest critiques of

the invasion (Nelson, Craig 1). Kirkpatrick laid most of

the blame directly on the CIA. Allen Dulles, Richard

Bissell, and others resented the report and said that he had

betrayed the CIA (Goode, Stephen 83). The 150-page report

was finally released after sitting in the CIA director?s

safe for over thirty years. Some excerpts of the report

were released on February 21, 1998 to the Associated Press.

It said,

?The CIA?s ignorance, incompetence, as

well as its arrogance toward the 1,400

Cuban exiles it trained and equipped to

mount the invasion, was responsible for

the fiasco. The choice was between

retreat without honor and a gamble

between ignominious defeat and dubious

victory. The agency choose to gamble

at rapidly decreasing odds, misinforming

presidential officials, planning poorly,

using faulty intelligence, and

conducting an overt military operation

beyond their capability. The CIA

project went forward under the pathetic

illusion of deniability. Officials had

failed to advise the president at an

appropriate time, that success had

become dubious and to recommend that the

operation therefore be canceled?

(Nelson,Craig 1).

Other factors he criticized were the absence of adequate air

cover, the problems in maintaining secrecy and security,

press leaks, and the political infighting among the exiles

who seemed more suspicious of one another than Castro

(Goode, Stephen 84).

In conclusion, did the government really believe that a

force of 1,500 men were any match for Castro?s army of

400,000? Did they believe that their plan to attack was

foolproof? Did they take time to plan the attack, or were

they too anxious to oust Castro that they left out important

details? If they had stopped to ask themselves these

questions, it is likely that they would have called off the

whole thing.


?Bay of Pigs.? Encyclopedia Americana. 1998 edition.

Bay of Pigs Revisited, The. Online. Internet. 10 Oct. 2000.

Available http://www.eserver.org/history/bay-of-pigs.txt

Finkelstein, Norman H., Thirteen Days / Ninety Miles: The Cuban Missle

Crisis. New York: Simon & Schuster Publications, 1994.

Fursenko, Aleksandr, and Timothy Naftali. The Secret of the Cuban Missile

Crisis: ?One Hell of A Gamble.? New York: W.W. Norton &

Company, 1997.

Goode, Stephen. Central Intelligence Agency. New York: Franklin Watts

Company, 1982.

Nelson, Craig. ?CIA Report on Bay of Pigs Released.? The Associated

Press News Service 21 Feb. 1998: 1 – 2.

Robinson, Linda. ?The Price of Military Folly.? U.S. News and World

Report. 22 April 1996: 53 – 56.

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