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B A Y O F P I G S
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,
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,
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.
?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?
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
?Bay of Pigs.? Encyclopedia Americana. 1998 edition.
Bay of Pigs Revisited, The. Online. Internet. 10 Oct. 2000.
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 &
Goode, Stephen. Central Intelligence Agency. New York: Franklin Watts
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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