Failed Bay of Pigs Invasion Revealed

Failed Bay of Pigs Invasion Revealed

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In April 1961, at an emergency meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, Cuban Ambassador Carlos Lechuga delivers a stinging denunciation of the U.S. government, which initially denied involvement in the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Bay of Pigs Invasion — The ‘perfect failure’ of John F. Kennedy

When Fidel Castro overthrew American-backed President General Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and started associating with Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev, the United States during the Eisenhower administration developed a plan to overthrow Castro’s regime. The plan was for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to train Cuban exiles to eventually invade their homeland and cause an uprising that will overthrow Castro’s government. Although John F. Kennedy was not involved in the planning and training of the Cuban exiles meant to defeat Castro, he inherited Eisenhower’s CIA program.

CIA commemorates 60-year anniversary of one of its most infamous failures in history – Bay of Pigs invasion – with ‘victory’ coin

&ldquoThis silver coin commemorating an anticipated (but never realized) Bay of Pigs victory features an outline of Cuba with a rebel invader advancing past a fallen member of Castro's military in the foreground,&rdquo the agency tweeted on Tuesday, with a photo of the artifact.

This silver coin commemorating an anticipated (but never realized) Bay of Pigs victory features an outline of Cuba with a rebel invader advancing past a fallen member of Castro's military in the foreground.#HISTINT#Museum

&mdash CIA (@CIA) May 25, 2021

The jokes practically wrote themselves, with one user commenting that &ldquoanticipated but never realized&rdquo victory is an interesting [way] of saying &ldquowe lost.&rdquo

More than one comment called the coin the CIA version of a &ldquoparticipation trophy,&rdquo referring to the consolation prize doled out at school sporting contests in the US.

Some responses featured a smiling Fidel Castro smoking a cigar. Castro was the leader of the Cuban revolution, whom the CIA sought to depose through the Bay of Pigs invasion.

The CIA also failed in an untold number of attempts to assassinate Castro, prompting one commenter to ask if they were releasing coins commemorating those failures, and another to quip: &ldquoThey could never beat the final boss.&rdquo Castro officially retired in 2006 and died in 2016 of natural causes.

Among the replies was a funny reference to a SU-100, a Soviet tank destroyer that Castro personally used to hit one of the invading ships &ndash according to a plaque at the Museum of the Cuban Revolution in Havana, next to which the vehicle is mounted on a plinth.

The museum page to which the CIA&rsquos tweet links actually admits that the Bay of Pigs invasion was &ldquoan unqualified disaster&rdquo and that Cuban forces captured or killed most of the 1,400 invaders within three days. It also reveals that the reverse side of the coin &ldquoprominently displays a cross, shield, and the flag of Cuba with the phrases &lsquoCrusade to Free Cuba&rsquo and &lsquoThere will be no end but victory.&rsquo&rdquo

&ldquoReissue it in a set with a keychain for that goofy assault on Venezuela that was thwarted by fishermen and a very limited edition &lsquoWe created ISIS and the Syrian civil war and all America got was the bill&rsquo T-shirt,&rdquo another user suggested.

It&rsquos unclear why the agency picked this particular day to bring up the Bay of Pigs, considering that the 60th anniversary of the failed invasion was in mid-April. In any case, the level of mockery rivaled that meted out to the &ldquowoke&rdquo recruiting videos posted on YouTube earlier this month.

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60 Years Later: The Enduring Legacy of the Bay of Pigs Fiasco

On April 17, 1961, a CIA-trained force of fourteen hundred Cuban exiles were all captured or killed within seventy-two hours of landing at the Bay of Pigs. In the aftermath of this fiasco, critics often asked how someone as smart as John F. Kennedy could have approved what some have described as the &ldquoperfect failure.&rdquo But there was a certain inevitability about the entire Bay of Pigs operation. Kennedy hoped to deliver on one of the key promises from his presidential campaign &ndash to remove the cancerous communist growth 90 miles from Key West. Kennedy was determined to reverse Dwight Eisenhower&rsquos &ldquolethargic&rdquo foreign policy and saw a chance to do so within three months of his inauguration. A successful overthrow of Castro would have been a signal that American complacency had been replaced with a renewed &ldquovigor,&rdquo a favorite term from the New Frontier. Toppling Castro would fulfill Kennedy&rsquos inaugural pledge to &ldquopay any price, bear any burden . . . support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.&rdquo More directly, it would fulfill his promise to &ldquolet every other power know that this hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.&rdquo

There were several consequences stemming from Kennedy&rsquos failure at the Bay of Pigs. Some were significant, others less so. Allen Dulles was removed as CIA Director seven months after the failure of Operation Zapata. Kennedy told Dulles, &ldquoUnder a parliamentary system of government it is I who would be leaving office . . . but under our system it is you who must go.&rdquo While it has become one of the main talking points of the post-Bay of Pigs, pro-Kennedy narrative, it is nonetheless true that he became more suspect of expert advice, including from the military and the intelligence community. Kennedy&rsquos speechwriter and alter ego Ted Sorensen recalled Kennedy saying to him &ldquoI got where I am by not trusting experts. But this time I put all my faith in the experts and look what happened.&rdquo

Another repercussion from the Bay of Pigs turned out to be a boon for future historians, as President Kennedy secretly installed a tape-recording system in the White House to make sure that he, and he alone, would have important discussions &ldquoon the record.&rdquo Some advisors who favored the invasion claimed in off the record discussions with reporters that they had opposed it, and this duplicity irked Kennedy. He apparently intended to use these recordings to write a memoir someday.

But the most important consequence of the failure at the Bay of Pigs was Kennedy&rsquos decision to intensify covert efforts to topple the Castro regime. Operating under the codename &ldquoOperation Mongoose&rdquo the President placed his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, in charge of the effort, straining the concept of plausible deniability to the breaking point. Mongoose was designed, according to Robert Kennedy, to &ldquostir things up&rdquo with &ldquoespionage, sabotage, general disorder.&rdquo But it also involved eliminating Castro by any means necessary. At least eight attempts were made on Castro&rsquos life, with the CIA enlisting the help of American organized crime to do their bidding.

Attorney General Robert Kennedy viewed the Bay of Pigs as an &ldquoinsult that had to be redressed&rdquo and he pressured a sclerotic bureaucracy to ensure that Mongoose received all the funding it needed to carry out its campaign to topple the Castro government. The assassination element of the campaign saw the CIA develop a variety of means to eliminate Castro including various poisons and exploding seashells designed to lure the curious scuba diving dictator to his death.

Many veterans of the Second World War considered assassination to be a legitimate weapon. The United States military had targeted the commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, when decoded intercepts revealed his flight plans, while the British had trained the assassins of the &ldquoButcher of Prague,&rdquo SS-Gruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich. The Cold War&rsquos ever-present threat of &ldquomutual assured destruction&rdquo lent further credence to the idea that assassination was a legitimate &ldquotool&rdquo in the nation&rsquos arsenal.

Operation Mongoose continued for the entirety of the Kennedy presidency, despite Kennedy&rsquos &ldquono invasion&rdquo pledge to Nikita Khrushchev during the missile crisis of October 1962. Mongoose became one of the largest covert operations in the CIA&rsquos history, involving some 400 agents and an annual budget of over $50 million. Kennedy&rsquos successor, Lyndon Johnson, shut Mongoose down in April 1964, later observing that the United States had operated a Murder, Inc., in the Caribbean.

Bay of Pigs: Newly Revealed CIA Documents Expose Blunders

From a transport ship floating in Cuba's Bay of Pigs, CIA operative Grayston Lynch knew the U.S. mission to overthrow Fidel Castro was faltering. The Cuban exiles he had brought with him had abandoned their posts, so he grabbed the boat's recoilless rifles and machine guns and began firing at the aircraft overhead.

On a day of chaos and infamy in April 1961, Lynch would soon understand the consequences of his shooting. He had fired on his agency's own planes, which were trying to protect the U.S.-led Cuban exiles invading the island from being slaughtered by Castro's forces. "We couldn't tell them from the Castro planes," Lynch later explained.

The Bay of Pigs is one of America's most infamous Cold War blunders, and it has been studied, debated, and dramatized endlessly ever since. Yet, for 50 years, details like Lynch's story were hidden away in top-secret CIA files that were finally released this month and reviewed by NEWSWEEK.

The CIA's official history of the Bay of Pigs operation is filled with dramatic and harrowing details that not only lay bare the strategic, logistical, and political problems that doomed the invasion, but also how the still-green President John F. Kennedy scrambled to keep the U.S. from entering into a full conflict with Cuba.

The disclosure is the handiwork of the dogged researcher Peter Kornbluh and his Washington-based National Security Archive. The right-to-know group used the Freedom of Information Act and lawsuits to force the CIA to release all its major documents on Kennedy's failed efforts to overthrow Castro, who this month turned 85 and stands as a living reminder of America's failure to repel communism on an island just 90 miles from Florida.

Written by then&ndashCIA chief historian Jack Pfeiffer between 1974 and 1984, the five-volume history&mdashthe last volume of which remains classified&mdashseeks to spread the blame beyond the agency to the State Department and White House, while confirming that the invasion was even more disastrously handled than previously known.

Among the details hidden from public view all these years are that a CIA official transferred funds from the invasion budget to "pay the mafia types" for an assassination plot against Castro, which was so secret that the chief of invasion planning, Jacob Esterline, was not told what the money was for. Despite repeated White House instructions to keep U.S. forces from directly participating in order to preserve plausible deniability of American involvement, the CIA ultimately gave permission for U.S. pilots to fly aircraft over the beaches. The aviators were told that, if they were shot down and captured, they should describe themselves as mercenaries and the U.S. would "deny any knowledge" of them. Sadly, four U.S. airmen lost their lives, and it wasn't until 1976 that they were given medals in ceremonies their families were encouraged to keep secret. Before Kennedy inherited the Bay of Pigs invasion plan from the Eisenhower administration, then&ndashvice president Richard Nixon was a forceful advocate of bringing down Castro and urged the CIA to support "goon squads and other direct action groups" operating inside and outside Cuba.

Perhaps most disturbing of all, the CIA task force in charge of the paramilitary assault did not believe it could succeed without becoming an open invasion supported by the U.S. military. The assessment was part of a brief prepared for President-elect Kennedy that he never saw. Kennedy later told one of his aides that the CIA and military did not believe he would resist their pressure to have American forces engage when the invasion was on the verge of failure.

Pfeiffer's revelations are buried in a lengthy, comprehensive, and argumentative history. The volumes, which include 1,200 pages of narrative and documentary appendices, describe the White House, and particularly Kennedy, as responsible for the embarrassing defeat: It cost the invaders more than 100 lives, gave communists around the world a propaganda coup, and made a mockery of Kennedy's promise of a new day in relations with Latin America.

In public, Kennedy put on a bold show of confidence, accepting that he alone was responsible. But in private, he struggled to make sense of the catastrophe: "How could I have been so stupid as to let them proceed?" he repeatedly asked his aides. He was furious at the CIA for having misled him. Waiting several months before he compelled CIA Director Allen Dulles to resign, Kennedy told him, "Under a parliamentary system of government it is I who would be leaving. But under our system it is you who must go."

In the CIA history, Pfeiffer sought to aggressively defend the agency against two earlier assessments: a Kennedy presidential commission headed by Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Maxwell Taylor and including Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and the report of the CIA's inspector general, Lyman Kirkpatrick.

In Pfeiffer's judgment, the CIA got a "bum rap" from the Taylor-RFK report for a "political decision that ensured the military defeat of the anti-Castro forces." That decision was Kennedy's refusal to use U.S. air power to support the invasion or to save it once it became clear it was headed for defeat. Pfeiffer argued it was absurd for Kennedy to think that he could hide America's role in the invasion. "The U.S. government's plan to maintain plausible deniability of its anti-Castro involvement had the impenetrability of the emperor's new clothes," he wrote. Hence, Kennedy's own subsequent self-recrimination about being "stupid." He could not forget his pre-invasion conversation with Secretary of State Dean Acheson, who asked how many men were invading and how many men Castro could field against them. Kennedy replied, perhaps 1,500 invaders and 25,000 opponents. Acheson marveled at Kennedy's naiveté: "It doesn't take Price Waterhouse to figure out that fifteen hundred aren't as good as twenty-five thousand," he said.

Kirkpatrick asserted that the CIA's poor "planning, organization, staffing, and management" were the principal reasons for the failure. Specifically, the agency's uncertainty that an invasion would "trigger an uprising," which it considered essential to the success of the operation, and numerous leaks alerting Castro to the coming attack should have persuaded Dulles and Deputy Director for Plans Richard Bissell, Kirkpatrick said, to ask Kennedy to call it off. Also, the refusal to accept Kennedy's word that he would not use American forces to prevent a failure made the CIA the responsible party.

The debate over who was to blame for the Bay of Pigs is a perfect example of what the Dutch historian Pieter Geyl meant when he said, "History is argument without end." But it is well to revisit this disaster not to assign blame anew but to recall John Quincy Adams's cautionary advice: America "does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own."


Since the middle of the 18th century, Cuba had been part of the Spanish colonial empire. In the late 19th century, Cuban nationalist revolutionaries rebelled against Spanish dominance, resulting in three liberation wars: the Ten Years' War (1868–1878), the Little War (1879–1880) and the Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898). In 1898, the United States government proclaimed war on the Spanish Empire, resulting in the Spanish–American War. The U.S. subsequently invaded the island and forced the Spanish army out. Of note, a special operations attempt to land a group of at least 375 Cuban soldiers on the island succeeded in the Battle of Tayacoba. On 20 May 1902, a new independent government proclaimed the foundation of the Republic of Cuba, with U.S. Military Governor Leonard Wood handing over control to President Tomás Estrada Palma, a Cuban-born U.S. citizen. [9] Subsequently, large numbers of U.S. settlers and businessmen arrived in Cuba, and by 1905, 60% of rural properties were owned by non-Cuban North Americans. [10] Between 1906 and 1909, 5,000 U.S. Marines were stationed across the island, and returned in 1912, 1917 and 1921 to intervene in internal affairs, sometimes at the behest of the Cuban government. [11]

Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution Edit

— Earl E. T. Smith, former American Ambassador to Cuba, during 1960 testimony to the US Senate [12]

In March 1952, a Cuban general and politician, Fulgencio Batista, seized power on the island, proclaimed himself president, and deposed the discredited president Carlos Prío Socarrás of the Partido Auténtico. Batista canceled the planned presidential elections and described his new system as "disciplined democracy." Although Batista gained some popular support, many Cubans saw it as the establishment of a one-man dictatorship. [13] [14] [15] [16] Many opponents of the Batista regime took to armed rebellion in an attempt to oust the government, sparking the Cuban Revolution. One of these groups was the National Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario), a militant organization containing largely middle-class members that had been founded by the Professor of Philosophy Rafael García Bárcena. [17] [18] [19] Another was the Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil, which had been founded by the Federation of University Students President José Antonio Echevarría. [20] [21] [22] However, the best known of these anti-Batista groups was the "26th of July Movement" (MR-26-7), founded by Fidel Castro. With Castro as the MR-26-7's head, the organization was based upon a clandestine cell system, with each cell containing ten members, none of whom knew the whereabouts or activities of the other cells. [23] [24] [25]

Between December 1956 and 1959, Castro led a guerrilla army against the forces of Batista from his base camp in the Sierra Maestra mountains. Batista's repression of revolutionaries had earned him widespread unpopularity, and by 1958 his armies were in retreat. On 31 December 1958, Batista resigned and fled into exile, taking with him an amassed fortune of more than US$300,000,000. [26] [27] [28] The presidency fell to Castro's chosen candidate, the lawyer Manuel Urrutia Lleó, while members of the MR-26-7 took control of most positions in the cabinet. [29] [30] [31] On 16 February 1959, Castro took on the role of Prime Minister. [32] [33] Dismissing the need for elections, Castro proclaimed the new administration an example of direct democracy, in which the Cuban populace could assemble en masse at demonstrations and express their democratic will to him personally. [34] Critics instead condemned the new regime as un-democratic. [35]

The counter-revolution Edit

Soon after the success of the Cuban Revolution, militant counter-revolutionary groups developed in an attempt to overthrow the new regime. Undertaking armed attacks against government forces, some set up guerrilla bases in Cuba's mountainous regions, leading to the six-year Escambray Rebellion. These dissidents were funded and armed by various foreign sources, including the exiled Cuban community, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and Rafael Trujillo's regime in the Dominican Republic. [36] [37] [38] No quarter was given during the suppression of the resistance in the Escambray Mountains, where former rebels from the war against Batista took different sides. [39] On 3 April 1961, a bomb attack on militia barracks in Bayamo killed four militia and wounded eight more. On 6 April, the Hershey Sugar factory in Matanzas was destroyed by sabotage. [40] On 14 April 1961, guerrillas led by Agapito Rivera fought Cuban government forces in Villa Clara Province, where several government troops were killed and others wounded. [40] Also on 14 April 1961, a Cubana airliner was hijacked and flown to Jacksonville, Florida resultant confusion then helped the staged 'defection' of a B-26 and pilot at Miami on 15 April. [41] [ page needed ] [42]

Castro's government began a crackdown on this opposition movement, arresting hundreds of dissidents. [43] [44] [45] Though it rejected the physical torture Batista's regime had used, Castro's government sanctioned psychological torture, subjecting some prisoners to solitary confinement, rough treatment, hunger, and threatening behavior. [46] After conservative editors and journalists began expressing hostility towards the government following its leftward turn, the pro-Castro printers' trade union began to harass and disrupt editorial staff actions. In January 1960, the government proclaimed that each newspaper was obliged to publish a "clarification" by the printers' union at the end of every article that criticized the government. These "clarifications" signaled the start of press censorship in Castro's Cuba. [43] [47]

Popular uproar across Cuba demanded that those figures who had been complicit in the widespread torture and killing of civilians be brought to justice. Although he remained a moderating force and tried to prevent the mass reprisal killings of Batistanos advocated by many Cubans, Castro helped to set up trials of many figures involved in the old regime across the country, resulting in hundreds of executions. Critics, in particular from the U.S. press, argued that many of these did not meet the standards of a fair trial, and condemned Cuba's new government as being more interested in vengeance than justice. Castro retaliated strongly against such accusations, proclaiming that "revolutionary justice is not based on legal precepts, but on moral conviction." In a show of support for this "revolutionary justice," he organized the first Havana trial to take place before a mass audience of 17,000 at the Sports Palace stadium. When a group of aviators accused of bombing a village was found not guilty, he ordered a retrial, in which they were instead found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. [48] [49] [50] On 11 March 1961, Jesús Carreras Zayas [es] and American William Alexander Morgan (a former Castro ally) were executed after a trial. [51] [ page needed ] [52]

Tensions with the United States Edit

Castro's Cuban government ordered the country's oil refineries – then controlled by U.S. corporations Esso, Standard Oil and Shell – to process crude oil purchased from the Soviet Union, but under pressure from the U.S. government, these companies refused. Castro responded by expropriating the refineries and nationalizing them under state control. In retaliation, the U.S. canceled its import of Cuban sugar, provoking Castro to nationalize most U.S.-owned assets, including banks and sugar mills. [53] [54] [55] Relations between Cuba and the U.S. were further strained following the explosion and sinking of a French vessel, the Le Coubre, in Havana Harbor in March 1960. The cause of the explosion was never determined, but Castro publicly mentioned that the U.S. government was guilty of sabotage. [56] [57] [58] On 13 October 1960, the U.S. government then prohibited the majority of exports to Cuba – the exceptions being medicines and certain foodstuffs – marking the start of an economic embargo. In retaliation, the Cuban National Institute for Agrarian Reform took control of 383 private-run businesses on 14 October, and on 25 October a further 166 U.S. companies operating in Cuba had their premises seized and nationalized, including Coca-Cola and Sears Roebuck. [59] [60] On 16 December, the U.S. ended its import quota of Cuban sugar. [61]

The U.S. government was becoming increasingly critical of Castro's revolutionary government. At an August 1960 meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) held in Costa Rica, U.S. Secretary of State Christian Herter publicly proclaimed that Castro's administration was "following faithfully the Bolshevik pattern" by instituting a single-party political system, taking governmental control of trade unions, suppressing civil liberties, and removing both the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. He furthermore asserted that international communism was using Cuba as an "operational base" for spreading revolution in the western hemisphere, and called on other OAS members to condemn the Cuban government for its breach of human rights. [62] In turn, Castro lambasted the treatment of black people and the working classes he had witnessed in New York City, which he ridiculed as that "superfree, superdemocratic, superhumane, and supercivilized city." Proclaiming that the U.S. poor were living "in the bowels of the imperialist monster," he attacked the mainstream U.S. media and accused it of being controlled by big business. [63] Superficially the U.S. was trying to improve its relationship with Cuba. Several negotiations between representatives from Cuba and the U.S. took place around this time. Repairing international financial relations was the focal point of these discussions. Political relations were another hot topic of these conferences. The U.S. stated that they would not interfere with Cuba's domestic affairs but that the island should limit its ties with the Soviet Union. [64]

In August 1960, the CIA contacted the Cosa Nostra in Chicago with the intention to draft a simultaneous assassination of Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro and Che Guevara. In exchange, if the operation were a success and a pro-U.S. government were restored in Cuba, the CIA agreed that the Mafia would get their "monopoly on gaming, prostitution and drugs." [65] [66]

Tensions percolated when the CIA began to act on its desires to snuff out Castro. Efforts to murder Castro officially commenced in 1960, [67] though the general public did not become aware of them until 1975, when the Senate Church Committee, set up to investigate CIA abuses, released a report entitled "Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders". [67] Some methods that the CIA undertook to murder Castro were creative, for example: "poison pills, an exploding seashell, and a planned gift of a diving suit contaminated with toxins." [67] More traditional ways of assassinating Castro were also planned, such as elimination via high-powered rifles with telescopic sights. [67] In 1963, at the same time the Kennedy administration initiated secret peace overtures to Castro, Cuban revolutionary and undercover CIA agent Rolando Cubela was tasked with killing Castro by CIA official Desmond Fitzgerald, who portrayed himself as a personal representative of Robert F. Kennedy. [67]

Causes Edit

The U.S. had initially recognized Castro’s government following the success of the Cuban Revolution in ousting Batista, [68] but the relationship quickly soured as Castro repeatedly condemned the U.S. in his speeches for its misdeeds in Cuba over the previous 60 years. [69] Many U.S. officials began to view Castro as a threat to national security as he legalized the Communist Party, [70] nationalized property owned by U.S. citizens totaling $1.5 billion, [69] and strengthened ties with the Soviet Union. [69] By early 1960, President Eisenhower had begun contemplating ways to remove Castro, in the hopes that he might be replaced by a Cuban government-in-exile, though none existed at the time. [71] In accordance with this goal, he approved Richard Bissell’s plan which included training the paramilitary force that would later be used in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. [72]

Cuba became a focal point in the 1960 U.S. presidential election, with both candidates promising to “get tough with the Communists”. [73] Kennedy in particular attacked Nixon and the Eisenhower administration for allowing communism to flourish so close to the U.S. [74] In response, Nixon revealed plans for an embargo against Cuba, but the Democrats criticized it as ineffective. [75] Ultimately, Nixon lost the election, convinced that Cuba had brought him down, [76] and Kennedy inherited the thorny issue near the height of its prominence.

Despite the focus on Cuba in the elections and deteriorating relations between Cuba and the U.S.—exacerbated when Castro accused most of the U.S. State Department personnel in Havana of being spies and subsequently ordering them to leave the country, to which Eisenhower responded by withdrawing recognition of Castro’s government [77] —Kennedy hesitated to commit to the CIA’s plans. Under Dulles and Bissell's insistence of the increasingly urgent need to do something with the troops being trained in Guatemala, Kennedy eventually agreed, although to avoid the appearance of American involvement, he requested the operation be moved from the city of Trinidad, Cuba to a less conspicuous location. [78] Thus, the final plan was for an invasion at the Bay of Pigs.

Early plans Edit

The idea of overthrowing Castro's government first emerged within the CIA in early 1960. Founded in 1947 by the National Security Act, the CIA was "a product of the Cold War", having been designed to counter the espionage activities of the Soviet Union's own national security agency, the KGB. As the perceived threat of international communism grew larger, the CIA expanded its activities to undertake covert economic, political, and military activities that would advance causes favourable to U.S. interests, often resulting in brutal dictatorships that favored U.S. interests. [79] CIA Director Allen Dulles was responsible for overseeing covert operations across the world, and although widely considered an ineffectual administrator, he was popular among his employees, whom he had protected from the accusations of McCarthyism. [80] Recognizing that Castro and his government were becoming increasingly hostile and openly opposed to the United States, Eisenhower directed the CIA to begin preparations of invading Cuba and overthrow the Castro regime. [81] Richard M. Bissell Jr. was charged with overseeing plans for the Bay of Pigs Invasion. He assembled agents to aid him in the plot, many of whom had worked on the 1954 Guatemalan coup six years before these included David Philips, Gerry Droller and E. Howard Hunt. [82]

Bissell placed Droller in charge of liaising with anti-Castro segments of the Cuban-American community living in the United States, and asked Hunt to fashion a government in exile, which the CIA would effectively control. [83] Hunt proceeded to travel to Havana, where he spoke with Cubans from various backgrounds and discovered a brothel through the Mercedes-Benz agency. [84] Returning to the U.S., he informed the Cuban-Americans with whom he was liaising that they would have to move their base of operations from Florida to Mexico City, because the State Department refused to permit the training of a militia on U.S. soil. Although unhappy with the news, they conceded to the order. [84]

President Eisenhower had meetings with President-elect Kennedy at the White House on 6 December 1960 and 19 January 1961. [85] In one conversation, Eisenhower stated that since March 1960, the U.S. government had trained "in small units—but we had done nothing else—[. ] some hundreds of refugees" in Guatemala, "a few in Panama, and some in Florida." [85] However, Eisenhower also expressed disapproval of the idea of Batista returning to power and was waiting for the exiles to agree on a leader who was opposed to both Castro and Batista. [85]

Eisenhower's planning Edit

On 17 March 1960, the CIA put forward their plan for the overthrow of Castro's administration to the U.S. National Security Council, where President Eisenhower lent his support, [79] approving a CIA budget of $13,000,000 to explore options to remove Castro from power. [86] The first stated objective of the plan was to "bring about the replacement of the Castro regime with one more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S. in such a manner to avoid any appearance of U.S. intervention." [87] Four major forms of action were to be taken to aid anti-communist opposition in Cuba at the time. These included providing a powerful propaganda offensive against the regime, perfecting a covert intelligence network within Cuba, developing paramilitary forces outside of Cuba, and acquiring the necessary logistical support for covert military operations on the island. At this stage, however, it was still not clear that an invasion would take place. [88] Contrary to popular belief, however, documents obtained from the Eisenhower Library revealed that Eisenhower had not ordered or approved plans for an amphibious assault on Cuba. [85]

By 31 October 1960, most guerrilla infiltrations and supply drops directed by the CIA into Cuba had failed, and developments of further guerrilla strategies were replaced by plans to mount an initial amphibious assault, with a minimum of 1,500 men. The election of John Kennedy as U.S. president sped up preparations for the invasion [85] Kennedy reached out to Cuban exiles who supported Batista and hinted he was willing to bring Batista back to power in order to overthrow Castro. [89] On 18 November 1960, Dulles and Bissell first briefed President-elect Kennedy on the outline plans. Having experience in actions such as the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état, Dulles was confident that the CIA was capable of overthrowing the Cuban government. On 29 November 1960, President Eisenhower met with the chiefs of the CIA, Defense, State, and Treasury departments to discuss the new concept. None expressed any objections, and Eisenhower approved the plans with the intention of persuading John Kennedy of their merit. On 8 December 1960, Bissell presented outline plans to the "Special Group" while declining to commit details to written records. Further development of the plans continued, and on 4 January 1961 they consisted of an intention to establish a "lodgement" by 750 men at an undisclosed site in Cuba, supported by considerable air power. [90]

Meanwhile, in the 1960 presidential election, both main candidates, Richard Nixon of the Republican Party and John F. Kennedy of the Democratic Party, campaigned on the issue of Cuba, with both candidates taking a hardline stance on Castro. [91] Nixon – who was vice president – insisted that Kennedy should not be informed of the military plans, to which Dulles conceded. [92] To Nixon's chagrin, the Kennedy campaign released a scathing statement on the Eisenhower administration's Cuba policy on 20 October 1960 which said that "we must attempt to strengthen the non-Batista democratic anti-Castro forces [. ] who offer eventual hope of overthrowing Castro", claiming that "Thus far these fighters for freedom have had virtually no support from our Government." [89] At the last election debate the next day, Nixon called Kennedy's proposed course of action "dangerously irresponsible" and even lectured Kennedy on international law, [93] in effect denigrating the policy Nixon favored. [94]

Kennedy's operational approval Edit

On 28 January 1961, President Kennedy was briefed, together with all the major departments, on the latest plan (code-named Operation Pluto), which involved 1,000 men landed in a ship-borne invasion at Trinidad, Cuba, about 270 km (170 mi) south-east of Havana, at the foothills of the Escambray Mountains in Sancti Spiritus province. Kennedy authorized the active departments to continue and to report progress. [95] Trinidad had good port facilities, it was closer to many existing counter-revolutionary activities, and it offered an escape route into the Escambray Mountains. That scheme was subsequently rejected by the State Department because the airfield there was not large enough for B-26 bombers and, since B-26s were to play a prominent role in the invasion, this would destroy the façade that the invasion was just an uprising with no American involvement. Secretary of State Dean Rusk raised some eyebrows by contemplating airdropping a bulldozer to extend the airfield. [96] Kennedy rejected Trinidad, preferring a more low-key locale. [97] On 4 April 1961, President Kennedy approved the Bay of Pigs plan (also known as Operation Zapata), because it had a sufficiently long airfield, it was farther away from large groups of civilians than the Trinidad plan, and it was less "noisy" militarily, which would make denial of direct U.S. involvement more plausible. [98] The invasion landing area was changed to beaches bordering the Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) in Las Villas Province, 150 km southeast of Havana, and east of the Zapata Peninsula. The landings were to take place at Playa Girón (code-named Blue Beach), Playa Larga (code-named Red Beach), and Caleta Buena Inlet (code-named Green Beach). [99] [ page needed ] [100] [ page needed ] [101] [102] [ page needed ]

Top aides to Kennedy, such as Dean Rusk and both joint chiefs of staff, later said that they had hesitations about the plans but muted their thoughts. Some leaders blamed these problems on the "Cold War mindset" or the determination of the Kennedy brothers to oust Castro and fulfill campaign promises. [99] [ page needed ] Military advisers were skeptical of its potential for success as well. [85] Despite these hesitations, Kennedy still ordered the attack to take place. [85] In March 1961, the CIA helped Cuban exiles in Miami to create the Cuban Revolutionary Council, chaired by José Miró Cardona, former Prime Minister of Cuba. Cardona became the de facto leader-in-waiting of the intended post-invasion Cuban government. [103] [ page needed ]

Training Edit

In April 1960, the CIA began to recruit anti-Castro Cuban exiles in the Miami area. Until July 1960, assessment and training was carried out on Useppa Island and at various other facilities in South Florida, such as Homestead Air Force Base. Specialist guerrilla training took place at Fort Gulick and Fort Clayton in Panama. [41] [ page needed ] [104] The force that became Brigade 2506 started with 28 men, who initially were told that their training was being paid for by an anonymous Cuban millionaire émigré, but the recruits soon guessed who was paying the bills, calling their supposed anonymous benefactor "Uncle Sam", and the pretense was dropped. [105] The overall leader was Dr. Manuel Artime while the military leader was José "Pepe" Peréz San Román, a former Cuban Army officer imprisoned under both Batista and Castro. [105]

For the increasing number of recruits, infantry training was carried out at a CIA-run base code-named JMTrax. The base was on the Pacific coast of Guatemala between Quetzaltenango and Retalhuleu, in the Helvetia coffee plantation. [106] The exiled group named themselves Brigade 2506 (Brigada Asalto 2506). [107] [ page needed ] In summer 1960, an airfield (code-named JMadd, aka Rayo Base) was constructed near Retalhuleu, Guatemala. [106] Gunnery and flight training of Brigade 2506 aircrews was carried out by personnel from Alabama Air National Guard under General Reid Doster, using at least six Douglas B-26 Invaders in the markings of the Guatemalan Air Force. [108] An additional 26 B-26s were obtained from U.S. military stocks, 'sanitized' at 'Field Three' to obscure their origins, and about 20 of them were converted for offensive operations by removal of defensive armament, standardization of the 'eight-gun nose', addition of underwing drop tanks and rocket racks. [109] [110] [ page needed ] Paratroop training was at a base nicknamed Garrapatenango, near Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Training for boat handling and amphibious landings took place at Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Tank training for the Brigade 2506 M41 Walker Bulldog tanks, [ citation needed ] took place at Fort Knox, Kentucky and Fort Benning, Georgia. Underwater demolition and infiltration training took place at Belle Chasse near New Orleans. [102] [ page needed ] To create a navy, the CIA purchased five cargo ships from the Cuban-owned, Miami-based Garcia Line, thereby giving "plausible deniability" as the State Department had insisted no U.S. ships could be involved in the invasion. [111] The first four of the five ships, namely the Atlantico, the Caribe, the Houston and Río Escondido were to carry enough supplies and weapons to last thirty days while the Lake Charles had 15 days of supplies and was intended to land the provisional government of Cuba. [111] The ships were loaded with supplies at New Orleans and sailed to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. [111] Additionally, the invasion force had two old Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) ships, the Blagar and Barbara J from World War II that were part of the CIA's "ghost ship" fleet and served as command ships for the invasion. [111] The crews of the supply ships were Cuban while the crews of the LCIs were Americans, borrowed by the CIA from the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS). [111] One CIA officer wrote that MSTS sailors were all professional and experienced but not trained for combat. [111] In November 1960, the Retalhuleu recruits took part in quelling an officers' rebellion in Guatemala, in addition to the intervention of the U.S. Navy. [112] The CIA transported people, supplies, and arms from Florida to all the bases at night, using Douglas C-54 transports.

On 9 April 1961, Brigade 2506 personnel, ships, and aircraft started transferring from Guatemala to Puerto Cabezas. [52] Curtiss C-46s were also used for transport between Retalhuleu and a CIA base (code-named JMTide, aka Happy Valley) at Puerto Cabezas. Facilities and limited logistical assistance were provided by the governments of General Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes in Guatemala, and General Luis Somoza Debayle in Nicaragua, but no military personnel or equipment of those nations was directly employed in the conflict. [110] [ page needed ] [113] [ page needed ] Both governments later received military training and equipment, including some of the CIA's remaining B-26s.

In early 1961, Cuba's army possessed Soviet-designed T-34 medium tanks, IS-2 heavy tanks, SU-100 tank destroyers, 122mm howitzers, other artillery and small arms plus Italian 105mm howitzers. The Cuban air force armed inventory included B-26 Invader light bombers, Hawker Sea Fury fighters and Lockheed T-33 jets, all remaining from the Fuerza Aérea del Ejército de Cuba, the Cuban air force of the Batista government. [107] [ page needed ] Anticipating an invasion, Che Guevara stressed the importance of an armed civilian populace, stating: "all of the Cuban people must become a guerrilla army each and every Cuban must learn to handle and if necessary use firearms in defense of the nation". [114]

U.S. Government personnel Edit

In April 1960, FRD (Frente Revolucionario Democratico – Democratic Revolutionary Front) rebels were taken to Useppa Island, Florida, which was covertly leased by the CIA at the time. Once the rebels had arrived, they were greeted by instructors from U.S. Army special forces groups, members from the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard, and members of the CIA. The rebels were trained in amphibious assault tactics, guerrilla warfare, infantry and weapons training, unit tactics and land navigation. [115] Allen Dulles was in Puerto Rico to embark with the Operation 40 group, [116] conceived by the CIA and kept secret from Kennedy, [117] [ citation needed ] which included a group of CIA operatives who had the task of mowing down the Cuban communist political cadres. At the head of the death squad was Joaquin Sanjenis Perdomo, former police chief in Cuba, intelligence officer Rafael De Jesus Gutierrez. The group included David Atlee Philips, Howard Hunt and David Sánchez Morales. [118] The recruiting of Cuban exiles in Miami was organized by CIA staff officers E. Howard Hunt and Gerry Droller. Detailed planning, training and military operations were conducted by Jacob Esterline, Colonel Jack Hawkins, Félix Rodríguez, Rafael De Jesus Gutierrez and Colonel Stanley W. Beerli under the direction of Richard Bissell and his deputy Tracy Barnes. [102] [ page needed ]

Cuban government personnel Edit

Already, Fidel Castro was known as, and addressed as, the commander-in-chief of Cuban armed forces, with a nominal base at "Point One" in Havana. In early April 1961, his brother Raúl Castro was assigned command of forces in the east, based in Santiago de Cuba. Che Guevara commanded western forces, based in Pinar del Río. Major Juan Almeida Bosque commanded forces in the central provinces, based in Santa Clara. Raúl Curbelo Morales was head of the Cuban Air Force. Sergio del Valle Jiménez was Director of Headquarters Operations at Point One. Efigenio Ameijeiras was the Head of the Revolutionary National Police. Ramiro Valdés Menéndez was Minister of the Interior and head of G-2 (Seguridad del Estado, or state security). His deputy was Comandante Manuel Piñeiro Losada, also known as 'Barba Roja'. Captain José Ramón Fernández was head of the School of Militia Leaders (Cadets) at Matanzas. [3] [ page needed ] [119] [120] [ page needed ] [121] [122]

Other commanders of units during the conflict included Major Raúl Menéndez Tomassevich, Major Filiberto Olivera Moya, Major René de los Santos, Major Augusto Martínez Sanchez, Major Félix Duque, Major Pedro Miret, Major Flavio Bravo, Major Antonio Lussón, Captain Orlando Pupo Pena, Captain Victor Dreke, Captain Emilio Aragonés, Captain Angel Fernández Vila, Arnaldo Ochoa, and Orlando Rodriguez Puerta. [41] [ page needed ] [123] [ page needed ] Soviet-trained Spanish advisors were brought to Cuba from Eastern Bloc countries. These advisors had held high staff positions in the Soviet armies during World War II and became known as "Hispano-Soviets," having long resided in the Soviet Union. The most senior of these was the Spanish communist veterans of the Spanish Civil War, Francisco Ciutat de Miguel, Enrique Líster and Cuban-born Alberto Bayo. [124] Ciutat de Miguel (Cuban alias: Ángel Martínez Riosola, commonly referred to as "Angelito"), was an advisor to forces in the central provinces. The role of other Soviet agents at the time is uncertain, but some of them acquired greater fame later. For example, two KGB colonels, Vadim Kochergin and Victor Simanov were first sighted in Cuba in about September 1959. [125] [ non-primary source needed ] [126]

The Cuban security apparatus knew the invasion was coming, in part due to indiscreet talk by members of the brigade, some of which was heard in Miami and repeated in U.S. and foreign newspaper reports. Nevertheless, days before the invasion, multiple acts of sabotage were carried out, such as the El Encanto fire, an arson attack in a department store in Havana on 13 April that killed one shop worker. [41] [ page needed ] [127] The Cuban government also had been warned by senior KGB agents Osvaldo Sánchez Cabrera and 'Aragon', who died violently before and after the invasion, respectively. [128] The general Cuban population was not well informed of intelligence matters, which the US sought to exploit with propaganda through CIA-funded Radio Swan. [129] As of May 1960, almost all means of public communication were under public ownership. [130] [131]

On 29 April 2000, a Washington Post article, "Soviets Knew Date of Cuba Attack", reported that the CIA had information indicating that the Soviet Union knew the invasion was going to take place and did not inform Kennedy. On 13 April 1961, Radio Moscow broadcast an English-language newscast, predicting the invasion "in a plot hatched by the CIA" using paid "criminals" within a week. The invasion took place four days later. [132]

David Ormsby-Gore, the British ambassador to the U.S., stated that British intelligence analysis made available to the CIA indicated that the Cuban people were overwhelmingly behind Castro and that there was no likelihood of mass defections or insurrections. [133]

Acquisition of aircraft Edit

From June to September 1960, the most time-consuming task was the acquisition of the aircraft to be used in the invasion. The anti-Castro effort depended on the success of these aircraft. Although models such as the Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-54 Skymaster were to be used for airdrops and bomb drops as well as for infiltration and exfiltration, they were looking for an aircraft that could perform tactical strikes. The two models that were going to be decided on were the Navy's Douglas AD-5 Skyraider or the Air Force's light bomber, the Douglas B-26 Invader. The AD-5 was readily available and ready for the Navy to train pilots, and in a meeting among a special group in the office of the Deputy Director of the CIA, the AD-5 was approved and decided upon. After a cost-benefit analysis, word was sent that the AD-5 plan would be abandoned and the B-26 would take its place. [134]

Fleet sets sail Edit

Under cover of darkness, the invasion fleet set sail from Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua and headed towards the Bay of Pigs on the night of 14 April. [135] After on-loading the attack planes in Norfolk Naval Base and taking on prodigious quantities of food and supplies sufficient for the seven weeks at-sea to come, the crew knew from the hasty camouflage of the ship's and aircraft identifying numbers that a secret mission was on hand. Combatants were supplied with forged Cuban local currency, in the form of 20 Peso bills, identifiable by the serial numbers F69 and F70. The aircraft carrier group of the USS Essex had been at sea for nearly a month before the invasion its crew was well aware of the impending battle. En route, Essex had made a night time stop at a Navy arms depot in Charleston, South Carolina, to load tactical nuclear weapons to be held ready during the cruise. The afternoon of the invasion, one accompanying destroyer rendezvoused with Essex to have a gun mount repaired and put back into action the ship displayed numerous shell casings on deck from its shore bombardment actions. On 16 April Essex was at general quarters for most of a day Soviet MiG-15s made feints and close range fly overs that night. [136] [ citation needed ]

Air attacks on airfields Edit

During the night of 14/15 April, a diversionary landing was planned near Baracoa, Oriente Province, by about 164 Cuban exiles commanded by Higinio 'Nino' Diaz. Their mother ship, named La Playa or Santa Ana, had sailed from Key West under a Costa Rican ensign. Several U.S. Navy destroyers were stationed offshore near Guantánamo Bay to give the appearance of an impending invasion fleet. [137] The reconnaissance boats turned back to the ship after their crews detected activities by Cuban militia forces along the coastline. [3] [ page needed ] [107] [ page needed ] [120] [ page needed ] [138] [6] [139] [ non-primary source needed ] As a result of those activities, at daybreak, a reconnaissance sortie over the Baracoa area was launched from Santiago de Cuba by an FAR Lockheed T-33, piloted by Lt Orestes Acosta and it crashed fatally into the sea. On 17 April, his name was falsely quoted as a defector among the disinformation circulating in Miami. [140] [ page needed ]

The CIA, with the backing of the Pentagon, had originally requested permission to produce sonic booms over Havana on 14 April to create confusion. The request was a form of psychological warfare that had proven successful in the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954. The point was to create confusion in Havana and have it be a distraction to Castro if they could "break all the windows in town." [141] The request was denied, however, since officials thought such would be too obvious a sign of involvement by the United States. [142]

On 15 April 1961, at about 6:00 am Cuban local time, eight B-26B Invader bombers in three groups simultaneously attacked three Cuban airfields at San Antonio de los Baños and at Ciudad Libertad (formerly named Campo Columbia), both near Havana, plus the Antonio Maceo International Airport at Santiago de Cuba. The B-26s had been prepared by the CIA on behalf of Brigade 2506 and had been painted with the false flag markings of the FAR. Each came armed with bombs, rockets, and machine guns. They had flown from Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua and were crewed by exiled Cuban pilots and navigators of the self-styled Fuerza Aérea de Liberación (FAL). The purpose of the action (code-named Operation Puma) was reportedly to destroy most or all of the armed aircraft of the FAR in preparation for the main invasion. At Santiago, the two attackers destroyed a C-47 transport, a PBY Catalina flying boat, two B-26s and a civilian Douglas DC-3 plus various other civilian aircraft. At San Antonio, the three attackers destroyed three FAR B-26s, one Hawker Sea Fury and one T-33, and one attacker diverted to Grand Cayman because of low fuel. Aircraft that diverted to the Caymans were seized by the United Kingdom since they were suspicious that the Cayman Islands might be perceived as a launch site for the invasion. [142] At Ciudad Libertad, the three attackers destroyed only non-operational aircraft such as two Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. One of those attackers was damaged by anti-aircraft fire and ditched about 50 km (31 mi) north of Cuba, [143] with the loss of its crew Daniel Fernández Mon and Gaston Pérez. Its companion B-26, also damaged, continued north and landed at Boca Chica Field, Florida. The crew, José Crespo and Lorenzo Pérez-Lorenzo, were granted political asylum, and made their way back to Nicaragua the next day via Miami and the daily CIA C-54 flight from Opa-locka Airport to Puerto Cabezas Airport. Their B-26, purposely numbered 933, the same as at least two other B-26s that day for disinformation reasons, was held until late on 17 April. [140] [ page needed ] [144]

Deception flight Edit

About 90 minutes after the eight B-26s had taken off from Puerto Cabezas to attack Cuban airfields, another B-26 departed on a deception flight that took it close to Cuba but headed north towards Florida. Like the bomber groups, it carried false FAR markings and the same number 933 as painted on at least two of the others. Before departure, the cowling from one of the aircraft's two engines was removed by CIA personnel, fired upon, then re-installed to give the false appearance that the aircraft had taken ground fire at some point during its flight. At a safe distance north of Cuba, the pilot feathered the engine with the pre-installed bullet holes in the cowling, radioed a mayday call, and requested immediate permission to land at Miami International airport. He landed and taxied to the military area of the airport near an Air Force C-47 and was met by several government cars. The pilot was Mario Zúñiga, formerly of the FAEC (Cuban Air Force under Batista), and after landing, he masqueraded as 'Juan Garcia' and publicly claimed that three colleagues had also defected from the FAR. The next day he was granted political asylum, and that night he returned to Puerto Cabezas via Opa-Locka. [110] [ page needed ] [140] [ page needed ] [145] This deception operation was successful at the time in convincing much of the world media that the attacks on the FAR bases were the work of an internal anti-Communist faction and did not involve outside actors. [146]

Reactions Edit

At 10:30 am on 15 April at the United Nations, Cuban Foreign Minister Raúl Roa accused the U.S. of aggressive air attacks against Cuba and that afternoon formally tabled a motion to the Political (First) Committee of the UN General Assembly. Only days earlier, the CIA had unsuccessfully attempted to entice Raúl Roa into defecting. [142] In response to Roa's accusations before the UN, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson stated that U.S. armed forces would not "under any conditions" intervene in Cuba and that the U.S. would do everything in its power to ensure that no U.S. citizens would participate in actions against Cuba. He also stated that Cuban defectors had carried out the attacks that day, and he presented a UPI wire photo of Zúñiga's B-26 in Cuban markings at Miami airport. [52] Stevenson was later embarrassed to realize that the CIA had lied to him. [101]

President Kennedy supported the statement made by Stevenson: "I have emphasized before that this was a struggle of Cuban patriots against a Cuban dictator. While we could not be expected to hide our sympathies, we made it repeatedly clear that the armed forces of this country would not intervene in any way". [147]

On 15 April, the Cuban national police, led by Efigenio Ameijeiras, started the process of arresting thousands of suspected anti-revolutionary individuals and detaining them in provisional locations such as the Karl Marx Theatre, the moat of Fortaleza de la Cabana, and the Principe Castle, all in Havana, and the baseball park in Matanzas. [51] [ page needed ] In total, between 20,000 and 100,000 people would be arrested. [148]

Phony war Edit

On the night of 15/16 April, the Nino Diaz group failed in a second attempted diversionary landing at a different location near Baracoa. [120] [ page needed ] On 16 April, Merardo Leon, Jose Leon, and 14 others staged an armed uprising at Las Delicias Estate in Las Villas, with only four surviving. [40]

Following the airstrikes on the Cuban airfields on 15 April, the FAR prepared for action with its surviving aircraft which numbered at least four T-33 jet trainers, four Sea Fury fighters and five or six B-26 medium bombers. All three types were armed with machine guns (except the Sea Furies which had 20mm cannon) for air-to-air combat and for strafing of ships and ground targets. CIA planners had failed to discover that the U.S.-supplied T-33 trainer jets had long been armed with M-3 machine guns. The three types could also carry bombs and rocket pods for attacks against ships and tanks. [149]

No additional airstrikes against Cuban airfields and aircraft were specifically planned before 17 April, because B-26 pilots' exaggerated claims gave the CIA false confidence in the success of 15 April attacks, until U-2 reconnaissance photos taken on 16 April showed otherwise. Late on 16 April, President Kennedy ordered the cancellation of further airfield strikes planned for dawn on 17 April, to attempt plausible deniability of direct U.S. involvement. [102] [ page needed ]

Late on 16 April, the CIA/Brigade 2506 invasion fleet converged on 'Rendezvous Point Zulu', about 65 kilometres (40 mi) south of Cuba, having sailed from Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua where they had been loaded with troops and other materiel, after loading arms and supplies at New Orleans. The U.S. Navy operation was code-named Bumpy Road, having been changed from Crosspatch. [102] [ page needed ] The fleet, labeled the 'Cuban Expeditionary Force' (CEF), included five 2,400-ton (empty weight) freighter ships chartered by the CIA from the Garcia Line, and subsequently outfitted with anti-aircraft guns. Four of the freighters, Houston (code name Aguja), Río Escondido (code name Ballena), Caribe (code name Sardina), and Atlántico (code-name Tiburón), were planned to transport about 1,400 troops in seven battalions of troops and armaments near to the invasion beaches. The fifth freighter, Lake Charles, was loaded with follow-up supplies and some Operation 40 infiltration personnel. The freighters sailed under Liberian ensigns. Accompanying them were two LCIs outfitted with heavy armament at Key West. The LCIs were Blagar (code-name Marsopa) and Barbara J (code-name Barracuda), sailing under Nicaraguan ensigns. After exercises and training at Vieques Island, the CEF ships were individually escorted (outside visual range) to Point Zulu by US Navy destroyers USS Bache, USS Beale, USS Conway, USS Cony, USS Eaton, USS Murray, and USS Waller. US Navy Task Group 81.8 had already assembled off the Cayman Islands, commanded by Rear Admiral John E. Clark onboard aircraft carrier USS Essex, plus helicopter assault carrier USS Boxer, destroyers USS Hank, USS John W. Weeks, USS Purdy, USS Wren, and submarines USS Cobbler and USS Threadfin. Command and control ship USS Northampton and carrier USS Shangri-La were also reportedly active in the Caribbean at the time. USS San Marcos was a Landing Ship Dock that carried three Landing Craft Utility (LCUs) which could accommodate the Brigades M41 Walker Bulldog tanks and four Landing Craft, Vehicles, Personnel (LCVPs). San Marcos had sailed from Vieques Island. At Point Zulu, the seven CEF ships sailed north without the USN escorts, except for San Marcos that continued until the seven landing craft were unloaded when just outside the 5 kilometres (3 mi) Cuban territorial limit. [41] [ page needed ] [52] [150] [ non-primary source needed ]

Invasion day (17 April) Edit

During the night of 16/17 April, a mock diversionary landing was organized by CIA operatives near Bahía Honda, Pinar del Río Province. A flotilla containing equipment that broadcast sounds and other effects of a shipborne invasion landing provided the source of Cuban reports that briefly lured Fidel Castro away from the Bay of Pigs battlefront area. [41] [ page needed ] [120] [ page needed ] [151]

At about 00:00 on 17 April 1961, the two LCIs Blagar and Barbara J, each with a CIA 'operations officer' and an Underwater Demolition Team of five frogmen, entered the Bay of Pigs (Bahía de Cochinos) on the southern coast of Cuba. They headed a force of four transport ships (Houston, Río Escondido, Caribe and Atlántico) carrying about 1,400 Cuban exile ground troops of Brigade 2506, plus the brigade's M41 tanks and other vehicles in the landing craft. [152] At about 01:00, Blagar, as the battlefield command ship, directed the principal landing at Playa Girón (code-named Blue Beach), led by the frogmen in rubber boats followed by troops from Caribe in small aluminum boats, then the LCVPs and LCUs with the M41 tanks. [153] Barbara J, leading Houston, similarly landed troops 35 km further northwest at Playa Larga (code-named Red Beach), using small fiberglass boats. [153] The unloading of troops at night was delayed, because of engine failures and boats damaged by unseen coral reefs the CIA had originally believed that the coral reef was seaweed. As the frogmen came in, they were shocked to discover that the Red Beach was lit with floodlights, which led to the location of the landing being hastily changed. [153] As the frogmen landed, a firefight broke out when a jeep carrying Cuban militia happened by. [153] The few militias in the area succeeded in warning Cuban armed forces via radio soon after the first landing, before the invaders overcame their token resistance. [120] [ page needed ] [154] Castro was awakened at about 3:15 am to be informed of the landings, which led him to put all militia units in the area on the highest state of alert and to order airstrikes. [153] The Cuban regime planned to strike the brigadistas at Playa Larga first as they were inland before turning on the brigadistas at Girón at sea. [153] El Comandante departed personally to lead his forces into battle against the brigadistas. [153]

At daybreak around 6:30 am, three FAR Sea Furies, one B-26 bomber and two T-33s started attacking those CEF ships still unloading troops. At about 6:50, south of Playa Larga, Houston was damaged by several bombs and rockets from a Sea Fury and a T-33, and about two hours later Captain Luis Morse intentionally beached it on the western side of the bay. [153] About 270 troops had been unloaded, but about 180 survivors who struggled ashore were incapable of taking part in further action because of the loss of most of their weapons and equipment. The loss of Houston was a great blow to the brigadistas as that ship was carrying much of the medical supplies, which meant that wounded brigadistas had to make do with inadequate medical care. [153] At about 7:00, two FAL B-26s attacked and sank the Cuban Navy Patrol Escort ship El Baire at Nueva Gerona on the Isle of Pines. [120] [ page needed ] [140] [ page needed ] They then proceeded to Girón to join two other B-26s to attack Cuban ground troops and provide distraction air cover for the paratroop C-46s and the CEF ships under air attack. The M41 tanks had all landed by 7:30 am at Blue Beach and all of the troops by 8:30 am. [155] Neither San Román at Blue Beach nor Erneido Oliva at Red Beach could communicate as all of the radios had been soaked in the water during the landings. [155]

At about 7:30, five C-46 and one C-54 transport aircraft dropped 177 paratroops from the parachute battalion in an action code-named Operation Falcon. [156] About 30 men, plus heavy equipment, were dropped south of the Central Australia sugar mill on the road to Palpite and Playa Larga, but the equipment was lost in the swamps, and the troops failed to block the road. [155] Other troops were dropped at San Blas, at Jocuma between Covadonga and San Blas, and at Horquitas between Yaguaramas and San Blas. Those positions to block the roads were maintained for two days, reinforced by ground troops from Playa Girón and tanks. [157] The paratroopers had landed amid a collection of militia, but their training allowed them to hold their own against the ill-trained militiamen. [155] However, the dispersal of the paratroopers as they landed meant they were unable to take the road from the sugar mill down to Playa Larga, which allowed the government to continue to send troops down to resist the invasion. [155]

At about 8:30, a FAR Sea Fury piloted by Carlos Ulloa Arauz crashed in the bay after encountering a FAL C-46 returning south after dropping paratroops. By 9:00, Cuban troops and militia from outside the area had started arriving at the sugar mill, Covadonga and Yaguaramas. Throughout the day they were reinforced by more troops, heavy armour and T-34 tanks typically carried on flat-bed trucks. [158] At about 9:30, FAR Sea Furies and T-33s fired rockets at Rio Escondido, which then 'blew up' and sank about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) south of Girón. [107] [ page needed ] [120] [ page needed ] Rio Escondido was loaded with aviation fuel, and as the ship started to burn, the captain gave the order to abandon ship with the ship being destroyed in three explosions shortly afterward . [159] Rio Escondido carried fuel along with enough ammunition, food, and medical supplies to last ten days and the radio that allowed the brigade to communicate with the FAL. [159] The loss of the communications ship Rio Escondido meant that San Román was only able to issue orders to the forces at Blue Beach, and he had no idea of what was happening at Red Beach or with the paratroopers. [159] A messenger from Red Beach arrived at about 10:00 am asking San Román to send tank and infantry to block the road from the sugar mill, a request that he agreed to. [159] It was not expected that government forces would be counter-attacking from this direction. [160]

At about 11:00, Castro issued a statement over Cuba's nationwide network saying that the invaders, members of the exiled Cuban revolutionary front, have come to destroy the revolution and take away the dignity and rights of men. [161] At about 11:00, a FAR T-33 attacked and shot down a FAL B-26 (serial number 935) piloted by Matias Farias, who then survived a crash landing on the Girón airfield, his navigator Eduardo González already killed by gunfire. His companion B-26 suffered damage and diverted to Grand Cayman Island pilot Mario Zúñiga (the 'defector') and navigator Oscar Vega returned to Puerto Cabezas via CIA C-54 on 18 April. By about 11:00, the two remaining freighters Caribe and Atlántico, and the LCIs and LCUs, started retreating south to international waters, but still pursued by FAR aircraft. At about noon, a FAR B-26 exploded from heavy anti-aircraft fire from Blagar, and pilot Luis Silva Tablada (on his second sortie) and his crew of three were lost. [110] [ page needed ] [120] [ page needed ]

By noon, hundreds of Cuban militia cadets from Matanzas had secured Palpite and cautiously advanced on foot south towards Playa Larga, suffering many casualties during attacks by FAL B-26s. By dusk, other Cuban ground forces gradually advanced southward from Covadonga, southwest from Yaguaramas toward San Blas, and westward along coastal tracks from Cienfuegos towards Girón all without heavy weapons or armour. [120] [ page needed ] At 2:30 pm a group of militiamen from the 339th Battalion set up a position, which came under attack from the brigadista M41 tanks, which inflicted heavy losses on the defenders. [162] This action is remembered in Cuba as the "Slaughter of the Lost Battalion" as most of the militiamen perished. [162]

Three FAL B-26s were shot down by FAR T-33s, with the loss of pilots Raúl Vianello, José Crespo, Osvaldo Piedra and navigators Lorenzo Pérez-Lorenzo and José Fernández. Vianello's navigator Demetrio Pérez bailed out and was picked up by USS Murray. Pilot Crispín García Fernández and navigator Juan González Romero, in B-26 serial 940, diverted to Boca Chica, but late that night they attempted to fly back to Puerto Cabezas in B-26 serial 933 that Crespo had flown to Boca Chica on 15 April. In October 1961, the remains of the B-26 and its two crew were found in the dense jungle in Nicaragua. [140] [ page needed ] [163] One FAL B-26 diverted to Grand Cayman with engine failure. By 4:00, Castro had arrived at the Central Australia sugar mill, joining José Ramón Fernández whom he had appointed as battlefield commander before dawn that day. [164]

Osvaldo Ramírez (leader of the rural resistance to Castro) was captured by Castro's forces in Aromas de Velázquez, and immediately executed. [165] At about 5:00, a night air strike by three FAL B-26s on San Antonio de Los Baños airfield failed, reportedly because of incompetence and bad weather. Two other B-26s had aborted the mission after take-off. [110] [ page needed ] [149] Other sources allege that heavy anti-aircraft fire scared the aircrews. [166] As night fell, Atlantico and Caribe pulled away from Cuba to be followed by Blagar and Barbara J. [167] The ships were to return to the Bay of Pigs the following day to unload more ammunition, however the captains of the Atlantico and Caribe decided to abandon the invasion and head out to open sea fearing further air attacks by the FAR. [167] Destroyers from the U.S. Navy intercepted Atlantico about 110 miles (180 km) south of Cuba and persuaded the captain to return, but Caribe was not intercepted until she was 218 miles (351 km) away from Cuba, and she was not to return until it was too late. [167]

Invasion day plus one (D+1) 18 April Edit

During the night of 17–18 April, the force at Red Beach came under repeated counter-attacks from the Cuban Army and militia. [168] As casualties mounted and ammunition was used up, the brigadistas steadily gave way. [168] Airdrops from four C-54s and 2 C-46s had only limited success in landing more ammunition. [167] Both the Blagar and Barbara J returned at midnight to land more ammunition, which proved insufficient for the brigadistas. [167] Following desperate appeals for help from Oliva, San Román ordered all of his M41 tanks to assist in the defense. [169] During the night fighting, a tank battle broke out when the brigadista M41 tanks clashed with the T-34 tanks of the Cuban Army. This sharp action forced back the brigadistas. [169] At 10:00 pm, the Cuban Army opened fire with its 76.2mm and 122mm artillery guns on the brigadista forces at Playa Larga, which was followed by an attack by T-34 tanks at about midnight. [169] The 2,000 artillery rounds fired by the Cuban Army had mostly missed the brigadista defense positions, and the T-34 tanks rode into an ambush when they came under fire from the brigadista M41 tanks and mortar fire, and a number of T-34 tanks were destroyed or knocked out. [169] At 1:00 am, Cuban Army infantrymen and militiamen started an offensive. [169] Despite heavy losses on the part of the Cuban forces, the shortage of ammunition forced the brigadistas back and the T-34 tanks continued to force their way past the wreckage of the battlefield to press on the assault. [169] The Cuban forces numbered about 2,100, consisting of about 300 FAR soldiers, 1,600 militiamen and 200 policemen supported by 20 T-34s who were faced by 370 brigadistas. [169] By 5:00 am, Oliva started to order his men to retreat as he had almost no ammunition or mortar rounds left. [170] By about 10:30 am, Cuban troops and militia, supported by the T-34 tanks and 122mm artillery, took Playa Larga after Brigade forces had fled towards Girón in the early hours. During the day, Brigade forces retreated to San Blas along the two roads from Covadonga and Yaguaramas. By then, both Castro and Fernández had relocated to that battlefront area. [171]

As the men from Red Beach arrived at Girón, San Román and Oliva met to discuss the situation. [172] With ammunition running low, Oliva suggested that the brigade retreat into the Escambray Mountains to wage guerilla warfare, but San Román decided to hold the beachhead. [173] At about 11:00 am, the Cuban Army began an offensive to take San Blas. [174] San Román ordered all of the paratroopers back in order to hold San Blas, and they halted the offensive. [174] During the afternoon, Castro kept the brigadistas under steady air attack and artillery fire but did not order any new major attacks. [174]

At 2:00 pm, President Kennedy received a telegram from Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow, stating the Russians would not allow the U.S. to enter Cuba and implied swift nuclear retribution to the United States heartland if their warnings were not heeded. [175]

At about 5:00, FAL B-26s attacked a Cuban column of 12 private buses leading trucks carrying tanks and other armor, moving southeast between Playa Larga and Punta Perdiz. The vehicles, loaded with civilians, militia, police, and soldiers, were attacked with bombs, napalm, and rockets, suffering heavy casualties. The six B-26s were piloted by two CIA contract pilots plus four pilots and six navigators from the FAL. [120] [ page needed ] [140] [ page needed ] The column later re-formed and advanced to Punta Perdiz, about 11 km northwest of Girón. [176]

Invasion day plus two (D+2) 19 April Edit

During the night of 18 April, a FAL C-46 delivered arms and equipment to the Girón airstrip occupied by brigade ground forces and took off before daybreak on 19 April. [177] [ non-primary source needed ] The C-46 also evacuated Matias Farias, the pilot of B-26 serial '935' (code-named Chico Two) that had been shot down and crash-landed at Girón on 17 April. [156] The crews of the Barbara J and Blagar had done their best to land what ammunition they had left onto the beachhead, but without air support the captains of both ships reported that it was too dangerous to be operating off the Cuban coast by day. [178]

The final air attack mission (code-named Mad Dog Flight) comprised five B-26s, four of which were manned by American CIA contract aircrews and volunteer pilots from the Alabama Air Guard. One FAR Sea Fury (piloted by Douglas Rudd) and two FAR T-33s (piloted by Rafael del Pino and Alvaro Prendes) shot down two of these B-26s, killing four American airmen. [52] Combat air patrols were flown by Douglas A4D-2N Skyhawk jets of VA-34 squadron operating from USS Essex, with nationality and other markings removed. Sorties were flown to reassure brigade soldiers and pilots and to intimidate Cuban government forces without directly engaging in acts of war. [140] [ page needed ] At 10 am, a tank battle had broken out, with the brigadista holding their line until about 2:00 pm, which led Olvia to order a retreat into Girón. [179] Following the last air attacks, San Román ordered his paratroopers and the men of the 3rd Battalion to launch a surprise attack, which was initially successful but soon failed. [179] With the brigadistas in disorganized retreat, the Cuban Army and militiamen started to advance rapidly, taking San Blas only to be stopped outside of Girón at about 11 am. [179] Later that afternoon, San Román heard the rumbling of the advancing T-34s and reported that with no more mortar rounds and bazooka rounds, he could not stop the tanks and ordered his men to fall back to the beach. [5] Oliva arrived afterward to find that the brigadistas were all heading out to the beach or retreating into the jungle or swamps. [5] Without direct air support, and short of ammunition, Brigade 2506 ground forces retreated to the beaches in the face of the onslaught from Cuban government artillery, tanks and infantry. [107] [ page needed ] [180] [181] [ page needed ]

Late on 19 April, destroyers USS Eaton (code-named Santiago) and USS Murray (code-named Tampico) moved into Cochinos Bay to evacuate retreating Brigade soldiers from beaches, before fire from Cuban army tanks caused Commodore Crutchfield to order a withdrawal. [120] [ page needed ]

Invasion day plus three (D+3) 20 April Edit

From 19 April until about 22 April, sorties were flown by A4D-2Ns to obtain visual intelligence over combat areas. Reconnaissance flights are also reported of AD-5Ws of VFP-62 and/or VAW-12 squadron from USS Essex or another carrier, such as USS Shangri-La that was part of the task force assembled off the Cayman Islands. [120] [ page needed ] [140] [ page needed ]

On 21 April, Eaton and Murray, joined on 22 April by destroyers USS Conway and USS Cony, plus submarine USS Threadfin and a CIA PBY-5A Catalina flying boat, continued to search the coastline, reefs, and islands for scattered Brigade survivors, about 24–30 being rescued. [177]

Casualties Edit

67 Cuban exiles from Brigade 2506 were killed in action, plus 10 on the firing squad [ clarification needed ] , 10 on the boat Celia trying to escape, 9 captured exiles in the sealed truck container on the way to Havana, 4 by accident, 2 in prison, and 4 American aviators, for a total of 106 casualties. [E] Aircrews killed in action totaled 6 from the Cuban air force, 10 Cuban exiles and 4 American airmen. [110] [ page needed ] Paratrooper Eugene Herman Koch was killed in action, [182] and the American airmen shot down were Thomas W. Ray, Leo F. Baker, Riley W. Shamburger, and Wade C. Gray. [120] [ page needed ] In 1979, the body of Thomas "Pete" Ray was repatriated from Cuba. In the 1990s, the CIA admitted he was linked to the agency and awarded him the Intelligence Star. [183]

The final toll for Cuban armed forces during the conflict was 176 killed in action. [B] This figure includes only the Cuban Army and it is estimated that about 2,000 militiamen were killed or wounded during the fighting. [5] Other Cuban forces casualties were between 500 and 4,000 (killed, wounded or missing). [C] The airfield attacks on 15 April left 7 Cubans dead and 53 wounded. [41] [ page needed ]

In 2011, the National Security Archive, under the Freedom of Information Act, released over 1,200 pages of documents. Included within these documents were descriptions of incidents of friendly fire. The CIA had outfitted some B-26 bombers to appear as Cuban aircraft, having ordered them to remain inland to avoid being fired upon by American-backed forces. Some of the planes, not heeding the warning, came under fire. According to CIA operative Grayston Lynch, "we couldn't tell them from the Castro planes. We ended up shooting at two or three of them. We hit some of them there because when they came at us. it was a silhouette, that was all you could see." [142]

Prisoners Edit

On 19 April, at least seven Cubans plus two CIA-hired U.S. citizens (Angus K. McNair and Howard F. Anderson) were executed in Pinar del Rio province, after a two-day trial. On 20 April, Humberto Sorí Marin was executed at La Cabaña, having been arrested on 18 March following infiltration into Cuba with 14 tons of explosives. His fellow conspirators Rogelio González Corzo (alias "Francisco Gutierrez"), Rafael Diaz Hanscom, Eufemio Fernandez, Arturo Hernandez Tellaheche and Manuel Lorenzo Puig Miyar were also executed. [40] [51] [ page needed ] [6] [185] [186]

Between April and October 1961, hundreds of executions took place in response to the invasion. They took place at various prisons, including the Fortaleza de la Cabaña and Morro Castle. [6] Infiltration team leaders Antonio Diaz Pou and Raimundo E. Lopez, as well as underground students Virgilio Campaneria, Alberto Tapia Ruano, and more than one hundred other insurgents were executed. [101]

About 1,202 members of Brigade 2506 were captured, of whom nine died from asphyxiation during their transfer to Havana in an airtight truck container. In May 1961, Castro proposed to exchange the surviving brigade prisoners for 500 large farm tractors, later changed to US$28,000,000. [187] On 8 September 1961, 14 Brigade prisoners were convicted of torture, murder and other major crimes committed in Cuba before the invasion. Five were executed and nine others imprisoned for 30 years. [3] [ page needed ] Three confirmed as executed were Ramon Calvino, Emilio Soler Puig ("El Muerte") and Jorge King Yun ("El Chino"). [51] [ page needed ] [107] [ page needed ] On 29 March 1962, 1,179 men were put on trial for treason. On 7 April 1962, all were convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. On 14 April 1962, 60 wounded and sick prisoners were freed and transported to the U.S. [3] [ page needed ]

On 21 December 1962, Castro and James B. Donovan, a U.S. lawyer aided by Milan C. Miskovsky, a CIA legal officer, [188] signed an agreement to exchange 1,113 prisoners for US$53 million in food and medicine, sourced from private donations and from companies expecting tax concessions. On 24 December 1962, some prisoners were flown to Miami, others following on the ship African Pilot, plus about 1,000 family members also allowed to leave Cuba. On 29 December 1962, President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline attended a "welcome back" ceremony for Brigade 2506 veterans at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. [107] [ page needed ] [189]

Political reaction Edit

The failed invasion severely embarrassed the Kennedy administration and made Castro wary of future U.S. intervention in Cuba. On 21 April, in a State Department press conference, Kennedy said: "There's an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan. Further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal responsibility because I'm the responsible officer of the Government. " [190]

The initial U.S. response concerning the first air attacks was of a dismissive quality. Adlai Stevenson denied any involvement in the first wave of airstrikes, stating before the United Nations, "These charges are totally false and I deny them categorically." Stevenson continued to promote a story of two Cuban planes that had reportedly defected to the United States, apparently unaware that they were in fact U.S. planes piloted by U.S.-backed Cuban pilots to promote a false story of defection. [191]

In August 1961, during an economic conference of the OAS in Punta del Este, Uruguay, Che Guevara sent a note to Kennedy via Richard N. Goodwin, a secretary of the White House. It read: "Thanks for Playa Girón. Before the invasion, the revolution was weak. Now it's stronger than ever". [192] Additionally, Guevara answered a set of questions from Leo Huberman of Monthly Review following the invasion. In one reply, Guevara was asked to explain the growing number of Cuban counter-revolutionaries and defectors from the regime, to which he replied that the repelled invasion was the climax of counter-revolution and that afterward such actions "fell drastically to zero." Regarding the defections of some prominent figures within the Cuban government, Guevara remarked that this was because "the socialist revolution left the opportunists, the ambitious, and the fearful far behind and now advances toward a new regime free of this class of vermin." [193]

As Allen Dulles later stated, CIA planners believed that once the troops were on the ground, Kennedy would authorize any action required to prevent failure – as Eisenhower had done in Guatemala in 1954 after that invasion looked as if it would collapse. [194] Kennedy was deeply depressed and angered with the failure. Several years after his death, The New York Times reported that he told an unspecified high administration official of wanting "to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds." However, following a "rigorous inquiry into the agency's affairs, methods, and problems. [Kennedy] did not 'splinter' it after all and did not recommend Congressional supervision." [195] Kennedy commented to his journalist friend Ben Bradlee, "The first advice I'm going to give my successor is to watch the generals and to avoid feeling that because they were military men their opinions on military matters were worth a damn." [196]

The aftermath of the Bay of Pigs invasion and events involving Cuba that followed caused the U.S. to feel threatened by its neighbor. Prior to the events at Playa Girón, the U.S. government imposed sanctions that limited trade with Cuba. An article appearing in The New York Times dated 6 January 1960 called trade with Cuba "too risky." [198] About six months later in July 1960, the U.S. reduced the import quota of Cuban sugar, leaving the U.S. to increase its sugar supply using other sources. [199] Immediately following the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Kennedy Administration considered a complete embargo. [200] Five months later, the president was authorized to do so.

According to author Jim Rasenberger, the Kennedy administration became very aggressive in regards to overthrowing Castro following the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, reportedly doubling its efforts. Rasenberger elaborated on the fact that almost every decision that was made by Kennedy following the Bay of Pigs had some correlation with the destruction of the Castro administration. Shortly after the invasion ended, Kennedy ordered the Pentagon to design secret operations to overthrow the Castro regime. Also, President Kennedy persuaded his brother Robert to set up a covert action against Castro which was known as "Operation Mongoose." This clandestine operation included sabotage and assassination plots. [ citation needed ]

Maxwell Taylor survey Edit

On 22 April 1961, President Kennedy asked General Maxwell D. Taylor, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Admiral Arleigh Burke and CIA Director Allen Dulles to form the Cuba Study Group, to report on lessons to learn from the failed operation. General Taylor submitted the Board of Inquiry's report to President Kennedy on 13 June. It attributed the defeat to lack of early realization of the impossibility of success by covert means, to inadequate aircraft, to limitations on armaments, pilots, and air attacks set to attempt plausible deniability – and, ultimately, to loss of important ships and lack of ammunition. [201] The Taylor Commission was criticized, and bias implied. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy the President's brother, was included in the group, and the commission collectively was seen to be more preoccupied with deflecting blame from the White House than concerned with realizing the real depth of mistakes that promoted the failure in Cuba. Jack Pfeiffer, who worked as a historian for the CIA until the mid-1980s, simplified his own view of the failed Bay of Pigs effort by quoting a statement which Raúl Castro, Fidel's brother, had made to a Mexican journalist in 1975: "Kennedy vacillated," Raúl Castro said. "If at that moment he had decided to invade us, he could have suffocated the island in a sea of blood, but he could have destroyed the revolution. Lucky for us, he vacillated." [202]

CIA report Edit

In November 1961, CIA Inspector-General Lyman B Kirkpatrick authored a report, "Survey of the Cuban Operation", that remained classified until 1998. Conclusions were: [203]

  1. The CIA exceeded its capabilities in developing the project from guerrilla support to overt armed action without any plausible deniability.
  2. Failure to realistically assess risks and to adequately communicate information and decisions internally and with other government principals.
  3. Insufficient involvement of leaders of the exiles.
  4. Failure to sufficiently organize internal resistance in Cuba.
  5. Failure to competently collect and analyze intelligence about Cuban forces.
  6. Poor internal management of communications and staff.
  7. Insufficient employment of high-quality staff.
  8. Insufficient Spanish-speakers, training facilities, and material resources.
  9. Lack of stable policies and/or contingency plans.

In spite of vigorous objections by CIA management to the findings, CIA Director Allen Dulles, CIA Deputy Director Charles Cabell, and Deputy Director for Plans Richard Bissell were all forced to resign by early 1962. [100] [ page needed ] In later years, the CIA's behavior in the event became the prime example cited for the psychology paradigm known as groupthink syndrome. [120] [ page needed ] Further study shows that among various components of groupthink analyzed by Irving Janis, the Bay of Pigs Invasion followed the structural characteristics that led to irrational decision making in foreign policy pushed by deficiency in impartial leadership. [204] An account on the process of invasion decision reads, [205]

"At each meeting, instead of opening up the agenda to permit a full airing of the opposing considerations, [President Kennedy] allowed the CIA representatives to dominate the entire discussion. The president permitted them to refute each tentative doubt immediately that one of the others might express, instead of asking whether anyone else had the same doubt or wanted to pursue the implications of the new worrisome issue that had been raised."

Looking at both the Survey of the Cuban Operation and Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes by Irving Janis, it identifies the lack of communication and the mere assumption of concurrence to be the main causes behind the CIA and the president's collective failure to efficiently evaluate the facts before them. A considerable amount of information presented before President Kennedy proved to be false in reality, such as the support of the Cuban people for Fidel Castro, making it difficult to assess the actual situation and the future of the operation. The absence of the initiative to explore other options of the debate led the participants to remain optimistic and rigid in their belief that the mission would succeed, being unknowingly biased in the group psychology of wishful thinking as well. [ citation needed ]

In mid-1960, CIA operative E. Howard Hunt had interviewed Cubans in Havana in a 1997 interview with CNN, he said, ". all I could find was a lot of enthusiasm for Fidel Castro." [206]

Invasion legacy in Cuba Edit

For many Latin Americans, the Bay of Pigs Invasion served to reinforce the already widely held belief that the U.S. could not be trusted. The invasion also illustrated that the U.S. could be defeated, and thus the failed invasion encouraged political groups across the Latin American region to find ways to undermine U.S. influence. [207] Historians often attest the Bay of Pigs fiasco made Castro even more popular, adding nationalistic sentiments in support of his economic policies. Following the air attacks on Cuban airfields on 15 April, he declared the revolution "Marxist-Leninist". [121] After the invasion, he pursued closer relations with the Soviet Union, partly for protection, that helped pave the way for the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. [ citation needed ] Castro was then increasingly wary of further U.S. intervention and more open to Soviet suggestions of placing nuclear weapons on Cuba to ensure its security. [ citation needed ]

In March 2001, shortly before the 40th anniversary of the invasion, a conference took place in Havana, attended by about 60 American delegates. The conference was titled Bay of Pigs: 40 Years After. [208] The conference was co-sponsored by the University of Havana, Centro de Estudios Sobre Estados Unidos, Instituto de Historia de Cuba, Centro de Investigaciones Históricas de la Seguridad del Estado Centro de Estudios Sobre America, and the U.S.-based National Security Archive. It commenced on Thursday 22 March 2001 at the Hotel Palco, Palacio de las Convenciones [es] , La Habana. [209] [210] [211] On 24 March, following the formal conference, many of the delegates and observers travelled by road to Australia sugar mill, Playa Larga, and Playa Girón, the site of the initial landing in the invasion. A documentary film was made of that trip, titled Cuba: The 40 Years War, released on DVD in 2002. [212] A Cuban FAR combatant at the Bay of Pigs, José Ramón Fernández, attended the conference, as did four members of Brigade 2506, Roberto Carballo, Mario Cabello, Alfredo Duran, and Luis Tornes.

There are still yearly nationwide drills in Cuba during the 'Dia de la Defensa' (Defense Day), to prepare the population for an invasion.

Invasion legacy for Cuban exiles Edit

Many who fought for the CIA in the conflict remained loyal after the event some Bay of Pigs veterans became officers in the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War, including 6 colonels, 19 lieutenant colonels, 9 majors, and 29 captains. [213] By March 2007, about half of the brigade had died. [214] In April 2010, the Cuban Pilot's Association unveiled a monument at the Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport in memory of the 16 aviators for the exile side killed during the battle. [215] The memorial consists of an obelisk and a restored B-26 replica aircraft atop a large Cuban flag. [216]

American public reaction Edit

Only 3 percent of Americans supported military action in 1960. [217] According to Gallup, 72% of people had a negative view of Fidel Castro in 1960. [217] After the conflict, 61% of Americans approved of the action, while 15% disapproved and 24% were unsure. This poll was taken by Gallup in late April 1966. [218] A week after the invasion of Cuba, Gallup took another series of polls to sample three possible ways of opposing Castro. [219] The policy that most resembled the Bay of Pigs (if the US "should aid the anti-Castro forces with money and war materials") was still favored by a narrow margin, 44% approval to 41% rejecting this policy. [220]

Part I: The Invasion and its Origins.

The Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961, started a few days before on April 15th with the bombing of Cuba by what appeared to be defecting Cuban air force pilots. At 6 a.m. in the morning of that Saturday, three Cuban military bases were bombed by B-26 bombers. The airfields at Camp Libertad, San Antonio de Los Banos and Antonio Maceo airport at Santiago de Cuba were fired upon.

Seven people were killed at Libertad and forty-seven people were killed at other sites on the island. Two of the B-26s left Cuba and flew to Miami, apparently to defect to the United States.

The Cuban Revolutionary Council, the government in exile, in New York City released a statement saying that the bombings in Cuba were “. . . carried out by ‘Cubans inside Cuba’ who were ‘in contact with’ the top command of the Revolutionary Council . . . .”

The New York Times reporter covering the story alluded to something being wrong with the whole situation when he wondered how the council knew the pilots were coming if the pilots had only decided to leave Cuba on Thursday after ” . . . a suspected betrayal by a fellow pilot had precipitated a plot to strike . . . .”

Whatever the case, the planes came down in Miami later that morning, one landed at Key West Naval Air Station at 7:00 a.m. and the other at Miami International Airport at 8:20 a.m. Both planes were badly damaged and their tanks were nearly empty. On the front page of The New York Times the next day, a picture of one of the B-26s was shown along with a picture of one of the pilots cloaked in a baseball hat and hiding behind dark sunglasses, his name was withheld.

A sense of conspiracy was even at this early stage beginning to envelop the events of that week. In the early hours of April 17th the assault on the Bay of

Pigs began. In the true cloak and dagger spirit of a movie, the assault began at 2 a.m. with a team of frogmen going ashore with orders to set up landing lights to indicate to the main assault force the precise location of their objectives, as well as to clear the area of anything that may impede the main landing teams when they arrived.

At 2:30 a.m. and at 3:00 a.m. two battalions came ashore at Playa Gir¢n and one battalion at Playa Larga beaches. The troops at Playa Giron had orders to move west, northwest, up the coast and meet with the troops at Playa Larga in the middle of the bay. A small group of men were then to be sent north to the town of Jaguey Grande to secure it as well.

When looking at a modern map of Cuba it is obvious that the troops would have problems in the area that was chosen for them to land at. The area around the Bay of Pigs is a swampy marsh land area which would be hard on the troops. The Cuban forces were quick to react and Castro ordered his T-33 trainer jets, two Sea Furies, and two B-26s into the air to stop the invading forces. Off the coast were the command and control ship and another vessel carrying supplies for the invading forces.

The Cuban air force made quick work of the supply ships, sinking the command vessel the Maricopa and the supply ship the Houston, blasting them to pieces with five- inch rockets. In the end, the 5th battalion was lost, which was on the Houston, as well as the supplies for the landing teams and eight other smaller vessels. With some of the invading forces’ ships destroyed, and no command and control ship, the logistics of the operation soon broke down as the other supply ships were kept at bay by Casto’s air force. As with many failed military adventures, one of the problems with this one was with supplying the troops.

In the air, Castro had easily won superiority over the invading force. His fast moving T-33s, although unimpressive by today’s standards, made short work of the slow moving B-26s of the invading force. On Tuesday, two were shot out of the sky and by Wednesday the invaders had lost 10 of their 12 aircraft. With air power firmly in control of Castro’s forces, the end was near for the invading army.

Over the 72 hours the invading force of about 1500 men were pounded by the Cubans. Casto fired 122mm. Howitzers, 22mm. cannon, and tank fire at them. By Wednesday the invaders were pushed back to their landing zone at Playa Gir¢n. Surrounded by Castro’s forces some began to surrender while others fled into the hills.

In total 114 men were killed in the slaughter while thirty-six died as prisoners in Cuban cells. Others were to live out twenty years or more in those cells as men plotting to topple the government of Castro.

The 1500 men of the invading force never had a chance for success from almost the first days in the planning stage of the operation. Operation Pluto, as it came to be known as, has its origins in the last dying days of the Eisenhower administration and that murky time period during the transition of power to the newly elected president John F. Kennedy.

The origins of American policy in Latin America in the late 1950s and early 1960s have its origins in American’s economic interests and its anticommunist policies in the region. The same man who had helped formulate American containment policy towards the Soviet threat, George Kennan, in 1950 spoke to US Chiefs of Mission in Rio de Janeiro about Latin America. He said that American policy had several purposes in the region,

. . . to protect the vital supplies of raw materials

which Latin American countries export to the USA to

prevent the ‘military exploitation of Latin America by

the enemy’ [The Soviet Union] and to avert ‘the

psychological mobilization of Latin America against us.’

By the 1950s trade with Latin America accounted for a quarter of American exports, and 80 percent of the investment in Latin America was also American. The Americans had a vested interest in the region that it would remain pro-American. The Guatemalan adventure can be seen as another of the factors that lead the American government to believe that it could handle Casto.

Before the Second World War ended, a coup in Guatemala saw the rise to power of Juan Jose Ar‚valo. He was not a communist in the traditional sense of the term, but he “. . . packed his government with Communist Party members and Communist sympathizers.” In 1951 Jacobo Arbenz succeeded Ar‚valo after an election in March of that year. The party had been progressing with a series of reforms, and the newly elected leader continued with these reforms.

During land reforms a major American company, the United Fruit Company, lost its land and other holdings without any compensation from the Guatemalan government. When the Guatemalans refused to go to the International Court of Law, United Fruit began to lobby the government of the United States to take action.

In the government they had some very powerful supporters. Among them was Foster Dulles, Secretary of State who had once been their lawyer, his brother Allen the Director of Central Intelligence who was a share holder, and Robert Cutler head of the National Security Council. In what was a clear conflict of interest, the security apparatus of the United States decided to take action against the Guatemalans.

From May 1st, 1954, to June 18th, the Central Intelligence Agency did everything in its power to overthrow the government of Arbenz. On June 17th to the 18th, it peaked with an invasion of 450 men lead by a Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas. With the help of air support the men took control of the country and Arbenz fled to the Mexican Embassy. By June 27th, the country was firmly in control of the invading force. With its success in Guatemala, CIA had the confidence that it could now take on anyone who interfered with American interests.

In late 1958 Castro was still fighting a guerilla war against the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista. Before he came to power, there was an incident between his troops and some vacationing American troops from the nearby American naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

During the incident some US Marines were held captive by Casto’s forces but were later released after a ransom was secretly paid. This episode soured relations with the United States and the chief of U.S. Naval Operations, Admiral Burke, wanted to send in the Marines to destroy Castro’s forces then but Secretary of State Foster Dulles disagreed with the measures suggested and stopped the plan.

Castro overthrew Batista in 1959. Originally Castro was not a communist either and even had meetings with then Vice-President Richard Nixon. Fearful of Castro’s revolution, people with money, like doctors, lawyers, and the mafia, left Cuba for the United States. To prevent the loss of more capital Castro’s solution was to nationalize some of the businesses in Cuba.

In the process of nationalizing some business he came into conflict with American interests just as Arbenz had in Guatemala. “. . . legitimate U.S. Businesses were taken over, and the process of socialization begun with little if any talk of compensation.” There were also rumours of Cuban involvement in trying to invade Panama, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic and by this time Castro had been turn down by the United States for any economic aid.

Being rejected by the Americans, he met with foreign minister Anasta Mikoyan to secure a $100 million loan from the Soviet Union. It was in this atmosphere that the American Intelligence and Foreign Relations communities decided that Castro was leaning towards communism and had to be dealt with.

In the spring of 1960, President Eisenhower approved a plan to send small groups of American trained, Cuban exiles, to work in the underground as guerrillas to overthrow Castro. By the fall, the plan was changed to a full invasion with air support by exile Cubans in American supplied planes.

The original group was to be trained in Panama, but with the growth of the operation and the quickening pace of events in Cuba, it was decided to move things to a base in Guatemala. The plan was becoming rushed and this would start to show, the man in charge of the operation, CIA Deputy Director Bissell said that,

. . . There didn’t seem to be time to keep to the

original plan and have a large group trained by this

initial cadre of young Cubans. So the larger group was

formed and established at La finca, in Guatemala, and

there the training was conducted entirely by Americans .

It was now fall and a new president had been elected. President Kennedy could have stopped the invasion if he wanted to, but he probably didn’t do so for several reasons. Firstly, he had campaigned for some form of action against Cuba and it was also the height of the cold war, to back out now would mean having groups of Cuban exiles travelling around the globe saying how the Americans had backed down on the Cuba issue.

In competition with the Soviet Union, backing out would make the Americans look like wimps on the international scene, and for domestic consumption the new president would be seen as backing away from one of his campaign promises. The second reason Kennedy probably didn’t abort the operation is the main reason why the operation failed, problems with the CIA.

“The Whole Bay of Pigs Thing”

If there is one mystery in Presidential history as tantalizing as who killed Kennedy, it’s what happened to the missing 18 ½ minutes of President Richard Nixon’s infamous “Watergate Tapes,” the series of secret White House recordings that exposed the corruption of his administration and ultimately led to his resignation in disgrace. But what if these two mysteries were actually one and the same? Amidst the profanity, reckless abuse of power and paranoid ranting that have come to define the recordings, President Nixon makes several oblique references to “the whole Bay of Pigs thing.” Ostensibly a discussion of the failed CIA-backed invasion of Cuba in 1961, Nixon chief of staff H.R. Haldeman eventually revealed that “Bay of Pigs” was actually a secret code for the Kennedy assassination. Did Richard Nixon know who was involved in the Kennedy assassination? Did the missing 18 ½ minutes contain the final clues needed to final unravel the crime of the century?

Richard Milhous Nixon

On June 17th, 1972, 5 burglars were arrested for attempting to break into the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in Washington D.C. In one of their address books was the name Howard Hunt, a veteran secret agent who was eventually implicated as the mastermind of the break-in. A veteran covert operative for the CIA and an accomplished espionage novelist, Hunt had been involved in the planning of the successful 1954 coup in Guatemala before being assigned to work on the Bay of Pigs invasion. Although typically associated with the Kennedy Administration, planning for Bay of Pigs began under the Eisenhower administration, when Nixon was serving as Vice President.

Howard Hunt: Spy, novelist and Watergate mastermind

During the Church Committee investigations in 1975, it was revealed that the invasion was only “Track I” of the effort to take down Fidel Castro. “Track II” involved a covert plot to assassinate the communist dictator. Declassified agency documents reveal that in their attempts to kill Castro, the CIA turned to a group who hated the dictator as much as they did and didn’t mind doing the dirty work: The American Mafia. Between the CIA, disaffected Cuban exiles and organized crime, the United States intelligence community had created its own “Executive Action” apparatus capable of assassinating a world leader. As President, Nixon ordered the CIA to hand over documents relating to the plot to overthrow Castro, indicating that he was at least aware of these operations if not involved.

The CIA, Mafia and Cuban exiles conspired to assassinate Castro

The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion caused a deep schism between President Kennedy and the CIA. While Kennedy publicly accepted responsibility, he secretly blamed the Agency and fired long-standing CIA Chief Allen Dulles. Meanwhile many involved in the Bay of Pigs blamed Kennedy for the failure, stating that his failure to provide air support left the commandos for dead and doomed the operation.

To prevent this from ever happening again, JFK issued National Security Action Memorandum 57 in June of 1961, which specified that the military would be responsible for all covert military operations, thus preventing the CIA from conducting missions such as the Bay of Pigs and putting agents like Howard Hunt, who served as Dulles’ personal aide, out of a job.

Kennedy fired Howard Hunt’s boss Allen Dulles after Bay of Pigs

The Kennedy family had made enemies with some of the same mobsters who collaborated with the CIA and the Cuban exiles to assassinate Castro. Since JFK’s narrow victory over Nixon in the 1960 Presidential race, rumours had been circulating that Kennedy stole the election — possibly with the help of organized crime. Once in office, Robert Kennedy was appointed Attorney General and began a legal offensive against the Mob. If the Kennedys had used the Mafia to win the election and then turned against them, this would be seen as a betrayal. Even if that weren’t the case, RFK’s legal crusade would still have caused significant bad blood with the Mafia.

The Kennedy family made enemies with the Mafia

By failing to provide air support to the Bay of Pigs commandos and eventually cutting a deal with Castro not to invade, Kennedy enraged many of the virulently Anti-Castro Cuban exiles living in New Orleans and Miami.

The stage is set for one of the most popular conspiracy theories in JFK assassination lore. A CIA/Mafia/Cuban hit squad has been trained to assassinate a Chief Executive. The CIA felt betrayed by Kennedy after he fired Allen Dulles. The Mafia felt betrayed by Kennedy after his brother went after them. The Cubans felt betrayed by Kennedy for refusing to provide air support during the invasion. And finally, NSAM 57 put the assassination squad out of a job. So the team that was originally supposed to take out Castro allegedly decided to take out Kennedy instead. In other words, the assassination of JFK is in fact the direct result of the Bay of Pigs failure. Was this fatal blowback against Kennedy the “whole bay of pigs thing” Nixon was referring to in the Watergate tapes?

Was the Kennedy assassination the direct result of blowback from Bay of Pigs?

The “Smoking Gun” tape from the morning of July 24th 1972 reveals Richard Nixon knew whatever connected Howard Hunt, Bay of Pigs and Watergate could bring down his Presidency. Why exactly is far less clear. In the conversation, Nixon orders Haldemann to blackmail Richard Helms, the head of the CIA, telling Helms to call the FBI off the Watergate investigation because going after Hunt would expose “the whole Bay of Pigs thing.” Ironically, this recording of Nixon’s attempt to obstruct justice was what eventually led to his downfall.

Later tapes demonstrate that Nixon’s efforts to suppress what Hunt knew was at the center of his obsession with covering up Watergate.

“Well, your major guy to keep under control is Hunt,” Nixon tells John Dean, the young attorney who would later blow the whistle on Watergate, including his own complicity.

“I think. Because, he knows…” Nixon begins.

“He knows so much,” Dean continues.

“…about a lot of other things,” Nixon concludes.

Hunt blackmailed Nixon to keep the President’s darkest secrets silent

Hunt pressed this advantage and began blackmailing the Nixon administration in the aftermath of the Watergate arrests. Desperate to keep Hunt silent, Nixon authorized the hush money and his inner circle coordinated massive payoffs. In December of 1972, Howard Hunt’s wife Dorothy Hunt boarded United Airlines Flight 553 out of Washington with $10,000 in cash. Although there can be no way to prove this cash was connected to the Watergate payoffs, it would not be a fantastic leap of logic to assume as much. Wherever the money came, Dorothy never got a chance to use it. United 553 crashed mysteriously, killing everyone aboard, including Illinois Congressman George W. Collins.

Just what was it Hunt knew and why was Nixon covering it up? Did the 18 ½ minutes fill in the details? Conventional wisdom has it that whatever was on the missing 18 ½ minutes was so damaging to the Nixon White House that it could never be revealed. But since the smoking gun conversation already brought down Nixon’s Presidency, ruined his career, sullied his reputation, and caused him to go down in history as America’s worst, most corrupt President, there is a question that no one seems to be able to answer: What was on the 18 ½ minutes that could possibly be worse than that? What was Richard Nixon so afraid Howard Hunt was going to squeal about?

Some conspiracy theorists allege Howard Hunt was one of the three tramps arrested in Dealey Plaza after the Kennedy Assassination

Because of his involvement in the milieu of the assassination, Howard Hunt has long been a “suspect” in the Kennedy murder, despite no material evidence or witnesses linking him to the crime. Some, including Hunt’s own son, assert that Hunt was one of the “three tramps” arrested and photographed in Dealey plaza in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Theories abound that the other two tramps are fellow Watergate conspirator Frank Sturgis and hitman Charles Harrelson. Harrelson, father of actor Woody, was later convicted of assassinating a federal judge. During his arrest for that crime, Harrelson claimed to have also assassinated Kennedy, a confession he later attributed to being “high on cocaine.” The three individuals in these photographs bear little resemblance to Hunt, Sturgis and Harrelson, despite the adamant claims of many researchers. In 1989, the Dallas Police Department released arrest records proving that the men were in fact three tramps with no connection to the assassination.

For years, Hunt adamantly denied any involvement with the Kennedy assassination. According to his testimony to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Hunt was in Washington D.C. on November 22nd with his family. When the far-right magazine The Spotlight ran an article claiming that he was involved in the assassination, Hunt sued the publication for libel. Although the jury found in favor of Hunt and awarded him damages, the ruling was later overturned. During the subsequent trial, the jury ruled against Hunt. To some, proving that The Spotlight’s claims against Hunt were in fact not libelous proved in a court of law that there was a conspiracy to kill John Kennedy. Spotlight’s attorney in that case? None other than Mark Lane, father of the JFK conspiracy theory movement.

On his “death bed” Howard Hunt did eventually claim to have been aware of the Kennedy assassination, naming himself as a “bench warmer” for “the big event.” According to his son, Howard supposedly sketched out the chain of command for an alleged conspiracy to assassinate the President including CIA operatives Cord Myer and William Harvey, Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis, French mobster Lucien Sarti and even President Lyndon Baines Johnson himself. Was Howard Hunt finally trying to clear his conscience or was this another example of a master secret agent manipulating public perception for his own advantage? Like with most spurious testimonies in the Kennedy assassination, it boils down to one of two things: he was lying before or he’s lying now. Either way, he can’t be trusted. He is a spy after all.

Failed Bay of Pigs Invasion Revealed - HISTORY


'Friendly Fire' Reported as CIA Personnel Shot at Own Aircraft
New Revelations on Assassination Plots, Use of Americans in Combat

National Security Archive FOIA Lawsuit Obtains Release of Last Major Internal Agency Compilation on Paramilitary Invasion of Cuba

Newsweek runs article by Historian Robert Dallek based on Archive work

Archive Cuba Project posts Four Volumes calls for declassification of still secret Volume 5

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 355

Posted - August 15, 2011

By Peter Kornbluh

For more information contact:
Peter Kornbluh - 202/374-7281 or by email

"History Held Hostage"
By Peter Kornbluh
August 14, 2011

  • Only days before the invasion, the CIA tried to entice Cuba&rsquos top diplomat, foreign minister Raul Roa, to defect. &ldquoOur contact with Raul Roa reports that this defection attempt is still alive although Roa would make no firm commitment or promise on whether he would defect in the U.N.,&rdquo operations manager, Jacob Esterline, noted in a secret April 11, 1961 progress report on invasion planning. &ldquoRoa has requested that no further contact be made at this time.&rdquo Like the invasion itself, the Agency&rsquos effort for a dramatic propaganda victory over Cuba was unsuccessful. &ldquoThe planned defection did not come off,&rdquo concedes the Official History.
  • In coordination with the preliminary airstrike on April 14, the CIA, with the support of the Pentagon, requested permission for a series of &ldquolarge-scale sonic booms&rdquo over Havana&mdasha psychological operations tactic the Agency had successfully employed in the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954. &ldquoWe were trying to create confusion, and so on,&rdquo a top-level CIA invasion planner stated. &ldquoI thought a sonic boom would be a helluva swell thing, you know. Break all the windows in downtown Havana&hellipdistract Castro.&rdquo Trying to maintain &ldquoplausible denial&rdquo of Washington&rsquos role, the State Department rejected the request as &ldquotoo obviously U.S.&rdquo The Official History records General Curtis Lemay demanding on the telephone to know &ldquowho was the sonofabitch who didn&rsquot approve&rdquo the request.
  • Several damaged invasion airplanes made emergency landings on the Grand Cayman Islands, and were seized by local authorities. The situation created an awkward diplomatic situation with Great Britain details of the negotiations between the U.S. and England are redacted but the CIA did suggest making the argument that if the planes were not released, Castro would think the Caymans were being used as a launch site for the invasion and respond aggressively.
  • As Castro&rsquos forces gained the upper hand against the invasion, Agency planners reversed a decision against widespread use of napalm bombs &ldquoin favor of anything that might reverse the situation in Cuba in favor of the Brigade forces.&rdquo
  • Although the CIA had been admonished by both the Eisenhower and Kennedy White House to make sure that the U.S. hand did not show in the invasion, during the fighting headquarters authorized American pilots to fly planes over Cuba. Secret instructions quoted in the Official History state that Americans could pilot planes but only over the beachhead and not inland. &ldquoAmerican crews must not fall into hands enemy,&rdquo warned the instructions. If they did &ldquo[the] U.S. will deny any knowledge.&rdquo Four American pilots and crew died when their planes were shot down over Cuba. The Official History contains private correspondence with family members of some of the pilots.
  • While attending John F. Kennedy&rsquos inauguration in Washington in January 1961, General Anastacio Somoza met secretly with CIA director Allen Dulles to discuss the creation of JMTIDE, the cryptonym for the airbase the CIA wanted to use in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua to launch the attack on Cuba. Somoza explicitly raised Nicaragua&rsquos need for two development loans totaling $10 million. The CIA subsequently pressed the State Department to support the loans, one of which was from the World Bank.
  • President Luis Somoza demanded assurances that the U.S. would stand behind Nicaragua once it became known that the Somozas had supported the invasion. Somoza told the CIA representative that &ldquothere are some long-haired Department of State liberals who are not in favor of Somoza and they would welcome this as a source of embarrassment for his government.&rdquo
  • Guatemalan President Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes repeatedly told CIA officials that he wanted to &ldquosee Guatemalan Army and Air Force personnel participate in the air operations against Castro&rsquos Cuba.&rdquo
  • The dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, offered his country&rsquos territory in support of the invasion. His quid pro quo was a U.S. assurance to let Trujillo &ldquolive out the rest of his days in peace.&rdquo The State Department rejected the offer Trujillo, whose repression and corruption was radicalizing the left in the Dominican Republic, was later assassinated by CIA-backed groups.
  • A small group of high-level CIA officials sought to use part of the budget of the invasion to finance a collaboration with the Mafia to assassinate Castro. In an interview with the CIA historian, former chief of the invasion task force, Jacob Esterline, said that he had been asked to provide money from the invasion budget by J.C. King, the head of the Western Hemisphere. &ldquoEsterline claimed that on one occasion as chief/w4, he refused to grant Col J.C. King, chief WH Division, a blank check when King refused to tell Jake the purpose for which the check was intended. Esterline reported that King nonetheless got a FAN number from the Office of Finance and that the money was used to pay the Mafia-types.&rdquo The Official History also notes that invasion planners discussed pursuing &ldquoOperation AMHINT to set up a program of assassination&rdquo&mdashalthough few details were provided. In November 1960, Edward Lansdale, a counterinsurgency specialist in the U.S. military who later conceived of Operation Mongoose, sent the invasion task force a &ldquoMUST GO LIST&rdquo of 11 top Cuban officials, including Che Guevera, Raul Castro, Blas Roca and Carlos Raphael Rodriguez.
  • Vice-President Nixon, who portrayed himself in his memoirs as one of the original architects of the plan to overthrow Castro, proposed to the CIA that they support &ldquogoon squads and other direct action groups&rdquo inside and outside of Cuba. The Vice President repeatedly sought to interfere in the invasion planning. Through his national security aide, Nixon demanded that William Pawley, &ldquoa big fat political cat,&rdquo as Nixon&rsquos aide described him to the CIA, be given briefings and access to CIA officers to share ideas. Pawley pushed the CIA to support untrustworthy exiles as part of the effort to overthrow Castro. &ldquoSecurity already has been damaged severely,&rdquo the head of the invasion planning reported, about the communications made with one, Rubio Padilla, one of Pawley&rsquos favorite militants.
  • In perhaps the most important revelation of the entire official history, the CIA task force in charge of the paramilitary assault did not believe it could succeed without becoming an open invasion supported by the U.S. military. On page 149 of Volume III, Pfeiffer quotes still-secret minutes of the Task Force meeting held on November 15, 1960, to prepare a briefing for the new President-elect, John F. Kennedy: &ldquoOur original concept is now seen to be unachievable in the face of the controls Castro has instituted,&rdquo the document states. &ldquoOur second concept (1,500-3000 man force to secure a beach with airstrip) is also now seen to be unachievable, except as a joint Agency/DOD action.&rdquo

This volume, which Pfeiffer wrote in an &ldquounclassified&rdquo form with the intention of publishing it after he left the CIA, represents his forceful rebuttal to the findings of the Presidential Commission that Kennedy appointed after the failed invasion, headed by General Maxwell Taylor. In the introduction to the 300 pages volume, Pfeiffer noted that the CIA had been given a historical &ldquobum rap&rdquo for &ldquoa political decision that insured the military defeat of the anti-Castro forces&rdquo&mdasha reference to President Kennedy&rsquos decision not to provide overt air cover and invade Cuba after Castro&rsquos forces overwhelmed the CIA-trained exile Brigade. The Taylor Commission, which included Attorney General Robert Kennedy, he implied, was biased to defend the President at the expense of the CIA. General Taylor&rsquos &ldquostrongest tilts were toward deflecting criticism of the White House,&rdquo according to the CIA historian.

According to Pfeiffer, this volume would present &ldquothe first and only detailed examination of the work of, and findings of, the Taylor Commission to be based on the complete record.&rdquo His objective was to offer &ldquoa better understanding of where the responsibility for the fiasco truly lies.&rdquo To make sure the reader fully understood his point, Pfeiffer ended the study with an &ldquoepilogue&rdquo consisting of a one paragraph quote from an interview that Raul Castro gave to a Mexican journalist in 1975. &ldquoKennedy vacillated,&rdquo Castro stated. &ldquoIf at that moment he had decided to invade us, he could have suffocated the island in a sea of blood, but he would have destroyed the revolution. Lucky for us, he vacillated.&rdquo

After leaving the CIA in the mid 1980s, Pfeiffer filed a freedom of information act suit to obtain the declassification of this volume, and volume V, of his study, which he intended to publish as a book, defending the CIA. The CIA did eventually declassify volume IV, but withheld volume V in its entirety. Pfeiffer never published the book and this volume never really circulated publicly.

Volume V: The Internal Investigation Report [Still Classified]

Like his forceful critique of the Taylor Commission, Pfeiffer also wrote a critique of the CIA&rsquos own Inspector General&rsquos report on the Bay of Pigs&mdash&ldquoInspector General&rsquos Survey of Cuban Operation&rdquo--written by a top CIA officer, Lyman Kirkpatrick in 1961. Much to the surprise and chagrin of top CIA officers at the time, Kirkpatrick laid the blame for the failure squarely at the feet of his own agency, and particularly the chief architect of the operation, Deputy Director of Plans, Richard Bissell. The operation was characterized by &ldquobad planning,&rdquo &ldquopoor&rdquo staffing, faulty intelligence and assumptions, and &ldquoa failure to advise the President that success had become dubious.&rdquo Moreover, &ldquoplausible denial was a pathetic illusion,&rdquo the report concluded. &ldquoThe Agency failed to recognize that when the project advanced beyond the stage of plausible denial it was going beyond the area of Agency responsibility as well as Agency capability.&rdquo In his cover letter to the new CIA director, John McCone, Kirkpatrick identified what he called &ldquoa tendency in the Agency to gloss over CIA inadequacies and to attempt to fix all of the blame for the failure of the invasion upon other elements of the Government, rather than to recognize the Agency&rsquos weaknesses.&rdquo

Pfeiffer&rsquos final volume contains a forceful rebuttal of Kirkpatrick&rsquos focus on the CIA&rsquos own culpability for the events at the Bay of Pigs. Like the rest of the Official History, the CIA historian defends the CIA against criticism from its own Inspector General and seeks to spread the &ldquoWho Lost Cuba&rdquo blame to other agencies and authorities of the U.S. government, most notably the Kennedy White House.

When Pfeiffer first sought to obtain declassification of his critique, the Kirkpatrick report was still secret. The CIA was able to convince a judge that national security would be compromised by the declassification of Pfeiffer&rsquos critique which called attention to this extremely sensitive Top Secret report. But in 1998, Peter Kornbluh and the National Security Archive used the FOIA to force the CIA to declassify the Inspector General&rsquos report. (Kornbluh subsequently published it as a book: Bay of Pigs Declassified: The Secret CIA Report on the Invasion of Cuba.) Since the Kirkpatrick report has been declassified for over 13 years, it is unclear why the CIA continues to refuse to declassify a single word of Pfeiffer&rsquos final volume.

The National Security Archive remains committed to using all means of legal persuasion to obtain the complete declassification of the final volume of the Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation.


The CIA said the volume is protected from disclosure under the deliberative process privilege, an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act.

The CIA had no problem declassifying an earlier volume of the history in which the author attacked President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, said Peter Kornbluh, who directs the National Security Archive’s Cuba documentation project.

“Apparently, the CIA sees no problem in the American public reading a ’polemic of recriminations’ against the White House,” Kornbluh said.

In her decision Thursday, the judge said a draft history would risk public release of inaccurate historical information.

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