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Bay of Pigs
The Bay of Pigs Invasion
The story of the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs is one of mismanagement, overconfidence, and lack of security. The blame for the failure of the operation falls directly in the lap of the Central Intelligence Agency and a young president and his advisors. The fall out from the invasion caused a rise in tension between the two great superpowers and ironically 34 years after the event, the person that the invasion meant to topple, Fidel Castro, is still in power. To understand the origins of the invasion and its ramifications for the future it is first necessary to look at 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. 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.
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 to be added when they arrived. At 2:30 a.m. and at 3:00 a.m. two battalions came ashore at Playa Girón and one battalion at Playa Larga beaches. The troops at Playa Girón 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 was 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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
In charge of the operation was the Director of Central Intelligence, Allan Dulles and main responsibility for the operation was left to one of his deputies, Richard Bissell. In an intelligence community geared mainly for European operations against the USSR, both men were lacking in experience in Latin American affairs. In addition, after the overthrow of the government in Guatemala, Castro was aware that this may happen to him as well and probably had his guard up waiting for anything that my indicate that an invasion was imminent.
As for senior White House aides, most of them disagreed with the plan as well, but Rusk says that Kennedy went with what the CIA had to say. As for himself, he said that he ". . . did not serve President Kennedy very well . . ." and that he should have voiced his opposition louder. He concluded that ". . . I should have made my opposition clear in the meetings themselves because he [Kennedy] was under pressure from those who wanted to proceed. "When faced with biased information from the CIA and quiet advisors, it is no wonder that the president decided to go ahead with the operation.
It is clear t
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