The Bay Of Pigs Invasion

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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.

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 BaĄos
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 envelope
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 [Map of Cuba was here]
the main landing teams [Link to Map to be added when
when they arrived. At time permits]
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. (See figure 1).
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, sinking the command vessel the Marsopa
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 Girón. 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
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 has 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 per cent 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 Arévalo. 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 Arévalo 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 were
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
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.

Part II: Failure and Ramifications.
The failure at the CIA led to Kennedy making poor decisions
which would affect future relations with Cuba and the Soviet Union.
The failure at CIA had three causes. First the wrong people were
handling the operation, secondly the agency in charge of the
operation was also the one providing all the intelligence for the
operation, and thirdly for an organization supposedly obsessed with
security the operation had security problems.
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. Those in charge of Operation Pluto, based
this new operation on the success of the Guatemalan adventure, but
the si

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