Wars and Battles, April 14-19, 1961
The Bay of Pigs invasion was intended to provoke popularity for an uprising against Fidel Castro, who had overthrown American-backed dictatorFulgencio Batista. Instead, it gave Castro a military victory and a permanent symbol of Cuban resistance to American aggression.
The Bay of Pigs was not originally John F. Kennedy‘s idea. As the communist nature of Fidel Castro‘s regime became apparent, the urge to topple his government grew. Dwight D. Eisenhower‘s administration planned the invasion, which would be handled by the CIA. By the time of Kennedy’s inauguration, the order to invade was the only remaining piece of the plan to put into place.
Planning for the invasion began in 1960, before diplomatic ties with Cuba had been broken. The situation was delicate, since the plan was to overthrow a government with which the United States was not at war. Various aspects, including propaganda and military strategies, were included in the plan, along with the directive that the U.S. should not appear to be involved.
During the presidential campaign, Kennedy had accused Eisenhower of not doing enough about Castro. In fact, Eisenhower might have launched an invasion himself, had a proper excuse presented itself. Instead, he bequeathed an advanced plan to Kennedy, who was strongly inclined to pursue it.
Others in the government were not convinced. The Cubans had presented evidence to the United Nations as early as October that the United States was hiring and training mercenaries. American involvement was not likely to remain much of a secret.
Senator J. William Fulbright told Kennedy that this sort of hypocrisy was just the sort of thing of which the United States accused the Soviets. Under Secretary of State Chester Bowles advised Secretary of State Dean Rusk that the plan was wrong on both moral and legal grounds.
Those in favor of the plan also included former Vice President Richard Nixon, John’s brother Robert F. Kennedy, and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara.
On April 12, 1961, Kennedy told a press conference that the United States unequivocally had no intention of intervening in Cuban affairs. Five days later, the invasion took place.
The invasion force had been assembled in Guatemala. It departed in six ships from a port in Nicaragua on April 14. On April 15, the American-backed Cuban exiles began to bomb airfields near two points in the Bay of Pigs and the Zapata swamps in Cuba.
In a clumsy effort to make the attacks appear to have been made by defectors, the attacking B-26 airplanes were disguised to look like Cuban aircraft. An actual defector named Mario Zúñiga was presented to the press along with his airplane, but so many important details were missing and the press had uncovered so much of the truth, that the cover-up effort had little success.
Within the first few hours of the operation, it began to appear that the invasion would fail because it had not garnered the support from locals on which they were counting. Much to the CIA’s surprise, locals firmly supported Castro and the Revolution.
Adlai E. Stevenson, the American ambassador to the U.N., flatly denied the Cuban ambassador’s charges about the attack and showed the official photographs to support the defector’s story. Unfortunately, the truth came out within a few hours and Stevenson was humiliated. He also learned that Kennedy had referred to him as “my official liar.”
The attack began shortly after midnight on April 16. Coral reefs, misidentified by U-2 spy planes as seaweed, held up landings. Two ships were stranded 80 yards from shore and some heavy equipment was lost. With the invasion plainly underway, Rusk announced on Monday, April 17, that the U.S. would not intervene in Cuba nor would it in the future.
Because world opinion was against the U.S., Kennedy decided not to provide further air cover until it could be launched from a landing strip somewhere in Cuba. This never happened, and Cuban forces had complete control of the air. A final desperate attempt at air support resulted in the loss of four American airmen on April 19, but the outcome was already sealed.
The invaders surrendered on the afternoon of April 19. More than 200 people been killed; another 1,197 were taken captive. On April 20, Kennedy told the American Society of Newspaper Editors that the episode was Cubans fighting Cubans and that the U.S. had not been involved.
A few months later, the three responsible for planning the invasion — Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Allen Dulles, Deputy Director of Operations Richard Bissell, and Air Force General Charles Cabell — were fired.
Mass trials of the captured men were held and nearly all were sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. After 20 months of negotiations, they were released in exchange for $53 million in food and medicine.
The failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion set the stage for further aggressions against Castro from his northern aggressor. President Kennedy made little effort to conceal his continued desire to see Castro deposed. Castro’s insecurity about the future of his rule over Cuba led to the installation of Soviet nuclear missiles there, prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Bay of Pigs Invasion
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Bay of Pigs Invasion
In Cube on April 17, 1961, the United States was supposed to be apart of a missile attack. Many people were killed during this time and the whole thing became a complete failure. A week before the actual bombing was to occur, Kennedy had withdrawn his order to land aerial cover (Morrissey). This loss of nerve at a critical moment in time had caused the failure at the Bay of Pigs (Fernandez-Zayes). Kennedy’s decision to cancel air strikes was the result of the loss at the Bay of Pigs.
In 1959, Fidel Castro had become the powerful leader of Cuba. Castro was a communist and became hostile to the Unite States two years after he became Cuba’s leader (Encarta). People associated with Castro had taken ownership over United States companies and Eisenhower was forced to put in place a trade embargo. Cubans during this time had gone to the United States to escape the communist leadership that Castro was imposing on people. When Eisenhower had told the CIA to train Cuban exiles, they were planning on an invasion when Kennedy became president (Encarta).
In April 1961, 1500 Cuban exiles made a landing at the Bay of Pigs (Encarta). The plan they had was to join with people who were against Castro to start a revolt. But things didn’t follow through because Kennedy didn’t send in the air support that was promised. Castro’s followers had killed most of the exiles and kept the others as prisoners. Castro wanted money for their release but Kennedy had refused to negotiate with him (Encarta). On December 25, 1962, 1113 prisoners were released in exchange for food and medical supplies that was worth a total of $53 million (J.A. Sierra). This never would have happened if Kennedy didn’t withdraw the aerial cover.
The other strategy that the United States had was to “go guerilla.” The troops there were not trained and not suitable for them. Things were against them because there was no place to hide, no way to communicate, no food, and no inhabitants to support them (Morrissey). The Zapata Peninsula was chosen by the CIA for the invasion and convinced them of the plan. The people thought it would be hard to get there because of the length of the mountains there. There were no motorized vehicles too get around. The area was swampy, isolated and uninhabited so there was no possibility of an uprising (Morrissey).
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Bay Of Pigs Pigs Invasion Fidel Castro Supplies Followers Eisenhower Prisoners
Cuban people would have known what was coming to them if there had been pre-invasion propaganda, which there wasn’t. Kennedy wanted to know what the purpose of this operation was. People in the government had explained it was because they wanted to hold up a government and build it up to make it stronger. Kennedy was skeptical because he didn’t want to risk a small amount of men against thousands of militia. By this point, the secretaries of Defense and State were counting on an uprising attack (Morrissey).
When Kennedy had found out that the United States had failed at the Bay of Pigs mission, he knew exactly what he had done wrong. He shouldn’t have withdrawn the aerial cover if he had had some questions about in the first place. Kennedy was wrong to approve the attack and then when everyone was ready to fight, find out that their promised aerial cover was going to be withdrawn. After the failure had occurred, Kennedy was worried that about the limitations imposed upon the government by the institutions of free speech and a free press