Bay of Pigs Invasion

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Bay of Pigs Invasion
Part of Cold War
Date April 15 - April 19, 1961
Location Bay of Pigs, Southern Cuba
Result Cuban victory
Casus belli The Cuban Revolution
Image:Flag of Cuba.svg Cuba Cuban exiles trained by the Image:Flag of the United States.svg United States
Image:Flag of Cuba.svg Fidel Castro
Jose Ramon Fernandez
Image:Flag of the United States.svg Grayston Lynch
Pepe San Roman
Erneido Oliva
51,000 1,500
2,200; estimated 115 dead
1,189 captured
Cuban poster warning before invasion showing a soldier armed with an RPD machine gun.

The 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion (also known in Cuba as the Playa Girón after the beach in the Bay of Pigs where the landing took place) was an unsuccessful United States-planned and funded attempted invasion by armed Cuban exiles in southwest Cuba. An attempt to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro, this action accelerated a rapid deterioration in Cuban-American relations worsened by the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year.


[edit] Background and preparation

Tensions between Washington and Havana had increased steadily since the Cuban Revolution of 1959. The Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations had judged that Castro's policies including the expropriation of US assets on the island and Cuba's increasing ties with the Soviet Union could not be tolerated.

On March 17, 1960 the Eisenhower administration agreed to a recommendation from the CIA to equip and drill Cuban exiles for action against the new Castro government.<ref name="thousand"> A Thousand days:John F Kennedy in the White House Arthur Schlesinger Jr 1965 </ref> Eisenhower stated that it was the policy of the U.S. government to aid anti-Castro guerilla forces "to the upmost". The CIA began to recruit and train anti-Castro forces in the Sierra Madre mountains on the Pacific coast of Guatemala.<ref name="thousand"/> Vice President Richard Nixon, not Eisenhower, reportedly pushed the plan forward.

The CIA was initially confident that it was capable of overthrowing Castro, having experience assisting in the overthrow of other foreign governments such as Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in 1954. Richard Mervin Bissell Jr., one of Allen Dulles three aides, was made director of "Operation Zapata." (There is no direct evidence tying this to Zapata Corporation.)

The original plan had called for landing the exile brigade in the vicinity of the old colonial city of Trinidad, Cuba, located in the central province of Sancti Spiritus approximately 400 km southeast of Havana at the foothills of the Escambray mountains. The selection of the Trinidad site provided a number of options that the exile brigade could exploit to their advantage during the invasion. The population of Trinidad was generally opposed to Castro and the rugged mountains outside the city provided an area of operations to which the invasion force could retreat and establish a guerrilla campaign were the landing to falter. Throughout 1960, the growing ranks of Brigade 2506 trained at locations throughout southern Florida and in Guatemala for the beach landing and possible mountain retreat.

On February 17 1961, Kennedy asked his advisors whether the toppling of Castro might be related to weapon shipments and if it was possible to claim the real targets were modern fighter aircraft and rockets which endangered America's security. At the time, Cuba's army possessed Soviet tanks, artillery and small arms, and its air force consisted of B-26 medium bombers, Hawker Sea Furies (a fast and effective, though obsolete, propeller driven fighter-bomber), and T-33 jets left over from the Batista Air Force.<ref></ref>

As Washington's plans evolved, critical details were changed that were to hamper chances of a successful mission without US help. These revised details included changing the landing area for Brigade 2506 to two points in Matanzas Province, 202 km southeast of Havana on the eastern edge of the Zapata peninsula at the Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). The landings would take place on the Girón and Playa Larga beaches. This change effectively cut off contact with the rebels in the Escambray "War Against the Bandits". The Castro government had been warned by senior KGB agents Osvaldo Sánchez Cabrera and "Aragon", who respectively died violently before and after the invasion. The US government was aware that a high casualty rate was possible. [citation needed]

[edit] Invasion

On the morning of April 17, 1961, three flights of Douglas B-26B Invader light bomber aircraft displaying Cuban Fuerza Aerea Revolucionaria (FAR - Revolutionary Air Force) markings bombed and strafed the Cuban airfields of San Antonio de Los Baños, Antonio Maceo International Airport, and the airfield at Ciudad Libertad. Operation Puma, the code name given to the offensive counter air attacks against the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, called for 48 hours of air strikes across the island to effectively eliminate the Cuban air force, ensuring Brigade 2506 complete air superiority over the island prior to the actual landing at the Bay of Pigs. This failed because the airstrikes were not continued as was originally planned - limited by decisions at the highest level of US government. Castro also had prior knowledge of the invasion and had moved the airplanes out of harm's way.

Map showing the location of the Bay of Pigs.

Of the Brigade 2506 aircraft that sortied on the morning of April 15, one was tasked with establishing the CIA cover story for the invasion. The slightly modified two-seat B-26B used for this mission was piloted by Captain Mario Zuniga. Prior to departure, the engine cowling from one of the aircraft's two engines was removed by maintenance personnel, fired upon, then re-installed to give the appearance that the aircraft had taken ground fire at some point during its flight. Captain Zuniga departed from the exile base in Nicaragua on a solo, low-level mission that would take him over the westernmost province of Pinar del Rio, Cuba, and then northeast toward Key West, Florida. Once across the island, Captain Zuniga climbed steeply away from the waves of the Florida Straits to an altitude where he would be detected by US radar installations to the north of Cuba. At altitude and a safe distance north of the island, Captain Zuniga feathered the engine with the pre-installed bullet holes in the engine cowling, radioed a mayday call, and requested immediate permission to land at Boca Chica Naval Air Station a few kilometers northeast of Key West, Florida. This account is at apparent variance with Cuban government reports that Sea Fury fighter bombers flown by the few Cuban and perhaps some left-wing Chilean pilots loyal to Castro attacked the older slower B-26s flown by the invading force.<ref></ref>

By the time of Captain Zuniga's announcement to the world mid-morning on the 15th, all but one of the Brigade's Douglas bombers were back over the Caribbean on the three and a half hour return leg to their base in Nicaragua to re-arm and refuel. Upon landing, however, the flight crews were met with a cable from Washington ordering the indefinite stand-down of all further combat operations over Cuba.

On April 17, four 2,400-ton chartered transports (named the Houston, Rio Escondido, Caribe, and Atlantico) transported 1,511 Cuban exiles to the Bay of Pigs on the Southern coast of Cuba. They were accompanied by two CIA-owned infantry landing crafts (LCI's), called the Blagar and Barbara J, containing supplies, ordnance, and equipment. The small army hoped to find support from the local population, intending to cross the island to Havana. The CIA assumed that the invasion would spark a popular uprising against Castro. However by the time the Invasion began, Castro had already executed some who were suspected of colluding with the American campaign, and imprisoned the others (notably two former "Comandantes" Humberto Sorí Marin<ref></ref> and William Morgan<ref></ref><ref></ref>). The prisoners were under threat of death should the invasion succeed.

Although Cuban forces at the actual site surrendered, it soon became evident after contact with Cuban reinforcements that the exiles were not going to receive effective support at the site of the invasion and were likely to lose. Reports from both sides describe tank battles (see much detail in printed references section below) involving heavy USSR equipment.<ref name="SPlister.htm"></ref> Kennedy decided against giving the faltering invasion US air support (though four US pilots were killed in Cuba during the invasion) because of his opposition to overt intervention. Kennedy also canceled several sorties of bombings (only two took place) on the grounded Cuban Airforce, which might have crippled the Cuban Airforce and given air superiority to the invaders. U.S. Marines were not sent in, even though there were support ships off the coast ready to land at a moment's notice.

[edit] Casualties

By the time fighting ended on April 21, 68 exiles were dead and the rest were captured. Estimates of Cuban forces killed vary with the source but are generally far higher.

The 1,209 captured exiles were quickly tried, a few executed and the rest sentenced to thirty years in prison for treason. After 20 months of negotiation with the United States, Cuba released the exiles in exchange for $53 million in food and medicine.

It is generally presumed by some that during the Bay of Pigs Invasion Cuba's losses were high. Triay (2001 p. 110) mentions 4,000 casualties; Lynch (p. 148 50X or about 5,000). Other sources indicate over 2,200 casualties. 7 infantry battalions were eliminated.

In one air attack alone Cuban forces suffered an estimated 1,800 casualties caught on an open causeway in civilian buses and hit by napalm.<ref></ref><ref></ref><ref></ref>

The Cuban government initially reported their losses as 87 dead with many more wounded. The number of dead or killed in action of Cuba's army eventually ran to 140, and then to 161. Thus in the most accepted calculations, a total of around 2,000 (perhaps as many as 5,000 see above) of Enrique Lister trained Cuban militia fighting for the Republic of Cuba may have been killed, wounded, and missing in action.

The total casualties for the brigade were 104 members: out of them ten died trying to evade Cuba in a boat (Celia), nine died deliberately asphyxiated in a sealed truck (on orders of Osmani Cienfuegos) on the way to Havana,<ref></ref> five were executed after the invasion, five were executed after being captured infiltrating Cuba, five died in training and two died as prisoners.

[edit] Release of most captive prisoners

In May 1961 Castro proposed an exchange of the surviving members of the assault for five hundred bulldozers. The trade soon rose to $28 million United States dollars.<ref name="thousand"/> Negotiations were non-productive until after the Cuban missile crisis. On December 21 1962 Castro and James B. Donovan, a U.S. lawyer signed an agreement to exchange the 1,113 prisoners for $53 million U.S. dollars in food and medicine, the money being raised by private donations.<ref></ref> On December 29, 1962 Kennedy met with the returning brigade at Palm Beach, Florida.<ref name="thousand"/>

[edit] Aftermath, reactions and re-evaluations

The failed Bay of Pigs invasion severely embarrassed the Kennedy administration, and made Castro wary of future US intervention in Cuba. As a result of the failure, CIA director Allen Dulles, deputy CIA director Charles Cabell, and Deputy Director of Operations Richard Bissell were all forced to resign. All three were held responsible for the planning of the operation at the CIA. Responsibility of the Kennedy Administration and the US State Department for modifications of the plans were not apparent until later.

The Kennedy administration continued covert operations against Cuba, later launching the Cuban Project to "help Cuba overthrow the Communist regime". Tensions would again peak in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

The CIA wrote a detailed internal report that laid blame for the failure squarely on internal incompetence. A number of grave errors by the CIA and other American analysts contributed to the debacle:

  • The administration believed that the troops could retreat to the mountains to lead a guerrilla war if they lost in open battle. The mountains were too far to reach on foot, and the troops were deployed in swamp land, where they were easily surrounded.
  • They believed that the involvement of the US in the incident could be denied.
  • They believed that Cubans would be grateful to be liberated from Fidel Castro and would quickly join the battle. This support failed to materialize; many hundreds of thousands of others were arrested, and some executed, prior to the landings. (see also Priestland 2003; Grayston, 2000).

The CIA's near certainty that the Cuban people would rise up and join them was based on the agency's extremely weak presence on the ground in Cuba. Castro's counterintelligence, trained by Soviet Bloc specialists including Enrique Lister,<ref name="SPlister.htm"/> had infiltrated most resistance groups. Because of this, almost all the information that came from exiles and defectors was "contaminated." CIA operative E. Howard Hunt had interviewed Cubans in Havana prior to the invasion; in a future interview with CNN, he said, "...all I could find was a lot of enthusiasm for Fidel Castro."<ref></ref>

Many military leaders almost certainly expected the invasion to fail but thought that Kennedy would send in Marines to save the exiles. Kennedy, however, did not want a full scale war and abandoned the exiles.

An April 29 2000 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. Radio Moscow actually broadcast an English-language newscast on April 13, 1961 predicting the invasion "in a plot hatched by the CIA" using paid "criminals" within a week. The invasion took place four days later. According to British minister David Ormsby-Gore, British intelligence estimates, which had been made available to the CIA, showed that the Cuban people were predominantly behind Castro and that there was no likelihood of mass defections or insurrections following the invasion.<ref name="thousand"/>

The invasion is often criticized as making Castro even more popular, adding nationalistic sentiments to the support for his economic policies. Following the initial B-26 bombings, he had declared the revolution "Marxist-Leninist". After the invasion, he pursued closer relations with the Soviet Union, partly for protection, which helped pave the way for the Cuban Missile Crisis a year and a half later.

There are still yearly nation-wide drills in Cuba during the 'Dia de la Defensa' (defense day) to prepare the entire population for an invasion.

[edit] See also

[edit] Printed references

This is an incomplete list.

  • Anderson, Jon L. 1998 Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life. Grove/Atlantic ISBN 0-8021-3558-7
  • Grayston, Lynch L. 2000 Decision for Disaster: Betrayal at the Bay of Pigs. Potomac Books Dulles Virginia ISBN 1-57488-237-6
  • Johnson, Haynes 1964 The Bay of Pigs: The Leaders' Story of Brigade 2506. W. W. Norton & Co Inc. New York. 1974 edition ISBN 0-393-04263-4
  • Lagas, Jacques 1964 Memorias de un capitán rebelde. Editorial del Pácifico. Santiago, Chile.
  • Lazo, Mario 1968, 1970 Dagger in the heart: American policy failures in Cuba. Twin Circle. New York. I968 edition Library of Congress number 6831632, 1970 edition, ASIN B0007DPNJS
  • Lynch L. Grayston (see Grayston, Lynch L)
  • Priestland, Jane (editor) 2003 British Archives on Cuba: Cuba under Castro 1959-1962. Archival Publications International Limited, 2003, London ISBN 1-903008-20-4
  • Thomas, Hugh 1998 Cuba or The Pursuit of Freedom. Da Capo Press, New York Updated Ed. ISBN 0-306-80827-7
  • Triay, Victor 2001 Andres Bay of Pigs. University Press of Florida, Gainesville ISBN 0-8130-2090-5
  • Welch, David A and James G Blight (editors) 1998 Intelligence and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Frank Cass Publishers, London and Portland Oregon ISBN 0-7146-4883-3 ISBN 0-7146-4435-8
  • Wyden, Peter 1979 Bay of Pigs Simon. and Schuster New York ISBN 0-671-24006-4

[edit] Footnotes


[edit] External links

ca:Invasió de Bahía de Cochinos

da:Invasionen i Svinebugten de:Invasion in der Schweinebucht es:Invasión de Bahía de Cochinos fr:Débarquement de la Baie des Cochons id:Invasi Teluk Babi he:הפלישה למפרץ החזירים nl:Invasie in de Varkensbaai ja:ピッグス湾事件 ru:Операция в Заливе Свиней sr:Инвазија у Заливу свиња fi:Sikojenlahden maihinnousu tr:Domuzlar Körfezi Çıkartması zh:猪湾事件

Bay of Pigs Invasion

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