Bay of Pigs Invasion

Bay of Pigs Invasion: The American Mistake
During the 1960s, relations between Cuba and the United States were not friendly. The United States felt
threatened because Cuba was the only country in the Western hemisphere to adopt the ideas of communism. At first the
Americans welcomed the Cuban revolution which brought Fidel Castro to power on December 31, 1958. However, Castro
began to link himself with the other superpower, the Soviet Union. This led to a general discord between the United States
and Cuba.
In 1959, Castro's government ordered the country's oil refineries – then controlled by the U.S. corporations Shell,
Esso and Standard Oil – 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. cancelled its import of Cuban sugar, provoking Castro to nationalize most U.S.-owned
assets on the island, including banks and sugar mills. Later, on 13 October 1960, the U.S. government 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. On 16 December, the U.S. then ended its import quota of Cuban sugar, the
country's primary export
On March 17, 1960, President Eisenhower asked the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to "organize the training
of Cuban exiles, mainly in Guatemala, against a possible future date when they might return to their homeland." The plan
at the beginning was that this elite group of soldiers would land on a remote part of Cuba. Once there, they would set up a
provisional (temporary) government. At the same time, the unhappy residents of Cuba would rise up, riot, and the
overthrow of Castro’s regime would have begun. The guerrillas would not be American soldiers, but exiles from Cuba. It
was vital that U.S. involvement in this mission was kept secret. If it was to become known, the U.S. might face retaliation
from the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union could charge that the United States violated the Organization of American
States (OAS) charter, which bound American states to respect each other’s sovereign territory.
Most of the training took place during November of 1960 through January of 1961. This is when the current
President Eisenhower and President-elect Kennedy were busy in an exchange of power. President Kennedy was told about
the situation by the CIA director, Allen Dulles, on November 29th and gave his approval for the continuation of the
training of the exiles. Kennedy paid little attention to the matter until after he was inaugurated. The following month,
February, Kennedy asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to assess the situation. The Chiefs of Staff, believing that Castro’s
government was generally unpopular with the citizens of Cuba, determined that a 1,400 man invasion force would be
unable to defeat Castro’s army of 200,000. He then noted that the only way the invasion could be a success is if the
unhappy Cuban people rebelled at the same time. He also added that if the mission failed, it could lead to pressure from
the international scene, or worse, from the Soviet Union. Kennedy himself was skeptical about the plan, but it is assumed
that he was forced to make a decision when the President of Guatemala ordered the exiles out of his nation by the end of
April. On the same day as the ultimatum was issued by the President of Guatemala, the CIA reported that the Cubans
would receive a large delivery of MiG fighter
aircraft from the Soviets. On March 11th, President Kennedy gave the green light for the mission, but he reserved the right
to cancel it with 24 hours notice.
On the tenth of April, American advisors began to move the exiles. The anticipated siege was supposed to take
place on the seventeenth. The exiles were told that they were supposed to hold three beaches along the Bay of Pigs for
three days. Paratroopers would be dropped inland for the purpose of gaining control of the roads through the swamps.
Attacks from the Nicaragua Air Force would ground the Cuban Air Force and a group of 1,000 dissidents would join the
invaders soon after they landed.
On April 15th, the first air strikes were conducted. Much to the dismay of the United States, the Nicaragua Air
Force was only able to destroy five planes. Therefore, another air strike was ordered, but it was called off at the last
instant. The first strike had generated widespread international attention. When the exiles landed on Cuba on April 17th,
Castro was ready for them. Intelligence officers in Cuba had warned about a possible attack, and Castro did not want to
take any chances. The paratroopers that landed inland were quickly isolated and defeated, permitting the Cuban tanks to
secure control of the roads. The actual exiles who landed on the beach were immediately met with heavy resistance. A
Cuban aircraft sank a ship carrying munitions and communication equipment. The exiles’ air force support was quickly
destroyed, and the chance of a general uprising in Cuba was quelled when there was a mass arrest of 200,000 suspected
Meanwhile, back at the White House, the administration realized that their mission was in terrible danger.
President Kennedy agreed to send six unmarked American aircraft to aid the B-26 planes flying from Nicaragua.
However, there was a mix up in timing, and the B-26 aircraft arrived at the selected targets an hour before the American
convoy, and they the B-26s met with heavy resistance. Exiled Cuban leaders in the United States, upon hearing of the
failed invasion, begged President Kennedy to launch a full-scale military invasion of Cuba. Kennedy refused. By April
20th the exiles had been completely defeated, or captured.
American involvement in the attempted coup could not be kept secret, and the United States faced international
opposition. After the Bay of Pigs, relations between the United States, Cuba, and the Soviet Union deteriorated. It is
speculated that it was Kennedy’s indecisiveness that encouraged Nikita Khrushchev to send missiles to Cuba later on.
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, but also illustrated that they could be defeated, and encouraged political groups across the
region to find ways to undermine U.S. imperialism. The invasion is often recognized as making Castro even more
popular, adding nationalistic sentiments to the support for his economic policies. Following the 15 April air attacks on
Cuban airfields, he declared the revolution "Marxist-Leninist". After the invasion, he pursued even closer relations with
the Soviet Union, partly for protection, that helped pave the way for the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Castro was then
increasingly wary of further US intervention, and more open to Soviet suggestions of placing nuclear weapons on Cuba to
ensure its security.
The failed invasion severely embarrassed the Kennedy Administration, and made Castro wary of future US intervention in
Cuba. On 21 April, in a State Department press conference, President 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.” However, clearly President Kennedy was angered
with the CIA's failure, and declared he wanted "to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds
In August 1961, during an economic conference of the Organization of American States in Punta del Este, Uruguay, Che
Guevara sent a note to Kennedy via Richard N. Goodwin, a secretary of the White House. It said: "Thanks for Playa
Girón[The Bay of Pigs]. Before the invasion, the revolution was weak. Now it's stronger than ever."
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 afterwards such actions "fell
drastically to zero."