The United States of America designed and funded a “project” in an effort to remove from power the government ruled by Fidel Castro. This attempt however was an unsuccessful one. Named after the landing places, it was infamously known as the Battle of Pigs invasion. The invasion went over for six years under three different presidents and administrations. The invasion was pushed through different strategies. There were cover operations such us organizing exile troops, plots and strategies for political and economic destabilization.
There were even plans for sabotage, psychological warfare even assassination plots (Bohning, 2005). This step taken by the United States worsened Cuban relations. It also contributed even more to the Cuban Missile crisis. “The invasion is more popularly known in Cuba as Invasión de Bahía de Cochinos or Playa Girón” (Bohning, 2005).
As Dwight Eisenhower’s administration puts it, it was the policy of the United States government to help Cuban guerillas in overthrowing the Fidel Castro government. On March 17, 1960, the administration helped equip and train Cuban exiles who could put in efforts to remove the new Castro government from power. It was in the coast of Guatemala and the Sierra Madre where the recruitment of exiles and anti-Castro Cubans. Richard Nixon was suspected to have been deeply engaged with the operation. He is supposedly the force behind the invasion. Evidence such as tapes seem to pinpoint to Nixon in participating in the plan of the invasion. “Because of several successful assistance in overthrowing several governments such as the government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in 1954” (Kirkpatrick, 1998). Richard Mervin Bissell Jr, the CIA was confident that the invasion would push through.
CIA referred to the invasion as Operation Zapata. “The surrounding area of the old colonial city of Trinidad, Cuba, in the central province of Sancti Spiritus roughly 250 miles (400 km) southeast of Havana at the foothills of the Escambray Mountains was supposedly the original landing area for Brigade 2506” (Kirkpatrick, 1998). “The Trinidad site gave several alternatives for the exile brigade to exploit during the invasion” (Kirkpatrick, 1998). Most of the people in the area were generally against the Castro government and the rugged mountains located remote from the city gave the exile brigade the option to retreat if the landing was to fail.
The increasing ranks of Brigade 2506 trained all the way through southern Florida and in Guatemala for the beach landing and probable mountain retreat. The Bay of Pigs invasion materialized in the year 1959, and concluded with a Cuban victory on April 16, 1979. The Invasion turned official on March 17, 1960, when President Eisenhower authored a paper titled, A Program of Covert Action Agency against the Castro Regime (Kirkpatrick, 1998). This gave the Central Intelligence Agency permission to undertake the following:”
- Formation of a Cuban exile organization to attract Cuban loyalties, to direct opposition activities, and to provide cover for Agency operations.
- A propaganda offensive in the name of the opposition.
- Creation inside Cuba of a clandestine intelligence collection and action apparatus to be responsive to the direction of the exile organization.
- Development outside Cuba of a small paramilitary force to be introduced into Cuba to organize, train, and lead resistance groups.” Eisenhower also permitted the funds for the operation, which totaled $4, 400,000. This included “Political action, $950,000; propaganda, $1,700,000; paramilitary, $1,500,000; intelligence collection, $250,000” (Kirkpatrick, 1998). CIA personnel were establishing contact with the Cuban republic present themselves as American businessmen. This strategy was to conceal the involvement of the United States government.
The operation in action
“Three flights of B-26B Invader light bomber aircraft with the Cuban Fuerza Aerea Revolucionaria (FAR – Revolutionary Air Force) marking attacked the Cuban airfields of San Antonio de Los Baños, Antonio Maceo International Airport, and the airfield at Ciudad Libertad on April 15, 1961” (wikepedia.org).
The offensive counter-air attack in opposition to the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, was a 48-hour airstrike. Operation Puma, to which it was referred to as, aimed to eliminate the Cuban Air Force. This was to secure that Brigade 2506 have complete control of over the island before the actual landing at the Bay of Pigs. The originally planned airstrike was not originally followed thus the operation failed (wikepedia.org). Since the president wanted to show that the operation was designed by the Cuban themselves, the second air strike that would supposedly eliminate what was left of Castro’s air force was terminated. This was so the US government could claim deniability and avoid blame for the invasion.
The president also moved the landing site from Trinidad. The landing site in Trinidad had a throttlehold of rebels and was populated with anti-Castro forces. The site was near the Escambray Mountains. The mountains allowed for retreat in case the rebel forces failed in their attempts. Even with the advantage provided by the site and complaints from the CIA itself, the president pushed for the transferring of site for the invasion. He maintained his stand over maintaining a safe distance from the operation so as to dodge blame. These decisions made a great an impact on the operation and eventually led to its failure.
There was not enough air cover and support and the next landing site did not provide as much advantage as to that of the first site opted for. Another factor that affected the outcome of the Bay of Pigs invasion was aviation. The first plan for the Bay of Pigs invasion was a surprise attack. The surprise attack came into place during the early morning of April 15. The operation used eight B-26s to initialize attack at the Antonio Maceo airport and several other airbases. The attack at that time was able to impair the Cuban forces. “The Cuban forces were only left with two B-26s, two Sea Furies, and two T-33As at San Antonio de Los Baños Airbase, and only one Sea Fury at the Antonio Maceo Airport” (wikipedia.org).
There were also a few bombers that were damaged during the attacks. The Cuban force may have been damaged immensely at the time of the invasion but the remaining force left was still good for battle. The aircrafts were still in “good shape”, there were still some bombers and attackers left. The Cuban force was still equipped and fit to fight an invasion.
The US force on the other hand didn’t have as much competence at that time in aviation. There was not enough flexibility of the aircraft used by the CIA. This hindered the US forces from gaining air advantage. The first airstrike was successful but the following attacks were damaging to the operation instead. There were aircraft that went down and casualties that forced retreat afterward. The battle went on to damage Cuban forces and resulted to numerous casualties as well. During the first phase of the attack the armed forces by the beach surrendered to the invaders. The operation continued and engaged further into controlling the causeways. The battle escalated causing even more damage to the Cuban forces.
However when the air support of the operation was impaired the invading forces were pushed back to the beach for retreat. During the operation, there were also attacks by the bay. The Cuban force was also slightly damaged in that attack. The posing invaders were even able to fought the air attacks during the battle by the bay.
The Bay of Pigs invasion claimed several lives from the exiles, US forces and the Cuban administration. When the battle ended there were at least a thousand Cuban exiles captured and imprisoned. After the trial of the exiles, some were executed and some were put under prison sentences. The exiles were given freedom by the Cuban government in exchange for food medicine support that would be provided by the US government.
Although the Bay of Pigs invasion was not successful it damaged the Cuban force immensely. Estimates suggest that several infantry battalions of the Cuban air force were damaged. There were also at least more than a thousand casualties in the army troops, armed force and even civilians.
The participants of the US force also in turn suffered lose. There were a number of casualties with the members of the brigade. Years after the Bay of Pigs invasion, the US government recognized those who participated in the operation and granted awards of recognition especially to those whose lives were claimed during the battle. In general, both parties suffered immense loses.
CIA officers who were handling the Bay of Pig invasion resigned after the failure of the operation. The intervention made the administration at that time was not evident until years after it occurred. However, unsuccessful as the operation may be, it had one important positive effect on the people who witnessed the attempt.
Before the operation started, the revolution throughout the country was weak but after the attempted invasion and overthrowing of the Castro administration, revolution then became stronger. The US government still continued to have covert operations in against Castro, it later on came up with the Cuban Project.
The project was still an effort to help Cuba fight against its current administration. “The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion affected the Kennedy Administration” (wikepedia.org). The failed operation also made Castro even more cautious of US and its possible future interventions with the country.
What really went wrong?
Kirkpatrick (1998) enumerates on the Inspector General’s Survey of the Cuban Operation reasons for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion:
- The Central Intelligence Agency, after starting to build up the resistance and guerilla forces inside Cuba, drastically concerted the project into what rapidly became an overt military operation. The Agency failed to recognize that when the project advanced beyond the stage of plausible denial it was going beyond the area of Agency responsibility as well as Agency capability.
- The Agency became so wrapped up in the military operation that it failed to appraise the [blurred] of [blurred] realistically. Furthermore, it failed to keep the national policy-makers adequately and realistically informed of the conditions considered essential for success, and it did not [burred] sufficiently for prompt policy decisions in a fast-moving situation.
- As the project grew, the Agency reduced the exiled leaders to the status of puppets, thereby losing the advantages of their active participation.
- The Agency failed to build up and supply a resistance organization under rather favorable conditions. Air and boat operations showed up poorly.
- The Agency failed to collect adequate information on the strengths of the Castro regime and the extent of the opposition to it; and it failed to evaluate the available information correctly.
- The project was badly organized. Command lines and [blurred] controls were ineffective and useless. Senior Staffs if the Agency were not utilized; air support stayed independent of the project; the role of the large forward [blurred] was not clear.
- The project was not staffed with top-quality people, and a number of people were not used to the best advantage.
- The Agency entered the project without adequate [blurred] in the way of [blurred], bases, training facilities, [blurred][blurred], Spanish-speakers, and similar essential ingredients of a successful operation. [Blurred] these been already in being, such time and effort would have been saved.”
Another factor that affected the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion was that the site chosen for the retreat of the troops was too far to reach by foot. The troops were deployed by the swamps thus the retreat area was difficult to reach. The position of the operation’s forces was advantageous for the Cuban force since they could be easily surrounded in that setting.
The administration and others involved in the operation was strongly convinced that the US would not be clearly associated to the operation. Those handling and planning the operation easily believed or strongly believed that then there would be many Cubans would join the fight against the Castro government. They were strongly convinced that the people wanted to be freed from the Castro administration (Priestland, 2003).
Castro’s counterintelligence was also able to penetrate some resistance groups. Trained by Soviet Bloc specialists, the information that was provided by exiles for the operation was contaminated (wikipedia.org). Another step Fidel Castro took for preventing a mass or general uprising against him was to terminate resistance groups across islands. He gathered them up and annihilated any chances that these resistance and rebel groups could together and try to overthrow him.
The Bay of Pigs invasion was already expected to be unsuccessful by some military leaders. They expected Kennedy to send in some aid for the exiles. However, Kennedy did not want the invasion to level up to a full-blown war. The exiles were instead deserted by the administration.
The Bay of Pigs invasion was no doubt an unsuccessful attempt. The covert attempts of the United States were failure. These attempts and operation done by the US government lead to some devastating even detrimental outcomes. It worsened Cuban relations and even contributed to the Cuban missile crisis. It also triggered the Law of Unintended Consequences. Instead of overthrowing Castro and removing his administration from power, the operation even lengthened Castro’s rule over the Cubans and its government.
This outcome paved for another. It, in one or another forced a Soviet decision for installing nuclear missiles in Cuba. Castro became even more popular after the Bay of Pigs Invasion. His economic policies were even able gather support from the people including their sentiments. Fidel Castro trailed on to have negotiations with the Soviet Union. This turned out to be Cuban Missile Crisis, a year and half later.
The Bay of Pigs Redux
Jared Weiner (nd) cited an article by Newsweek (1998) regarding the possible replication of the Bay of Pigs Invasion by the CIA: “The Bay of Pigs Redux” was a story about a plan that the Central Intelligence Agency conceived of, that was strikingly similar to the Bay of Pigs Invasion Plan, except it was to overthrow Saddam Hussein, instead of Fidel Castro. The article’s writers, Christopher Dickey, Evan Thomas, and Gregory L. Vistica decided to not write anything about the real Bay of Pigs Invasion, just about the $20 Million operation that President Bush started after the end of the Persian Gulf War.
The Central Intelligence Agency sent a man whose code name was “Bob”. “Bob” spoke fluent Arabic, and knew how to wear a turban that looked right, so he blended right into Iraqi society. He came to Iraq January 1995, armed with an AK-47, a computer that he operated from his temporary home in Salah ad-Din, Iraq, and knowing that Ahmed Chalabi, an MIT-trained banker that was convicted of embezzlement of tens of millions of dollars in a Jordanian court, was the operation head.
So far, everything sounds ok, right? So far it is. This is about to make a change for the worse, and become more and more like the Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961. While he was there, “Bob” allied with Kurdish exiles because the Central Intelligence Agency had betrayed them in the past, and made arrangements for these exiles fight alongside the United States Government against Saddam Hussein. The Kurds were willing to fight Hussein because they were trying to build a homeland in Iraq, Iran, and Turkey, and if they could defeat Iraq, they could receive some land. Does any of this sound familiar yet? It could be because this is exactly what happened at the beginning of the preparations for the Bay of Pigs Invasion, except it was with Cuban exiles instead of Kurdish exiles trying to build a homeland in the Middle East!
This all ended in 1996, when the Iraqis found out about the operation, they sent out a group of tanks that killed the resistance fighters. The tanks killed the fighters, and The United States Government gave word to stop the operation. The United States needs to fully recognize that delving into matter into which other nations are involved is difficult to meddle with without the complete overview of what the situation is.
The US lacked research during the Bay of Pig Invasion (Kirkpatrick, 1998). They should have delved more into the strengths and weaknesses the Cubans have before proceeding with the operation. This could have possibly been able to help those who were involved and deployed in the invasion in defeating the Castro regime.
The US as suggested by Kirkpatrick (1998) could have also tried establishing and fixing relations with the United Soviet Socialist Republic. The republic could have provided assistance for the administration on the operation. They could have served as an ally instead of being an enemy as well. The tension between these three nations just escalated more when the Cuban missile crisis erupted. The failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion was mostly due to misinformation and mismanagement.
- Dickey, Christopher, Evan Thomas, Gregory L. Vistica, “Bay of Pigs Redux” Newsweek, New York, New York, March 23, 1998.
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