During the year 1959 Fidel Castro overthrew President Fulgencio Batista in an armed revolt to take control of Cuba. Castro was an extreme revolutionist and communist and had close ties with Nikita Khrushchev who was the leader of the Soviet Union who were currently engaged in a Cold War with the USA. Therefore when Castro replaced Batista the US was worried and kept a close eye out on Cuba. The first step to remove Castro from office actually came from President Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower wanted to train Cuban exiles for an invasion of Cuba. In March of 1960 the plan was enacted. Guatemala was chosen as the ground for the exiles to learn. Eisenhower then selected the CIA as the agency to go over to Guatemala and run the training. The CIA selected Jose Miro Cardona to lead the rebellion. He was a former member of Castro’s government but had become the leader of the exile committee, the Cuban Revolutionary Council. He also was the presumed leader of Cuba if Castro and his regime were to fall to the exiles. The CIA headed up the campaign in March of 1960 and the soldiers were ready by November.
After President John F. Kennedy was elected the new President of the United States, he was quickly notified of Eisenhower’s plan by the CIA. With US citizens’ fear of communism growing President Kennedy authorized the invasion plan. Even though he enacted the plan he did not want the US involvement to be known around the world. He was hoping to try and contain the involvement because he did want to anger Russia and hurt an already tense and volatile relationship. The plan was to send a 1,400 man invasion at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. It was covert because the land was swampy and there were very few Cuban soldiers that patrolled the area. While that was going on there would also be a two way air strike against the Cuban air bases. There would be paratroopers who would disrupt Cuban transportation. There would also be a smaller force in the east coast of Cuba to create confusion for Castro. This map shows where the invasions would begin and how their locations allowed the invasion to attack different points in Cuba to infiltrate Castro’s regime. The end goal would be for the forces to end up in the smaller island of Matanzas to set up a defense against Castro’s retaliation. Despite all the detail of the plan, the real success of the plan depended on the Cuban citizens rallying behind the revolution and attacking Castro’s forces head on. The plan was bold and Kennedy and the Joint Chief of Staff’s knew that when they enacted the plan there was this risk and they brought it up in detail when reviewing the CIA’s plan. Despite the risks, Kennedy believed the risk was worth it and the first part of the invasion began on April 15, 1961.
The first part of the invasion was the first air invasion. The planes used were eight US World War II B-26 bombers that were disguised by painting them with the markings of the FAR, the Fuerza Aérea Revolucionaria, which is the air force of the Cuban government. Unfortunately the bombers missed most of their targets and photos were then released of the US planes being repainted. This was a major blow to the resistance and Kennedy ended up cancelling the second air strike due to the fear of another failure and then retaliation by the Cuban government or potentially the Russian government. However Kennedy did decide to continue on with the land invasion. The invasion began on April 17, 1961 when the Cuban-exile invasion force, known as Brigade 2506 along the Bay of Pigs. Unfortunately Castro’s regime was prepared and they were immediately under attack. Two of the ships transporting the soldiers were sunk and half of the air support for the Brigade was shot down. On top of that the weather was worse than expected and the men were unprepared for the attack. They eventually ran out of dry equipment and ammunition. Castro’s retaliation was much quicker than the rebellion forces were prepared for as he sent out 20,000 troops out to the beach and he poured airplanes in the sky within 24 hours of the attack. There seemed to be no sign of relief so in a last stich effort President Kennedy sent six unmarked fighter planes to help defend the brigade. However the emergency planes arrived too late and 1200 exiles surrendered and 100 were killed in the attack. The 1200 who surrendered were thrown in various prisons around Cuba. In the end the US surrendered tractors and other goods to Cuba in exchange for the release of the prisoners.
The attack was a disaster for the rebellion as well as a disaster for the United States. People started to blast the President from all over as more and more details poured out about the US involvement. The Kennedy Administration tried to steer clear of details. Kennedy’s speech about the bombers that were killed left many people confused as he beat around the bush of what really happened and what involvement the US really had. President Kennedy’s official response to the actions in Cuba was very indirect and was very vague. He spent most of his time attacking Castro and said that the US would always defend democracy but he never admitted to the attack during the speech. In fact on April 18, 1961 President Kennedy sent a letter to Chairman Khrushchev claiming the US was not involved in the affairs. However six days later President Kennedy took full responsibility of the events in a press conference and asked for the blame to be on himself and not the government itself.
Many newspapers, magazines, and cartoonist made a mockery of the attack. There was a carton of a Cuban cigar blowing up in Kennedy’s face and another of the White House laying an egg on the attack. Life Magazine also put the invasion on their cover stating the failures of the Kennedy Administration. Overall the attack caused the American people to have great distrust of the government.
Many people today barely know of the incident or they simply see it as a failed attempt to overthrow the new Cuban government of Fidel Castro and that it was embarrassing for the CIA and the President Kennedy. Most people also only are under the impression that everything occurred under the Kennedy Administration and fail to mention that it was Eisenhower who actually funded the plan that was made and the troops trained for it. All Kennedy did was enact a plan that was already in full motion. That is not to say that Kennedy was not at fault because he was but the students deserve to know the full story. The Bay of Pigs also led to even more tension and hostility that eventually helped build up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Bay of Pigs Invasion was one of the biggest incidents in the Cuban War and students need to know about the event especially with all the hostility there has been with Cuba all our lives.
This website is dedicated to show the full story of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. This is a major incident that made shocked America and it is something every American should see the full story of. Hopefully through these photographs, editorial cartoons, and first hand documents you can learn more details about the Bay of Pigs Invasion. There are also some teacher resources as well as links to other sites that are dedicated to Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Kennedy Administration.
The last thing we wanted to do was leave you with a couple questions to think about as you explore the website:
- Why did the US want to take down Castro and why were they so secretive about it?
- Did the US handle the operation and the aftermath of the invasion the right way?
- How did these incidents play a role in US involvement in other countries affairs?