The story of the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs isone of mismanagement, overconfidence, and lack of security. Theblame for the failure of the operation falls directly in the lap ofthe Central Intelligence Agency and a young president and hisadvisors. The fall out from the invasion caused a rise in tensionbetween the two great superpowers and ironically 34 years after theevent, the person that the invasion meant to topple, Fidel Castro,is still in power. To understand the origins of the invasion andits ramifications for the future it is first necessary to look atthe invasion and its origins.Part I: The Invasion and its Origins.The Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961, started a few daysbefore on April 15th with the bombing of Cuba by what appeared tobe defecting Cuban air force pilots.
At 6 a.m. in the morning ofthat Saturday, three Cuban military bases were bombed by B-26bombers.
The airfields at Camp Libertad, San Antonio de los Baosand Antonio Maceo airport at Santiago de Cuba were fired upon.Seven people were killed at Libertad and forty-seven people werekilled at other sites on the island.Two of the B-26s left Cuba and flew to Miami, apparently todefect to the United States.
The Cuban Revolutionary Council, thegovernment in exile, in New York City released a statement sayingthat the bombings in Cuba were “. . . carried out by ‘Cubans insideCuba’ who were ‘in contact with’ the top command of theRevolutionary Council . . . .
” The New York Times reportercovering the story alluded to something being wrong with the wholesituation when he wondered how the council knew the pilots werecoming if the pilots had only decided to leave Cuba on Thursdayafter ” . . .
a suspected betrayal by a fellow pilot hadprecipitated a plot to strike . . . .” Whatever the case, theplanes came down in Miami later that morning, one landed at KeyWest Naval Air Station at 7:00 a.m. and the other at MiamiInternational Airport at 8:20 a.
m. Both planes were badly damagedand their tanks were nearly empty. On the front page of The NewYork Times the next day, a picture of one of the B-26s was shownalong with a picture of one of the pilots cloaked in a baseball hatand hiding behind dark sunglasses, his name was withheld.
A senseof conspiracy was even at this early stage beginning to envelopethe events of that week.In the early hours of April 17th the assault on the Bay ofPigs began. In the true cloak and dagger spirit of a movie, theassault began at 2 a.
m. with a team of frogmen going ashore withorders to set up landing lights to indicate to the main assaultforce the precise location of their objectives, as well as to clear the area of anything that may impede the main landing teams to be added when they arrived. At 2:30 a.m. and at 3:00 a.
m. two battalions came ashore at Playa Girn and one battalion at Playa Larga beaches. The troops at Playa Girn had orders to move west, northwest, up the coast and meet with the troops at Playa Larga in the middle of the bay. A small group of men were then to be sent north to the town of Jaguey Grande to secure it as well.
When looking at a modern map of Cuba it is obvious that thetroops would have problems in the area that was chosen for them toland at. The area around the Bay of Pigs is a swampy marsh landarea which would be hard on the troops. The Cuban forces were quickto react and Castro ordered his T-33 trainer jets, two Sea Furies,and two B-26s into the air to stop the invading forces.
Off thecoast was the command and control ship and another vessel carryingsupplies for the invading forces. The Cuban air force made quickwork of the supply ships, sinking the command vessel the Marsopaand the supply ship the Houston, blasting them to pieces with five-inch rockets. In the end the 5th battalion was lost, which was onthe Houston, as well as the supplies for the landing teams andeight other smaller vessels. With some of the invading forces’ships destroyed, and no command and control ship, the logistics ofthe operation soon broke down as the other supply ships were keptat bay by Casto’s air force. As with many failed militaryadventures, one of the problems with this one was with supplyingthe troops.In the air, Castro had easily won superiority over theinvading force. His fast moving T-33s, although unimpressive bytoday’s standards, made short work of the slow moving B-26s of theinvading force.
On Tuesday, two were shot out of the sky and byWednesday the invaders had lost 10 of their 12 aircraft. Withair power firmly in control of Castro’s forces, the end was nearfor the invading army.Over the 72 hours the invading force of about 1500 men werepounded by the Cubans.
Casto fired 122mm. Howitzers, 22mm. cannon,and tank fire at them. By Wednesday the invaders were pushed backto their landing zone at Playa Girn.
Surrounded by Castro’s forcessome began to surrender while others fled into the hills. Intotal 114 men were killed in the slaughter while thirty-six died asprisoners in Cuban cells. Others were to live out twenty years ormore in those cells as men plotting to topple the government ofCastro.The 1500 men of the invading force never had a chance forsuccess from almost the first days in the planning stage of theoperation. Operation Pluto, as it came to be known as, has itsorigins in the last dying days of the Eisenhower administration andthat murky time period during the transition of power to the newlyelected president John F. Kennedy.The origins of American policy in Latin America in the late1950s and early 1960s has its origins in American’s economicinterests and its anticommunist policies in the region.
The sameman who had helped formulate American containment policy towardsthe Soviet threat, George Kennan, in 1950 spoke to US Chiefs ofMission in Rio de Janeiro about Latin America. He said thatAmerican policy had several purposes in the region,. . . to protect the vital supplies of raw materialswhich Latin American countries export to the USA; toprevent the ‘military exploitation of Latin America bythe enemy’ The Soviet Union; and to avert ‘thepsychological mobilization of Latin America against us.’. .
. .By the 1950s trade with Latin America accounted for a quarterof American exports, and 80 per cent of the investment in LatinAmerica was also American. The Americans had a vested interestin the region that it would remain pro-American.The Guatemalan adventure can be seen as another of the factorsthat lead the American government to believe that it could handleCasto. Before the Second World War ended, a coup in Guatemala sawthe rise to power of Juan Jose Arvalo.
He was not a communist inthe traditional sense of the term, but he “. . . packed hisgovernment with Communist Party members and Communistsympathizers.” In 1951 Jacobo Arbenz succeeded Arvalo after anelection in March of that year. The party had been progressing witha series of reforms, and the newly elected leader continued withthese reforms. During land reforms a major American company, theUnited Fruit Company, lost its land and other holdings without anycompensation from the Guatemalan government.
When the Guatemalansrefused to go to the International Court of Law, United Fruit beganto lobby the government of the United States to take action. In thegovernment they had some very powerful supporters. Among them wereFoster Dulles, Secretary of State who had once been their lawyer,his brother Allen the Director of Central Intelligence who was ashare holder, and Robert Cutler head of the National SecurityCouncil. In what was a clear conflict of interest, the securityapparatus of the United States decided to take action against theGuatemalans.From May 1st, 1954, to June 18th, the Central IntelligenceAgency did everything in its power to overthrow the government ofArbenz. On June 17th to the 18th, it peaked with an invasion of 450men lead by a Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas. With the help of airsupport the men took control of the country and Arbenz fled to theMexican Embassy.
By June 27th, the country was firmly in control ofthe invading force. With its success in Guatemala, CIA had theconfidence that it could now take on anyone who interfered withAmerican interests.In late 1958 Castro was still fighting a guerilla war againstthe corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista. Before he came to power,there was an incident between his troops and some vacationingAmerican troops from the nearby American naval base at GuantanamoBay. During the incident some US Marines were held captive byCasto’s forces but were later released after a ransom was secretlypaid. This episode soured relations with the United States andthe chief of U.
S. Naval Operations, Admiral Burke, wanted to sendin the Marines to destroy Castro’s forces then but Secretary ofState Foster Dulles disagreed with the measures suggested andstopped the plan.Castro overthrew Batista in 1959.
Originally Castro was not acommunist either and even had meetings with then Vice-PresidentRichard Nixon. Fearful of Castro’s revolution, people with money,like doctors, lawyers, and the mafia, left Cuba for the UnitedStates. To prevent the loss of more capital Castro’s solution wasto nationalize some of the businesses in Cuba.
In the processof nationalizing some business he came into conflict with Americaninterests just as Arbenz had in Guatemala. “. . .
legitimate U.S.Businesses were taken over, and the process of socialization begunwith little if any talk of compensation.” There were alsorumours of Cuban involvement in trying to invade Panama, Guatemala,and the Dominican Republic and by this time Castro had beenturn down by the United States for any economic aid. Being rejectedby the Americans, he met with foreign minister Anasta Mikoyan tosecure a $100 million loan from the Soviet Union.
It was inthis atmosphere that the American Intelligence and ForeignRelations communities decided that Castro was leaning towardscommunism and had to be dealt with.In the spring of 1960, President Eisenhower approved a plan tosend small groups of American trained, Cuban exiles, to work in theunderground as guerrillas to overthrow Castro. By the fall, theplan was changed to a full invasion with air support by exileCubans in American supplied planes. The original group was tobe trained in Panama, but with the growth of the operation and thequickening pace of events in Cuba, it was decided to move things toa base in Guatemala. The plan was becoming rushed and this wouldstart to show, the man in charge of the operation, CIA DeputyDirector Bissell said that,. . .
There didn’t seem to be time to keep to theoriginal plan and have a large group trained by thisinitial cadre of young Cubans. So the larger group wasformed and established at La finca, in Guatemala, andthere the training was conducted entirely by Americans .. . .
It was now fall and a new president had been elected.President Kennedy could have stopped the invasion if he wanted to,but he probably didn’t do so for several reasons. Firstly, he hadcampaigned for some form of action against Cuba and it was alsothe height of the cold war, to back out now would mean havinggroups of Cuban exiles travelling around the globe saying how theAmericans had backed down on the Cuba issue. In competitionwith the Soviet Union, backing out would make the Americans looklike wimps on the international scene, and for domestic consumptionthe new president would be seen as backing away from one of hiscampaign promises. The second reason Kennedy probably didn’t abortthe operation is the main reason why the operation failed, problemswith the CIA.Part II: Failure and Ramifications.
The failure at the CIA led to Kennedy making poor decisionswhich would affect future relations with Cuba and the Soviet Union.The failure at CIA had three causes. First the wrong people werehandling the operation, secondly the agency in charge of theoperation was also the one providing all the intelligence for theoperation, and thirdly for an organization supposedly obsessed withsecurity the operation had security problems.In charge of the operation was the Director of CentralIntelligence, Allan Dulles and main responsibility for theoperation was left to one of his deputies, Richard Bissell. In anintelligence community geared mainly for European operationsagainst the USSR, both men were lacking in experience in LatinAmerican affairs. Those in charge of Operation Pluto, basedthis new operation on the success of the Guatemalan adventure, butthe situation in Cuba was much different than that in Guatemala. InGuatemala the situation was still chaotic and Arbenz never had thesame control over the country that Castro had on Cuba.
The CIA hadthe United States Ambassador, John Puerifoy, working on the insideof Guatemala coordinating the effort, in Cuba they had none of thiswhile Castro was being supplied by the Soviet block. Inaddition, after the overthrow of the government in Guatemala,Castro was aware that this may happen to him as well and probablyhad his guard up waiting for anything that my indicate that aninvasion was imminent. The second problem was the nature of the bureaucracy itself.The CIA was a new kid on the block and still felt that it had toprove itself, it saw its opportunity in Cuba. Obsessed withsecrecy, it kept the number of people involved to a minimum.
Theintelligence wing of CIA was kept out of it, their Board ofNational Estimates could have provided information on the situationin Cuba and the chances for an uprising against Castro once theinvasion started. Also kept out of the loop were the StateDepartment and the Joint Chiefs of Staff who could have providedhelp on the military side of the adventure. In the end, the CIAkept all the information for itself and passed on to the presidentonly what it thought he should see. Lucien S. Vandenbroucke, inPolitical Science Quarterly of 1984, based his analysis of the Bayof Pigs failure on organizational behaviour theory. He says thatthe CIA “. .
. supplied President Kennedy and his advisers withchosen reports on the unreliability of Castro’s forces and theextent of Cuban dissent.” Of the CIA’s behaviour he concludesthat,. . . By resorting to the typical organization strategyof defining the options and providing the informationrequired to evaluate them, the CIA thus structured theproblem in a way that maximized the likelihood thepresident would choose the agency’s preferred option . .
. .The CIA made sure the deck was stacked in their favour when thetime came to decide whether a project they sponsored was sound ornot.
President Kennedy’s Secretary of State at the time was DeanRusk, in his autobiography he says that,. . . The CIA told us all sorts of things about thesituation in Cuba and what would happen once the brigadegot ashore. President Kennedy received information whichsimply was not correct. For example, we were told thatelements of the Cuban armed forces would defect and jointhe brigade, that there would be popular uprisingsthroughout Cuba when the brigade hit the beach, and thatif the exile force got into trouble, its members wouldsimply melt into the countryside and become guerrillas,just as Castro had done . .
. .As for senior White House aides, most of them disagreed withthe plan as well, but Rusk says that Kennedy went with what the CIAhad to say.
As for himself, he said that he “. . . did not servePresident Kennedy very well .
. .” and that he should havevoiced his opposition louder. He concluded that “. . .
I shouldhave made my opposition clear in the meetings themselves because heKennedy was under pressure from those who wanted to proceed.”When faced with biased information from the CIA and quiet advisors,it is no wonder that the president decided to go ahead with theoperation.For an organization that deals with security issues, the CIA’slack of security in the Bay of Pigs operation is ironic.
Securitybegan to break down before the invasion when The New York Timesreporter Tad Szulc “. . . learned of Operation Pluto from Cubanfriends. . .” earlier that year while in Costa Rica covering anOrganization of American States meeting.
Another breakdown insecurity was at the training base in Florida,. . . Local residents near Homestead air force base hadseen Cubans drilling and heard their loudspeakers at afarm. As a joke some firecrackers were thrown into thecompound .
. . .
The ensuing incident saw the Cubans firing their guns and thefederal authorities having to convince the local authorities not topress charges. Operation Pluto was beginning to get blown wideopen, the advantage of surprise was lost even this early in thegame.After the initial bombing raid of April 15th, and the landingof the B-26s in Florida, pictures of the planes were taken andpublished in newspapers. In the photo of one of the planes, thenose of it is opaque whereas the model of the B-26 the Cubansreally used had a plexiglass nose,. .
. The CIA had taken the pains to disguise the B-26with “FAR” markings Cuban Air Force, the agencyoverlooked a crucial detail that was spotted immediatelyby professional observers . .
. .All Castro’s people had to do was read the newspapers and they’dknow that something was going to happen, that those planes that hadbombed them were not their own but American.In The New York Times of the 21st of April, stories about theorigins of the operation in the Eisenhower administration appearedalong with headlines of “C.I.
A. Had a Role In Exiles’ Plans”revealing the CIA’s involvement. By the 22nd, the story isfully known with headlines in The New York Times stating that “CIAis Accused by Bitter Rebels” and on the second page of thatday’s issue is a full article on the details of the operation fromits beginnings. The conclusion one can draw from the articles in The New YorkTimes is that if reporters knew the whole story by the 22nd, it canbe expected that Castro’s intelligence service and that of theSoviet Union knew about the planned invasion as well. Tad Szulc’sreport in the April 22nd edition of The New York Times says it all,. . .
As has been an open secret in Florida and CentralAmerica for months, the C.I.A. planned, coordinated anddirected the operations that ended in defeat on abeachhead in southern Cuba Wednesday . . . .
It is clear then that part of the failure of the operation wascaused by a lack of security and attention to detail on the part ofthe Central Intelligence Agency, and misinformation given to thepresident.On the international scene, the Bay of Pigs invasion leaddirectly to increased tensions between the United States and theSoviet Union. During the invasion messages were exchanged betweenKennedy and Khrushchev regarding the events in Cuba.
Khrushchevaccused the Americans of being involved in the invasion and statedin one of his messages that a,. . .
so-called “small war” can produce a chain reactionin all parts of the world . . . we shall render the Cubanpeople and their Government all necessary assistance inbeating back the armed attack on Cuba . . . .
Kennedy replied giving American views on democracy and thecontainment of communism, he also warned against Soviet involvementin Cuba saying to Khrushchev,. . . In the event of any military intervention byoutside force we will immediately honor our obligationsunder the inter-American system to protect thishemisphere against external aggression . . . .
Even though this crisis passed, it set the stage for the nextmajor crisis over Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba and probably leadto the Soviets increasing their military support for Castro.In the administration itself, the Bay of Pigs crisis lead toa few changes. Firstly, someone had to take the blame for theaffair and, as Director of Central Intelligence, Allen Dulles wasforced to resign and left CIA in November of 1961 Internally,the CIA was never the same, although it continued with covertoperations against Castro, it was on a much reduced scale.According to a report of the Select Senate Committee onIntelligence, future operations were “. . .
to nourish a spirit ofresistance and disaffection which could lead to significantdefections and other by-products of unrest.” The CIA also nowcame under the supervision of the president’s brother Bobby, theAttorney General. According to Lucien S. Vandenbroucke, theoutcome of the Bay of Pigs failure also made the White Housesuspicious of an operation that everyone agreed to, made them lessreluctant to question the experts, and made them play “devil’sadvocates” when questioning them. In the end, the lessonslearned from the Bay of Pigs failure may have contributed to thesuccessful handling of the Cuban missile crisis that followed.The long term ramifications of the Bay of Pigs invasion are alittle harder to assess.
The ultimate indication of the invasionsfailure is that thirty-four years later Castro is still in power.This not only indicates the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion,but American policy towards Cuba in general. The American policy,rather than undermining Castro’s support, has probably contributedto it. As with many wars, even a cold one, the leader is able torally his people around him against an aggressor.
When Castro came to power he instituted reforms to help thepeople and end corruption, no longer receiving help from the SovietUnion things are beginning to change. He has opened up the Cubaneconomy for some investment, mainly in telecommunications, oilexploration, and joint ventures. In an attempt to stay inpower, he is trying to adapt his country to the new reality of theworld. Rather than suppressing the educated elite, he is givingthem a place in guiding Cuba. The question is, will theyeventually want more power and a right to control Cuba’s fatewithout Castro’s guidance and support? If the collapse of pastregimes is any indication, they will eventually want more power.When Castro came to power in 1959, the major opponents inAmerica to him, as with Guatemala, were the business interests whowere losing out as a result of his polices.
The major pressure forthe Americans to do something came, not only from the Cuban exilesin Florida, but from those businesses. Today, the tables are turnedand businesses are loosing out because of the American embargoagainst Cuba. It is estimated that if the embargo were lifted, $1billion of business would be generated for US companies that firstyear. Right now, 100 firms have gone to Cuba to talk about doingbusiness there after the embargo is lifted. Will Americanpolicy change toward Cuba because of pressure from businessinterests and growing problems with refugees from Cuba? Given thereasons why the United States got involved in Latin Americanpolitics in the first place, it is very likely that their positionwill change if they can find a face saving way to do so. Americanpolicy at this time though is still stuck in the cold war, thechairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jesse Helms saidthat,.
. . Whether Castro leaves Cuba in a vertical orhorizontal position is up to him and the Cuban people.But he must and will leave Cuba .
. . .The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion was caused bymisinformation and mismanagement, the consequences of that was eggin the face for the Americans and an increase in tension betweenthe superpowers at the height of the cold war.
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