The Bay of Pigs Invasion.The story of the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs is one ofmismanagement, overconfidence, and lack of security.
The blame for thefailure of the operation falls directly in the lap of the CentralIntelligence Agency and a young president and his advisors. The fall outfrom the invasion caused a rise in tension between the two greatsuperpowers and ironically 34 years after the event, the person that theinvasion meant to topple, Fidel Castro, is still in power. To understandthe origins of the invasion and its ramifications for the future it isfirst necessary to look at the invasion and its origins.Part I: The Invasion and its Origins.The Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961, started a few days before onApril 15th with the bombing of Cuba by what appeared to be defecting Cubanair force pilots. At 6 a.
m. in the morning of that Saturday, three Cubanmilitary bases were bombed by B-26 bombers. The airfields at Camp Libertad,San Antonio de los Baos and Antonio Maceo airport at Santiago de Cuba werefired upon. Seven people were killed at Libertad and forty-seven peoplewere killed at other sites on the island.Two of the B-26s left Cuba and flew to Miami, apparently to defect tothe United States. The Cuban Revolutionary Council, the government in exile,in New York City released a statement saying that the bombings in Cuba were”.
. . carried out by ‘Cubans inside Cuba’ who were ‘in contact with’ thetop command of the Revolutionary Council .
. . .” The New York Timesreporter covering the story alluded to something being wrong with the wholesituation when he wondered how the council knew the pilots were coming ifthe pilots had only decided to leave Cuba on Thursday after ” . . . asuspected betrayal by a fellow pilot had precipitated a plot to strike .
” Whatever the case, the planes came down in Miami later that morning, onelanded at Key West Naval Air Station at 7:00 a.m. and the other at MiamiInternational Airport at 8:20 a.m. Both planes were badly damaged and theirtanks were nearly empty. On the front page of The New York Times the nextday, a picture of one of the B-26s was shown along with a picture of one ofthe pilots cloaked in a baseball hat and hiding behind dark sunglasses, hisname was withheld. A sense of conspiracy was even at this early stagebeginning to envelope the events of that week.In the early hours of April 17th the assault on the Bay of Pigs began.
In the true cloak and dagger spirit of a movie, the assault began at 2 a.m.with a team of frogmen going ashore with orders to set up landing lights toindicate to the main assault force the precise location of their objectives,as well as to clear the area of anything that may impede the main landingteams when they arrived. At 2:30 a.m. and at 3:00 a.m.
two battalions cameashore at Playa Girn and one battalion at Playa Larga beaches. The troopsat Playa Girn had orders to move west, northwest, up the coast and meetwith the troops at Playa Larga in the middle of the bay. A small group ofmen were then to be sent north to the town of Jaguey Grande to secure it aswell.
When looking at a modern map of Cuba it is obvious that the troopswould have problems in the area that was chosen for them to land at. Thearea around the Bay of Pigs is a swampy marsh land area which would be hardon the troops. The Cuban forces were quick to react and Castro ordered hisT-33 trainer jets, two Sea Furies, and two B-26s into the air to stop theinvading forces. Off the coast was the command and control ship and anothervessel carrying supplies for the invading forces. The Cuban air force madequick work of the supply ships, sinking the command vessel the Marsopa andthe supply ship the Houston, blasting them to pieces with five-inch rockets.In the end the 5th battalion was lost, which was on the Houston, as well asthe supplies for the landing teams and eight other smaller vessels.
Withsome of the invading forces’ ships destroyed, and no command and controlship, the logistics of the operation soon broke down as the other supplyships were kept at bay by Casto’s air force. As with many failed militaryadventures, one of the problems with this one was with supplying the troops.In the air, Castro had easily won superiority over the invading force.His fast moving T-33s, although unimpressive by today’s standards, madeshort work of the slow moving B-26s of the invading force. On Tuesday, twowere shot out of the sky and by Wednesday the invaders had lost 10 of their12 aircraft. With air power firmly in control of Castro’s forces, the endwas near for the invading army.
Over the 72 hours the invading force of about 1500 men were pounded bythe Cubans. Casto fired 122mm. Howitzers, 22mm. cannon, and tank fire atthem. By Wednesday the invaders were pushed back to their landing zone atPlaya Girn.
Surrounded by Castro’s forces some began to surrender whileothers fled into the hills. In total 114 men were killed in the slaughterwhile thirty-six died as prisoners in Cuban cells. Others were to live outtwenty years or more in those cells as men plotting to topple thegovernment of Castro.
The 1500 men of the invading force never had a chance for success fromalmost the first days in the planning stage of the operation. OperationPluto, as it came to be known as, has its origins in the last dying days ofthe Eisenhower administration and that murky time period during thetransition of power to the newly elected president John F. Kennedy.
The origins of American policy in Latin America in the late 1950s andearly 1960s has its origins in American’s economic interests and itsanticommunist policies in the region. The same man who had helped formulateAmerican containment policy towards the Soviet threat, George Kennan, in1950 spoke to US Chiefs of Mission in Rio de Janeiro about Latin America.He said that American 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 quarter ofAmerican exports, and 80 per cent of the investment in Latin America wasalso American.
The Americans had a vested interest in the region that itwould remain pro-American.The Guatemalan adventure can be seen as another of the factors thatlead the American government to believe that it could handle Casto. Beforethe Second World War ended, a coup in Guatemala saw the rise to power ofJuan Jose Ar,valo. He was not a communist in the traditional sense of theterm, but he “. . .
packed his government with Communist Party members andCommunist sympathizers.” In 1951 Jacobo Arbenz succeeded Ar,valo after anelection in March of that year. The party had been progressing with aseries of reforms, and the newly elected leader continued with thesereforms. During land reforms a major American company, the United FruitCompany, lost its land and other holdings without any compensation from theGuatemalan government. When the Guatemalans refused to go to theInternational Court of Law, United Fruit began to lobby the government ofthe United States to take action. In the government they had some verypowerful supporters. Among them were Foster Dulles, Secretary of State whohad once been their lawyer, his brother Allen the Director of CentralIntelligence who was a share holder, and Robert Cutler head of the NationalSecurity Council.
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 Intelligence Agency dideverything in its power to overthrow the government of Arbenz. On June 17thto the 18th, it peaked with an invasion of 450 men lead by a Colonel CarlosCastillo Armas. With the help of air support the men took control of thecountry and Arbenz fled to the Mexican Embassy. By June 27th, the countrywas firmly in control of the invading force. With its success in Guatemala,CIA had the confidence that it could now take on anyone who interfered withAmerican interests.
In late 1958 Castro was still fighting a guerilla war against thecorrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista. Before he came to power, there was anincident between his troops and some vacationing American troops from thenearby American naval base at Guantanamo Bay. During the incident some USMarines were held captive by Casto’s forces but were later released after aransom was secretly paid. This episode soured relations with the UnitedStates and the chief of U.S. Naval Operations, Admiral Burke, wanted tosend in the Marines to destroy Castro’s forces then but Secretary of StateFoster Dulles disagreed with the measures suggested and stopped the plan.
Castro overthrew Batista in 1959. Originally Castro was not acommunist either and even had meetings with then Vice-President RichardNixon. Fearful of Castro’s revolution, people with money, like doctors,lawyers, and the mafia, left Cuba for the United States. To prevent theloss of more capital Castro’s solution was to nationalize some of thebusinesses in Cuba.
In the process of nationalizing some business he cameinto conflict with American interests just as Arbenz had in Guatemala. “. .. legitimate U.
S. Businesses were taken over, and the process ofsocialization begun with little if any talk of compensation.” There werealso rumours of Cuban involvement in trying to invade Panama, Guatemala,and the Dominican Republic and by this time Castro had been turn down bythe United States for any economic aid. Being rejected by the Americans, hemet with foreign minister Anasta Mikoyan to secure a $100 million loan fromthe Soviet Union. It was in this atmosphere that the American Intelligenceand Foreign Relations communities decided that Castro was leaning towardscommunism and had to be dealt with.In the spring of 1960, President Eisenhower approved a plan to sendsmall groups of American trained, Cuban exiles, to work in the undergroundas guerrillas to overthrow Castro. By the fall, the plan was changed to afull invasion with air support by exile Cubans in American supplied planes.The original group was to be trained in Panama, but with the growth of theoperation and the quickening pace of events in Cuba, it was decided to movethings to a base in Guatemala.
The plan was becoming rushed and this wouldstart to show, the man in charge of the operation, CIA Deputy DirectorBissell 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. PresidentKennedy could have stopped the invasion if he wanted to, but he probablydidn’t do so for several reasons. Firstly, he had campaigned for some formof action against Cuba and it was also the height of the cold war, to backout now would mean having groups of Cuban exiles travelling around theglobe saying how the Americans had backed down on the Cuba issue.
Incompetition with the Soviet Union, backing out would make the Americanslook like wimps on the international scene, and for domestic consumptionthe new president would be seen as backing away from one of his campaignpromises. The second reason Kennedy probably didn’t abort the operation isthe main reason why the operation failed, problems with the CIA.Part II: Failure and Ramifications.The failure at the CIA led to Kennedy making poor decisions whichwould affect future relations with Cuba and the Soviet Union. The failureat CIA had three causes. First the wrong people were handling the operation,secondly the agency in charge of the operation was also the one providingall the intelligence for the operation, and thirdly for an organizationsupposedly obsessed with security the operation had security problems.In charge of the operation was the Director of Central Intelligence,Allan Dulles and main responsibility for the operation was left to one ofhis deputies, Richard Bissell.
In an intelligence community geared mainlyfor European operations against the USSR, both men were lacking inexperience in Latin American affairs. Those in charge of Operation Pluto,based this 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 the samecontrol over the country that Castro had on Cuba. The CIA had the UnitedStates Ambassador, John Puerifoy, working on the inside of Guatemalacoordinating the effort, in Cuba they had none of this while Castro wasbeing supplied by the Soviet block. In addition, after the overthrow of thegovernment in Guatemala, Castro was aware that this may happen to him aswell and probably had his guard up waiting for anything that my indicatethat an invasion was imminent.
The second problem was the nature of the bureaucracy itself. The CIAwas a new kid on the block and still felt that it had to prove itself, itsaw its opportunity in Cuba. Obsessed with secrecy, it kept the number ofpeople involved to a minimum. The intelligence wing of CIA was kept out ofit, their Board of National Estimates could have provided information onthe situation in Cuba and the chances for an uprising against Castro oncethe invasion started. Also kept out of the loop were the State Departmentand the Joint Chiefs of Staff who could have provided help on the militaryside of the adventure. In the end, the CIA kept all the information foritself and passed on to the president only what it thought he should see.
Lucien S. Vandenbroucke, in Political Science Quarterly of 1984, based hisanalysis of the Bay of Pigs failure on organizational behaviour theory. Hesays that the CIA “. . . supplied President Kennedy and his advisers withchosen reports on the unreliability of Castro’s forces and the extent ofCuban dissent.” Of the CIA’s behaviour he concludes that,. .
. 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 the time cameto decide whether a project they sponsored was sound or not. PresidentKennedy’s Secretary of State at the time was Dean Rusk, in hisautobiography 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 with the planas well, but Rusk says that Kennedy went with what the CIA had to say. Asfor himself, he said that he “. . . did not serve President Kennedy verywell .
. .” and that he should have voiced his opposition louder. Heconcluded that “.
. . I should have made my opposition clear in themeetings themselves because he Kennedy was under pressure from those whowanted to proceed.” When faced with biased information from the CIA andquiet advisors, it is no wonder that the president decided to go ahead withthe operation.
For an organization that deals with security issues, the CIA’s lack ofsecurity in the Bay of Pigs operation is ironic. Security began to breakdown before the invasion when The New York Times reporter Tad Szulc “. . .learned of Operation Pluto from Cuban friends. .
.” earlier that year whilein Costa Rica covering an Organization of American States meeting. Anotherbreakdown in security 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 the federalauthorities having to convince the local authorities not to press charges.Operation Pluto was beginning to get blown wide open, the advantage ofsurprise was lost even this early in the game.After the initial bombing raid of April 15th, and the landing of theB-26s in Florida, pictures of the planes were taken and published innewspapers. In the photo of one of the planes, the nose of it is opaquewhereas the model of the B-26 the Cubans really 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’d know thatsomething was going to happen, that those planes that had bombed them werenot their own but American.In The New York Times of the 21st of April, stories about the originsof the operation in the Eisenhower administration appeared along withheadlines of “C.
I.A. Had a Role In Exiles’ Plans” revealing the CIA’sinvolvement. By the 22nd, the story is fully known with headlines in TheNew York Times stating that “CIA is Accused by Bitter Rebels” and on thesecond page of that day’s issue is a full article on the details of theoperation from its beginnings.The conclusion one can draw from the articles in The New York Times isthat if reporters knew the whole story by the 22nd, it can be expected thatCastro’s intelligence service and that of the Soviet Union knew about theplanned invasion as well. Tad Szulc’s report in the April 22nd edition ofThe 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 was causedby a lack of security and attention to detail on the part of the CentralIntelligence Agency, and misinformation given to the president.On the international scene, the Bay of Pigs invasion lead directly toincreased tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Duringthe invasion messages were exchanged between Kennedy and Khrushchevregarding the events in Cuba. Khrushchev accused the Americans of beinginvolved in the invasion and stated in 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 the containment ofcommunism, he also warned against Soviet involvement in Cuba saying toKhrushchev,. . . 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 next majorcrisis over Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba and probably lead to theSoviets increasing their military support for Castro.In