In the present as in the past the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) has been looked down upon. The story of the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs is one of monumental proportions. The blame for the failure of the operation falls directly in the lap of the Central Intelligence Agency and a young president and his advisors, President Kennedy. The fall out from the invasion caused a rise in tension between the two great superpowers. To understand the invasion and its ramifications on the future it is first necessary to look at the situation as a whole.
The Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961, started on April 15th with the bombing of Cuba by what appeared to be defecting Cuban air force pilots. At 6 a.m. in the morning of that Saturday, B-26 bombers bombed three Cuban military bases. The airfields at Camp Libertad, San Antonio de los Ba os and Antonio Maceo airport at Santiago de Cuba were fired upon. Seven people were killed at Libertad and forty-seven people were killed at other sites on the island.
Two of the B-26s left Cuba and flew to Miami, apparently to defect to the 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’ the top command of the Revolutionary Council.” The New York Times reporter covering the story alluded to something being wrong with the whole situation when he wondered how the council knew the pilots were coming if the pilots had only decided to leave Cuba on Thursday after “a suspected betrayal by a fellow pilot had precipitated a plot to strike.” Whatever the case, the planes came down in Miami later that morning, one landed at Key West Naval Air Station at 7:00 a.m. and the other at Miami International Airport at 8:20 a.m. Both planes were badly damaged and their tanks were nearly empty.
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 to indicate 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 landing teams when they arrived. At 2:30 a.m. and at 3:00 a.m. two battalions came ashore at Playa Gir n and one battalion at Playa Larga beaches. The troops at Playa Gir n 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 the troops would have problems in the area that was chosen for them to land at. The area around the Bay of Pigs is a swampy marsh land area which would be hard on the troops. The Cuban forces were quick to 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 the coast were the command and control ship and another vessel carrying supplies for the invading forces. The Cuban air force made quick work of the supply ships, sinking the command vessel the Marsopa and the 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 as the supplies for the landing teams and eight other smaller vessels. With some of the invading forces’ ships destroyed, and no command and control ship, the logistics of the operation soon broke down as the other supply ships were kept at bay by Casto’s air force. As with many failed military
Adventures, 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, made short work of the
sky and by Wednesday the invaders had lost 10 of their 12 aircraft. With air
power firmly in control of Castro’s forces, the end was near for the invading army.
Over the 72 hours the invading force of about 1500 men were pounded by the
Wednesday the invaders were pushed back to their landing zone at Playa Gir n.
Surrounded by Castro’s forces some began to surrender while others fled into the
Hills. In total 114 men were killed in the slaughter while thirty-six died as
cells as men plotting to topple the government of Castro.
the first days in the planning stage of the operation. Operation Pluto, as it came to
The origins of American policy in Latin America in the late 1950s and early 1960s has its origins in American’s economic interests and its anticommunist policies in the region. The same man who had helped formulate American containment policy
purposes in the region,
to protect the vital supplies of raw materials which Latin American
countries export to the USA; to prevent the ‘military exploitation of
Latin America by the enemy’ [The Soviet Union]; and to avert ‘the
psychological mobilization of Latin America against us.’
By the 1950s trade with Latin America accounted for a quarter of American
exports, and 80 per cent of the investment in Latin America was also American.
The Americans had a vested interest in the region that it would remain
American government to believe that it could handle Casto. Before the Second
World War ended, a coup in Guatemala saw the rise to power of Juan Jose
“packed his government with Communist Party members and Communist
sympathizers.” In 1951 Jacobo Arbenz succeeded Ar valo after an election in
the newly elected leader continued with these reforms. During land reforms a major
American company, the United Fruit Company, lost its land and other holdings
without any compensation from the Guatemalan government. When the
Guatemalans refused to go to the International Court of Law, United Fruit began to
lobby the government of the United States to take action. In the government they had some very powerful supporters. Among them were Foster Dulles, Secretary of
Intelligence who was a share holder, and Robert Cutler head of the National
of the United States decided to take action against the Guatemalans.
From May 1st, 1954, to June 18th, the Central Intelligence Agency did everything
in its power to overthrow the government of Arbenz. On June 17th to the 18th, it
peaked with an invasion of 450 men lead by a Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas.
With the help of air support the men took control of the country and Arbenz fled to
the Mexican Embassy. By June 27th, the country was 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 with American interests.
In late 1958 Castro was still fighting a guerilla war against the corrupt regime of
Fulgencio Batista. Before he came to power, there was an incident between his
troops and some vacationing American troops from the nearby American naval
by Casto’s forces but were later released after a ransom was secretly paid. This
episode soured relations with the United States and the chief of U.S. Naval
Operations, Admiral Burke, wanted to send in the Marines to destroy Castro’s
forces then but Secretary of State Foster Dulles disagreed with the measure suggested and stopped the plan.
Castro overthrew Batista in 1959. Originally Castro was not a communist either
and even had meetings with then Vice-President Richard Nixon. Fearful of Castro’s
business he came into conflict with American interests just as Arbenz had in
Guatemala. “legitimate U.S. Businesses were taken over, and the process of
socialization begun with little if any talk of compensation.” There were also
rumours of Cuban involvement in trying to invade Panama, Guatemala, and the
Dominican Republic and by this time Castro had been turn down by the United
was in this atmosphere that the American Intelligence and Foreign Relations
communities decided that Castro was leaning towards communism and had to be
overthrow Castro. By the fall, the plan was changed to a full 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 the operation and the quickening pace
of events in Cuba, it was decided to move things to a base in Guatemala. The plan
was becoming rushed and this would start to show, the man in charge of the
operation, CIA Deputy Director Bissell said that,
There didn’t seem to be time to keep to the original plan and have a
large group trained by this initial cadre of young Cubans. So the larger
group was formed and established at La finca, in Guatemala, and
there 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 had campaigned for some form of action against Cuba. and it
would make the Americans look like wimps on the international scene, and for
domestic consumption the new president would be seen as backing away from one
operation is the main reason why the operation failed, problems with the CIA.
The failure at the CIA led to Kennedy making poor decisions which would affect
future relations with Cuba and the Soviet Union. The failure at CIA had three
causes. First the wrong people were handling the operation, secondly the agency in
charge of the operation was also the one providing all the intelligence for the
operation, and thirdly for an organization supposedly 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 of his deputies, Richard Bissell.
charge of Operation Pluto, based this new operation on the success of the
Guatemalan adventure, but the situation in Cuba was much different than that in
Guatemala. In Guatemala the situation was still chaotic and Arbenz never had the
same control over the country that Castro had on Cuba. The CIA had the United
States Ambassador, John Puerifoy, working on the inside of Guatemala
coordinating the effort, in Cuba they had none of this while Castro was being
supplied by the Soviet block. In addition, after the overthrow of the government
in Guatemala, Castro was aware that this may happen to him as well and probably
had his guard up waiting for anything that my indicate that an invasion was
kid on the block and still felt that it had to prove itself, it saw its opportunity in
Cuba. Obsessed with secrecy, it kept the number of people involved to a
minimum. The intelligence wing of CIA was kept out of it, their Board of National
Estimates could have provided information on the situation in Cuba and the chances
for an uprising against Castro once the invasion started. Also kept out of the loop
were the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff who could have provided
help on the military side of the adventure. In the end, the CIA kept all the
the CIA “supplied President Kennedy and his advisers with chosen reports on the
unreliability of Castro’s forces and the extent of Cuban dissent.” Of the CIA’s
behaviour he concluded,
By resorting to the typical organization strategy of defining the options
and providing the information required to evaluate them, the CIA thus
structured the problem in a way that maximized the likelihood the
president would choose the agency’s preferred option.
said that he “did not serve President Kennedy very well” and that he should
have voiced his opposition louder. He concluded that “I should have made my
opposition clear in the meetings themselves because he [Kennedy] was under
information from the CIA and quiet advisors, it is no wonder that the president
decided to go ahead with the operation.
The conclusion one can draw from the articles in The New York Times is that if
reporters knew the whole story by the 22nd, it can be expected that Castro’s
intelligence service and that of the Soviet Union knew about the planned invasion as
well. Tad Szulc’s report in the April 22nd edition of The New York Times says it
months, the C.I.A. planned, coordinated and directed the operations
that ended in defeat on a beachhead in southern Cuba
It is clear then that part of the failure of the operation was caused by a lack of
security and attention to detail on the part of the Central Intelligence Agency, and
misinformation given to the president.
On the international scene, the Bay of Pigs invasion lead directly to increased
tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. During the invasion
messages were exchanged between Kennedy and Khrushchev regarding the events
in Cuba. Khrushchev accused the Americans of being involved in the invasion and
stated in one of his messages that a,
world . . . we shall render the Cuban people and their Government all
necessary assistance in beating back the armed attack on Cuba.
Even though this crisis passed, it set the stage for the next major crisis over Soviet
nuclear missiles in Cuba and probably lead to the Soviets increasing their military
support for Castro.
In the administration itself, the Bay of Pigs crisis lead to a few changes. Firstly,
someone had to take the blame for the affair and, as Director of Central
Intelligence, Allen Dulles was forced to resign and left CIA in November of
1961(46) Internally, the CIA was never the same, although it continued with covert
operations against Castro, it was on a much reduced scale. According to a report
of the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence, future operations were “to nourish
a spirit of resistance and disaffection which could lead to significant defections and
other by-products of unrest.” The CIA also now came under the supervision of
the president’s brother Bobby, the Attorney General. According to Lucien S.
Vandenbroucke, the outcome of the Bay of Pigs failure also made the White House
suspicious of an operation that everyone agreed to, made them less reluctant to
question the experts, and made them play “devil’s advocates” when questioning
them. In the end, the lessons learned from the Bay of Pigs failure may have
The long term ramifications of the Bay of Pigs invasion are a little harder to assess. The ultimate indication of the invasions failure 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 contributed to it. As with many wars,
even a cold one, the leader is able to rally his people around him against an
When Castro came to power he instituted reforms to help the people and end
corruption, no longer receiving help from the Soviet Union things are beginning to
change. He has opened up the Cuban economy for some investment, mainly in
telecommunications, oil exploration, and joint ventures. In an attempt to stay in
suppressing the educated elite, he is giving them a place in guiding Cuba. The
question is, will they eventually want more power and a right to control Cuba’s fate
without Castro’s guidance and support? If the collapse of past regimes is any
indication, they will eventually want more power.
The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion was caused by misinformation and mismanagement, the consequences of that was egg in the face for the Americans and an increase in tension between the superpowers at the height of the cold war.Now, over 30 years later, the target of that invasion, Castro, is still in power the Americans are still trying to get rid of him. The failure also caused the CIA’s image to fall in front of the American public. The once prestigues agency became tarnished with their involovement with Cuba and the cloak and dagger operation that failed. Many believe now that the US government does not need the CIA to function fully. That is completely untrue. This government does need the CIA so as to deture other countries from rising up and aquiring powerful weapons of destruction. They are necessary to the safety of this nation and of the world. They keep the peace between nations and keep psychos from coming into power. Even though the CIA has dirtied its hand in the foreign relations realm, it does serve a useful purpose and it is a part of what we call American.