Bay of Pigs Invasion
|Bay of Pigs Invasion|
|Part of the Cold War|
Map showing the location of the Bay of Pigs
|Cuba|| United States
|Commanders and leaders|
José Ramón Fernández
Juan Almeida Bosque
Che Guevara 
Pepe San Román
|Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces|| Brigade 2506
| 25,000 Cuban army
200,000 Cuban militia
9,000 armed police
| 1,500 ground forces[A]
8 B-26 bombers
|Casualties and losses|
Cuban militia and police:
c. 4,000 killed, wounded, missing[C]
The Bay of Pigs Invasion, known in Latin America as Invasión de Bahía de Cochinos (or Invasión de Playa Girón or Batalla de Girón), was a failed military invasion of Cuba undertaken by the CIA-sponsored paramilitary group Brigade 2506 on 17 April 1961. A counter-revolutionary military, trained and funded by the United States government's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Brigade 2506 fronted the armed wing of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (DRF) and intended to overthrow the Communist government of Fidel Castro. Launched from Guatemala, the invading force was defeated within three days by the Cuban armed forces, under the direct command of Prime Minister of Cuba Fidel Castro.
The Cuban Revolution of 1952 to 1959 had seen President Fulgencio Batista, an ally of the United States, forced out of the country into exile. He was replaced by the invading Communist movement led by Castro, which had seen the country's formerly strong links with the US severed after expropriating the assets of US corporations and developing links with the Soviet Union, with whom, at the time, the United States was engaged in the Cold War. US President Dwight D. Eisenhower was concerned at the direction which Castro's government was taking, and in March 1960, Eisenhower allocated $13.1 million to the CIA in order to plan Castro's overthrowing. The CIA proceeded to organize the operation with the aid of various Cuban counter-revolutionary forces, training Brigade 2506 in Mexico. Following his election in 1960, President John F. Kennedy was informed of the invasion plan and gave his consent.
Over 1,400 paramilitaries, divided into five infantry battalions and one paratrooper battalion, assembled in Guatemala before setting out for Cuba by boat on April 13. Two days later on April 15, eight CIA-supplied B-26 bombers attacked Cuban air fields and returned to the U.S. On the night of April 16, the main invasion landed at a beach named Playa Girón in the Bay of Pigs. It initially overwhelmed a local revolutionary militia. The Cuban Army's counter-offensive was led by José Ramón Fernández, before Castro decided to take personal control of the operation. On April 20, the invaders finally surrendered, with the majority of troops being publicly interrogated and put into Cuban prisons.
The failed invasion strengthened the position of Castro's dictatorship and strengthened ties with the USSR. This led eventually to the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The invasion was a major embarrassment for US foreign policy. John Kennedy ordered a number of internal investigations across Latin America.
- 1 Background
- 2 Preparation
- 3 Participant(s)
- 4 Prior warnings of invasion
- 5 Prelude to invasion
- 6 Invasion
- 7 Aftermath
- 8 Later analysis
- 9 Playa Girón today
- 10 See also
- 11 Explanatory notes
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Cuba was for centuries part of the Spanish Empire. In the late 19th century, Cuban nationalist revolutionaries rebelled against Spanish dominance, resulting in three liberation wars: the Ten Years' War (1868–1878), the Little War (1879–1880) and the Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898). Interested in extending its hegemony over Cuba, the crown jewel of the Spanish colonial empire, as a colony, the United States government proclaimed war on the Spanish Empire, resulting in the Spanish-American War (1898). The U.S. subsequently invaded the island, and forced the Spanish army out. On May 20, 1902, a new independent government proclaimed the foundation of the Republic of Cuba, with U.S. Military governor Leonard Wood handing over control to President Tomás Estrada Palma, a Cuban-born American citizen. Subsequently, large numbers of U.S. settlers and businessmen arrived in Cuba, and by 1905, 60% of rural properties were owned by non-Cuban North Americans. Between 1906 - 1909, 5,000 U.S. Marines were stationed across the island, and returned in 1912, 1917 and 1921 to intervene in internal affairs, sometimes at the behest of the Cuban government.
Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution
In March 1952, a Cuban general and politician, Fulgencio Batista, seized power on the island, proclaimed himself president and deposed the discredited president Carlos Prío Socarrás of the Partido Auténtico. Batista canceled the planned presidential elections, and described his new system as "disciplined democracy"; although he gained some popular support, many Cubans saw it as the establishment of a one-man dictatorship. Many opponents of the Batista regime took to armed rebellion in an attempt to oust the government, sparking the Cuban Revolution. One of these groups was the National Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Nacional Revolucionaria – MNR), a militant organisation containing largely middle class members which had been founded by the Professor of Philosophy Rafael García Bárcena. Another was the Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil (DRE), which had been founded by the Federation of University Students (FEU) President José Antonio Echevarría (1932–1957). However, the best known of these anti-Batista groups was the "26th of July Movement" (MR-26-7), founded by a lawyer named Fidel Castro. Consisting of both a civil and a military committee, the former conducted political agitation through an underground newspaper while the latter armed and trained recruits to take violent action against Batista. With Castro as the MR-26-7's head, the organization was based upon a clandestine cell system, with each cell containing ten members, none of whom knew the whereabouts or activities of the other cells.
Between December 1956 and 1959, Castro led a guerrilla army against the forces of Batista from his base camp in the Sierra Maestra mountains. The Batista's repression of revolutionaries had earned him widespread unpopularity, and by 1958, his armies were in retreat. On 31 December 1958, Batista resigned, and fled into exile, taking with him an amassed fortune of more than US$ 300,000,000. The presidency fell to Castro's chosen candidate, the lawyer Manuel Urrutia Lleó, while members of the MR-26-7 took control of most positions in the cabinet. On 16 February 1959, Castro himself took on the role of Prime Minister. Dismissing the need for elections, Castro proclaimed the new administration to be an example of direct democracy, in which the Cuban populace could assemble en masse at demonstrations and express their democratic will to him personally. Critics instead condemned the new regime as un-democratic.
Soon after the success of the Cuban Revolution, militant counter-revolutionary groups developed in an attempt to overthrow the new regime. Undertaking armed attacks against government forces, some set up guerrilla bases in Cuba's mountainous regions, leading to the six-year War against the Bandits. These dissidents were funded and armed by various foreign sources, including the exiled Cuban community, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Dominican government of General Rafael Trujillo. No quarter was given during the suppression of the resistance in the Escambray Mountains, where former rebels from the War Against Batista took different sides. On 3 April 1961, a bomb attack on militia barracks in Bayamo killed four militia, and wounded eight more. On 6 April, the Hershey Sugar factory in Matanzas was destroyed by sabotage. On 14 April 1961, guerrillas led by Agapito Rivera fought Cuban government forces near Las Cruces, Montembo, Las Villas, where several government troops were killed and others wounded. Also on 14 April 1961, a Cubana airliner was hijacked and flown to Jacksonville, Florida; resultant confusion then helped discovery of the staged 'defection' of a B-26 and pilot at Miami on 15 April.
Castro's government began a crackdown on this opposition movement, arresting hundreds of dissidents. Although it rejected the methods of physical torture which had been employed by Batista's regime, Castro's government sanctioned the use of psychological torture, subjecting some prisoners to solitary confinement, rough treatment, hunger and threatening behavior. After conservative editors and journalists began expressing hostility towards the government following its leftward turn, the pro-Castro printers' trade union began to harass and disrupt editorial staff. In January 1960 the government proclaimed that each newspaper would be obliged to publish a "clarification" written by the printers' union to the end of any articles which were critical of the government. This would prove to be the start of press censorship in Castro's Cuba.
Popular uproar across Cuba demanded that those figures who had been complicit in the widespread torture and killing of civilians be brought to justice. Although he remained a moderating force and tried to prevent the mass reprisal killings of Batistanos advocated by many Cubans, Castro helped to set up trials of many figures involved in the old regime across the country, resulting in hundreds of executions. Although widely popular in Cuba, critics, in particular from the U.S. press, argued that many of these did not meet the standards of a fair trial, and condemned Cuba's new government as being more interested in vengeance than justice. Castro retaliated strongly against such accusations, proclaiming that "revolutionary justice is not based on legal precepts, but on moral conviction". In a show of support for this "revolutionary justice", he organized the first Havana trial to take place before a mass audience of 17,000 at the Sports Palace stadium; when a group of aviators accused of bombing a village were found not guilty, he ordered a retrial in which they were instead found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. On 11 March 1961, Jesus Carreras and American William Alexander Morgan (a former Castro ally) were executed after a trial.
Tensions with the United States
Castro's Cuban government ordered the country's oil refineries – then controlled by U.S. corporations Esso and Standard Oil and Anglo-Dutch Shell – to process crude oil purchased from the Soviet Union, but under pressure from the U.S. government, these companies refused. Castro responded by expropriating the refineries and nationalizing them under state control. In retaliation, the U.S. canceled its import of Cuban sugar, provoking Castro to nationalize most U.S.-owned assets on the island, including banks and sugar mills. Relations between Cuba and the U.S. were further strained following the explosion and sinking of a French vessel, the Le Coubre, in Havana harbor in March 1960. Carrying weapons purchased from Belgium, the cause of the explosion was never determined, but Castro publicly insinuated that the U.S. government were guilty of sabotage. On 13 October 1960, the U.S. government then prohibited the majority of exports to Cuba – the exceptions being medicines and certain foodstuffs – marking the start of an economic embargo. In retaliation, the Cuban National Institute for Agrarian Reform took control of 383 private-run businesses on 14 October, and on 25 October a further 166 U.S. companies operating in Cuba had their premises seized and nationalized, including Coca-Cola and Sears Roebuck. On 16 December, the U.S. then ended its import quota of Cuban sugar, the country's primary export.
The U.S. government was becoming increasingly critical of the direction which Castro's revolutionary government was taking Cuba. At an August 1960 meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) held in Costa Rica, the U.S. Secretary of State Christian Herter publicly proclaimed that Castro's administration was "following faithfully the Bolshevik pattern" by instituting a single-party political system, taking governmental control of trade unions, suppressing civil liberties, and removing both the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. He furthermore asserted that international communism was using Cuba as an "operational base" for spreading revolution in the western hemisphere, and called on other OAS members to condemn the Cuban government for its breach of human rights. In turn, Castro lambasted the treatment of black people and the working classes which he had witnessed in New York City, which he lampooned as that "superfree, superdemocratic, superhumane, and supercivilized city." Proclaiming that the American poor were living "in the bowels of the imperialist monster", he attacked the mainstream U.S. media for being controlled by big business.
The idea of overthrowing Castro's administration first emerged within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), an independent civilian intelligence agency of the United States government, in early 1960. Founded in 1947 by the National Security Act, the CIA was "a product of the Cold War", having been designed to counter the espionage activities of the Soviet Union's own national security agency, the KGB. As the perceived threat of "international communism" grew larger, the CIA expanded its activities to undertake covert economic, political and military activities that would advance causes favourable to U.S. interests. The CIA's Director at the time, Allen Dulles, was responsible for overseeing clandestine operations across the world, and although widely considered an ineffectual administrator, he was popular among his employees, whom he had protected from the accusations of McCarthyism. The man overseeing plans for the Bay of Pigs Invasion was Richard M. Bissell, Jr., the CIA's Deputy Director for Plans (DDP). Putting together a "Special Group" known as the 5412 Committee, he assembled a number of other agents to aid him in the plot, many of whom had worked on the 1954 Guatemalan coup six years before; these included David Philips, Gerry Droller and E. Howard Hunt.
Bissell placed Drecher in charge of liaising with the anti-Castro segments of the Cuban American community living in the United States, and asked Hunt to fashion a government-in-exile which the CIA would effectively control. Hunt proceeded to travel to Havana, the capital city of Cuba, where he spoke with Cubans from various different backgrounds and discovered a brothel through the Mercedes-Benz agency. Returning to the U.S., he informed the Cuban-Americans whom he was liaising with that they would have to move their base of operations from Florida to Mexico City, because the State Department refused to permit the training of a militia on U.S. soil. Although unhappy with the news, they conceded to the order.
On 17 March 1960, the CIA put forward their plan for the overthrow of Castro's administration to the U.S. National Security Council (NSC), where it was given the support of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The stated first objective of the plan was to "bring about the replacement of the Castro regime with one more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S. in such a manner to avoid any appearance of U.S. intervention."
On 18 August 1960, Eisenhower approved a budget of $13 million for the operation. By 31 October 1960, most guerrilla infiltrations and supply drops directed by the CIA into Cuba had failed, and developments of further guerrilla strategies were replaced by plans to mount an initial amphibious assault, with a minimum of 1,500 men. On 18 November 1960, Allen Dulles (CIA Director) and Richard Bissell (CIA Deputy Director for Plans) first briefed President-elect John Kennedy on the outline plans. Having experience in actions such as the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état, Dulles was confident that the CIA was capable of overthrowing the Cuban government as led by Prime Minister Fidel Castro since 16 February 1959. On 29 November 1960, President Eisenhower met with the chiefs of the CIA, Defense, State and Treasury departments to discuss the new concept. No objections were expressed, and Eisenhower approved the plans, with the intention of persuading John Kennedy of their merit. On 8 December 1960, Bissell presented outline plans to the "Special Group" while declining to commit details to written records. Further development of the plans continued, and on 4 January 1961 they consisted of an intention to carry out a "lodgement" by 750 men at an undisclosed site in Cuba, supported by considerable air power.
Meanwhile, in the United States presidential election, 1960, both main candidates, Richard Nixon of the Republican Party and John F. Kennedy of the Democratic Party, campaigned on the issue of Cuba, both taking a hardline stance on Castro. Nixon – who was then Vice President – sent a military aide to Dulles to ask how the planned invasion was progressing; he believed that it was taking too long, considering the swift preparation of the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'etat. Nixon insisted that Kennedy should not be informed of the military plans, which Dulles conceded to.
On 28 January 1961, President Kennedy was briefed, together with all the major departments, on the latest plan (code-named Operation Pluto) that involved 1,000 men to be landed in a ship-borne invasion at Trinidad, Cuba, about 270 km (170 mi) south-east of Havana, at the foothills of the Escambray Mountains in Sancti Spiritus province. Kennedy authorized the active departments to continue, and to report progress. Trinidad had good port facilities, it was closer to many existing counter-revolutionary activities, it had an easily defensible beachhead, and it offered an escape route into the Escambray Mountains. When that scheme was subsequently rejected by the State Department, the CIA went on to propose an alternative plan. On 4 April 1961, President Kennedy then approved the Bay of Pigs plan (also known as Operation Zapata), because it had an airfield that would not need to be extended to handle bomber operations, it was farther away from large groups of civilians than the Trinidad plan, and it was less "noisy" militarily, which would make any future denial of direct US involvement more plausible. The invasion landing area was changed to beaches bordering the Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) in Las Villas Province, 150 km south-east of Havana, and east of the Zapata peninsula. The landings were to take place at Playa Girón (code-named Blue Beach), Playa Larga (code-named Red Beach), and Caleta Buena Inlet (code-named Green Beach).
In March 1961, the CIA helped Cuban exiles in Miami to create the Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC), chaired by José Miró Cardona, former Prime Minister of Cuba in January 1959. Cardona became the de facto leader-in-waiting of the intended post-invasion Cuban government.
In April 1960, the CIA began to recruit anti-Castro Cuban exiles in the Miami area. Until July 1960, assessment and training was carried out on Useppa Island and at various other facilities in South Florida, such as Homestead AFB. Specialist guerrilla training took place at Fort Gulick, Panama and at Fort Clayton, Panama. For the increasing ranks of recruits, infantry training was carried out at a CIA-run base (code-named JMTrax) near Retalhuleu in the Sierra Madre on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. The exiles group named themselves Brigade 2506 (Brigada Asalto 2506). In summer 1960, an airfield (code-named JMadd, aka Rayo Base) was constructed near Retalhuleu, Guatemala. Gunnery and flight training of Brigade 2506 aircrews was carried out by personnel from Alabama ANG (Air National Guard), using at least six Douglas B-26 Invaders in the markings of Fuerza Aérea Guatemalteca (FAG), legitimate delivery of those to FAG being delayed by about six months. An additional 26 B-26s were obtained from US military stocks, 'sanitized' at 'Field Three' to obscure their origins, and about 20 of them were converted for offensive operations by removal of defensive armament, standardization of the 'eight-gun nose', addition of underwing drop tanks and rocket racks. Paratroop training was at a base nicknamed Garrapatenango, near Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Training for boat handling and amphibious landings took place at Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Tank training took place at Fort Knox, Kentucky and Fort Benning, Georgia. Underwater demolition and infiltration training took place at Belle Chase near New Orleans.
In November 1960, the Retalhuleu recruits took part in quelling an officer's rebellion in Guatemala, in addition to the intervention of the US Navy.
The CIA transported people, supplies, and arms from Florida to all the bases at night, using Douglas C-54 transports. On 9 April 1961, Brigade 2506 personnel, ships, and aircraft started transferring from Guatemala to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. Curtiss C-46s were also used for transport between Retalhuleu and a CIA base (code-named JMTide, aka Happy Valley) at Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.
Facilities and limited logistical assistance were provided by the governments of General Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes in Guatemala, and General Luis Somoza Debayle in Nicaragua, but no military personnel or equipment of those nations were directly employed in the conflict. Both governments later received military training and equipment, including some of the CIA's remaining B-26s.
In early 1961, Cuba's army possessed Soviet-designed T-34 medium tanks, IS-2 heavy tanks, SU-100 tank destroyers, 122mm howitzers, other artillery and small arms plus Italian 105mm howitzers. The Cuban air force armed inventory included Douglas B-26 Invader light bombers, Hawker Sea Fury fighters, and Lockheed T-33 jets, all remaining from the Fuerza Aérea del Ejército de Cuba (FAEC), the Cuban air force of the Batista government.
Anticipating an invasion, Che Guevara stressed the importance of an armed civilian populace, stating "all the Cuban people must become a guerrilla army, each and every Cuban must learn to handle and if necessary use firearms in defense of the nation."
U.S. Government personnel
Recruiting of Cuban exiles in Miami was organized by CIA staff officers E. Howard Hunt and Gerry Droller. Detailed planning, training and military operations were conducted by Jacob Esterline, Colonel Jack Hawkins and Colonel Stanley W. Beerli under the direction of Richard Bissell, and his deputy Tracy Barnes.
Cuban government personnel
Already, Fidel Castro was known as, and addressed as, the commander-in-chief of Cuban armed forces, with a nominal base at 'Point One' in Havana. In early April 1961, his brother Raúl Castro was assigned command of forces in the east, based in Santiago de Cuba. Che Guevara commanded western forces, based in Pinar del Río. Major Juan Almeida Bosque commanded forces in the central provinces, based in Santa Clara. Raúl Curbelo Morales was head of the air force. Sergio del Valle Jiménez was Director of Headquarters Operations at Point One. Efigenio Ameijeiras was the Head of the Revolutionary National Police. Ramiro Valdés Menéndez was Minister of the Interior and head of G-2 (Seguridad del Estado, or state security). His deputy was Comandante Manuel Piñeiro Losada, also known as 'Barba Roja'. Captain José Ramón Fernández was head of the School of Militia Leaders (Cadets) at Matanzas.
Other commanders of units during the conflict included Major Raúl Menéndez Tomassevich, Major Filiberto Olivera Moya, Major René de los Santos, Major Augusto Martínez Sanchez, Major Félix Duque, Major Pedro Miret, Major Flavio Bravo, Major Antonio Lussón, Captain Orlando Pupo Pena, Captain Victor Dreke, Captain Emilio Aragonés, Captain Angel Fernández Vila, Arnaldo Ochoa, Orlando Rodriguez Puerta.
Soviet-trained Spanish advisors were brought to Cuba from Eastern Bloc countries. These advisors had held high staff positions in the Soviet Armies during World War II, and became known as 'Hispano-Soviets', having long-resided in the Soviet Union. The most senior of these were the Spanish Communist veterans of the Spanish Civil War, Francisco Ciutat de Miguel, Enrique Líster, and Cuban-born Alberto Bayo. Ciutat de Miguel (Cuban alias: Ángel Martínez Riosola, commonly referred to as Angelito) was an advisor to forces in the central provinces. The role of other Soviet agents at the time is uncertain, but some of them acquired greater fame later. For example, two KGB colonels, Vadim Kochergin and Victor Simanov were first sighted in Cuba in about September 1959.
Prior warnings of invasion
The Cuban security apparatus knew the invasion was coming, via their secret intelligence network, as well as loose talk by members of the brigade, some of which was heard in Miami, and was repeated in US and foreign newspaper reports. Nevertheless, days before the invasion, multiple acts of sabotage were carried out, such as the El Encanto fire, an arson attack in a department store in Havana on 13 April, that killed one shop worker. The Cuban government also had been warned by senior KGB agents Osvaldo Sánchez Cabrera and 'Aragon', who died violently before and after the invasion, respectively. The general Cuban population was not well informed, except for CIA-funded Radio Swan. As of May 1960, almost all means of public communication were in the government's hands.
On 29 April 2000, a Washington Post article, "Soviets Knew Date of Cuba Attack", reported that the CIA had information indicating that the Soviet Union knew the invasion was going to take place, and did not inform Kennedy. On 13 April 1961, Radio Moscow broadcast an English-language newscast, predicting the invasion "in a plot hatched by the CIA" using paid "criminals" within a week. The invasion took place four days later.
David Ormsby-Gore, British Ambassador to the US, stated that British intelligence analysis, as made available to the CIA, indicated that the Cuban people were predominantly behind Castro, and that there was no likelihood of mass defections or insurrections.
Prelude to invasion
Air attacks on airfields (15 April)
During the night of 14/15 April, a diversionary landing was planned near Baracoa, Oriente Province, by about 164 Cuban exiles commanded by Higinio 'Nino' Diaz. Their mother ship, named La Playa or Santa Ana, had sailed from Key West under a Costa Rican ensign. Several US Navy destroyers were stationed offshore near Guantánamo Bay to give the appearance of an impending invasion fleet. The reconnaissance boats turned back to the ship after their crews detected activities by Cuban militia forces along the coastline.
As a result of those activities, at daybreak, a Cuban Air Force reconnaissance sortie over the Baracoa area was launched from Santiago de Cuba. That was a FAR (Fuerza Aérea Revolucionaria) T-33, piloted by Lt Orestes Acosta, and it crashed fatally into the sea. On 17 April, his name was falsely quoted as a defector among the disinformation circulating in Miami.
On 15 April 1961, at about 06:00 Cuba local time, eight Douglas B-26B Invader bombers in three groups simultaneously attacked three Cuban airfields at San Antonio de los Baños and at Ciudad Libertad (formerly named Campo Columbia), both near Havana, plus the Antonio Maceo International Airport at Santiago de Cuba. The B-26s had been prepared by the CIA on behalf of Brigade 2506, and had been painted with the false flag markings of the FAR, the air force of the Cuban government. Each was armed with bombs, rockets and machine guns. They had flown from Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua, and were crewed by exiled Cuban pilots and navigators of the self-styled Fuerza Aérea de Liberación (FAL). The purpose of the action (code-named Operation Puma) was reportedly to destroy most or all of the armed aircraft of the FAR in preparation for the main invasion. At Santiago, the two attackers destroyed a C-47 transport, a PBY Catalina flying boat, two B-26s and a civilian DC-3 plus various other civilian aircraft. At San Antonio, the three attackers destroyed three FAR B-26s, one Sea Fury and one T-33, and one attacker diverted to Grand Cayman due to low usable fuel. At Ciudad Libertad, the three attackers destroyed only non-operational aircraft such as two P-47 Thunderbolts. One of those attackers was damaged by anti-aircraft fire, and ditched about 50 km north of Cuba, with the loss of its crew Daniel Fernández Mon and Gaston Pérez. Its companion B-26, also damaged, continued north and landed at Boca Chica field (Naval Air Station Key West), Florida. The crew, José Crespo and Lorenzo Pérez-Lorenzo, were granted political asylum, and made their way back to Nicaragua the next day via Miami and the daily CIA C-54 flight from Opa-locka Airport to Puerto Cabezas Airport. Their B-26, purposely numbered 933, the same as at least two other B-26s that day for disinformation reasons, was held until late on 17 April.
Deception flight (15 April)
About 90 minutes after the eight B-26s had taken off from Puerto Cabezas to attack Cuban airfields, another B-26 departed on a deception flight that took it close to Cuba but headed north towards Florida. Like the bomber groups, it carried false FAR markings and the same number 933 as painted on at least two of the others. Before departure, the cowling from one of the aircraft's two engines was removed by CIA personnel, fired upon, then re-installed to give the false appearance that the aircraft had taken ground fire at some point during its flight. At a safe distance north of Cuba, the pilot feathered the engine with the pre-installed bullet holes in the cowling, radioed a mayday call, and requested immediate permission to land at Miami International airport. The pilot was Mario Zúñiga, formerly of the FAEC (Cuban Air Force), and after landing he masqueraded as 'Juan Garcia', and publicly claimed that three colleagues had also defected from the FAR. The next day he was granted political asylum, and that night he returned to Puerto Cabezas via Opa-Locka.
Reactions (15 April)
At 10:30 am on 15 April at the United Nations, the Cuban Foreign Minister Raúl Roa accused the US of aggressive air attacks against Cuba, and that afternoon formally tabled a motion to the Political (First) Committee of the UN General Assembly. In response, US ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson stated that US armed forces would not "under any conditions" intervene in Cuba, and that the US would do everything in its power to ensure that no US citizens would participate in actions against Cuba. He also stated that Cuban defectors had carried out the attacks that day, and he presented a UPI wire photo of Zúñiga's B-26 in Cuban markings at Miami airport. Stevenson was later embarrassed to realize that the CIA had lied to him and to Secretary of State Dean Rusk.
President Kennedy supported the statement made by Stevenson: "I have emphasized before that this was a struggle of Cuban patriots against a Cuban dictator. While we could not be expected to hide our sympathies, we made it repeatedly clear that the armed forces of this country would not intervene in any way."
On 15 April, the national police, led by Efigenio Ameijeiras, started the process of arresting thousands of suspected anti-revolutionary individuals, and detaining them in provisional locations such as the Karl Marx Theatre, the moat of Fortaleza de la Cabana and the Principe Castle all in Havana, and the baseball park in Matanzas.
Phony war (16 April)
On the night of 15/16 April, the Nino Diaz group failed in a second attempted diversionary landing at a fresh location near Baracoa.
On 16 April, Merardo Leon, Jose Leon, and 14 others staged an armed uprising at Las Delicias Estate in Las Villas, with only four surviving. Leonel Martinez and three others took to the countryside.[clarification needed]
Following the air strikes on airfields on 15 April 1961, the FAR managed to prepare for armed action at least four T-33s, four Sea Furies and five or six B-26s. All three types were armed with machine guns (20mm cannon, in the case of the Sea Furies) for air-to-air combat and for strafing of ships and ground targets. CIA planners had failed to discover that the US-supplied T-33 jets had long been armed with M-3 machine guns. The three types could also carry bombs, for attacks against ships and tanks.
No additional air strikes against Cuban airfields and aircraft were specifically planned before 17 April, because B-26 pilots' exaggerated claims gave the CIA false confidence in the success of the 15 April attacks, until U-2 reconnaissance photos on 16 April showed otherwise. Late on 16 April, President Kennedy ordered cancellation of further airfield strikes planned for dawn on 17 April, to attempt plausible deniability of US direct involvement.
Late on 16 April, the CIA/Brigade 2506 invasion fleet converged on 'Rendezvous Point Zulu', about 65 kilometres (40 mi) south of Cuba, having sailed from Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua where they had been loaded with troops and other materiel, after loading arms and supplies at New Orleans. The US Navy operation was code-named Bumpy Road, having been changed from Crosspatch on 1 April 1961. The fleet, labelled the 'Cuban Expeditionary Force' (CEF), included five 2,400-ton (empty weight) freighter ships chartered by the CIA from the Garcia Line, and subsequently outfitted with anti-aircraft guns. Four of the freighters, Houston (code name Aguja), Río Escondido (code name Ballena), Caribe (code name Sardina), and Atlántico (code-name Tiburón), were planned to transport about 1,400 troops in seven battalions of troops and armaments near to the invasion beaches. The fifth freighter, Lake Charles, was loaded with follow-up supplies and some Operation 40 infiltration personnel. The freighters sailed under Liberian ensigns. Accompanying them were two LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry) outfitted with heavy armament at Key West. The LCIs were Blagar (code-name Marsopa) and Barbara J (code-name Barracuda), sailing under Nicaraguan ensigns. After exercises and training at Vieques Island, the CEF ships were individually escorted (outside visual range) to Point Zulu by US Navy destroyers USS Bache, USS Beale, USS Conway, USS Cony, USS Eaton, USS Murray, USS Waller. US Navy Task Group 81.8 had already assembled off the Cayman Islands, commanded by Rear Admiral John E. Clark onboard aircraft carrier USS Essex, plus helicopter assault carrier USS Boxer, destroyers USS Hank, USS John W. Weeks, USS Purdy, USS Wren, and submarines USS Cobbler and USS Threadfin. Command and control ship USS Northampton and carrier USS Shangri-La were also reportedly active in the Caribbean at the time. USS San Marcos was a Landing Ship Dock that carried three LCUs (Landing Craft Utility) and four LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicles, Personnel). San Marcos had sailed from Vieques Island. At Point Zulu, the seven CEF ships sailed north without the USN escorts, except for San Marcos that continued until the seven landing craft were unloaded when just outside the 5 kilometres (3 mi) Cuban territorial limit.
Invasion day (17 April)
During the night of 16/17 April, a mock diversionary landing was organized by CIA operatives near Bahía Honda, Pinar del Río Province. A flotilla containing equipment that broadcast sounds and other effects of a shipborne invasion landing. That was the source of Cuban reports that briefly lured Fidel Castro away from the Bay of Pigs battlefront area.
At about 00:00 on 17 April 1961, the two CIA LCIs Blagar and Barbara J, each with a CIA 'operations officer' and an Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) of five frogmen, entered the Bay of Pigs (Bahía de Cochinos) on the southern coast of Cuba. They headed a force of four transport ships (Houston, Río Escondido, Caribe and Atlántico) carrying about 1,400 Cuban exile ground troops of Brigade 2506, plus tanks and other vehicles in the landing craft. At about 01:00, the Blagar, as the battlefield command ship, directed the principal landing at Playa Girón (code-named Blue Beach), led by the frogmen in rubber boats followed by troops from Caribe in small aluminium boats, then LCVPs and LCUs. The Barbara J, leading Houston, similarly landed troops 35 km further northwest at Playa Larga (code-named Red Beach), using small fiberglass boats. Unloading troops at night was delayed, due to engine failures and boats damaged by unforeseen coral reefs. The few militia in the area succeeded in warning Cuban armed forces via radio soon after the first landing, before the invaders overcame their token resistance.
At daybreak at about 06:30, three FAR Sea Furies, one B-26 bomber and two Lockheed T-33 fighter jets started attacking those CEF ships still unloading troops. At about 06:50, and 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) south of Playa Larga, Houston was damaged by several rockets from a Sea Fury and a T-33, and about 2 hours later captain Luis Morse intentionally beached it on the western side of the bay. About 270 troops had been unloaded, but about 180 survivors who struggled ashore were incapable of taking part in further action because of the loss of most of their weapons and equipment. At about 07:00, two invading FAL B-26s attacked and sank the Cuban Navy Patrol Escort ship El Baire at Nueva Gerona on the Isle of Pines. They then proceeded to Girón to join two other B-26s to attack Cuban ground troops and provide distraction air cover for the paratroop C-46s and the CEF ships under air attack.
At about 07:30, five C-46 and one C-54 transport aircraft dropped 177 paratroops from the parachute battalion of Brigade 2506 in an action code-named Operation Falcon. About 30 men, plus heavy equipment, were dropped south of Central Australia sugar mill on the road to Palpite and Playa Larga, but the equipment was lost in the swamps, and the troops failed to block the road. Other troops were dropped at San Blas, at Jocuma between Covadonga and San Blas, and at Horquitas between Yaguaramas and San Blas. Those positions to block the roads were maintained for two days, reinforced by ground troops from Playa Girón.
At about 08:30, a FAR Sea Fury piloted by Carlos Ulloa Arauz crashed in the bay, due to stalling or anti-aircraft fire, after encountering a FAL C-46 returning south after dropping paratroops. By 09:00, Cuban troops and militia from outside the area had started arriving at Australia sugar mill, Covadonga and Yaguaramas. Throughout the day they were reinforced by more troops, heavy armour and T-34 tanks typically carried on flat-bed trucks. At about 09:30, FAR Sea Furies and T-33s fired rockets at the Rio Escondido, that 'blew up' and sank about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) south of Girón.
At about 11:00, Premier Fidel Castro issued a statement over Cuba's nationwide network saying that the invaders, members of the exiled Cuban revolutionary front, have come to destroy the revolution and take away the dignity and rights of men.
At about 11:00, a FAR T-33 attacked a FAL B-26 (serial number 935) piloted by Matias Farias who then survived a crashlanding on the Girón airfield, his navigator Eduardo González already killed by gunfire. His companion B-26 suffered damage and diverted to Grand Cayman Island; pilot Mario Zúñiga (the 'defector') and navigator Oscar Vega returned to Puerto Cabezas via CIA C-54 on 18 April. By about 11:00, the two remaining freighters Caribe and Atlántico, and the CIA LCIs and LCUs, started retreating south to international waters, but still pursued by FAR aircraft. At about 12:00, a FAR B-26 exploded due to heavy anti-aircraft fire from Blagar, and pilot Luis Silva Tablada (on his second sortie) and his crew of three were lost.
By 12:00, hundreds of militia cadets from Matanzas had secured Palpite, and cautiously advanced on foot south towards Playa Larga, suffering many casualties during attacks by FAL B-26s. By dusk, other Cuban ground forces were gradually advancing southward from Covadonga and southwest from Yaguaramas toward San Blas, and westward along coastal tracks from Cienfuegos towards Girón, all without heavy weapons or armour.
Three FAL B-26s were shot down by FAR T-33s, with the loss of pilots Raúl Vianello, José Crespo, Osvaldo Piedra and navigators Lorenzo Pérez-Lorenzo and José Fernández. Vianello's navigator Demetrio Pérez bailed out and was picked up by USS Murray. Pilot Crispín García Fernández and navigator Juan González Romero, in B-26 serial 940, diverted to Boca Chica, but late that night they attempted to fly back to Puerto Cabezas in B-26 serial 933 that Crespo had flown to Boca Chica on 15 April. In October 1961, the remains of the B-26 and its two crew were found in dense jungle in Nicaragua. One FAL B-26 diverted to Grand Cayman with engine failure. By 16:00, Fidel Castro had arrived at the Central Australia sugar mill, joining José Ramón Fernández whom he had appointed as battlefield commander before dawn that day.
At about 21:00 on 17 April 1961, a night air strike by three FAL B-26s on San Antonio de Los Baños airfield failed, reportedly due to incompetence and bad weather. Two other B-26s had aborted the mission after take-off. Other sources allege that heavy anti-aircraft fire scared the aircrews
Invasion day plus one (D+1) 18 April
By about 10:30 on 18 April, Cuban troops and militia, supported by tanks, took Playa Larga after Brigade forces had fled towards Girón in the early hours. During the day, Brigade forces retreated to San Blas along the two roads from Covadonga and Yaguaramas. By then, both Fidel Castro and José Ramón Fernández had re-located to that battlefront area.
At about 17:00 on 18 April, FAL B-26s attacked a Cuban column of 12 civilian buses leading trucks carrying tanks and other armour, moving southeast between Playa Larga and Punta Perdiz. The vehicles, loaded with civilians, militia, police and soldiers, were attacked with bombs, napalm and rockets, suffering heavy casualties. The six B-26s were piloted by two CIA contract pilots plus four pilots and six navigators from Brigade 2506 air force. The column later re-formed and advanced to Punta Perdiz, about 11 km northwest of Girón.
Invasion day plus two (D+2) 19 April
During the night of 18 April, a FAL C-46 delivered arms and equipment to the Girón airstrip occupied by Brigade 2506 ground forces, and took off before daybreak on 19 April. The C-46 also evacuated Matias Farias, the pilot of B-26 serial '935' (code-named Chico Two) that had been shot down and crash-landed at Girón on 17 April.
The final air attack mission (code-named Mad Dog Flight) comprised five B-26s, four of which were manned by American CIA contract air crews and pilots from the Alabama Air Guard. One FAR Sea Fury (piloted by Douglas Rudd) and two FAR T-33s (piloted by Rafael del Pino and Alvaro Prendes) shot down two of these B-26s, killing four American airmen.
Combat air patrols were flown by Douglas A4D-2N Skyhawk jets of VA-34 squadron operating from USS Essex, with nationality and other markings removed. Sorties were flown to reassure Brigade soldiers and pilots, and to intimidate Cuban government forces without directly engaging in acts of war.
Without direct air support, and short of ammunition, Brigade 2506 ground forces retreated to the beaches in the face of considerable onslaught from Cuban government artillery, tanks and infantry.
Late on 19 April, destroyers USS Eaton (code-named Santiago) and USS Murray (code-named Tampico) moved into Cochinos Bay to evacuate retreating Brigade soldiers from beaches, before firing from Cuban army tanks caused Commodore Crutchfield to order a withdrawal.
Invasion day plus three (D+3) 20 April
From 19 April until about 22 April, sorties were flown by A4D-2Ns to obtain visual intelligence over combat areas. Reconnaissance flights are also reported of Douglas AD-5Ws of VFP-62 and/or VAW-12 squadron from USS Essex or another carrier, such as USS Shangri-La that was part of the task force assembled off the Cayman Islands.
On 21 April, Eaton and Murray, joined on 22 April by destroyers USS Conway and USS Cony, plus submarine USS Threadfin and a CIA PBY-5A Catalina flying boat, continued to search the coastline, reefs and islands for scattered Brigade survivors, about 24-30 being rescued.
Aircrews killed in action totaled 6 from the Cuban air force, 10 Cuban exiles and 4 American airmen. Paratrooper Eugene Herman Koch was killed in action, and the American airmen shot down were Thomas W. Ray, Leo F. Baker, Riley W. Shamburger, and Wade C. Gray. In 1979, the body of Thomas 'Pete' Ray was repatriated from Cuba. In the 1990s, the CIA admitted to his links to the agency, and awarded him the Intelligence Star. 114 Cuban exiles from Brigade 2506 were killed in action.[D]
The final toll in Cuban armed forces during the conflict was 176 killed in action.[B] Other Cuban forces casualties were between 500 and 4,000 (killed, wounded or missing).[C] The airfield attacks on 15 April left 7 Cubans dead and 53 wounded.
On 19 April 1961, at least seven Cubans plus two CIA-hired US citizens (Angus K. McNair and Howard F. Anderson) were executed in Pinar del Rio province, after a two-day trial. On 20 April, Humberto Sorí Marin was executed at Fortaleza de la Cabaña, having been arrested on 18 March following infiltration into Cuba with 14 tons of explosives. His fellow conspirators Rogelio González Corzo (alias "Francisco Gutierrez"), Rafael Diaz Hanscom, Eufemio Fernandez, Arturo Hernandez Tellaheche and Manuel Lorenzo Puig Miyar were also executed.
Between April and October 1961, hundreds of executions took place in response to the invasion. They took place at various prisons, including the Fortaleza de la Cabaña and El Morro Castle. Infiltration team leaders Antonio Diaz Pou and Raimundo E. Lopez, as well as underground students Virgilio Campaneria, Alberto Tapia Ruano, and more than one hundred other insurgents were executed.
About 1,202 Brigade 2506 members were captured, of which nine died from asphyxiation during transfer to Havana in a closed truck. In May 1961, Fidel Castro proposed to exchange the surviving Brigade prisoners for 500 large farm tractors, valued at US $28 million. On 8 September 1961, 14 Brigade prisoners were convicted of torture, murder and other major crimes committed in Cuba before the invasion, five being executed and nine jailed for 30 years. Three confirmed as executed were Ramon Calvino, Emilio Soler Puig ("el Muerte") and Jorge King Yun ("el Chino"). On 29 March 1962, 1,179 men were put on trial for treason. On 7 April 1962, all were convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. On 14 April 1962, 60 wounded and sick prisoners were freed and transported to the US.
On December 21, 1962, Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro and James B. Donovan a US lawyer aided by Milan C. Miskovsky, a CIA legal officer, signed an agreement to exchange 1,113 prisoners for US $53 million in food and medicine, sourced from private donations and from companies expecting tax concessions. On 24 December 1962, some prisoners were flown to Miami, others following on the ship African Pilot, plus about 1,000 family members also allowed to leave Cuba. On 29 December 1962, President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline attended a "welcome back" ceremony for Brigade 2506 veterans at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida.
The failed invasion severely embarrassed the Kennedy Administration, and made Castro wary of future US intervention in Cuba. On 21 April, in a State Department press conference, President Kennedy said: "There's an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan ... Further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal responsibility because I'm the responsible officer of the Government ..."
In August 1961, during an economic conference of the Organization of American States in Punta del Este, Uruguay, Che Guevara sent a note to Kennedy via Richard N. Goodwin, a secretary of the White House. It said: "Thanks for Playa Girón. Before the invasion, the revolution was weak. Now it's stronger than ever."
Additionally, Guevara answered a set of questions from Leo Huberman of Monthly Review following the invasion. In one reply, Guevara was asked to explain the growing number of Cuban counter-revolutionaries and defectors from the regime, to which he replied that the repelled invasion was the climax of counter revolution, and that afterwards such actions "fell drastically to zero." In regards to the defections of some prominent figures within the Cuban government, Guevara remarked that this was because "the socialist revolution left the opportunists, the ambitious, and the fearful far behind and now advances toward a new regime free of this class of vermin."
As Allen Dulles later stated, CIA planners believed that once the troops were on the ground, any action required for success would be authorized to prevent failure, as Eisenhower had done in Guatemala in 1954 after the invasion looked as if it was collapsing. President Kennedy was angered with the CIA's failure, and declared he wanted "to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds." Kennedy commented to his journalist friend Ben Bradlee, "The first advice I'm going to give my successor is to watch the generals and to avoid feeling that because they were military men their opinions on military matters were worth a damn."
Maxwell Taylor survey
On 22 April 1961, President Kennedy asked General Maxwell D. Taylor, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Admiral Arleigh Burke and CIA Director Allen Dulles to form the Cuba Study Group, to report on the lessons to be learned from the failed operation. On 13 June, General Taylor submitted the report of the Board of Inquiry to President Kennedy. The defeat was attributed to lack of early realization of the impossibility of success by covert means, inadequate aircraft, limitations of armaments, pilots and air attacks to attempt plausible deniability, and ultimately, loss of important ships and lack of ammunition.
- The C.I.A. exceeded its capabilities in developing the project from guerrilla support to overt armed action without any plausible deniability.
- Failure to realistically assess risks and to adequately communicate information and decisions internally and with other government principals.
- Insufficient involvement of leaders of the exiles.
- Failure to sufficiently organize internal resistance in Cuba.
- Failure to competently collect and analyze intelligence about Cuban forces.
- Poor internal management of communications and staff.
- Insufficient employment of high-quality staff.
- Insufficient Spanish-speakers, training facilities and material resources.
- Lack of stable policies and/or contingency plans.
In spite of vigorous rebuttals by C.I.A management of the findings, C.I.A Director Allen Dulles, CIA Deputy Director Charles Cabell, and Deputy Director for Plans Richard Bissell were all forced to resign by early 1962.
Invasion legacy in Cuba
For many Latin Americans, the Bay of Pigs Invasion served to reinforce the already widely held belief that the U.S. could not be trusted, but also illustrated that they could be defeated, and encouraged political groups across the region to find ways to undermine U.S. imperialism.
The invasion is often recognized as making Castro even more popular, adding nationalistic sentiments to the support for his economic policies. Following the 15 April air attacks on Cuban airfields, he declared the revolution "Marxist-Leninist". After the invasion, he pursued closer relations with the Soviet Union, partly for protection, that helped pave the way for the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Castro was then increasingly wary of further US intervention, and more open to Soviet suggestions of placing nuclear weapons on Cuba to ensure its security.
In March 2001, shortly before the 40th anniversary of the invasion, a conference took place in Havana, attended by about 60 American delegates. The conference was titled Bay of Pigs: 40 Years After, co-sponsored by the University of Havana and the US-based National Security Archive.
There are still yearly nationwide drills in Cuba during the 'Dia de la Defensa' (Defense Day), to prepare the population for an invasion.
Invasion legacy for Cuban exiles
Many who fought for the CIA in the conflict remained loyal after the event; some Bay of Pigs veterans became officers in the US Army in Vietnam, including six colonels, 19 lieutenant colonels, nine majors, and 29 captains. By March 2007, about half of the Brigade had died.
In April 2010, the Cuban Pilot's Association unveiled a monument at the Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport in memory of the 16 aviators for the exile side killed during the battle. The memorial consists of an obelisk and a restored B-26 replica aircraft atop a large Cuban flag.
Playa Girón today
Little remains of the original village, which in the 1960s was small and remote. It is still remote, with just a single road to the village and out again, but it has grown markedly since the invasion. Few people there today were residents at the time. The road from the north is marked by frequent memorials to the Cuban dead. There are billboards marking where invaders were rounded up and showing pictures of their being led away. Another at the entrance to the village quotes Fidel Castro's comment that "the conflict was the first defeat of Yankee imperialism". A two-room museum, with American aircraft and other military equipment outside, shows pictures, arms and maps of the attack and photos of Cuban soldiers who died. Billboards and other material also remember the Counter-revolutionary forces.
- Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)
- Cuba–United States relations
- Cuban Project (Operation Mongoose, 1961–1965)
- Cuban Revolution (1959)
- Guantánamo Bay
- Operation Northwoods (1962)
- Operation Ortsac (1962)
- Special Activities Division
- Swan Islands
- United States embargo against Cuba
- War against the Bandits (1959–1965)
- ^ 1,500 ground forces (including 177 paratroops) - c. 1,300 landed. Also Cuban exile aircrews, American aircrews, CIA operatives
- ^ 176 Cuban government forces killed
- ^ 500 Cuban forces wounded, or 4,000 killed, missing or wounded (includes militias and armed civilians)
- ^ 118 invaders killed (114 Cuban exiles plus 4 American aircrew)
- ^ 1,202 Brigade members captured (1,179 tried; 14 tried previously for pre-invasion crimes; 9 died in transit)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bay of Pigs Invasion.|
- Bay of Pigs: Invasion and Aftermath — slideshow by Life magazine
- A film clip "Cuba Invaded. Foes of Castro Open Offensive, 1961/04/19 (1961)" is available for free download at the Internet Archive