By Charles A. Morse
web posted April 23, 2001
The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, 40 years ago, would leave the Cuban people chafing under the millstone of Castro's brutal, jackbooted, left-wing regime where they remain to this day. This abject failure in US foreign policy emboldened socialist tyrannies around the world and fueled the cold war. The Soviets would subsequently convert Cuba into a subversive dagger in the heart of the western hemisphere.
This nation, which masterminded such brilliant military operations as the Normandy invasion and the assault at Inchon, would stumble in Cuba, and by doing so, would prove ourselves to be as the Communist Chinese described us, a paper tiger. Freedom loving peoples of the world looked longingly to the US as the moral exemplar of freedom. We were the indispensable nation which had, at considerable sacrifice, liberated the world from Nazism. Their hopes would be dashed, and their spirits broken by this strange US failure to assist in the liberation of an island located just off the coast of Florida. May God forgive us for this dismal capitulation to the dark forces of Communist slavery that we allowed to envelope that unfortunate land.
Castro, lower right, watches from a tank near Playa Giron during the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961
Who was responsible for the Bay of Pigs catastrophe? President Dwight D. Eisenhower, early in 1960, decided to help liberate Cuba and authorized military training for Cuban freedom fighters. President John F. Kennedy, upon assuming office in 1961, began to scale back the invasion plans expressing concern over "world opinion." Such considerations never seemed to concern the communists in Moscow, Peking, or Havana. They would, with virtual impunity and under the nose of "world opinion," wipe out entire segments of their population deemed not politically correct.
The plan called for three air strikes against Castro's small air force with the Free Cuban Air Squadron, stationed in Nicaragua, set to destroy Castro's planes while on the ground as well as other strategically key targets. This was supposed to be carried out before the Cuban freedom fighters hit the beach at the Bay of Pigs.
Conditions within Cuba were ripe for an overthrow in 1961. Underground activities were mounting with bombs going off in government buildings and armed anti-Castro rebels often marauding through the streets of Havana.
There was a growing hope that liberation was fast approaching. The invasion plan, conceived by the CIA, was meant to convince Castro, after a cease fire, to allow for free elections. Castro himself admitted, on Cuban TV, that the plan was brilliantly conceived.
On April 16, after the Cuban Air Squadron had successfully knocked out a large portion of Castro's air force, the remaining two planned air missions were called off. Adlai Stevenson, US Ambassador to the UN, in response to Cuban exposure of US involvement in the initial strike, demanded that Kennedy call off all strikes. Kennedy capitulated to Stevenson who was backed by Secretary of State Dean Rusk, McGeorge Bundy, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., and others. Kennedy made this decision to mollify one man, Stevenson, and for purely political reasons. This doomed the invasion after it had already been launched.
The heroic men landing at the Bay of Pigs had no idea that their fate, and many of their lives, were already forfeited in Washington for political reasons that remain murky to this day. The invasion force met with immediate success. Scores of militiamen and citizens in the Bay of Pigs area joined the liberators. Five hundred sugar workers gathered to join as did much of a defecting Castro militia regiment.
Castro, left, and Vice President Jose Ramon Fernandez attend the anniversary celebration of Cuba's 1961 Bay of Pigs victory
After advancing nearly eight hundred square miles, Castro's planes came roaring in and began attacking the defenseless fighters. Castro's planes commanded the skies while the Cuban Air Squadron remained grounded by direct order of President Kennedy. Only at the last minute, when all was lost, would Kennedy authorize a timid, inconsequential military response.
The failure at the Bay of Pigs weakened US prestige around the world while it further entrenched Castro and like minded Communist regimes. Moscow triumphantly proclaimed the US defeat as it moved missiles into Cuba and ratcheted up military activity through Latin America using Cuba as a base.
The "world opinion" that Kennedy was so concerned about, turned against the US as people of the world would lose any hope of overcoming the encroaching octopus of Communist totalitarianism. Generations would be needlessly damned to an expanding and ferocious left-wing oppression.
Chuck Morse is the author of Thunder out of Boston which you can buy at Amazon.com.