The Story Of The Failed Invasion Of Cuba At The Bay Of Pigs Is

.. rican affairs. Those in 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 imminent. The second problem was the nature of the bureaucracy itself. The CIA was a new kid on the block and still felt that it had 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.

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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 information for itself and passed on to the president only what it thought he should see. Lucien S. Vandenbroucke, in Political Science Quarterly of 1984, based his analysis of the Bay of Pigs failure on organizational behaviour theory. He says that 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 concludes that, . . . 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 .

. The CIA made sure the deck was stacked in their favour when the time came to decide whether a project they sponsored was sound or not. President Kennedy’s Secretary of State at the time was Dean Rusk, in his autobiography he says that, . . .

The CIA told us all sorts of things about the situation in Cuba and what would happen once the brigade got ashore. President Kennedy received information which simply was not correct. For example, we were told that elements of the Cuban armed forces would defect and join the brigade, that there would be popular uprisings throughout Cuba when the brigade hit the beach, and that if the exile force got into trouble, its members would simply melt into the countryside and become guerrillas, just as Castro had done . . . As for senior White House aides, most of them disagreed with the plan as well, but Rusk says that Kennedy went with what the CIA had to say.

As for himself, he 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 pressure from those who wanted to proceed.” When faced with biased information from the CIA and quiet advisors, it is no wonder that the president decided to go ahead with the operation.

For an organization that deals with security issues, the CIA’s lack of security in the Bay of Pigs operation is ironic. Security began to break down before the invasion when The New York Times reporter Tad Szulc “. . . learned of Operation Pluto from Cuban friends.

. .” earlier that year while in Costa Rica covering an Organization of American States meeting. Another breakdown in security was at the training base in Florida, . . .

Local residents near Homestead [air force base] had seen Cubans drilling and heard their loudspeakers at a farm. As a joke some firecrackers were thrown into the compound . . . The ensuing incident saw the Cubans firing their guns and the federal authorities having to convince the local authorities not to press charges. Operation Pluto was beginning to get blown wide open, the advantage of surprise was lost even this early in the game.

After the initial bombing raid of April 15th, and the landing of the B-26s in Florida, pictures of the planes were taken and published in newspapers. In the photo of one of the planes, the nose of it is opaque whereas the model of the B-26 the Cubans really used had a plexiglass nose, . . . The CIA had taken the pains to disguise the B-26 with “FAR” markings [Cuban Air Force], the agency overlooked a crucial detail that was spotted immediately by professional observers .

. . All Castro’s people had to do was read the newspapers and they’d know that something was going to happen, that those planes that had bombed them were not their own but American. In The New York Times of the 21st of April, stories about the origins of the operation in the Eisenhower administration appeared along with headlines of “C.I.A. Had a Role In Exiles’ Plans” revealing the CIA’s involvement.

By the 22nd, the story is fully known with headlines in The New York Times stating that “CIA is Accused by Bitter Rebels” and on the second page of that day’s issue is a full article on the details of the operation from its beginnings. 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 all, . . . As has been an open secret in Florida and Central America for months, the C.I.A.

planned, coordinated and directed the operations that ended in defeat on a beachhead in southern Cuba Wednesday . . . 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, . . . so-called “small war” can produce a chain reaction in all parts of the world . .

. we shall render the Cuban people and their Government all necessary assistance in beating back the armed attack on Cuba . . . Kennedy replied giving American views on democracy and the containment of communism, he also warned against Soviet involvement in Cuba saying to Khrushchev, .

. . In the event of any military intervention by outside force we will immediately honor our obligations under the inter-American system to protect this hemisphere against external aggression . . .

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 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 contributed to the successful handling of the Cuban missile crisis that followed.

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 aggressor.

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 power, he is trying to adapt his country to the new reality of the world. Rather than 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. When Castro came to power in 1959, the major opponents in America to him, as with Guatemala, were the business interests who were losing out as a result of his polices.

The major pressure for the Americans to do something came, not only from the Cuban exiles in Florida, but from those businesses. Today, the tables are turned and businesses are loosing out because of the American embargo against Cuba. It is estimated that if the embargo were lifted, $1 billion of business would be generated for US companies that first year. Right now, 100 firms have gone to Cuba to talk about doing business there after the embargo is lifted. Will American policy change toward Cuba because of pressure from business interests and growing problems with refugees from Cuba? Given the reasons why the United States got involved in Latin American politics in the first place, it is very likely that their position will change if they can find a face saving way to do so. American policy at this time though is still stuck in the cold war, the chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jesse Helms said that, .

. . Whether Castro leaves Cuba in a vertical or horizontal position is up to him and the Cuban people. But he must and will leave Cuba . . .

The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion was caused 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. We will only have to wait and see if the Americans have really learned their lesson and will not miss another opportunity to set things right in Cuba. — Bibliography Fedarko, Kevin. “Bereft of Patrons, Desperate to Rescue his Economy, Fidel Turns to an Unusual Solution: Capitalism.” Time Magazine, week of February 20th, 1995. Internet,, 1995.

Meyer, Karl E. and Szulc, Tad. The Cuban Invasion: The Chronicle of a Disaster. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers, 1962 and 1968.

Mosley, Leonard. Dulles: A Biography of Eleanor, Allen, and John Foster Dulles and their Family Network. New York: The Dail Press/James Wade, 1978. Prados, John. Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations Since World War II. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1986. Ranelagh, John. CIA: A History.

London: BBC Books, 1992. Rositzke, Harry, Ph.d. The CIA’s Secret Operations: Espionage, Counterespionage, and Covert Action. New York: Reader’s Digest Press, 1977. Rusk, Dean and Richard. As I Saw It.

New York and London: W.W. Norton and Company, 1990. The New York Times. 16 April to 22 April, 1961. New York: The New York Times, 1961. United States.

Central Intelligence Agency. Cuba. Map, 22 by 52 cm, No. 502988 1-77. Washington, D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency, 1977. Vandenbroucke, Lucien S.

“Anatomy of a Failure: The Decision to Land at the Bay of Pigs.” Political Science Quarterly, Volume 99, Number 3, Fall 1984.


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