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Essay/Term paper: The bay of pigs invasion

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History

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The story of the failed invasion of

Cuba at the Bay of Pigs is one of mismanagement,

overconfidence, and lack of security. 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.

The fall out from the invasion caused a rise in tension

between the two great superpowers and ironically 34 years

after the event, the person that the invasion meant to topple,

Fidel Castro, is still in power. To understand the origins of

the invasion and its ramifications for the future it is first

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 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,

three Cuban military bases were bombed by B-26 bombers.

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. On the front page of The

New York Times the next day, a picture of one of the B-26s

was shown along with a picture of one of the pilots cloaked

in a baseball hat and hiding behind dark sunglasses, his name

was withheld. A sense of conspiracy was even at this early

stage beginning 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 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 [Map of

Cuba was here] the main landing teams [Link to Map to be

added when when they arrived. At time permits] 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. (See

figure 1). 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 was 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 slow moving B-26s of the invading

force. On Tuesday, two were shot out 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

Cubans. Casto fired 122mm. Howitzers, 22mm. cannon,

and tank fire at them. By 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 prisoners in Cuban cells.

Others were to live out twenty years or more in those cells

as men plotting to topple the government of Castro. The

1500 men of the invading force never had a chance for

success from almost the first days in the planning stage of the

operation. Operation Pluto, as it came to be known as, has

its origins in the last dying days of the Eisenhower

administration and that murky time period during the

transition of power to the newly elected president John F.

Kennedy. 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 towards the Soviet threat, George

Kennan, in 1950 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 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 pro-American. The Guatemalan adventure can be

seen as another of the factors that lead the 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 Ar‚valo. He was not a communist

in the traditional sense of the term, but he ". . . packed his

government with Communist Party members and Communist

sympathizers." In 1951 Jacobo Arbenz succeeded Ar‚valo

after an election in March of that year. The party had been

progressing with a series of reforms, and 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 State who

had once been their lawyer, his brother Allen the Director of

Central Intelligence who was a share holder, and Robert

Cutler head of the National Security Council. In what was a

clear conflict of interest, the security apparatus 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 base at Guantanamo

Bay. During the incident some US Marines were held

captive 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 measures 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

revolution, people with money, like doctors, lawyers, and

the mafia, left Cuba for the United States. To prevent the

loss of more capital Castro's solution was to nationalize

some of the businesses in Cuba. In the process of

nationalizing some 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

States for any economic aid. Being rejected by the

Americans, he met with foreign minister Anasta Mikoyan to

secure a $100 million loan from the Soviet Union. It was in

this atmosphere that the American Intelligence and Foreign

Relations communities decided that Castro was leaning

towards communism and had to be dealt with. In the spring

of 1960, President Eisenhower approved a plan to send

small groups of American trained, Cuban exiles, to work in

the underground as guerrillas to 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 was

also the height of the cold war, to back out now would mean

having groups of Cuban exiles travelling around the globe

saying how the Americans had backed down on the Cuba

issue. In competition with the Soviet Union, backing out

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 of his

campaign promises. The second reason Kennedy probably

didn't abort the operation is the 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 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. In an intelligence community

geared mainly for European operations against the USSR,

both men were lacking in experience in Latin American

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. 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, http://www.timeinc.com, 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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