Fidel Castro Protects His Sugar Fields
A CIA-backed plan ends in failure
April 17th, 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba. I find this poignant, particularly as we view the revolutions arising in Africa and, as a nation, weigh the potential impact those small nations have on the United States. Life always gives nations the chance to repeat themselves.
Just what is the Bay of Pigs invasion? And how does it relate to current world issues? As far as coups go, it was embarrassingly bad. And let's face it, a three day battle with little US involvement probably doesn't get much airtime at dinner.
Basically, the Bay of Pigs invasion is a haunting example of an attempt by America of using using locals to effect regime change. Following two days of air strikes, the Bay of Pigs invasion was a failed attempt at landing Cuban exiles at Playa Giron on the south side of Cuba. It mostly occurred from April 17th-19th ,1961.
In 1959, Fidel Castro saw the underground revolution he started in 1956 against Fulgenico Batista come to a resounding victory, with the people of Cuba strongly behind him. He claimed the role of Prime minister, and after interrupting the free elections he had promised the people, began a series of negotiations that would lead him close to Soviet Union and far away from the United States.
Prior to Castro, the US had enjoyed significant influence in Cuba. Having driven Spain from their colony in the late 1800s, the US had maintained enough military presence on the Island to maintain its sugar processing industry. Within a little over a year, Castro's new Cuba had seized over $850 million in US business assets, and permanently reversed those prior relations with the US.
Preparation for the Bay of Pigs:
At about that time, President Eisenhower, along with top CIA aides, began planning what was to eventually be the the Bay of Pigs invasion. Eisenhower's goal,was to remove Castro from power by empowering a revolution against him, while not having the United State's involvement in the conflict made public knowledge.
In 1961, when John F. Kennedy received the office of president, he also inherited the basic sketches of Eisenhower's invasion plans. The Bay of Pigs invasion was actually a different landing zone than what Eisenhower had originally discussed, but it seemed to provide the opportunities for fewer human casualties and plausible deniability.
In the few weeks immediately prior to the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Revolutionary council was developed by the CIA in March of 1961 to guide and oversee a group of 5 Anti-Castro revolutionary groups collectively called the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front (natively named the Frente Revolucionario Democratico or FRD )
The FRD brigade 2506 was the main land fighting force of the FRD in the Bay of Pigs invasion. It was formed of anti-Castro exiles living in Florida . Although there were already significant resistance movements hiding in Cuba, the Bay of Pigs invasion was kept from these groups to help prevent intelligence leaks. However, Eisenhower and the CIA thought that additional support would topple this new dictator. Unfortunately, this resistance movement was much smaller and less influential than they expected
Brigade 2506 fighters for the Bay of Pigs invasion were initially screened and selected on Useppa Island near Florida. Useppa Island was a quiet, serene place. A favorite resort for wealthy Tycoons in the early 1900s, it now provided the perfect place to secretly interview candidates.
Equipping the Brigade 2506 took a lot of thought and effort. The aircraft used in the air strikes had to be stripped of their markings and repainted with the insignia of the Cuban airforce. These guys needed to be shooting soviet weapons if they were going to fool anyone.
The actual training of the candidates for this Bay of Pigs invasion occurred at many places including Florida, Kentucky and at facilities in Panama. Unfortunately, by the time the attack occurred, too many exiles had leaked information and much of the secrecy the CIA had hoped to maintain at Useppa had disappeared.
In fact, after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, a review revealed that the CIA was aware that the Soviets had learned of the attack. This information was withheld from the President as the operation proceeded forward.
The Bay of Pigs invasion was our chance to take that back.
On April 15th the Bay of Pigs invasion was launched from Guatemala with air strikes designed to cripple the Cuban air force. Unfortunately, the pilots thought that they had seen much greater success than they actually had, and much of the air force remained a threat.
On the 17th the Bay of Pigs invasion began with five freighters landing two coordinated landings on the beach with about 1500 men and one paratrooper drop inland. Unfortunately, the Cuban reaction to the Bay of Pigs invasion was swifter than expected, firing on the soldiers as they disembarked, killing many of them before they stepped on land, and separating many soldiers from their weapons, leaving them stranded defenseless on hostile land.
The Bay of Pigs invasion lasted about 2 days. Without adequate air support or ground coordination and having lost most of their weaponry in the landing, the soldiers retreated back to the bay. The USS Eaton and the USS Murray arrived to pick them up at the Playa Grion where the Bay of Pigs invasion had originally began, but retreated a short while later upon receiving fire from tanks on the shore.
Over the next 3 days sorties were flown and about 30 more brigade men were rescued.
Immediately, Cuba accused the United States of involvement in the attack. The Cuban Foreign minister filed an official motion against the United States aggression when the air strikes began on the 15th .
Of course, the United States denied all involvement.
Following the Bay of Pigs invasion, Fidel Castro took a skittish stance regarding the United states, and formed closer alliances with the Soviet Union, eventually leading the Cuban Missile Crisis, as Soviets used the Cubans mistrust to add missiles just seconds away from our coast.
Of the original 1500 fighters that landed, hundreds were killed or executed. Finally, in December of 1962, Castro negotiated the release of 1113 remaining fighters. They received a hero's welcome at a welcome home Ceremony held at the Orange Bowl in December of 1962
The Blame Game:
The Bay of Pigs invasion was ultimately attributed to several failures in the CIA. Primarily, they failed to plan and assumed that the victory would be much easier than it ever possibly could be. They failed to include the right advisors to make correct decisions. The primary assumption was that Cuban people would view us as liberators. In reality, they had only liberated their country of the United States scarcely three years before. Basically, they had no intentions of allowing us back in.
Another mistaken assumption, was that the United States was going to contribute troops to the effort as Eisenhower did in 1954. But only a few hours into the fight, it became apparent the United States had made a mistake.
Our Role in The World Today:
As a powerful nation, we have the ability to effect positive change in the world. We have the ability to overthrow dictators, and strong arm negotiations in our favor. We have the ability to equip mercenaries to do our dirty work. And, ultimately, we are called to be extremely cautious as to how we wield that power
The cockiness our CIA exhibited at the Bay of Pigs invasion is exactly what we must avoid if we mean to influence positive change in our world.