Bay of Pigs Invasion
April 17, 1961
Newly-elected President inherit both the good and bad of their predecessors. Even though a new President must approve their continuance, plans and policies that already underway carry bureaucratic momentum.
On April 17, 1961, an invasion of Cuba by a group of Cuban exiles backed by the U.S. government and trained by the CIA landed at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. The invasion's goal was to overthrow the new government of Fidel Castro. The plan failed completely and the negative long-term impact is still part of Cuban-American relations.
Background of the Bay of Pigs Invasion
17 March 1960: President Eisenhower approved a document at a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC). The stated first objective of the plan (“A Program of Covert Action Against the Castro Regime”) began as follows: Objective: The purpose of the program outlined herein is 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.(my emphasis)
18 August 1960: President 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 plans to mount an amphibious assault replace further developments of guerrilla strategies.
18 November 1960: CIA Director Allen Dulles and CIA Deputy Director for Plans Richard Bissell first briefed President-elect John Kennedy on the plans. Dulles was confident that the CIA was capable of overthrowing the Cuban government.
29 November 1960: President Eisenhower met with the chiefs of the CIA, Defense, State, and Treasury departments to discuss the idea of an invasion. Those present expressed no objections and Eisenhower approved the plans. He hoped to persuade Kennedy of the plan's merit.
Aftermath of the Bay of Pigs Invasion
Jim Rasenberger summed up the invasion's aftermath in his book, The Brilliant Disaster:
In the early hours of April 17, 1961, some fourteen hundred men, most of them Cuban exiles, attempted to invade their homeland and overthrow Fidel Castro. The invasion at the Bahia de Cochinos — the Bay of Pigs — quickly unraveled. Three days after landing, the exile force was routed and sent fleeing to the sea or the swamps, where the survivors were soon captured by Castro's army. Despite the Kennedy administration's initial insistence that the United States had nothing to do with the invasion, the world immediately understood that the entire operation had been organized and funded by the U.S. government. The invaders had been trained by CIA officers and supplied with American equipment, and the plan had been approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the president of the United States. In short, the Bay of Pigs had been a U.S. operation, and its failure — "a perfect failure," historian Theodore Draper called it — was a distinctly American embarrassment. Bad enough the government had been caught bullying and prevaricating; much worse, the United States had allowed itself to be humiliated by a nation of 7 million inhabitants (compared to the United States' 180 million) and smaller than the state of Pennsylvania. The greatest American defeat since the War of 1812, one American general called it. Others were less generous. Everyone agreed on this: it was a mistake Americans would never repeat and a lesson they would never forget.
Apparently we did. Several more times. And still are.