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Bay of Pigs Invasion

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

The Bay of Pigs invasion was planned landing operation on the southwestern coast of Cuba in 1961 by Cuban exiles who opposed Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution. Covertly financed and directed by the U.S. government, the operation took place at the height of the Cold War and its failure led to major shifts in international relations between Cuba, the United States, and the Soviet Union.

Fidel Castro had been a concern to U.S. policymakers since he seized power in Cuba with a revolution in January 1959. Castro’s attacks on U.S. companies and interests in Cuba, his inflammatory anti-American rhetoric, and Cuba’s movement toward a closer relationship with the Soviet Union led U.S. officials to conclude that the Cuban leader was a threat to U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere. In March 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the CIA to train and arm a force of Cuban exiles for an armed attack on Cuba. John F. Kennedy inherited this program when he became president in 1961.

Though many of his military advisors indicated that an amphibious assault on Cuba by a group of lightly armed exiles had little chance for success, Kennedy gave the go-ahead for the attack. On April 17, 1961, around 1,200 exiles, armed with American weapons and using American landing craft, waded ashore at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. The hope was that the exile force would serve as a rallying point for the Cuban citizenry, who would rise up and overthrow Castro’s government.

Because the United States refrained from providing necessary air support, the plan fell apart and the expected uprising never happened. The landing force met with unexpectedly rapid counterattacks from Castro’s military, the tiny Cuban air force sank most of the exiles’ supply ships and 1,100 men were captured and over 100 men were killed.

In this clip, Kennedy defends his actions taken while making it clear that United States's continued commitment to advancing the liberty throughout the Western Hemisphere and stoping the spread of Communism in the world. Kennedy claims that the threat in Cuba should not seen as just dangerous threat to the U.S., but a potential danger to all the nations of the world.

Initially, Fidel Castro thought the Bay of Pigs invasion was part of a broader attack by the United States. Once they realized it wasn't, Castro moved to the center of the conflict and let the fight against the invaders. In the following clip, men from the Cuban military personally involved in the conflict describe their experience during the invasion. In the end, over 100 men were killed and Cuba had taken prisoners, which were eventually traded back to the U.S. for $50 Million.

In the events following the failure, Kennedy's takes responsibility and references a famous quote, "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan". Interestingly, the quote was originally coined by the Italian diplomat, and son-in-law of Mussolini, Count Caleazzo Ciano, when he said "La victoria trova cento padri, e nessuno vuole riconoscere l'insuccesso.” Because of the fact Kennedy rises to the occasion by taking accountability for the failure, his approval ratings soar over 90%.

Ultimately, the Bay of Pigs fiasco cost for the United States dearly. Castro used the attack by what he called the “Yankee imperialists” to solidify his power in Cuba. Furthermore, he requested additional Soviet military aid. Eventually, that aid included missiles and the construction of missile bases in Cuba, which led to the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear war.

(Sources: Wikipedia. YouTube (CCTN, American Experience)

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