Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Tragic Bay of Pigs Invasion

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In the early morning of 17 April 161 about 40 years ago, this Cuban beach was swarming with men. Dozens of landing craft poured out hundreds of troops, at a place known locally as Playa Giron. To the rest of the world and particularly the United States, it is simply known as the Bay of Pigs. This secretive and dramatic invasion to unseat the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro caused a controversial affair. After the 15 revolution about two thousand Cubans had gone into exile to escape Castro and his dictatorship. Encouraged by members of the CIA, the exiles believed they would have full American support but they were surprisingly wrong. This betrayal has caused bitter resentment towards the U.S government by Cuban exiles that fought vigorously and willingly in a poorly, eagerly organized invasion. The failure of the invasion can be classified into three categories to where it went wrong. The reason for the attack, the hesitated preparation of the Cuban exiles and, the ill fated battle itself.

The general outline of a Bay of Pigs invasion was decided upon shortly after Castro’s visit to the United States in the spring of 15. Castro had overthrown Batista and established a corrupt dictatorship instead of a promised democracy. The United States had been fooled into supporting a government that would never exist. In addition, the reason for the attack was Castro’s hostile treatment not only toward his own people but also the United States, who at the time had been very generous to Cuba. Then in 160, Castro seized all American oil refineries, sugar mills, and electric utilities. He also started to welcome communism and formed close ties with the USSR, the rival of the United States during the cold war. These decisions frightened the Kennedy administration into supporting the revolutionary attack, pressured to do so by the rising threat of communism in Cuba. What Kennedy did not do is offer full government support but left it up to the CIA to prepare it, which would ultimately doomed the exiles into defeat.

By the end of 15, Cuban exiles were being recruited for training by the CIA in camps in Guatemala and Nicaragua largely to avoid any appearance of U.S intervention. The training lacked depth and certainty regardless the force of 1, 511 exiles that would be sent off to fight a battle they wouldn’t be prepared for. Kennedy casually approved the plan not putting into respect the importance of the invasion. The CIA changed the new guerilla or “irregular” warfare to a traditional “Normandy Beach” style landing at the Bay of Pigs. John F. Kennedy paid little attention to what was being done and the CIA director Dulles rarely consulted the young president about alterations in plans. The disguised air raid on Cuban air bases prior to the invasion never materialized and Castro was left with enough planes to fight off invasion the next day. The CIA did not think of these problems ahead of time and the late changes could have contributed to the defeat. The ill prepared exiles were sent to fight a battle of despair despite their unlikely chance of victory.

The Bay of Pigs invasion was poorly executed. On Monday, the seventeenth of April shortly after three in the morning, Fidel received a report from a militia group in the Bay of Pigs that enemy troops had been spotted landing at Playa Larga (Blue Beach) and Playa Giron (Red Beach). He acted upon this immediately and his response was direct enemy supply ships must be sunk immediately and the beachhead must be made to collapse. The battle was barely underway when the surviving American ships dispersed out of the bay stranding some 1,50 brigadistas (Cuban exiles) on shore. Abandoned and deserted on the beach, they were forced to rely on whatever ammunition and food they carried with them. The CIA had been certain that Castro’s air force would be destroyed that they had not taken even the basic precaution of placing anti-aircraft weapons aboard the ships. In this critical moment of the invasion Kennedy refused to let loose planes to open fire on the offensive which ultimately altered the outcome of the invasion. However, he only authorized six jets on the Essex to fly over the Bay of Pigs and determine whether the brigadistas had a chance of holding out. They simply flew over the small hell that the Bay of Pigs had become and the hopeless cries of the exiles. After three days of fighting, holding its lines and inflicting loses on troops pouring in to repel the invasion, the brigade retreated into the thick swamps that line the bay, out of ammunition and supplies. Castro’s forces hunted mercilessly after the defenseless exiles. When the shooting finally stopped, 114 martyrs of the 506 Brigade lay dead. In the end, Castro would simply rounded up 1,18 prisoners. Disillusioned Kennedy took rightful responsibility for the failed invasion and paid a ridiculous ransom of $5 million in supplies to Cuba for his stupidity.

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This blunder in history will live on to be acknowledged as a betrayal to the Cuban exiles that fought with pride and reason. The exiles believed with all their hearts that within days they would succeed in becoming the new rulers of Cuba. The Bay of Pigs turned out to be a disaster and a tremendous embarrassment to the United States government. John F. Kennedy could no longer claim innocence to a Nation witnessing the attack. The young inexperienced president had assumed rightful responsibility for what he admitted was a mistake. Nonetheless, he refused to negotiate a settlement of America’s differences with the Castro regime. Debate continues today of whether or not the invasion was justified but it is clearly evident that more precautions could have been made to prevent the tragic downfall of the exile Brigade. Obviously the importance of the battle was overlooked by the United States, but was definitely clear to the world. The veterans of this event will live in defeat, forever remembering the “betrayal at the Bay of Pigs.”

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