Bay of Pigs Invasion
On January 1, 1959, a rebel leader in Cuba named Fidel Castro overthrew the then President Fulgencio Batista. Batista was backed by the American government. Many Cubans were happy with the overthrow of the government. However, Batista was pro-American. Many Americans owned sugar plantations, mining operations and other successful businesses in Cuba. Batista allowed these businesses free rein. He was also anti-communist. Castro wanted Cubans to take back their country and wanted all of the Americans to go.
When Castro took over, he put some of the industries under government control. He also asked other Latin American countries to try to become independent of the United States. In 1960, President Eisenhower gathered a group of former Cubans then living in Miami to be trained to go into Cuba as an attack force. The United States blocked all importation of sugar from Cuba. Russia agreed to take the sugar to prevent a big dent in Cuba's economy.
In January, 1961, the United States cut off relations with Cuba. Some people told the President, John F. Kennedy, that Castro wasn't really a danger to the United States. The President was concerned about Castro's growing relations with Nikita Khrushchev of Russia who was a communist. He felt that if we used force and got rid of Castro, it would show Russia and other countries that he was serious about maintaining the strength of America. President Kennedy didn't quite agree with the plan to train fighters to invade Cuba because he thought the Russians might retaliate with action on their own toward the United States. The CIA assured him that they could keep this operation secret.
Therefore, on April 15, 1961, a group of these Cuban exiles took off in airplanes from Nicaragua to make a strike to try to destroy the Cuban air force. The planes had been painted so that they looked like Cuban planes. Castro somehow knew of the plans and had moved his planes out of the way. President Kennedy realized that maybe the secret plans were really not very secret.
Jose Cardona led the Cuban exiles in the United States. He was head of the Cuban Revolutionary Council in the United States. He was ready to take over control of Cuba temporarily if the invasion was successful. On April 17, a band of the attackers landed at a spot on the coast of Cuba called the Bay of Pigs to launch an attack. This was a remote site. The United States thought that the chance of discovery would be minimal at that point on the coast.
The action was a total disaster. Cuban planes shot at the invaders. They sank two ships arriving as extra help. A Cuban radio station nearby broadcast the whole affair to the Cuban people. Some of the invaders' boats hit upon reefs. Paratroopers landed on the wrong spot. Castro's forces killed 114 of the attacking Cubans and captured 1100.
Many people thought that President Kennedy would launch a big invasion. However, he didn't want to start a conflict that might start another world war. Even so, in November 1961, he approved Operation Mongoose. This was a spying mission within Cuba. It held the possibility of assassinating Castro. The prisoners were held in Cuba for 20 months. Finally, Castro said that he would settle for 53 million dollars in baby food and medicine in exchange for the captives. A group of captives landed in Miami on December 23, 1962. A ceremony was held in the Orange Bowl in Miami. The freed prisoners gave the President their brigade flag. He assured them that someday the brigade would get the flag back in Havana when it was freed.
To link to this Bay of Pigs Invasion page, copy the following code to your site: