Cuba: The Bay of Pigs: 44 years later

Speaking of the Bay of Pigs, Cuban exile Alberto Gutierrez writes: Of course Castro was aware that "something was cooking", but he didn't know when and where. I regret any confusion, but I clearly cited the B-26s the CIA lent to Brigade 2506 to attack the Cuban airbases, not US planes doing the "dirty job" for us.
The objective of those B-26s with Cuban flags painted on their wings and manned by Cuban exiles, was to destroy the few planes available to Castro on land before they could neutralize the invasion operation in the Bay of Pigs. For reasons unknown to me the first attack to the the airbases took place on Saturday, April 15, two days before the  landing of the Brigade 2506. The result was unsatisfactory but alerted Castro about the imminent invasion.
Unfortunately next day President Kennedy ,allegedly burdened by the "realities" of the Cold War, canceled a second air strike on the Cuban airbases scheduled for Monday, April 17, to coincide with the landing. That day the B-26s of Brigade 2506 did what they could against the Cuban militias, but they flew without tail guns  to carry enough fuel for the round trip to a base in Nicaragua and were no match for the T-33 and Sea Furies of the Cuban "Fuerza Aerea Rebelde" Long before dusk, many B-26s were destroyed and Castro controlled the air above the Bay of Pigs.
With no air support, Brigade 2506  was hopeless surrounded, and less than 48 hours later Kennedy once more changed his mind. He ordered jet fighters from the USS Essex, off the Bay of Pigs, to provide air cover for the last four B-26s that returned from Nicaragua in a desperate mission against the Cuban militias and its artillery. For what it seems a lack of coordination with the B-26s, the jets never provided the expected "umbrella".Two bombers never reached the targets for mechanical problems. Another was shot down and crash-landed. The last fell into the sea enveloped in flames. With no more supplies and no outside help, Brigade 2506 finally surrendered.  
The entire world knew the role of the US in the Bay of Pigs invasion. Why so much hush-hush pretense? I do not accept the "stories", more than one,  for the abandonment of  Brigade 2506. Paris was worth a mass according to Henry IV of France.The eradication of tyranny in Cuba was worth much more. I wish WAISers just think for a moment how much harm Castro has caused  to Cubans and all over. For instance, do you remember how it was before the era of US airplanes hijacking to Havana ?

RH: I have watched a splendid new, two-part documentary of the Cuban missile crisis, which was the sequel to the Bay of Pigs. I was struck by the general confusion.  Kennedy was getting contradictory advice, and American, Russian and Cuban leaders were ignorant of some essential facts. It should be remembered that in Cuba Castro was still immensely popular. while in Latin America he was a continental hero.  Direct US intervention would have triggered a terrible backlash.
Speaking of the Bay of Pigs, Cuban exile Alberto Gutierrez wrote: Of course Castro was aware that "something was cooking", but he didn't know when and where.

Randy Black comments: I think the Cuba/Bay of Pigs/Castro issues of that era nearly half a century ago boil down to an if we knew then what we know now, we would have done it differently type of debate. In short, hindsight is always 20-20. Living in this instant information CNN-world of 2005, where our intelligence folks can look at Baghdad, Moscow, London, or any other destination live from 20,000 miles in space and tell what newspaper someone is reading, over their shoulder, has spoiled us when it comes to appreciating the communications/information challenges of the late 1950s-early 1960s. Looking at those old U-2 spy plane photos of the Soviet rockets in Cuba, even though they were shot from a relatively low altitude, it’s still a guess as to exactly what we were seeing. Today, personally, I can look at places around the world from a US satellite via the Internet and define objects down to one third of a meter and that’s just what the public can see. Can you imagine what the real spooks can see? They can probably tell whether I’m drinking light or regular beer on a hot day when I am mowing my lawn.
I totally sympathize with Mr. Gutierrez and all Cubans who suffered at the hands of Castro and the Soviets. We can second guess JFK and the rest of his bunch all day and night, but what was, was.
 RH:  We can see objects in detail from the sky, but not the total picture. Above all, we cannot see people's minds. That is where human intelligence comes in, but that is a big, different story.


Mitchell Cohen writes: I recently read a theory proposed by Michael Morrissey which claimed that the CIA actually sabotaged the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 in order to force JFK to enlist the full strength of the U.S. Military to finish the job that the Cuban exiles had started. (Obviously JFK did not bite and the invasion was an utter fiasco)  According to this theory, Morrissey believed the CIA felt the only way to eliminate Castro and Communism in Cuba was with a major U.S. invasion. Therefore, the supposed poor planning, minuscule rebel force, lack of ammunition, lack of critical air support, swampy invasion location choice, security leaks to the Russians about the timing of the invasion and laughable intelligence by the CIA, were not incompetence. Rather, the CIA had an elaborate plan- which was to make certain the rebels failed. Does this theory make sense to you? I understand you were in Guatemala during the time the CIA was  training rebel forces. Therefore, I assume you have a unique perspective on this issue.

RH:  The US Armed Forces chiefs supported using  US military force against Castro, a `propòsal which President Kennedy rejected.  It is `possible that the CIA played the role Mitchell describes, but I do not know.  I doubt that the relevant documents have been released.  Can Bill Ratliff or some other Cuban expert confirm this?

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: June 19, 2005