Bay of Pigs Invasion

On January 1, 1959, a young Cuban nationalist named Fidel Castro drove his guerilla army into Havana and overthrew General Fulgencio Batista, the nation’s American-backed president. For the next two years, U.S. officials tried to push Castro from power. Finally, in April 1961, the CIA launched a full-scale invasion of Cuba by 1,400 American-trained Cubans who had fled their homes when Castro took over. However, the invasion did not go well, and they surrendered after less than 24 hours of fighting.


The United States was nervous about Fidel Castro’s 1959 rise to power. President Fulgencio Batista had been a corrupt dictator, but he was considered to be pro-American and anticommunist. At that time, Americans owned almost half of Cuba’s sugar plantations and the majority of its cattle ranches, mines, and utilities. Castro, by contrast, believed that it was time for Cubans to assume more control of their nation.

Castro immediately took steps to reduce American influence on the island. He nationalized American-dominated industries, introduced land reform schemes, and called on other Latin American governments to act with more autonomy.

In May 1960, Castro established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.

In January 1961, the U.S. government severed diplomatic relations with Cuba and continued preparations for an invasion. Some government advisors claimed that Castro posed no real threat to America, but the new president, John F. Kennedy, believed that he could show the world that he was serious about winning the Cold War by removing the Cuban leader from power.


Kennedy continued Eisenhower’s CIA plan to train and equip a guerilla army of Cuban exiles living in the United States. He wanted to avoid direct intervention by the American military in Cuba, since the Soviets would likely see this as an act of war. CIA officers told him they could keep U.S. involvement in the invasion a secret and that the campaign should spark an anti-Castro uprising on the island.


On April 15, 1961, a group of Cuban exiles in American B-26 bombers painted to look like stolen Cuban planes conducted a strike against Cuban airfields. However, Castro and his advisers knew about the raid and had moved Cuba’s planes to safety.

The Cuban exile brigade began its invasion at an isolated spot known as the Bay of Pigs. The invasion was a disaster. A radio station on the beach broadcast every detail of the operation to listeners across Cuba. Some of the exiles’ ships sank as they pulled into shore. Backup paratroopers landed in the wrong place. The exile troops surrendered after less than a day of fighting.


According to many historians, the CIA and the Cuban exile brigade believed that President Kennedy would eventually allow the American military to intervene in Cuba on their behalf. However, the president refused to start a fight that might end in World War III. His efforts to overthrow Castro continued up to his assassination in 1963.

Source: Bay of Pigs Invasion
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