Who: First proposed by President Eisenhower. Authorized by John F. Kennedy.
What: A failed invasion of Cuba to overthrow Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government.
Where: The Bay of Pigs, on the southern coast of Cuba.
Why: Castro had been strengthening links with the USSR and severing them with the US.
When: 17th-19th April 1961.
“There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan…. I’m the responsible officer of the Government.” – JFK’s statement after the failed invasion.
The Bay of Pigs goes down in history as one of the United States’ biggest blunders. The CIA, with help from the Mafia, organized an invasion using Brigade 2506, a group of 1,500 Cuban exiles seeking to overthrow Fidel Castro’s leftist government. They set off from Guatemala by boat on 13th April, and two days later eight CIA B-26 bombers attacked Cuban air fields. On 16th April, the invasion force landed at Playa Girón in the Bay of Pigs. A Cuban army counteroffensive led by Captain José Ramón Fernández, and subsequently by Castro himself, put down the invasion in three days, and by the 20th April the invasion force surrendered, being publicly interrogated and repatriated to the US. The invasion was a disaster. It strengthened Castro’s position and pushed him into the arms of the Soviet Union proper. By 1962 the Soviets were installing nuclear missiles on Cuba, within range of US cities and targets, leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis.