The Bay of Pigs: In defense of Truth and History – Part I
Part I of a Babalú exclusive report on the Bay of Pigs invasion by historian Diego Trinidad, Ph.D.:
The Bay of Pigs: In defense of Truth and History - Part I
By Diego Trinidad, Ph.D.
In this 52nd anniversary of the heroic, but failed, Bay of Pigs invasion, it is more necessary than ever to try to establish the facts and dispel the many myths that still prevail about this controversial event. It is even more important to deny the conspiracy theories that many still cling to against all historic evidence. This essay begins with an examination of the two plans elaborated by the CIA to invade Cuba with a military force made up of anti Castro Cuban patriots in April, 1961, to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime. The many myths and conspiracy theories will be examined later.
The original plan, the Trinidad Plan, was prepared by the CIA since at least March, 1960, during President Eisenhower’s administration. The agent in charge of the plan was Richard Bissell, Deputy Director for Planning (in reality, the head of clandestine operations). He was assisted by Jacob Esterline, the operation’s project manager, and retired Marine Colonel Jack Hawkins as military advisor. Basically, the Trinidad Plan was designed to land a small force of 1,200 Cuban exiles trained by the CIA (Brigade 2506) in the southern Cuban port of Casilda, close to the city of Trinidad (26,000 people in 1961 and very anti-Castro). A second group of 160 men would land in southern Oriente province (near the Sierra Maestra, where Castro had launched his revolution five years earlier) to create a distraction and to make it appear as if that was the main invading force. A third distraction was to be created with a sound and lights show off the northwest coast of Pinar del Rio province, using a number of small boats in the night to further confuse the Castro regime.
The Casilda landing was planned to establish a beach head and a defensive perimeter that would allow for the landing of a six-man Cuban Revolutionary Council headed by José Miró Cardona, a former premier under Castro in 1959. After a few days, the Council would constitute itself into a Cuban Government in Arms and request diplomatic recognition and military aid. The U.S. would immediately recognize the Council as the legal government of Cuba and provide military assistance, along with perhaps a few Organization of American States (OAS) members. With American military aid, it was hoped that the Brigade would soon defeat the Castro army and militias and overthrow the communist regime. More troops and supplies would be landed in Casilda, along with the Brigade Air Force of 16 B-26 bombers, which was to be based near the city of Trinidad. There was a short landing strip in Trinidad which had to be lengthened in the first few hours and the Brigade Navy of several ships would land enough gasoline to sustain the B-26s. There was an essential condition to guarantee success: the total destruction of Castro’s Air Force (FAR) so that the Brigade would have complete control of the air.
The Trinidad Plan evolved over one year. Originally, it was planned to infiltrate small groups of 50 exiles in different points of Cuba, but mainly close to the Escambray mountains in south central Cuba, where a number of rebels (perhaps 2,000) were already operating against the Castro regime since mid 1960. The idea was to eventually provoke an internal uprising to topple the revolutionary government. But CIA planners soon decided that conditions in Cuba were not ready for such an internal revolt. It would take too long and time was becoming of the essence. The regime was growing stronger and by April-May of 1961, a contingent of 80 pilots being trained in Czechoslovakia, plus many Russian MiGs would arrive. This would make it impossible to overthrow the regime by force and the U.S. was not ready to allow a Communist-controlled government 90 miles from the Florida’s coast. This was the middle of the Cold War, after all.
Because of the changing conditions in Cuba, the Trinidad Plan finally adopted involved a force of up to 3,000 exiles already being trained in Guatemala. Now the plan contemplated a full-scale invasion of Cuba by a Brigade with a small army, a navy of seven cargo ships and many more landing craft, an air force of 16 B-26 bombers and several C-46 and C-54 cargo planes, and even foreign relations, with the Brigade training in the Guatemala jungle and the air force operating out of Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua. The hope was that this Brigade would end the Castro regime. But there was a huge catch. The plan was based on the landing of U.S. forces at the end. Without the American military intervention, even with control of the air, it was impossible for 3,000 men (only 1,200 eventually landed) to defeat a well trained and fully equipped army of between 30,000 and 50,000 backed by perhaps a 200,000 strong militia and the support of most of the population.
But the Trinidad Plan was prepared at the behest of President Eisenhower, the only president who enthusiastically supported covert CIA operations (although, mostly unknown and later denied by him, Truman also supported many clandestine CIA actions in the last five years of his presidency). And now he was gone with the election of Democrat John Kennedy in November 1960. However, Kennedy knew about the Trinidad Plan since at least the summer of 1960. The CIA Director himself, Allen Dulles has given him an outline of the plans to get rid of Castro and Kennedy was a good friend of Richard Bissell, who was to succeed Dulles as the next DCI (Director of Central Intelligence). Kennedy was non committal, but appeared to support the plan. The CIA personnel in charge of the Trinidad Plan was the same that had successfully overthrown the leftist president Jacobo Arbenz regime in Guatemala in 1954 (Bissell was in charge there, too) and Iran in 1953. Bissell and company made the big mistake to believe Cuba would be as easy a target as Guatemala had been. It was not. Cuba is an island and Castro was not Arbenz. The CIA never realized the great differences. Neither did it count on the greatest difference of all: the new president.
- To be continued -