Babalú Exclusive:
The Bay of Pigs: In defense of Truth and History – Part VI

Part VI of a Babalú exclusive report on the Bay of Pigs invasion by historian Diego Trinidad, Ph.D. ( Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V):

The Bay of Pigs: In defense of Truth and History – Part VI

By Diego Trinidad, Ph.D.

The last conspiracy theory remaining is the one that refuses to go away. Indeed, it seems that it becomes more entrenched with each passing year. Even some of my close friends share this belief. That the CIA—intentionally—planned and executed the Bay of Pigs invasion to fail, with the hidden purpose of consolidating the Cuban revolution and Fidel Castro’s regime. This is an article of faith for all true believers. As such, it is truly impossible for anyone to rationally disprove that belief and I certainly cannot. However, for those who believe, I have one question: Qui Bono? This is the old Latin legal question meaning, who benefits? True believers cannot answer the question—they never have and they never will. Therefore, for the purposes of this essay, that conspiracy theory is laid to rest in front of history.

Finally, the time has come to assign responsibilities for what happened. There is no question that the CIA must bear a heavy burden for what happened and why. The planners, specifically Bissell, were stuck in 1954 and the successful Guatemala operation. Most of the agents involved in that adventure, led by Bissell also, were part of the Bay of Pigs team. They failed to recognize the important differences between Cuba and Guatemala and did not adjust the plans to this new situation. The plan evolved, as has been mentioned, going from a small operation with 50 men infiltration teams, to a plan that eventually included 600 men (eventually up to 3,000) and an overt invasion of a foreign country. A military operation of this kind was well beyond the scope of the CIA, but not until three months before the landing was to take place was the Pentagon even consulted as to the feasibility of the plan. The Pentagon gave it very unenthusiastic support and basically washed its hand off of it. But it became a self-sustaining situation with many vested interests involved. Critical thinking stopped. The invasion took on a momentum of its own. And as its scope and size grew, it became impossible to apply the concept of plausible deniability. How could a full-scale invasion with a small army of over 1,200 infantry and four tanks, a mini navy of at least seven transport ships and several landing craft, an air force of 16 B-26 bombers and several C-46 and C-54 cargo planes, and even a “foreign relations department” with ties to Guatemala and Nicaragua, be launched without U.S. involvement? It could not, and the whole world knew the U.S. was involved. In the end, the obsession with plausible deniability sank the entire operation.

http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/bay-of-pigs/operations-theater-map.gifBut there were extremely serious operational errors made, beginning with the faulty photographic analysis of the results of the only bombing raid on April 15. Instead of half the FAR planes destroyed, there were 11 planes left, including the deadly T-33 jets, which the CIA discarded as unimportant and did not even know they were armed with cannons and rockets. The crucial Río Escondido ship, with most of the airplane gasoline, ammunition and communications gear for the Brigade was sunk by one T-33. The CIA also made a mistake with the analysis of the landing area, confusing reefs with “algae” and then refusing to listen to reports to the contrary from people familiar with the area.

The transport ships were old and unreliable and the crews were inexperienced. The landing craft were not suited for landing in the designated area. Even things as basic as the wrong fuel mix for outboard engines, which resulted in delays and even the inability of some of the Brigade to land. Some of the CIA trainers in the Guatemala training camp were arrogant, some even detested the Cuban exiles they were training, although in general, all the CIA personnel were committed to the success of the operation. Indeed, ten pilots from the Alabama National Guard eventually flew some of the B-26 on the last day of the invasion, when everything was lost and they knew they were going to their death. Four of the ten Americans died, two in a fiery crash in the water, two others surviving a forced landing on the island but killed by Cuban militia. In short, the CIA personnel, from Bissell down to Esterline and Hawkins, and to Grayston Lynch and Rip Robertson, who actually landed on Cuban soil before any members of the Brigade did, believed in the operation, believed in the importance of bringing the Castro regime down, believed that they were contributing to winning the Cold War. And most importantly, they all believed the U.S. military would go in after the Brigade, especially when things began to unravel and failure was a very real probability. But they were all wrong. Kennedy kept his word that under no conditions would the American military forces intervene in Cuba.

Richard Bissell must be specifically singled out as the most responsible, expect for one person. Bissell became so engrossed with the idea of the invasion and with toppling Castro, that he lost sight of any critical thinking whatsoever at the end. As well, he became more and more enamored with the CIA/Mafia conspiracy to assassinate Castro. He basically conducted the assassination “track” as a dual operation with the invasion of the Brigade. And he may have carried Kennedy along, in the sense that they were both hoping for Castro to be dead by the time the Brigade had landed. That way, all the rest of the “unpleasantness” could be dispensed with. Bissell himself almost admits as much in his Memoirs. And perhaps even more damaging, he admits—and regrets—that he was not more forceful in emphasizing to the president the paramount importance of the bombing raids. Castro’s remaining attack planes must be destroyed or the entire operation would fail. But he did not. Neither did Dulles, who also bitterly regretted it afterwards.

Bissell did not even speak to the President when Dean Rusk offered both him and General Cabell the telephone to speak directly with Kennedy on the night of April 16th.. They both went to see Rusk at the State Department after hearing from McGeorge Bundy at 9:45pm that the president had given direct orders cancelling the dawn bombing raid prior to the Brigade’s landing at the Bay of Pigs. Rusk told them: “At the present time, political requirements are over-riding”. They continued to plead for a reinstatement of the dawn raids and meanwhile, a call from Colonel Hawkins, the Brigade’s military advisor, came in. He had just learned of the cancellation order and was livid, He predicted that unless the bombing raid went on as planned, the Brigade’s supply ships would be sunk and the entire invasion would fail. He begged Bissell to change the president’s mind. Whereupon Rusk called the White House and spoke with Kennedy, who again refused to change his mind. Rusk passed the phone first to Cabell, then to Bissell. They both refused to speak with the president. That was the invasion’s last gasp. Bissell cannot possibly be forgiven for allowing the invasion to go on under the circumstances. At the very least, he should have resigned on the spot. But he did not. For that, he must answer to history.

– To be continued –

8 thoughts on “Babalú Exclusive:<br/>The Bay of Pigs: In defense of Truth and History – Part VI”

  1. Even if Bissell had spoken to JFK at the very last minute, it would have made no difference. As Rusk plainly said, most certainly echoing the president, “political requirements are over-riding.” JFK was an exceedingly political creature, like Clinton and Obama. I expect a comparable situation occurred with the Benghazi disaster. Everyone is entitled to his opinion or spin on what happened, but there is absolutely no way JFK was not ultimately responsible. Trying to somehow exonerate him is the same as what is now being attempted to protect Obama on various fronts. I’m very sorry, but in both cases, that’s simply BULLSHIT.

    • This essay makes it ABSOLUTELY clear that President John Kennedy bears the ultimate responsibility for the decision to first, change and emasculate the original plan for an invasion of Cuba; second, for approving the launch of the invasion; third, for cancelling the bombing raids and the number of B-26s participating (shared with Bissell, who unilaterally reduced the number of planes from 16 to 8); and finally, for not supporting the Brigade once it was obvious that it could not win. There is no way in which anyone reading the essay with a minimum degree of objectivity, can possibly think that it “exonerates” Kennedy. He WAS responsible for the invasion’s failure. Period. BUT HE DID NOT BETRAY ANYONE, except his oath of office. The author.

  2. Political considerations were also the overriding factor in JFK’s handling of the Missile Crisis, which he “resolved” by promising the USSR it could keep Cuba as a Soviet colony undisturbed, essentially trading Cuba’s freedom for being able to get himself out of a jam. The guy was a putrid Ken doll and glorified scumbag, on multiple levels, and no amount of cosmetic appeal or fawning idolatry can alter that, let alone compensate for it. He stinks on ice, and the stench has only gotten worse over time.

    • That’s generally true and I will soon write something new on the Cuban Missile Crisis–my favorite topic–which hopefully will be published by Babalu Blog. It will explain in detail the latest on the Kennedy-Khrushchev “understanding” and the true end of the Crisis. The author.

  3. Evidently, the perception of clarity differs. Admittedly, the closing installment of this series, which was not posted till after I made my previous comments, makes the author’s position significantly clearer, at least to me, and I was glad and relieved to see that. However, I would not claim to be objective about JFK, whom I find loathsome, as I find other members of his family and the whole crew of “Camelot” mythologists–especially those who persisted in the fraud long after it became not only disreputable but indecent to do so. There’s been so much BS for so long about Kennedy that I’ve become hypersensitive to anything that even remotely strikes me as an apologia, even a qualified one. I simply have no tolerance for it. So, I am gratified that there’s no question JFK was responsible for the invasion’s failure, but apparently, the definition of what constitutes betrayal also varies.

    It cannot be proven that JFK never said or promised, at least by proxy, that there would be US military intervention. Cuban exiles were obviously fatally deceived on that account, and I don’t think they simply imagined things out of thin air. It seems clear enough, or certainly highly likely, that when Miró freaked out and demanded reassurance from the White House, JFK’s envoy, Berle, gave him said false assurance (unless one assumes Miró was a delusional idiot who only heard what he wanted to hear). Either JFK told Berle to lie or Berle lied on his own, but since he’d been sent by the White House to address the specific question of US intervention, he MUST have been instructed to say yea or nay. The evidence strongly suggests that he effectively said yes, and I cannot believe he would have said the opposite of what he’d been told to say.

    Still, even if one assumes JFK never, in any way, said or implied there would be intervention by American troops, there is the infamous “last change,” made just hours after the brigadistas sailed for Cuba to carry out the invasion–the cancellation by Kennedy of the critical, indispensable and absolutely expected air support. As the author puts it:

    “Now the end was assured: the Brigade could not possibly win, it was now condemned to death. And President Kennedy agreed to the cancellation of the raids knowing full well that the Plan could not possibly succeed without air cover. Yet he allowed the Brigade ships to sail on. But once again, was this a betrayal, was it treason? Perhaps, but he cannot be accused of it. After all, Bissell went along with him. As Colonel Hawkins said at the time, Kennedy can, however, be at least accused of criminal negligence.”

    The author, with all due respect, is wrong. All those men who sailed to Cuba to risk their lives and futures took it for granted that they would have air cover, and JFK canceled it at the last minute and didn’t care. It doesn’t matter that Bissell went along, since there was nothing he could do to override Kennedy’s decision; all he could have done was resign on the spot and kiss his career goodbye, but there would still have been no air support. The author states: “Bissell cannot possibly be forgiven for allowing the invasion to go on under the circumstances…For that, he must answer to history.” It was not up to Bissell to cancel the operation; that was the job and responsibility of the president. If anyone cannot be forgiven, that is President Kennedy, who can be rightfully accused not only of criminal negligence, but of betrayal of trust. If the author cannot accuse him, I can and I do, and so do many, many others. As for history, it will not condemn an underling and forgive his commander. It may well condemn both, but the degree of guilt is directly proportional to the degree of power.

  4. Again, a full reading of the essay will answers all the above questions. We must not cling to emotional reactions and reject history. Kennedy bears the ultimate responsibility for allowing the invasion to go on with the changes he forced upon the CIA planners. The world has paid dearly for his ill-fated decision. But sometimes subordinates can–and have forced–their masters to change their decisions. We don’t know whether if Dulles and Bissell both had faced Kennedy with their public resignations, Kennedy might not have changed his mind. But he didn’t and I don’t know how I can be more forceful in blaming him for the Bay of Pigs tragedy. Diego Trinidad.

  5. My reaction is not “emotional;” it’s simply how I see and interpret the evidence, but as I said, interpretations may differ. My feelings about JFK are not “overheated” but are, in fact, cold–very cold, which is the temperature of contempt. If anything, I have worse feelings for his enablers and especially the horde of abjectly lovesick hagiographers. The root problem, of course, is that Kennedy should never have become POTUS. His health status alone should have dissuade him from going for a position of such enormous responsibility (though FDR was even worse in that respect, not only hiding his polio but clinging to the presidency despite multiple mini-strokes, which went on for years, so by the time Yalta came around, he was a wreck and beyond unfit to do his job). JFK should have been a rich playboy living off daddy’s money and screwing as many women as possible (you know, like real men do), which is what he was really suited for, and what he would probably have liked better anyway. Basically, untold numbers of people, Cuban and otherwise, got screwed to gratify the ambitions of the odious Joseph Kennedy. Alas, attractive packaging and PR, no matter how hollow, can go a very long way–all the way to the White House.

  6. Well, I’ve already said all that, so we basically agree, including on the fact that he should’t have been president. But wait for the upcoming essay on the Missile Crisis and you’ll see how he eventually overcame all his health limitations and although, once again his decisions were not the best for Cuba and its future and although he once again was responsible for placing the US in grave danger, his performance in the end may have been the best possible. Diego.

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