Bay of Pigs: US’ Water­loo

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Amer­ica’s fail­ure to over­throw Fidel Cas­tro dur­ing the 1961 Bay of Pigs in­va­sion li­on­ized the Cuban leader in his coun­try as a left­ist David bat­tling an im­pe­ri­al­ist Go­liath. In the midst of the Cold War, six B-26 bombers painted with Cuban col­ors took off from Nicaragua on the morn­ing of Satur­day, April 15, 1961 to at­tack Cuban air­bases. The CIA be­lieved they had wiped out Cas­tro’s air force.

On April 16, at the fu­neral of seven vic­tims of the bomb­ing, Fidel Cas­tro an­nounces: “What the im­pe­ri­al­ists can­not for­give is the tri­umph of a so­cial­ist rev­o­lu­tion right un­der the nose of the United States.” It was the first time he pub­licly char­ac­ter­ized his rev­o­lu­tion as “so­cial­ist”, a fact that would be­come more ob­vi­ous in the fu­ture.

The next day, Mon­day, April 17 at 1:15 am, some 1,400 anti-Cas­tro Cubans from “Bri­gade 2506”, who had been trained in se­cret camps by the CIA, landed at the Bay of Pigs, less than 200 km south of Ha­vana. Off­shore, eight ships headed to es­tab­lish a beach­head. How­ever, nine air­craft from the re­mains of Cas­tro’s air force took off, at­tack­ing one ship and sink­ing another. The other freighters headed back to sea.

In the sky, Cas­tro’s T-33 air­craft shot down two B-26 bombers, killing four Amer­i­can pi­lots. The Cuban air force lost four air­craft. On the ground, the el­e­ment of sur­prise had evap­o­rated. The in­va­sion was “an open se­cret,” said Cuba’s then in­te­rior min­is­ter Ramiro Valdes as 200,000 mili­tia mem­bers pre­pared for battle. Cas­tro ar­rived to di­rect the op­er­a­tions. Fierce fight­ing lasted for two days.

Lack­ing sup­port, the “mer­ce­nar­ies” sur­ren­dered on April 19. There were 1,189 pris­on­ers. Among the in­vaders, 107 were killed. Cas­tro’s forces suf­fered 161 losses.

After­ward, a na­tion­wide po­lice sweep led to the ar­rest of some 100,000 Cubans, in­clud­ing 35,000 in Ha­vana. Cap­tured com­bat­ants were ex­hib­ited on tele­vi­sion. Five would be ex­e­cuted, nine sen­tenced to 30 years in prison, the oth­ers re­leased in Dec 1962 in ex­change for $53 mil­lion worth of medicine and food.

In Ha­vana, Cas­tro sa­vored his tri­umph. In Wash­ing­ton, it was a catas­tro­phe. His­to­ri­ans say Pres­i­dent John F Kennedy con­demned the op­er­a­tion to fail­ure in ad­vance by re­fus­ing to give it mil­i­tary sup­port. He was as­sas­si­nated just two years later in 1963. — AFP

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