MIAMI (CBS4) – Fifty years ago this Sunday, a group of 1,400 Cuban exiles, trained by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, launched the Bay of Pigs invasion.
The botched mission has been a black eye on the history of both Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy and served to strengthen the resolve of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
The plan sought to use the CIA to train the exiles to help overthrow Castro’s communist government. At the time, there was a strong fear of the Soviet Union.
The domino theory, which stated that once countries began to fall to communists, it might start a mass worldwide communist revolution also helped steer the U.S. towards supporting the Bay of Pigs invasion.
The training camps were setup in Guatemala and the leader of the group would be Jose Miro Cardona. If the invasion had succeeded, Cardona was set to take over the provisional presidency of Cuba, according to the JFK Library.
But, the mission’s secrecy was blown early on and the landing point became problematic due to the swampy area and the distance from any refuge if the invasion failed.
The plan was to launch two air strikes against Cuba then let the 1,400 person force would invade and launch their attack. But, problems early on saw the U.S. launch only one air strike and the invasion quickly began to fall apart.
The attack failed miserably and left around 1100 members of the invading force in Cuban prisons.
The botched invasion further soured Cuban/American relations. It also gave the Soviet Union the opportunity to place missiles in Cuba that were targeted at the United States. This would give birth to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was the closest the world ever came to an all-out nuclear war.
In fact, some of the very exiles who were imprisoned after the Bay of Pigs invasion would end up helping build the sites for the Soviet missiles that sparked the missile crisis.
The invading forces were eventually released in an exchange of money and medicine. The group was welcomed back to the United States and offered military commissions by President Kennedy.
After the Bay of Pigs, the CIA tried to hatch more plots to overthrow Castro that included poisoning his cigar, among other implausible ideas. Other plans were under in place under a Kennedy administration plan called “Operation Mongoose.”
Castro wound up having the last laugh though as the embargo that has been placed on Cuba for decades has done little to weaken his family’s power over the Cuban government.
No other attack of that magnitude was ever launched against Castro after the April 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco.