BAY OF PIGS
It seems that the United States has been one of the most dominant, if not the most dominant, countries in the world, since the Declaration of Independence. Yet, on Monday, April 17, 1961, our government experienced incredible criticism and extreme embarrassment when Fidel Castro, dictator of Cuba, instantly stopped an invasion on the Cuban beach known as the Bay of Pigs. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, his advisors, and many Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials, made the largest error of their political careers. Once the decision was made to invade Cuba, to end Castro and his Communist government, Kennedy and his administration were never looked at in the same light nor trusted again. Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev was affiliated with Castro, and the two countries made many military decisions together. As Kennedy and the United States tried to stop Cuba and Russia from becoming a threat to the world, an invasion was planned out and executed. The results were a disaster. The Bay of Pigs invasion was the largest military mistake ever made by the United States government and the CIA in the 20th century and brought America to the brink of war with Cuba and Russia.
The Bay of Pigs invasion was not a quick decision, many hours of meetings and conferences occurred before President Kennedy gave permission for the attack. President Kennedy was inaugurated on January 20, 1961, and immediately wanted to take the initiative with the Soviet and Cuban governments (Pearson 12). Russia was already under Communist control, and Fidel Castro took over the Cuban government with heavily armed troops and policeman. Castro’s policemen filled the streets, and he ran the newspapers, as well as many assembly buildings (Frankel 60). At the beginning, Castro did not run a Communist government, but once he began to meet with Russian leader, Nikita Khrushchev, Castro started a Communist government (Crassweller 23). Max Frankel, writer for the New York Times, summarizes the situation in Cuba by saying, "Little by little, the vise tightened. Little by little the free people of Cuba came to realize it could happen there. The grim facts of life on an island that became a police state" (Frankel 59). Every day, Castro came closer to controlling every aspect in life in Cuba. Fidel Castro even took control of the schools in Cuba, throwing out any teacher who he thought might be "disloyal" or disagreeing with Communism. Castro gave long speeches on television, with colorful banners flapping, and bands playing music as patrolmen covered the streets (61).
As Kennedy viewed everything happening politically in Cuba, he began to think of what America could do to help. Former President Lyndon B. Johnson attended many of the meetings and helped advise Kennedy in these conferences. After a meeting with Kennedy in early March in 1961, Johnson told news reporters, "We don’t intend to sit here in our rocking chair with our hands folded and let the Communism set up any government in the Western Hemisphere" (If U.S. 47). U.S. Senator William Fullbright of Arkansas was concerned over newspaper stories that predicted an invasion on Cuba (Schlesinger 251). If anyone in Cuba expected an attack, it would ruin the surprise attack, and the mission would have less chance for success. Fullbright wanted to let Cuba solve their problems, as long everything was contained in only Cuba (252). William Fullbright advised Kennedy and other U.S. leaders, "The Castro regime is a thorn in the flesh; but it is not a dagger in the heart" (252). Fullbright admitted to the fact that there was a problem in Cuba, but he did not view Communism as a big problem. Meetings continued through March and April, and the American people wanted to know if anything was going to be done. On April 8, Kennedy stated in a news conference, "There will not, under any circumstances, be an intervention in Cuba by U.S. armed forces" (Flaherty 94). President Kennedy did not want the American people worrying about events and Cuba, and more importantly, he did not want Cuba to expect an invasion.
John F. Kennedy debated and thought about what could be done in Cuba. Senator Fullbright from Arkansas urged Kennedy to hold back from Cuba. Fullbright wanted the