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The Bay Of Pigs: A Case Study

Review the setting. Lasting only three days, the Bay of Pigs was a short yet defining battle in the Cold War. Fought between the communist Soviet Union and the United States the cold war lasted approximately 45 years. In the years of the Cold War, 1945-1991 “America and its allies struggled to keep the communist, totalitarian Soviet Union from expanding into Europe, Asia, and Africa. ” (Independence Hall Association, 2016) The Bay of Pigs affected The Cold War on a strategic level as one of the main factors leading to the Soviet Union’s strategic placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba.

United States Department of State, 2016) The Soviet Union, known for offering support to new and easily influenced governments in return for their support in the spread of communist ideals was the perfect ally for Fidel Castro, Cuba’s new self appointed prime minister. Strategically the Soviet Union concerned with expanding communist ideals was directly opposed to the U. S. whose strategic objective was to prevent the spread of communism as it threatened democracy and freedom while simultaneously spreading democracy.

Operationally the Bay of Pigs involved Cuba and a U. S. reated CIA trained force consisting of anti-Castro exiled Cubans. The CIA in response to the threat of spreading communism hatched the plan to overthrow Castro. Originally planned for an assault on Trinidad president Kennedy changed the battle plans and instead targeted the Bay of Pigs in a further attempt to obfuscate the perpetrator of the attacks. The intelligence available to Castro indicated an impending attack on Cuba and he responded accordingly by fortifying his beaches. The original intended target was Trinidad Cuba, chosen for its key location and population.

Trinidad was populated with anti-Castro pro revolutionary groups who likely would have been motivated to rise up at the onslaught of our attack, just as the CIA intended. Trinidad located strategically to the Escambray Mountains offed an easy route for egress and a good port with an easily assaulted beachhead. (Central Intelligence Agency, 2016) President Kennedy fearing the attach would be attributed to the United States ordered the CIA to find an alternate assault site with only one month left before the battle. The CIA chose the Bay of Pigs.

The Bay did not offer any of the same advantages as the original assault site. Surrounded by the largest swamp in Cuba the Bay is isolated from any potential uprising civilian populace. Unbeknownst to the CIA at that time the Bay was also Castro’s favorite vacation location and fishing hole. Castro spent most of his time vacationing in this location, poured money into the local businesses making the local population staunchly loyal to him. High seas and coral reef prevented a smooth assault on the beachhead causing many to lose their weapons to the high tide in the very beginning of the amphibious assault.

The Escambray Mountains offered some reprieve from the devastating loss, unfortunately they are located 50 miles through hostile territory from the Bay of Pigs. (Central Intelligence Agency, 2016) Describe the Action Opposing forces. The CIA was granted a generous budget of 13 million dollars in order to recruit and train the U. S. assault force. Members of the Frente Revolucionario Democratico (FRD), who had run from Cuba to Miami, FL were the primary recruits targeted by the CIA. The FRD known for its anti-Castro sentiments made ideal revolutionaries.

The intent of the U. S. assault force known as Brigade 2506 was to spark a revolution by motivating anti-Castro sympathizers to rise up with the invading ground force. Brigade 2506 received specialized military training from the CIA on Useppa Island. On the private island leased by the CIA Brigade 2506 learned advanced military tactics. The Army Special Forces, Air Force, Air National Guard, and CIA made up the training cadre. The CIA also managed to recruit 39 military and commercial pilots who had fled Cuba.

The specialized training included infantry tactics, land navigation, amphibious assault tactics, team guerrilla operations, and paratrooping. The trainers were unaware at the time that their trainee force also contained spies who were actively reporting the forces every move back to Castro. (Central Intelligence Agency, 2016) Castro’s forces did not receive any additional specialized training prior to the attempted invasion. The local force did however have the advantage of having fought with Castro during his uprising against U. S. backed dictator Batista.

The terrain and guerilla fighting style were very familiar to the defending force. (Central Intelligence Agency, 2016) While the U. S. had multiple offensive options including different insertion sites and even a full-scale assault the Cuban forces only truly had one option, defend their homeland. Initial disposition of forces. Brigade 2506 staged 177 airborne trained Soldiers and the eight B-26 bomber teams at the airfield in Nicaragua. The amphibious assault teams were all stated in Florida. Brigade 2506 consisted of 1400 total personnel including all pilots, paratroopers and ground troops.

Castro had command of the 30,000 man Army, assorted Soviet built tanks and the remainder of the Fuerza Aerea del Ejercito de Cuba (FAEC), the Cuban Airforce while ruled by Batista. While phases one of U. S. operations were designed to destroy the remaining Air Force, they were not successful. The bombings of phase one did not successfully destroy Castro’s Airforce but it did lead him to believe that there was an imminent American invasion. Aided by incoming intelligence Castro deployed troops to key coastal locations in order to counter any invasion force. (CIA History Staff, 1979)

Opening moves of the battle. The Bay of Pigs officially began on April 15th in the early morning. Brigade 2506’s opening attack was a covert air raid conducted by six B-26 bombers sanitized and painted to resemble Cuban Air Force bombers. The disguised planes bombed two airfields, an airport, and three military bases in order to cripple Cuba’s Air Force. (CIA History Staff, 1979) The CIA intended for Cubans and the U. S. alike to see the bombers “defect” from the Cuban Air Force and destroy their own, giving anti-Castro protestors something to rally around.

Castro saw through the setup right away. He immediately denied that rebelling members of his Air Force had carried out attacks and he placed the blame rightfully on America. Castro also identified that the airstrikes were designed to cripple his Air Force as a prelude to an invasion force. Correctly reading the signs, Castro then proceeded to reinforce strategic coastal cities in preparation for an invasion. Perhaps one of the smartest countermeasures taken by Castro was the preemptive detention of potential usurpers. He had potential threats rounded up and detained. The Bay of Pigs Invasion, 2016) Major phases/key events. The Bay of Pigs invasion is best defined by its three phases. Phase One describes the opening moves of the battle, which takes place on April 15th, 1961. During phase one Castro’s Air Force was bombed. The amphibious assault team would be vulnerable to air attacks, phase one was designed to mitigate the risks associated with a strong Cuban Air Force. Castro immediately ferreted out that the U. S. was responsible for the attacks, not his own military, as we had intended him to believe.

As a result, Castro had his Cuban foreign minister call an emergency United Nations Political and Security Committee in New York the same day as the air raids. This was an important move on Castro’s part because of how concerned the U. S. was with maintaining deniability. At the meeting, it was uncovered, due to photo evidence, that the planes conducting the bombings in Cuba were in fact U. S. B-26 bombers disguised as Cuban aircraft. President Kennedy fearing further political fallout and potential intervention by the Soviet Union called off Phase Two of the operation.

The U. S. lied to the UN and was caught; this had severe consequences, a second airstrike attributed to the U. S. would have put the U. S. in a bad position. Phase Two, a second airstrike intended to destroy the remaining Cuban Air Force was cancelled minutes before the aircraft took off on April 16th. Phase Three is the actual invasion by both amphibious assault and paratroopers. On April 17th at 0000 hours the amphibious assault team, consisting of four old supply ships, departed Florida. The weather and conditions in the Bay had not been considered.

The seas were exceptionally rough and at 0630 when the ships began arriving in the Bay many men were losing their weapons to the tides, ships were caught on coral reef, and the assault team was trapped in a precarious position. Castro’s forces met the incoming assault teams head on with much superior firepower. The aircraft that should have been destroyed in Phase Two began raining down suppressive fire on the amphibious assault teams keeping them from advancing. At approximately 0730 Brigade 2506’s paratroopers were dropped on objective. The paratroopers had more success, most objectives assigned to the airborne units were held.

Unfortunately, as their supplies dwindled and resupply via air was needed the airdrops were unsuccessful, many of the supplies landing in enemy hands or in inaccessible swampland. Air support that was begrudgingly approved, with very strict rules of engagement, was an hour late and unable to provide the much-needed support. “The invasion did not go as planned, and the exiles soon found themselves outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered and outplanned by Castro’s troops. ” (Central Intelligence Agency, 2016) Brigade 2506’s pleas for air and naval support were denied at the highest levels of government.

Without the needed support, having lost many of their weapons to the sea, without desperately needed resupply and disgustingly outnumbered by Castro’s forces Brigade 2506 tried to retreat. Due to barrages of enemy fire the waiting U. S. destroyers were unable to come closer to rescue the retreating brigade, with no other course of action presenting itself the surviving members of Brigade 2506 surrendered. (CIA History Staff, 1979) Assess the Significance of the Action Relate causes to effects. Cuba is the clear victor in the battle at the Bay of Pigs.

Poor vetting processes while recruiting the 1400 members of Brigade 2506 allowed spies direct access to the planning of the operation. President Kennedy was not provided all pertinent information relating to the battle before being expected to make executive decisions. The population in Cuba was mostly pro Castro at this time having just been liberated by him from the corrupt U. S. backed dictator. The CIA portrayed the country as ripe for revolution, just needing the proper motivating spark. The initial phase one air attacks were not well misdirected and indeed ended up leading directly back to U. S. nvolvement resulting in President Kennedy cancelling the important air strikes scheduled for phase two. The CIA was aware that the U. S. would be hard pressed to conceal all involvement in the attempted coup and yet they portrayed this as plausible eventuality to President Kennedy. When it was evident that America was involved, after we had already lied to the UN and direct support was needed we held back which directly resulted in the ultimate loss.

Poor prior planning, last minute major operational changes, operational security and withheld intelligence resulted in the embarrassing defeat at the Bay of Pigs. CIA History Staff, 1979) Lessons learned/Alternate End. President Kennedy inherited this operation from his predecessor and majorly altered the objectives without allowing for proper prior planning to take place. It was assessed that the operation could not be successful without direct support from the U. S. navy and Air Force, yet president Kennedy concluded that the U. S. could not be attributed to the attack at any cost. The operation was doomed from the start with poor vetting of the assault force resulting in leaked intelligence.

President Kennedy having inherited this operation should have been given the full scale of intelligence available to the CIA. Had the president known that popular opinion in Cuba supported Castro that a coup was unlikely and that the Cuban forces disposition was far superior compared to the freshly trained 1,400 exiles it is my assessment that the operation known as the Bay of Pigs would have been scratched. Had we scratched this operation and prevented the embarrassing loss Castro may not have run straight into the open arms of the Soviet Union seeking support to help repel another invasion attempt by the United States.

If Castro hadn’t been forced into a closer relationship with the Soviet Union, we may never have faced the Cuban missile crisis and indeed may have been able to build a productive relationship with Cuba. Opponents to this train of thought may believe that a close relationship with the Soviet Union was always in Cuba’s future and that an all out American offensive would have been the solution. According to the intelligence available to the CIA from the time period the relationship between Cuba and the Soviet Union prior to the Bay of Pigs had been strictly financially motivated.

Castro was a young idealistic leader just coming into his own. The botched attempt to overthrow him forced him into the arms of the waiting Soviet Union, which was known for its generous support to new governments who were willing to help in their goal to spread communism. (CIA History Staff, 1979)

Conclusion. The CIA withheld critical information pertinent to the operation from President Kennedy in order to insure the operations continued approval.  The CIA director and Kennedy’s military advisors accepted his stipulation that there be no attributable interference from the U. S. Navy and Air Force, they did so knowing full well that it would be necessary for a successful operation and under the mistaken idea that the President would change his mind once Brigade 2506 was in dire straights. (CIA History Staff, 1979) Had the CIA disclosed every piece of Intelligence to the President, including the fact that direct U. S. involvement would become necessary and that the overall population of Cuba was in fact pro Castro then the president would have been able to make sound military decisions instead of trying to operate with less than half the information.

If President Kennedy had been fully informed by his military advisors and CIA director then he would have either cancelled the operation, which seems likely, or fundamentally altered it thus reshaping history. The U. S. may never have faced the Cuban missile crisis and the Cold war may have ended years sooner. The U. S. may have been able to build an equally or more productive relationship with Castro as they had with Batista, resulting in better foreign relationships with major financial and agricultural significance. The relationship would have had far reaching implications ranging from 1961 all the way to present day.

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