Monday, April 18, 2011

The Bay of Pigs operation, with Omnifile Full Text

April 17-19, 2011, marks the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, in which 1,500 exiled Cubans landed on the south coast of their country in an attempt to free Cuba from Fidel Castro's Communist rule.  These invaders were left on the beach without the supplies, protection, and support that had been promised them by their sponsor, the U.S. government, and most of them were killed or captured.

So says a very interesting account of the Bay of Pigs invasion, written by Jack Hawkins, a former colonel in the United States Marine Corps and one-time chief of the paramilitary staff at the CIA's Cuba Project. Published in the National Review in December 1996, this article follows the declassification of many of the documents surrounding the events of 1961 and is prompted by Hawkins's stated belief that "the facts should be reported." His article criticizes the invasion from a military and logistical perspective,  pointing out that if the Cubans had been trained in the U.S. rather than in Guatemala and Nicaragua, they would have been in a better position to carry out their mission. He is also critical of the failure to destroy Castro's air force before the invasion was attempted. Indeed, Hawkins concludes that if the landing had been made at Trinidad and had received adequate air support, it might have succeeded in overthrowing the Cuban government.


Omnifile also features an article from the May/June 1998 issue  of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which reviews the findings of the recently-released CIA review of the Bay of Pigs invasion. This document, "The Inspector General's Survey of the Cuban Operation," deflects blame from President John F. Kennedy's decision to cancel the air strikes that had been intended to coincide with the invasion and instead concludes that the "fundamental cause of the disaster was the agency's failure to give the project... appropriate organization, staffing throughout by highly qualified personnel, and a full-time firection and control of the highest quality." The report, written by then-CIA Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick six months after the operation, does concur with Hawkins in some respects, however: it finds fault with agency's handling of nearly every aspect of the operation.

To find either of these articles, or other material on the operation, search Bay of Pigs in Omnifile.

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