Bay of Pigs Invasion

Bay of Pigs Invasion, unsuccessful attempt in 1961 to overthrow the government of the Cuban premier Fidel Castro by United States-backed Cuban exiles. Increasing friction between the United States and Castro's leftist regime led President Dwight D. Eisenhower to break off diplomatic relations with Cuba in January 1961. Even before that, however, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had been training antirevolutionary Cuban exiles for a possible invasion of the island. The invasion plan was approved by Eisenhower's successor, John F. Kennedy.

The operation was designed as a means of overthrowing the Castro regime without revealing U.S. involvement in the operation. The plan originally called for the gradual buildup of anti-Castro forces within Cuba into a cohesive political and military unit capable of toppling Castro. However, the operation quickly escalated into plans for a full-scale invasion, with the budget expanding from $4 million to $46 million and the CIA training and supplying anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Guatemala.

On April 15, several days before the invasion, CIA pilots destroyed part of Castro's air force. They were preparing to complete the job on April 16 when President Kennedy, for reasons that have never been properly explained, ordered a halt to the air strikes. On April 17 about 1500 exiles, armed with U.S. weapons, landed at the Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) on the south coast of Cuba. Hoping to find support from the local population, they intended to cross the island to Havana, but were quickly stopped by Castro's army. By the time the fighting ended on April 19, about 100 had been killed and the rest taken prisoner. The Cuban government later released the captured exiles after a ransom was paid.

The failure of the invasion seriously embarrassed the Kennedy administration, which was blamed by some for not giving it adequate air support and by others for allowing it to take place at all. An internal CIA secret audit of the operation blamed the failure on a series of mistakes made by the agency in the planning and execution of the invasion. Prepared by CIA Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick, the audit was kept secret for 36 years before being released to the public in 1998.

Kirkpatrick concluded that the CIA failed to provide for adequate security measures in the training and preparation of the mission. News of the impending invasion leaked to the media and also reached Castro, who made preparations for the attack. The audit also found that the CIA conducted little reliable intelligence gathering regarding the situation in Cuba and failed to realize that no wide-scale organized resistance to the Castro regime existed to assist the invaders. Despite this lack of information the agency assured Kennedy that an invasion would be met with strong support from the Cuban people. That support never materialized.


"Bay of Pigs Invasion," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000 © 1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.


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