17 April

The Bay of Pigs Invasion, was a failed military invasion of Cuba undertaken by the CIA-sponsored paramilitary group Brigade 2506 on this day in 1961.

A counter-revolutionary military, trained and funded by the United States government’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Brigade 2506 fronted the armed wing of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (DRF) and intended to overthrow the increasingly communist government of Fidel Castro. Launched from Guatemala, the invading force was defeated within three days by the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, under the direct command of Prime Minister Fidel Castro.

The Cuban Revolution of 1952 to 1959 had forced dictator Fulgencio Batista, an ally of the United States, into exile. He was replaced by the 26th July Movement led by Castro, which severed the country’s formerly strong links with the US after expropriating American economic assets, and developing links with the Soviet Union, with whom, at the time, the United States was engaged in the Cold War. US President Dwight D. Eisenhower was concerned at the direction Castro’s government was taking, and in March 1960, Eisenhower allocated $13.1 million to the CIA to plan Castro’s overthrow. The CIA proceeded to organize the operation with the aid of various Cuban counter-revolutionary forces, training Brigade 2506 in Guatemala.

BayofPigs

Over 1,400 paramilitaries, divided into five infantry battalions and one paratrooper battalion, assembled in Guatemala before setting out for Cuba by boat on 13 April 1961. Two days later on 15 April, eight CIA-supplied B-26 bombers attacked Cuban airfields and then returned to the US. On the night of 16 April, the main invasion landed at a beach named Playa Girón in the Bay of Pigs. It initially overwhelmed a local revolutionary militia. The Cuban Army’s counter-offensive was led by José Ramón Fernández, before Castro decided to take personal control of the operation. On 20 April, the invaders finally surrendered, with the majority of troops being publicly interrogated and put into Cuban prisons.

The failed invasion strengthened the position of Castro’s leadership as well as his ties with the USSR. This led eventually to the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The invasion was a major embarrassment for US foreign policy. US President John F. Kennedy ordered a number of internal investigations across Latin America.