Everything you need to know about the Bay of Pigs

Jessica Evans
Apr 6, 2023 10:53 AM PDT
3 minute read
bay of pigs


Bay of Pigs would be a great name for a barbecue restaurant if it didn’t point to one of the…

Bay of Pigs would be a great name for a barbecue restaurant if it didn't point to one of the greatest American military gaffes.

Let's travel back in time to 1959, when Fidel Castro became Cuba's dictator. As it turns out, Mr. Castro was buddies with Nakita Khrushchev, the head of the very communist Soviet Union. Now, if there was one thing America hated back then, it was communism. Letting the Soviets control half of Europe was one thing. But having them a stone's throw away in the Caribbean was just too much.

Here's the story of a Cuban pilot who defected to America and then returned to Cuba to rescue his family!

Castro Needs to Go

In 1960, President Eisenhower gave the C.I.A. the go-ahead to get Castro out of office. They would use Cuban exiles living in Miami to lead the attack. Most of the exiles had fled Cuba to get away from communism in the first place, so a lot of them had an ax to grind when it came to Castro.

Unfortunately, these exiles weren't great at keeping secrets. A few of them blabbed to their relatives over Christmas dinner, and word got back to Castro that the Yanks were coming.

Student protest against the Fidel Castro government in Havana's central park. January 8, 1960.

Is it time to invade?

Soon after, in 1961, J.F.K. took office and authorized an official invasion of Cuba. The U.S. plot to oust Castro had been all over the news by then—thanks in part to those blabber-mouth exiles. Word travels fast. Still, J.F.K. tried to keep the official plans secret. The U.S. military would enter Cuba at the Bay of Pigs to get in without being noticed.

Why? This particular bay was dark, swampy and swarming with mosquitos. No one in his right mind would be caught dead there—except someone who was forced by his commander-in-chief to do so.

The invasion was a snafu from start to finish. The C.I.A. used rickety old war planes to try and bomb Cuba's airfields. Too bad Castro was ahead of the game. He had gotten word of the plot and moved his aircraft out of harm's way. Then, when U.S. forces arrived at the Bay of Pigs, they were spotted by a radio station on a distant beach. Instead of playing Elvis Presley records, the disc jockey broadcasted the entire event to all of Cuba. As that was going down, so were some of the American ships in the bay. Some of our boats had hit coral reefs off the island's southern shore and started to sink.

Talk about a mission fail

Soon enough, Castro's army had cornered the few Americans who had landed in the right place. There weren't many because most of the U.S. paratroopers had gotten their coordinates wrong. Yikes!

Kennedy hadn't been in office for six months before he got this blemish on his record. Moreover, he wanted to avoid World War III, so he called it quits.

After only a few days of fighting, America surrendered on April 20, 1961. The entire event is remembered as an epic failure by the C.I.A.


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