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Bay of Pigs - Aftermath

On President Kennedy's orders, no US military personnel actually fought on Cuban soil, but US sponsorship of the landing was readily apparent. President Kennedy publicly acknowledged "sole responsibility" for the US role in the abortive invasion. In the weeks that followed, the CIA subcommittees of the HAC and HASC held closed hearings on the fiasco. For the most part, their tenor was favorableto the Agency. Taking their cue from Dulles's testimony, members blamed the administration and/or the Pentagon for failing to provide air cover and faulted the administration for not taking stronger action.

The SFRC also held closed hearings the first week in May 1961, and these were more contentious. Fulbright complained that the committee should have been forewarned of the invasion; others questioned whether CIA should be charged with undertaking operations of this kind at all. One senator told Dulles that CIA "should go back to its responsibility of being an intelligence agency and gathering information throughout the world." Apart from these hearings, Congress did no independent investigation of the Bay of Pigs. This was left to a blue ribbon commission appointed by the president and to an internal CIA inquiry conducted by the inspector general.

As early as April 20, President Kennedy reaffirmed, in a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, that the United States was resolved not to abandon Cuba to communism. On May 1, Secretary of State Dean Rusk told the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Latin American Affairs that if the Castro regime engaged in acts of aggression, the United States would "defend itself." On May 17, the House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring Cuba to be "a clear and present danger" to the Western Hemisphere. Throughout 1961 and 1962, U.S. policy was to subject Cuba to economic isolation and to support stepped-up raids by anti-Castro guerrillas, many of which were planned with the assassination of Castro and other Cuban officials as a probable consequence, if not a specific objective. The Cuban Government, in turn, assumed often correctly -- that the raids were instigated and directed by the U.S. Government. In preparation for another large-scale attack, the Castro regime sought and received increased military support from the Soviet Union.

American backing of the invasion was a great embarrassment both to Kennedy personally and to his administration. It damaged US relations with foreign nations enormously, and made the communist world look all the more invincible. The Kennedy Administration suffered a devastating blow in the Cold War that contributed to the sense that action had to be taken. The failure of the invasion led to a searching reexamination of Cuba policy. In addition, President Kennedy established a committee under former Army Chief of Staff General Maxwell Taylor and Attorney General Robert Kennedy to examine the causes of the defeat suffered at the Bay of Pigs. President Kennedy, in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs debacle, said it taught him that "generals should be kept on tap, not on top."

While the Bay of Pigs invasion was never mentioned explicitly as a reason for stepping up US efforts in space, the international situation certainly played a role as Kennedy scrambled to recover a measure of national dignity. Science Advisor Jerome Wiesner reflected, "I don't think anyone can measure it, but I'm sure it [the invasion] had an impact. I think the President felt some pressure to get something else in the foreground." T. Keith Glennan, NASA Administrator under Eisenhower, immediately linked the invasion and the Gagarin flight together as the seminal events leading to Kennedy's announcement of the Apollo decision. He confided in his diary that "In the aftermath of that [Bay of Pigs] fiasco, and because of the successful orbiting of astronauts by the Soviet Union, it is my opinion that Mr. Kennedy asked for a reevaluation of the nation's space program."



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