The Bay of Pigs: A Struggle For Freedom CSC 1984 SUBJECT AREA History WAR SINCE 1945 SEMINAR The Bay of Pigs: A Struggle for Freedom Major Joe R. English 2 April 1984 Marine Corps Command and Staff College Marine Corps Development and Education Command Quantico, Virginia 22134 ABSTRACT Author: ENGLISH, Joe R., Major, U.S. Marine Corps Title: THE BAY OF PIGS: A STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM Publisher: Marine Corps Command and Staff College Date: 16 March, 1984 This paper presents a review of the invasion of Cuba in April, 1961, by a group of Cuban exiles. This invasion became known as the Bay of Pigs invasion because of the area where the landing took place. The invasion force was financed and trained by the CIA with the full knowledge and approval of the Executive branch of our government. The operation was conceived under the Eisenhower admin- istration as a guerrilla insertion. It was passed on to the Kennedy administration where it was expanded to the final product of a fullscale invasion by the brigade of exiles. Although the project was run by the CIA, it was so compartmentalized that virtually no one had all of the details of the operation. The Military was brought in very late to review the plans and lend some covert support to the actual invasion. A force of 1,443 landed on the Southern shores of Cuba in the early morning hours of 17 April, 1961. They estab- lished a beachhead and held it for three days against over- whelming numbers of Cuban forces led by Fidel Castro. After three days, they literally ran out of ammunition and the vast majority of the invaders were captured and held prisoner for over a year before being ransomed to the Government of the United States. This paper covers the Bay of Pigs Operation from beginning to end with a view toward explaining what happened. It does not deal in detail with why events occurred and decisions were made. The reasons for the failure of the operation are covered in an appendix which sets forth the conclusions of the Taylor Commission which was chartered by President Kennedy immediately after the operation to analyze the results. Aside from the description of the events leading up to and during the Bay of Pigs operation, the paper deals with an analysis of the invasion plan from the standpoint of METT. It also looks at the performance of the Brigade in light of the principles of war. The result is a look at a bargin basement amphibious operation which presents an opportunity to view both its successes and its failures. The net result is a reinforcement of the Marine Corp's amphibious doctrine. TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE List of Figures ii Prologue 1 Chapter I. U.S. Political Considerations 3 II. Formation of Frente and Brigade Training 20 III. The Plan 30 IV. The Invasion 35 V. Ransom 87 VI. Conclusions and the Principles of War 95 Appendixes A. Memorandum 2 & 3 from Taylor Commission Report 109 B. Cuban Project Time Line 119 C. Invasion Time Line 121 Bibliography 124 FIGURES PAGE Figure I. Cuban Project Organization 1959-1961 7 II. Trinidad Plan 14 III-1. Planned Disposition of Forces 38 III-2. General Disposition of Forces at the End of D-Day 66 IV. General Disposition of Forces at the End of D+1 78 PROLOGUE This paper presents a review of the invasion of Cuba in April 1961, by a group of Cuban exiles. This invasion became known as the Bay of Pigs invasion because the landing took place near the Bahia de Cochinos on the Southwestern coast of Cuba. The invasion force was financed and trained by the CIA with the knowledge and approval of the Executive branch of the United States government. The operation was conceived under the Eisenhower administration as a guerrilla insertion. It was passed on to the Kennedy administration where it was expanded to the final product of a full scale invasion by the Brigade of exiles. Although the project was run by the CIA it was so compartmentalized that virtually no one individual had all the details of the operation. The Military was brought in very late to review the plans and lend some covert support to the actual invasion. A force of 1,443 landed on the shores in the early morning hours of 17 April, 1961. They established a beachhead and held it against a numerically superior enemy for three days before they literally ran out of ammunition and were captured, killed or escaped. The examination of this operation provides the military student a small scale model of an amphibious operation which can provide a validation of U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious doctrine. Closer study of Brigade performance also demonstrates areas of battle study particularly valuable to the small unit leader such as the effective use of the reserve, tactical use of terrain, and the value of a viable command and control system. The story of Brigade 2506 is set forth in this paper from beginning to end. The foundation for the operation is laid from both the standpoint of the preparation of the force and the political requirement for the mission. This is followed by a detailed description of the invasion and subsequent fighting. The capture and imprisonment of the members of the Brigade and their subsequent release are described. The analysis and conclusions are based primarily on the actual combat performance of the Brigade in light of the Principles of War as set forth in Marine Corps doctrine. Appendices contain the results of the Taylor Committee which was appointed by President Kennedy to investigate the reasons for the failure of the operation. The information in the following report was compiled from a number of publications dealing with the subject to include; books, magazine articles, newspaper reports, speeches, and government documents. The result is a look at a bargain basement amphibious operation which presents the opportunity to view both its successes and its failures. CHAPTER I U.S. Political Considerations The third week of April, 1961 was a fairly normal one for most of the United States and the American people. The eyes of the news media were focused on the war crimes trial in Israel of Adolph Eickmann, former Nazi Chief of the Gestapo's "Jewish Affairs" section. The Soviets were grabbing global headlines by placing Major Yuri Alekseyvich Gargarin into the first manned orbit of the Earth. There was just beginning to be public awareness of the guerilla tactics of the Pathet Lao fighting the pro-Western loyalists in Southeast Asia. 1/ On Wednesday, April 12, 1961, President Kennedy held a routine weekly press conference in the afternoon. The American people and the world were watching the fledgling administration closely to determine how effective it would be. It is interesting to note that after brief introductory remarks, the first question asked at the press conference was: "Mr. President, has a decision been reached on how far this country will be willing to go in helping an anti-Castro uprising or invasion of Cuba? What could you say with respect to recent developments as far as the anti-Castro movements in Cuba are concerned?" The President replied: First, I want to say that there will not be, under any conditions, an intervention in Cuba by the United States Armed Forces. This government will do everything it possibly can, and I think it can meet its responsibilities, to make sure that there are no Americans involved in any actions inside Cuba ... The basic issue is not one between the United States and Cuba. It is between the Cubans themselves. I intend to see that we adhere to that principle and as I understand it, this administration's attitude is so understood and shared by the anti-Castro exiles from Cuba in this country. 2/ Over the past few months there had been numerous indications that United States relations with Cuba were in jeopardy. There had been reports of an unknown "force" training at bases outside the United States. The reports inferred that this "force" was training for an invasion of Cuba. In reality these rumors were very true. The force was Brigade 2506, a unit made up of approximately 1500 Cuban exiles intending to invade their Cuban homeland and outhrow the government of Fidel Castro. On the day of the President's press conference, the Brigade had moved from their training camps in Guatemala to their embarkation port at Puerto Cabeza, Nicaragua. At this point, it is necessary to present some back-ground before describing the execution and the results of Operation Pluto; the attack of a force of Cuban exiles upon their Cuban homeland at the Bahia de Cochinos (The Bay of Pigs). On New Year's day 1959 Fidel Castro had ousted the Batista government and seized control of the government of Cuba. At first it looked as if Fidel Castro might establish a regime favorable to United States policy in the Caribbean. In the beginning, there was no clear indication of his philosophy or intentions for ruling Cuba. Over the next few months, however, it became increasingly apparent that he was not going to be easy to deal with as a neighbor and his policies demonstrated an increasingly socialist point of view. By March of 1960 it was realized, by political world leaders, that the policies of the government of Fidel Castro were not compatable with the goals or interests of the United States. Within the highest levels of the United States government, a search began for a solution to the situation. It was during this time that the seeds were planted that would eventually bear the fruit that would be Operation Zapata. Castro was rapidly becoming an irritant to the United States. It was obvious to the Eisenhower administration that no overt actions could be taken within the structure of international law to remedy the Cuban situation. The President chose to exercise the option of covert action to depose or discredit the Cuban leadership. With the concurrence of the Special Group, he asked Allen Dulles, the head of the CIA, to put together a "program" for dealing with Castro. 3/ (The Special Group consisted of a deputy Under Secretary of State, the deputy Secretary of Defense, the Director of the CIA, and the special assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. It was authorized by the National Security Council Directive NSC 5412/2 and was the most secret operating unit of government at the time.) Dulles called on the head of the CIA plans division, Richard Bissell, to begin to put together a program for covert action. Thus, the "Cuba Project" was born. The CIA had proven to be quite capable in the overthrow of Latin American governments and had staged an extremely successful operation in Guatemala in 1954. Eisenhower had been elated with the results of the operation and so the CIA began making plans for a similar project for Cuba. Early in the planning phase of the operation, it became obvious that the operation would be expensive and could not be totally concealed within the agency's budget. At a cabinet meeting on August 18, 1960, the President approved $13 million and the use of some Department of Defense personnel and equipment. This money was programmed for the training of a Cuban guerrilla force outside the U.S. It became apparent at this time that no U.S. military personnel were to be used in a combat status. 4/ The initial plan included a series of independent operations which would come together as the government of Cuba began to crumble. First, Howard Hunt and Gerry Droller were sent to Miami to try to form a coalition of all he splinter groups of Cuban exiles there; to form a representative group to function as a government in exile (See Figure I). 5/ The many groups were constantly fighting Click here to view image among themselves and no basis for trust could be established among them. It became imperative that a group of leaders be brought together before any other operations commenced. This leadership would be the only way to lend an air of legitimacy to the training and equipping of a revolutionary force. Second came the job of recruiting, equipping, training and delivering a group of guerilla fighters to undermine the Cuban government. They would act as a nucleus for anti- Castro citizens in Cuba to join, and later train and equip the local populace as the uprising began. Toward this end, the agency set up a recruiting network in Miami and soon had enough Cuban volunteers to begin initial training. They established training centers within the United States in violation of their guidelines: in Florida, in Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, and the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Panama. The third function was to set up a propaganda network. David Phillips, who had handled the propaganda program for the Guatamala scenario, began to set up a similar program for the Cuba Project. He put a radio transmitter in operation on Swan Island off the coast of Honduras and began broadcasting with a group of Cuban refugees, delivering anti- Castro speeches between musical selections. The initial estimate was that six months would be required to stimulate the desired results. The fourth and final area of the project still remains highly classified, but most certainly existed. This involved a plot to dispose of Castro by assassination. The success of this endeavor would have made the rest of the operation unnecessary. However, although there seems to have been several attempts to poison Castro, none were successful. There are strong indications that the agency utilized members of the American underworld in their efforts, and are somewhat embarrassed by the evidence that has come to light since the operation. 6/ While Radio Swan continued to pour propaganda broadcasts into the Cuban homeland, preparations for training camps were established in Guatemala. An agreement was reached with the government of Guatemala whereby a large plantation, belonging to Roberto Alejos, was leased and transformed into a large training camp for the Cuban guerilla force. This camp became known as Base Trax and was the primary training site for the ground forces for the Bay of Pigs operation. The training of Cuban volunteers for guerilla tactics continued through October 1960, with approximately 300 Cubans receiving their training there. In early November 1960, the administration decided to scrap the guerilla operation for three reasons: (1) It became apparent that supplying the guerillas by air drops would be extremely difficult. (2) As Castro's regime became more allied with the Communist block nations, he was receiving more arms and ammunition, and thus beginning to re-equip his military. (3) The Castro regime's control over the civilian population was much tighter than had been anticipated, making a long guerilla campaign undesirable. On November 4, 1960, the C.I.A sent a cable to Base Trax officially cancelling guerilla training for all but 60 of the Cubans. It specified how future training should be handled and indicated that the force would now be trained for conventional warfare with an emphasis upon amphibious assault training. 7/ This cable indicated a major change/escalation of the type operation to be mounted in Cuba and occurred only four days prior to the Presidential elections of 1960. Simultaneously, an airfield at Ratalhuleu had become a major construction project funded by the American government. It became operational in September 1960 and training began there for the Cuban pilots of the Brigade Air Force. Their aircraft consisted of C-46 and C-54 transport aircraft, and a few B-26 medium bombers. These aircraft were not chosen at random. All had been sold widely on the world market after World War II. They were all reliable, generally well suited to the missions to be performed, and all in service with Castro's Cuban air Force. Little or no attention was paid to the fact that Castro's pilots were flying a different model of B-26 than the ones flown by the exiles. 8/ This fact will prove to be of great importance later on. The Cuban flyers were trained by a group of American pilots recruited by Major General Reid Doster, head of the Alabama National Guard. Most of the American aviators he used were without current military ties but all had extensive multi-engine experience and most had flown in combat. They had a difficult task, since most of the Cuban students had less than 100 hours of flying time and few had any experience with the heavy, multi-engine aircraft they would be flying; but a few had airline experience or had been members of the air force under Batista. These men quickly became the leaders of the fledgling Brigarde Air Force. As the training of the Cuban invasion forces continued, events on the political scene changed. The 1960 presidential election was over and Kennedy was the victor. It became apparent that the operation could not be executed prior to the shift of power in the White House; because of this on November 27, 1960 president-elect Kennedy was briefed on the plan. He was disturbed only by the small size of the Brigade and encouraged Allen Dulles to continue with the development of the force. 9/ Over the course of the next few weeks there followed an escalation of the operation. A plan was put before the Special Group calling for a landing of 600-750 men, preceded by air strikes. With the change from guerilla operation to actual invasion, air power became a very important consideration. For such a small force to gain a beachhead they must have absolute air superiority to avoid being picked apart by Castro's air force. Up until this time the administration had directed the Department of Defense to provide any assistance required by the CIA. There had been no provision for an actual briefing of the Defense Department as to exactly what was occurring and what assistance the plan required. Some of the requests for DOD assistance had been delayed to the point that the CIA had gone up the chain of command to expedite them. This understandably upset the military leadership. Under Secretary of Defense James Douglas learned that the CIA was planning an 'over the beach' landing in Cuba. He requested and received a meeting with the President and CIA director Dulles. He desired to dissociate the Department of Defense with a plan that seemed impractical. The knowledge of the existing plan remained at the Secretary of Defense level and was not passed to the JCS. Without knowledge of the CIA plan, the JCS appointed a committee to study what could be done to unseat Castro. The committee, headed by Brigadier General David Gray, produced a report containing six alternatives: (1) economic warfare; (2) blockade; (3) infiltration by a guerilla force; (4) a guerilla force with U.S. backing; (5) U.S. air and naval warfare with no invasion; or (6) all out invasion. The committee suggested that nothing short of step 4 would work. After a briefing on the report of the JCS committee, President Kennedy, on January 28, 1961, ordered the JCS to review the CIA plans. General Gray headed the committee to review them. The committee soon learned that so compartmentalized were the CIA operations that no actual written plan existed. The committee was briefed orally for two days by the principals involved in various phases of the operation. They then compiled their notes and presented in written form the plan that had been briefed to them. They produced what became known as The Trinidad Plan. The general scheme was to land the Brigade near Trinidad on the southern shore of Cuba. This had been reported to be an area where opposition to Castro flourished. Intelligence indicated that a popular uprising would occur soon after the landing of the Brigade; hence the Brigade was really designed as a body around which forces could build. Each of the unit leaders had been trained to lead a unit one step larger, i.e., platoon leaders were company commander capable. The plan assumed that the Brigade would flesh out within a few days after landing. The guerilla forces trained at Base Trax would be operating in the Escambray Mountains nearby and would link up with the invasion force, further adding to its size. (Sea Figure II). 10/ General Gray reported, on January 31, 1961 to the JCS, the findings of his committee. He estimated the chances of success as "fair" and re-emphasized the requirement for absolute air superiority. On February 3, 1961, the Chiefs Click here to view image sent a report to the White House and the CIA. They advised that the chances of achieving military success was favorable, but advised that the ultimate success would depend on political factors such as the actual popular uprising and the ability to build a substantial force. They also left themselves a loophole by saying that their assessment of the combat worth of the forces was, of course, based on 3rd and 4th hand reports on their condition, training, and equipment. President Kennedy received a briefing on the JCS views of the CIA plan. At the meeting, the President did not seem to be overly enthusiastic about the plan; he reminded Bissell as the meeting ended that he reserved the right to cancel the whole idea at any time up to the day before D- day. 11/ Later, when the dissolution of the Brigade was discussed, the President's advisors pointed out that the release of the Cubans could cause serious political problems as they spread across the U.S. and Latin America and began telling people what they had been doing in Guatemala. The President reflected that the simplest solution would be to let them go to the destination of their choice: Cuba. 12/ As plans and training continued, Hunt and Droller had still not been able to form an effective coalition government-in-exile in Miami. The infighting of the Cuban politicos seemed to intensify as the Brigade forces increased their readiness. Equally important, intelligence sources on conditions and social attitudes within Cuba were offering conflicting information concerning how the Cuban population would react to the effort to oust Castro. CIA sources were almost unanimously optimistic about the potential for popular uprising once the spark had been ignited by the invasion forces. Media coverage and reports of people who visited Cuba, however, dispelled the rumors of poverty and discontent; such reports noted that Castro was riding an increasing wave of popularity, his land reform program and the nationalization of large U.S. corporate assets within Cuba. On March 11, 1961, President Kennedy held a meeting in the cabinet room. This meeting probably influenced the eventual outcome of the operation more than any other since the conception of the "Cuba Project". Everyone expected the President to make the "go-no, go" decision on the operation. Richard Bissell presented a brief on the Trinidad Plan. The Trinidad area had many significant advantages. It was located a substantial distance from Havana, with troop and aircraft concentrations. Only one main road existed which would act as a military supply route and axis of advance for Castro's forces. This road could be easily cut by destroying one bridge. The population was fairly large and had demonstrated support for the guerilla forces already operating in the nearby Escambray Mountains. There were port facilities and docks in Casilda which could be used for unloading large amounts of ammunition and supplies quickly. From a military standpoint, the area was extremely well suited for the operation. From a political standpoint a major drawback existed. The small airfield there could not support operations of the B-26 bombers. This would eliminate the facade that the air strikes were originating within Cuba and would make the knowledge of U.S. involvement a certainty. President Kennedy rejected the plan as much too spectacular; and he stated his preference for a more quiet landing, preferably at night, with no basis for U.S. intervention. He summed up the problem by stating that, the greater the military risks, the smaller the political risks, and vice versa. He adjourned the meeting by tasking the agencies involved to find a compromise plan that would reduce the divergence of risk of both political and military concerns. 13/ A task force worked to find an option which would meet the President's requirements. On March 15, 1961, the JCS approved a plan calling for a landing on the north coast of Oriente Province near Bahia de Cochinos (The Bay of Pigs). The military aspects of the terrain were not as favorable as those at Trinidad, but were deemed acceptable. The area was bordered by the Zapata Swamps on the flanks, and there were few access roads to allow Castro's forces to approach. There ere no docks or port facilities, but the Bay allowed the force to land well away from the sea. Most important, the airfield at Giron was 4900' long and could ostensibly support B-26 operations. (The CIA later learned that only 4100' were usable but this did not alter the plan.) By changing to the Bay of Pigs area the Brigade lost the ability to move into the mountains and revert to guerilla warfare. The President was not told this and still thought they had this option. After receiving a briefing on the modified plan, Kennedy advised the CIA to proceed with the operation. Again, he reminded them that he reserved the option of cancelling the operation within one day of its execution. 14/ Military planning now began in earnest. Time was considered a critical factor, since Soviet weapons were daily pouring into Cuba by the shipload. The most critical factor became the forecast date for Cuban pilots to complete flight training in MIG aircraft. This training which took place in Czechoslovakia, was thought to be near completion. Once these pilots returned to Cuba, they would eliminate any chance for the Brigade to obtain the required air superiority. ENDNOTES (Chapter I) 1/ "Stopped in the Swamp", Time, 21 April 1961, p. 19. 2/ Public Papers of the President of the United States: John F. Kennedy, (Jan 20 - Dec 31, 1961, Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1962), p. 258. 3/ Peter Wyden, Bay of Pigs, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979) p. 24. 4/ Maxwell D. Taylor, Memorandum 1 Taylor Commission Report," Narrative of the Anti-Castro Cuban Operation Zapata" (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1961, sanitized version declassified May 8, 1977), p. 8. 5/ Howard Hunt, Give US This Day, (New York: Arlington House, 1973), p. 20. 6/ Warren Hinckle and William W. Turner, The Fish is Red, (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), p. 29. 7/ Haynes Johnson, et al., Bay of Pigs, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1964), p. 54. 8/ Wyden, p. 176. 9/ Wyden, p. 68. 10/ Wyden, p. 91. 11/ Wyden, p. 92. 12/ Wyden, p. 100. 13/ Wyden, p. 100. 14/ Wyden, p. 102. CHAPTER II Formation of Frente and Brigade Training Over the same time period that the U.S. political decisions were being made, Howard Hunt was trying to organize the Cuban exile leaders into some sort of provisional government-in-exile. This had proven to be no easy task because of all the fighting among the different Cuban exile groups. Hunt originally set up his organization in Mexico City, in an effort to keep the perception of U.S. involvement to a minimum. He began working there with representatives of five major exile organizations. Sanchez Orango led the Triple A; Tony Verona represented the Rescate; Justo Carrillo the Montecristi Group; Manuel Artime the Revolutionary Recovery Group (MMR); and Dr. Jose Rasco the Christian Democratic Movement (MDC). After much deliberation, these groups formed a coalition which was called the Frente Revolucionavo Democratico (FRD or Frente as they became known). 1/ The Mexican government was not happy to have a group of revolutionaries operating within the country. They initiated surveillances, searches, and general government harassment, which made it clear, to all members of the Frente, as well as, to Hunt and his organization, that their presence was not desired. Finally, after approximately three months of operations in Mexico, Hunt moved the organization to Miami. Although the Frente was by no means representative of the entire Cuban community nor a tightly knit group, it did serve to give a common cause to the Cuban exiles. The Frente became instrumental in influencing young Cuban males to flock to the CIA recruiting offices to join the Brigade. Through the exile newspaper sponsored by the CIA the dreams of contra-revolution were kept alive among the many exiles in the Miami area. The changes of membership and leadership over this time period are too numerous to state, as are the squabbles and political upheavals that occurred. However, a few points are germane and should be made. First, is the relationship that evolved between the Cuban exile political leadership and the Brigade. All members of the Frente knew that their ultimate goal was the overthrow of the Castro regime by military force. They also knew that this force was to be the Brigade, which was being formed and trained in Guatemala. As the political heads of the exile movement, they assumed that the Brigade was their army and that they would control it. They believed that the Brigade's objective would be to install them as the governing body of Cuba after Castro's fall. The leaders of the Brigade, however, did not share this view. They were loyal to the individual representatives who made up the Frente, but were not overwhelmed by allegiance to the Frente itself. In general, they viewed the operation as a military project and as long as the supplies, equipment, and promises of landing on the Cuban shores kept coming, they felt above the stormy world of the politicians. They felt that once the government of Castro had toppled, they would have a lot to say about who gained control of the new government. This had become the Cuban way, and they held the military might -- the real power. These feelings were, no doubt, fostered by the attitudes of the operatives within the U.S. organization. Because of the compartmentalization of the operation, there was little or no direct interface between the political and military operations within the CIA organization. Any decision affecting both, went up the chain and then back down, with no coordination at lower levels authorized. The only time Hunt and his military counterpart met face-to-face was at meetings at Quarters Eye (CIA headquarters) in Washington, D.C. On these rare occasions, they stated their opinions, and decisions were made by higher authorities. This lack of teamwork among the U.S. organizers could not help but affect the Cubans that they worked with. One major flare-up occurred which almost caused the cancellation of the whole project. A few malcontents created a division among the members of the Brigade, leading to open hostility between the factions. The political leaders found out about this and decided to visit the training camp and speak to their men in order to smooth over the problems. U.S. authorities denied them permission to visit the camps. This sent the politicians into an uproar. The military leaders at the camp in Guatemala gathered up the malcontents and separated them from the Brigade. Since they could not just turn them loose to tell the world of the operation, they had to be detained. They were taken to a prison camp in the Peten Jungles in northern Guatemala and held until after the Cuban landings. 2/ This did not totally quiet the friction among the Brigade's, but did allow for training to continue. Finally, approximately two months later, Hunt finally persuaded his superiors to allow a committee from the Frente to visit the camps. In the beginning, it looked as though this junket would be a disaster because the Frente discovered, for the first time, exactly what power was exerted over the Brigade, as well as over their organization, by their U.S. mentors. Then they came to realize that without the U.S. organization to support and hold them together, they really had no way of accomplishing their goals. They gathered the Brigade together and spread oil on troubled political waters. When they left Guatemala, the Brigade was again a single unit and had rededicated itself to the mission of overthrowing the Castro government. 3/ Another incident which increased the awareness of the Frente as to actual control of the operation, came when Colonel Martin Elena resigned his post as nominal head of the invasion forces. The Cuban colonel presented Hunt with a long list of complaints about being kept in the dark on military subjects and, in general, about his lack of authority. He complained that he could not effect satisfactory planning for the invasion without better knowledge of the Brigade, their capabilities, and supplies. He (and in effect the leaders of the Frente) was told that his planning would not be necessary. The operation was much too complicated and certainly, far too important, to be left to Cuban tacticians. The entire invasion would be planned and coordinated by U.S. planners. Colonel Elena was at that point left with no alternative except to resign. 4/ These incidents, as well as numerous other indications, some small and some large, revealed that the Cuban exiles were not totally in charge of their own destiny. In spite of this, neither the politicians nor the military leaders lost the naive faith that whatever the U.S. was doing for and with them was certainly in their best interest. They fully realized that they had no hope of reaching their goal without the full military, political, and, most important, monetary support of their U.S. benifactors. Indeed, all they had to do was observe the great accomplishments that had been made in assembling and training the Brigade even the foundation of the Frente. Although not all inclusive, this background information should bring the events leading up to the Bay of Pigs invasion into a clearer focus. By March 1961, Radio Swan had been operating for seven months, providing music and propaganda to the residents of the Cuban mainland and to the Cuban exiles in Florida and scattered throughout Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean Basin. The radio station also served the function of passing messages in code to the operatives working inside Cuba and to the guerrilla forces fighting in the Escambray Mountains. Both intelligence sources and the news media carried conflicting reports of the political and socio-economic situation in Cuba. A solid judgement on how the population would react to an exile invasion and the possible overthrow of the Castro government could not be made. The U.S. decision makers tended to be somewhat optimistic in their estimates and were ready to believe that at least a portion of the population would join in an uprising against the government. History had proven that the cuban people, generally, were ready to back a counter-revolutionary power, if they thought it had a chance for success. The Frente, although a very fragile coalition, became a viable political organization. Although made up of a volatile membership, it had a sturdy framework and the organization would stand up and present the image of a government in exile. This fulfilled their mission as the U.S. backers did not show their concern of who would provide the future leadership of the Cuban nation once the Castro regime had been ousted. Anything would be better than the government that now existed. Actually, the more the power was split among the various factions, the easier it would be for the diplomats of the U.S. to make their choice and throw their support behind their man after the invasion. The Brigade had been formed and trained. Although they were still involved in training exercises in Guatemala, they were considered, by U.S. military experts who had inspected them, to be combat ready. 5/ Even though they were definitely a para military organization, the Brigade's invasion force had grown to almost 1,500 men, all fairly well trained and exceptionally motivated to accomplish the amphibious operation at the Bay of Pigs and then move on to Havana. The Brigade was made up of a true cross section of the Cuban populace. Students comprised the largest group, but there were representatives from most professions, as well as, farmers, fisherman, and other workers. Many had wives and children, some of whom were still in Cuba. The majority were Catholic, but there were also protestants and some Jews. The majority were white, but there were approximately 50 negroes and some others with mixed blood. Only about 140 had been professional soldiers, while most of the rest had no previous military training. They were, however, united by their democratic ideals, sense of duty, and unanimous conviction that the invasion would be successful. 6/ The Brigade air force was operating from the American built base at Retalhuleu, Guatemala. Their aircraft consisted of 16 B-26 medium bombers, four 4-engine C-54 transports, and 5 twin engine transports. The B-26's had been stripped of their tail and waist guns to allow them to operate with enough fuel to make the round trip from Central America and still deliver their bombs. Their only self- protection was four cannon mounted in the nose. The planners considered this adequate since they hoped to eliminate Castro's miniscule air force on the ground. Although many training missions were still being flown, some combat exposure had been gained by the transport pilots who had flown missions to drop supplies to the guerrilla forces operating within Cuba. Clandestine operations within the Cuban homeland had not proven very successful. All attempts to assassinate Castro had been foiled. 7/ Each attempt was thwarted by either Castro's intuition or the failure of the operatives involved. 8/ The guerrilla forces operating in the Escambray Mountains were slowly being eliminated by Castro's army and were quickly becoming totally ineffective. 9/ Many of the radio operators who had been infiltrated into Cuba were still available, but they had been given no orders concerning what their part in the plan was or how to carry it out. They were severely limited in their movement by the Castro regime's mass search for subversives that resulted in hundred of Cuban citizens being jailed. On the U.S. political scene, there were beginning to be doubts by many important people. The President's advisors were reluctant to voice these doubts and an attitude was developing which would later be often analyzed but seldom understood. This would become known as the phenomenon of "assumed consensus". Since virtually no one spoke of their doubts, each began to think no one else had any. Thus, no real, hard questions were voiced, and the common feeling existed that everyone was in agreement. History shows that this was not the case. As is so often the case within a highly compartmentalized organization, the fact that no one had brought a detail to anothers attention did not necessarily mean that someone else was taking care of it. From an operational standpoint, things were thought to be ready to come together. The general planning was complete. The Brigade forces (both ground and air) were ready. The propaganda mission seemed to be on track and the political organization had been brought together. All that was necessary for Operation Pluto to commence was the approval of the President. ENDNOTES (Chapter II) 1/ Hunt, p. 44. 2/ Johnson, p. 61. 3/ Hunt, p. 133. 4/ Hunt, p. 158. 5/ Johnson, p. 66. 6/ Peter Lazo, Dagger in the Heart (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1968), p. 258. 7/ Hinckle & Turner, p. 37 8/ Wyden, p. 110. 9/ U.S. News and World Report, 1 May 1961, p. 39. CHAPTER III The Plan This is an excellent point to leave things while we examine the situation from the military standpoint of METT (mission, enemy, terrain and weather, and troops). I. Mission A. The mission of the operation was two-fold. 1. Political - The political mission: to over- throw the Castro government in Cuba. This would be followed, initially, by the establishment of a coalition government made up of the members of the Frente. 2. Military - The military mission: to conduct an amphibious assault coordinated with an airborne assault to seize and establish a beachhead in the vicinity of Bahia de Cochinos. Initial objectives were the beaches and existing port facilities at Playa Larga and the airfield at Giron. The Brigade should function as a Cadre for the additional patriots who would come from the common uprising against the Castro government and then to break out of the beachhead and press on to Havana to oust the existing government through force of arms. II. Enemy A. General - Fidel Castro knew that some form of military action was imminent. He also knew that his island nation, with some 2,000 miles of coastline and enormous areas of sparse population, presented an invader's paradise. He had done his best to whip the populace into a frenzy of invasion fever over the past few months. He had formed local militias all over the island and had armed them with the equipment which had been steadily arriving from the Communist bloc nations. He was also well aware that there were plans being made to attempt to assassinate him; he therefore, tightened his personal security. His major desire became more and better intelligence. He knew about the Guatemalan training camps and fully expected an invasion at anytime. He only wished he could find out the time and place that it would come. 1/ B. Air - Castro had a minimal air force. The air assets were disorganized and the available pilots lacked flying experience. The air force was not organized into squadrons or any type of conventional units. Each airport, and whatever planes happened to be there, relied upon instructions from headquarters in Havana. The planes were old and the maintenance personnel inexperienced and hampered by a lack of spare parts. The small number of planes that were considered operationally capable were not considered to be combat capable. The force had a limited capability for early warning against a surface attack and could make raids against lightly armed invaders. 2/ The Cuban air force consisted of about fifteen B-26's inherited from Batista, three T-33 jet trainers, and approximately six British Sea Fury light bombers. There were an undetermined number of transport aircraft which would not be a factor in the invasion. Castro had also received some MIG aircraft from the Soviet bloc, but these had not been assembled. Currently a group of 50-60 Cuban pilots being trained in Czechoslovakia who were due to return sometime around the end of April. 3/ C. Ground - 1. Castro's ground forces were formidable when compared to the Brigade. His total force had been built around some 250,000 militiamen, armed mainly with "light, modern, submachine guns made in Czechoslovakia". These were augmented by "some 15,000 young men of an elite corps, Communist and pro-Communist fanatics, armed with new Belgian FN rifles, firing 20 round clips at a rate of 600 rounds per minute." Along with this, the regular army of Cuba totaled about 40,000 men armed with Russian equipment. There was also a tank force equipped with approximately 100 Russian T-34 tanks which were fast and highly mobile. 4/ 2. All of these troops were well armed, well trained, and highly motivated to the defense of their homeland. They were deployed throughout Cuba because they did not know where the invasion would come. This wide deployment constituted their only major weakness, since it would take some time to mass the forces in any given area. III. Terrain and Weather A. The beachhead was to be established at the head of the Bay of Pigs. This bay is some 15 miles-long and three to five miles wide on the southwest coast of Cuba. The area encompassed by the beachhead was sparsely populated by, generally uneducated people. The major industry of the area was the making of charcoal; although there were a few makeshift docks, no major port facilities existed. The area was surrounded by the Zapata swamps, which are almost impenetrable. There was one major road to the north which would provide the most likely avenue of approach for the Castro forces, and another to the northwest which could provide a limited approach. The area was served by limited electric power and had no telephone facilities. The town of Giron, approximately 12- 14 miles southeast of the head of the Bay, had an airfield with 4100 feet of usable runway (out of a total length of 4,900 feet). B. The area around Playa Larga at the head of the Bay was the site of a major construction project. Castro enjoyed fishing in the area and had begun construction on a major resort. This construction had brought jobs and prosperity to an otherwise undeveloped part of Cuba and had made the local populace fiercely loyal to the Castro regime. C. Weather was not a factor. IV. Troops A. Ground - Brigade 2506 consisted of 1443 well armed and well trained Cuban exiles. Their training had been mostly in small unit tactics and amphibious assault. All small unit leaders had been trained to move up one level as the ranks were expected to swell with the anticipated influx of anti-Castro Cubans, once the Brigade was ashore. The force was well supplied and would land with 10 days of supply for the initial landing force, plus enough weapons and ammunition to equip those who were expected to join them from within the civilian population. The majority of the force was armed with M-1 carbines and Browning Automatic Rifles (BAR's). They had some anti-tank weapons and were supported by light artillery. B. Air - Air cover would be provided initially by aircraft flying from bases in Nicaragua and, once the airfield at Giron had been secured, the Brigade air force would operate from there. 5/ The major weakness of the Brigade, was the relatively small number of troops in respect to both the numerically superior enemy, and in regard to the scope of the mission. It is also considered a weakness that the leaders were executing a plan in which they had no role in the planning evolution. ENDNOTES (Chapter III) 1/ Wyden, p. 103. 2/ Johnson, p. 70. 3/ Lazo, p. 117. 4/ U.S. News and World Report, p. 38. 5/ Johnson, p. 85. CHAPTER IV The Invasion This was the situation when the base commander at Camp Trax, Guatemala received the mobilization order on 9 April, 1961. The time had come to move the Brigade from Guatemala to Base Trampoline, the spring board for the operation. This would be Puerto Cabeza, Nicaragua. It took three days to move the entire Brigade to Base Trampline. The majority of the equipment was staged there already or had been moved from Guatemala as early as April 2, 1961. The CIA had chartered six freighters (slow, old, rusty, and very unmilitary looking), all about 2400 tons, from the Garcia Line. The shipping corporation had offices in both New York and Havana, but it was not pro-Castro in any way. These ships had proceeded to New Orleans, Mobile, and other Gulf Coast ports, where they had been pre-loaded with the majority of the Brigade's supplies, ammunition, aviation gasoline, and other supplies. Then they were to proceed to Puerto Cabezas. Upon arrival there, the crews of the ships were told they were to deliver the Brigade to the shores of Cuba and were given the opportunity to quit. One captain and six crewmen did; they were replaced with no problems. 1/ In Puerto Cabezas, the ships were fitted with machine guns for self protection, although this was considered to be a formality since the Cuban air threat would be neutralized. When the Brigade assembled at Base Trampoline, the leaders met for a briefing of the operation. This was the first time that the details of the plan for the landing had been discussed with them. Operation Zapata called for landings at three points -- Plays Larga, call Red Beach; Giron, Blue Beach; and a point twenty miles east of Giron cutting the road to Cienfuegos, Green Beach. Giron was the center of invasion. There, at Blue Beach, Pepe San Ramon would land his men and establish his command post. From Red Beach to Green Beach, the Brigade would control 40 miles of Cuban coastline. The First Battalion of paratroopers would be dropped in three places -- along each road crossing the swamps; at La Horquito, in front of Yaguaramas; at Jocuma, in front of Covadonga; and along the road from Central Australia to Playa Giron. Del Valle, their commander, would establish his headquarters at San Blas. Thus, the Brigade's initial holdings would extend inland for more than 20 miles. Olivia would land at Playa Larga with the Second and Fifth Battalions of infantry. Near Playa Larga, a paratroop detachment would seize an airport and town called Sopillar. San Roman would land at Giron with the Sixth Battalion of infantry, the Fourth or armored Battalion, and the Heavy Gun Battalion. The Fourth Battalion would send a reinforced company with two tanks to support the paratroopers at San Blas; the rest of the battalion would enter the Playa Giron Airfield, a major objective, and be held in reserve until needed The Heavy Gun Battalion Artillery was to give general support to the paratroopers, and also the Third Battalion of infantry which was to land at Green Beach. (See Figure III-1 for Planned Disposition of Forces.) The invasion plan carefully allocated supplies from D- Day to D-Day + 10; then from the tenth day after the invasion to the twenty-first day, and on to the thirtieth day. On D-Day itself, seventy two tons of arms, ammunition, and equipment, enough to support four thousand men, would be unloaded. In the next ten days, 415 tons more were to be unloaded, followed by 530 and then 607 tons. Everything was worked out, ton by ton, day by day. The plan was superb. 2/ Throughout the briefing, questions were asked about the capability of Castro's planes to interfere with the landing and subsequent operations ashore. These questions were always given the same reassuring answer: Castro's planes would be destroyed on the ground before the landing was commenced. This was said so often and so confidently that the Cuban leaders did not question these assumptions or how it would be done. The Brigade leaders were told, "there will be a plane over all the major roads of Cuba every five minutes. The Brigade ships are loaded with forth thousand gallons of gasoline, so the air force will begin immediate missions once the field at Giron is seized." 3/ It should be noted here that no mention of any alternate plan was made. Such a plan had, in fact, been made but not communicated to the Cubans. The CIA officials Click here to view image decided that if the alternate plan were to be briefed to the Cubans, it might weaken their resolve when things got rough. Instead, they were told that if things went seriously wrong they should contact the base camp, via radio, for further instructions. This decision sentenced the Brigade to be committed to only one course of action, as it took away any contingency except to hold the beachhead, at any costs. 4/ When the briefing was completed, the Cubans left the building feeling confident. The plan they had heard sounded complete, solid, and workable. They had full confidence in the American planners and so they were full of optimism as they walked to the pier around 1700, 14 April, 1961. There, they said farewell to their American advisors, talked about how they would see them all later in Cuba, and boarded the ships which would sail them into the glorious invasion. The Brigade was on its way. In Washington, the moment of truth arrived. Although, during subsequent investigation many people professed to have doubts about the ability of the force or the plan, no objections were raised when it mattered. Richard Bissell had been pressing President Kennedy for days for a final decision. The President had reserved the right to cancel the operation until 24 hours before D-Day. That time was approaching rapidly. Although Kennedy was still non- committal, he had stressed again and again, in public and in private, that American military personnel would not be directly involved in the operation. He had, however, approved the use of U.S. naval ships in a support and air cover role. The U.S.S. Essex and her battle group of five escort destroyers were ready to escort the five Garcia Line freighters to a rendezvous point just outside the Bay of Pigs. They had only one task: to ensure that the Cubans got to the beaches, not to assist them once the landing was made. The Essex had taken aboard a squadron of new A-4D Skyhawks but their mission was yet undefined. While the Brigade's invasion force steamed toward their destiny, things were not entirely quiet. Nino Diaz and a reconnaissance group of 160 men prepared to execute a diversionary landing approximately 30 miles east of Guantanamo in the early hours of Saturday morning April 14, 1961. As they neared the shore, they saw what they thought were cigarettes being smoked by a number of militiamen along the coast. They aborted the landing and returned to their small cruiser off the coast. As dawn broke, they were well over the horizon to wait and try again the next night. The failure of this group to land was blamed on the weakness of the Cuban leader. The failure of this diversionary raid had a profound effect on the success of the real invasion, since its mission was to draw Castro's forces to the east and confuse his command. 5/ For the pilots at Puerto Cabezas, the morning brought an air of excitement. Although some had flown supply drops for guerrillas over Cuba, today would be the day that they struck the first blow for the freedom of their homeland. That morning they would attack Cuba. As they received their mission briefings, they learned that two planes were to attack Managua, two San Antonio de los Banos, two Santiago de Cuba, four Ciudad Libertad (Castro's main air base), and one plane to attack San Julian and Baracoa. Shortly after the briefings, the attacks on Managua and San Julian were cancelled, with no explanation given. As the pilots at Puerto Cabezas finished their briefing, they were asked for volunteers to fly special missions. There were many volunteers, but only three pilots were chosen. These men were taken away from the main group and given special briefings. They were told that, under no circumstances, were they to discuss the mission they were about to fly with anyone for a period of five years. Their mission was to provide the cover story for the rest of the attack on Cuba. They were to fly to the U.S., where they would land and say that they had defected from Castro's air force. They were to take credit for the raids on Cuba and were given a story to release to the press. Afterwards, they were to "vanish" and would be returned to Puerto Cabezas to resume their part in the operation. 6/ The pilots were assigned aircraft numbers FAR933 and FAR915. 7/ Some of the panels were removed from the aircraft and had bullets fired through them to give them a battle worn appearance. The aircraft proceeded to the United States where one landed at Miami International Airport and the other at Boca Chica Naval Air Station at Key West, Florida. Both aircraft landed with an engine feathered. The pilots were whisked away by U.S. Customs and Immigration officials and their identities were not released to the press. Later, statements were released giving the story provided for them by the CIA. The statements, as printed in the major newspapers, read that the pilots were three of a group of four who had been planning for some three months to escape Cuba. They said that the government did not trust its pilots and would only allow the planes to be fueled enough for each mission, but not enough for them to reach asylum in the U.S. On the day before their escape, they had seen one of their group, whom they mistrusted, talking to some Castro officials. This had made them nervous and they had decided to leave the next morning. After takeoff, they had bombed and strafed military targets around their bases and then flown to Florida where they asked for asylum. 8/ The real strikes against the Cuban bases took place at dawn on April 15, 1961. The eight B-26's to be used were loaded with two 500 pound demolition bombs, ten 200 pound fragmentation bombs, and eight rockets. They also carried eight machine guns in the nose with 2800 rounds of ammunition. These B-26's were the A-26 Invader derivative of the World War II Martin Marauder, but they differed from those flown by Castro forces; the exile aircraft had an all metal nose vice the plexiglass nose of the Cuban model. Further, in order to easily identify them to the friendly forces, they had a wide blue stripe painted on the fuselage. This deception was to prove ineffective. The Brigade aircraft departed Puerto Cabezas between 0230 and 0300 Sunday morning and proceeded to their individual holding points off the coast of Cuba. Timing was crucial, since the attacks on all targets were to begin simultaneously. However, Castro was no fool. Although his intelligence network left a lot to be desired, he certainly had access to the U.S. news media. The American press had been reporting for several days that signs of an invasion were evident. He knew that his tiny air force would be the primary target for any aggressive action. He had taken what measures he could to ensure that his operational aircraft were widely dispersed and well camouflaged. He put the crews of the anti-aircraft batteries on an increased readiness posture and waited for the expected attack. As dawn broke over Cuba, the airstrikes commenced. The first taste of combat for the Brigade pilots was sweet. They delivered their ordnance with determination and made attack after attack through heavy anti-aircraft fire. The damage they inflicted was heavy, but not crippling to the Cuban air force which was their primary target. Initial pilot reports put damage at 50% of the offensive air capability of Camp Libertad, 75-80% aircraft destruction at San Antonio de los Banos, and the destruction at Santiago included two B- 26's, one DC-3, one Lodestar, and one T-33 or Sea Fury. Subsequent photographic studies and interpretation assessed a greatly reduced estimate of the damage, amounting to five aircraft definitely destroyed, and an indeterminate number of other planes suffering some damage. The attacking force lost one aircraft and crew to enemy anti-aircraft fire." 9/ In the aftermath of the air strikes, Castro took his accusations to the U.N. that the strikes were the work of the Americans. He feverishly denied that the attacks had been made by defecting Cuban pilots flying his own airplanes, and challenged the U.S. to present the pilots at the U.N. for questioning. The news media in the U.S. were in a frenzy. Although they were not allowed to meet with the pilots who had landed at Miami and Key West, they interviewed virtually everyone else. News releases came from the State Department denying U.S. complicity in the raids, but statements from the President's office and the Pentagon were conspicuously absent. While the statement of the pilots were dutifully printed, the media also hinted that there were many discrepancies in them. The cover story could not be sustained over a long period. On the day of the strikes, the story fulfilled its purpose and lent credibility to the U.S. position that the strikes were not sponsored by the American government. Dean Rusk, the U.S. representative to the U.N., was not told of the deception and made an eloguent defense to Castro's accusations on the floor of the General Assembly. He was later very upset when he learned the truth, feeling that he had been duped by the administration. Although the story of the B-26's landing in Florida and their crews defecting achieved the desired effect of casting doubt on U.S. involvement, it was later to have a seriously adverse effect on the operation. The political pressure put on the administration, as result of the initial air strikes caused the President to be extremely hesitant to launch further strikes without first having the Brigade in control of the airfield at Giron. This left the remnants of Castro's air force free to operate against the Brigade on the beaches. It negated the assumption of air superiority, on which the plan was based, and very likely turned the tide of the battle. In the wake of the air attacks, it became even more obvious to Fidel Castro that his island nation was on the verge of being invaded. He had reports from his agents, as well as, the American media reports that the Brigade had left their training bases. He knew they must be on their way. As Castro weighed the invader's options, he felt that there were two major courses of action available. A series of small, widely spaced landings, or a single major amphibious assault. Several smaller landings would prevent the invaders from suffering a single crushing defeat. Numerous pockets of resistance along the coastline would split his forces and severely test his command and control network. This option also left choice of landing and then operating as a network of guerrilla groups. He felt that if the Brigade landed in one area, with all of their men it would be to his benefit. In his opinion, a frontal assault by the Brigade would allow his numerically superior forces to liquidate the enemy rapidly. Castro's concluded that the Americans would not allow the Brigade to risk everything on a single beachhead. A total defeat would bring with it too much discredit, both for the U.S. and for the counter- revolutionary movement. Acting on his decision, Castro studied the coast for probable landing sites. Then he sent small groups of 100- 500 men to these sites to keep watch and build defensive positions. The area around Trinidad (the original site chosen for the operation) was especially heavily fortified, as were all approaches to the mountainous areas, to prevent the forces from gaining access to the terrain which Castro knew from experience would favor guerrilla operation. There was nothing left to do but watch and wait. 11/ The offices of the CIA, State Department, Pentagon, and the White House were buzzing with activity. Everything was ready for the invasion, the wheels were turning and the first blow had been struck; but still President Kennedy had not given the authorization for the actual invasion to commence. There had been numerous meetings, over the past few weeks, all of them ending without a decision. The only person who had aired any doubts about the operation had been Senator Fulbright; but he had been very moderate in his attack of the plan. Everyone felt the decision would be to go with the operation, yet there was an air of hesitancy until the formal approval was given. The 24 hour deadline passed. Finally, about mid-day on D-1, 16 April, 1961, President Kennedy phoned Richard Bissell and gave him the go-ahead. 12/ The mood at CIA headquarters immediately became one of jubilation. It was a tremendous relief to finally know that the year's worth of effort and millions of dollars spent on the operation would not be scrapped at the last minute. The decision of President Kennedy to continue had been based on the following logic: It offered what appeared to be a last chance to overthrow Castro by Cubans before the weapons and technicians acquired from the Communists and the repressive internal measures which would make the task too hard without overt U.S. intervention. It was recognized as marginal and risky, but the Cuban Brigade, if not used quickly, would become a political liability, whereas used in a landing it might achieve important success before Castro became too strong. Even if unable to hold the beachhead, something would have been accomplished as the Brigade could turn guerrilla and provide a strong reinforcement to the resistance movement on the island. 13/ Upon notification, the extensive propaganda program conceived by the CIA was executed as planned. Radio Swan and 11 other CIA controlled stations began an intense propaganda blitz. They also included in their broadcast coded messages for operatives inside Cuba to execute preplanned missions. Most of these were never carried out. The only failure was the planned leaflet drop by the Brigade air force planes. The tactical decision was made, that bombs would be more necessary than the leaflets and so, the drops were cancelled. Late Sunday afternoon, a very significant event occurred at CIA headquarters in Washington. The message giving the order for the dawn airstrikes the following morning was drafted and sent to the Deputy Director of the CIA for release. He asked the operative who brought him the message if the strike had been cleared. The operative, who was aware that the strike had been an integral part of the plan, replied that they had been cleared. As a precaution the Deputy Director decided to check with Dean Rusk. After a few minutes, McGeorge Bundy, the special assistant to the President, telephoned the Deputy Director and informed him that no strikes were to be flown in support of the operation until the airstrip at Giron had been secured. If further consultation on the matter was required, it should be discussed with the Secretary of State. 14/ In reflection, this decision must have been made in light of the political pressure brought to bear on the United States at the U.N., as a result of the cover story told by the pilots who had landed in Florida the previous day. The administration was not willing to risk dropping the final shreds of denial of complicity in the operation, even for something as important as the chance to finish off Castro's air force before the invasion began. Richard Bissell was called in and appraised of the situation. He knew at once that the strike was vital to the operation; he and the Deputy Director then met with Rusk at the State Department. Rusk listened to the two men's objections of the cancellation of the air strikes and agreed to call the President for a decision. They listened as he told the President that they were in his office and were urging reconsideration of the decision to cancel the strikes. He reported their opinion that the strikes were very important to the success of the landing, and then stated, "I am still recommending, in view of what's going on in New York, that we cancel." 15/ The president agreed. What were probably the most important air strikes of the invasion, were cancelled on political grounds. A new message was drafted and sent to Puerto Cabezas, cancelling the strikes. It arrived just after the engines had been started on the strike aircraft. When the senior American official read it, he immediately sent a protest back to Washington. Fresh U-2 photographs indicated that Castro had at least two T-33's and some Sea Furies operational. It was vital that these aircraft be destroyed. 16/ He received a reply quickly restating the cancellation. No one in the Department of Defense or JCS chain of command was questioned on the effect of the cancellation, or for that matter even notified until the following morning. To the average American, the reason for the failure of the Bay of Pigs operation was the lack of air cover. The strike that had just been cancelled had been designed to decimate Castro's air force on the ground, thus eliminating the need for defensive air cover for the Brigade. This would allow the Brigade pilots to concentrate their efforts on offensive air support for the ground operations. If Castro was able to operate any tactical aircraft at all, the Brigade would be at their mercy throughout the invasion. The CIA immediately recognized the seriousness of the cancellation of the air strike and took what action they could. They immediately notified the Brigade leaders and warned them that enemy air attacks would be likely during the invasion. They ordered the ships to expedite unloading and to withdraw from the beach before dawn. They set up a schedule to give the ground force continuous B-26 cover during daylight hours and had the JCS alert the naval forces to the possibility of receiving the mission of providing air cover. The deputy director of the CIA personally called on the Secretary of State and requested that the U.S. Navy provide air cover and early warning destroyers to protect the now vulnerable ships of the Brigade. The request was put to the President. He disapproved the air cover, on the grounds of the President's original policy of no direct involvement by the U.S. military. He did, however, authorize the use of the early warning destroyers for ship escort, with the proviso that they were restricted from operating any closer than 30 nautical miles from the Cuban shore. 17/ The men of the Brigade were very crowded aboard the freighters. The ships, which were not designed for troop transport, were overloaded with supplies and equipment and the men slept wherever they could find space. It did not matter, as the voyage was short and spirits were soaring because of the imminent action. During the trip, plans were completed, last minute orders issued by small unit leaders, and some training was conducted. Aboard the ATLANTICO, the machine guns installed aboard the ship for protection were being fired for training when the hastily welded deck plate broke loose. There was a group of 20 men sleeping on the deck below, and the barrel of the gun dropped and fired through the deck. One man was killed and two wounded, one very seriously. The captain broke radio silence and asked for help. The U.S.S. Eaton, a destroyer, responded and took the wounded men aboard for medical treatment. They were the first casualties of the invasion. Around noon on April 16, 1961, the officers of the Frente met at the Statler Hilton in New York City and drafted an announcement for later release of the commencement of the invasion. They then left, via the kitchen exit, to avoid reporters and drove to Philadelphia. There, they boarded a small private plane and were flown to Opa-Locka Airfield in Florida; there they remained under guard in an old barracks to await their planned trip to Cuba after the invasion force had secured a beachhead. 18/ These men, the highest officials of the Cuban government-in-exile, felt that they were being held prisoner by the Americans at the very time when they should have been with their men. They were not at all satisfied with their treatment over the next two days. Shortly after 2000 on the night of April 16, 1961, D-1, the lead Brigade ship and four other freighters of the Garcia line rendezvoused with the U.S.S. SAN MARCOS. The SAN MARCOS was the landing ship dock (LSD) which had brought the landing craft for the Brigade to use. The SAN MARCOS transferred three landing craft utility (LCU) and four landing craft vehicle and personnel (LCVP) to the Brigade, exactly 30 nautical miles off the Cuban coast. These craft were already loaded with trucks, jeeps, and some tanks. Just as the transfer was complete, a landing craft mechanized (LCM) arrived under its own power and was also transferred to the Brigade. This was the final step for the invasion, and now, the Brigade, in control of its landing craft, was fully operational for the first time. The Brigade fleet sailed into the mouth of the Bay of Pigs and split their formation, proceeding to their assigned areas -- Blue Beach at Giron and Red Beach at Playa Larga. The landing at Blue Beach was designated the main attack and the landings at Red Beach and Green Beach were the supporting attacks. The initial operation of the invasion was the landing of the advance force of the Second Battalion. When the advance force of frogmen disembarked from the BLAGAR they were surprised to find that one of the CIA agents, who had been their advisor, had decided to accompany them to the beach. It was not his intention to land with them but only to see them safely ashore. The landing party would go ashore in an 18 foot Catamaran with two 70 horsepower outboards. It would tow a rubber raft which would be manned about 600 feet from the beach and be used for the final approach. They planned to land near a rock jetty on the extreme right of the beach and then to place marker lights ashore to guide the landing craft to the landing site. Intelligence sources indicated that the area should be quiet, and that the bulk of the population were construction workers who should be asleep at the time of the landing. As the Cuban exiles came in sight of the area, they were totally surprised. The Cubans had installed bright arc- type vapor lights at the construction sites along the beach and there were small groups of Cubans scattered there talking among themselves. To the landing party, the area was lit up like an amusement park. The American advisor saw immediately that the landing site had to be changed on the spot. He knew that the change would cause confusion, but made the decision to alter the location of Red Beach. He also decided, that for the change to work, that he would have to land himself and conduct the operation. 19/ The American advisor joined the Cubans in the rubber raft and they proceeded toward the darker section in the center of the beach. About 150 yards off shore, one of the beach marker lights suddenly started blinking. Someone covered it almost immediately, and found the switch to be in the off position. A short circuit had caused it to come on. About eighty yards off shore the engine bottomed out on a sharp coral reef that ran almost the entire length of the beach. This reef had shown up on the reconnaissance photos, but had been interpreted as sea weed. This would prove to be an extremely costly error. The men got out of the raft into waist deep water and waded toward the shore. They were about fifty yards off shore, when they heard a jeep coming down the beach. It stopped adjacent to them and swung its headlights around onto them. The American fired on the jeep with a BAR and was joined by the Cubans. They riddled the jeep with machine gun fire and knocked out the headlights. They did not take any return fire. These were the first shots fired in the Bay of Pigs invasion. 20/ Immediately after the incident, the lights all over the town went off. A truck loaded with militiamen started down the beach toward them. The men of the advance force radioed the BLAGAR and requested help. They were soon engaged in an intense fire fight with the militiamen. San Ramon decided to begin the landing of the Brigade. He was in one of the lead landing craft and soon had enough men ashore to establish a small beachhead. The trouble really began when the first wave of the main force headed ashore from the CARIBE. The reefs were unknown to the invasion force until their boats struck them at full speed. Many boats sank on the spot, and most were at least delayed. The invasion schedule was delayed and the advantage of surprise had been lost. The frogmen worked throughout the night to find a safe path through the reef for the invasion forces landing craft. The Fourth Battalion was landed and given the mission of securing the air strip. Intelligence had indicated that it would require some engineering support to become usable. Photos indicated piles of sand and gravel on the runway, and that some trees would have to be cut down to allow for a safe approach. But San Ramon was informed that the air strip was secure and usable. The expected obstacles did not exist. The Brigade aircraft now had a place from which to operate on Cuban soil. 21/ As San Ramon set up his headquarters in Giron, the orderly unloading of vehicles and supplies commenced. Although the beachhead at Blue Beach was secure, Castro's militiamen had been able to transmit the alarm to troop and air force headquarters in Havana before the Brigade had destroyed a microwave antenna in the area. San Ramon evaluated the situation and made the decision to cancel the landing at Green Beach and consolidate its troops, equipment, and supplies at Blue Beach. 22/ In spite of resistance, all vehicles and tanks were unloaded at Blue Beach by 0730. All personnel were ashore by 0830. 23/ At Red Beach, the American advisor (a CIA man) who had disobeyed his orders, and the Cuban frogmen were able to place their marker lights, in spite of immediately coming under fire from Castro's forces. They radioed back to the BARBRA J and the HOUSTON to expedite the landing, and set up a hasty defense of the beachhead against a rapidly increasing militia force. As the HOUSTON came within range, the machine guns on the beach opened up on her. The attack was answered by her gunners, catching the frogmen in a crossfire. She was able to silence the guns from the shore, but in the process one of the frogmen was killed. This was the first Brigade casualty of the invasion. Erneido Olivia, the commander of the Brigade forces at Red Beach, also saw the need for his leadership ashore earlier than expected. He changed the landing sequence and came ashore in one of the first waves with his staff. 24/ The Second Battalion was very slow in coming ashore. The navy landing craft were planned to be utilized for the movement of the heavy vehicles and supplies. Personnel were primarily to be transported in small fiberglass launches with outboard engines. This caused a major problem, as the outboard motors proved to be unreliable as numerous failures occurred. The small launches did not have much freeboard and were unable to withstand the heavy seas. Many were swamped on their way to the beach. Although there were only 185 men in the Second Battalion destined for Red Beach, by 0530 all of the men were still not ashore. The Fifth Battalion never did get ashore because of the boats and poor leadership. 25/ Once ashore, Olivia ordered his men to seize and destroy the microwave station in Playa Larga. When the station was seized, the equipment was found to be warm and all the transmit switches were in the "on" position. The alarm had been broadcast from there, also. At 0315, Fidel Castro received the news of the invasion. He was informed of the landings at Playa Larga and Giron and ascertained that his militiamen in the area were resisting. Castro ordered confirmation of the information, and quickly received it. Fidel then alerted the forces that were in the area, consisting of several platoons of militia stationed at the Central Australian Sugar Mill and a battalion containing three mortar batteries in Matanzas Province. The troops at Central Australia were not able to mobilize until dawn and the others a little while later. Castro also ordered three battalions from Las Villas Province to Yaguaramas and Covadonga to protect the other two major highways into the Zapata Swamps. He issued orders to the air force to commence its attack at dawn on the ships at Playa Larga and Giron. 26/ Castro planned to crush the invasion at Playa Larga first, since it was the furthest inland. Then his forces would attack the beachhead at Giron, flanked by the swamps with few cross roads. He knew that the landing of the provisional government must be prevented at all costs. After outlining his plan and issuing initial orders, Castro departed for the Bay of Pigs. The situation at 0400-0530 was fairly stable. Beachheads had been established at both Red and Blue Beaches. Men and equipment were pouring ashore (although slower at Red Beach). Both San Ramon and Olivia established their headquarters and command posts, but were at that time unable to communicate with each other. The Brigade had pushed inland in both areas and the airstrip had been secured at Giron. Although considerable confusion existed, the plan was generally being followed except for the cancelled landing at Green Beach. Then the Brigade received word that Castro still had operational aircraft and that they should expect to be attacked from the air at dawn. They were advised to have the ships put back to sea before the attacks began, and expect them to return the following night. There was no time to coordinate such a change. At 0600, the frogmen reported that they had charted a path through the reefs. At 0625, as the landing craft from the BLAGAR were moving the tanks and troops of the Heavy Gun Battalion ashore, they were attacked by a B-26. The B-26 was soon joined by a T-33 and several Sea Furies. The remainder of the Heavy Gun Battalion, as well as the Third and Sixth Battalions, were forced to land while receiving heavy fire from the air. 27/ At 0630 the HOUSTON was crippled by air attack. The captain grounded her on the west shore of the Bay of Pigs, about five miles from Red Beach. 28/ The Fifth Battalion was aboard the HOUSTON when she was hit, along with ammunition and fuel for the Brigade. The field hospital was also aboard the HOUSTON. Most of the men of the Fifth Battalion were able to get ashore, although they could not get organized, and never became a viable unit throughout the battle. At least twenty-eight men died in the sea. The first air attack ended at 0700. The Brigade had been able to bring down two of Castro's B-26's, but had suffered great losses themselves. The doctors on the beachs were overwhelmed with casualties, and many of their medical supplies had been lost when the HOUSTON was sunk. Most of the Radio equipment that had been brought ashore, had been soaked with salt water, and was inoperable. In the confusion of the landing and air attacks, units had been separated, and command and control disintegrated and adequate communications ceased. Despite these problems, the beachhead was secure and Castro's ground forces in the area were unable to gain ground against the Brigade. At 0730, the men of the Brigade saw the five C-46's and one C-54 pass overhead with paratroop units enroute to the drop zones. In the drop zone north of Playa Larga, the heavy equipment was dropped first, followed by the paratroopers. The equipment landed in the swamps and was never seen again. The advance force also landed there and was ineffective for a considerable period of time. The other units landed under fire and some fell behind enemy lines. Several were killed while still in their parachutes. The other paratroop units landed safely without organized opposition and proceeded to their blocking positions along the roads to Covadonga and Yaguaramas. These blocking positions were each manned by almost 20 men; their weapons consisted of a 57mm cannon, a .30 caliber machine gun, a bazooka, and an automatic rifle squad. Fortunately they were heavily equipped, since they came under attack shortly after getting into position. They performed well in the engagement on Eastern front. The airborne drops secured two of the three main roads. But the road to the north of Playa Larga to Central Australia remained open. But this was where Castro's forces concentrated and therefore posed the major threat to the exiles. San Blas was the only area where any real support for the Brigade was shown by the populace. A number of local citizens offered assistance to the paratroopers, volunteered to carry supplies and water, and worked as nurses. Five civilians volunteered to fight; they were given uniforms and weapons and integrated into the Brigade unit. 29/ Back at Red Beach, the air attacks were renewed. A Sea Fury scored a direct hit on the RIO ESCONDIDO. She had two hundred barrels of aviation fuel stored above decks and the Sea Fury slammed a rocket directly into the middle of the AVGAS. The fire extinguishers abroad were totally inadequate for the gasoline fire and the captain saw immediately that his ship was lost. He gave the order to abandon ship and called the BLAGAR for assistance. The crew abandoned ship and were all rescued, with only one man sustaining any injuries. After the crew left, the ship was totally destroyed by three tremendous explosions, the sound of which were heard all the way to Giron. 30/ The loss of the RIO ESCONDIDO dealt a particularly heavy blow to the Brigade. Her cargo was vital for the fighting force. She had aboard the first 10 days mount out of ammunition, fuel, food, and medical supplies for the entire force. Equally important, however, she had the communications van aboard, which was the heart of the brigade radio communication system, and provided the only means of communication with the Brigade aircraft. Two of the Brigade's five ships had now been destroyed, along with their valuable cargo. Another ship, the BARBARA J had been damaged by machine gun fire and had lost two of her engines, and was taking on water. The leaders of the Brigade, hampered by extremely poor communications, could not make an accurate evaluation of the situation. San Ramon, the commander of the Brigade could not contact any of the units outside the immediate area of Blue Beach. He had never had any radio communications with the paratroopers and he could not even talk to the ships which had brought him to the beach and were to resupply him. About 1000, San Ramon made radio contact with Olivia at Red Beach. The news was not good. Olivia reported his units all ashore and involved in heavy fighting, except for the Fifth Battalion which was no where to be found (they had abandoned the HOUSTON five miles from Red Beach and were never to enter the battle). Olivia reported that he had no communications with the paratroopers, who had dropped to the north of him; but he felt that something had gone wrong, since the enemy was still coming down the road that they- were supposed to be blocking (the paratroopers in this zone were either lost or retreating by this time). He asked San Ramon to send a tank and a squad of infantry to reinforce him. San Ramon agreed, and immediately dispatched the tank and infantry. 31/ By noon of D-Day, San Ramon was beginning to put together the situation. The Brigade was pinned down on the beachhead. Their supply lines were temporarily cut when the ships put back to sea. They had very limited communications, with most messages being sent by messenger. They had received only limited air support from the Brigade aircraft, and were almost constantly under fire from Castro's planes. Still, the Brigade had established itself a shape and appeared capable of giving the Castro units a full measure of battle. The battle plan of the Castro forces was becoming apparent and it surprised the Brigade leaders. They had assumed that Castro's main thrust would be from the east through San Blas to Giron road. They had deployed their forces to defend against this expected attacks. It was now becoming obvious that Castro was attacking with his main force from the north down the road and railroad bed from Central Australia; this would drive a spearhead into Playa Larga and Red Beach. This was the more lightly defended area of the Brigades forces and could certainly not withstand a heavy sustained attack. Meanwhile, the war in the air was not going well. One of the C-46's, which had dropped its paratroopers, had been shot down by a Sea Fury earlier in the day as it had turned back out to sea. A B-26 had been shot down by a Castro T-33 as it made a bomb run in support of the Brigade, and another was forced to ditch into the sea about halfway back to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, after having one engine shot out and additional heavy battle damage. One Brigade pilot reported that he had been receiving fire from two Castro aircraft when U.S. Navy jets had joined on them. The Castro planes had broken off and fled, but the Navy jets had never fired on them. 32/ A Brigade C-46 on a resupply mission tried to land at the Giron airport. However, he turned back within sight of the beachhead when informed over the radio by a B-26 pilot that two T-33's were in the area. The Brigade now had full control of an usable airfield but it could not be used because Castro had been able to maintain air superiority. The four remaining ships had left the coast and had been ordered to proceed beyond the twelve mile limit. The ATLANTICO and CARIBE had pulled out first, with the BLAGAR escorting the crippled BARBARA J. Although under air attack, none suffered significant damage and the BLAGAR even managed to shoots down a B-26 which crashed so close that wreckage ended up on fire on decks. The ships planned to rendezvous about 50 miles out to sea and then to move back to the twelve mile limit during the night. They would then unload their cargo onto the remaining landing craft and lighter it ashore. The men on the ships knew that the Brigade was using so much ammunition that they would need resupply after the first days fighting. The BARBARA J and BLAGAR reached the rendezvous point, but were unable to communicate with the other two vessels. The ATLANTICO and CARIBE had actually left the area and headed south. Navy destroyers intercepted the ATLANTICO 110 nautical miles south of the beachhead and convinced her to return; she would not arrive in the area again until 1830 on D+1, 18 April, 1961. Another destroyer did not overtake the CARIBE until she was 218 nautical miles south; she was never again available for resupply to the Brigade before the beachhead collapsed. 33/ As D-Day drew to an end, the Brigade held a tenuous position. They maintained the beachhead around both Red and Blue Beach, as well as the airfield at Giron. The forces at Red Beach were bearing the brunt of the action; casualties were high and ammunition and supplies were low. The Castro forces were threatening to push down the road into Playa Larga, while the Cuban Air Force controlled the skies. Brigade air support had been weak and they had lost four aircraft. Two ships supply the Brigade were sunk, and two more had completely departed the area. Most of the medical supplies had been lost with the field hospital aboard the HOUSTON and medical treatment for the wounded was scarce. Overall, the situation looked bleak but not hopeless. (See Figure III-2 for actual deployment of forces at the end of D- Day.) 34/ Meanwhile it had been an eventful day back in Washington. The personnel manning the command post were receiving only sketchy details of how the operation was proceeding. Generally, with the poor communications, they were operating about 12 hours behind events at the beachhead. Much of their information was coming from what the Brigade pilots saw and reported in their debriefings back in Nicaragua. They were getting some details from the men aboard the BLAGAR and the BARBARA J but, it too, was second hand and not timely. They knew that the supply of ammunition was getting low and ordered air drops from the base in Nicaragua for the night of the 17th. Missions were flown by four C-54's and two C-46's. Of these, five of the drops were successful but the cargo of the sixth was blown into the sea. 35/ Click here to view image The BARBARA J and the BLAGAR were ordered to resume resupply after nightfall. Some supplies were delivered ashore, but the limited remaining landing craft were not able to sustain the needs of the Brigade. It had been a day filled with failure. One of the most puzzling of these had been the failure of the CIA to notify the network of infiltrators and Cuban underground of the invasion, even after it had begun. One infiltrator later reported that around noon of D-Day, he finally received a message that the invasion had begun and to blow the bridges between Playa Larga and Central Australia. He could not do this because of the massive Cuban mobilization. It would have made little difference anyway, since the militia had crossed the bridges he was ordered to destroy six hours earlier. The failure to use the covert forces available to the CIA cost them the opportunity to divert Castro's forces and allowed them to focus on the actual site of the Brigade's invasion. 36/ Political turmoil reigned in New York and Washington. The cover story, told by the "defecting pilots" who had landed in Florida, had been broken by a reporter who had inspected one of the planes and found it to be a different model than those flown by Castro's air force. He had found the bombay hinges covered with undisturbed dust and grease and the guns uncocked and unfired. He also noticed that the rocket mounts were disconnected and covered with corrosion. 37/ The disclosure of this information had unleashed chaos within the United Nations. The Soviet Premier, Niketa Khrushchev, had sent a strongly worded message to President Kennedy in which he denounced the U.S. aggression and accused Kennedy of threatening world peace. The Soviet leader promised that the Soviets would support the Castro regime, even if it meant armed intervention. But some of the news media had bought the official cover story put forth by the government: that there had been no invasion, and the action in Cuba was attributed to a small number of Cuban exiles (200-300) trying to land supplies for the underground. However, others did not believe it. In the United Nation, ambassador Stevenson was doing his best to hold off the charges of the Cubans that the attack had been launched by mercenaries paid, trained, and supplied by the U.S. government. With a great deal of showmanship, he read off a list of the more prominent participants in the Brigade and the Frente. As he would read a name, he would give the position the man held in Cuba prior to leaving for the United States. The list was quite impressive and included almost two thirds of Castro's original cabinet. At the CIA, the situation was becoming all too obvious. Even though the officials recognized the first signs of failure, there was very little they could do little about it. The CIA Command Post had already ordered the air drop of resupply ammunition and given orders to the ships to continue resupply operations after nightfall. Now, all they could do was just wait and hope the Brigade could change the situation through the application of its combat power. The Joint Chiefs had taken all steps to ensure they would be ready if called upon to intervene in the battle. They were ready to offer any support ordered by the President and had moved several aviation units within striking distance to bases in the south. The Navy, which was the closest service to being actually involved, was ready to assist with air cover, escort, or naval gunfire, as soon as the order was issued. Still, President Kennedy clung to his policy that the U.S. military forces would not be involved in the invasion of Cuba. At Opa Locka airfield, just outside Miami, Florida, the Cuban exile officials of the Frente were still waiting to be transported to the beachhead. They still remained under strict guard in the old barracks, but had been furnished with a radio by their guards. They had it tuned to Radio Swan and were receiving only reports that the invasion forces were winning the battle. This made them even harder to control. They were anxious to fly immediately to their homeland and be part of the victory. It looked like it was going to be a long night for the men at Red Beach. They had caught a Cuban column in an ambush late in the afternoon and efficiently annihilated it. From the prisoners they had taken, the exiles learned that Castro was massing his forces at Central Australia; this meant there would be a major attack that night. Olivia had the men of the Brigade prepare defensive positions astride the main road and railway bed. 38/ At Blue Beach, San Ramon was also ordering his men into the defense for the night. There had been periods of heavy fighting along both roads into the area as Castro's forces had probed his positions. Now, as nightfall came, the advance post on the road to Covadonga had come under heavy artillery fire; San Ramon interpreted this as the preparation for an attack. San Ramon assessed the situation well and sent the Fourth Battalion to Red Beach to reinforce Olivia. Olivia placed these reinforcements into his line. He deployed six mortars, and all the shells he had, to support his front and flanks, and sent three tanks to cover two crossroads where they had excellent fields of fire. He kept nothing in reserve as he prepared for what would become the "fiercest battle of the Bay of Pigs". Back in New York City, the CIA's public relations office released what the press called the Cuban Revolutionary Council's Bulletin Number 3. It read: The Cuban Revolutionary Council wishes to announce that the principle battle of the Cuban Revolt against Castro will be fought in the next few hours. Action today was largely of a supply and support effort to forces which have been mobilized and trained inside Cuba over the past several months. The tremendous army of invincible soldier- patriots has now received its instructions to strike the vital blow for the liberation of their beloved country. Our partisans in every town and village in Cuba will receive, in a manner known only to them, the message that will spark a tremondous wave of internal conflict against the tyrant. 39/ What a contrast with the actual situation at the Bay of Pigs. San Ramon expected the ships to begin unloading sometime shortly after dark, and had a large work party standing by. He was sorely dissappointed when no ships or landing craft arrived. He sent a 25 foot launch with a radio operator out to sea to try and locate the vessels. They spent the entire night trying to establish radio contact with their supply ships. But their efforts were in vain. The Cuban crews aboard the BLAGAR and the BARBARA J refused to return anywhere near the beaches. The first attack of the night soon occured, but it did not come from the expected direction. The advance guard from San Blas made unexpected contact with a Cuban armored column. They planned to hold for a long as possible then fall back to another blocking position: but the Cuban forces were overpowering and all resistance gave way. The Brigade unit was lucky to have its remnants evacuated by trucks in front of the advancing hostile column. The unit fell back a safe distance and was joined by a mortar unit. The observers saw the Castro forces coming down the road, advancing in the light of their own trucks and tanks. They held their fire until the enemy was well in range and then thoroughly routed Castro's column. The mortars halted any further advance toward San Blas for the rest of the night. Shortly after this advance was stopped, the paratroop company established contact in a postion along the road to Yaguaramas. They had intercepted enemy radio transmissions and knew they were opposed by four infantry battalions and two companies of tanks. They allowed the lead units to close almost to their positions and then opened fire. The Cubans were hit hard and went into the defense. 40/ At 2000, the Brigage forces at Playa Larga came under fire from batteries of 122mm artillery. Olivia, fortunate enough to gain access to the enemy radio frequency, learned that the enemy was being reinforced with 40 tanks. He immmediately deployed his bazookas to the front lines closest to the road. At 2355 the shelling stopped. Castro's artillery had fired more than 2000 rounds, but these had had little effect because of the long narrow front and entrenched positons of the Brigade. 41/ A tremendous difference in forces existed, but the ideal defensive terrain made the difference. As the column of tanks rolled through the crossroads, the first two were knocked out by the Brigade tanks firing from a fixed position. As a third Castro tank came around the two disabled vehicles, a Brigade tank rammed into it, backed away, and then fired point blank. He damaged the tread and the Castro tank withdrew. By 0020 the narrow road was so blocked with burned out tanks, that those behind them were useless. Then, came the infantry assaults. At 0100, Olivia called in the mortar fire on the infantry with deadly results. The battle continued through the night. At 0445, the Brigade tanks pulled back, out of ammunition. The enemy tanks kept coming, working their way past the wreckage and toward the Brigade's lines. As one would be knocked out by Brigade bazooka fire, another would take its place. Just at dawn, when the situation was the most desperate for the Brigade forces who were almost out of ammunition, the tanks began to retreat. An hour later, a Castro tank rolled into the crossroads. The driver got out, surrendered, and stated he wanted to join the Brigade. He explained to Olivia that over the night Olivia's 370 troops had faced and defeated over 2100 men (300 regular soldiers, 1600 militia, and 200 policemen) and over 20 tanks. The enemy had suffered over 500 killed and over 1000 wounded; Olivia had lost twenty dead and fifty wounded. 42/ Olivia's forces were heartened by this information, but had no ammunition with which to hold their position. At 0900, they mounted the remaining trucks and proceeded to Giron where they thought resupply would be waiting. Not only was resupply not waiting at Blue Beach, but San Ramon had trouble of his own there. His position had started receiving heavy artillery fire around 0400. He had committed his reserve by splitting it and putting the troops in blocking positions along the two roads coming in from the east and northeast. He also had established a blocking position along the road to Playa Larga to the northwest. He knew that Olivia would be coming to Blue Beach to consolidate the forces, but did not know how many enemy troops would be following him. During the night six B-26's had launched around 0230 from Puerto Cabezas and arrived over Cuba at dawn in an attempt to catch Castro's aircraft on the ground and destroy them. Luck was not with them however, for the targets were obscured by heavy haze and low cloud cover. The mission was aborted. 43/ When the men from Red Beach arrived at Giron, the only fighting still continuing was in the area of San Blas, where the Castro column was still stalled by the paratroopers and mortar fire. Olivia and San Ramon met and studied their situations. They had troops in contact along the road to the northeast, and expected to come under attack by forces coming down from the northwest from Playa Larga at any time. All units were low on ammunition, and mortar shells had been rationed since midnight. They felt that if the brigade could hold out until nightfall, resupply would certainly occur either from the ships or by air drop. Olivia suggested that the Brigade strike to the east through Cienfuegos and try to reach the Escambray Mountains where they could conduct guerrilla operations. San Ramon opposed this plan for several reasons. He considered the mountains to be too far away. In order to reach them, they would have to fight their way through Cienfuegos, which he believed contained a large Castro troop concentration; also they were very low on ammunition. There weren't enough trucks available to transport everyone in the Brigade and, if they were to stand any chance of resupply, the Brigade would have to remain on the coast so the ships and planes could find them. He made the decision to hold the beachhead. 44/ At 1030, radio contact was finally established with the BLAGAR. San Ramon requested resupply of food, ammunition, medical supplies, and communications equipment. He was promised that it would be delivered that night by LCU and air drop. This sealed his decision to remain at Giron. The BLAGAR told him that if things really got bad they would evacuate the Brigade from the beaches. San Ramon replied, "I will not be evacuated. We will fight until the end here if we have to." 45/ At 1100, the enemy began another push at San Blas. San Ramon pulled the Third Battalion off the blocking positions on the road to Cienfuegos to the east and moved them to San Blas. They were fresh, and until this time had seen no combat. He took the Sixth Battalion, who were from Red Beach, and placed them in the blocking positions on the road to Playa Larga. He called in the paratroopers who were in the advanced positions north of San Blas. He only had one artillery piece to support them as they broke contact and returned to San Blas. For some reason, the Castro force of over 20,000 men did not pursue them. If they had, the Brigade would have been destroyed on the spot. 46/ That day the Brigade was under almost continuous air attack. They were bombed and strafed by Castro's planes throughout the beachhead. There were Brigade missions flown that day, but many were flown by American CIA pilots. The Brigade pilots had made the early launch, which had been aborted, and many were too exhausted to fly the six hour round trip again. The American advisors filled in for them. They were authorized to do so by CIA officials without the knowledge of President Kennedy. Kennedy was not to find out for two years that four American pilots had been shot down and killed in the Bay of Pigs operation. 47/ Six B-26 sordies were flown in mid afternoon and attacked a long column of vehicles and tanks approaching Giron from Playa Larga. The air attack destroyed the column by inflicting 1800 casualties and wiping out seven tanks. The planes used bombs and rockets and also delivered napalm for the first time during the operation. The men of the Brigade knew nothing about these attacks, hence they felt that they had received no air support at all. 48/ Only once did the members of the Brigade see any friendly air support; that day two U.S. Navy A-4 Skyhawks from the Carrier ESSEX flew over the beachhead on a reconnaissance mission. The men of the Brigade were excited when they first saw the planes, but were disheartened when they did not deliver any support. 49/ The Brigade, somehow, made it through the rest of the afternoon, D+1, Tuesday April 18, 1961, without any further major action. Their ammunition supply was critical. The Castro forces, although superior in number, had been bloodied badly each time they had mounted a major attack. They applied continuous pressure to the ever shrinking perimeter of the beachhead, but were not anxious to mount a major attack on any front. Their lack of major offensive action reflects the respect they had gained for the Brigade during the initial battles. At 1800, on D+1, the disposition of Brigade forces was as shown in Figure IV. 50/ Although food, ammunition, and medical supplies were in short supply, the Brigade leaders had still not given up hope. They retained the faith that the U.S. would not allow them to fail and would step in with assistance at any time. Once again, the Brigade looked forward to a long night. The leaders had been told that resupply would begin shortly after nightfall, and they desperately needed it to hold on for another day. Shortly after 1800, Castro's forces started pounding the advance posts with artillery. A short time later the Brigade blocking positions on both the East and West fronts made contact with Castro's advance guards. A major push began at San Blas, but was halted before it gained momentum by sending two tanks to reinforce the positions. About 1900, a Brigade C-54 made an air drop of supplies over the Giron airfield. The wind blew all of the supplies Click here to view image into the swamp, where a work party labored all night but only recovered a small percentage of the drop. Another C-54 arrived and made a second drop over the beaches. These supplies were blown into the sea. A group of frogmen were dispatched and were able to recover about half of these supplies. At one point during the night, San Ramon thought the Castro forces were massing for an attack on his Western front. He committed his reserve, the Second Battalion, to that position of the line but the attack never came. The only action throughout the night were light skirmishes, as the Castro forces probed the Brigade's line. At sea, the BARBARA J and the BLAGAR knew the situation was bad. They were about 50 nautical miles south of the beaches. The crews worked against time, trying to manually load supplies into three LCU's. They did not think they could get to the beaches and out again before daylight. They knew that if the ships were caught during daylight by Castro's aircraft, they would all be destroyed. The ships sent the following message to Puerto Cabezas: "BARBARA J, BLAGAR, and LCU's cannot arrive Blue Beach, discharge and leave by daylight. Request jet cover from U.S. in beachhead area." Their next message read: "BLAGAR proceeding Blue Beach with 3 LCU's. If low jet cover not furnished at first light, believe we will lose all ships. Request immediate reply." 51/ There was only one man who could grant this request -- President Kennedy. He was dismayed by the news coming from Giron. The President could not, however, view the invasion in a fishbowl, but had to keep in mind the world situation. He had answered Khrushchev's morning dispatch with stern words of his own but Kennedy was still not ready to commit American forces to save the Brigade. He did concede to provided limited escort for the Brigade aircraft for one hour on Wednesday morning, April 19, 1961, from 0630 to 0730. Abroad the U.S.S. ESSEX, all markings were painted off the carrier's A-4 Skyhawks. The crews were briefed, that they would rendezvous with a flight of Brigade aircraft at 0630 and provide them air cover while they performed their mission. The jets were not to attack ground targets, but were supposed to keep the Castro planes from attacking the Brigade aircraft. The Brigade had only seven of its original sixteen B- 26's left. Again, American pilots had to be used to substitute for the Cubans, who were too exhausted or who refused to fly. Four B-26's, two manned by Americans and two by Cubans, launched from Puerto Cabezas at around 0200, Wednesday, D+2. One of the planes, crewed by Cubans developed engine trouble and turned back shortly after take- off. The other three proceeded toward Giron. They arrived in the air an hour before the jets were to be launched, but were unaware of this. They proceeded to their targets. The results were disastrous. One B-26 was shot down over land in the area of Central Australia. Another was hit by ground fire and crashed into the sea on fire. Both were piloted by the American crews. The third hit targets in the San Blas area, but was damaged by ground fire. He limped back to Puerto Cabezas with thirty-nine rounds through the fuselage and one engine shot out. This was the last bombing mission flown by the Brigade air force. 52/ At the same time that they were striking their targets, a C-46 landed at the Giron airstrip. He delivered 850 pounds of rockets, ammunition, maps and communication equipment. Three aircraft had been launched, but two had turned back. The C-46 picked up a wounded pilot who had crashed in the area on Monday and left after being on the ground for only about 10 minutes. This would be the only aircraft to operate from the strip at Giron throughout the entire operation. After transferring her cargo to the LCU's and steaming toward Blue Beach, the captain of the BLAGAR had sent a request for a destroyer escort into the beach. He claimed that without such an escort, His crew would mutiny. CIA leaders felt that it would be hopeless to ask for a destroyer escort in light of the political climate in Washington; therefore, radioed orders to the BLAGAR to abort and rendezvous at a point 60 miles south of Blue Beach. This ended the last opportunity to resupply the Brigade. 53/ As the B-26 pulled off his last bombing run at San Blas, the Brigade ground commander there sensed the confusion among the Castro forces caused by the air attack. He quickly organized the paratroop unit and the Third Battalion there for a counterattack. He faced a vastly superior number of forces, but moved forward to exploit the success of the air attack. For some reason it worked. The Castro front folded, broke and ran. After a few minutes, however, the attack faltered. The Third Battalion was out of ammunition, fell apart, and began a disorganized retreat. At 1000, Castro's troops entered San Blas and pushed through it toward Giron. There was virtually nothing to stop them until they reached the blocking positions just outside Giron. The Castro forces rolled up on these positions about 1100. The men there, reinforced by two tanks, held out until they too were out of ammunition. This happened about 1400 and then they fell back into the town of Giron. 54/ At around 1000, a tank battle developed on the Northwest front. Olivia held the line there and poured mortar fire onto the oncoming tanks. He was finally able to force the Castro forces to retreat and regroup. The attack was renewed around 1400, and just as the Brigade lines were starting to fail, Olivia ordered a counterattack. This desperate measure worked and the line held. Olivia pulled his forces back into Giron to establish new fighting positions. 55/ San Ramon heard the tanks rumble into Giron from the northeast. He realized the Brigade could not hold. He sent a final message to the BLAGAR. It read: "Am destroying all my equipment and communications. Tanks are in sight. I have nothing left to fight with. Am taking to the woods. I cannot wait for you." 56/ San Ramon destroyed his headquarters and moved into the swamps. As Olivia pulled his men back to Giron, he went to look for San Ramon. He found tanks and machine guns abandoned haphazardly out of ammunition. Men were wandering around aimlessly with nowhere to go and no way out of the beachhead. Many were trying to get out to sea in small boats and rafts. Within right of the shore was the Destroyer U.S.S. EATON. She had come in close enough to make an evaluation of the situation on the beaches. San Ramon was already gone and his headquarters destroyed. Olivia formed a small unit of the men he could find and marched them to the east toward Cienfuegos. A short distance out of Giron, the column was strafed by two Sea Furies and a T-33. The unit broke up and fled individually into the swamps. This ended the last organized fighting of the Bay of Pigs campaign. The Brigade was gone. The beachhead had fallen. The invasion had failed. 57/ ENDNOTES (Chapter IV) 1/ Wyden, p. 133. 2/ Johnson, pp. 83-84. 3/ Johnson, p. 25. 4/ Johnson, p. 26. 5/ Taylor Report, Memo 1, p. 15. 6/ Wyden, pp. 174-175. 7/ New York Times, 16 April 1961, p. 4, col. 1. 8/ New York Times, 16 April 1961, p. 4, col. 1. 9/ Taylor Commission, Memo 1, p. 15. 10/ Wyden, p. 180. 11/ Johnson, p. 89. 12/ Taylor Report, Memo 1, p. 15. 13/ Taylor Report, Memo 1, p. 15. 14/ Taylor Report, Memo 1, p. 17. 15/ Johnson, p. 199. 16/ Wyden, p. 193. 17/ Taylor Report, Memo 1, p. 18. 18/ Wyden, p. 207. 19/ Wyden, p. 218. 20/ Wyden, p. 219. 21/ Taylor Report, Memo 1, p. 18. 22/ Taylor Report, Memo 1, p. 18. 23/ Johnson, p. 105. 24/ Johnson, p. 109. 25/ Taylor Report, Memo 1, p. 20. 26/ Johnson, p. 110. 27/ Johnson, p. 111. 28/ Taylor Report, Memo 1, p. 20. 29/ Johnson, p. 115. 30/ Wyden, p. 230. 31/ Johnson, p. 115. 32/ Wyden, p. 235. 33/ Taylor Report, Memo 1, p. 21. 34/ Taylor Report, Memo 1. 35/ Taylor Report, Memo 1, p. 21. 36/ Johnson, p. 121. 37/ Time, April 28, 1961, p. 19. 38/ Johnson, p. 126. 39/ Johnson, p. 129. 40/ Johnson, p. 132. 41/ Johnson, p. 134. 42/ Johnson, p. 138. 43/ Wyden, p. 270. 44/ Wyden, p. 274. 45/ Johnson, p. 143. 46/ Johnson, p. 145. 47/ Wyden, p. 278. 48/ Taylor Report, Memo 1, p. 23. 49/ Johnson, p. 144. 50/ Taylor Report, Memo 1. 51/ Johnson, p. 151. 52/ Johnson, p. 155. 53/ Taylor Report, Memo 1, p. 24. 54/ Johnson, p. 158. 55, Wyden, p. 282. 56/ Johnson, p. 167. 57/ Wyden, p. 286. CHAPTER V Ransom The next few days were a mass of confusion for the survivors of the invasion. As the ammunition had run out, various parts of the beachhead had broken down at different times. As a unit would run out of ammunition, it would break up into small groups and either make for the open sea in the few small boats that remained or strike out through the swamps. For the men who escaped via the sea, a U.S. task force patrolling the coast to pick them up. There is no accurate count of how many members of the Brigade were rescued at sea, but the number appears to be around 150. 1/ One group of twenty-two men boarded a twenty-two foot sailboat and set out to sea. They sailed for fifteen days before being picked up by an American freighter, 178 miles south of the Mississippi River. Ten of the twenty-two men had died at sea. 2/ For those who escaped into the swamps, being captured was the least of their worries; mere survival was difficult. Some lasted longer than others, but virtually all of them were destined to either die in the swamps or to be captured by Castro's forces. The swamps consisted of mire and thick vegetation, but very little water. The swamps contained little to eat except snakes, lizards and an occasional bird. They were constantly harassed by helicopters flying overhead and random shelling of the swamps by artillery. The troops could not navigate through the thick swamps, and eventually all were forced to return to the roads where the militia patrols were waiting for them. The prisoners were taken back to Giron where they were kept under guard for several days. They were interrogated by officers of Castro's army and questioned by reporters. Castro thus achieved quite a propaganda coup from the round- up of Brigade prisoners. After the interrogations were complete, the prisoners were transported to the Sports Palace in Havana for initial detention. Although they were generally treated well, there was one incident where 149 prisoners were loaded onto an enclosed semi-trailer truck at Giron and transported to Havana; unfortunately, nine men died of suffocation during the transit. 3/ A total of 1,189 men of the Brigade became Castro's prisoners. One hundred and fourteen had died in the operation and around 150 had made their way back to safety in one way or another. For the prisoners, the coming months would be harder than the fighting during the invasion. The entire group of over 1000 prisoners were held for several days in the Sports Palace, where they were made to sit on the hard seats for 21 hours a day. Then they were called forth, one at a time, and interrogated. Several were taken to a television station where, during a live broadcast, they were questioned by a panel. Some of the answers were more than Castro wanted the public to hear, so the broadcasts were stopped after four days. Fidel Castro himself appeared before the assembled Brigade on the night of April 26, 1961. He delivered a speech which lasted from 2330 until after 0300 the next morning; in it the Brigade was berated for its criminal activities and labeled as pawns of U.S. imperialism. Castro ended the speech by telling the men that although he knew they should all be shot, which was what they deserved, he would not kill them, but would spare the lives of those not guilty of committing war crimes. (This meant primarily war crimes under the Batista regime, not during the invasion). The leaders, San Ramon, Olivia, and several others, were kept isolated from the Brigade and from each other. They were interrogated thoroughly, and sometimes brutally, about their training and about the invasion, with speical emphasis on the American role in all phases of the operation. Although they all felt betrayed by the United States, none of the Brigade leaders told their interrogators anything about the American participation and very little about the actual invasion. During the night of May 13, 1961, the Sports Palace was emptied and the entire Brigade was transferred to the unfinished five story Havana Naval Hospital. Here, the men were treated much better. They were assigned twenty to a room and allowed to bathe and sleep on mattresses. In a speech to the National association of Small farmers on May 12, 1961, Castro finally divulged his plan for his prisoners. He told the farmers: If imperialism does not want its worms to work, let it exchange them against tractors and agricultural machinery! Of course, those among such blackguards that may have committed murder, we cannot exchange against anything. Those that have assassinated are not subject to exchange. All others, all others, we will exchange with imperialism, against five hundred bulldozers, if it is interested in rescuing them." 4/ Castro had the prisoners elect a committee of ten men, specifically excluding the leaders of the Brigade, to go to Washington and carry his demands to the U.S. government. They left Cuba for Miami on May 19, 1961. A committee was formed in the United States at the request of President Kennedy to meet with the delegation. The committee was not officially sanctioned by the administration, who felt that it could not deal with any representative of Castro since diplomatic relations had been severed with Cuba in January of 1961. Instead, it was a bipartisan committee of four citizens, ostensibly operating as concerned individuals forming a private organization. The committee became known as the Tractor for Freedom Committee. What had seemed a fairly simple and routine matter to the President soon became a political hot potato. When the Senate met on 22 May, many senators demanded that the administration make its position clear, as to the government with the committee. Many of the lawmakers felt that the nation was being blackmailed by Castro into ransoming the Brigade. Congress felt that the bulldozers would be used to increase Castro's military power instead of for agriculture and that was the last thing the United States wanted. After much debate, The Tractors for Freedom committee offered Castro 500 wheeled tractors with agricultural attachments instead of the bulldozers, which could ostensibly be used for military purposes. Castro refused the offer by sending a fiery cable to the committee restating his demands. On June 13, 1961, a committee delegation went to Havana to negotiate release terms with Castro. Fidel told them he would accept 500 bulldozers or their equivalent in cash, credit or other farm machinery, as long as any combination of these added up to $28 million. When the Committee returned to Washington with the demands, the administration concluded that the demands were impossible in the light of the current political situation, and disbanded the committee. On July 17, 1961, the Brigade prisoners were taken from the Naval Hospital to the Castillo del Principe. This was an old castle which now served as a prison. The men were herded into the cells they would occupy for the next year and the doors slammed shut. The men of the Brigade were faced with months of despair but few gave up hope. On Thursday morning, March 29, 1962, the largest mass trial in Cuba's history began by assembling the Brigade in the courtyard of the prison. A five man tribunal sat in judgement of 1180 men (six had died during imprisonment and three had escaped), all to be judged as one. The Brigade turned down the services of a court appointed defense counsel and told the tribunal that their actions needed no defense. The trial lasted four days and left something to be desired from a strictly legal standpoint. On the fourth day of the trial, final summations were given and the tribunal went into deliberation. Before the verdict was announced, the Cuban Families Committee sent a cable to Castro, saying that they had pledges for the $28 million he had requested. They would deliver the amount in foodstuffs shipped from the U.S. No answer was immediately given by the Cuban leader. On Sunday, April 8, 1962, Castro announced to the world the sentence of the tribunal. The men of the Brigade were sentenced to thirty years imprisonment. He then went on to announce that he would ransom the prisoners for various amounts. He wanted $500,000 each for Olivia and San Ramon, while the remainder of the Brigade had been divided into three groups. Their freedom could be purchased for $25,000 per man in the first group; $50,000 per man in the second group; and $100,000 per man in the third group. The total for the entire Brigade came to $62 million. 5/ Castro released 60 of the most seriously wounded prisoners and was paid their ransom through the Royal Canadian Bank. The money had been raised through the Cuban Families Committee. Negotiations for the remainder of the prisoners dragged on for months. Each time a solution was almost reached, Castro would change the conditions, putting the release of the prisoners just out of reach of the negotiators. Finally, an agreement was reached. This involved complicated transfers of drugs, medicine, medical and surgical supplies, and foodstuffs, to the Cuban government. The items had been donated by private corporations in the United States, induced by large tax incentives provided by the government. On the morning of December 23, 1962, the freighter, AFRICAN PILOT docked in the Havana harbor, and commenced unloading the first of many shipments of drugs and supplies. At 1700, that afternoon, the first planeload of prisoners took off for Florida. At 2145, on December 24, 1962, the last planeload of prisoners arrived in Miami. As Pepe San Ramon stepped down the boarding ladder, the assembled members of the Brigade saluted him. 6/ Now the invasion was over. ENDNOTES (Chapter V) 1/ Wyden, p. 303. 2/ Johnson, p. 201. 3/ Johnson, p. 303. 4/ Johnson, p. 229. 5/ Johnson, p. 282. 6/ Johnson, p. 341. CHAPTER VI Conclusions and the Principles of War Immediately after the collapse of the beachhead in Giron, President Kennedy appointed a committee to study the operation. In a letter of April 22, 1961, he charged General Maxwell Taylor, Robert Kennedy, admiral Arleigh Burke, and Allen Dulles, to "study over governmental practices and programs in the area of military and paramilitary, guerrilla and anti-guerrilla activity, which fall short of outright war with a view toward strengthening our work in this area." 1/ He directed special attention to the lessons which could be learned from the recent events in Cuba (the Bay of Pigs invasion). Although the committee began work immediately, it was hamstrung by the fact that the leaders and participants of the invasion were imprisoned in Cuba. Despite this it set about interviewing everyone they could locate who had a hand in the invasion. These included the decision makers; the planners, both military and CIA; the advisors who had trained the Brigade; and the operatives who had carried out the political and propaganda portions of the operation. They also questioned the few members of the Brigade who had been able to escape and return to the U.S. The results of the committee's investigations were not designed to cover up anything or to place the blame on any particular individual. It had only one goal; to find out what happened, how and why it occurred, and how this type of disaster could be prevented from repeating itself. 2/ The result was four memorandums from the committee to President Kennedy. Memorandum Number I contained a narrative of the events during Operation Zapata. Memorandum Number II discussed the immediate causes of failure of the operation. Memorandum Number III contained the conclusions of the Cuban Study Group and Memorandum Number IV was the recommendation of the Cuban Study Group. Initially, these documents were so sensitive as to be classified "Eyes Only" and were hand carried to designated individuals. A sanitized version was declassified and released in March, 1977. (See appendix I for transcripts of Memorandums II & III.) The foregoing has been the story of the Bay of Pigs invasion of 17-19 April, 1961, from conception to the return of the Brigade to U.S. soil. Volumes have been written concerning the operation, how and why it failed. However, another way to make an interesting analysis would be to take the operation out of its context as a political event, and examine it as a conflict between opposing military forces. To compare the battle, from the Brigade standpoint, to the principles of war and see which were used effectively and which were not. The principles to be examined will be objective, offensive, mass, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command, security, surprise, and simplicity. Some of these elements must be incorporated during the planning stage and some during the execution phase. Both of these will be discussed, although it must be remembered that the Brigade leaders were not part of the planning evolution but were presented with the completed plan and expected to execute it. It should be noted that both Olivia and San Ramon were products of U.S. Army formal schools and could be expected to be aware of these principles. The principle objective states that "every military operation must be directed toward a clearly defined, decisive and obtainable objective." 3/ In the case of the Brigade's invasion, clear objectives were laid down for the, initial stage (amphibious stage) of the operation. The forces crossing Red Beach were to assault, seize, and defend the town of Playa Larga, and control the road leading south from Central Australia within the beachhead. The forces landing across Blue Beach were to assault, seize, and defend the town of Playa Giron, and the airfield and dock facilities adjacent to it. They were to control the roads leading into the beachhead from Cienfuegos, Yaguaramas, and Covadonga. The paratroopers were to drop on the forward edges of the beachhead and set up blocking positions along the enemy avenues of approach in their zone. These objectives were clean, concise, and attainable. In fact, this portion of the plan was executed well, with the exception of the paratroopers dropping out of their planned drop zones. The problems came after the initial objectives were taken. There was no real plan for a breakout from the beachhead to continue the operation to fulfill the ultimate goal of liberating the country. The fact that problems in unloading supplies prevented further movement inland aside, there was no coordinated plan to do so in any event. For the planners to deliver the Brigade to the beaches and then not give them further guidance was, at very least, short sighted. The lack of a plan limited the scope of the operation to the establishment of the beachhead and then "see what happens next". The principles of offensive action states that "offensive action is necessary to achieve decisive results and maintain freedom of action. It permits the commander to exercise initiative and impose his will upon the enemy, to set the pace and determine the course of the battle, to exploit enemy weaknesses and rapidly changing situations, and to meet unexpected developments." 4/ The Brigade was forced into the defensive almost immediately upon landing. They faced a force which was numerically superior on terrain favorable to the defense. They were never quite able to consolidate the beachhead as planned, and the lack of communication handicapped them severely. They were able to use the offense on a limited basis by staging counterattacks to turn the momentum of Castro's forces attacks. In general, their action was almost entirely defensive, as could be expected without a formal plan for action once their initial objectives were achieved. The principle of mass states that "superior combat power must be concentrated at the critical time and place for a decisive purpose. Superiority is adjudged by relating available force to that of the enemy's and results from the proper combination of the elements of combat power." 5/ On initial examination, it would appear that the Brigade never had a chance to employ the principle of mass in the face of vastly superior numbers of forces. This is not true. Although Castro had many times the number of men and weapons than the Brigade possessed, he was forced to employ them on very narrow fronts. The terrain canalized his approach to the battle area, to the point that, only the lead elements of the column were able to engage the Brigade. The leaders of the Brigade chose sites of engagement where they could bring all of their limited combat power to bear on a lead element and therefore, in effect, maintain superior force in the actual battle area. The Brigade leaders proved to have an excellent ability to read the situation and commit their tanks and supporting fires at the moment that they would inflict the most damage, physical or psychological, on the enemy. There was, of course, no way that the Brigade positions could be sustained for an indeterminate length of time in the face of such overwhelming odds. Eventually, the sheer number of Castro's forces was able to wear away the Brigade's defenses. The Brigade was still holding its own when they ran out of ammunition. Although the end result was inevitable, victory would have cost Castro dearly had the supplies held out. The principles of economy of force states that, "skillful and prudent use of combat power enables the commander to accomplish the mission with a minimum expenditure of resources." 6/ This principle implies that the most efficient expenditure of resources will allow you to have the combat power to commit at a decisive point in the battle. If there is an area of weakness in the Brigade's performance, it would have to be the violation of this principle, especially during the first 24 hours of action. The Brigade came ashore, established defensive positions, and became engaged with the enemy almost immediately. For the vast majority of the men, this was their first exposure to combat. Although they had been well trained, they showed very poor fire discipline in both individual weapons or supporting arms. They fired constantly without using aimed fire and consequently, consumed about three days of supply in the initial 24 hours. This should have been expected from green troops, and better controlled by small unit leaders and gun crew supervisors. In defense of the men of the Brigade, it should be noted, that there was really little need for tight fire discipline, in light of the planned logistical support. They had landed with five days of supply and another ten days of supply were to be offloaded from the HOUSTON. Not only this, but there were to be enough arms and ammunition to support all of the indigenous personnel who were expected to join the ranks of the Brigade. There should have been an ample supply of ammunition, even with the poor fire discipline. In an effort to adhere to this principle the Fifth Battalion was held in reserve and not committed. They were staged aboard the HOUSTON, where they could be employed on either front as required. Unfortunately, any advantage this gave the Brigade was lost when the HOUSTON sank five miles south of Red Beach. The Fifth Battalion broke up and never became effective again throughout the invasion. The principle of maneuver states, "the object of maneuver is to dispose forces in such a manner as to place the enemy at a disadvantage and thus achieve results which would otherwise be more costly in men and material." 7/ Maneuver was never a major factor for either side. The terrain positively dictated precise avenues of approach for Castro's forces and restricted his ability to outflank or maneuver against the Brigade forces. Once he had committed a force down a narrow roadway or railway bed, there were but two directions to proceed, attack or withdraw. The Brigade was able to employ maneuver units on a limited basis, especially in setting up blocking positions and ambushes. The fact that they kept their front lines fairly fluid meant that Castro's forces advanced at a very slow pace to avoid ambush. San Ramon was also able to move his tanks around the battlefield to work along or to reinforce an area requiring fire support. He was able to keep his lines from collapsing on several occasions by sending tanks and infantry to another part of the front. although they were holding limited space, and were backed against the sea, the Brigade forces actually had the advantage of better maneuverability over the Castro forces. The principle of unity of command states, "unity of command obtains unity of effort by coordinated action of all forces toward a common goal. While coordination may be achieved by cooperation it is best achieved by vesting a single commander with the requisite authority." 8/ Unity of command in Operation Zapata must be viewed from several vantage points. From the standpoint of the actual combat operation, San Ramon was in complete control of his forces. He vested some of the combat leadership in Olivia on Red Beach, but he retained control as the commander of the Brigade forces. Although his efforts were outstanding, he was operating in a vacuum. San Ramon was, in effect, only the Commander Landing Forces (CLF), and the Commander Amphibious Task Forces (CATF) was, in effect, President Kennedy in Washington, D.C. Although San Ramon did an outstanding job of employing his force tacticly, he remained out of contact with the man who was in full control of the operation. President Kennedy and his staff were making decisions without adequate knowledge of the situation (due, in part, to the loss of the communications equipment aboard the HOUSTON). The chain of command stretched from the oval office to the Zapata swamps. When messages were sent either way, there was a built in time lag, i.e., the order was given for the supply ships to return to the beaches but by the time it was received, the unloading would have been during daylight. The decisions being made by President Kennedy were being made in light of, not only the situation on the beaches, but also the political environment. He weighed the success of the mission against world opinion of the methods and amount of U.S. involvement necessary to achieve that success. The net result was that there were two commanders. One tactical, committed to the goal of achieving his military objectives, and one strategic, weighing the value of that success against its cost in world opinion. The strategic commander, President Kennedy, did not have the same resolve to see the mission through as did the tactical commander, San Ramon. Regardless, the key to the success of the invasion lays not in the hands of San Ramon fighting on the beaches of Cuba, but with President Kennedy in the political world of Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, on his shoulders also rests the responsibility for the failure of the invasion. Another facet of the operation that must be brought out under the subject of unity of command, is the lack of concurrent and parallel planning. As stated earlier, the Brigade was given the completed plan and expected to execute it. They had no hand in the planning process and certainly, no input in decisions which would normally be made by the commander. This must have left Olivia and San Ramon somewhat ignorant of many facets of the operation, no matter how well it was briefed to them. The next principle, that of security, states that "security is essential to the preservation of combat power. Security is achieved by measures taken to prevent surprise, preserve freedom of action, and deny the enemy information of friendly forces." 9/ On the ground, the Brigade performed in an excellent manner placing forward positions to act as security posts. They covered these small units with supporting arms and had them dig in successive positions to allow for a defense in depth. They were generally in contact with the leading edge of Castro's forces throughout the battle and were generally able to hold off large attacking forces with a very small number of men, especially on the Eastern fronts. Security of the Brigade forces from air attack, conversely, was far from adequate and cost the Brigade dearly. At no time were they able to protect themselves from Castro's air assaults. The enemy aircraft did little damage to the actual fighting forces and delivered very little close air support. Instead, they concentrated on destroying the Brigade's ships and supplies, thus defeating their ability to sustain the operation. They also denied the Brigade's aircraft access to the beachhead, thus negating any capability for them to support the ground forces as planned. The major effect, other than the destruction of supplies and shipping, was the denial of the Brigade air force the use of the airfield at Giron. Had the airfield at Giron been available, the Brigade planes could have quadrupled their sortie rate, improved coordination with the ground forces, and in general provided the Brigade ground forces with meaningful support; but the airfield was unusable because Castro's planes would most certainly have destroyed the Brigade's small air force on the ground. Hence the almost seven hour round trip to Puerto Cabezas almost did away with their usefulness. The principle of surprise states that, "surprise can decisively shift the balance of combat power. By surprise success out of proportion to the effort expended may be obtained. Surprise results from striking an enemy at a time, place, and in a manner for which he is not prepared." 10/ Although Fidel Castro was certainly aware that some type of military action was forthcoming, he did not know when, where, or most importantly, what type of force he would face. The failure of the diversionary landing near Guantanamo had a profound effect on the success of the main invasion. Castro was poised and ready to react. Had the diversionary landing gone as planned, he would have most likely committed at least a portion of his forces to that area, giving the Brigade more time to prepare their positions. San Ramon was able to use the element of surprise in his small unit tactics and use of supporting arms as well. He relied heavily on the ambush and could stop the movement of Castro's column by pouncing on the flanks of the lead elements with small groups. He would commit only a few mortars to a fight and then, at a moment when the tide of battle could be turned, he would unleash massed fire from the other mortars, artillery, and tanks, forcing the Castro forces back just as they sensed victory. The final principle is that of simplicity. It states, "simplicity contributes to successful operations. Direct, simple plans and clear, concise orders minimize misunderstanding and confusion." 11/ San Ramon had no choice but to keep his tactics simple. He was out manned, out gunned, and surrounded on three sides with his back to the sea. He had virtually no communication equipment and relied heavily on messengers. This meant that once he was committed to a course of action, it could be changed only with extreme difficulty. He had to lay out a concept for an operation and then rely on his subordinates to implement it. However, if he had had radio communications, it may have caused him to try more grandiose schemes of maneuver, which may not have worked as well. This look at how the Brigade operated with respect to the principles of war, should indicate that they generally adhered to good solid tactics which served them well. The fact that the Brigade was able to hold on for three days, in the face of such an overwhelming force, is testimony to their training, motivation, tactics and leadership. They proved themselves to be a formidable force, by inflicting over a ten to one kill ratio on the Castro forces. The Brigade lost only 114 men during the invasion, while the Castro forces lost approximately 1250 men. The debate will surely continue about the possible outcome of the invasion if it had received air support, along with any number of other "ifs". The invasion is long since past, but should never be forgotten, if for no other reason than its participants. This was the battle of 1,443 men in a desperate struggle to free their homeland. Their failure to do so is our failure as a nation also for sometime in the future, we may be forced to pay a much dearer price to accomplish the same mission. ENDNOTES (Chapter VI) 1/ Taylor Report, cover letter. 2/ Johnson, p. 220. 3/ FMFM 6-1, Marine Division (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 22 March 1978), p. 2. 4/ FMFM 6-1, p. 2. 5/ FMFM 6-1, p. 2. 6/ FMFM 6-1, p. 2. 7/ FMFM 6-1, p. 3. 8/ FMFM 6-1, p. 3. 9/ FMFM 6-1, p. 3. 10/ FMFM 6-1, p. 3. 11/ FMFM 6-1, p. 3. APPENDIX A 13 June 1961 Memorandum No. 2 IMMEDIATE CAUSES OF FAILURE OF THE OPERATION ZAPATA SUMMARY 1. The proximate cause of the failure of the ZAPATA Operation was a shortage of ammunition which developed from the first day of the landing, April 17th, and became increasingly critical until it resulted in the surrender of the landing force about 1400 on April 19th. 2. There were three primary reasons for this shortage of ammunition. The logistical plan for the landing made ample provision for ammunition with the men and in floating reserve. However, upon landing there is evidence that the Cubans wasted their ammunition in excessive firing, displaying the poor ammunition discipline which is common to troops in their first combat. 3. Far more serious was the loss of the freighters RIO ESCONDIDO and HOUSTON through air attack at about 0930 on the morning of April 17th. The RIO was a particular loss as it had ten days of reserve ammunition on board, as well as other important supplies. The HOUSTON should have been able to land most of its supplies before being hit, but the unloading was delayed by trouble with the outboard motors of the ships boats as well as by the apparent lethargy of the Fifth Battalion charged with the unloading. 4. The air attack which sunk these ships caused all others in the landing area to put out to sea, as the only available protection in the absence of control of the air, with the order to rendezvous 50 miles off the coast. The freighters ATLANTICO and CARIBE headed south and never stopped until intercepted by the U.S. Navy at points 110 miles and 218 miles, respectively, south of Cuba. 5. The CARIBE was so far away that its cargo, principally aviation supplies, was never available for movement to Blue Beach while the fight lasted. The ATLANTICO, which had considerable ammunition on board, did rejoin the other ships of the expedition at 1816, April 18th, at a point about 50 miles south of the beach and transferred her supplies to the waiting two LCI's and three LCU's for a night run to the beach. 6. By the time the supplies were transferred and the convoy had started north it was too late to hope to resupply the beach under cover of darkness. The convoy commander asked CIA Operational Headquarters, Washington, for destroyer excort and U. S. Navy jet cover without which he believed that he would lose his ships to air attack the next morning. He added that without U.S. Navy support the Cuban crew would mutiny if sent back to the beach. 7. As a result of these messages, CIA Headquarters, feeling that it would be futile to order these ammunition craft to attempt a daylight unloading, called off the mission and the attempt to get ammunition to the beach by sea ended. The President was not requested for specific authority to extend the air cover to protect the ammunition convoy. 8. These causes for the ammunition shortage rested in turn on others which lay deeper in the plans and organization of this operation and the attitude toward it on the part of Government officials. The effectiveness of the Castro Air Force over the beach resulted from a failure to destroy the airplanes on the ground (particularly the T-33's whose importance was not fully appreciated in advance) before or concurrently with the landing. This failure was a consequences of the restraints put on the anti-Castro Air Force in planning and executing its strikes, primarily for the purpose of protecting the covert character of the operation. These restraints included: the decision to use only the B-26 as a combat aircraft because it had been distributed widely to foreign countries; the limitation of pre-landing strikes to those which could be flown from non- U.S. controlled airfields under the guise of coming from Cuban strips, thus eliminating the possibility of using jet fighters or even T-33 trainers; the inability to use any non- Cuban base within short turn-around distance from the target area (about nine hours were required to turn around a B-26 for a second mission over the target from Nicaragua); prohibition of use of American contract pilots for tactical air operations; restriction on munitions, notably napalm; and the cancellation of the strikes planned at dawn on D- Day. The last mentioned was probably the most serious as it eliminated the last favorable opportunity to destroy the Castro Air Force on the ground. The cancellation seems to have resulted partly from the failure to make the air strike plan entirely clear in advance to the President and the Secretary of State, but, more importantly, by misgivings as to the effect of the air strikes on the position of the United States in the current UN debate on Cuba. Finally, there was the failure to carry the issue to the President when the opportunity was presented and explain to him with proper force the probable military consequences of a last minute cancellation. 9. The flight of the CARIBE and ATLANTICO might have been prevented had more attention been paid in advance to the control of the ships to include the placing of some American aboard. The CIA officer responsible for all the ships involved was a [ ] who was aboard the LCI BLAGAR with no means to control the freighters, or, indeed, to locate them after they disappeared. Only the initiative of the U.S. Navy in the vicinity brought them back to the scene of action. The absence of Americans on board these vessels was an application of the general order to keep Americans out of the combat area. This order had been violated in a few cases, but it was apparently not considered important to do so in the case of the freighters. 10. The lack of full appreciation of the ammunition situation at the end of D+1 in the CIA Operational Headquarters was largely the result of the difficulty of keeping abreast of the situation on the beach, and the location and movement of the ships at sea from the distance of Washington. Also, there was a confidence in the supply of the beach by air which turned out to be unjustified. Had there been a command ship in the sea area with an advance CIA command post on board, a more effective control would have been possible. 11. The Executive Branch of the Government was not organizationally prepared to cope with this kind of paramilitary operation. There was no single authority short of the President capable of coordinating the actions of the CIA, State, Defense, and USIA. Top level direction was given through ad hoc meetings of senior officials without consideration of operational plans in writing and with no arrangement for recording conclusions and decisions reached. 13 June 1961 Memorandum No. 3 CONCLUSIONS OF THE CUBAN STUDY GROUP 1. It is concluded that: a. A paramilitary operation of the magnitude of ZAPATA could not be prepared and conducted in such a way that all U.S. support of it and connection with it could be plausibly disclaimed. Accordingly, this operation did not fit within the limited scope of NSC 5412/2. By about November 1960, the impossibility of running ZAPATA as a covert operation under CIA should have been recognized and the situation reviewed. The subsequent decision might then have been made to limit the efforts to attain covertness to the degree and nature of U.S. participation, and to assign responsibility for the amphibious operation to the Department of Defense. In this case, the CIA would have assisted in concealing the participation of defense. Failing such a reorientation, the project should have been abandoned. b. Once the need for the operation was established, its success should have had the primary consideration of all agencies in the Government. Operational restrictions designed to protect its covert character should have been accepted only if they did not impair the chance of success. As it was, the leaders of the operation were obliged to fit their plan inside changing ground rules laid down for non-military considerations, which often had serious operational disadvantages c. The leaders of the operation did not always present their case with sufficient force and clarity to the senior officials of the Government to allow the latter to appreciate the consequences of some of their decisions. This remark applies in particular to the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of the D-Day strikes. d. There was a marginal character to the operation which increased with each additional limitation and cast a serious doubt over its ultimate success. The landing force was small in relation to its 36-mile beachhead and to the probable enemy reaction. The air support was short of pilots if the beach was to require cover for a long period. There were no fighters to keep off such Castro airplanes as might escape the initial air strikes. There were few Cuban replacements for the battle losses which were certain to occur on the ground and in the air. It is felt that the approval of so marginal an operation by many officials was influenced by the feeling that the Cuban Brigade was a waning asset which had to be used quickly as time was against us, and that this operation was the best way to realize the most from it. Also, the consequences of demobilizing the Brigade and the return of the trainees to the U.S.A., with its implication that the United States had lost interest in the fight against Castro, played a part in the final decision. e. The Cuban Expeditionary Force achieved tactical surprise in its landing and, as we have said, fought well and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy. Although there had been considerable evidence of strong pockets of resistance against Castro throughout Cuba, the short life of the beachhead was not sufficient to trigger an immediate popular reaction, and Castro's repressive measures following the landing made coordinated uprisings of the populace impossible. The effectiveness of the Castro military forces, as well as that of his police measures, was not entirely anticipated or foreseen. f. In approving the operation, the President and senior officials had been greatly influenced by the understanding that the landing force could pass to guerrilla status, if unable to hold the beachhead. These officials were informed on many occasions that the ZAPATA area was guerrilla territory, and that the entire force, in an emergency, could operate as guerrillas. With this alternative to fall back on, the view was held that a sudden or disastrous defeat was most improbable. As we have indicated before, the guerrilla alternative as it had been described was not in fact available to this force in the situation which developed. g. The operation suffered from being run from the distance of Washington. At that range and with the limited reporting which was inevitable on the part of field commanders absorbed in combat, it was not possible to have a clear understanding in Washington of events taking place in the field. This was particularly the case on the night of D+1 when an appreciation of the ammunition situation would have resulted in an appeal for U.S. air cover and an all-out effort to supply the beach by all available means. h. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had the important responsibility of examining into the military feasibility of this operation. By acquiescing in the ZAPATA Plan, they gave the impression to others of approving it although they had expressed their preference for TRINIDAD at the outset, a point which apparently never reached the senior civilian officials. As a body they reviewed the successive changes of the plan piecemeal and only within a limited context, a procedure which was inadequate for a proper examination of all the military ramifications. Individually, they had differing understandings of important features of the operation apparently arising from oral briefings in the absence of written documents. f. Although the intelligence was not perfect, particularly as to the evaluation of the effectiveness of the T-33's, we do not feel that any failure of intelligence contributed significantly to the defeat. j. The planning and conduct of the operation would have been improved if there had been an initial statement of governmental policy, assigning the mission and setting the guidelines within which it was to develop. Thereafter, there was a need for a formalized procedure for interdepartmental coordination and follow- up with adequate record-keeping of decisions. 2. In the light of the foregoing considerations, we are of the opinion that the preparations and execution of paramilitary operations such as ZAPATA are a form of Cold War action in which the country must be prepared to engage. If it does so, it must engage in it with a maximum chance of success. Such operations should be planned and executed by a governmental mechanism capable of bringing into play, in addition to military and covert techniques, all other forces, political, economic, ideological, and intelligence, which can contribute to its success. No such mechanism presently exists but should be created to plan, coordinate and further a national Cold War strategy capable of including paramilitary operations. Click here to view image BIBLIOGRAPHY Books Hinkle, Warren and William W. Turner. The Fish is Red. New York: Harper and Row, 1981. Hunt, Howard. Give Us This Day. New York: Arlington House, 1973. Johnson, Haynes, et al. Bay of Pigs. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1964. Lazo, Peter. Dagger in the Heart. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1968. Periodicals New York Times, 16 April 1961. "Stopped in the Swamp," Time, 21 April 1961. Time, 28 April 1961. U.S. News and World Report, 1 May 1961. Government Publications FMFM 6-1. Marine Division. PCN 139 000400 00. Wash- ington, D.C.: GPO, 22 March 1978. Public Papers of the President of the United States: John F. Kennedy. 20 January, 1961 ... 31 December, 1961. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1962. Taylor, Maxwell D. "Narrative of the Anti-Castro Cuban Operation Zapata." Memorandum 1 Taylor Commission Report. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1961. Sanitized version declassified 8 May 1977. Taylor, Maxwell D. "Immediate Causes of Failure of the Operation Zapata." Memorandum 2 Taylor Commission Report. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1961. Sanitized version declassified 8 May 1977. Tyalor Maxwell D. "Conclusion of the Cuban Study Group." Memorandum 3 Taylor Commission Report. Washington, D.C. GPO, 1961. Sanitized version declassified 8 May 1977.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|