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The Bay of Pigs: A Struggle For Freedom
CSC 1984
                            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
Author:     ENGLISH, Joe R., Major, U.S. Marine Corps
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
List of Figures                                        ii
Prologue                                                1
    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
     A.  Memorandum 2 & 3 from Taylor Commission
         Report                                       109
     B.  Cuban Project Time Line                      119
     C.  Invasion Time Line                           121
Bibliography                                          124
    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
     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
     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
     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
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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
     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
     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
     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
     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
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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.
                         (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.
                         (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.
                   (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
     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 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
     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
     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
     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/
                      (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
     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
     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
     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
                             (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 &
     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
     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
     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
     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
     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
     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.
                        (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
     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
     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
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
    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
    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
    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.
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