On April 17, 1961, more than 1,400 Cuban exiles, armed and trained by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, stormed ashore at the Bay of Pigs, a remote swampy area on Cuba's southern coast. Try your luck with these trivia questions to see how much you know about this pivotal Cold War event.
Who Hatched the Plan for the Invasion? Officials of the Eisenhower Administration, alarmed at the socialist leanings of the new Castro government in Cuba, in March 1960 gave the CIA $13.1 million to develop a plan for the overthrow of Fidel Castro. Working with Cuban exile leaders in South Florida, the intelligence agency began covertly training counter-revolutionary forces, known collectively as Brigade 2506. After his November 1960 election to the presidency, John F. Kennedy was informed of the ongoing preparations for an invasion and gave his blessing, although many of his military advisers warned him the planned invasion had little chance of success.
What about Air Support for the Invaders? To provide support for amphibious troops coming ashore at the Bay of Pigs, the original invasion plan called for two series of air strikes. The first came in the form of eight B-26 bombers, repainted to resemble planes of the Cuban air force, that attacked Cuban airfields in the early morning hours of April 15. According to the account posted at JFKLibrary.org, ¨the bombers missed many of their targets and left most of Castro's air force intact.¨ Making matters worse, photos of the camouflaged U.S. bombers became public, making it clear that the United States was supporting the invasion. In the wake of this revelation, President Kennedy canceled the second air strike, depriving the amphibious invaders at the Bay of Pigs of crucial air support.
What Flawed Assumption Doomed the Invasion?
Both the Cuban exiles who made up Brigade 2506 and their CIA handlers fervently believed that the Bay of Pigs invasion would inspire many anti-Castro Cubans to rise up in support of the attempt to overthrow the Castro government. This home-grown support was considered critical to the eventual success or failure of the invasion. Unfortunately, it never materialized. As a result, the Bay of Pigs invaders soon found themselves pinned down by Cuban fighter planes.
In the early afternoon of April 19, just a little over two days since the invasion started, the exile brigade had little choice but to surrender. Sixty-eight of the invaders had been killed during the ill-fated mission, and Cuban forces captured more than 1,200 of the invaders, who eventually were given show trials before being locked up in Cuban prisons.
What Effect Did the Botched Invasion Have on the Kennedy Administration? The ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion came less than three months after President Kennedy had taken office and was widely used by America's enemies to paint the new American leader as inexperienced, indecisive, and weak. Emboldened by the disastrous invasion attempt, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev four months later began building the wall that for nearly three decades separated Communist East Berlin from West Berlin. And it brought closer cooperation between the Soviet Union and Cuba that in 1962 led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.