Bay of Pigs and The Cuban Missile Crisis
Global Connections


The United States government has had many dealings with Cuba. The most important of these were the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the first incident, the Bay of Pigs, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) planned to help Cuban exiles overthrow their dictator, Fidel Castro. Unfortunately, the plan failed in almost every way possible (Wiener, online). The second incident, the Cuban Missile Crisis, was the closest America came to nuclear war. However, the war was avoided thanks to two brave men, President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev (Cuban Missile Crisis, online).

The United States had been friends with the Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista Zaldívar. In 1959, Batista was overthrown by an underground communist group lead by Fidel Castro. Castro became the new dictator. At first, he was a very conventional ruler. He was liked not only by the Cuban people, but by other countries as well, including the United States (Wiener, online).

This changed, however, when Castro realized how much power he had gained. Soon, Castro started to abuse his power by being hostile toward the Cuban people and to the United States. In 1960 Castro took over American-owned properties in Cuba such as oil refineries, sugar mills, and electric utilities. This ended the alliance between the United States and Cuba (Wiener, online).

In the early 60’s Castro started to institutionalize Communism and developed a close friendship with the Soviet Union. The CIA decided that the United States needed to take over Cuba to save the United States from attacks by Russia, which backed Cuba. The plan was known as the Bay of Pigs. The plan was to train Cuban exiles, who would serve as cover for action by the CIA. All CIA agents who had any contact with the Cuban public would have separate identities as American businessmen. This would hide all evidence that the United States government was involved (Wiener, online).

In addition to their personal weapons Cuban exile soldiers received Browning Automatic Rifles, machine guns, mortars, recoilless rifles, rocket launchers, and flamethrowers. The were also supplied with five M-41 tanks, twelve heavy trucks, an aviation fuel tank truck, a tractor crane, a bulldozer, two large water trailers, and several small trucks and tractors. One thousand five hundred men landed in the invasion. All were transported by ship except for one airborne infantry unit of 177 men. The entire brigade included five infantry units, one heavy weapons unit, one intelligence-reconnaissance unit, and one tank platoon (Wiener, online).

On April 15th three Cuban airfields were raided by eight B-26 bombers, destroying about half of Castro’s air force. However, the second air strike planned to destroy the rest of Castro’s air force were called off in fear that it might expose the United States’ involvement (Wiener, online).

Many other things also went wrong. The United States landing crafts sank on coral reefs. A drop of paratroopers missed their targets. Many exiles were pinned on the beach by heavy gunfire. They begged for air support, but again President Kennedy refused. After 114 exiles were killed the remaining 1,189 had no choice but to surrender to Castro (Sitkoff, p.32).

In 1962 the Soviet was far behind the United States in the arms race. Soviet Union missiles only had range long enough to be launched against Europe, but United States missiles were capable of striking the entire Soviet Union. In April 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev developed a plan of placing intermediate range missiles in Cuba. This would prevent the United States from attacking the Soviet Union (Cuban Missile Crisis, online).

Fidel Castro was searching for a way to defend his island from an attack by the United States. Since the Bay of Pigs Invasion failed, Castro thought the U.S would definitely attack again. As a result, he welcomed Nikita Khrushchev’s plan to place missiles on the island. That summer the Soviet Union secretly built missile installations in Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, online).

The crisis began October 15th, 1962, when reconnaissance photographs showed Soviet missiles being constructed in Cuba. When President John F. Kennedy was notified about the missile installations he immediately organized the EX-COMM. The EX-COMM was a group of his twelve most important. After days of arguing, Kennedy and his advisors decided