Bay of Pigs Invasion - US vs Cuba - Cold War DOCUMENTARY

Bay of Pigs Invasion - US vs Cuba - Cold War DOCUMENTARY

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Without a doubt, Cuba is an integral and key  part of Cold War history. Cuba, in a very short   period of time, went from a close American ally  to a close ally of a sworn enemy and Havana and   Fidel was not afraid to poke the bear…eagle?  In the months and years after the Revolution,   Washington hoped to remove Fidel from power and  bring Cuba back into its orbit. I’m your host   David and this week, we are going to look  at the culmination of the American campaign   to remove Fidel, the failure that was the  Bay of Pigs Invasion. This is…the Cold War.  Now, before we start talking about terrible  national security operations, if you are looking   for a stylish way to keep your money and cards  safe, then you need the sponsor of today’s video,   Ridge Wallet. These wallets from Ridge come  with RFID blocking technology to prevent digital   pickpockets from scooping up your information.  But the best part is how great they look while   protecting your information! Ridge wallets don’t  fold or bulge and their have a light and sleek   modern design. Ridge can hold up to 12 cards  and still has room for cash. It’s available in  

30 different colours and styles; my favorite  is definitely the burnt titanium. But don’t   just take my word for it – Ridge has over 40,000  5-star reviews and with holidays fast approaching,   a new wallet from Ridge makes the perfect  gift! Each wallet comes with a lifetime   warranty and The Ridge team is so confident  you’ll like it, that they’ll let you try   it for 45 days. If you don’t love it, just  send it back for a full refund! Look great,   support our channel and get 10% off today by going  to and use the code “TCW”!  On the 16th of February 1961, Fidel Castro assumed  the title of Prime Minister, an action which   ultimately marked the successful conclusion to  the Cuban Revolution, ending more than 5 years of   fighting for control of the island. But it wasn’t  really the end of the fighting; no sooner was  

his government established then it was met with  counterinsurgencies aiming to unravel everything   he had achieved to that point. No less than 117  militant counter-revolutionary groups were formed,   most of which took refuge in the Escambray  Mountains, from where they fought a 6 year long,   bloody struggle against Castro's forces. Now,  the Escambray Rebellion as the conflict between   government troops and the insurgents became  known is a story for another day, but if you are   interested in, please let us know in the comments. However, there are a couple of things we need to   take note of regarding the rebellion. First of  all, the animosity with which the war between the   government and the rebels was fought forced many  of the rebels to seek refuge in the United States,   from where they planned to launch an invasion,  increasing the anti-Castro vehemence of the Cuban   diaspora. It also created reactions from the  US press, who accused Castro and his government  

of being undemocratic and bloodthirsty. Castro  certainly didn’t take these press comments well   but they weren’t the reason for the continued  souring of US-Cuban relations. It was things   like the Cuban government nationalizing the  Cuba’s oil refineries. This action was taken   in response to US corporations who controlled  the refineries refusing to process oil purchased   from the Soviet Union. In retaliation for the  refineries being nationalized, the US banned   the import of Cuban sugar. This in turn prompted  Castro to seize more American owned assets and   for the United States to then impose a strict  economic embargo on the 13th of October 1960. 

In addition, incidents such as the sinking  of the French vessel "Le Coubre", which Fidel   blamed the US for as well as the fact that Cuba  was starting to be used as a stepping stone for   many revolutionaries trying to stage communist  uprisings in South America placed further strains   on the relationship between the two nations. These increasingly heightened tensions drove   the CIA to create and execute a multitude of  different plans to assassinate Fidel Castro,as   well as other important revolutionaries,  like Fidel’s brother Raul and Che Guevara.   Parallel to the numerous, and admittedly creative,  assassination attempts, by early 1960 the CIA had   formulated a plan for an armed invasion of the  island using Cuban exiles opposed Castro's regime.  President Eisenhower, recognizing the increasing  hostility and possible threat that a Communist   Cuba could pose to the United States, tasked  the CIA with creating an invasion plan to topple   Castro's government. Preparatory work began  with CIA's director Allen Dulles assembling  

a team of agents, many of whom were veterans  of the successful 1954 coup in Guatemala,   which of course you know all about since  you watched our episode covering it.  Now, in March of 1961, Langley received a  whopping 13 million dollars allowance in order   to “deal” with Castro and covert operations  began shortly afterwards. These included,   but were not limited to, the build.-up  of an intelligence network inside Cuba,   the training and equipping of paramilitary forces  outside the island, as well as the acquisition of   logistical support for these units, and of course  the Agency's old time favorite, a propaganda   campaign to be carried out on the island itself.  And yet, despite this mandate, for the 6 months   that followed, these covert operations, mainly  focused on supporting and reinforcing the already   present anti-Castro insurgents in the Escambray,  were met time and time again with failure. With   little progress being made, Langley explored  plans for an all-out amphibious invasion,   a process that was sped-up when John F.  Kennedy won the presidential elections. 

So, as just mentioned, the CIA was recruiting  Cuban exiles living in the United States to   stage what was supposed to look like a local  uprising and not a US backed intervention.   Though initially consisting of only 28  men, the small group of Cubans that had   gathered around the political leadership of  Manuel Francisco Artime Buesa, it would grow   to become Assault Brigade 2506, numbering  roughly one and a half thousand soldiers.  As Artime was a politician and therefore not  well suited to command the brigade, military   command of the Brigade was given to Pepe San  Roman. His men were then trained in secret bases   that had been set up by the CIA in Guatemala,  Puerto Rico and, ignoring the State Department's   guidelines, even the United States itself.  Naturally for an operation of this size, air   and naval forces would need to be included. Eight  C-46 and six C-54 transport planes, as well as 16   B-26 Invaders would be used to bomb Cuban forces  and support the invading forces. Like the ground  

troops, the pilots were trained from disguised  bases in Guatemala, with Langley employing   various tricks to camouflage these aircraft  to appear as part of the Guatemalan Air Force.  Similar lengths were taken to disguise  the creation of the naval force which   would carry troops, ammunition and other  supplies to the landing point. Under no   circumstances could the vessels be American,  out of fear of exposing direct US involvement,   so the CIA procured 5 ships from a Cuban owned  shipline; the Atlantico, the Caribe, the Houston,   the Lake Charles and the Rio Escondido. Also part  of the naval force were two large landing crafts,   Blagar and Barbara J as well as eight smaller  crafts that would carry personnel as well as the   five M41 Bulldog tanks and the trucks, jeeps and  other support vehicles to be used in the landing.  As to the success of disguising this force,  saying that it had mixed results would be a   generous statement. Not only was this a  large collection of men and equipment,   but operational security was lax at best.  It was no secret to the Cubans that an  

invasion force was being assembled or  that it was a fully US-backed plan.  Of course, gathering the war material and  training the men was only half of the necessary   preparations. The other half was choosing  the landing site and forming a tactical plan.   Langley's original plan called for a landing  in the Trinidad area, southeast of Cienfuegos,   a location distant from Havana and Castro's forces  concentrated in the capital. In addition, the area   had access to facilities vital for the successful  outcome of the operation, primarily docks, but it   was also quite easily defendable, as Cuban troops  coming from Havana would have to cross a bridge,   which could be blown up to further bolster the  defensive capabilities of the invading force.  

Yet, despite the numerous advantages this  location offered, President Kennedy took a   completely different decision, which perhaps  forever changed the course of history. On   March the 11th, during a meeting with senior CIA  officials, Kennedy rejected the Trinidad plan,   calling it overly spectacular, and pointing out  that the lack of a large local runway to be used   by the bombers would potentially reveal America's  involvement. So Langley went back to the drawing   board, this time choosing a quieter place for the  landing, this time to the southwest of Cienfuegos,   the Bahia de Cochinos, The Bay of Pigs. According to the CIA's plans for Operation   "Zapata", as it was named, landings would  take place at three locations codenamed Red,   Blue and Green beaches. Blue beach, or Playa  Giron was to be the center of the operation   where San Roman would establish his HQ, while  paratroopers of the 1st Battalion would drop at   three points further inland at La Horquito, at  Covadonga and at Central Australia Sugar Mill,   with the task of securing the roads leading  towards Playa Giron, while a second detachment   would secure an airstrip and the town of Sopillar  . Paratroop command, under Alejandro de Valle   would establish its own HQ at San Blas. Following  them would be the 2nd and 5th Infantry Battalions  

which would land at Red Beach, while the 6th, 3rd,  and 4th would land at Blue Beach. Finally the 7th   Infantry would make its landing at Green Beach.  After the beachead was secured the 3rd Battalion,   which had been assigned the few tanks that took  part in the operation,would move to seize control   of the local airfield which would provide a  first-class base for the bombers to operate from. 

This was the plan the CIA and Assault Brigade  2506 would work with. While it was a solid one   in theory, there were some worries that it was  overly complicated with too many moving parts.   These worries however, were never really  voiced, drown out by the overconfidence and   hubris that past successes in Guatemala and Iran  had created. In reality though, everything that   could possibly go wrong with the plan, did. The main invasion was planned for the 17th  

of April, 1961. On the night of the 14th of  April, days before the main attack would begin,   a diversionary landing was to take place  roughly 30 miles east of Guantanamo,   near Baracoa. However, as Nino Diaz and his 160  men were approaching the beach they discovered   that a group of Cuban militiamen, who had possibly  been notified in detail about the American plans,   was already waiting for them and so  the diversionary landing was canceled. 

While the failed attempt to draw Castro's  attention to the east undeniably negatively   affected the outcome of the mission, so did  the overly successful air operations conducted   the following day. Let me explain.  Dutifully following the CIA's plan,   on the early hours of the 15th of  April, the exiled Cuban pilots,   took to the skies in their B-26s with the task  of destroying the Cuban air force on the ground,   deemed a determining factor for the outcome  of the operation, since the landing force had   no Anti-Aircraft guns and would otherwise be at  mercy of Castro's planes. The bombing runs were   extremely successful and by nightfall, half of the  Cuban airforce had been destroyed on the ground.  

However, this mission included a propaganda  portion. Two of the bombers were to fly to the US,   where their pilots would claim to be Cuban  defectors and they would assume responsibility   for the destruction that had been caused, thereby  drawing away any suspicion of US involvement.   When they reached US soil their fake story  quickly became widely known and served   its intended purpose, but it would soon  backfire. As a result of media attention,   and immense political pressure, the pilots  could not risk launching a second bombing run,   without first capturing the airfield at Giron,  as it would reveal the origin of the aircraft.   So it was decided that the air force would no  longer intervene, and the Brigade was left to   its fate, to fend off the remaining half of  the Cuban aircraft. Without anti- air weapons. 

At the same time as the B-26 were inadvertently  grounded, the CIA suffered another setback as   Fidel launched a major counterinsurgency  campaign across the island, arresting almost   half a million Cubans, including many rebels  and operatives working for the agency. Adding   to this catastrophe was the CIA's failure to even  contact and organize members of the anti- Castro   movement that still remained in Cuba and would  have been willing to help the landing force.   In addition, one of Langley's chief  weapons, the massive radio and leaflet   propaganda campaign that had effectively  won them the 1954 coup in Guatemala,   proved unsuccessful this time, failing to create  the uprising the CIA was hoping for. As a result,   the landings would begin with major setbacks; an  alerted enemy with control of the air and they   would also be cut-off from any potential  reinforcements and allies on the ground. 

On the 16th of April, just after the sun had  set, the first elements of the invasion force   composed of a team of frogmen approached the  coast near Red Beach where they exchanged fire   with a Cuban patrol in a Jeep. Despite  finding out that the area was guarded,   the landings proceeded as planned. Despite a few  mishaps the beachhead at point Blue was secured.  However, the defenders of the radio station  at Playa Larga had managed to alert Havana   of the landing and Fidel ordered three  mortar batteries and three infantry   battalions stationed in the surrounding area to  intercept the invaders. He also commanded the   Revolutionary Air Force to attack the ships  starting at dawn. At 6:30 am on the 17th,   Castro's pilots managed to inflict a major blow  on the attackers when they crippled the Houston,   which was carrying the entire 5th Battalion. The  Houston was beached, allowing the majority of the   men to safely disembark but use of the Houston  was lost in the event a withdrawal was needed. 

An hour later, the brigade's airborne  assault began. Despite some mishaps, like   some paratroopers landing in the swamp, as well as  the heavy fire they came under, the paratroopers   were able to achieve two of their main objectives.  But they failed to close off the road from Central   Australia Sugar Mill, which would allow  Castro's forces to launch a counterattack.  By 8:30am, all the men and vehicles were ashore,  and the 3rd Battalion had managed to secure the   airstrip, but the Brigade had paid a price in  both lives and equipment, losing all of its radio   equipment, making communications and therefore  coordination between units almost impossible. 

The run of disasters for the Brigade continued  during the second wave of air attacks when the   Cuban planes scored a direct hit on the Rio  Escondido. The ship was carrying a large supply   of fuel, ammunition, and other war material and  was completely destroyed by three explosions   when its cargo caught fire. The situation for the  Brigade was now dire as San Roman's men were still   stuck on the beaches and almost out of supplies. As fighting continued into midday, the men of the   2506th managed to score a small victory when a  group of militiamen approached Oliva's position.   The Cubans, who were not aware of the enemy's  presence in the area, suffered terrible losses as   the brigadistas opened fire with everything they  had and even two B-26s joined the fray. Within  

minutes only a handful of militiamen remained,  with some of them running away in the nearby   marshes, while those less fortunate were captured  by the brigadistas. Under interrogation, they   revealed that Castro was concentrating his forces  on the main road to launch a counteroffensive.   So San Roman's men dug in and prepared for the  upcoming attack. The end of the first day found   the Brigade holding the beacheads both at Red  and Blue, as well as the airfield, but they had   suffered severe casualties and were without hope  of being resupplied as two of the remaining ships,   the Atlantico and Caribe had left the area and  were heading south, afraid of joining the Rio   Escondido. Their captains would eventually  be convinced to turn back, but they would  

be too late by the time they arrived back. For the men on the beaches, there would be   no rest. as by 8pm the Cubans began an  artillery bombardment against the now   strongly entrenched brigadistas at Playa  Larga. The bombardment was followed by   infantry assaults supported by tanks and while  the men of the 2506 inflicted great casualties   on the attackers, the lack of ammunition proved  detrimental. After holding on the entire night,   Oliva and his men abandoned their positions  in the morning and headed to Giron. 

During the night, the Brigade's air force,  realizing the critical mistake of letting Castro's   planes control the skies, made another attempt at  destroying Cuban aircraft on the ground. However,   they were unable to successfully carry out  their strikes due to poor weather conditions.  As the sun rose in the morning of April 18th,  San Roman and Oliva met and discussed plans,   with Oliva suggesting heading to the Escambray  mountains and engaging in guerrilla warfare,   but this idea was quickly dismissed by San Roman.  Upon contacting Blagar to request a resupply, San   Roman also dismissed the idea of evacuating from  the beaches, thus sealing the fate of his men. The   Cubans resumed their ground assault at San Blas  at 11am, with support from the Cuban Air Force.  

Unlike the previous day, the Brigade used its  aircraft to great success, as the B-26s managed   to destroy a column heading to Giron from Playa  Larga, inflicting around 1800 casualties. Despite   being pushed on all sides as well as almost  being out of ammunition, the Brigade was able   to hold out another day. This included repelling  another attempt made from the Cuban Revolutionary   forces to recover San Blas in the afternoon. As we have mentioned several times the 2506 was  

by this time in dire need of ammunition. At dawn  on the 19th, a last ditch effort at resupply was   made. A C-46 was able to land at the aistrip in  Giron and deliver some much needed ammo, however,   the majority of supplies were supposed to arrive  by sea onboard Blagar. The captain of the ship,   knowing full well the danger of sailing under  a hostile sky, had requested air cover and   then for an American destroyer to escort his  ship all the way to the beach. He got neither   from a very hesitant President Kennedy, who  still didn’t want to commit American forces   to save the Brigade. The Captain of the Blagar was  instead ordered by the CIA to abort the mission.  While that was happening at sea, the brigadistas  on the beach were committed to a final Hail Mary   and after a final B-26 bombing run, they attacked  the Cuban positions at San Blas. The offensive was  

extremely successful, at least in the beginning,  as the Cuban FAR soldiers were disorganized by the   bombing and their resistance quickly collapsed.  But, the brigadistas were unable to capitalize   on their success as their ammunition finally ran  out. This forced the 3rd Battalion to retreat.  It was now time for Castro’s counterattack and the  Cubans were able to dislodge San Roman’s defenders   from their positions by about 2pm on the 19th. The  situation was fairly similar at the western end of  

the battlefield where Oliva was in command. He too  had to abandon his position and fallback to Giron   at about the same time. There he found, well,  nothing except San Roman’s final message. “I am   destroying all my equipment and communications.  Tanks are in sight. I have nothing left to   fight with. I am taking to the woods. I cannot  wait for you”. Oliva still tried to hold out,  

forming a small unit of men, but they too fled  after they were strafed by a pair of Sea Furies   and a T-33A. This marked the end for Brigade  2506 and for the invasion at the Bay of Pigs.  Over the weeks that followed, Castro's forces  killed or captured many of the brigadistas that   had fled and hid in the surrounding area. The  majority of the captives, some 1,113 men, were   exchanged for a ransom of 53 million US dollars  on the 22nd of December 1962. A ceremony was   organized in which the repatriating brigadistas  presented the unit's flag to President Kennedy   and Brigade 2506 officially ceased to exist.  Its disbandment however, couldn't wash away the  

catastrophic consequences of the failure at the  Bay of Pigs. The Kennedy administration and the   United States lost prestige and credibility among  their allies and, if rumours are to be believed,   JFK came close to shutting down Langley entirely.  At the same time Castro became much more wary of   future US attempts at overthrowing his regime,  while the Revolutionary movement in Cuba was, in   the words of Comandante Che, stronger than ever. And yet, the failure at the Bay of Pigs was not  

the end of US involvement over Cuba. Far from it  in fact. The United States would redouble their   efforts to overthrow the neighboring communist  regime. New plans for covert actions including   sabotage, assassinations and terrorist attacks  were drawn up; they would later become known as   “Operation Mongoose". But in the following months  the incident at Playa Giron would be overshadowed   by what is recognized as the single most  dangerous deliberate incident of the Cold War,   where the world skated on the razor's edge of  nuclear armageddon, the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and to  make sure you don't miss our future work,   please make sure you are subscribed to our  channel and have created an overly complicated   plan with multiple necessary contingencies  which must be met in order to press the bell   button. Please consider supporting us on Patreon  at or through YouTube   membership. We can be reached via email at This is the   Cold War Channel and as we think about the Cold  War, I will leave you with the words of JFK “In   the final analysis, our most basic common link  is that we all inhabit this small planet. We   all breathe the same air. We all cherish our  children's future. And we are all mortal.”

2022-10-19 12:19

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