Bay of Pigs Invasion was a failed military invasion of Cuba undertaken by the CIA-sponsored paramilitary group Brigade 2506 on the 17th of April 1961. The Cuban Revolution of 1952 to 1959 had seen President Fulgencio Batista, an ally of the United States, forced out of the country into exile.
He was replaced by the Communist movement led by Castro, which had seen the country’s formerly strong links with the US severed after expropriating the assets of US corporations and developing links with the Soviet Union, with whom, at the time, the United States was engaged in the Cold War.
US President Dwight D. Eisenhower was concerned at the direction which Castro’s government was taking, and in March 1960, Eisenhower allocated $13.1 million to the CIA in order to plan Castro’s overthrowing.
Popular uproar across Cuba demanded that those figures that had been complicit in the widespread torture and killing of civilians be brought to justice. Although he remained a moderating force and tried to prevent the mass reprisal killings of Batistanos advocated by many Cubans, Castro helped to set up trials of many figures involved in the old regime across the country, resulting in hundreds of executions.
Although widely popular in Cuba, critics, in particular from the U.S. press, argued that many of these did not meet the standards of a fair trial, and condemned Cuba’s new government as being more interested in vengeance than justice. Castro retaliated strongly against such accusations, proclaiming that “revolutionary justice is not based on legal precepts, but on moral conviction”.
In January 1961, the U.S. government severed diplomatic relations with Cuba and stepped up its preparations for an invasion. Some State Department and other advisors to the new American president, John F. Kennedy, maintained that Castro posed no real threat to America, but the new president believed that masterminding the Cuban leader’s removal would show Russia, China and skeptical Americans that he was serious about winning the Cold War.
On April 15, 1961, a group of Cuban exiles took off from Nicaragua in a squadron of American B-26 bombers, painted to look like stolen Cuban planes, and conducted a strike against Cuban airfields. However, it turned out that Castro and his advisers knew about the raid and had moved his planes out of harm’s way.
In its final online release of material related to the conference, the National Security Archive has also posted audio recordings of two telephone conversations between President Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, on March 2, 1963, in which they discuss concerns that a Senate investigating committee might reveal that the president had authorized jets from the U.S. aircraft carrier Essex to provide one hour of air cover for the brigade’s B-26 bombers on the morning of April 19.
In a February 1964 message to President Johnson, conveyed through ABC News correspondent Lisa Howard, Castro tells the new president “that there are no areas of contention between us that cannot be discussed and settled within a climate of mutual understanding,” and expresses hope that Johnson will win the November presidential election and continue with the Kennedy Administration’s rapprochement effort.