Why are the reasons the Bay of Pigs Invasion failed? by Tony Garcia
Answer by Tony Garcia:
There are many sides attempting to explain the Central Intelligence Agency’s failed attempt to implement U.S. national policy in Cuba by overthrowing the Fidel Castro regime by means of a covert paramilitary operation at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs.
This is not a full explanation of the decisions made at the executive level of CIA, or by President John F. Kennedy with regard to the invasion. Nor does it cover what was or was not conveyed to the president by then-CIA Director Allen Dulles.
What I offer here is a brief explanation by way of CIA’s officers on the ground at that time. It is not intended to be the full story; merely one side of the story, told from an operational point of view.
CIA maintains that the anti-Castro program would have succeeded only if the air operations plans as evolved by CIA had been retained intact. “The distortion of those plans for non-military, non-strategic purposes eliminated all margin for error and insured the establishment of the first Communist government in the Western Hemisphere.”(1)
CIA officers and the paramilitary force spearheading the ground assault, Brigade 2506, firmly believed that it was to be primarily an air strike. The role of the Brigade, according to CIA Officer Grayston L. Lynch, was to storm the beachhead and “secure an area large enough to protect an airfield,” then “let the planes do the dirty work — for one week, two weeks, or whatever time it took.”(2)
The notion of a spontaneous uprising by the Cuban people, according to Lynch, was something they “had never envisioned, never asked for, or wanted.”(3)
The Agency had originally contracted with the U.S. Air Force to have 10 B-26’s made available to CIA at Kelly Air Force Base on an interdepartmental transfer. A CIA proprietary organization would then “purchase” the aircraft, thus allowing for plausible deniability.(4)
The Air Force had rejected CIA's request for the use of their personnel as crews on "black-flight" operations, and had also requested that CIA move the B-26's from USAF bases by August 1960. CIA, however, failed to live up to its agreement. On January 16, 1961, in a memorandum to CIA’s Deputy Director of Plans, Air Force Colonel Leroy Fletcher Prouty stated that, as CIA had only picked up six of the aircraft, no more would be provided.(5) Thus, the complement of aircraft needed to succeed in the Bay of Pigs operation was already compromised.
[Note: Colonel Prouty was viewed by CIA’s Plans Division officers as a thorn in their side. The “mention of his name drew forth 'expletives of a strong nature from those WH/4 individuals who had even limited contact with Prouty, notably Dick Drain and Jake Esterline.”(6)]
There was infighting among CIA officers, the Air Force, Brigade members, and the Alabama Air National Guard and civilian pilots chosen to fly the B-26’s. The pilots objected to the use these aircraft, the modifications made to them (such as painting identical tail numbers on the B-26's), and the plane’s ability to complete the mission with the amount of fuel allotted. The anti-Castro Cubans involved in the invasion were further irritated by the fact that they were totally excluded from all strike plan meetings.(7)
To insure the success of the operation, CIA gave the pilots—comprised of Americans and Cubans—$10,000, deposited for them in a New York bank. Cuban pilots also received assurance that their children would be educated in the U.S. Brigade 2506’s Cuban members were not afforded such amenities.(8)
The first strike of the B-26’s seemed to produce results guaranteeing a subsequent ground victory by the Brigade. A celebration response was even given by CIA officers who said, “"Give the boys our congratulations."(9) But it was premature. The first strike had not done as much damage as presumed; many of Castro’s combat aircraft lay untouched. Castro himself said that the April 15th air strike was a bust, claiming that as a result of the air strike he had lost only two aircraft. Castro also leveled charges against the U.S., through Cuba’s U.N. representative, that CIA had instigated the attack.(10)
Then the cover story for the returning B-26’s broke down. Federal Marshals seized the returning planes—which had false Cuban markings—under Section 1934, 401, Title 22, of the U.S. Code prohibiting unauthorized entrance into the U.S., despite a prior arrangement CIA had with U.S. Customs to allow the planes to safely land at Miami International airport.(11)
A B-26 piloted by Jose Crespo in an attack on Libertad was hit by ground fire. Crespo was able to make an, emergency landing at the Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West, Florida. However, reporters noted that his plane bore the same identification—No. 933—that was carried by a plane that had landed at Miami International Airport.
Another B-26, piloted by Alfredo Cabellero in the attack on San Antonio de los Banos, developed engine trouble on its return flight and was forced to make an emergency landing on Grand Cayman Island. A spare aircraft which had been intended as a replacement in case difficulties were encountered by the planes heading for either San Antonio or Libertad was forced to abort before it could join in the attack.(12)
David Atlee Phillips, WH/4 Propaganda Chief, attempted to deflect attention from CIA and the upcoming U.N. hearing on accusations filed by Cuba on April 17, 1961. On that Monday morning, however, as the U.N. debate began, Brigade 2506 forces had already landed at Playa Larga and Playa Giron; and it had already been proved that the B-26 involved in the deception effort did not belong to Castro's Air Force.(13)
CIA officer Gar Thorsrud requested a follow-up strike to complete the destruction of Castro's combat air capability but CIA’s top officials turned down the request. As stated by Thorsrud, referring to his cable of April 16, 1961, in which he recommended B-26 strikes against both the Libertad and San Antonio airfields, “They might just as well have closed the whole operation right there and called off the landing on the beach, because that decision wiped out the whole operation right there.”(14)
Later that day, Brigade 2506 was captured by Castro’s forces.
Original CIA Department of Plans documents for the invasion cited below:
These are additional volumes from CIA: