In 1961 the United States sent trained Cuban exiles to Cuba to try and overthrow Fidel Castro's government. They failed miserably. The invasion is considered part of the Cold War because the United States was trying to prevent communism from taking hold in the Americas.
Bay of Pigs in Cuba Source: Zleitzen at Wikimedia Commons
Before the Invasion
Fidel Castro helped to lead the Cuban Revolution in overthrowing the existing government of Cuba in 1959. He was an ardent communist and was allied with the Soviet Union. This deeply concerned the United States as this gave communism and the Soviet Union a foothold in the Americas.
The CIA, or Central Intelligence Agency, was tasked with overthrowing Fidel Castro's government in Cuba. There were many people from Cuba, called exiles, who had fled the country when Fidel Castro had become leader. The CIA began to train these exiles in guerrilla warfare. The idea was that they would sneak back into Cuba and begin a guerrilla war against Castro. They would gather others and eventually overthrow Castro.
The plan changed, however. The new plan was help the exiles to invade the island. The hope was that locals would join forces with them and they would quickly take over.
Planning the Invasion
The invasion was originally planned to occur at the city of Trinidad, but President Kennedy thought that they needed a more secluded place. The Bay of Pigs was chosen instead. The idea was that planes would fly in first and destroy the air force. Then the invasion force of 1500 soldiers would land. They hoped that the Cuban people would join them in rebelling against Castro.
The CIA tried to plan the invasion in secret, however, too many people knew and word got out. The Cubans knew the invasion was coming.
The invasion occurred on April 17, 1961. It did not go well. Although the Cuban air force was damaged by early air strikes, there were still planes left to attack the invaders. Once the invasion started, it took too long for the troops and ammunition to get off the ships. Before the ammunition could be unloaded, Cuban planes sunk the invader's ships.
Many of the paratroopers, who were supposed to slow down Castro's forces on the ground, landed at the wrong place or in the swamps. Soon the invaders were surrounded by a much larger force and were running out of ammunition. They tried to retreat, but most were eventually captured and put into prison.
The results were disastrous for the United States. The government looked weak and the CIA inept. It also seemed to strengthen Castro's government within Cuba and caused him to look to the Soviet Union as a military ally.
Interesting Facts About the Bay of Pigs
The Cuban exiles were trained by the CIA in the country of Guatemala.
Jose Miro Cardona was set to become president of Cuba once Castro was overthrown.
The invasion force was known as Brigade 2506.
The invaders would have had a much better chance to escape into the hills if they had used the original landing site of Trinidad. However, they were surrounded by swamp at the Bay of Pigs and had nowhere to run.
It is thought that some of the timing of the invasion got messed up due to people getting the time zones confused.