What Was the Bay of Pigs Invasion?

Garry Crystal

The Bay of Pigs invasion took place on 17 April 1961. It was an attempt by the US government to overthrow Fidel Castro's government in Cuba. Since the Cuban revolution in 1959, relations between Cuba and the United States had become strained. Castro had seized many US assets and also had strong links with the Soviet Union.

President John F. Kennedy was deeply embarrassed by the Bay of Pigs failure.
President John F. Kennedy was deeply embarrassed by the Bay of Pigs failure.

The Eisenhower administration worked in conjunction with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to train Cuban exiles to overthrow Castro's government. Vice President Richard Nixon was the main proponent of the Bay of Pigs invasion and agreed that the invasion was to be pushed ahead. A large number of Cuban exiles were trained in Florida and Guatemala for combat.

Relations between the US and Cuba have been strained since the Cuban revolution in 1959.
Relations between the US and Cuba have been strained since the Cuban revolution in 1959.

By 1961, President John F Kennedy (JFK) was in charge of the invasion. He changed a number of details of the invasion including the landing sites. He also presented Castro's possession of Soviet tanks and weapons as the real reason for the invasion. On 17 April 1961, air bombings by the anti-Castro Cuban Fuerza Aerea Revolucionaria (FAR), or Revolutionary Air Force took place. The U.S. Air Force was then to wage an opposing attack that would effectively eliminate the Cuban air force.

These air strikes were given the name "Operation Puma." Operation Puma failed, arguably for a number of reasons, one being Castro's prior knowledge of the attacks which allowed him to move his airplanes away from the strike area. Prior to this attack, Captain Mario Zuniga had already flown over Cuba and claimed that his engine had been shot at. Reports have shown that fake bullet holes in the engine were pre-drilled before the flight take off. But to the watching world, it appeared that he had been shot at by Castro's men.

On 17 April 1961 the land invasion began. 1,511 Cuban exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs, situated on the Southern coast of Cuba. The troops were under the impression that they would be supported by the locals in overthrowing Castro. But Castro was aware of the invasion and had already executed and imprisoned people suspected of having American sympathies.

Tank battles ensued and with no visible support for the Cuban exiles, Kennedy soon began canceling further US support to the Bay of Pigs invasion. The invasion ended on 21 April 1961. The US had failed and 68 of the Cuban exiles were dead. Out of the other 1029 exiles, some were executed and the remaining were sent to prison in Cuba on charges of treason. On 21 December 1962, the prisoners were traded with the US for 53 million US dollars (USD) given in food and medicine.

The Bay of Pigs invasion was a complete failure and embarrassment to President Kennedy. Some thought that it only served to heighten Castro's popularity. After the invasion, Castro strengthened his relations with the Soviet Union, leading to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. An American trade embargo still exists with Cuba to this day.

The Eisenhower administration worked with the CIA to overthrow Castro's government.
The Eisenhower administration worked with the CIA to overthrow Castro's government.

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Discussion Comments


Was the Kennedy assassination mainly based on the bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis ? Did these events also spur on the Vietnam War? History shows that Vietnam could have been won if British counterinsurgency tactics were employed.


An interesting side note: The Bay of Pigs Invasion was planned out on Useppa Island, a small island off the coast of SW Florida.

If you go there today, you can visit the Useppa Museum and learn all about the planning and training practices that took place there in preparation for the invasion.


After the Bay of Pigs incident, there were other crisis with Cuba that weren't handled very well. Kennedy still wanted to get rid of Castro. He and others in the government thought about a way to burn down the sugar crops, assassination, and other ideas, but none ever happened.

A couple of years after the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis happened. The Soviet Union began putting missiles on the island of Cuba. American officials, of course, wanted none of that. The U.S put a blockade around Cuba to stop more missiles from being brought in. After 13 tense days of negotiation, the U.S. and the Soviet Union came to an agreement. The Soviet missiles were taken away.

The United States also started putting restrictions on Americans. They couldn't travel to Cuba or trade or buy anything from there. Even after 50 years, the same restrictions are with us.


@CarrotIsland - Good job. I like the way you put the incident in a clear, concise way.

This really was a messed up affair. There was just not very much coordination between the planners and those who were participating in the attempted removal of Fidel Castro. We just didn't want a communist government in our backyard, but we still have one.

When the U.S. lost out, President Kennedy and the whole country were embarrassed and lost face. How could this happen? Things got even worse during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Now the Soviets were bringing missiles into Cuba.

How different these events were when you think about how the bin Laden operation was so well planned. What a difference in the way bin Laden's death plan was kept so secret and the leaks during the Bay of Pigs.


I did a report on the Bay of Pigs Invasion and this is what I learned, in a nutshell:

Richard M. Nixon proposed it, Dwight D. Eisenhower planned it, Robert F. Kennedy championed it, John F. Kennedy approved it and the CIA carried it out. There were 1189 invaders captured and 200 of them had been soldiers in Batista’s army. Out of those 200, 14 were wanted by Cuba for murder. One CIA soldier fired the first shot. A volunteer is said to have been the first Cuban casualty. Over 100 Cuban invaders and 4 American pilots were killed in battle.

One U.S. ambassador lied to the U.N. and one U.S. president was embarrassed in front of the world.

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