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.
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.
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.