tv Bay of Pigs 60th Anniversary CSPAN April 17, 2021 8:00pm-9:01pm EDT
now heads catholic universities intelligence studies program. in an hour dave gutierrez discusses his book patriots from the barrio the story of company e 141st infantry the only all mexican-american army army unit in world war ii. and in two hours on reel america our weekly series featuring archival films on public affairs more on the bay of pigs invasion. the assault has begun on the dictatorship of fidel castro cuban army pilots opened the first phase of organized revolts with bombing raids on three military bases two of the b-26 light bombers then seek asylum in florida on the heels of the air raids landings were affected by rebels at several places on the cuban coast and the rebellion against the red ting's dictator was on with the refugee pilot flaming a full scale army revolt near in havana acting
foreign minister olivares shows diplomats rockets fired from the cuban raiders, which he claims have us working. meanwhile at the united nations cuban foreign minister of roa accused the united states of unleashing a war of invasion rochester the invading soldiers trained in florida, steven. what they make a quick denial he then upload either. these charges are totally false. and i deny them a categorically. united states has committed no aggression against cuba and no offensive has been launched from florida or from any other part of the united states. and the guatemalan foothills, there's a mysterious training depot where some of the raiders may have been based the government there denies. the cubans are among the soldiers being instructed but
observers have said otherwise professional soldiers are among the teachers and once trained the men mysteriously disappeared guatemala has held no brief for the castro regime and has aiden the rebel. in cuba itself, the people have been exhorted by castro the push back the invader and 300,000 militia men have been mobilized. the invasion was successful in its early hours with castro, of course blaming the us. is it the first -- in his armor? we're back with nicholas dumavitch who is a former cia deputy chief historian and current director of the intelligence studies program at catholic university and he's here today to with us to discuss the 60th anniversary of the bay of pigs invasion, which was the failed cia back effort to remove cuban leader fidel castro from power nicholas. good morning.
good morning, jesse. it's a pleasure to be with you on this auspicious anniversary. so tell us exactly what happened 60 years ago today on the southern coast of cuba. yeah, well, let me talk about what it was intended to do and then what happened the bay of pigs operation was a well-meaning but totally mismanaged attempt. on the part of the us government to oust the cuban government of fidel castro and liberate cubans from communism. it turned out to be a disaster. what was intended was an amphibious? invasion of some 1500 cuban exiles trained armed supplied by the central intelligence agency who would? come ashore on the southern coast of cuba at a remote place
called the bay of pigs. where they would establish a beachhead and hold that beachhead. and that would attract dissidents to the regime defectors from the cuban military. it would spark a general uprising. it was believed among the cuban people that would sweep away fidel castro from power. they would declare a provisional government that would then request the help of the united states. what actually happened? 60 years ago was at the cuban military was alerted to the fact of a an invasion they had sufficient. security forces in the area to respond far quick far more quickly. then the cia planners envisioned and so and there were other many many mistakes air cover was supposed to be guaranteed by a
series of air strikes. there was one air strike. president kennedy canceled actually two airstrikes there were supposed to be a total of three the second one was scotched the third one was called off at the last minute. so there was no air cover over the the beaches. and the cuban air force under castro had command of the air. and that really chewed up those brave cubans exiles who were fighting for their country for freedom. it was a it turned out to be. one of the biggest blunders in american foreign policy history and one of the biggest failures in the history of us intelligence operations, so there's a lot to talk about a lot went wrong with this well-meaning, but very mismanaged operation. so what were the actual results
of the invasion what happened that day and the days after what were the direct results? well in the pre-dawn hours of the april 17th about 1400 cuban exiles on various landing craft landing ships actually, most of them actually made it ashore despite the fact that one of the mistakes was out. we didn't realize that there were coral reefs. there and the landing craft had a great deal of trouble with those coral reefs causing most of the exiles have to wait ashore. because castro's air force had commanded the air his fighters were able to destroy two supply ships that carried ammunition and other supplies for the brigade. and so they were caught on the beach some of them made it as
far as 20 miles inland, but we're driven back. there were some bright spots there were battles between brigade armored vehicles and tanks and castro's tanks. they were able to hang on and surprisingly for all of two days. and on the afternoon of april 19th they simply ran out of ammunition the cuban assault brigade did not. give up so much as they simply ran out of ammunition ammunition and were captured. so we see here. i'm gonna put some fast facts about the bay of pigs invasion on screen not 114 people were killed during the bay of pigs invasion including for us airmen more than 1100 people were captured from the assault brigade 2506. five b-26 bombers were shot down
and like you said two us supply ships. think during the bay of pigs invasion. with all of that what went wrong you talked about the coral reefs, but what went wrong here? well it's been said and i totally agree with this that the operation as a military operation was too small to succeed. castro with with 1400 men ashore no matter how well-trained how well positioned castro was able able to quickly mount 20,000. men in arms against them both regular military and militia and he had a potential to mobilize 200,000 so the concept of the the cuban exiles being able to hang on to this beachhead is is quite debatable.
it's important to realize that this started out as a kind of world war ii classic support mission for gorillas infiltrating gorillas or commandos. there were anti castro elements in the escombri mountains and the sierra maestra and it was said that we're going to do to castro. what castro as a revolutionary in those mountains had done to the dictator batista before him. and so as the planning went forward in the late days of the eisenhower administration the plan kept getting bigger start, you know, it started with we're going to infiltrate 30 or so. trained gorillas at a time that would link up with resistance forces. and then it by the fall of 1960 and especially after the election it sort of morphed into
this conventional amphibious operation. that had these presumptions of the cuban people were ready to rise up against castro was totally false one of the one of the mistakes. was that the operational planners were not consulting the cia analysts who knew cuba best? they were the analysts were never asked. well if we're able to put a force ashore would the cuban people then rise up. i mean, there's a lot of discontent in cuban society, but castro's grip. on power. it seems pretty secure. anyway, the analysts were never asked that question. let me revive and remind everyone watching that they can take part in this conversation about the bay of pigs 60th anniversary. we're going to open up regional lines, which means that if you are in the eastern or central
time zones, your number is going to be 202-748-8000 if you are in the mountain and pacific time zones your numbers going to be 202 748 8001. we're going to open up a special line for cuban americans cuban americans. we want to know what you are thinking on the 60th anniversary of the bay of pigs invasion number the line for cuban americans going to be 202. 748-8002. keep in mind. you can always text us at 202748-8003 and we're always reading on social media on twitter at c-span wj and on facebook at facebook.com/seasfan now nicholas at the top of this show. we showed a is real that reference a mysterious training base in guatemala if the media knew about this was this operation ever really a secret. well, and that's the problem.
i mentioned that it was too small to succeed as a military operation. it was too large as an intelligence operation to stay secret. you're absolutely right. um castro knew what was happening. i mean he had agents in guatemala where the cuban exiles most of them being trained, but also, i mean he was relying mostly on american and regional newspaper reporters. who would hear things from the cuban exile community in miami? and we're able to piece together pretty much the whole story in fact. the new york times on january 10th 1961 had a front page above the fold with a map article. explaining that the us was preparing cuban exiles. action against the castro regime president eisenhower's in the
last days of his administration said that basically they had the whole story and yet planning went forward. one of the major one of the many blunders of this operation who were these cuban exiles who were being trained for this assault brigade? how long had they? how long have they been outside of cuba and what type of support would could they realistically expect if when they got back to cuba in this invasion force? after castro took power in early 1959 and started nationalizing industries and expropriating the property classes. there was an exodus of cubans professionals, you know people with money who saw that these socialist practices were going
to be injurious to them and so you had in southern florida a hundred thousand or so. cuban exiles anti-castro the the big challenge for cia was trying to unite them into a single front because there were many differences between them. some of them had been for the previous dictator bautista and most of the others didn't like that there were differences of opinion. and so that was that was a great challenge. what cia? offered to them was a chance to retake their country. and they signed up, you know, there was a recruiting drive and again trained in. guatemala nicaragua a few places in the united states despite the state department objecting to to that. and they were hoping to take
back their country for freedom. let's let some of our viewers take part in this conversation. we'll start with rogers who's calling from great neck, new york roger. good morning. good morning. how are you feeling? go ahead roger. yeah. hi. um, i have a question very interesting question. in 1898 the us with teddy roosevelt in the 17th are volunteer of new york. got rid of the spaniards and mckinley sent the the you know, the rough riders in and everybody into cuba to get rid of the spaniards. why didn't why didn't eisenhower's kennedy? why didn't they send the us military in? i was reading a thing about the
bay of pigs on usa today in las vegas, nevada and most generals at the time to cia was not supposed to go in and do military operations the us military the dod was supposed to go into cuba. get rid of castro. yes. both eisenhower and kennedy were unwilling to commit at least openly us military forces to the overthrow of the castro regime one of the great concerns was to maintain good relations with the rest of latin america latin america. latin american people saw the united states as overbearing they didn't like them on road doctrine. they didn't like to be in
america's backyard. they and so for for good foreign policy reasons it was ruled out that we would have the united states military openly go against the castro regime now. kennedy considered that when it came to the event that happened some 18 months later, and that was a cuban missile crisis, but that's another another story. what made us officials decide to back this bay of pigs invasion what was going on that made us official decide to consider any type of intervention in cuba at this point. well castro was definitely posing up to the soviet union. at the time this is in the depths of the of the cold war tensions are high. there's a an arms race.
and eisenhower in particular had already acted against what he thought was going to be a soviet beachhead in the western hemisphere in guatemala. he used cia in a covert action to oust the democratically elected president of guatemala yacobo arabens in 1954. cuba as castro gets closer to the soviet union and is starting to accept arms. is starting to implement socialist policies? is accepting soviet advisors both kgb and military? eisenhower's even a bigger problem with cuba becoming part of the soviet orbit than we had with that possibility in guatemala several years previously. so for eisenhower's a matter of keeping the soviets out of our hemisphere and you know the saying is it's only 90 miles from the united states.
why kennedy went forward with it is a little harder to justify he did campaign in the 1960 election on freeing cuba on providing support he was actually unwittingly saying what the eisenhower administration was doing secretly. he was kennedy was advocating at openly so he was politically committed to moving forward on that and he inherited this plan this plan that had grown. from a gorilla infiltration and supply operation to a conventional amphibious landing and kennedy later rude the fact that he had trusted the experts this left him with a great skepticism of the judgment of cia leaders and us military leaders who were encouraging him on let's go back to our phone
lines. and as we do i want to remind everyone that this is a co-production with american history tv and being simulcast on c-span 3. so let's talk to henry who's calling from asheboro, north carolina henry. good morning. hello, go ahead henry. yes, i've seen documentary about the casualty controls of. the revolution he went to the dark skin cuban said i treat you better because the light skin she's been kind of treated her man some place. they couldn't go certain jobs couldn't you know to and you look at them documentary you see on them on the jungles. it was a lot of dark skin cubans out there fighting. then you know and it's going to control the country when a light skin with and ships. it's america. you see numbers our skin you see how dark here you see another
lecture. even now you don't sit never light skins over here. the harder than they treat them back when he was over here didn't around here. you can't go to the beach at night certain beaches. you couldn't go to you on there. you can't go no hotels and stuff like that. they were gonna lose fantasia says it's slave, you know slave owners and then they got the bigger control, man. and yeah, what was going on in the cute with the cuban people during the bay of pigs invasion? well, there were resistance elements. they were anti castro resistance. who were expecting some sort of action some sort of invasion and we're waiting for it. they had weapons. they had explosives there were active guerrilla movements in the escambres and the sierra maestro mountains. the problem was that in order to
keep it secret because cia believed that some of these resistance groups were probably penetrated by castro's intelligence service. they were not told another mistake, they were not told of the imminent invasion so they could not get ready. they heard about it from cuban media. and not only that but after the first air strike, which happened two days before the the invasion castro started rounding up suspected dissidents as 20,000 or more and a lot of the resistance forces were simply rounded up in the security sweeps. so if there was a basis for a groundswell of opposition to castro that this invasion and this beachhead would have sparked. castro pretty effectively squelch that option dealt with the the potential for resistance by by sweeping them all up.
we've talked a little bit about international policy with the united states and the bay of pigs invasion. but how did the bay of pigs invasion affect national policy? i want to show a clip here of cuba policy being discussed during the fourth presidential debate between of 1960 between john f. kennedy and richard nixon. here's that exchange. i look at cuba 90 miles off the coast of the united states in 1957. i was in havana. i talked to the american ambassador there. he said that he was the second most powerful man in cuba and yet even though ambassador smith and ambassador gardner both republican ambassadors both warned of castro the marxist influences around castro the communist influences around castro both of them have testified in the last six weeks that in spite of their warnings to the american government. nothing was done. i think that senator kennedy's
policies and recommendations for the handling of the castro regime are probably the most dangerous dangerously irresponsible recommendations that he's made during the course of this campaign. in effect what senator kennedy recommends, is that the united states government should give help to the exiles and to those within cuba who opposed the castro regime provided they are because the batista now let's see what this means. we have five treaties with latin america including the one setting up the organization of american states and bogota in 1948 in which we've agreed not to intervene in the internal affairs of any other american country and they as well have agreed to do likewise. the charter of the united nations its preamble article 1 and article 2 also provide that there shall be no intervention by one nation in the internal affairs of another. now, i don't know what senator
kennedy suggests when he says that we should help those who oppose the castro regime both in cuba and without. but i do know this that if we were to follow that recommendation that we would lose all of our friends in latin america, we would probably be condemned in the united nations and we would not accomplish our objective. i know something else. it would be an open invitation. for mr. khrushchev to come in. to come into latin america and to engage us in what would be a civil war and possibly even worse than that? so what role did questions about castro in cuba play in the 1960 presidential campaign? it's such a bizarre situation because nixon is arguing exactly the opposite of what he believes. i mean kennedy is attacking nixon from the right on cuba. saying the cuban revolution has to be quarantined and that its opponents have to be supported
the kennedy campaign had put out a campaign statement that you know, the eisenhower administration has was not helping providing virtually. no help. and so in this debate, which was the fourth of the presidential debates. nixon is countering that press statement from the kennedy campaign. for all those reasons that he articulated and so you have this bizarre situation if you're an american voter in 1960, and you don't want the united states to intervene in cuba. you would vote for nixon. who articulated why it shouldn't happen even though nixon himself was actually pressing for the cia to act against castro and even one of the us military involved if you're an american voter in 1960 and you want intervention in cuba. you're going to vote for kennedy. who actually had serious misgivings about it?
particularly any use of overt force on the part of either cia or the military? so was a bizarre situation and it definitely played into the election one of the closest ever. so once he took office, how did how much did domestic politics have to do with president kennedy decision making when it came to the bay of pigs? significantly because kennedy and his brother robert the attorney general were determined that they would not give the republicans any ammunition that they were chicken. that they were weak. kennedy, you know had this persona of vigor. that and and a new way of doing things that contrasted with the kind of daughtering sclerotic eisenhower administration it was
unfair, but that was what kennedy believed that he could not afford not to act in some way. and so he believed more or less in the plan that he inherited from the eisenhower administration and i say more or less because accepted it allowed it to go forward and yet put severe constraints on it that helped doom its chances of success. let's talk to eric who's calling from lawrence, new york eric. good morning. good morning. thank you very much. my my question is in two parts objectively how responsible is president kennedy or also his brother for calling off the invasion and not giving the air cover that's polemical historically and second. i've always been taught the central intelligence agency is
an information gathering organization, but yet if i've understood you correctly and many others it's been involved in military preparations training people militarily to intervene perhaps the assassination of che guevara. what is actually the truth about these two military issues because a lot of people thought betrayed by kennedy. i know one man on the united ship of state essex, you said you don't know what it was like to see the bodies coming back to feel that we betrayed people yes, a lot of people in cia and the us military who were nearby on the essex and other ships believe that it was a mistake. for president kennedy to cancel that last morning of d-day airstrike the first air strike on the 15th. had at best taking care of had disabled half of castro's small air force but the few aircraft
that he had just played havoc and they were not they were not disabled by subsequent air strikes. so a lot of a lot of resentment about that, but it does raise the question even if the had perfect air cover. could it have survived and there's there's a lot of reason to believe that the concept was fundamentally flawed whether or not the brigade had air cover or not in terms of it's a common. your question about cia is an info gathering versus covert action. organization it's done both from the beginning. from very early on from cia's charter with the national security act in 1947. there has been an understanding that cia in addition to collecting intelligence would from time to time act in what has been called now covert
action covert action under title 50 of the us law is simply. the implementing of a policy to affect political military economic conditions abroad in a way that the united states hand is not evident or can be denied. from the beginning cia was considered the best us agency to do that because cia had already established secret relationships with foreigners that is necessary for this to happen the difference. is that early on cia was in favor of doing covert influence operations. propaganda influencing a newspaper having an agent of influence influencing a political party or leader. the question was whether cia would do paramilitary. activities things that involved violence and thanks to policy derived by george kennan of the state department cia got that
mission in 1948. and so there began during the eisenhower administration a series of cia paramilitary covert actions some of which were successful many of which were not culminating in as a cia historian formally i used to call the bay of pigs the mother of all covert action disasters. let's talk to ron who's calling from berrien springs, michigan ron. good morning. good morning. good morning, jessie. good morning, nicholas nicholas. i remember watching the cuban revolution on tv. i can't remember what year that was, but i was probably about nine or ten years old and i was rooting for castro then now i'm going to go back to i'm gonna go to vietnam because i'm a vietnam veteran. okay, the first you i'll bet you can you tell me the first cia agent. he was really an oss agent to be
killed in vietnam. well, that was john birch. and it was another answer. he was insight. yeah, i'm sorry. that wasn't that was in china. well in 1945. the first oss officer was killed and in vietnam now a whole team in the vietnam helped my father survive three years in the pacific because he was fighting the japanese. okay, and he asked us for help. he begged us. he wrote that his constitution on our own. okay, and we stab uncle hole in the back and now he's the only friend we got in southeast asia, you know, do you call cuba vietnam one of your great savory failures, or how about iran when you could a todd iran and now we have the islamic revolution going out forever, you know and the same thing with it if afghanistan 1979 under carter, you stuck here we stuck our nose in there and i said after that with the russians they're coming
after us and here they are worldwide. when are you guys ever going to get something right? jordan respond. oh, you know. i think cia does get a lot of things right in implementing the policy the covert policy that constitutes a covert action cia is operating under the desires of the president. the president has to sign a document called a finding that says i find this action necessary and i want cia to do this that finding is then transmitted in a memorandum of notification to the congress. which then can weigh in on it if they so choose so there's a there's a lot of adult supervision. that's not to say that there haven't been mistakes. these are policy failures that are you know owned by the us government at all. it's not just cia cia is not doing these things as a rogue
elephant as once was claimed. let's remind everyone that we are talking about the 60th anniversary of the bay of pigs invasion here in washington journal. this is a co-production with american history tv, and it's being simulcast on c-span 3 right now nicholas one of our social media followers has ridden in with their story of the bay and pig invasion that i want to read to you. this tweets says i was a child in cuba during the bay of pigs fiasco. we hid in a closet while anti-aircraft fire raged from the nearby hilltop the next day in the middle of the night. we fled the roundup of opposition to the countryside and hid for weeks until it was over what was happening with the people of cuba during the bay of pigs invasion. well again. tens of thousands of them were rounded up. the result of the invasion was
at even though there had been a lot of opposition to castro in the country. because he stood up. to the united states. here's a latin american leader who stood up to the united states. he was more popular than ever with the cuban people and actually popular regionally, so the action in terms of foreign policy really backed-fired fired on the united states. one of our exodus good sorry and the exit disc. yeah and the exodus continued from cuba for many decades. well another one of our social media followers has a question for you. if the cia had seceded in cuba, was there any guarantee it wouldn't have turned into a white right-wing dictatorship like cia south american intervention. well, i'm a historian not a fortune teller, but i would speculate that that certainly is a possibility because we saw that happening in other latin
american countries over time these right-wing dictatorships. generally became more democratic. so knows what would have happened? let's go to jason who's calling from san diego, california, jason. good morning. yes, good morning. i would like to ask a question. maybe get some verification. is it true that land castro won the revolution and we're celebrating. he came to united states. to to meet with american congressman a politicians or whoever he went to new york. he couldn't find a place to stay. he had to go to harlem to get a hotel. nobody came to congratulate him. anything but russia and crucial
hopped on a plane came to us. came to harlem. welcome to the streets of harlem found castro at the hotel and he's celebrated with castro and from that day on. castro russia had one castro's confident and took him up, know, they became friends. is that what happened jake? is that what happened nicholas? yes in the main that's what happened. a lot of that though was political theater. i think castro intended to stay in harlem for appearances he already was developing a relationship with the soviet union. it wasn't sparked because of this act of generosity in the part of khrushchev. i mean these things are usually political theater. it's interesting that on that trip.
castro did meet eisenhower's meet with him, but he met with the vice president richard nixon. who was impressed? by this young charismatic new leader of cuba but said afterwards that he is either incredibly naive about communism or he's one of them. i'm gonna show for everyone a clip from president kennedy who was speaking about the bay of pigs invasion to the american society of of newspaper editors on april 20th. 1961 here's what he said. the president of a great democracy such as ours. and the editors of great newspapers such as yours oh a common obligation to the people. an obligation to present the facts. to present them with canada and to present them in perspective.
it is without obligation in mind. that i have decided in the last 24 hours. to discuss briefly at this time. the recent events in cuba on that unhappy island as in so many other arenas of the contest for freedom. the news has grown worse instead of better. i have emphasized before. that this was a struggle of cuban patriots. against a cuban dictator while we could not be expected. to hide our sympathies we made it repeatedly clear. that the armed forces of this country. would not intervene in any way. any unilateral american intervention? in the absence of an external attack. upon ourselves or an ally would have been contrary to our traditions. and to our international
obligations did the media and the american people accept president kennedy's angle there on the bay of pigs story? he did and quite to kennedy's surprise his popularity shot up. he was more popular as a result of this and taking. taking responsibility for it. he said i am the responsible officer of this government and he took he took the blame even though there's plenty of blame to go around. that's a very interesting speech because he emphasized that this was the work of cuban patriots anti-communists who loved their country and wanted castro in the communists out. the cuban brigadees does themselves have always maintained that they were using cia? not the other way around they were using cia to achieve their ends.
and because you know, the average age was around 22. very young many of them are are still alive several hundred of them are still alive. and so i i would love to hear from any of them if they call in. it's interesting also that. kennedy definitely said later in that speech that you know having ruled out military force unless there's a imminent threat. he did not rule it out entirely and this may have encouraged khrushchev. the soviet leader on a gamble to do his gamble to place medium range and intermediate range ballistic missiles nuclear tipped in cuba the following year. let's talk to jay who's calling from indiana jay. good morning. good morning. thank you so much for taking my
call. i was the first year student at university in 1961. and i i remember all of this and at the university there was a colony of refugees or escapees, i guess from cuba they lived near us and i made friends with them. um, in fact, they introduced me to espresso coffee, which i still love i recall correctly one was. lawyer the other was a doctor. they were clearly well educated and part of an elite that had had left had left to cuba with the help of the united states and mike my comment goes to how we're using the term freedom because it seemed to me that this is to my 18. old self in 1961 and later that
what we were really supporting was an elitist governing group who flourished under bautista. and it also seemed to me that the real support was for capitalism and not necessarily freedom for the masses and i i don't romanticize castro. i know exactly who and what he was but i'm still wondering if we were really on the side of the people the masses and not the governing elite and i'm wondering if you would speak to that. thank you so much. yes, well, i again as a historian i very often take at face value. what people at the time say their motivations were? definitely, you know. the us government working through the cia wanted to enhance american national security. and was upset at the
nationalization of industries that were owned by americans. so there was that angle too and yet they saw a mutual interest. with these these cubans i can i can say that in the cuban exile community. they weren't all lawyers and doctors. there were a lot of people who were anti castro who were from the classes that castro, you know had most of his support with the peasants and the workers. so it's it's a it's a mixed picture as always these things are but i i think the rhetoric of freedom is still not a bad way to describe these events and try to ride to explain them. what were the consequences of the bay of pigs invasion for us relationships us relations with the soviet union? well that's that is the problem
because you can draw a straight line from the bay of pigs to the the cuban missile crisis of october 1962 the soviet leader chris jeff saw the bay of pigs failure. failure of the united states is a great victory for soviet foreign policy and it's desire to have inroads into the western hemisphere through cuba. khrushof saw this as an indication of weakness and indecision on the part of the american president and at their they're later. summit in vienna in the summer of 1961 kristoff basically beat up kennedy rhetorically and then later that summer put up the berlin wall. khrushchev also saw this as an opportunity. to change the strategic
imbalance in nuclear force posture. by putting these medium range and intermediate range missiles secretly in cuba his intent was that would be able to get away with it and then announce it as a fader complete and force western concessions on other issues like berlin. did president kennedy or anyone from the united states ever admit the country's role in the bay of pigs invasion? oh, i think so. yeah, so i mean it was a pretty clear to all through the media through the exile community that cia had been involved again kennedy took responsibility for it. but an important legacy of all this is this. the fact that kennedy learned about decision making from this he learned not to trust the experts the cia leadership and the us military leadership.
he felt with justification had let him down he also realized that he had made some poor decisions based on faulty information that he had received. so when it comes time. for the cuban missile crisis what to do about these missiles that us intelligence now has detected in cuba. it changed the whole process of consultation and decision making and led to a good outcome. so that is the best legacy of the bay of pigs. that's the silver lining and what otherwise is a great debacle for the united states. and for those cubans who fought there. let's talk to randy who's calling from slaughter, louisiana, randy. good morning. yes, i was in my mind and thinking about the chain of events. it happened. you had cruise shaft that came here in 1959 and then in 1960
you had the shoot down of gary powers and then in april 61 in bay of pigs and then in october the cuban missile crisis is it's interesting how all these things played out and not and also in 1961. the berlin wall was put up and how all these things did fell into place. oh, yes, and there's perceived communist advances in southeast asia and laos in the congo. it was a very it was a time of high tension in the cold war at the time of the bay of pigs. i was three years old and i remember in subsequent years when i went to elementary school. it's still the cold war. they're still the threat of a nuclear exchange between the superpowers and i remember the drills the nuns would put us through to hide under our desks
in the event of a nuclear attack. there was a lot of tension and we sometimes forget that the cold war we look back on it now with some humor even but at the time it was deadly serious. we didn't know how it would turn out. thank you for that that litany of cold war events. it's very true. it really ratcheted up the overall tension. it wasn't until about 20 months after the bay of pigs invasion that castro released the bulk of the exile brigade prisoners and president kennedy spoke at a ceremony at the orange bowl in miami for those brigade members. how did that release come about? yes, negotiations began between the us government. working unofficially, but but still directly through a man
named james donovan. he had been a former. oss member office of strategic services a lawyer. he had negotiated the release of francis gary powers in the movie a british of spies. he is played by tom hanks. so james donovan worked with the castro regime negotiating to free the prisoners 1,189 were captured. i believe nine died in captivity and castro actually withheld. about eight of those that he considered most most dangerous but by december 1962, he was releasing them in exchange for what donovan had negotiated about 53 million dollars in medicines pharmaceuticals and food aid for cuba. and it turns out that the very
last one of those exile brigade members to get released was released in 1986. let's go back to our phone lines and talk to sig who's calling from planes view, new york. say good morning. it's a site fine. good morning. good morning. i like to ask. um how castro was able to maintain power? was through his ruthlessness. and death squads and incarceration of his opponents. akin to wajiji ping does and many of the communists and also, can you comment on the cia attempts? to assassinate castro through poison cigars another crazy methods. methods. thank you very much. okay.
on the assassination attempts there were many in 1960 still when eisenhower's president ideas that if pop leadership could be eliminated then you'd have more likely to have this general uprising sparked by by the infiltration of gorillas. and then later the the amphibious landing. so it was thought that we take out, fidel castro raul castro who just yesterday stepped down from power and che guevara the argentinian revolutionary it would just the people would be more likely to rise up in against this leaderless. regime and there were some. imaginative ideas most of them never went past the drawing board. there were few attempts.
there was an attempt to enlist mafia figures. who were offered 150,000 dollars for a hit? on castro using poison pills they didn't work. the person never got into a position to use them. in terms of castro's, hold on the regime your absolutely right? i mean, it's sort of a feature of communist regimes that they use repression secret police series of informants. to keep a lid on any descent. it's all just let it go with that. what lessons did the cia and other american intelligence communities learn from the failure at the bay of pigs and are there any of those lessons still irrelevant today? well, i think so in terms of you know, the the conventional military nature of an amphibious
landing that had never been attempted on that certainly on that scale before by an intelligence agency and never would again, i mean the bay of pigs is not a conventional paramilitary covert action and and it was never attempted again. it's a one-off. and i think the other lesson that cia learned from this is you have to involve your analysts the ones who are most expert on a particular region. and that was put into effect by alan dulles's successor john mccown as head of cia dulles was required to resign and john mccown made sure that in covert action planning the the best experts the the analysts would be involved so they could help the operational planners know what is the ground truth? you just brought up the fact
that rao castro has retired as head of the communist party and leader in cuba looking back over those 60 years since the the bay of pigs invasion. are we still living with the consequences of bay of pigs invasion? oh, yes. oh, yes every time the united states. intervenes in a country we generally forget it. we're not all that historically minded as a people. uh, perhaps some in cia will still remember it one of my jobs as a cia historian was to ensure. that the cia workforce did not forget certain things. but one way interfere intervene in foreign countries, they never forget it. and cuba and the cuban leadership will remind us always that we had attempted this.
this bungled operation to replace the government there. let's talk to bill who's calling from dover, delaware bill. good morning. good morning. i just wanted to say that 60 years ago living with my family in northern virginia. my father woke me up and said hey get up. you're not going to school today. something's going on and he bought my sister up and took us into the living room status down in front of a had a big old radios had short it and everything. and he had the shortwave band that was being used by the cubans brigade to communicate back and forth and so he was actually we're actually listening to them talking on their radios that were during the invasion and and subsequent to it. and basically it was it was a
horrible disaster, of course, but i remember my father identified voices on the radio say i know this guy that's that's pepe. he's one of the leaders and i recognized his voice and one of the things that pepe said in spanish with my father translated was that i've got one bullet left. we've run out of administration our supply ships never came in america never backed us up. and i don't know what to do with this last bullet and standing in the water out here up to my waist. should i shoot it? one of the cubans coming down towards us or should i use it on myself? what? go ahead and respond real quick, nicholas. oh, certainly. he's referring to jose pepe san roman. who is the brigade commander who used that last bullet to destroy his radio? yes. it was a frantic plea for help and shortly after that. they were completely out of ammunition and were captured. so, is there any lessons we can
take today from the failed bay bay of pigs invasion? yes. when we are talking about covert actions that involve paramilitary activities the president the national security council and cia leadership need to really work through. the assumptions behind it the what ifs the problem with the bay of pigs, is that every single part of it had to work perfectly for any of it to be successful. that is not the way to run a covert action. so more limited in scope if we're going to do it at all. there's still a debate on whether the us military should do covert action. you know of this of this type and leave the influence activities to cia well, we'd like to thank nicholas domovich who is a former cia deputy chief
historian and intelligent study program director at catholic university for being with us here this morning. thank you, nicholas. thank you. it's been a pleasure. american history tv on c-span 3 every weekend documenting america's story funding for american history tv comes from these companies who support c-span 3 as a public service. up next dave gutierrez discusses his book patriots from the barrio the story of company e 141st infantry the only all mexican-american army unit in world war ii his talk is part of a national world war ii museum international conference. they also provided the video. i had the pleasure of interviewing our next author dave gutierrez this past year. for a webinar on hisoo