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tv   Reel America Cuba Bay of Pigs - 1964  CSPAN  April 17, 2021 10:00pm-10:30pm EDT

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and cuba describes exile groups opposed to the castro government the cia's role in helping to train equip and organize an invasion force and president kennedy's decision not to deploy president kennedy outlines his policy towards cuba and fidel castro and the aftermath of the failed operation. a compilation of news reels from january 1959 to april 1961 did they cover the cuban revolution to the aftermath of the bay of pigs. educational pioneer albert burke host a broadcast exploring the causes of the cuban revolution. >> the bay of pigs.
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♪ [speaking in spanish] narrator: in the years since he took power, fidel castro has become an enemy of the united states. in the eyes of washington, a threat the united states security in the caribbean, a plan of action against him is drawn up. march 17, 1960. cia chief allen dulles is told secretly to organize a cuban exile force. he is not told how the force is to be used. he is only told, get it ready. in miami, recruiting for an exile army has begun.
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the operation is supposed to be secret. but word of what is happening quickly leaks out. six weeks after the secret meeting at the white house, fidel castro has publicly charged that the united states is training an army to invade cuba. [shouting] narrator: meanwhile in miami, there are 50 exile groups of every political hue. from former supporters of batista, to former supporters of castro. they have only one thing in common, they want to overthrow fidel. the cia's problem is to find a way to unify them. >> [speaking in spanish] >> the people of cuba will overthrow castro, because normally it is the people who are the ones who overthrow a dictatorship. narrator: the announcement of a formation of the frente does not receive the expected attention.
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the summer of 1960 is about time -- is a bad time for the united states. other events occupy the headlines. a u2 shot down over the soviet union. insulting the president of the united states and wrecking the summit conference. it is at this moment that the soviet tanker slips quietly into the have on the harbor, carrying a cargo of crude oil that will set off a chain reaction. castro orders texaco, shell, and other plants in cuba to refine the soviet oil. they refuse, and castro seizes the refineries. he offers no reparation. over angry cuban protests, the united states retaliates by cutting off its imports of sugar. castro seizes more united states property. now, in the summer of 1960, the united states and cuba have reached the point of no return.
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in washington, the eisenhower administration is now convinced it is in the united states national interest to get rid of fidel castro. at this moment in guatemala, a cuban exile army is being created by the cia. a cuban exile air force with b-26 bombers. they are the instruments with which the cia plans to overthrow fidel castro. havana, summer 1960. fidel castro admits publicly for the first time there is unrest inside cuba. counterrevolutionary activity. among his opponents now is his former minister of public works, manuel rai, leader of the mrp. >> the mrp was highly organized and well extended over the whole country.
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our organization reached almost every section of cuban life. civic institutions, professional organizations. labor youth. the militia. the army. and we have people inside of fidel castro's pockets. narrator: the mrp operates in the cities. it is an underground movement specializing in sabotage. [gunfire] [explosion] narrator: in the escambray mountains is another anti-castro force, the guerillas. in september 1960, it has become a serious threat to fidel castro. he comes to the escambray to take personal command of the military operation, but resistance continues.
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[gunfire] [explosion] late in september, castro leaves the escambray and comes to new york. he is an uninvited guest. he will attend the u.n. general assembly. [applause] [shouting] narrator: while he is in new york, he sees his new ally, nikita khrushchev. >> fidel! >> fidel! narrator: the date is september 26, 1960. [applause] castro will tell the general assembly the united states is seeking to overthrow him. is training an army to invade his country. is interfering in cuba's internal affairs. >> [speaking in spanish] narrator: a few weeks later, the democratic candidate for president is in new york campaigning. he issues a statement in which he says the united states is not doing enough for the cuban exiles. he says the united states ought
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to help them. in their television debate, vice president nixon disagrees. fmr. pres. nixon: 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, we would lose all of our friends in latin america, we would probably be condemned by 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. narrator: as the votes are counted on november 8, it is clear that a key issue has been, who knows best how to handle castro? it is the closest presidential election in u.s. history. >> we finally emerged successfully. now, as far as the next program, i've went to the country with very clear views of what the united states ought to do.
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i have been elected and, therefore, i'm going to do my best to implement those views. narrator: even as the president-elect speaks, in guatemala, the force that he is called for in his campaign, the force that nixon has denied exists, that eisenhower has created, that castro has denounced, is getting trained and ready. in cuba, meanwhile, castro is sending his best troops, trying to destroy the guerrillas, now cut off from arms and supplies. >> thousands of fidel's militia began an offensive against us. they moved out the farmers, kill the cows, pigs, and chickens, cut down the fruit trees, burned the houses, took away the food. in view of this and the lack of help, we have to flee the island.
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narrator: the revolt is crushed. castro has eliminated one threat to his survival. [shouting] as 1960 ends, he goes on television to warn the cuban people about another. he says the united states is preparing to invade cuba. the invasion will come before eisenhower leaves office. he calls for a general mobilization. the united states and cuba break diplomatic relations. tension mounts. the moment of armed confrontation between cuba and the united states is near. january 20, 1961. >> so let us begin anew, remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate. narrator: for a moment, there is a breathing spell in relations between the united states and cuba.
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a break in the tension that has been mounting for six months. in havana, the militia is demobilized. they are sent back to the fields. the leaders join them to harvest the crops. but in washington, cuba has not been forgotten. in his campaign, the new president has promised to do something about cuba. now he must decide what to do. but his advisers are new and inexperienced. he must rely on professionals. for military advice, on general leominster and the joint chiefs. on the cia, which is handling the cuban problem, political and military aspects, as well as intelligence. cia director alan dulles briefed the president on the cuban situation. he told the president the details of the invasion plan known by the codename of operation pluto. at that point, the landing was
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to be made at trinidad on the cube coast 100 miles east of the bay of pigs. the united states was to supply air cover. as time went on, these parts to the plan were to be changed both with the approval and the acquiescence of the cia and the pentagon. but at this point, dulles simply wanted an ok of the president to continue preparations, and he got it. narrator: from this date, operation pluto gets top priority from the cia. the cia tells the cuban exiles they must agree on a single leader, if they want the united states help. the cubans choose dr. jose miro. once castro's prime minister, he has remained neutral in the power struggle among the exile leaders. he comes to new york.
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at his press conference, dr. miro speaks for the first time as president of the new revolutionary council. >> a united cuba, a real cuba, the cuba of jose marti. [applause] narrator: now the cubans are united. the mrp has joined the coalition, reluctantly. they don't like the way this year it is dominating the operation. but they assume the united states participation assures the operation's success. they don't want to be left out of any new cuban government. at this moment in washington, the president is under heavy pressure, being pressed to ok the invasion plan. a major source of this pressure is cia reports on what is happening inside cuba. >> we knew that cuban pilots were being trained in czechoslovakia. we knew that they were going to have, very shortly, available under cuban direction, weapons in considerable numbers. and i am inclined to think, as i
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said before, that if a move or to be made short of intervention, probably this was the area of time that it had to be made. narrator: another source of pressure is guatemala. unrest is growing there. the communists from the army are demanding the removal of the brigade from the camps. but government feels threatened. the president has not yet made up his mind to go ahead with the invasion or canceling it. on april 4, a decisive meeting was held. nothing official has been said about it, but from this perspective, certain facts are now apparent. on april 4, the cia urges the president to go ahead with the invasion. the joint chiefs agree, if the cia estimate is correct, if the brigade has control of the air. only the senate foreign relations chairman speaks out against the invasion. he tells the president privately, it is immoral, a mistake. it will fail.
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the decision cannot longer be delayed. the president's experts have told him to go ahead. his staff has not argued against him. the decision is now his alone. he makes up his mind early on the morning of april 5, 1961. operation pluto, the invasion of cuba, is approved. miami, the first week of april 1961. invasion fever is rising among the cuban exiles. everyone seems to know that envasion is coming soon. volunteers pour into exile headquarters. the churches are filled. prayers are said for the men of the brigade. april 10 in guatemala, c-46 transports begin to move with the 2506 assault brigade out of the camp.
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[planes roaring overhead] narrator: destination, puerta cabezas, nicaragua. at this moment, dr. miro and the revolutionary council are in new york, 2000 miles away. in the hotel, they don't know what is happening. no one tells them. and behind the scenes, they are still deeply divided over how to defeat castro. on april 12, the president holds a press conference. reporter: has a decision been reached on how far this country would be willing to go in helping an anti-castro uprising in cuba? president kennedy: first i want to say that there will not be, under any conditions, be an intervention in cuba by united states armed forces. this government will do everything it possibly can, and i think it will meet its responsibilities to make sure there are no americans involved in any actions inside cuba. narrator: preparations continue.
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from texas, the united states u-2 takes off to photograph castro. a united states naval task force puts to sea for caribbean maneuvers scheduled for the next week. united states marines are in transport to take part in the maneuvers. april 13, at puerto cabezas, nicaragua, the exile invasion fleet is loading. havana, dawn, saturday, april 15. b-26 bombers of the cuban exile air force attack castro. [explosions] the u.n., saturday morning. cuban foreign minister raul roa. >> been instructed by the revolutionary government of cuba to denounce before this committee the vandalistic
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aggression carried out today at dawn against the territorial integrity and political independence of cuba. the responsibility for this act of imperialistic piratry falls squarely on the united states of america. >> dr. roa has made a number of charges that are without any foundation. i reject them categorically, and i should like to make several points quite clear to the committee. regarding the two aircraft which landed in florida today, they were piloted by cuban air force pilots. these pilots and certain other crew members have apparently defected from castro. no united states personnel participated. no united states government airplanes of any kind participated.
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these two planes, to the best of our knowledge, were castro's own air force planes, and according to the pilots, they took off from castro's own air fields. i have here a picture. it has the markings of the castro air force right on the tail, which everyone can see for himself. narrator: one of the planes is at a miami airfield. it is identified as a b-26 attached to the exiled cuban brigade. castro's b-26s have no nose gun. the pilot is identified from a newspaper picture as a member of the brigade. the airstrike he took part in was intended to destroy castro's air force. two more are planned. castro has been dealt a serious blow, but his entire air force has not been destroyed. the crucial fact is, three jet trainers are untouched.
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>> united states propaganda. narrator: the airstrike has humiliated the united states before the world. it has humiliated adlai stevenson, who did not know that what he told the u.n. was not the truth. the united states reacts to the world outcry against the bombing. the other two air strikes are postponed. this decision leaves castro with three undamaged jets. these jets will be a key to the failure of the invasion. sunday, april 15. the exile leaders do not know the invasion fleet is already at sea. >> [speaking in spanish] >> awaiting meet at the steps of the plane that brought me from miami were two people who identified themselves as officials of the american
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agency. they took me to a private room, and in a short while, the other leaders of the revolutionary council arrived. from there, we entered two cars and were driven to philadelphia, where we took an immigration department plane. >> we arrived at an unoccupied airport somewhere in florida. at that moment, we didn't know which airport it was. we were taken to a house, and armed guards were placed around. narrator: for the next 48 hours, the cuban exile leaders will be kept under guard in florida in this house, while 90 miles away, an invasion is being carried out in their names. dawn, monday april 17, bay of pigs, cuba. the first units of the brigade reached the beach without opposition. among them is humberto diaz, of the second battalion company.
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>> this is the way that battle began. three men went forward as observers to look for militiamen. suddenly they found two. they said 'stop.' the militiamen answered, 'stop'' then the soldier yelled, "we are the army of liberation. we came to fight communism!" the militiamen answered "long-lived fidel castro." then the shooting began. [gunfire] narrator: you are looking at film shot on the invasion beach by german and cuban cameras. [gunfire] [explosion] narrator: in havana, as the morning goes on, castro begins to react to the invasion.
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those who can be trusted are armed. [chatter] narrator: castro takes personal command. the roads out of havana are clogged with troops moving up to the invasion beach. but in the first hours, the brigade pushes in. castro has not yet been able to bring up his tanks and heavy guns. the first communique of the brigade issued by a madison avenue public relations office, reports satisfactory progress. over the beach are 12 b-26s providing air cover. shortly after dawn, they are attacked by the 3 castro's jets that survived the previous airstrikes. five are shot down. the brigades supply ships and
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communication ship are sunk. within a few minutes, the men on the beach have lost their air cover and their supplies. now, castro can bring up his tanks without fear of air attack. and he can bring up thousands of his militianos. by afternoon, castro is pressing the brigade hard. how are they to survive? where are they to get help? some expect it to come from the ground. there is no uprising, there is no sabotage. there is no help from the underground for the brigade. for the next 48 hours, the men of the beach take a terrible pounding. they wait for help. none comes. they say they have been promised air support by their american advisers. washington says none was ever promised. only one thing is clear, the brigade is being driven into the sea. it's only hope of survival is united states military intervention.
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on tuesday night, there is a reception at the white house who introduced congress to the new cabinet. leaders of both parties are there. next day, the society pages will call it one of the events of the season. the president leaves early, goes to another part of the white house, where he confers into the night with key advisers. >> cia deputy director richard bissell had gone to the president with a desperate last-minute appeal. i knew that the president had said there would be no intervention, but he now said the brigade was doomed unless the united states intervened at least with air cover from the navy task force that was standing off the beach. admiral burke, speaking for the pentagon, favored the intervention. secretary of state rusk opposed it. the risk, he said, was too
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great. if we now openly intervene, we would probably endanger our entire latin american position, and it would be an invitation to khrushchev to step in. the president said he would make his decision within the next few hours. narrator: at dawn, the president makes his decision. later, he tells it to the members of the revolutionary council, who have been flown from florida. >> [speaking in spanish] >> president kennedy was very frank. he repeated three times, "americans shooting cubans? no, no, no." the president was very upset and he wanted to explain why he had allowed the envision to take -- envasion to take place after he had decided after u.s. military support. he told us that on the day of april 13, he sent a message to the project chief watching the brigade get ready to sail for cuba. he asked this man, whose name is jack haskins, it he still felt the brigade could win by
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fighting alone. president kennedy showed us a copy of the reply signed by haskins. this document informed the president that the brigade could overthrow castro's regime without u.s. help. the president looked very angry and he told us he had relied on such advice in making the decision to send the brigade to cuba. narrator: on the beach of the bay of pigs, fighting continues. the brigade has no food, almost no ammunition. no hope of help from within cuba or the outside. [gunfire] narrator: at 3:45 p.m. wednesday, april 19, resistance ends. all those who are not killed are taken prisoner. [chatter] narrator: in less than 72 hours, castro has destroyed the brigade. the american-planned, trained and backed invasion of cuba is now a total failure.
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the failure of the bay of pigs was not merely the failure of the cuban exiles, it was a failure of united states policy which led to a failure of united states power. clearly, the united states had the naked power to destroy castro, but it could not ignore world opinion and use this power. it could not risk the repercussions that might follow the slaughter of cubans and the occupation of cuba by united states forces. could not risk the possible escalation of nuclear war. one alternative that suggested itself was indirect intervention, carried out secretly under cia supervision. the cia's solution was a carefully-controlled military operation. it ignored, for the most part, the underground inside cuba, which could not he controlled. left-wing former castro
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supporters, considered politically unreliable, were shut off from participation. no real effort was made to bring about an uprising of the cuban people. the divided and mercurial cuban exile leaders were felt to be undependable and all real control was taken out of their hands. the cia put its faith in the brigade. small, politically reliable, controlled by united states agents. an attempt was made to use the brigade and the cubans as an instrument of the united states policy. the tactics were reminiscent of the days of united states big-stick diplomacy. but fidel castro did not collapse at the first sign of opposition, as many latin american dictators in the past. as a result, the cuban exile brigade was destroyed on the beach, while the cuban exile leaders were held in cia custody, and the united states task force stood by helplessly. this was probably the low point. the worst moment for john f. kennedy and his three years in
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the white house. as president, he took full responsibility for this failure of the united states policy, this misuse of united states power, although the total blame was clearly not his. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy, visit] ♪ >> ladies and gentlemen, the president of the united states. [applause] president kennedy:


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