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tv   Reel America Cuba Bay of Pigs - 1964  CSPAN  April 22, 2021 9:02pm-9:33pm EDT

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>> the cia's role helping to train, equip and organize an invasion force and president kennedy's decision not to deploy the u.s. military when the plan falters. >> the bay of pigs. in the year since he took power
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fidel castro has become an enemy of the united states. in the eyes of washington a threat to the united states security in the caribbean, a plan of action against him has gone up. march 17, 1960, cia chief alan dulles is told secretly organize a cuban exile force. he's not told how the force is to be used. he's only told to get it ready. in miami recruiting for an exile army has begun. the operation is supposed to be secret but word of what is happening quickly leaks out. 6 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.
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meanwhile in miami there are 50 exile groups of every political hew. they have only one thing in common. the cia's problem is to find a way to unify them. the announcement of the formation does not receive the expected attention. the summer of 1960 is a bad time for the united states. other events occupy the headlines. a u2 shot down over the soviet union. it is at this moment that the soviet tanker slipped quietly
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into havana harbor carrying a cargo of crude oil that will setoff a chain reaction. castro orders texico, shell in cuba to refine the soviet oil. they refuse and castro seizes the refineries. he offers no reparations. over angry cuban protests the united states retaliates by cutting off its imports of cuban 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. 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 b26
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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. counter revolutionary activity. among his opponents now is his former minister of public works, leader of the mrp. >> the mrp was highly organized and well extended over the whole country. reached almost every section of the cuban life, city institutions, professional organizations, labor unions, the militia, the army. and we have people inside fidel castro's office.
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>> the mrp operates in the cities. it's an underground movement specializing in sabotage. in the mountains is another anti-castro force, the guerillas. in september 1960 it has become a serious threat to fidel castro. he comes to take personal command of the military operation. but resistance continues. late in september castro leaves and comes to new york. he's an uninvited guest. he'll attend the u.n. general assembly. while he's in new york he greets
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khrushchev. castro will tell the general assembly the united states is seeking to overthrow him. he's claiming an army to invade his country, he's interfering in cuba's internal affairs. 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 to help him. in their television debate vice president nixon disagrees. >> 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.
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we'd 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. >> 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 united states history. >> we finally emerge successfully. as far as the next step program, i went to the country with very clear views what the united states ought to do in the '60s. i've been elected and therefore i'm going to do my best to implement those views. >> even as the president-elect speaks in guatemala the force he's called for in his campaign, the force nixon denied exists, that eisenhower has created, that castro has denounced is getting ready. in cuba meanwhile castro is sending his best troops to destroy the guerillas and all
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cut off from arms and supplies. >> thousands of militiamen began offensive against us. they moved out the farmers, killed 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 had to flee the island. >> the revolt is crushed. castro has eliminated one threat to his survival. 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 and a moment of
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armed confrontation between cuba and the united states is near. january 20, 1961. >> let us begin anew remembering on both sides that stability 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. >> for a moment there is a breathing spell in relations between the united states and cuba, a break in the tension that has been mounting for six months. in havana the militia is demobilized. 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
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something about cuba. now he must decide what to do, but his advisers are new and inexperienced. he must rely on the professionals. military advice from the general and the joint chiefs, from 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. as time went on both of these parts of the plan were to be achieved at least with the approval of the cia and pentagon. at this point dulles simply wanted an okay from the president to continue operations. he got it. >> from this date on operation
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pluto gets top priority from the cia. the cia tells the cuban exiles they must agree on a single leader if they want united states help. the cubans choose dr. jose, once castro's prime minister the doctorhy has remained neutral in the power struggle. now he comes to new york to become head of the anti-castro cubans. at his press conference he speaks for the first time as president of the new revolutionary consul. now the cubans are united. the mrp has joined the new coalition reluctantly. they don't like the way the cia is dominating the operation. they don't want to be left out of any new cuban government and
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the anti-castro cuban leaders they reach a satisfactory understanding with the cia. at this moment in washington the president is under heavy pressure. he is being pressed to okay the invasion plans. a major source of this pressure is cia reports on what is happening inside cuba. >> we knew that the cuban pilots were being trained in czechoslovakia and have very shortly available -- and i'm inclined to think as i said before if a move were to be made short of intervention probably this is the area of time where it had to be made. >> another source of pressure is the guatemalans. unrest is growing there. the communists and the army are demanding the removal of the brigade from the camps. the government feels threatened. the president has not yet made up his mind. go ahead with the invasion or
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cancel it. on april 4th a decisive meeting is held. obviously nothing official has ever been said about it, but from this perspective certain facts are now apparent. on april 4th 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 chairman speaks out against the invasion, tells the president privately it is immoral, a mistake, it will fail. the decision can no longer be delayed. the president's experts have told him to go ahead. his staff has not argued against them. 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.
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miami, the first week of the april 1961, invasion fever is rising among the cuban exiles. everyone seems to know the invasion 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 transports begin to move the 2506 assault brigade out of the camps.bykyky=?
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a united states naval task force took to sea for maneuvers scheduled for the next week. united states marines are at sea and transport to take part in the maneuvers. april 13th in nicaragua the exile invasion fleet is loading.
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havana, dawn, saturday, april 15th. b26 bombers attack castro's airfield. the u.n. saturday morning. cuban foreign minister -- >> i have been instructed by the revolutionary government of cuba to denounce this vandalistic aggression carried out today at dawn against a territorial integrity and political independence of cuba. the responsibility for this act of imperialistic pilotry falls squarely on the government of
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the united states of america. >> i reject them categorically and i should like to make several points quite clear. regarding the two aircraft that landed in florida today, they were piloted by cuban air force pilots. these pilots and certain other crew members have apparently defected from castro's tyranny. no united states personnel participated. no united states government airplanes of any kind participated. these two planes to the best of our own knowledge were castro's own air force planes. and according to the pilots they took off from castro's own air force fields. i have here a picture. it has the markings of the castro air force right on the
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tail, which everyone can see for himself. >> one of the planes is out of miami airfield. it's identified as a b26 attached to the exile cuban brigade. the pilot is identified from a newspaper picture as a member of the brigade. the air strike 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 planers are untouched. the air strike has humiliated the united states before the world. it has humiliated stevenson who did not know what he told the u.n. was not the truth. the united states reacts to the world's outcry against the
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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 15th. the exile leaders do not know the invasion fleet is already at scene. >> awaiting me on the steps of a plane that brought me from miami were two people that identified themselves as officials of an american agency. they took me to a private room. 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. at that moment we didn't know
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which airport. we were taken to a house and an armed guard was placed around. >> for the next 48 hours the cuban exile leaders will be kept on the guard in florida in this house while 90 miles away an invasion is being carried out in their name. dawn, monday, april 17th, bay of pigs, cuba. the first unit reached the beach without opposition. among them is roberto of the second battalion. >> this is where the battle began. three men were to look for militiamen. suddenly they found two. they said stop. the militiamen answers stop. then a soldier from the rear yells, we are the army of
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liberation. we came to fight communism. the militiaman answer long live fidel castro and the shooting began. >> you are looking at film shot on the invasion beach by german and cuban cameramen. in havana as the morning goes on castro begins to react to the invasion. those who can be trusted are armed. castro takes personal command. the roads out of havana are clogged. in the first hours the brigade
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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. on the beach are 12 b26s providing air cover. shortly after dawn they are attacked by the three castro jets that survived saturday's air strike. the brigade sees its supply ships and communication ships 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 attacks. and he can bring up thousands of his militianos.
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by afternoon castro is pressing the brigade hard. how are they to survive? there is no up rising. there is no sabotage. there is no help from the underground for the brigade. for the next 48 hours the men on the beach take a terrible pounding. they wait for help. none come. they say they've been promised air support by their american advisers. washington says no one was ever promised. only one thing is clear, the brigade is being driven into the sea. its only hope of survival is united states military intervention. on tuesday night there is a reception at the white house to introduce 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 conifers into the night with key advisers.
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>> cia deputy director richard -- had come to the president with a desperate last minute appeal. he knew 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 with a navy passport standing off the beach. admiral speaking for the pentagon favored the intervention. the secretary of state opposed it. the risk he said was too great. if we openly intervened we'd probably endanger our entire latin-american position and would be invitation for khrushchev to step in. the president said he'd make his decision within the next few hours. >> at dawn the president make his decision. later it tells it to the members of the revolutionary council who have been flown from florida. >> president kennedy was very firm. he repeated three times, americans shooting cubans, no, no, no.
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the president was very upset, and he wanted to explain to us why he had allowed the invasion to take place after he had decided against u.s. military support. he told us that on the day of april 13 he sent a message to the chief watching the brigade get ready to sail for cuba. he asked this man whose name was jack haskins, if he still felt the brigade could win by fighting alone. president kennedy showed us a copy of the reply signed by haskins. this document informed the president the brigade could overthrow the castro 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. >> on the beach of the bay of pigs fighting continues. the brigade has no food, almost
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no ammunition, no hope of help from within cuba or from outside. at 3:45 p.m., wednesday, april 19th resistance ends. all those who are not killed are taken prisoner. in less than 72 hours castro has destroyed the brigade. the american plan is now a total failure. the failure at 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. clear lethe united states had the naked power to destroy castro, but it could not ignore
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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 to nuclear war. one alter negative that suggested itself was indirect intervention carried out secretly under cia supervision. the cia solution was a carefully controlled military operation. it ignored for the most part the underground inside cuba, which could not be controlled. left wing former castro supporters considered politically unreliable were shutoff from participation. no real effort was made to bring about an up rising 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,
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controlled by united states agents. an attempt was made to use the brigade and the cubans as an instrument of united states policy. the tactics were reminiscent of the days of united states big stick diplomacy. but the days of the united states big stick policies. as a result, the cuban exile brigade was destroyed on the beach, and 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 in his three years in the white house. as president, he took full responsibility for this failure of the united states policy. this misuse of the united states power, although the total blame was clearly not his.
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♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ american history tv on c-span3. exploring the people and events that tell the american story
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every weekend. thousands of people visit washington for the annual blooming of the cherry blossoms. we'll look at the history of the cherry trees and the washington, d.c. tidal basin, an area that once used as a swimming hole, a protest ground and the scene of a political ground. and sunday, a behind the scenes tour of the harry s. truman presidential library and museum in missouri. hear about several new exhibits telling the life story of the 33rd president. watch american history tv, sunday on c-span3. on april 17th, 1961, a group of about 1500 cuban exiles supported by the cia landed on the southern coast of the island nation at the bay of pigs. their goal was to spearhead a popular uprising and overthrow the government of fidel castro. within two days, the operation failed. on april 20th,


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