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tv   History Bookshelf Jim Rasenberger The Brilliant Disaster  CSPAN  April 23, 2021 3:27pm-4:28pm EDT

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made yet that can shoot our way out of the kind of problems that exist in the world of men like juan and the martinez'. second, that was the easy answer. the problems that have no easy answer. cuba is not russia. with today's weapons, that country, that island, could not only be overrun it would be wiped out in minutes, but cuba is like russia in the sense that bullets and counterrevolution are no better solution today for the problems of land reform, economic reform and exploding populations than they were 43 years ago in russia. look hard at history as it happened. particularly during the past 5 yea -- 15 years. 15 years and some $90 billion after world war ii despite all the military facts, the treaties, and the defensive
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alliances we've put through in the best, top hat, cutaway coat and stripe trouser kind of diplomacy. despite military assistance, technical assistance, economic aid and point-four programs, communists have fed on the stuff that makes revolutions, have taken over other people's revolutions right into cuba here in the western hemisphere. for two reasons -- first, the dollar hasn't been printed yet that can buy our way out of the world they live in and bullets and counterreserve likes are still the easy answers to problems that have no easy answer. there are no easy answers to deem with the stuff reserve likes are made of. there are no easy answers to communism. there's only hard work. hard work by each individual's
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thinking and voting american. who must work hard to understand that the key to survival of our way of life today lies in dealing with the kind of world those men live in. not just understanding it, but willingness to work in it. away from the tourist alleys and the child bathroom kind of life to defend america. and not just in the battle of america which mr. castro has in mind for south america, but in the battle of the world which communism has in mind for this whole planet. this means hard work to face head-on and deal head-on with the problems of exploding populations, land reform, economic reform, but most important, the demand by human beings everywhere, even here at home, for dignity. to do this by other meaners than bullets and blank checks, passed around by blank minds, until we
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do this it will not be communism that wins the world. it will be democracy that loses it. i am albert burke. we haven't finished with this subject. we'll be back. but thank you for being with us tonight. and good night. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪
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♪♪ weeknights this month we're featuring american history tv programs as preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. tonight an evening's programs on baseball including historian david who talks about the 1919 world series fix by members of the chicago white sox which came to be known as the black sox scandal and how this shaped public perceptions of what happened. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3.
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next on history bookshelf, history of the bay of pigs crisis. the failed military invasion of cuba in 1961 that was supported by the u.s. government and resulted in the capture or death of more than 1,000 men. this was recorded at books & books in coral gables, florida, in 2011. this evening boos & books a pleased to rk jim rasenberger and his brilliant book, "the brilliant sdamp." mr. rasenberger written for the "new york times," "vanity fair" smithsonian" and "wilson quarterly" among many other pub a la cases. he is author of "high steele: the daring men who built the world's greatest skyline." in book mr. rasenberger examines the u.s.-backed military
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invasion of cuba in 1961, one mp the most ill-fated blunders in american history and draws on long hidden cia documents and delivers as never before the vivid truth and consequences of those five pivotal days in april '61. here to tell us more about it, please, give a very warm welcome to mr. jim rasenberger. [ applause ] >> perfect. perfect. thank you. thank you for that introduction, and thank you to books & books for having me. this is a wonderful bookstore. i had not been here before. i came earlier today, and it is fantastic. so support it. i urge you to buy a book before you leave tonight. it doesn't have to be my book, but if you want it to be, that's fine with me. as i'm sure all of you know by now, this is, we're on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the bay of pigs invasion of cuba.
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and i can't think of a better place to launch my new book than here with you. i know i am sure many of you have some personal knowledge and deep memory of it and thank you for coming. i'm honored to be here. now, this is a story i've wanted to tell for a long time. i think it's -- there are a number of reasons i've wanted to tell it for a long time. the main reason, i think it's one of the most fascinating and important stories in modern american history, and i hope, if you read the book, you'll safer that opinion with me. and before i go into any detail i should probably give a brief overview of what the bay of pigs was for those of you who don't know. if there are any of you. i'm, i suspect anyone my age or older, i was born just after the bay of pigs, is pretty familiar with it, simply because we grew up hearing about it. those of you who are younger are
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forgiven. you're not forgiven for being younger. there's no forgiveness for that, but you are forgiven for not knowing much about something that happened before you were born. so for the sake of those not familiar, let me go through a brief overview with a few basic facts. the bay of pigs was a five-day event that occurred in april of 1961. for those of you who were "mad men" fans just after season one if that helps orient you. that april a group of cuban exiles trained, supplied and backed by the united states government attempted to invade cuba and overthrow fidel castro. the attack began on april 15th, 1961, when a fleet of eight b-26 bombers flown by cuban exile pilots attacked castro's airfields. the planes bombed in strafed the
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airfields intending to destroy fidel castro's air force. two days later just after midnight of april 17th the invasion itself began. about 1,400 men, again, cuban exiles, known collectively as brigade 2506 came ashore at the southern coast of cuba at an area known now as the bay of pigs. the plan, to establish and hold a beachhead and eventually spark an uprising against fidel castro. that was the plan, anyway, but if didn't quite work out that way. the brigade ran into trouble almost immediately. and within two days of landing, it was over. of the 1,400 men who came ashore over 100 were killed and the rest were sent fleeing either to sea, some tried to escape in boats, 0 are into the swamps. there was a vast everglade just inland of the bay of pigs. and there they were rounded up by castro's soldiers and thrown
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into cuban jails. well, for fidel castro, who looked like the david who slayed the yankee goliath, this was a supreme victory and it is still a victory that cubans celebrate today. i was in cuba exactly a year ago for the 49th anniversary, and it's remarkable how around havana and the bay of pigs there are billboards all over the place celebrating the victory against yankee imperialism, and this 50th anniversary they will are marking with a parade, with all sorts of celebrations. i'm not expecting too many celebrations here,ened a that's, of course, because for the united states, it was a disaster. it was a personal tragedy for the man who took part in the invasion, of course, and a humiliation for the kennedy administration which had only been in power less than three months. at first the administration try
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to insist the united states had nothing to do with this. it was just exiles who gone in on their own but that charade didn't last very long and soon the whole world knew the truth, which was -- that the brigade was trained by the cia, had been supplied with american equipment and the invasion had been approved by the joint chiefs of staff, the state department and ultimately the president of the united states. in short, this had been a united states operation, and its failure was a distinctly american embarrassment. one american general said it was the worst defeat the u.s. suffered since the war of 1812. about the kindest thing anybody said. everyone agreed it was a mistake that they would never forget and they must never repeat. they were wrong. not only is it largely forgotten, maybe not here but in much of america it is. but we went on to repeat some of the same mistakes that we made
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in cuba in other parts of the world. in fact the bay of pigs turned out to be sort of a curtain raiser on a whole new era of troubled interventions, and era we're still in today. by one count the united states engaged in more than two dozen forceful interventions after 1961. that's not including our 21st century entanglements in iraq, afghanistan and libya. now, given all of these other interventions since the bay of pig, you may ask yourselves, why should we still care about the bay of pigs? i mean, next to vietnam and iraq, seems like a fairly minor event, perhaps. an appetizer before this huge feast of trouble and interventions. add to this the fact that it lasted just five days and it cost a mere $46 million. that's about, i think, less than the average budget of a hollywood movie these days. and then, of course, the fact it was about embarrassment, and has everything to recommend it for
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oblivion, but here's the thing -- it changes this country in some very important ways. it changed how americans look at their government, and it changed how the rest of the world looked at us. prior to the bay of pigs it would have been a cynical american who doubted he lived in a good and mighty nation led by competent men and engaged in worthy exploits. that was certainly a plausible view for americans 50 years ago, after world war ii. the bay of pigs may that view a lot harder to hold on to. had distinction of making the united states look both bullying and weak. what kennedy's shlesinger jr. wrote shortly after the invasion. not only look like imperialists but ineffectual imperialists which is worse and look like stupid ineffectual imperialists worst of all. in many ways the 1960s, that
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decade of questioning authority, began with the bay of pigs. this was the first step into the vietnam era even before vietnam. actually, what you may not realize, what i did not realize until i wrote the book, is how much the vietnam war itself owes to the bay of pigs. if we have time i'll delve into that later on. right now i want to go back in time. a few years before the bay of pigs and focus on the causes of the invasion. here's the central question and one we don't have the a good answer to yet. how does something like this happen? my ambition in this book beyond telling what i think is a fascinating story as well as i could was to go back once more and look at these events as clearly as possible. with no axes to grind, no finger-pointing. not trying to blame anyone, not trying to exonerate anybody.
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just trying to find out best i could the truth. so with that goal in mind i begin my narrative well before the invasion, because i think to understand it you need to know not just what happened but the context in which it happened. so i began two years before the bombs began to fall on cuba. exactly two years, in fact, to the day. april 15th, 1959. that evening fidel castro arrived in the united states for a visit. this was his first visit to the united states since he had taken over cuba start of the year. dwight eisenhower was still president. richard nixon vice president. john kennedy still a junior senate from massachusetts. castro came to liver a speech to some newspaper editors but the visit was something more like an invasion in its own right. a charm offensive. he and his bearded entourage arrived in washington loaded with cuban cigars and cases of cuban rum, and castro spent most
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of his visit hugging and smiling and saying all the right things. there was some americans including some in the eisenhower administration including dwight eisenhower himself who had serious concerns. mainly he was a communist in the making. many found him to be quite charming and certainly charismatic, and after a few days in washington castro took a train to new york city. from the moment he arrived at penn station, where he was greeted by 20,000 people, he had a grand old time. he went to the top of the empire state building. he shook hands with jackie robinson. he went down to city hall, went up to columbia university. having less fun in new york city were the policemen who were assigned to protect him. because there are assassination plots surrounded castro and reported in the press every day and none turned out to be real but the police didn't know that. and castro was completely impossible to protect.
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he'd throw himself into crowds, hugging and kissing people with no concern for the his safety. one afternoon on a whim decided to go to the bronx zoo. the press followed, federal acts followed, new york city police followed and castro did what everybody does at the zoo. ate a hot dog. fed peanuts to elephants, rode a miniature electric train and before anybody could stop him he climbed over a protective railing and in front of the tiger cages and stuck his finger you tloos the cage and petted a bengal tiger on the head. these things made people think castro was a little crazy. beside trying to save him from tigers, america spent much of his visit trying to figure out his politics. was he a communist? you have to recall that in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the battle against the so-called international communist conspiracy was "the" organizing
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principle on which american foreign policy was based. it wasn't just the spread of communism that was so feared, it was the fact that the communists had nuclear weapons. and given the rhetoric coming out of the kremlin, khrushchev saying all kinds of things like we'll bury you, exact words, seem he would use them. i point this out a communist country 90 miles from the american shores was simply intolerable. not just bare goldwater and richard nixon, really, to everybody. so fidel castro was interrogated everywhere he went on his visit about communism. by vice president nixon, by congress' subcommittee by scores of journalists. everyone asked the same question. dr. castro, are you a communist? he answered the same every time. no, he was not a communist. never had been.
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never would be. when castro finally left new york on april 25th the police were relieved to see him go but most new yorkers happy he'd come to visit. an editorial in the "new york times" summed up the general attitude as he left. "he made it quite clear neither he nor anyone of importance if his government far as he knew was a communist." seemed obvious americans felt better an castro than they did before. that changed very fast. in the book i go into detail whatevered after castro returned to cuba after his american visit. things went sour so quickly. for the same's time i'll jump ahead a bit. suffice to say castro immediately began behaving very much in a manner seemed almost designed to provoke the american government. he started appropriating american property in cuba. delivering speeches filled with anti-american rhetoric. cracking down on cubans who made
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anti-communist statements, and most worrisome of all, began accepting overtures from the soviet union. altogether, in other words, acting exactly like the protocommunist that the eisenhower administration feared he was. within months, washington decided that good relations with castro were going to be impossible, and by end of 1959 less than a year after castro came to power in cuba, the eisenhower administration was taking aggressive steps against him. the great irony is that after devoting millions of dollars and hundreds of men to protecting him from assassins, the united states government now began to plotting his demise. generating these plots was the central intelligence agency. with encouragement from president eisenhower. some of the early ideas explored by the cia were quite interesting's one to place a drug in castro's food that would make him behave strangely in public, and make him appear
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truly insane, as some already thought he was. the drug wasn't specified in cia documents, probably lsd. cia had done quite a bit of work with in the 1950s. sounds like inspired by james bond, because it had been. a big james bond people and many in the cia and in fact at one point that march as cia was casting about ideas ian fleming was visiting washington. he had dinner at the home of jack kennedy and jacqueline kennedy and somebody asked him, tongue and cheek if had he ideas tore offs fidel castro and he came up with a crazy plot drof leaflets over havana advertising radiation was in the air and would cling to beards. the only way to get rid of it shave the beards and all of castro the minions would shave their beards and supposedly lose
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their mystical power. seemed to take it seriously, in fact tried to track down ian fleming while still in washington. he was too late. he'd already flown back to london. another measure, cia considered assassination. assassinate not just fidel but his brother raoul and like a assassination trifecta. a more serious plan approved by dwight eisenhower later in the month's. plan developed by richard bissell, cia's famously director of plans, using some fleeing castro to florida to return to cuba and overthrow him. the original idea infiltrate them on to the island in small troops but shifted into world war ii-style amphibious invasion. never the plan was overrunning
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cuba and somehow defeat castro's army of 25,000 or 30,000. rather, to land the brigade on a significant piece of cuban real estate and hold it for a length of time. maybe a week. up to ten days. and at some length of time. at some point they flew in a brigade that was kept in a safe house at the time and this would set up shop on the beach and declare itself the rightful government of cuba. what was supposed to happen after that was never all that clear. that spout out after that. the cuban population would rise up in support of the brigade and help overthrow castro. another possibility was that this provisional government after establishing itself in cuba could invite the united states to assist much the way the rebels in libya invited the united states to assist recently and then the united states could come in overtly and legally, or
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at least quasi legally and settle the matter. not long after eisenhower with the matter, on a coffee plantation and built an airstrip nearby. in late spring, the agency began to recruit cuban exiles mainly in miami and train them in guatemala. the exiles came from an array of backgrounds, some former soldiers who served in the army and others students, many were moderates or even leftists who supported castro when he first came to power and then grew disenchanted as he became increasingly left and more and more acting like a communist. later there would be lawyers and doctors and farmers. white and black, rich and poor. in guatemala, the presidential campaign of 1960 was heating up in america. in a close contest between richard nixon and john f.
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kennedy. from the outset, nixon realized fidel castro was either going to be an opportunity or a problem for him. depending on whether castro was still in power or gone by election day. now, in the fall of 1960, john kennedy was beating the eisenhower administration over the head with fidel castro. no subject roused more than communist cuba. he reminded the island was a mere 8 jet minutes away and he blamed eisenhower and company including vice president nixon for letting this happen. imagine being in the shoes of richard nixon. he had a pretty well earned reputation as a communist buster, one of the premier communist busters in america and along comes this democrat from massachusetts suggesting that he, richard nixon, not quite anti-communist enough. kennedy managed to outflank
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nixon as anti-communist talk. probably the best example of this occurred in one of the nixon kennedy television debates. not the debate that's most famous but the fourth debate. this debate may have been the most important in the campaign. wonderful strangeness that was richard nixon. kennedy came out in the press about cuba in the previous statement. he suggested that the eisenhower administration was being negligent about castro and really should help anti-castro cubans take up arms against castro. this was exactly what the eisenhower administration was trying to do. when nixon saw this in the newspapers, he was outraged. somebody in the cia, he thought, must have told kennedy about the cia's plan and now kennedy was claiming this as his own idea when, in fact, he,
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richard nixon, had been pushing this operation for months. it was a covert operation and had to let kennedy pretend it was the whole idea. it's probably who wha he should have done but not what he did. in the fourth debate, he lashed out denouncing it as irresponsible and foolish. he gave a long thoughtful argument why he thought a covert military operation against the castro regime was a terrible idea, dangerously irresponsible, as he said in the debate. nixon later explained that this was very painful but it was his, quote, uncomfortable and ironic duty and then he added, from that point on, i had the wisdom and wariness of someone who had been burned by the kennedys. vowed i would never enter an election being vulnerable to them on the level of political tactics. it's a lesson that nixon learned well.
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a lesson that led him straight to watergate. that's a story for another time though. as we know john kennedy got what he wished for, became the 35th president of the united states and no sooner did he enter office on january 20th than handed his this plan developed under the eisenhower administration. kennedy knew something about it. he had been detailed after he won the election. he knew something but still, it came as quite a shock to discover, first of all, how big the operation was and secondly, that he had to deal with it immediately. the cia told him that the cubans were about to get a large arm shipment from the soviets including mid fighter jets to make it more difficult to get rid of castro in the future. this was true, by the way. from day one, the pressure was on kennedy to decide what he wanted to do and to decide quickly. that's fair to say that john kennedy was not thrilled by the cia's plan. his main concern was that the involvement of the united states
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would not be hidden enough. and if it were not, it could very well provoke castro's new friends, the soviet union to take retaliatory action. most likely in west berlin, a city that he had been threatening to cut off from the west. he did not want to get into a risky game tit for tat with the soviets because he knew it could escalate to nuclear war. like everyone else, he wanted castro gone. since he'd run for president, criticizing eisenhower about castro, he needed to do something. if he cancelled the plan, he looked like a hypocrite. worse, he'd look soft on communism which was the last thing john kennedy wanted to see. conventional wisdom has it that the cia misled kennedy about the essentials of the operation, that they really tricked him into going ahead by misleading him for example about the chances of the cuban population rising up against castro.
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i don't think the cia was totally up front. in fact, richard later claimed or admitted, rather, they sold too hard. but i don't believe kennedy was fooled either. i think he knew more or less what he was getting into because he didn't know how not to get into it. he painted himself into a corner during the campaign and most americans were in the same corner with him. everybody wanted castro gone. the operation moved forward almost inexorably through february and march. finally, in early april, after weeks of hemming and hawing, president kennedy gave him the thumbs up and held out the possibility of cancelling it but never did and for reasons i've mentioned, i don't think there was ever a good chance he would have. and so back to where we began. april 15th in the opening attack on the cuban airfields. the attack meant to destroy
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fidel castro's air force. i cover the aftermath in great detail in the book but hard to do it justice in a few minutes. i'm afraid you're going to have to read the book if you want to find the full story. but for the moment, i'll just say the important thing about the air attacks on april 15th is they did not completely take out castro's air force. they left half a dozen in tact. half a dozen of his planes. that was half a dozen too many. the following evening april 16th, president kennedy cancelled the second round of air strikes that were scheduled for the morning of april 17th. the strikes were meant to complete the job of destroying castro's air force. now, why kennedy cancelled them is a mystery. he had become the most common explanation is that he had become concerned about the public and international reaction that had been stirred up by the first round of air strikes. among other things, it had become clear to the whole world that the world realized the united states was behind the air
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attacks, almost the moment those first bombs fell on the 15th. kennedy is always, very concerned about provoking something big, about lighting a match that would lead to a great nuclear conflagration. with the advice of secretary of state dean rusk, he called off the air strikes. now, among the cia planners, when they discovered this on the evening of april 16th, they were horrified. it had always been understood for the invasion to have a chance, castro's air force had to be taken out. it was axiomatic. the moment kennedy cancelled the follow-up strikes, everybody in the operation instantly understood exactly what it meant. the brigade was doomed. this was confirmed the following morning before the brigade had even completed its landing. showed up over the bay of pigs and very quickly sunk two supply ships. the four other brigade ships also under air attack fled for
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international waters. down were those two sunken ships and away with those other forced ships went the brigade's ammunition, much of its food and medical supplies, much of its communication equipment and virtually any fighting chance the brigade had. this is not to suggest that if the secondary strikes had not been cancelled, the invasion would have ultimately achieved what either the cia or the brigade wanted it to achieve. but there's no question that at the moment those air strikes were cancelled, it was over. this is why, to this day, many cuban exiles who fought at the bay of pigs, hold a deep animosity for john kennedy. the brigade was under constant bombardment as the castro sent his army in column after column and 30,000 to draw from.
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by the 18th, the brigade was withering and on the 19th, came to an end. castro's troops swept in and the brigade scrambled for the swamp. but not before one last tragedy. the final morning, april 19th, four american pilots from the alabama air national guard, who had been brought to help train the brigade pilots flew from the air base from nicaragua to cuba. they did this because the brigade pilots had been flying virtually non-stop and suffered numerous casualties and these volunteered to fly in their place. that morning, the planes were shut down in cuba and all four were killed. a 30-year-old pilot named thomas pete ray. thomas ray's daughter, janet ray, is here with us tonight and was a big help to write this book as well as the brigades over the 48th anniversary of the bay of pigs invasion.
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i'm grateful for your help and for their help and i'm grateful to all of you for coming and listening to me tonight and what i want to do now is give you a chance to ask any questions that you might have or make any brief comments. we've got c-span here with us. please wait for the microphone to come over before you speak and please, because there are so many of us here tonight, try to keep it brief so that everybody gets a chance who wants to say something and get a chance to do so. thank you very much. >> thank you, thank you. i'm going to start there since the boom is already there. with this gentleman right here. go ahead. your book. >> your book is the first one of many, i read them all, that
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mentions january the 28th when he briefed kennedy, his entire team for the first time, at the end -- >> can't hear the question. >> the end, the question will come in a moment. the end of the memo was prepared by bissell. it comes out that the end of the operation would be for the u.s. to come in after the had been established. my question to you is i know, because i've read, that wasn't the first plan in that plan. were you able to find that anywhere else and were you able to find mention of that anywhere else after that? >> the question specifically, you mean? >> the fact that the u.s. was going to come in. >> that was always part of the original plan that, again, this was, the idea was never that these 1400 men were going to
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take over cuba. some people seem to think that, but that wasn't the plan. the plan was that they would set up this beachhead and then they would call for help. and that's why, i haven't mentioned this, but there was a fleet of american aircraft just over the horizon during the brigade. an aircraft carrier and seven destroyers. they were there to help out when they were called upon. one of the ships had 30,000 rifles to give to any cubans who would want to join in the invasion. there were tanks on those ships. there were trucks on the ships. they were set, just waiting for the word go, to bring this equipment in and help the brigade out. >> good enough. i have a question. the decision that john f. kennedy made at the bay of pigs, do you think that resulted in his assassination or played a part in that decision? >> i think probably lee harvey
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oswald's mind, it did. there's a question of whether fidel castro ordered it. lyndon johnson said something like, castro knew that kennedy wanted to kill him, so he went and killed kennedy. there was a lot of speculation that castro may have ordered this himself. castro denies it vehemently. we know that oswald visited the mexican, the cuban embassy in mexico city shortly before the assassination and perhaps got some sort of signal or communication there. but what we know for sure is that oswald, he was in the soviet union when the bay of bigs happened and was infuriated by it and thought that he was doing fidel castro a favor by going after john kennedy. indirectly, yes, i do think the bay of pigs definitely leads to the assassination of kennedy. it may have had a more direct link, but that's very difficult,
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maybe impossible to prove. over here, please. i'll come to you in a second. yes. >> what's confusing to me is if after the first day of the invasion, it became clear that the u.s. is behind it, and then if it was known that without the secondary air strikes on the 17th, the invasion was doomed, are you basically saying that because kennedy was afraid of lighting the match against the soviet union that he was willing to sacrifice the 1400 men for the good of the bigger picture? because. >> it's a haunting question. >> how you portray this, getting rid of castro, putting it in place and committed. anything short of that, there's no guarantee it would work and a
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disaster. it's hard to imagine that 1400 lives would be sacrificed for whatever, bigger picture. >> i'm sure john kennedy never thought in those terms. i'm sure he never thought, i'll just sacrifice those 1400 lives. i think what he wanted was to have his cake and eat it too and he wanted to have an immaculate invasion. he wanted to get castro out but didn't want to start anything with the soviet union. did he sit there on the evening of the 16th saying to himself, too bad for those guys? you know, i'm cancelling the follow-up air strikes. i don't think so.
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we know he did feel very truly depressed about it afterwards? he went into a deep depression i'm sure because he knew he'd done something pretty terrible. i think he did it in his own mind for the right reasons, but clearly he knew that he'd set these guys up to fail. >> i'm told the american warships are ready to insist in the invasion. there are tanks coming off carrier ships, right? there were obviously sophisticated weaponry that was in cuba and a large scale invasion. how could anybody talk in an
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otherwise intelligent person like the president of the united states saying we could deny you were behind it? even if we had won the war, the invasion, how could anybody talk him into that? >> this gets into the oddness of plausible denial in the cold war. the idea of plausible denial is not total denial. it was that you could hide behind this covert front and it lowered the heat. it lowered the stakes. for example, the u2. u2, the famous spy plane america flew, we were flying a u2 over the soviet unions. the soviets knew we were flying the u2 over the soviet union and they knew we knew but nobody said anything. nobody wanted to admit weakness. so to go back to your question, i don't think anyone thought, oh, we'll be able to completely deny this, but the hope was, we
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can plausibly deny it. saying we were there to help out if we asked to help them. we were there as a friend but no way behind it. we weren't the ones instigating it or funding it. they could deny key parts of it and while accepting other parts of it. does that answer the question? this gentleman here. and then i'll come to you. >> aside from the lack of air power and air cover, did you find any information regarding infiltration of the brigade by castro, intelligence officers that already gave up the plane even before they landed? >> i did not. but it's not, that's not because it's not out there. it's commonly assumed that he did know. it's hard to believe, he had spies in miami. certainly he knew it was going on among the cuban exiles in
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miami. probably spies in guatemala. and by the way, he really just had to pick up the newspaper if he wanted to know what was going on because there were newspaper reports about the training camps of guatemala. on january 10th, the "new york times" ran a story which said that there was these training camps in guatemala. it ended up not being that bad for the cia because the "new york times" reported it was kind of fooled and thought that the soldiers were guatemalans rather than cuban exiles but nonetheless, castro could read between the lines. he knew something was coming. when john kennedy made a press conference on april 20th before the invasion said that there would be no, should there be an invasion of cuba, there would be no american involvement in it. for castro, that said it all. clearly, they would come in any second. there's also a story that somebody leaked to soviet intelligence the fact that the,
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castro had been on high alert all winter, all spring. he was ready. >> i'm the godmother of the great grandson and my husband is cuban.
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how liable is he for all of this? >> well, i don't think that cubans, cuban exiles would be upset with dulles. dulles was on their side. he very much wanted president kennedy to rescue them when it was clear they were failing. dulles was not actually in the country, but richard bissell made a number of attempts to get john kennedy to approve air cover. now, to go back to the point that was made earlier, there was an enormous amount of american fire power just offshore including an aircraft carrier with fighter jets. let us have these for a little bit of time. others saying this as well to give air coverage to the brigade. you have to remember, the brigade is there pinned down begging for help. if you read the intercepts
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coming in from the beaches, they're just heart wrenching. please help us. please come. we're dying here. rescue us. just send in one plane. send in some planes please. kennedy never did and the cia push for it. some people think didn't push quite hard enough but certainly dulles wanted that. so i think that certainly you and this woman could be friends. >> one of the segments, they covered in detail, this invasion. two parts. my first part is how accurate, if you saw that series. one of the things they brought out in that series, and again, i don't know if it's true, but they said it was, which shocked me. i lived through that invasion.
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and one of the things that he said was, to the present day, they acknowledged that one of the mistakes they made was that there was a full moon on night of the invasion. and i remember that. that made no sense to me. how could they have done that? >> that was a moonless night. >> obviously, the military strategy. they made a big point of that in the. >> one of the other, on the afternoon, the morning of the 15th, the cuban ambassador to the united nations also made the point that there were sunspots that day and somehow the cia was so diabolical, they had it to screw up radio equipment or something like that. but i don't know that much about the meteorology but intentionally done on a moonless night. >> thank you.
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>> anybody else? standing back here in the yellow shirt. >> does your book go into how kennedy changed the invasion plan from trinidad to the bay of pigs because that was pivotal. >> that was pivotal, yes. >> as far as leaks, they rounded up 150,000 people right before the invasion who were supposed to take part in all kinds of anti-government activities. filled stadiums in havana and throughout cuba and that would have been pivotal but that was leaked to the castro government. do you cover that also? >> i certainly cover the fact that these people were rounded up and it goes to the problem of hoping for a populist uprising against castro and cuba because anybody against castro was
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either. >> seven families go to the bay of pigs. they didn't send us? she was 5 and i was 5.5. otherwise we would have gone too. >> yes? >> only 1200 to 1400. my uncle was part of the teams that were supposed to go in ahead of the invasion to help the resistance and prepare and he never landed. they found out about the invasion later. have you looked into that? >> there were many other units. there were false invasions. there were infiltrations. there were a number of things going on at the same time. the actual brigade that landed was about 1400. but yes, there were hundreds of others who were involved in operations against cuba at the time.
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>> i heard the planes that bombed the airfields the day before the attack were painted in cuban colors to make it seem as though the planes were cuban themselves. is that true? >> that is true. the whole plan was to try to make those air attacks look as if they had been carried out by castro's own pilots. so part of that plan was to have, now, you had eight b-26 bombers flew to cuba, bombed three airfields and also had a ninth b-26 flown by a pilot who flew directly from nicaragua to miami and landed in the b-26 and claimed that he was part of the conspiracy of cuban pilots who, that morning, had bombed their own airfields. and now that was coming to the united states. that fell apart quickly for a number of reasons. his b-26 was different than those in castro's air force and some enterprising journalists figured that out rather quickly.
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he had his machine guns in the nose cone, castro's were mounted under the wings. so that was part of how this whole, why john kennedy ended up cancelling the air strikes on the 16th. because once people realized that this was not true, a charade, they realized, wait a minute, something's not right about this and they started looking at the americans for answers as to what was going on. so yeah, they were all marked to castro's planes. i want to do, somebody over here. now come to you in a second. yes? please. >> in your opening remarks, you referred to the fact that kennedy was concerned about provoking russia by his actions in the bay of pigs invasion. do you go into that in the book and what subsequently happened because four or five months
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later, the berlin wall went up and i'm sure that was triggered by his weakness in the bay of pigs. eight months later, vietnam exploded. that was all a consequence of when they detected that he was what they interpreted to be weak, that triggered a lot of problems. >> john kennedy knew that. he went into a summit in vienna in june with kuschof who just ate his lunch. kennedy afterwards said, he thinks i'm stupid and weak because of what happened at the bay of pigs. and certainly, you can make a connection then to kruschov to put up the wall. that's a complicated story. but certainly. >> but it triggered the wall being built. >> it did. >> the bay of pigs and the same thing happened in asia.
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>> well, that's true. and certainly kennedy was aware of that when he went to the summit. the repercussions just kept going. all through, they didn't end for kennedy until the cuban missile crisis. but, you know, a lot of things, vietnam war in many ways started on april 20th the day after the bay of pigs. john kennedy, needing a victory against the communists ordered a task force in the pentagon to look for a way to stop communist in south vietnam and very quickly after that, sent more men, 400 more men to vietnam. really the first step into the vietnam began on the beaches of cuba. that gentleman here and then i'll come over there. >> thank you. in my mind, there must have been some sort of cause that kennedy
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to back away from the secondary strike. immediately after the first air strike, are you aware or any documentation of any conversations between john k. kennedy after the air strike? >> no. >> they have called john kennedy to back out of continuing? >> no, the conversations were with dean rusk, mainly his secretary of state who advised him to stop. he did on the 18th send a threatening letter to john kennedy saying if you value the lives of your people, you better back off. in the cold war, the stakes were always so high and i think that's why we have to have some sympathy for these presidents who served when they were always a few decisions away from nuclear war. at least they thought they were. so he said if you, i can't quote the letter, it's in the book, but you better get out or come
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after you. there were several communications after that and kennedy responded to that. yes? >> during your research, did you come across any documentation that after the election, the administration either wanted to back off or wanted to accelerate it or? >> there was a cia history done in the 1970s and he was, he remarked on eisenhower for some reason. really seemed to start pushing again after the election. just before kennedy took over and it may be because eisenhower before that was afraid of doing something to muck up nixon's chances. it may be that he was just trying to hand kennedy a tough problem. i doubt it, but he did really try, i think what they wanted to
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do was hand off something that was ready to go. now, eisenhower did later say that he never meant this to be a plan. he called it a program. in other words, it was an asset. it wasn't something that had to be done. so he later denied that he really had much responsibility for it. although, remember, for a year, this plan lived under eisenhower and only lived under kennedy for three months. i think we can take a few more questions. somebody was not asked yet. did you ask, no. please. >> can you elaborate on the for alabama national guard, what's the history behind that. i don't think it was made clear that they had gotten shot down for several years and what's the status of this gentleman now? >> well, this one here, knows more about that than i do. her father was one of them. they were, they had been brought in to train the cia pilots.
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they weren't meant to fly. there was always a back-up plan that maybe they would be. and when they were killed, the kennedy administration and the cia denied that this happened. they came up with a cover story for how they died. and it's one of the most shameful parts of the whole thing. because these men died trying to serve their country. trying to do the right thing and then their families were lied to about how they died. and through the efforts of janet and other people, that is not, the truth came out and we all know what the truth is. that these four men died in battle fighting for their country. let me take one more question. does anybody, did you want to ask one? >> you said president kennedy felt personally guilty for not ordering the secondary strike but made it clear he was upset
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with the cia and failure of the bay of pigs because he fired many of the heads of the cia afterwards. >> that's right. fired alan dulles and richard and charles who was the second in command at the cia. he fired the whole top. he was upset with the cia. he thought the cia had misled him. partly though, you have to understand that was scapegoating. he wrote a memo saying that something bad should happen, somebody's neck has to go on the chopping block and it can't be the president's. and so it was the cia's and the cia, that's partly the job of the cia. they have to take the heat when things like this happen and they, you know, it was their baby and bissell, it was the end of his career certainly.
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he wanted a corporation in connecticut the rest of his life and it changed the lives of many people in the cia whose careers were basically not just the top three guys but ended with that kennedy that he wanted to shatter the cia into a thousand pieces. he didn't do that, but he was certainly upset. do we have time for one more? let's do one more question here and then we'll. >> does the book explore the issue of why alan dulles was in puerto rico, left to run probably one of the highest profile operations the cia had planned in many, many years to joe bissell who was, or richard bissell, who was an underling of his, was there any further delving into that situation? >> yeah, it was an imitation that had been to dulles many months before and dulles, i found the invitation.


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