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tv   Washington Journal Bay of Pigs 60th Anniversary  CSPAN  April 17, 2021 9:00am-10:02am EDT

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to remove fidel castro from power. but first, he is a universal newsreel lip from 60 years ago today, reporting on the immediate lead up and earliest stages of the invasion. ♪ [video clip] >> the assault has begun on the dictatorship of fidel castro. this is the first phase of organized revote with ball -- bombing raids. the rebellion against the red state dictator was off, with the refugee pilot claiming a full-scale army revolt was near. ♪ in have anna, -- havana,
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the acting foreign minister claims [inaudible] meanwhile, the united nations, the cuban foreign minister accused the united states of unleashing a foreign invasion. >> these charges are totally false and i deny them categorically. the united states has committed no aggression against cuba and no missiles have been launched from florida or any other part of the united states. >> in the guatemalan foothills, there is a mysterious training depot where training may have been based. professional soldiers are among the teachers and, once trained, the men mysteriously disappear.
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guatemala has -- the castro regime and has aided the rebels. the people have been extorted by castro to push back the invaders, and 300,000 militia men have been mobilized. the invasion was successful in its early hours, with castro blaming the u.s.. is there a chink in his armor? host: we are back with nicholas dujmovic, here today to discuss the 60th anniversary of the bay of pigs invasion, which was the failed cia backed effort to remove cuban leader fidel castro from power. nicholas, good morning. guest: good morning. it is a pleasure to be with you
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on this auspicious anniversary. host: tell us exactly what happened 60 years ago today on the southern coast of cuba? guest: yeah, well let me talk about what it was intended to do and then what happens. the bay of pigs operation was a well-meaning but totally mismanaged attempt on the part of the u.s. government to oust the cuban government of fidel castro and liberate cubans from communism. it turned out to be a disaster. what was intended was an amphibious invasion of some 1500 cuban exiles, trained, armed, supplied by the central intelligence agency, who would come ashore on the southern coast of cuba at a remote place called the bay of pigs,
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where they would establish a beachhead and hold a beachhead, and that would attract dissidents from the regime, it would spark a general uprising, it was believed, among the cuban people that would sweep away fidel castro from power. they would declare a provisional government that would then request the help of the united states. what actually happened 60 years ago was that the cuban military was alerted to the fact of an invasion somewhere. they had sufficient security forces in the area to respond far more quickly then the cia planners envisioned, and there were many other mistakes -- air cover was supposed to be guaranteed by a series of airstrikes. there was only one airstrike. president kennedy canceled two
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airstrikes. there were supposed to be a total of three. the second one was scotched. the third one was called off at the last minute, so there was no air cover over the beaches. the cuban air force under castro had command of the air, and that really chewed up those brave cuban exiles who were fighting for their country, for freedom. it turned out to be one of the biggest blunders in american foreign policy history and one of the biggest failures in the history of u.s. intelligence operations. so there's a lot to talk about. a lot went wrong with this well-meaning but very mismanaged operation. host: so what were the actual results of the invasion? what happened that day and the days after?
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what were the direct results? guest: well, in the predawn hours of april 17, about 1400 cuban exiles on various landing craft, landing ships, most of them actually made it ashore, despite the fact that one of the mistakes was that we didn't realize that there were coral reefs there, and the landing craft had a great deal of trouble with those coral reefs, causing most of the exiles to have to wade ashore. because castro's air force had command of the air, his fighters were able to destroy two supply ships that carried ammunition and other supplies for the brigade, so they were caught on the beach. some of them made it as far as 20 miles inland, but were driven back. there were some bright spots.
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there were battles between brigades, armored vehicles and tanks, and castro's tanks. they were able to hang on, surprisingly, for all of two days. on the afternoon of april 19, they simply ran out of ammunition. the cuban assault brigade did not give up so much as they simply ran out of ammunition and were captured. host: so we see here -- i will put up some fast facts about the bay of pigs invasion on screen. 114 people were killed during the bay of pigs invasion, including four u.s. airmen, more than 1100 people were captured from the assault brigade 2506. five b 26 bombers were shot down, and like you said, to u.s. supply ships sank during the bay
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of pigs invasion. with all of that, what went wrong? you talked about the coral reefs, but what went wrong here? guest: well, it's been said, and i totally agree with this, the operation as a military operation was too small to succeed. castro, with 1400 men ashore, no matter how well trained, how well positioned, castro was able to quickly mount 20,000 men in arms against them, both regular military and militia. he had a potential to mobilize 200,000. the concept of the cuban exiles being able to hang on to this beachhead is quite debatable. it's important to realize that this started out as a world war ii, classic support mission for
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guerillas. there were anti-castro elements in the mountains, and it was said, we are going to do to castro what castro as a revolutionary in those mountains had done to the dictator bautista for him. and so, as the planning went forward in the late days of the eisenhower administration, the plan kept getting bigger. starting with, we are going to infiltrate 30 or so trained guerrillas at a time that would link up with resistance forces, and then by the fall of 1960 and especially after the election, it sort of morphed into this conventional amphibious operation that had these
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assumptions that the cuban people were ready to rise up against castro, which was totally false. one of the mistakes was that the operational planners were not consulting the cia analysts who knew cuba best. the analysts were never asked, well, if we are able to put a force ashore, with the cuban people then rise up? there's a lot of discontent in cuban society, but castro's grip on power, it seems pretty secure. anyway, the analysts were never asked that question. host: let me remind everyone watching that they can take part in this conversation about the bay of pigs 60th anniversary. we are going to open up regional lines, meaning if you are in the central or eastern time zones, your number will be (202) 748-8000. if you are in the mountain and
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pacific time zones, your number will be (202) 748-8001. we will open up a special line for cuban-americans. cuban-americans, we want to know what you are thinking on the 60th anniversary of the bay of pigs invasion. the line for cuban-americans will be (202) 748-8002. keep in mind, you can always text us at (202) 748-8003 and we are always reading on social media, on twitter at @cspanwj and facebook at nicholas, at the top of this show, we showed a newsreel that referenced a mysterious training base in guatemala. if the media knew about this, was this operation ever really a secret? guest: well -- that's the problem. i mentioned it was too small to
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succeed as a military operation. it was too large as an intelligence operation to stay secret. you are absolutely right. castro knew what was happening. he had agents in guatemala, where the cuban exiles, most of them were being trained. but also, he was relying mostly on american and regional newspaper reporters. who would hear things from the cuban exile community in miami and were able to piece together pretty much the whole story. in fact, the new york times on january 10, 19 61, had a front page above the fold with a map article, explaining that the u.s. was preparing cuban exiles for action against the castro regime. president eisenhower, who is in the last days of his
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administration, said that basically, they had the whole story. and yet, planning went forward. one of the many blunders of this operation. host: who were the cuban exiles who were being trained for this assault brigade? how long had they been outside of cuba and what type of support could they realistically expect if they got back to cuba and this invasion force? guest: after castro took power in early 1950 nine and started nationalizing industries and expropriating the property classes, there was an exodus of cubans, professionals, people with money who saw that the socialist practices were going to be injurious to them.
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so you had in southern florida a hundred thousand or so cuban exiles, anti-castro. the big challenge for cia was trying to unite them into a single front, because there were many differences between them. some of them had been for the previous dictator bautista, and most of the others didn't like that. there were differences of opinion, so that was a great challenge. what cia offered to them was a chance to retake their country. and they signed up. there was a recruiting drive and again, they were trained in guatemala, nicaragua. if places in the united states, despite the state department objecting to that. they were hoping to take back their country for freedom. host: let's let some of our
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viewers take part in this conversation. let's start with roger, calling from new york. good morning. caller: good morning. how are you feeling? host: great, roger. caller: hi, i have a question, a very interesting question. in 1890, the u.s. with teddy roosevelt got rid of the spaniards, and mckinley sent the rough riders in and everybody in cuba to get rid of the spaniards. why didn't eisenhower, why didn't kennedy, why didn't they send the u.s. military in? i was reading a thing about the bay of pigs on usa today, and
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most generals at the time, the cia was not supposed to go in and do military operations. the dod was supposed to go into cuba to get rid of castro. guest: yes. both eisenhower and kennedy were unwilling to commit, at least openly, u.s. military forces to the overthrow of the castro regime. one of the great concerns was to maintain good relations with the rest of latin america. latin america, latin american people saw the united states as overbearing. they didn't like the monroe doctrine. they didn't like to be in america's backyard. and for good foreign policy
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reasons, it was ruled out that we would have the united states military openly go against the castro regime. now, kennedy considered that when it came to the event that happened some 18 months later, the cuban missile crisis, but that's another story. host: what made u.s. officials decide to back the bay of pigs invasion? what was going on that made u.s. officials decide to consider any type of intervention in cuba at this point? guest: well, castro was definitely cozying up to the soviet union. this is in the depths of the cold war. tensions are high. there is an arms race and eisenhower in particular had already acted against what he thought was going to be a soviet
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beachhead in the western hemisphere in guatemala. he used cia in a covert action to oust the democratically elected president of guatemala in 1954. cuba, as castro gets closer to the soviet union and is starting to accept arms, is starting to implement socialist policies, is accepting soviet advisors of kgb and military, eisenhower believed that we have even a bigger problem with cuba becoming part of the soviet orbit then we had with that possibility in guatemala several years previously. for eisenhower, it was a matter of keeping the soviets out of our hemisphere. the saying is, it's only 90 miles from the united states. why kennedy went forward with it
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is a little harder to justify. he did campaign in the 1960 election on freeing cuba, on providing support. he was actually unwittingly saying what the eisenhower administration was doing secretly. kennedy was advocating it openly. he was politically committed to moving forward on that, and he inherited this plan, this plan that had grown from a gorilla infiltration -- guerilla infiltration and supply operation to a conventional amphibious landing. kennedy later rued the fact that he had trusted the experts. this left him with great skepticism of the judgment of cia leaders and u.s. military leaders who were encouraging him on. host: let's go back to our phone lines. as we do, i want to remind
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everyone that this is a coproduction with american history tv and is being simulcast on c-span3. let's talk to henry, who calling from asheboro, north carolina. henry, good morning. guest: -- caller: hello. host: go ahead, henry. caller: i saw a documentary about castro taking charge of the revolution. [inaudible] but you see them -- there were a lot of dark skinned cubans out there fighting. you didn't see none of us. you don't see no dark skinned cubans. even now, you see a lot of
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[inaudible] there are certain beaches you can go to, you couldn't walk on there. you can't go to hotels and stuff like that. [inaudible] host: what was going on with the cuban people during the bay of pigs invasion? guest: well, there were resistance elements. there were anti-castro resistant s who were expecting some sort of action, some sort of invasion and were waiting for it. they had weapons, they had explosives. there were active guerilla movements in the mountains. the problem was, in order to keep it secret, because cia believed some of these resistance groups were probably
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penetrated by castro's intelligence service, they were not told -- another mistake. they were not told of the imminent invasion, so they could not get ready. they heard about it from cuban media. not only that, but after the first airstrike, which happened two days before the invasion, castro started rounding up suspected dissidents. 20,000 or more. a lot of them were simply rounded up in the security sweeps. so if there was a basis for a groundswell of opposition to castro that this invasion and this beachhead would have sparked, castro pretty effectively squelched that option. dealt with the potential for resistance by sweeping them all up. host: we've talked a little bit
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about international policy with the united states and the bay of pigs invasion, but how did the bay of pigs invasion effects national policy? i want to show a clip here of cuba policy being discussed during the fourth presidential debate of 1960, between john f. kennedy and richard nixon. here's that exchange. [video clip] [video clip] i look at cuba, 60 miles off the coast of the united states. i spoke to the havana ambassador. even though ambassador smith and ambassador ghana warned of castro, the marxist influences around castro, the communist influences around castro, boast of them -- both of them have testified in the last six weeks that despite their warning to the government, nothing was done. >> i think senator kennedy's policies and recommendations for the handling of the castro regime are probably the most
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dangerously irresponsible recommendations he has made during the course of his campaign. in effect, what senator kennedy recommends is that the united states government should give help to the exiles and to those within cuba who oppose the castro regime, provided they are [inaudible] let's see what this means. we have five treaties with latin america, including the one setting up the organization of american states in 1948, where we agreed not to intervene in the internal affairs of any other american country. they, as well, have agreed to do likewise. the charter of the united nations, its preamble, article one, and article to also provide that there shall be no intervention by one nation in the internal affairs of another. i don't know what senator kennedy suggests when he says we should help those who oppose the
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castro regime, both in cuba and without. but i do know this. if we were to follow that recommendation, we would lose all of our friends in latin america. we would probably be condemned in the united nations, and we would not accomplish our objectives. i know something else -- it would be an open invitation for mr. cruz check to come into latin america and to engage us in what would be a civil war and possibly even worse than that. host: so what role did questions about castro and cuba play in the 1960 presidential campaign? guest: it's such a bizarre situation, because nixon is arguing the exact opposite of what he believes. kennedy is attacking nixon from the right on cuba, saying the revolution has to be quarantined and its opponents have to be supported. the kennedy campaign had put out a campaign statement that the eisenhower administration was
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not helping, providing virtually no help. in this debate, which was the fourth of the presidential debates, nixon is countering that press statement from the kennedy campaign for all those reasons that he articulated. so you have this bizarre situation -- if you are an american voter in 1960 and don't want the united states to intervene in cuba, you would vote for nixon, who articulated why this shouldn't happen. even though nixon himself was actually pressing for the cia to act against castro, and getting the u.s. military involved. if you are a u.s. voter in 1960 and you want intervention in cuba, you are going to vote for kennedy, who actually had serious misgivings about it, particularly in a use of overt force on the part of either cia
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or the military. so it was a bizarre situation. host: once you took office, -- he took office, what did decision-making have to do in the bay of pigs? guest: it was significant. kennedy and his brother robert, the attorney general, determined they would not give the republicans any ammunition. that they were chicken. that they were weak. kennedy had this persona of vigor and a new way of doing things that contrasted with the doddering, sclerotic eisenhower administration. it was unfair, but that's what
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kennedy believed. he could not afford not to act in some way. so he believed, more or less, in the plan that he inherited from the eisenhower administration. i say more or less, because he accepted it, allowed it to go forward, and yet put severe constraints on it that helped doom its chances of success. host: let's talk to eric, calling from laurens, new york. eric, good morning. caller: good morning. thank you very much. my question is in two parts objectively. how responsible is president kennedy or also his brother for calling off the invasion and not giving the air cover? second, i have always been taught that the central intelligence agency is an information gathering organization, and yet, if i have understood you correctly and
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many others, it has been involved in military preparations, training people militarily to intervene, perhaps the assassination of jacob -- che guavara. a lot of people felt betrayed by kennedy. i knew one man, he said, you did not know what it was like to see the bodies coming back, to know that we betrayed people. guest: yes, a lot of people in cia and in the military nearby believe that it was a mistake for president kennedy to cancel that last morning of d-day airstrikes. the first airstrike on the 15th had at best taken care of, disabled half of castro's small air force. but the few aircraft that he had just played havoc and they were not disabled by subsequent
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airstrikes. a lot of resentment about that. but it does raise the question, even if the brigade had perfect air cover, could it have survived? there's a lot of reason to believe that the concept was fundamentally flawed, whether or not the brigade had air cover or not. in terms of -- your question about cia and info gathering versus overt action, organization, it's done from the beginning. from very early on, from cia's charter with the national security act of 1947, there has been an understanding that cia, in addition to collecting intelligence, would from time to time act in what has been called now covert action. covert action under title 50 of the u.s. law is simply
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implementing a policy to affect political, military, economic conditions abroad in a way that the united states' hand is not evident or can be denied. in the beginning, cia was considered the best agency to do that, because cia had already established secret relationships with foreigners, that was necessary for this to happen. the differences that early on, cia was in favor of doing covert influence operations -- propaganda, influencing a newspaper, having an agent of influence influence a political party or leader. the question was whether cia would do paramilitary activities. things that involved violence. thanks to policy derived from the state department, cia got that mission in 1948.
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it began during the eisenhower administration, a series of paramilitary covert action, some of which were successful, many of which were not, culminating in, as a cia historian formerly, i used to call the bay of pigs the mother of all covert action disasters. host: let's talk to ron, calling from marion springs, michigan. good morning, ron. caller: good morning, jesse, good morning, nicholas. i remember watching the cuban revolution on tv. i don't remember what year that was, but i was probably around nine or 10 years old, and i was rooting for castro then. now, i will go to vietnam, because i am a vietnam veteran, ok -- can you tell me the first cia agent that was really an oss agent to be killed in vietnam?
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guest: that was john burch. that was in china. caller: in 1945, the first oss officer was killed in vietnam. now, ho chi minh and -- helped my father survive three years in the pacific, because he was fighting the japanese. he wrote his constitution on our own, and we stab him in the back. you call vietnam one of the great failures, or how about iran, when you coup d'etat iran and now we have the islamic revolution going on forever, and afghanistan -- 1979, we stuck our nose in there and said after they are done with the russians, they are coming after us. here they are, worldwide -- when are you ever going to get something right? host: your response?
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guest: [laughter] i do think cia does get a lot of things right. in implementing the covert policy that constitutes a covert action, cia is operating under the desires of the president. the president has to sign a document called the finding, saying i find this action necessary and i want cia to do this. that finding is transmitted in a memorandum of notification to congress, who can weigh in on it if they so choose. there is a lot of adult supervision. that's not to say there haven't been mistakes. these are policy failures that are, you know, owned by the u.s. government overall. it's not just cia. cia is not doing these things as a rogue elephant, as was once claimed. host: let's remind everyone that
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we are talking about the 60th anniversary of the bay of pigs invasion in washington journal. this is a coproduction with american history tv and is being simulcast on c-span3 right now. nicholas, one of our social media followers has written in with their story of the bay of pigs invasion i want to read to you. i was a child in cuba during the bay of pigs fiasco. we hid in the closet while antiaircraft fire raged from the nearby hilltop. the next day in the middle of the night, we fled the round up of opposition to the countryside and hid for weeks until it was over. what was happening with the people of cuba during the bay of pigs invasion? guest: well, again, tens of thousands of them were rounded up. the result of the invasion was that even though there had been a lot of opposition to castro in the country, because he stood up
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to the united states, here was a latin american leader who stood up to the united states, he was more popular than ever with the cuban people and actually popular regionally. the action in terms of foreign policy really backfired on the united states. host: what about -- go ahead, sorry. guest: the exodus continued from cuba for many decades. host: another social media follower has a question for you. if the cia had succeeded in cuba, is there any guarantee it would not have turned into a right-wing dictatorship like other cia, south american interventions? guest: well, i am a historian, not a fortune teller, but that is a possibility because we saw that happening in other latin american countries. over time, these right-wing dictatorships generally became
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more democratic. who knows what would've happened. host: let's go to jason, calling from san diego, california. jason, good morning. caller: yes, good morning. i would like to ask a question and maybe get some verification. is it true that when castro won the revolution and was celebrating, he came to the united states to meet with american congressmen, politicians, whatever. he went to new york, he couldn't find a place to stay, and he had to go to harlem to get a hotel. nobody came to congratulate him or anything. but russia and khrushchev hopped on a plane, came to the u.s.,
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came to harlem, walked through the streets of harlem. phone castro at the hotel, and he celebrated with castro. from that day on, castro, russia had won castro's confidence and they became friends. host: is that what happened, nicholas? guest: yes, a lot of that happened. but most of it was political theater. i think castro intended to stay in harlem for appearances. he already was developing a relationship with the soviet union. it wasn't sparked because this act of generosity on the part of khrushchev. these things are usually political theater. host: it's interesting that on that trip, he met with vice
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president richard nixon, who was impressed by this young, charismatic new leader of cuba, but said afterwards that he is either incredibly naive about communism or he is one of them. host: i am going to show for everyone a clip from president kennedy, who was speaking about the bay of pigs invasion to the american society of newspaper editors on april 20, 1961. here's what he said. [video clip] >> the president of a great democracy such as ours and the editors of great newspapers, such as yours, hold a common obligation to the people. an obligation to present the facts. to present them with candor. and to present them in perspective. it is with that obligation in mind that we have decided in the last 24 hours to discuss briefly
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at this time the recent events in cuba. on that unhappy island, as in so many other marinas of the contest for freedom, the news has grown worse instead of better. i have emphasized before that this was a struggle of cuban patriots against a cuban dictator. while we could not be expected to hide our sympathies, we made it repeatedly clear that the armed forces of this country would not intervene in any way. any unilateral american intervention, in the absence of an external attack upon ourselves or an ally would have been contrary to our traditions and to our international obligations. host: did the media and the
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american people except president kennedy's angle on the bay of pigs story? guest: they did. quite to kennedy's surprise, his popularity shot up. he was more popular as a result of this, and taking responsibility for it. he said, i am the responsible officer of this government, and he took the blame, even though there was plenty of blame to go around. it's a very interesting speech, because he emphasized that this was the work of cuban patriots. anti-communist who love their country and wanted castro and the communists out. the cuban rickety -- cuban brigadistas themselves said they were using cia to achieve their ends. become the average age was around 22 -- very young -- many
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of them are still alive. several hundred of them are still alive, so i would love to hear from any of them if they call in. host: it's interesting -- it's also interesting that kennedy said later on in that speech, having ruled out military force, unless there is an eminent threat, he did not rule it out entirely. this may have encouraged khrushchev, the soviet leader, on a gamble, to do his gamble, to place medium-range and intermediate range ballistic missiles, nuclear tipped, in the area the following year. host: let's talk to jade, calling from indiana. good morning. caller: good morning. thank you so much for taking my call. i was a first-year student at
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university in 1961, and i remember all of this. at the university, there was a colony of refugees or escapees, i guess, from cuba. they lived near us and i made friends with them. in fact, they introduced me to espresso coffee, which i still love. if i recall correctly, one was a lawyer, the other was a doctor. they were clearly well educated and part of an elite that had left cuba with the help of the united states. my comment goes to how we are using the term freedom. it seems to me that -- this is to my 18-year-old self in 1961 and later, that what we were really supporting was an elitist governing group who flourished under bautista.
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it also seems to me that the real support was for capitalism and not necessarily freedom for the masses. i don't romanticize castro. i know exactly who and what he was, but i'm still wondering if we were really on the side of the people, the masses, and not the governing elites. i am wondering if you would speak to that. thank you so much. guest: yes. as a historian, i often take at face value what people at time say their motivations were. definitely, you know, the u.s. government working for the cia wanted to enhance american national security. and was upset at the nationalization of industries that were owned by americans, so there was that angle too.
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yet they saw a mutual interest with these cubans -- i can say the cuban exile community, they weren't all lawyers and doctors. there were a lot of people who were anti-castro who were from the classes that castro had most of his support with. the peasants and the workers. it's a mixed picture, as always, these things are. i think the rhetoric of freedom is still not a bad way to describe these events and try to explain them. host: what were the consequences of the bay of pigs invasion's for u.s. relations with the soviet union? guest: well, that's a problem,
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because you can draw a straight line from the bay of pigs to the cuban missile crisis of 1962. the soviet leader, khrushchev, saw the bay of pigs failure by the united states as a great victory for soviet foreign policy, and its desire to have inroads in the western hemisphere through cuba. khrushchev saw this as an indication of weakness and indecision on the part of the american president. at their later summit in vienna on the summer of 1960 one, khrushchev basically beat up kennedy rhetorically, and later that summer, put up the berlin wall. khrushchev also saw this as an opportunity to change the strategic imbalance in nuclear force posture by putting these medium-range and intermediate
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range missiles secretly in cuba. his intent was that he would be able to get away with it and then announce it and force western concessions on other issues like berlin. host: did president kennedy or anyone from the united states ever admit the country's role in the bay of pigs invasion? guest: oh, i think so. yes. it was pretty clear to all, through the media, to the exiled community, that cia had been involved. again, kennedy took responsibility for it. but in important legacy of all this is the fact that kennedy learned about decision-making from this. he learned not to trust the experts, the cia leadership, the u.s. military leadership, he felt, with justification, had let him down. he also realized he had made
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some poor decisions based on faulty information that he had received. so when it comes time for the cuban missile crisis, what to do about these missiles that u.s. intelligence now has detected in cuba, it changed the whole process of consultation and decision-making, and lead to a good outcome. that's the best legacy of the bay of pigs. that's the silver lining in what otherwise is a great debacle for the united states and for those cubans who fought there. host: let's talk to randy, calling from louisiana. good morning. caller: yes, my mind is thinking about the chain of events that happened. you had khrushchev that came here in 1959, and then in 1960, you had the shootdown of gary powers.
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in april 1961, the bay of pigs. in october, the cuban missile crisis. it's interesting how all these things played out. also, in 1961, the berlin wall was put up and how all these things fell into place. guest: oh yes, and there's perceived communist advances in southeast asia and laos, in the congo. it was a time of high tension in the cold war. at the time of the bay of pigs, i was three years old and i remember in subsequent years, when i went to elementary school, there is still the cold war. they're still the threat of a nuclear exchange between the superpowers, and i remember the drills that the nuns would put us through to hide under our desks in the event of a nuclear attack. there was a lot of tension.
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we sometimes forget that the cold war, we look back on it now with some humor, even, but at the time it was deadly serious. we didn't know how it would turn out. thank you for that litany of cold war events. it's very true. it really ratcheted up the overall tension. host: it wasn't till about 20 months after the bay of pigs invasion that castro released the bulk of the exile brigade prisoners. president kennedy spoke at a ceremony at the orange bowl in miami for those brigade members. how did that release come about? guest: yes, negotiations began between the u.s. government, working unofficially but still directly, through a man named james donovan. he had been a former oss,
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remember, office of strategic services. he had negotiated the release of francis gary powers. in the movie a bridge of spies, he is played by tom hanks. james donovan worked with the castro regime negotiating to free the prisoners. 1189 were captured. i believe nine died in captivity, and castro actually withheld about eight of those he considered most dangerous. but by december 1962, he was releasing them in exchange for what donovan had negotiated, about $53 million in medicines, pharmaceuticals, and food aid for cuba. host: and it turns out the very last one of those exile brigade members to get released was released in 1986.
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let's go back to our phone lines and talk to our caller from plains, new york. caller: it's sy. host: good morning. caller: good morning. i would like to ask how castro was able to maintain power was through his ruthlessness and death squads and incarceration of his opponents, akin to what xi jinping does. many of the communists. also, can you comment on the cia attempts to assassinate castro through poison cigars and other crazy methods? thank you very much. guest: ok. on the assassination attempts, there were many in 1960, still
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when eisenhower was president. ideas that if top leadership could be eliminated, you would be more likely to have this general uprising sparked by the infiltration of guerillas and later the amphibious landing. it was thought if we took out fidel castro, rowel castro, who yesterday stepped down from power, and che guavara, the argentinian revolutionary, people would be more likely to rise up against this leaderless regime. there were some imaginative ideas. most of them never went past the drawing board. there were a few attempts. there was an attempt to enlist mafia figures, who were offered
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$150,000 for a hit on castro, using poison pills. they didn't work. the person never got into a position to use them. in terms of castro's hold on the regime, you are absolutely right. it is a feature of communist regimes, that they use repression, secret police, a series of informants to keep a lid on any dissent i will just let it go at that. host: what lessons did the cia and other american intelligence communities learn from the failure of the bay of pigs, and are any of those lessons still relevant today? guest: oh, i think so. in terms of the conventional military nature of an amphibious landing, that had never been attempted, certainly on that scale before by an intelligence
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agency, and never would again. the bay of pigs is not a conventional paramilitary covert action. it was never attempted again. it's a one-off. i think the other lesson that cia learn from this is, you have to involve your analysts. the ones who are most expert on a particular region. that was put into effect by allen dulles' successor of cia. dulles was required to resign. his successor made sure in covert action planning, the best experts, the analysts, would be involved so they could help the operational planners know, what is the ground truth? host: rowel castro has retired
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as head of the communist party and leader in cuba. looking back over those 60 years since the bay of pigs invasion, are we still living with the consequences of the bay of pigs invasion? guest: oh, yes. oh, yes. every time the united states intervenes in a country, we generally forget it. we are not all that historically minded as a people. perhaps some in cia will still remember it. one of my jobs as a cia historian was to ensure that the cia work force did not forget certain things. but when we intervene in foreign countries, they never forget it. cuba and the cuban leadership will remind us always that we had attempted this, this bungled operation to replace the government there. host: let's talk to bill,
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calling from dover, delaware. good morning. caller: good morning. i just wanted to say that 60 years ago, i was living with my family in northern virginia. my father woke me up and said hey, get up. you are not going to school today. something's going on. he woke my sister up and took us into the living room, sat us down in front of the -- we had a big old radio that had shortwave on it and everything, and he had the shortwave band that was being used by the cubans, the brigade to communicate back and forth. so we were actually listening to them talking on their radios during the invasion. subsequent to it. basically, it was a horrible disaster, of course. i remember my father identified voices on the radio, saying, i
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know this guy. he's pepe. he's one of the leaders. i recognize his voice. one of the things pepe said in spanish, which my father translated, was that, i've got one bullet left. we ran out of ammunition. our supply ships never came in, america never came through, i don't know what to do with this last bullet. should i shoot at one of the cubans coming down at us, or should i shoot myself? host: go ahead and respond, nicholas. guest: he used that last bullet to destroy his radio. yes, it was a frantic plea for help and shortly after that, they were completely out of ammunition and were captured. host: so are there any lessons we can take today from the failed bay of pigs invasion? guest: yes.
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when we are talking about covert actions that involve paramilitary activities, the president, then national security council and cia leadership need to really work through the assumptions behind it. the what if's. the problem with the bay of pigs was that every single part of it had to work perfectly for any of it to be successful. that is not the way to run a covert action. so more limited in scope if we are going to do it at all. there is still a debate on whether the u.s. military should do covert action, you know, of this type and leave the influence activities to cia. host: we would like to thank nicholas dujmovic, a former cia historian, for being with us
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this morning. thank you, nicholas. guest: thank you. it's been a pleasure. host: if you missed any of our conversation this morning with former cia historian nicholas dujmovic or want to watch it again, it re-airs tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv, which airs all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. we would like to thank our guests, viewers, and callers who joined us for c-span "washington . everyone continued to wash your hands and stay safe. have a great saturday, everyone. ♪ >> c-span is your unfiltered
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view of government, created by america's television companies in 1979. today we are brought to you by these companies who provide c-span2 viewers as a public service. ♪ >> today on the communicators, brendan carr -- >> you have mobile wireless competing. we have all this convergence. you have entities competing with very lopsided regulatory structures so that is a challenge at the sec. net neutrality an example of that. how do we take this internet infrastructure and regulated under this 1930's copper line telephone structure? that


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