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What was the Bay of Pigs Invasion?

Updated on January 2, 2011

A bay on the south of the island of Cuba about 156 km from Havana, the Bay of Pigs derives its name from the Spanish Bahia de Cochinos. On 16 April 1961 it was the scene of one of the great disasters of modern American foreign policy. In the late 1950s the Cuban dictator Batista was deposed by Fidel Castro and his guerrilla forces. Castro established a communist regime in Cuba, which greatly alarmed the US government. He nationalised many American controlled industries, and consequently the United States imposed a trade embargo on Cuba. When Castro turned to the Soviet Union for military and economic aid Washington panicked. The Pentagon interpreted the Cuban situation as a direct threat to American territorial integrity and a contravention of the principles laid down in the Monroe Doctrine.

Under the aegis of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) a force of 1600 Cuban refugees, who had been trained by the CIA, were transported in American merchant vessels, escorted by ships of the US navy, to launch an invasion of Cuba. They planned to overthrow Castro's regime and replace it with one more amenable to the wishes of the United States. The invasion was a complete fiasco. At the last minute President ohn F. Kennedy forbade the use of US air force planes as air cover. The 1600 men landed at Playa Giron, on the west coast of the bay, and launched an attack through the swamps of the Peninsula de Zapata. They were opposed by a large force of Cuban militia and soldiers rallied by Castro. When the fighting ended on 19 April the invading force had lost 400 men killed or missing, the rest being taken prisoner.

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