1. The Bay of Pigs
and The Cuban
BAY OF PIGS INVASION APRIL 17,
1961 JFK’S BATTLES
CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS OCTOBER 22,
NOVEMBER 20, 1962
2. Fidel Castro and
On January 1, 1959, a young Cuban nationalist
named Fidel Castro drove his guerrilla army into
Havana and overthrew Fulgencio Batista, the nation’s
Many Cubans welcomed Castro’s 1959 overthrow of
the dictatorial Batista, yet the new order on the island
just about 90 miles from the United States made
American officials nervous. Batista had been a corrupt
and repressive dictator, but he was considered to be
pro-American and was an ally to U.S. corporations.
3. “Cuba Sí, Yanquis No”
At that time, American businesses and wealthy individuals owned almost half of
Cuba’s sugar plantations and the majority of its cattle ranches, mines and utilities.
Batista did little to restrict their operations. He was also reliably anticommunist.
Castro, by contrast, was a communist who disapproved of the approach that Americans
took to their business and interests in Cuba. It was time, he believed, for Cubans to
assume more control of their nation. “Cuba Sí, Yanquis No” became one of his most
4. Eisenhower and the Cold
Almost as soon as he came to power, Castro took
steps to reduce American influence on the island.
He nationalized American-dominated industries
such as sugar and mining, introduced land reform
schemes and called on other Latin American
governments to act with more autonomy.
•In response, early in 1960 President Dwight D. Eisenhower
authorized the CIA to recruit 1,400 Cuban exiles—living in Miami
and led by José Miró Cardona, a former Castro government
official—and begin training them to overthrow Castro.
5. CUBANS LEAVING FOR THE us
Once Castro was overthrown, many Cubans fled Cuba for the US due to Castro’s nationalization of
businesses, which forced many people into poverty. They had to leave so quickly, they couldn’t take much
6. The Soviet Union Steps In
In May 1960, Castro established diplomatic relations
with the Soviet Union, and the United States
responded by prohibiting the importation of Cuban
sugar. To prevent the Cuban economy from
collapsing—sugar exports to the United States
comprised 80 percent of the country’s total—the
U.S.S.R. agreed to buy the sugar.
In January 1961, the U.S. government severed
diplomatic relations with Cuba and stepped up its
preparations for an invasion. Some State Department
and other advisors to the new American president, John
F. Kennedy, maintained that Castro posed no real
threat to America.
7. Bay of Pigs Invasion Begins
The first part of the plan was to destroy Castro’s tiny air force, making it
impossible for his military to resist the invaders. On April 15, 1961, a group of Cuban exiles
took off from Nicaragua in a squadron of American B-26 bombers, painted to look
like stolen Cuban planes, and conducted a strike against Cuban airfields.
However, it turned out that Castro and his advisers knew about the raid and moved
his planes out of harm’s way. Frustrated, Kennedy began to suspect that the plan the CIA
had promised would be “both clandestine and successful” might in fact be “too large to be
clandestine and too small to be successful.”
But it was too late to hit the brakes: On April 17, the Cuban exile brigade began
its invasion at an isolated spot on the island’s southern shore
known as the Bay of Pigs.
Almost immediately, the invasion was a disaster. The CIA had wanted to keep it a secret
for as long as possible, but a radio station on the beach (which the agency’s reconnaissance
team had failed to spot) broadcast every detail of the operation to listeners across
Cuba. Unexpected coral reefs sank some of the exiles’ ships as they pulled into shore.
Backup paratroopers landed in the wrong place.
8. Spy plane in
Cleveland Park –
Greenville high school
graduate Major Rudolf
Anderson Jr. was shot down
over Cuba in a U-2 spy plane
during the 1962 Missile Crisis
(He was the only American
killed by enemy fire during
that near-war). At the time
U-2s were unavailable (and
still in covert service), so the
town acquired a Korean War-
era F-86 Sabre Jet like one
Anderson had flown on
10. Aftermath of the Bay of Pigs
According to many historians, the CIA and the Cuban exile brigade believed that
President Kennedy would eventually allow the American military to intervene in Cuba on
their behalf. However, the president was resolute: As much as he did not want to
“abandon Cuba to the communists,” he said, he would not start a fight that might end
in World War III.
His efforts to overthrow Castro never flagged—in November 1961, Kennedy approved
Operation Mongoose, an espionage and sabotage campaign—but never went so far as
to provoke an outright war. In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis inflamed American-Cuban-
Soviet tensions even further.
11. OPERATION MONGOOSE
The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion in
April 1961 was a disaster for the Kennedy
administration. It made the young president
look weak and gave fuel to Cold Warriors in
both parties who could not stand the
presence of a Soviet-aligned, Communist
dictatorship just ninety miles south of
The Game of Espionage
Small, covert, special operations -- not
another large-scale military invasion --
would be the method this time. Kennedy's
term of art was "counterinsurgency," also
described as "social reform under
pressure." He was so enamored of the
fearless commandos and real-life James
Bonds who did such work that he once
NEVER WRITE IT
The CIA had been plotting to assassinate Castro since the
summer of 1960, even before John Kennedy was elected. A
congressional investigation of the CIA later uncovered eight
separate plots of varying ridiculousness between 1960 and
1965. But did either John or Robert Kennedy actually order him
killed? History will probably never know. The Kennedys knew the
meaning of the term "plausible deniability" all too well and had been
taught the old Boston Irish political rule, "never write it down.“
The CIA and the Mob
The pressure was so great that it led to one of the most
controversial and grotesque chapters in presidential history: the
hiring of the Mafia to help assassinate Castro. Though the
details are murky and RFK's involvement has never been proven, it
went something like this. CIA operatives, aware that the Mob was
eager to renew the profitable gambling business it enjoyed under
the Batista regime, hired Mafia hitman Johnny Rosselli to kill
Castro. If this wasn't sordid enough, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover
learned of the plot from FBI surveillance of Mob boss Sam
Giancana, who just happened to share a mistress with John
Kennedy. These machinations have provided much of the fuel
behind various conspiracy theories of John Kennedy's
assassination in Dallas in 1963.
14. Who Knew?
It is unclear whether the Kennedys knew
what was going on. There is evidence that
John Kennedy opposed the assassination
as policy. Bobby's biographer Evan Thomas
concludes, "the Kennedys may have
discussed the idea of assassination as a
weapon of last resort. But they did not
know the particulars of the Harvey-
Rosselli operation -- or want to."
Even with all the money and elaborate
measures being thrown at the problem,
removing Castro proved easier said than
done. Thomas writes that "after seven
months, Kennedy's secret war... was
hopelessly bogged down, riven by
personality clashes, incapable of
producing the 'boom and bang' that
Kennedy wanted to see on the island."
16. 13 Days
During the Cuban Missile
Crisis, leaders of the U.S.
and the Soviet Union
engaged in a tense, 13-
day political and military
standoff in October 1962
over the installation of
missiles on Cuba, just 90
miles from U.S. shores.
18. Americans find out
John F. Kennedy - Cuban Missile Crisis speech
In a TV address on October 22, 1962, President John F. Kennedy (1917-63) notified
Americans about the presence of the missiles, explained his decision to enact a naval
blockade around Cuba and made it clear the U.S. was prepared to use military
force if necessary to neutralize this perceived threat to national security. Following
this news, many people feared the world was on the brink of nuclear war. However,
disaster was avoided when the U.S. agreed to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s (1894-
1971) offer to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for the U.S. promising not to
Kennedy also secretly agreed to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey. about the presence
of the missiles, explained his decision to enact a naval blockade around Cuba and made
it clear the U.S. was prepared to use military force if necessary to neutralize this
perceived threat to national security. Following this news, many people feared the world
was on the brink of nuclear war. However, disaster was avoided when the U.S. agreed to
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s (1894-1971) offer to remove the Cuban missiles in
exchange for the U.S. promising not to invade Cuba. Kennedy also secretly agreed to
remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.
MISSILES IN CUBA
The two superpowers plunged
into one of their biggest Cold
War confrontations after the
pilot of an American U-2 spy
plane piloted by Major Richard
Heyser making a high-altitude
pass over Cuba on October 14,
1962, photographed a Soviet
SS-4 medium-range ballistic
missile being assembled for
22. CASTRO AND
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had
gambled on sending the missiles to Cuba
with the specific goal of increasing his
nation’s nuclear strike capability. The Soviets
had long felt uneasy about the number of
nuclear weapons that were targeted at
them from sites in Western Europe and
Turkey, and they saw the deployment of
missiles in Cuba as a way to level the
playing field. Another key factor in the Soviet
missile scheme was the hostile relationship
between the U.S. and Cuba. The Kennedy
administration had already launched one
attack on the island–the failed Bay of Pigs
invasion in 1961–and Castro and
Khrushchev saw the missiles as a means
of deterring further U.S. aggression.
23. BLOCKADE OF RUSSIAN NAVAL SHIPS -
From the outset of the crisis, Kennedy and ExComm determined that the presence of
Soviet missiles in Cuba was unacceptable. The challenge facing them was to
orchestrate their removal without initiating a wider conflict–and possibly a nuclear
war. In deliberations that stretched on for nearly a week, they came up with a variety of
- a bombing attack on the missile sites and a full-scale invasion of Cuba.
But Kennedy ultimately decided on a more measured approach.
- First, he would employ the U.S. Navy to establish a blockade, or quarantine, of the
island to prevent the Soviets from delivering additional missiles and military equipment.
- Second, he would deliver an ultimatum that the existing missiles be removed.
25. Showdown at Sea: U.S. Blockades
A crucial moment in the unfolding crisis arrived on October 24, when Soviet ships
bound for Cuba neared the line of U.S. vessels enforcing the blockade. An attempt
by the Soviets to breach the blockade would likely have sparked a military
confrontation that could have quickly escalated to a nuclear exchange. But the
Soviet ships stopped short of the blockade.
26. Will it come to Nuclear War?
Although the events at sea offered a positive sign that war could be averted, they did
nothing to address the problem of the missiles already in Cuba. The tense standoff
between the superpowers continued through the week, and on October 27, an American
reconnaissance plane was shot down over Cuba, and a U.S. invasion force was readied
in Florida. (The 35-year-old pilot of the downed plane, Major Rudolf Anderson, is
considered the sole U.S. combat casualty of the Cuban missile crisis.) “I thought it was
the last Saturday I would ever see,” recalled U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert
McNamara (1916-2009), as quoted by Martin Walker in “The Cold War.” A similar sense
of doom was felt by other key players on both sides.
•At the peak of the crisis, the United States had some 3,500 nuclear weapons ready to
use on command, while the Soviet Union had perhaps 300-500. The Cuban Missile
Crisis order of battle of useable weapons represented only a small portion of the total
inventories of nuclear warheads the United States and Russia possessed at the time.
27. A Deal Ends the Standoff
Despite the enormous tension, Soviet and American leaders found
a way out of the impasse. During the crisis, the Americans and
Soviets had exchanged letters and other communications, and
on October 26, Khrushchev sent a message to Kennedy in
which he offered to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for
a promise by U.S. leaders not to invade Cuba. The following day,
the Soviet leader sent a letter proposing that the USSR would
dismantle its missiles in Cuba if the Americans removed their
missile installations in Turkey.
Officially, the Kennedy administration decided to accept the
terms of the first message and ignore the second Khrushchev
letter entirely. Privately, however, American officials also agreed to
withdraw their nation’s missiles from Turkey. U.S. Attorney General
Robert Kennedy (1925-68) personally delivered the message to the
Soviet ambassador in Washington, and on October 28, the crisis
drew to a close.
Both the Americans and Soviets were sobered by the Cuban
Missile Crisis. The following year, a direct “hot line”
communication link was installed between Washington and
Moscow to help defuse similar situations, and the superpowers
signed two treaties related to nuclear weapons. The Cold War and
the nuclear arms race were far from over, though. In fact, another
legacy of the crisis was that it convinced the Soviets to increase
their investment in an arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles
capable of reaching the U.S. from Soviet territory.