There is often a misconception when talking about invasion of “The Bay of Pigs” for those who haven’t actually delved into the matter to put the entire blame of the disaster on the Kennedy Administration. One of the members of the cabinet who took the most heat was Secretary of State Dean Rusk was always viewed as kind of an aloof and coy type of fellow. I kind of get the impression that Mr. Rusk was always seemingly a political liability for Kennedy. Plus, I have my doubts that Rusk was a very good Secretary of State due to JFK always going to his brother Bobby, the Attorney General (who should have been advancing his efforts to destruct the mob) and not Rusk more often then he did. I know John Kennedy of course trusted his brother more then he would a simpleton political appointee like Rusk, but you would think Mr. Rusk would have played a larger role in issues such as The Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and “Operation Mongoose” which was the plot which attempted to kill Castro after The Bay of Pigs debacle The Kennedy Administration certainly deserves a heavy share of criticism for the botched sortie, but truthfully the blame could go through several administrations. Yes, the fact also remains that the actual Bay of Pigs invasion didn’t actually transpire “until April 1961”. (Weiner pg. 6A.)
The ball to overthrow Castro really started rolling during the Eisenhower Administration. During Ike’s tenure the world had seen Fidel and his revolutionaries come into power following their successful rebellion against Cuban fascist Premiere Fulgenico Batista and his Bastianos in 1959. (Boyer pg. 163.) It could be said that old Richard Nixon who was Vice President of the United States of course at the time who was the first major dignitary to meet Castro on American soil should have warned more folks within the State Department about the trepidations he had after meeting Castro. Nixon would write later “It seemed to me that until he demonstrated some intention of modifying his anti-American stance he should not be accorded the same treatment I would give to other visiting foreign officials.” (Wyden pg. 27-28.) in reference to his conference with Castro. Looking back at it, some could begin to wonder if the meeting would have gone differently if Eisenhower himself had gone or if John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State would have made a more suitable diplomat to meet with Castro. However, John Foster Dulles was to retire the very next week and it did not seem appropriate to have Castro meet a guy that would soon be absent from the ambassadorial scene. Eisenhower himself could have gone yet, he came to realize that despite his disdain for Nixon (which is somewhat amusing since they would later go on to become in-laws) that Richard needed this kind of experience under his belt especially if Nixon was to take over as soon as 1961. A communist state still being intact “just 90 miles off the coast of Florida” (Weiner pg. 10.) was not a grand thought for anyone within the Eisenhower Administration. Castro himself wasn’t exactly a truthful revolutionary however; the truth is that he was “born in 1926 to a family of affluent landowners.” (Frankel pg. 61) With Castro taking charge in 1959 it made “Cuba, the Western Hemisphere’s last bastion of Marxism- Leninism, billboards promote Communism, not consumerism (Rodman pg. 1)
The Central Intelligence Agency did most of the preliminary planning for the foray into Cuba under the direction of Allen W. Dulles. For Allen’s part though he did get fired for misleading Kennedy on the catastrophe. Dulles probably wasn’t as involved as he should have been because his Undersecretary Dick Bissell was more prone to get involved in turf wars and with his abrasive personality Bissell would often shield himself from other considerable people in key departments who should have been given more information then they were granted. Mr. Bissell is who can be considered to be the chief operator of the incursion within the C.I.A., Jake Engler was officially named the head of the application, however as far as I can tell his role was far less crucial then that of Bissell’s. Let me go a step further and say that I commend the C.I.A. and the Eisenhower Administration for wanting to overthrow Castro. Despite his rather subdued outlook on life nowadays I would have to say that the world would of course be a far better place if Fidel Castro were not in power. He is an evil individual who has imprecated thousands if not millions of innocent people during his reign of power.
The U.S. had of course overthrown dissident governments before the prime model and the most glowing example of this during the Eisenhower Administration was in 1954 when the government of Castilla Armas a more pro-American, anti-communist regime was put in place in order to spread more democracy and economic freedom within Latin America. It took a mere ten days for the C.I.A. orchestrated revolution to succeed in Guatemala. Dick Bissell, Jake Engler, and E. Howard Hunt-later of Watergate fame were riding high over the situation and sort of got it in their heads that they could conquer the world. In fact the Guatemalan effort had been so fruitful and almost painless that Ike was even proud enough to let his wife Mimi into the briefing about how splendid the operation had gone. (Wyden pg. 20.) Eisenhower, the old General always conscious of the casualties and horrors of war asked a staff member if Armas had lost many men in the operation, when Dwight learned that only one individual a non-soldier at that was the only fatality of the conflict Ike was elated. When it became apparent in 1959 that Castro was not the congenial Fidel that everyone wanted, but was in fact a dictator suppressing his people who had communists and communist sympathizers to quote Sen. George Smuthers (D-FL) “peppered throughout his government” (Wyden pg. 26.) murmurs of having to break out the old Guatemalan gameplan became prevalent. Dick Bissell, a staunch anti-communist was more then eager to convert masses of Cubans with a strategy very similar to the one that was used in the Guatemalan undertaking. With the 1960 election looming however, folks like Bissell pondered about the possibility of a change in policy if a Democrat were to win the election over Richard Nixon.
Another misconception out there is that Richard Nixon and John Kennedy hated each other their entire careers. This could not be further from the truth. Many Democrats today when you point out the donation that I referenced about was just a keen political move by some wealthy political savvy folks. The truth is that Kennedy respected Nixon for his rabid tactics he used while bludgeoning commies. John Kennedy was often put on his death bed several times over the years and he and Nixon spent quite a bit of time together working in offices across the hall from one another when Nixon became Vice President under Eisenhower. Nixon was always known to be emotionally upset when Kennedy began to fall apart due to his Addison’s disease which is a malfunctioning of your adrenal glands. Dick Nixon would often send friendly notes to the Kennedy family over their years in the Senate together.
Kennedy even made sure that Nixon was one of the first to receive a signed copy of the Pulitzer Prize winning “Profiles in Courage” As far as that book goes there was always gossip that Kennedy had a ghostwriter touch up the format for him. Ted Sorenson, an aide for Jack Kennedy of course later confided that he did develop the manuscript for the book because Kennedy was much for the mundane intricacies of equipping a manuscript, but I think to imply that Kennedy did not anything of the story and wasn’t really focused on the book was preposterous. One thing that I do think that could be and should be questioned is the fact that Kennedy won the Pulitzer when he was just starting to come into the public eye, but his father Joe’s relationship with folks like a famous journalists such as William Randolph Hearst and other key correspondents who were on the nominating board for the Pulitzer.
Kennedy discussed in that book what kind of tough decisions a leader has to make while holding office. Kennedy would often go back and forth on making the decision on whether Americans should be involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion John decided that no Americans really should participate in the direct military operations of the invasion, however “Kennedy’s orders “were ignored by Americans pilots such as Wade C. Gray” when some of the Cubans who were suppose to fly the mission became exhausted” (Johnson pg. 54.) Kennedy was very uncomfortable with insubordinate military men such as Gray “however there was truly very little he could do at that point in March 1961.” (Johnson pg. 103) It kind of makes me wonder whether many military men resented a guy like Kennedy because of all the good publicity he received from his PT-109 boat incident in WWII where Kennedy valiantly saved most of his crewmates lives. You’ve also got to wonder what Kennedy’s thoughts were as he’d been through battle himself as he heard the news of “114 American commandos died, 1,189 were captured” (Weiner pg. 9) I’m sure as the sky is blue that Kennedy was tormented by the whole event and never got over that for the rest of his life. One of John Kennedy most famous lines was about making sacrifice for your country. I must say that there is no greater sacrifice than losing your life for the independence and freedom of a great country. In fact even though Fulgencio Batista was a nefarious right-wing fascist you’ve got to admire the bravery of the Bastianos as well who died during the invasion. A question that keeps coming back in my mind is if the CIA bobbled their plans in Cuba (which they did) partly due to the secretive nature of guys like Dulles and Bissell then why in the world was Dulles allotted a spot on the Warren Commission which of course investigated the murder of John Kennedy. Was the Bay of Pigs the foundation of when America started to lose faith in their government? Was the event the occurrence where America lost its innocence? I am beginning to think so. I think that is a very important question to ask and maybe many historians agree.
Works CitedBoyer, Paul S. Promises to Keep: The United States Since World War II. 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Miffilin Company, 2005. textbook Chesipuk, Ron. “Cuban Libraries: 30 Years after the Revolution.” American Libraries Nov. 1990: 4.ERIC. EBSCO. Keokuk IA. 23 Feb. 2006 . Corn, David, and Gus Russo. “The Old Man and The CIA: a Kennedy Plot to Kill Castro.” The Nation [Washington D.C.] 26 Mar. 2001, natl. ed.: 15-18. Newspaper Source. EBSCO. Karre Lib. Keokuk, IA. 19 Feb. 2006. Griffin, Rodman D. “Cuba in Crisis.” CQ Researcher Online 28 Nov. 1991. 22 Feb. 2006 document.php?id=cqresrre1991112900&type=hitlist&num=1&PHPSESSID=ho5rjeiieaj7ra9r9di1v9u0q0>. Johnson, Haynes Bonner. The Bay of Pigs: The Leaders’ Story of Brigade 2056. New York: Norton, 1964. Yohe Library, Call Number: 972-91-42b Masci, David. “Is Cuba’s ‘Maximum Leader’ Mellowing?” CQ Researcher Online 9 Dec. 1997. 22 Feb. 2006 document.php?id=cqresrre1997121200&type=hitlist&num=0&PHPSESSID=vqe6m5h11eken4cmppbbhsl5r5>. Mathews, Chris. Kennedy and Nixon: The Rivarly That Shaped Postwar America. New York: Simon & Shuster, 1996. Keokuk Public Library Nixon, Richard M., and John F. Kennedu. Kennedy-Nixon Debate. ABC. New York City. 21 Oct. 1960.World News Digest 20 Feb. 2006: 1-9. Facts On File World News Digest @ FACTS.com. Facts On File News Services. 20 Feb. 2006 . Weiner, Tim. “C.I.A Bares It’s Bunggling in Report on Bay of Pigs.” New York Times 21 Feb. 1998, late ed., sec. 1: 6. LexisNexis Academic. LexisNexis. Karre Lib., Keokuk, IA. 13 Feb. 2006 . Wyden, Peter. “The Bay of Pigs: The Untold Story. New York: Simon & Shuster, 1979. Keokuk Public Library