The 1960s

The Bay of Pigs (1961)

I - S


Johnson, Haynes, with Manuel Artime, José Peréz San Román, Erneido Oliva, and Enrique Ruiz-Williams. The Bay of Pigs: The Leaders' Story of Brigade 2506. New York: Norton, 1964. London: Hutchinson, 1965.

Constantinides: "Along with other Cuban exiles, the four commanders of the brigade ... told their portion of the story to Johnson.... [He] devoted much less attention to the story of the operation from inside the U.S. government and especially CIA.... Johnson put more faith in the reliability and objectivity of the Castro government's published versions than experience with such regimes would seem to warrant."

In a contemporaneous review, Kirkpatrick, Studies 8.4 (Fall 1964), says that this book "is well done, and a reasonable book about a disaster.... [It] is especially good, and probably quite accurate, about the efforts made to free the prisoners and their eventual release. It is weak and sketchy, for obvious reasons, about the planning and execution of the operation from the U.S. viewpoint."

Jones, Howard. The Bay of Pigs. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. 2010. [pb]

DeBenedictis, Cold War Times 8.4 (Nov. 2008), believes the author breaks "new ground both with documentation and interpretation." He also paints with "a broader Cold War brush in showing the foreign relations legacy of both the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The legacy touched future presidents during the Vietnam War and beyond." Schwab, IJI&C 22.1 (Spring 2009), sees the criticism of the operation in this "incisive and comprehensive study" as "even-handed." For Fischer, I&NS 25.2 (Apr.2010), the "book is succinct but comprehensive.... [I]t is fair and judicious in explaining what happened and why and apportioning blame for the outcome."

Kornbluh, Peter. "The CIA Secret Kept for 37 Years." Washington Post, 15 Mar. 1998, C1. "Keeping a Fiasco Under Wraps." Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 23 Mar. 1998, 23.

This is an Op-Ed piece on the release of "The Inspector General's Survey of the Cuban Operation." The author uses the opportunity to rage against the "abuse of secrecy" and "the agency's traditional pathology of secrecy." The problem is that his presentation is so filled with spite that it is difficult to sort the relevant points from the bile.

Kornbluh, Peter, ed. Bay of Pigs Declassified: The Secret CIA Report on the Invasion of Cuba. New York: New Press, 1998.

Clark comment: This reprint of the CIA Inspector General's report includes Deputy Director for Plans Richard Bissell's rebuttal. The editor has also included a chronology and other materials. Thomas Powers, NYRB, 4 Feb. 1999, says that this is "one of the half dozen basic texts on the United States and Cuba in the 1960s, and that makes it required reading for anyone who wants to understand what happened to the United States after World War II."

Loeb, Vernon. "Soviets Knew Date of Cuba Attack." Washington Post, 29 Apr. 2000, A4. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

According to a newly declassified version of the Taylor Commission report, Jacob D. Esterline, "the CIA operations official who headed the task force responsible for coordinating the [Cuban] invasion," told the Commission "that the Soviet Union had somehow learned the exact date of the amphibious landing in advance." Even with knowledge of the leak, the CIA went on with the invasion.

Lynch, Grayston L. Decision for Disaster: Betrayal at the Bay of Pigs. Washington, DC, Brassey's, 1998.

Goulden, Intelligencer 10.2, notes that the author "was one of two CIA officers ashore" with the Cuban brigade, and he writes of the Bay of Pigs events with a "cold fury." Jonkers, AIJ 18.1&2, notes rather gently that "no field operative can ever know all the elements upon which top command decisions are based." Nevertheless, "[f]or clandestine operations history buffs, [this is] an action-packed story by a field operative."

Paschall, MHQ Review, Autumn 1998, is positive about Lynch's telling of the Bay of Pigs operational story: "The book grabs and retains the reader's attention with fast-paced action, convincing tactical commentary, tales of bravery, a few accounts of cowardice, and the story of a brutal, tragic end to the enterprise." However, the second half of the book, with its attacks on President Kennedy and refutations of other writers' works on the operation, "becomes overblown.... Grayston Lynch should have stopped while he was ahead."

Meyer, Karl E., and Tad Szulc. The Cuban Invasion: The Chronicle of a Disaster. New York: Praeger, 1962.

Constantinides notes that while this account was written shortly after the event, it is "well done and stands up in its essentials.... The thesis presented [is] that it was the intelligence bureaucracy and the bureaucracy in general that were the institutional villains, rather than individuals."

Persons, Albert C. Bay of Pigs: A Firsthand Account of the Mission by a U.S. Pilot in Support of the Cuban Invasion Force in 1961. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1990.

Surveillant 1.2: "A personal recollection of a CIA contract pilot." This book supplies an "interesting perspective to this unsuccessful covert operation."

Pfeiffer, Jack. The Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation, Volume III: Evolution of CIA's Anti-Castro Policies, 1951-January 1961. [http://www14.homepage.villanova.edu/david.barrett/bop.html]

This document appears at the address above. The site belongs to: David M. Barrett, Ph.D., Department of Political Science, Villanova University.

Dr. Barrett states: "During the 1970s, CIA historian Jack Pfeiffer wrote a Top Secret multi-volume history of 1961's Bay of Pigs intervention in Cuba. Before his death, Pfeiffer sued unsuccessfully to de-classify some of the History. Though it is widely believed that all volumes are still classified, one is available at National Archives' JFK Assassination Records Collection. Pfeiffer writes of incompetence at CIA, of an out-of-touch Allen Dulles, of too-close relations between CIA and anti-Castro U.S. corporate leaders, and about 'The Question of Assassination.'" The Introduction and Chapters 1 through 8 are available as PDF files.

Rasenberger, Jim. The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs. New York: Scribner, 2011.

Chapman, IJI&C 25, no. 1 (Spring 2012), finds that this is a "remarkably detailed" account that "gives a blow-by-blow description of the fighting on the beachhead." For Coffey, Studies 55.4 (Dec. 2011), "Rasenberger does a terrific job of documenting the faults of all parties engaged in the operation." Feinberg, FA 91, no. 5 (Sep.-Oct. 2012), notes that the author "puts forward the novel theory that, whether through luck or calculation, the outcome for [President] Kennedy was fortuitous: the failed invasion disposed of the pesky Cuban exiles and avoided the high costs of an American occupation."

Reston, James. "Rusk Declares Sympathy of Nation for Castro Foes." New York Times, 18 Apr. 1961.

The Secretary of State has expressed "the sympathy of the American people for those who struck against Castroism in Cuba, but emphasized 'there is not and will not be any intervention there by United States forces.' The Administration did not deny that it was giving material support to the raiding parties, but this aid was undoubtedly on a much smaller scale than originally planned here and the landings in Cuba were much smaller than excited reports of 'invasion' suggested."

Szulc, Tad. "Anti-Castro Units Land in Cuba; Report Fighting at Beachhead." New York Times, 18 Apr. 1961.

"Rebel troops opposed to Premier Fidel Castro landed before dawn [on 17 April 1961] on the swampy southern coast of Cuba in Las Villas Province. The attack, which was supported from the air, was announced by the rebels and confirmed by the Cuban Government."

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