Cuba 1961: The Bay of Pigs Invasion Explained

Graham Land

2 mins

16 Aug 2018

In April 1961, 2.5 years after the Cuban Revolution, which saw revolutionary forces led by Fidel Castro overthrow the United States-backed government of Fulgencio Batista, a force of CIA-trained and armed Cuban exiles invaded Cuba. Following a failed air raid on 15 April, a ground invasion by sea took place on 17 April.

The heavily outnumbered 1,400 anti-Castro Cuban soldiers must have been extremely deluded, as they were defeated in under 24 hours. The invading force suffered 114 casualties with over 1,100 taken prisoner.

Why did the invasion take place?

Though following the revolution Castro declared that he was not a communist, Revolutionary Cuba was not nearly as accommodating to US business interests as it was under Batista. Castro nationalised US-dominated businesses which operated on Cuban soil, such as the sugar industry and US-owned oil refineries. This led to the start of a US embargo against Cuba.

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Cuba suffered economically due to the embargo and Castro turned to the Soviet Union, with which he had established diplomatic relations just over a year after the revolution. All these reasons, plus Castro’s influence on other Latin American countries, did not suit American political and economic interests.

While US President John F. Kennedy was reluctant to enact his predecessor Eisenhower’s plan to arm and train an invading force of Cuban exiles, he nonetheless acquiesced to political pressure and gave the go-ahead.

Its failure was an embarrassment and naturally weakened US relations with both Cuba and the Soviets. However, though Kennedy was a staunch anti-communist, he did not want a war, and focused further efforts on espionage, sabotage and possible assassination attempts.