Helisa Henderson

Mr. Topp

December 19th, 2017

Leaving the Past in the Past

“I wish you had written more, I
wish you had investigated more, because it might have saved the country of the
cataclysm of the Bay of Pigs.” These are the startling words of President John
F. Kennedy in a statement given to the New
York Times after the disaster of the Bay of Pigs. The Bay of Pigs was a
failed secret operation conducted by the U.S to remove communist leader Fidel
Castro from power in Cuba in 1961.  Before
Kennedy was elected, President Eisenhower had authorized the CIA to begin a
plan to overthrow Castro dating back to 1960. This plan was based on fear of
communists’ gains in the region which resulted in the cold war relations with
the Soviet Union, and the perceived threat of nuclear attack which made our
government fearful of any communist regimes. 
Due to the disastrous outcome, the Bay of Pigs caused more tension
between Cuba and the U.S after the failed invasion leaving a lasting impact on
the Kennedy administration.

The mission from the very beginning
was supposed to be “top secret,” because our government was not supposed to
meddle in other countries’ affairs.  If
U.S. citizens found out about these plans, it would cause a scandal and not
just here but also around the world.  Based
on United Nations resolutions, countries were not to interfere with our
governments unless

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there was a clear threat and it was
voted and approved by the U.N. Based on many mistakes made on the part of the U.S
government, the secret mission was discovered by the Cuban government. Evidence
shows the Castro government discovered the CIA plot before it was carried out.

The discovery was made when the Cubans through Cuban Nationals living in the
United States unintentionally leaked the timeline of the plan of when it would
happen and where. The first big error occurred when USB 26’s arrived an hour
late because of the U.S’s confusion in time zone. The U.S air force failed to
take in account the one hour time difference 
between the U.S and Cuba. This gave Castro more time to be prepared and
he had forces armed and ready at the Bay of Pigs which is a famous beach. In
addition to this oblivious error, the U.S tried to re-paint the B 26’s (which
happen to be former WWII battle planes) to try and make them look like Cuban
military planes. . .unsuccessfully.  The
idea that they thought they could pull off was having the Cubans thinking it
was their own planes and not attacking. In a book based on the attack, entitled
Presidents and Foreign Policy: Countdown
to Ten Controversial Decisions: The authors take on the situation, “When
the invasion occurred, nearly everything went wrong. It turned out to be a
total fiasco, ‘a perfect failure’ of presidential conduct of U.S foreign
policy” (Drachman and Shank, page 85.) After the first attack, photos where
released in the U.S showing U.S planes firing on the Cuban air force. This
created an instant backlash against the Kennedy administration and seemed to
turn public opinion in favor of the Cuban government. Because of all these
unfortunate events, the Cuban government knew about the “secret” operation and
this reflected negatively on Kennedy.


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 These events
targeting Cuba and its government, causes tensions between the two governments to
rise considerably. The Bay of Pigs mishap actually made Castro, ironically, look
good in comparison to Kennedy because this makes Kennedy look like the
aggressor who’s attacking without good cause. Likewise, Castro and Cuba seem to
look like the victim in this situation and are being “bullied” by a much bigger
nation. An example that highlights this is when the two governments decide to
exchange prisoners taken during the conflict. During these prisoner
negotiations, Castro requested medicine and baby food which totaled in 53
million dollars which were donated by companies all over the U.S as a condition
for their release In exchange for prisoners rather than money. (1962: Bay of
Pigs prisoners fly to freedom) Castro choosing these supplies over money truly
makes him look like a concerned leader and someone who genuinely cares about
his citizens. In comparison, photos emerging in the U.S. showed Kennedy’s
involvement in the plot and made the U.S public very upset with the President. The
U.S public felt that they could not trust the U.S government to tell the truth,
and freedom of the press became a very important topic. Due to the tension
between Kennedy and Castro, problems continue throughout this time and
culminate in the Cuban missile crisis.

Tensions reach a critical point in
1962 when the U.S discovers evidence of Nuclear missiles in Cuba targeting Florida.

The U.S. discovered that the Soviet Union, following the Bay of Pigs, had
installed nuclear missiles in Cuba targeting the U.S. (Schwarz, Benjamin). Once
it was confirmed, this causes President Kennedy to take action immediately. Castro,
with the backing of the Soviet Union and based on his current positive image,
tells the President he will not remove the missiles because they cannot trust
the United States after the Bay of Pigs

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incident. President Kennedy gives an ultimatum to remove the
missiles, or he would send U.S warships to the Cuban coastline. This
“quarantine” of U.S naval ships, causes a tense 13 days in which the whole
world seems to hold its breath, in an article entitled “The Real Cuban Missile Crisis” the author discusses the potential
threat. . . “This gambit forced the
two nations to the brink of nuclear Armageddon” (Schwarz, Benjamin.) At the
last minute, Castro and the Soviets back down and Kennedy is now seen as a
National hero. After the crisis is resolved, tensions between the two countries
subside for the time being.After nearly 60 years following the
Bay of Pigs disaster, tensions are finally beginning to lessen even though the
shadow of the Bay of Pigs continues to leave a lasting impact on not only the
Kennedy administration, but also its subsequent Presidential administrations.

Relations between the two countries today compared to back then are very
different and continue to move in a positive direction with visitors from
America flooding in for the first time in decades. This is a result of
President Obama ending the trade embargo and Cuba then lifting travel
restrictions to allow U.S citizens into the country in 2016. “I’ve witnessed
more change in Cuba within the past two years than in my prior two decades
traveling there,” says writer and Cuba and expert Christopher P. Baker.

(Salhani, Justin) the shining moment occurred when Barack Obama became the
first American President to visit Cuba in nearly a century and shook hands with
President Raúl Castro. (Roberts, Dan.) This significant milestone is the
re-connecting of families that have been separated by the travel ban. When
President Obama landed, he arrived with a delegation of about 1,200 people that
swept into Havana and “Closed a final chapter in cold war history and sealing
the diplomatic legacy of Obama’s Presidency” (Roberts, Dan.)  Henderson 5Based on the positive relations that continue to develop,
hopefully history will not be forgotten and Kennedy’s actions in the Bay of
Pigs will be looked at by this current administration as well as future ones of
how we can heal from the past, and move forward to a more peaceful and
prosperous future.


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