Bay of Pigs

President Kennedy and former President Eisenhower a few days after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, 22 Apr 1961.
President Kennedy and former President Eisenhower a few days after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, 22 Apr 1961.

Unhappy with Fidel Castro and the direction he was taking Cuba in, the United States government under President Eisenhower began plotting Castro's demise. This included assassination plots and also a plan for a CIA-trained group of Cuban exiles to invade the island.

The training of the exiles, which took place in Guatemala, did not achieve sufficient results to launch the invasion before the 1960 U.S. elections, which saw the defeat of Vice-President Richard Nixon to John F. Kennedy. Kennedy had used the "Cuba issue" in his campaign, and inherited a plan which the CIA assured him would succeed. Kennedy and his aides forced some modifications to the plan, to try to ensure that the invasion would not be perceived as led by the United States. This included relocating the landing location to an area known as the "Bay of Pigs."

On April 17, 1961, approximately 1300 exiles landed in Cuba. They were quickly overwhelmed by Cuban military forces, with many killed and the bulk of the men captured. President Kennedy refused to order additional air strikes, beyond some initial sorties which had failed to disable the Cuban air force, and for this some attribute the operation's failure to Kennedy.

An internal CIA investigation conducted in 1961 and finally declassified in 1998 put the blame squarely on the CIA's shoulders (though it is accompanied by a scathing rebuttal written by Deputy Director Tracey Barnes). In hindsight, the plan seems so unlikely to succeed that some speculate that CIA planners must have counted on some other factor - possibly the simultaneous assassination of Fidel Castro. Or, perhaps the planners were counting on President Kennedy, faced with impending failure, to send in the U.S. military to rescue the situation. Instead, Kennedy accepted a humilating defeat, soon moved to take military operations out of the hands of the CIA, and obtained the resignations of high-level CIA officials including Director Allen Dulles and covert action head Richard Bissell.



The CIA's Cuban Cover-Up, by Peter Kornbluh.

Back to the Bay of Pigs, by John Dinges.

The Bay of Pigs Revisited, by Michael Morrissey.

The Bay of Pigs The Pivotal Operation of the JFK Era, by L. Fletcher Prouty.

History of Cuban exile pilots who served in the Congo in the early 1960s being preserved, by Luisa Yanez.


MILITARY EVALUATION OF THE CIA PARA-MILITARY PLAN, CUBA. The Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted this evaluation of the CIA's invasion plan in February 1961, generally giving it their approval.

NSC MEETING AT THE WHITE HOUSE, 10 A.M., 22 APRIL 1961. Minutes of the National Security Council meeting called in the aftermath of the failed invasion.

CIA's Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation:

Inspector General's two-volume Survey of the Cuban Operation and Related Documents:

  • Volume 1 consists mainly of the Inspector General report on the Bay of Pigs failure.
  • Volume 2 is largely a rebuttal of the IG Report by the CIA's Deputy Director for Plans.

Other Links

The ULTRASENSITIVE Bay of Pigs: Newly Released Portions of Taylor Commission Report Provide Critical New Details on Operation Zapata. This National Security Archive electronic briefing book discusses of the Taylor Report, which documented the failures of the Bay of Pigs, and presents excerpts from it.

Bay of Pigs: 40 Years After. An international conference on the Bay of Pigs, whose participants included former adversaries from Cuba and the U.S., was held in Havana in March, 2001. See details and documents released at the conference.

Bay of Pigs materials in CIA's Electronic Reading Room. The CIA's website has the two-volume CIA internal Inspector General's report, plus an assortment of other documents related to the Bay of Pigs.

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Volume X: Cuba, 1961-1962. Brigade 2506, the name of the invasion force, has a website devoted to it. Some of the material is in English, and some in Spanish.

Related Starting Points


Peter Dale Scott sets the stage for Kennedy's inheriting the Bay of Pigs invasion plan, and discusses the issue of the requested air strikes which Kennedy didn't supply.
(running time: 2:10)

Books of Interest

    Bay of Pigs Declassified
Peter Kornbluh, ed.
New Press, 1998
    The Bay of Pigs: The Leader's Story of Brigade 2506
Haynes Johnson, Artime, Manuel,San Roman, Jose P.
W.W. Norton and Company, 1964
    Bay of Pigs: The Untold Story
Peter Wyden
Simon and Schuster, 1962
    The Bay of Pigs
Howard Jones
Oxford, 2008
    Give Us This Day
E. Howard Hunt
Arlington House, 1973
    Operation Zapata
Thomas F. Troy, General Editor
University Publications of America, 1981

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