Bay of Pigs

The Bay of Pigs

After the fall of Santa Clara in late 1958 and Castro’s triumphant entrance into Havana on January 8, 1959, Che’s role in the revolution changed. So did his personal life. In the spring of 1959 he divorced his first wife Hilda Gadea and married a fellow guerilla fighter, Aleida March. They were to have four children. Aleida March later wrote Remembering Che: My Life with Che Guevara in which she described her relationship with revolutionary idealogue from the early days of their romance in the Sierra Meastra Mountains to his murder in Bolivia.

Che-Guevara-and-his-FamilyChe assumed the role of managing agrarian and industrial reforms in Cuba. As a bureaucrat he was somewhat less successful than he had been as a guerilla fighter. His real skill was in interpreting the ideology of the revolution and how it could be realized in practical changes. (A 1959 interview with Che by Chinese Journalists regarding Agrarian Reforms) Although Che was to all intents and purposes a bureaucrat in the new government the people of Cuba continued to honor him as a military hero.

After the explosions on the armaments ship La Coubre on March 4, 1960, the Cuban military was on high alert expecting more American aggression. It was known in Cuba that American President Dwight D. Eisenhower had allocated a large sum to the CIA to prepare an invasion of Cuba. This was in response to Castro’s expropriation of American oil refineries, sugar plantations and sugar refining operations and eventually virtually all American assets in Cuba. As well, the assets of Cubans who had fled the country after the fall of Fulgencio Batista, were expropriated by the new government.

Che-Guevara-with-Aleida-in-1960The proposed invasion of Cuba, financed by the CIA and the Mafia and under CIA command, involved training of expatriate Cubans. 1400 paramilitary were assembled in Guatemala. They were designated as Brigade 2506. As the armed wing of Democratic Revolutionary Front (DRF) they were mostly drawn from Cuban refugees who had settled in Florida. It was expected that when they landed in Cuba they would be joined by pockets of right-wing guerillas that had harassed Castro’s forces since the establishment of the revolutionary government. Practice amphibious landings were conducted on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

Anticipating the invasion, Che said that “all the Cuban people must become a guerilla army, each and every Cuban must learn to handle and if necessary use fire arms in defense of the nation.” Castro as commander-in-chief of the Cuban military divided the defence of the nation between his brother Raúl who was to command of forces in the east and Che who was in put in command of the western forces based in Pinar del Rio.

Che-Guevara-and-Bay-of-Pigs-InvasionPresident John F. Kennedy, soon after his inauguration on January 20, 1961, gave the order for the proposed invasion of Cuba to go ahead. The first action consisted of the bombing of Cuban airfields on April 15 by B-26B Invaders crewed by Cuban refugees. The bombers had been modified by the CIA and were painted with markings of Castro’s Cuban Revolutionary Air Force. They inflicted some damage. The false markings did not fool anyone. Some of them were downed by Cuban anti-aircraft fire. A number of fake landings on various parts of the Cuban coastline were made to mislead the Cuban defenders. Che chasing after one of these was not present when the full invasion occurred on April 16 at the Playa Girón in the Bay of Pigs.

Che-Guevara-with-Fidel-Castro-After-Cuben-RevolutionThe troops of Brigade 2506 rushed ashore and pushed back the defending Cuban militia. Castro hurried to the scene and took command and over three days his army repulsed the invaders and took many prisoners. On April 20 the remaining invaders surrendered.

Castro, realizing the new Cuba could not achieve peace with the Americans and emboldened by his victory, declared Cuba to be a Marxist-Leninist state and turned more decisively to the Soviet Union for support. This would eventually lead to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Che Guevara acting as spokesman for the Cuban regime stated that the Bay of Pigs Invasion was a godsend for the Cuban revolution. It not only was a political victory but it allowed the state to rise to become equal to the United States on the international stage. He gave a lengthy interview to the Monthly Review stating categorically that the failed invasion marked the end of all counter-revolutionary activity in Cuba.

In America the debacle at the Bay of Pigs was investigated meticulously as it was a serious affront to national pride. (Full CIA Reports on the Bay of Pigs Invasion)


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