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An extremely important addition to the historical record.

  • Dec 10, 2009
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"(They had a) good plan, poorly executed."  Such was the rather generous assessment of Cuban President Fidel Castro in the aftermath of the U.S. government's covert attempt to overthrow him in mid-April 1961.  The fact of the matter is that with the benefit of hindsight most historians and military analysts agree that the Bay of Pigs was an unmitigated disaster.  Author Howard Jones revisits this shameful episode in American history with his new book "The Bay of Pigs".   If you have not studied this operation in detail before than you will find this one to be a real eye-opener.

On January 1, 1959, revolutionary forces led by a young, charismatic Fidel Castro finally succeeded in toppling the regime of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.  Castro's increasingly anti-American stances quickly became a source of concern for the Eisenhower administration. President Eisenhower finally concluded that for national security reasons Castro would have to be eliminated.  The covert plan being drawn up by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department and the CIA called for the simultaneous elimination of Castro by assassination and the invasion of the island nation by U.S. trained Cuban exiles to establish a provisional government.  The idea was to encourage a popular insurrection in Cuba that would legitimate the entire operation.  Time ran out on the Eisenhower administration and so when John F. Kennedy took office in January of 1961 he inherited the problem.  President Kennedy had already become convinced of the wisdom of overthrowing Fidel Castro.

Events were moving rather quickly now and Castro seemed to be rapidly aligning himself with the Soviet Union. T ime was of the essence as the preponderance of evidence indicated that the U.S.S.R. was beginning to ship all kinds of military hardware to Castro.  It became abundantly clear that the longer the U.S. waited the more difficult the task at hand would be.  The operation was finally set for April 17, 1961.  "The Bay of Pigs (Pivotal Moments in American History)" chronicles in great detail how the actual plan was devised and who the key players were. Howard Jones also discusses at great length the reasons why President Kennedy seemed so reluctant to approve any direct involvement of U.S. armed forces in the actual invasion of Cuba. For the President, the idea of "plausible deniability" was an overriding concern and was ultimately the reason the operation was moved from Trinidad to the Zapata Peninsula.  It was also the reason why the President made the decision to cancel the air support that for all intents and purposes doomed the operation.

I was just 10 years at the time of the Bay of Pigs operation.  Over the years I have read any number of references to just how bitter the Cuban-American community was at President Kennedy for the way he mishandled the invasion and abandoned the ground forces who were left to fend for themselves without any of the promised air support.  Some have even suggested that disgruntled Cuban exiles may have played a role in his assassination.  But I had never come across a great many details surrounding this debacle.   After reading "The Bay of Pigs (Pivital Moments in American History)" this has all come into focus for me and I realize that those who were abandoned on the beaches at Zapata had every right to be livid at the way the situation was handled by the Commander-in Chief.  The noted author and head of Cuban Studies at the University of Miami Brian Latell has opined that "The Bay of Pigs" is "more thoroughly researched than any previous work on the subject.  It is also succinct, nuanced and exquisitely balanced in its treatment of the president and the CIA."  I would concur.  There are lessons to be learned from the entire Bay of Pigs affair.  Our participation in such activities only serve to reduce America's standing in the rest of the world.  It is a lesson our leaders never seem to learn.  History buffs and general readers alike will appreciate "The Bay of Pigs".   This is a well written and carefully documented book.       Recommended!
An extremely important addition to the historical record. An extremely important addition to the historical record. An extremely important addition to the historical record. An extremely important addition to the historical record.

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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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In January 1959, as Fidel Castro entered Havana in triumph, Americans hailed the revolutionary as a hero. Then came Castro's increasingly anti-American talk, the rise in his regime of the openly Marxist Che Guevara and Raul Castro, and seizures of American-owned assets. In little more than a year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower concluded that Castro must go.
In The Bay of Pigs , Howard Jones provides a concise, incisive, and dramatic account of the disastrous attempt to overthrow Castro. He deftly examines the train of missteps and self-deceptions that led to the invasion of U. S.-trained exiles at the Bay of Pigs. Ignoring warnings from the ambassador to Cuba, the Eisenhower administration put in motion an operation that proved nearly unstoppable even after the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. The CIA and Pentagon, meanwhile, both voiced confidence in the outcome of the invasion, especially after coordinating previous successful coups in Guatemala and Iran. As a vital part of the Cuban effort, the CIA sought to incite a popular insurrection by recruiting the Mafia's help in engineering Castro's assassination on the eve of the invasion. And so the Kennedy administration launched the exile force toward its doom in Cochinos Bay on April 17, 1961. Jones gives a riveting account of the battle--and the confusion in the White House--before moving on to explore its implications. The Bay of Pigs, he writes, set the course of Kennedy's foreign policy. It was a humiliation for the ...
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ISBN-10: 019517383X
ISBN-13: 978-0195173833
Author: Howard Jone
Genre: History
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Date Published: August 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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