Playa Giron: the 65 Crucial Hours of America. By Alejo Brignole
The failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 was a high point for the United States in its strategies to prevent the triumph of a socialist Revolution at the gates of the capitalist giant.
Remembering the U.S. defeat at the Bay of Pigs on April 16, 1961 means not forgetting an axiom well demonstrated by history: that imperialisms are not invincible in the face of the determination of the peoples.
In the case of the Cuban people, its great history -after Marti’s feat- had begun on January 1, 1959 with the entry into Havana of the insurrectionary movement led by Fidel Castro. Thus began an unprecedented historical period for Latin America. The Cuban Revolution began its existence and with it a stage of political and philosophical scope of very difficult estimation because, among its many legacies, it pointed out a clear path for this 21st century that is proclaimed to be dangerous for the human race.
In 1959, Dwight Eisenhower presided over the United States, who in the previous years had closely followed the tactical-military evolutions of the July 26th Movement led by Fidel, which after a few years of continuous victories finally managed to overthrow a criminal and oppressive government that used torture, peasant exploitation and the surrender of the island’s resources to American corporations as a perverse condition that kept it in power. When Batista fell, it was also Eisenhower who authorized the CIA to carry out the internal destabilization plans against the new revolutionary government.
However, it was the next occupant of the Oval Office – President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961-1963) – who would intervene directly in 1961 to halt the social conquests of those thick-bearded, cigar-smoking men who fought alongside stormy, sash-clad, rifle-wielding women. Together they had liberated a country in the American backyard.
The Cold War was at its peak and Cuba already had Soviet support, but it was still a small island challenging a giant poised to crush it. The successful Cuban experiment dared to question the capitalist system and the neo-colonial ways Washington was imposing throughout the Caribbean. It was then that Kennedy decided to initiate the usual violent procedures of direct intervention that had marked U.S. foreign policy since its inception. To this end, the presidential strategists and advisors would make use of mercenaries servile to their ends: the Cuban residents in Miami. The gusanera.
For President Kennedy and his hawks, Richard Bisell (a high-ranking CIA official) and the President’s own brother, Robert Kennedy, it was a priority that an armed invasion should look like an initiative of Cuban dissidents without Washington’s intervention, something that finally could not be concealed. The initial plan designed by Bisell was modified by the Kennedys, influenced by Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who was concerned about the impossibility of denying U.S. participation in the face of a large logistical deployment. It was then decided to reduce the number of attacking aircraft by half – just 8 planes – among other measures.
During the early hours of Saturday, April 15, 1961, B-26 aircraft painted with Cuban insignia on their fuselage, entered Cuban airspace to bomb the military airports of San Antonio de los Baños, the Antonio Maceo airfield in Santiago de Cuba and the Ciudad Libertad base. Although they managed to destroy some aircraft of the meager revolutionary air force, the attack was not definitive.
That same morning, the Cuban ambassador to the UN, Raul Roa, pointed directly to the United States as responsible for the incursion. His US counterpart, Adlai Stevenson, categorically rejected the Cuban accusation and affirmed that the attack was the work of dissident pilots rebelling against Castro, but -as modern and past US history records- the arguments to support their hegemonic actions usually offend the most basic intelligence in diplomatic circles. Washington’s hand in that small focal war, which would barely last 65 hours, was undisguisable. It was impossible to hide the true nature of that clearly imperialist attempt.
In Cuba, in its cities, mountains and plains, the people mobilized with the weapons granted by the Revolution to face the worst possible scenario: a large-scale U.S. invasion to return things to the old colonial order. What that liberated people failed to understand at that historic moment was that the enemy was not at their level. Far behind was U.S. valor compared to the spirit that mobilized those reborn Cubans. In perspective, the U.S. military hawks were more like a nervous squirrel than an imperial eagle. The United States (and all its administrations since 1959), always knew that a frontal war against Cuba would end in costly, failed carnage (as Vietnam would later become). Cuba had become a powerful and impregnable rock in the eyes of that armed but testosterone-free giant.
The day after the first air attack, Fidel Castro personally directed the defensive actions, but not before giving a historic speech in the streets of Havana, which was heard by thousands of citizens armed with rifles ready to defend the patrimony of all: the new emancipated Cuba. It was also at that time that Fidel announced to the world that the Cuban Revolution was also socialist and Marxist-Leninist.
While Fidel was speaking to his people, the expeditionary land forces were already on their way from Puerto Cabezas -in Nicaragua- that arrived at Playa Giron (present-day province of Matanzas) during the early morning of Monday, April 17. They were 1200 mercenaries of the so-called Brigade 2506 and transported by ships provided by the CIA.
Fidel Castro directed the operations from the same scene of combat
The head of the brigade disembarked without difficulties, but at dawn the Hawker Sea Fury and Lockheed T-33 planes, which were not destroyed by the attack on the Cuban bases on the 15th, shot down seven B-26 bombers that were part of the invading forces. The Cuban air force also managed to seriously damage the Houston and Rio Escondido ships, near Playa Larga, thus spoiling the logistical support to the attackers (weapons and supplies contained in their holds).
On Wednesday 19, faced with the inevitable U.S. defeat by means of various actions impossible to detail in this simple article, the Kennedy cabinet found itself faced with the dilemma of either coming to the aid of the expeditionaries and thus showing the world its imperialist maneuver, or abandoning the whole failed operation to its fate, which culminated in a humiliating defeat, becoming the first and absolute capitulation of U.S. imperialism in Latin America.
As usual and in a pragmatic manner, Washington decided to abandon its mercenary soldiers, since they were for them mere pawns at the service of its foreign policy. The United States never trembled to leave its colonial servants in the mud: Vietnam, the Nicaraguan Contra or the dictatorships of the Southern Cone suffered the same fate when they no longer served their purposes.
The revolutionary victory of Playa Giron was the decisive hour for Cuba and for the rest of the continent, not only because it strengthened the self-determination of an entire society, but also because it demonstrated that a determined people always win, regardless of the size of the oppressor. A lesson of enormous significance in these years of geopolitical rearrangements, in which the United States begins to lose the course of its increasingly shaky hegemony, while it looks with avid eyes towards our south, assuming that in our regions it will find refuge to continue its decadent imperial dream. But from here we say, illuminated by the beautiful glow of Playa Giron… They will not pass!
source Red en Defensa de la Humanidad- Argentina
translation Red en Defensa de la Humanidad – Cuba