The United States government has had many dealings with Cuba. The
most important of these were the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In the first incident, the Bay of Pigs, the Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) planned to help Cuban exiles overthrow their dictator, Fidel Castro.
Unfortunately, the plan failed in almost every way possible (Wiener,
online). The second incident, the Cuban Missile Crisis, was the closest
America came to nuclear war. However, the war was avoided thanks to two
brave men, President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev (Cuban
Missile Crisis, online).
The United States had been friends with the Cuban dictator, Fulgencio
Batista Zaldvar. In 1959, Batista was overthrown by an underground
communist group lead by Fidel Castro. Castro became the new dictator. At
first, he was a very conventional ruler. He was liked not only by the Cuban
people, but by other countries as well, including the United States
This changed, however, when Castro realized how much power he had
gained. Soon, Castro started to abuse his power by being hostile toward the
Cuban people and to the United States. In 1960 Castro took over American-
owned properties in Cuba such as oil refineries, sugar mills, and electric
utilities. This ended the alliance between the United States and Cuba
In the early 60’s Castro started to institutionalize Communism and
developed a close friendship with the Soviet Union. The CIA decided that
the United States needed to take over Cuba to save the United States from
attacks by Russia, which backed Cuba. The plan was known as the Bay of
Pigs. The plan was to train Cuban exiles, who would serve as cover for
action by the CIA. All CIA agents who had any contact with the Cuban public
would have separate identities as American businessmen. This would hide all
evidence that the United States government was involved (Wiener, online).
In addition to their personal weapons Cuban exile soldiers received
Browning Automatic Rifles, machine guns, mortars, recoilless rifles, rocket
launchers, and flamethrowers. The were also supplied with five M-41 tanks,
twelve heavy trucks, an aviation fuel tank truck, a tractor crane, a
bulldozer, two large water trailers, and several small trucks and tractors.
One thousand five hundred men landed in the invasion. All were transported
by ship except for one airborne infantry unit of 177 men. The entire
brigade included five infantry units, one heavy weapons unit, one
intelligence-reconnaissance unit, and one tank platoon (Wiener, online).
On April 15th three Cuban airfields were raided by eight B-26
bombers, destroying about half of Castro’s air force. However, the second
air strike planned to destroy the rest of Castro’s air force were called
off in fear that it might expose the United States’ involvement (Wiener,
Many other things also went wrong. The United States landing crafts
sank on coral reefs. A drop of paratroopers missed their targets. Many
exiles were pinned on the beach by heavy gunfire. They begged for air
support, but again President Kennedy refused. After 114 exiles were killed
the remaining 1,189 had no choice but to surrender to Castro (Sitkoff,
In 1962 the Soviet was far behind the United States in the arms race.
Soviet Union missiles only had range long enough to be launched against
Europe, but United States missiles were capable of striking the entire
Soviet Union. In April 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev developed a
plan of placing intermediate range missiles in Cuba. This would prevent the
United States from attacking the Soviet Union (Cuban Missile Crisis,
Fidel Castro was searching for a way to defend his island from an
attack by the United States. Since the Bay of Pigs Invasion failed, Castro
thought the U.S would definitely attack again. As a result, he welcomed
Nikita Khrushchev’s plan to place missiles on the island. That summer the
Soviet Union secretly built missile installations in Cuba (Cuban Missile
The crisis began October 15th, 1962, when reconnaissance photographs
showed Soviet missiles being constructed in Cuba. When President John F.
Kennedy was notified about the missile installations he immediately
organized the EX-COMM. The EX-COMM was a group of his twelve most
important. After days of arguing, Kennedy and his advisors decided to
impose a naval blockade around the island of Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis,
online). All ships of any size or kind bound for Cuba would be thoroughly
checked for weapons. If any offensive weapons were found the ship would be
sent back (White, p.205). This would prevent any more missiles from being
delivered to Cuba.
On October 22nd President Kennedy announced the discovery of the
missile installations and his decision to blockade the island. He also
announced that any nuclear missiles that were launched from Cuba would be
regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union and he
demanded that the Soviets remove all of their offensive weapons from Cuba
(Cuban Missile Crisis, online). This meant that if Castro decided to launch
an attack on the United States the Soviet Union would be held responsible
although it was not their decision.
On October 26th EX-COMM received a letter from Premier Khrushchev.
Khrushchev offered to remove the Soviet missiles and personnel from Cuba if
the United States promised not to invade Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis,
online; Dinerstein, p.184). It seemed as though the crisis was coming to an
end for the United States.
Then on October 27th the situation turned around. A U-2 spy plane was
shot down over Cuba and EX-COM received a second letter from the Premier.
This one said that the Soviet Union would not remove their missiles unless
the United States removed their missiles from Turkey. Attorney General
Robert Kennedy suggested the United States ignore the second letter. EX-
COMM then contacted Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin and told him that
the United States agreed with the first proposal; the plan worked. (Cuban
Missile Crisis, online).
Tensions finally started to die down on October 28th when Khrushchev
announced that he would dismantle the Soviet installations and remove the
missiles from Cuba on the condition that the United States did not invade
Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, online).
Although the immediate result of these incidents may not have good,
the long-term result was worth all the stress. In the Bay of Pigs the
mission failed, but now the United States government knows exactly what to
do different next time. In the Cuban Missile Crisis the United States
government learned how to negotiate and deal with the Russians in case
something like this ever happens again which it probably will. The other
governments benefited from the incidents too. Fidel Castro will think more
carefully before he seizes American owned properties in Cuba and the Soviet
Union, which is now known as Russia will not try to ship missiles to a
county near the United States.
1. “Bay of Pigs Report By Jared Wiener”.
members.aol.com/yo1460/byo/report1.html America Online. 4/28/01
2. “Cuban Missile Crisis: Summary”.
library.thinkquest.org/11046/days//index.html America Online. 4/28/01
3. Sitkoff, Hardvard. Postwar America. New York: Oxford University Press,
4. White, Mark J. The Kennedys and Cuba. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1999
5. Dinerstein, Herbert S. the making of a MISSILE CRISIS october 1962.
Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1976