The operation, planned by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under President Dwight Eisenhower and approved by his successor John F. Kennedy, started on April 17, 1961, when about 1,400 Cuban exiles disembarked on Bay of Pigs.
Located on the Cuban southern coast, this bay is an isolated inlet with crocodile-infested swamps. The mercernaries' plan was to secure the area without many confrontations, take a small local airport, form an interim government, and ask for U.S. support to overthrow Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government.
The exiles were supposed to have some air support from Washington. Kennedy, however, refused to back them at the last minute, as he preferred to keep the U.S. involvement secret.
This operation was a complete failure. Cuban intelligence services had warned and prepared the revolutionary militias for a possible invasion. Within three days, most mercenaries were either killed or captured by the Cuban revolutionary forces, who fought continuously under a military strategy designed by Fidel.
The captured mercenaries were tried and sentenced to prison by Cuban laws. Some of them were executed as they had belonged to the army of former dictator Fulgencio Batista (1952-1959). The rest remained in jail until 1962 when the U.S. government exchanged them for food, tractors, and medicines.
Four days after the invasion began, President Kennedy assumed full political responsibility for the invasion's failure. Despite this, the U.S. government continued to support groups of mercenaries who attempted to commit crimes against Cubans and even tried to assassinate Fidel, whose prestige amongst world revolutionaries continued to increase.
"If July 26, 1953, marked the beginning of the revolutionary armed struggle, April 19, 1961, marked the day when the plans drawn up by the Pentagon and the CIA fell apart and crashed down in just some hours,” Fidel once stated.
"The secret of the Cuban victory over this invasion was that our people fought for ideals," Victory in Bay of Pigs museum director Barbara Sierra once stated.
The victory of the Bay of Pigs inspired revolutionaries across Latin America giving them hope that U.S. imperialists could be defeated. pic.twitter.com/VQucvxoOxh