(You always hear and read of a “fiasco,” a “defeat” a “disaster” at the Bay of Pigs, 53 years ago this week. But you rarely hear about the cause. Here it is.)
"They fought like tigers," writes the CIA officer who helped train the Cubans who splashed ashore at the Bay of Pigs 53 years ago this week. "But their fight was doomed before the first man hit the beach."
That CIA man, Grayston Lynch, knew something about fighting – and about long odds. He carried scars from Omaha Beach, The Battle of the Bulge and Korea's Heartbreak Ridge. But in those battles Lynch and his band of brothers counted on the support of their Commander in Chief. At the Bay of Pigs, Grayston Lynch (an American) and his band of brothers (Cubans) learned — first in speechless shock and finally in burning rage — that their most powerful enemies were not Castro's Soviet-armed soldiers massing in nearby Santa Clara, but the Ivy League's best and brightest dithering in Washington.
Lynch trained, in his own words, "brave boys who had never before fired a shot in anger" — college students, farmers, doctors, common laborers, whites, blacks, mulattoes. They were known as La Brigada 2506, an almost precise cross-section of Cuban society of the time. The Brigada included men from every social strata and race in Cuba—from sugar cane planters to sugar cane cutters, from aristocrats to their chauffeurs. But mostly, the folks in between, as befit a nation with a larger middle class than most of Europe.
Short on battle experience, yes, but they fairly burst with what Bonaparte and George Patton valued most in a soldier: morale. No navel-gazing about "why they hate us" or the merits of "regime change" for them. They'd seen Castroism point-blank.
Their goals were crystal-clear: firing-squads silenced, families reunited, tens of thousands freed from prisons, torture chambers and concentration camps. We see it on the History Channel after our GI’s took places like Manila and Munich. In 1961 newsreels could have captured such scenes without crossing oceans. When those Cuban freedom-fighters hit the beach at the Bay of Pigs 50 years ago this week, one of every 18 Cubans suffered in Castro Gulag. Mass graves dotted the Cuban countryside, piled with hundreds who’d crumpled in front of Castro and Che Guevara’s firing squads. Most of the invaders had loved-ones among the above. Modern history records few soldiers with the burning morale of the Bay of Pigs freedom-fighters.
Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit www.hfontova.com.