Chapter 30: The Turbulent Sixties, 1960-1969 (#1)

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Containing Castro: The Bay of Pigs Fiasco

  • growing ties between the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro’s regime

  • the Eisenhower administration had been training a group of Cuban exiles in Guatemala since March 1960 as part of a CIA plan to topple the Castro regime

    • operation depended heavily on a broad uprising of the Cuban people

      • some viewed it as an immoral act that would discredit the United States

        • the president decided to proceed

  • April 17, 1961 – 1,400 Cuban exiles moved ashore at the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast of Cuba

    • Kennedy – insisted on cover action, canceling at the last minute a planned American air strike on the beachhead

      • with air superiority, Castro’s well-trained forces had no difficulty in quashing the invasion

        • killed nearly 500 exiles and forced the rest to surrender within 48 hours

  • President Kennedy – took personal responsibility for the failure

  • Kennedy – continued to harass the Castro regime, imposing an economic blockade on Cuba, supporting a continuing series of raids by exile groups operating out of Florida, and failing to stop the CIA from experimenting with bizarre plots to assassinate Fidel Castro

  • Containing Castro: The Cuban Missile Crisis

    • Cuban missile crisis – Soviets engaged in a massive arms buildup in Cuba, ostensibly to protect Castro from an American invasion

      • Kennedy – stern warning against the introduction of any offensive weapons, believing their presence would directly threaten American security

        • Khrushchev – building sites for 24-medium range (1,000 mile) and 18-intermediate range (2,000 mile) missiles

          • claimed his purpose was purely defensive

    • American U-2 planes finally discovered the missile sites

      • Kennedy – decided to seek a showdown

    • gathered a special group of advisers to consider the way to respond

      • initial preference for an immediate air strike – gradually gave way to discussion of either a full-scale invasion or a naval blockade

      • ruled out diplomacy – rejecting a proposal to offer the withdrawal of obsolete American Jupiter missiles from Turkey in return for a similar Russian pullout in Cuba

      • proclaim a quarantine of Cuba – to prevent the arrival of new missiles

    • threaten a nuclear confrontation to force the removal of those already there

    • October 22 – president informed the nation of the existence of the Soviet missiles

      • for the next six days, the world hovered on the brink of nuclear catastrophe

      • some 16 Soviet ships continued on course toward Cuba – while the American navy was deployed to intercept them 500 miles from the island

      • Florida – nearly a quarter million men were being concentrated in the largest invasion force ever assembled

    • Khrushchev sent Kennedy a long, rambling letter offering a face-saving way out

      • Russia – would remove the missiles in return for an American promise never to invade Cuba

        • second Russian message raised the stakes by insisting that American Jupiter missiles be withdrawn from Turkey

      • Kennedy – refused to bargain, Khrushchev had endangered world peace by putting the missiles in Cuba secretly, and he must take them out immediately

        • ignoring the second Russian message – Kennedy sent a cable to Khrushchev accepting this original offer

    • in reality, John F. Kennedy – was not quite so ready to risk nuclear war

      • president preferred that the missile swap be done privately – there was a deal through the United Nations involving “the removal of both the Jupiters and the missiles in Cuba”

        • Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles in return only for Kennedy’s promise not to invade Cuba

          • the crisis was over

    • now know the Soviets had nuclear warheads in Cuba for short-range tactical launchers designed to be used against an American invading force – an invasion could have been disastrous

      • peaceful resolution of the Cuban missile crisis became a personal and political triumph for John F. Kennedy

    • Kennedy and Khrushchev agreed to install a “hot line” to speed direct communication between Washington and Moscow in an emergency

      • shift from confrontation to conciliation

    • Soviets – embarked on a crash program to build up their navy and to overtake the American lead in nuclear missiles

      • surpassed the US in ICBMs

        • ensuring the escalation of the arms race

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