The Bay of Pigs:
Location: Cuba, specifically the southcoast
Fidel Castro: Came to power in 1959 in an armed revolt which overthrew the previous prime minister of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista. US distrusted Castro and was well aware of his connections and contacts with the leader of the soviet union, Nikita Khrushchev.
Cuban Exiles: Under the Eisenhower administration, a plan by the CIA was created to train Cuban exiles for an invasion of their home land. The main goal being to overthrow Castro and to create a non communist government which would cooperate with the US frequently.
The Brigade 2506 made up of the Cuban Exiles
President John F. Kennedy: authorized final invasion plan right after his inauguration.
José Miró Cardona: led the anti-Castro Cuban exiles within the United States.
Original plan: was 2 air strikes against Cuban air bases. 1400 man invasion force would then launch a surprise attack in the dark. Paratroopers would be dropped in before the invasion to disrupt an invasion. A smaller force would also land on the east coast, just to create confusion. The main force would then go to Matanzas and set up defensive positions. From there, if that was successful, the United Revolutionary Front would send leaders to establish a provisional government. The success of the plan would lay in the hands of the Cuban people and if they were to join the invaders or not.
What Actually Happened: 8 bombers left Nicaragua to bomb Cuban airfields on April 15. The CIA used old WWII US bombers and just painted them a different color in an attempt to not get caught. Bombers missed almost all their targets and Castro’s defenses were still in tact. Photos of the painted plane became public, which was bad news for America, so Kennedy called off the second air strike. On April 17, Brigade 2506 landed on beaches at the Bay of Pigs and were instantly attacked. The odds were against the exile force completely.
The next 24 hours only got worse so on April 19, Kennedy authorized 6 unmarked US fighter planes to help the brigade’s B-26 aircraft. However, the B-26’s arrived an hour late and were shot down by Cubans, the invasion being crushed completely. Few exiles escaped whereas around 1200 surrendered and 100 were killed.
The Berlin Wall:
Location: East and West Berlin, Germany
Nikita Khrushchev: leader of the Soviet Union during the cold war.
Walter Ulbricht: German Democratic Republic leader (communist). He created the idea to build a wall.
President Kennedy: he and the rest of the US government had allies in West Berlin.
Why: The soviets were spending a fortune trying to support the falling the East German Economy. Refugees began fleeing to the West (teachers, physicians, engineers,etc.). In fact, between 1945 and 1960, almost 4.3 million fled the German Democratic Republic and the problem was only getting worse. The government was losing East Berlin completely, and if that were to happen, so would Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe. The flow of refugees had to be stopped.
Summary: In an attempt to fight against the collapsing of East Berlin, Khrushchev decided to go with Ulbricht’s suggestion and build a wall between West and East Berlin, which would halt the fleeing of refugees. When President Kennedy was informed of this, he was surprised to learn that there wasn’t any Soviet soldiers in the streets, nor was there interference with access into West Berlin. This action caused absolutely no threat to the vital interests of the Allies in West Berlin. Some demanded the Allies take down the Wall, but Kennedy knew that would be a bad idea which would only lead to conflict. In fact, he decided the wall was more of a solution than it was a problem. It actually benefited the US because it meant that Khrushchev didn’t intend to control the whole city and the wall was him cutting corners to solve a problem, which was much better than war. It was a plus for the west and a minus for the communists. The Soviets gave the West a huge advantage without even realizing it and on their own terms. Because Kennedy’s quiet public reaction wasn’t enough, had vice president Johnson demonstrate U.S. concern and resolve and ordered 1600 troops to go to the autobahn. It was a high risk move but resulted in “great popular acclaim”. Though many viewed the wall as a crisis within West Berlin, it was not one for Kennedy.
July 1961, 30000 East Berliners fled to west Berlin.
August 13, 1961 a physical barrier between east and west Berlin was constructed. Six days later construction of a concrete wall began.
August 14, Kennedy urged the closing of the border to be exploited politically through propaganda.
The Cuban Missile Crisis:
The Soviet Union specifically Nikita Khrushchev
President Kennedy and his advisors and allies
The Soviet Union's missiles in Cuba
Summary: The 13 day crisis between America and the Soviet union all began when an American U-2 spy plane discreetly photographed nuclear missile sites built by the Soviet Union in Cuba. Kennedy didn’t want the Soviets nor the Cubans to know he made this discovery and so he met in secret with is advisers for several days to discuss the problem and how to handle it. Kennedy finally decided to fight the problem by placing a naval blockade (ring of ships) around Cuba. He did this to prevent the Soviets from bringing in more military supplies. He also demanded the removal of the missiles and destruction of the sites already there. On October 22 Kennedy spoke to the nation about the crisis in a televised address. Both Kennedy and Khrushchev knew how devastating a nuclear war would be and publicly agreed on a deal in which the soviets would dismantle the weapon sites as long as the US pledged not to invade Cuba. In a separate, secret deal, the US also agreed to remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey. That remained a secret for over 25 years. Though the Soviets removed the missiles, they escalated the building of military arsenal. Just because the missile crisis was over, the arms race wasn’t. By 1963, tensions between the US and the Soviet Union had lessened greatly.