In pursuing questions raised by the earlier article I posted on the Bay of Pigs and Task Force Alpha, I’ve made a much more detailed comparison of the information in the article and the best available chronology of the evolving operation – anyone interested should give the chronology a read:
http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/bayofpigs/chron.html
I’m still pondering but it leads me to some preliminary observations. As late summer ’60, the Special Group (SG) was only being informed about plans, and expressed a lack of confidence in the success of guerrilla action alone. On October 31 CIA headquarters confirm the shift in planning to an amphibious landing by up to 1,500 exiles and on Nov. 8 the SG was informed of that shift….they did not approve anything at that point. On November 29 Eisenhower was also informed and enjoined those running the project to be more aggressive. On December 8 the SG did approve paramilitary trainers for the Brigade, an airstrip in Nicaragua and supply missions into Cuba.
On Dec 20 the Commander in Chief Atlantic (Denison) expressed his concern to the CIA about the operation and submitted 120 questions; only a dozen were answered. It’s important to note that the Navy liaison assigned to the project (Captain Scapa) was told only to talk to the CIA eg Bissell and to Chief of Naval Operations Burke – who was in turn briefed only by Bissell. That meant that CINCATLANT Denison was largely out of the direct CIA loop but apparently receiving orders and directives from the Joint Chiefs for rules of engagement for the forces that came to be assigned to support the amphibious and landing craft Scapa was involved with preparing.
On Jan 4, ’61 the CIA plan was documented and assumed strikes against Cuban air and naval forces. No specific details on given on the nature of those strikes but when JFK was briefed by Ike on Jan 19 he was told that Ike felt the operation must receive major US support, even if public. At that point Ike appears to have signed on to a non-deniable operation – the nature of that becomes more clear later but confusion appears to have already been in play because when Hawkins/Easterline briefed JCS reps on Jan 30 they stated that no over US military support was necessary. Ike had initially wanted the landing to occur by Jan 30 but clearly the preparations had lagged.
On Feb 8 JFK expressed the direction that he wanted an effort not requiring obvious support by US ships, planes and supply missions. The following day, CINCLANT Denison met with JFK and asked if he wanted a “bail out” option if the landing failed….JFK said definitely no to that, in that event the exiles were to disburse into guerrilla operations. By Feb 17 JFK has become firm that he would approve only a large scale infiltration, not the type of landing that had been prepared for Trinidad. Within a week JCS warned the CIA that if a single Castro plane appeared over the landing area it could well sink all or most of the landing force. And on March 11, JFK officially rejected the Trinidad landing.
The strange thing is that on March 24, naval support for the CIA operation was finalized (including rules of engagement) and included naval air cover over the landing site beginning at 0600 the day before the landing. It seems rather clear that at some level, the Navy had been planning for full air cover over the Trinidad landing for some time, although that is not really mentioned in any of the later Bay of Pigs inquiries. In March, Dennison also proposed expanding the initial Navy rules of engagement to involve US ships intervening if the Brigade landing ships were attacked and at risk. Clearly the Navy was actively promoting and preparing for overt military support of the landing……the question is whether or not Denison had discussed this level of detail with JFK in their meeting of Feb 9? The article previously posted refers to an oral history from Denison in which he states that the original plan which he had proceeded to implement for the Trinidad landing included naval air cover and combat air patrols for the landing but that was cancelled when the Trinidad plan was replaced by Zapata. If the Trinidad support plans had remained in place for Zapata the pre-landing B-26 strikes would have not been critical because with ground attack in place by the A-4’s as well as CAP, the surviving Cuban aircraft would quickly have been eliminated over the beachhead.
On April 1 the JCS approved Denison’s proposed rules of engagement (ROE), which seemingly would have provided active combat air cover and naval destroyer support if needed. On April 5 Task Force Alpha and the Essex sailed….the Essex had debarked all its normal ASW aircraft in preparation to take Navy A-4 attack jets on at sea – clearly reflecting the rules approved by the JCS. So on Arpil 5 the Navy seems to have been continuing preparations for the same type of air support which had originally been described by Denison. But on April 5 JFK directed that the ROE needed to specify that if the landings ships actually need protection, the landing was to abort! A major disconnect seems to be in play three weeks before the landing. And given JFK’s April 5 order, when Bissell and Cabell learned that only half of Castro’s air force had been destroyed in the pre-landing B-26 attack they should have either begun aborting the landing themselves or gone to JFK and clearly spelled out that was the only option unless the rules were changed.
The preceding thoughts are very preliminary and I may well be misreading or misunderstanding something in the chronology or article so if you are closely following this, please give them both a read and let me know where and how my reading is incorrect. ..thanks.

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About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

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