It is only relatively recently that we have come to know that much of the most often repeated news stories (and the more formal histories) which treat President Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs are either woefully incomplete, or in some cases simply wrong. In terms of being incomplete they lack the information that we have come to know the President was not given about the effort when finally authorizing it. In terms of being wrong, they fail to note the extent to which he allowed deniability to be sacrificed by allowing military action which had originally been specifically forbidden.

My newest book, In Denial; Secret Wars with Air Strikes and Tanks, covers the Cuba Project and Bay of Pigs in great detail (as well deniable warfare following the Bay of Pigs and in contemporary times).   In doing so it examines the information JFK was not given – and the real time waivers which were given for American involvement in virtually everything short of open  engagement of Cuban forces by the American Navy (which would have been an act of war since the Cubans themselves had not attacked the American forces):

What President Kennedy was not told:

The project presented to JFK was not what President Eisenhower had approved in March 1960 – the first project had failed by the before the November elections of that year.

The project presented to JFK had not been reviewed or approved by President Eisenhower.  

The project presented by the CIA to JFK received only conditional endorsement by the American military, with written concerns about it being exposed to air attack, not logistically sustainable, and almost certain to fail unless an island wide uprising against the Castro regime immediately occurred to support it.

JFK was not told that the major anti-Castro resistance network inside Cuba had been compromised, its senior leaders captured and executed, and the majority of its members arrested and imprisoned weeks before the scheduled landings at the Bay of Pigs.

JFK was not told that there had been a series of efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro prior to the landings – and that they had all failed.

JFK was not told that the CIA had deployed none of its Cuban volunteers to the area of the landings in advance, and was in no communication with any resistance groups there.

The president had directed that all landing activity should be conducted at night with all transport ships and craft at sea outside Cuban waters by dawn – he was not advised that the operations plan, which included landing American Army tanks, armored trucks and massive amounts of ammunition and fuel, could not possibly have been executed prior to sunrise.

The president was not advised that the advance airstrikes had destroyed only half the Cuban air force, and that the failure to destroy the rest placed the landing in extreme jeopardy from air attack.

JFK had ordered plans to be made to extract the Cuban volunteers if the landing faced strong opposition and was told that in that event the force could proceed into the mountains and conduct themselves as guerillas.  He was not told that the force had received only standard infantry training, that its equipment – including heavy weapons – and its supplies were not appropriate for guerilla action and that the unit’s leaders had not been briefed (or agreed to) guerilla action on evacuation plans (there were none).

When JFK ordered a follow on air strike the morning of the landing canceled over – concern for deniability – senior CIA officers did not advise JFK that the Brigade ships and landing were at major risk from the surviving Cuban combat aircraft.

Military actions which were authorized as the Brigade came under increasing attack (and no uprising or significant resistance activity occurred):

Following the landings Cuban pilots flew a series of night strikes against Cuban airfields (unsuccessful)

American pilots were authorized to fly Brigade aircraft in ground attacks against Cuban troops attacking the landing beaches (successful)

Cuban pilots flew supply drops over the beachhead on the first night after the landing (successful)

A major resupply by Brigade ships was ordered for the first night (unsuccessful)

American Air Force transports and Brigade transports were ordered to fly a major aerial resupply mission the second night of the landings (unsuccessful)

American Navy jets were ordered to provide air cover over the beachhead in support of ground strikes by Brigade fighter bombers flown by American pilots (unsuccessful)

The Navy was ordered to evacuate the Brigade from the beachhead and American destroyers were deployed off the beaches (unsuccessful)

If you have read In Denial I’d love to chat with you about these gaps in the histories regarding JFK and the Bay of Pigs, either here or by email.  Beyond that, the publisher and I have a problem – unlike most of my earlier works of military history and national security, In Denial did not get reviewed by the Library Journal or Publishers Weekly (yes, poor timing with it appearing the middle of a global pandemic…sigh).

That means the book is simply not going to make it into many libraries, at present its not showing up on the global library catalog (Worldcat) at all.  So, if you read it and like it please try to persuade your local library or your University library to carry it – or offer to purchase a copy and donate it (we did try to keep the price down).  If you can help with a library effort it would be most appreciated!

8 responses »

  1. Anonymous says:

    It is now apparent I need to add this book to my collection of your previous work..I shudder to think what would have happened had Nixon been president during the Crisis.

  2. larryjoe2 says:

    I think its likely that Nixon would have been drawn into full scale military action against Cuba in an effort to save the Brigade initiative, ending up imposing a type of American occupation of the island….and embroiling the US in guerilla warfare that might well have spread across Central America. In Denial’s study of the political situation among the Cuban exiles highlights how much factionalism and competition already existed as of the landings at the Bay of Pigs – its hard to imagine that going away even with an American regime imposed on Havana though force. i

    But of course the side story that is equally frightening is the sheer number of actions that were in play which were not briefed to President Kennedy. His courage in not acting beyond the additional measures he did authorize after the landing was in the same vein as his refusal to be pushed into something horribly stupid during the missile crisis.

  3. AnthonyM says:

    I can’t think of another example of the President being what can only be described as deliberately misled by senior officials with the intent of precipitating US military intervention. I can think of some examples the other way around, but would I be right in thinking this was unprecedented?
    I hadn’t realised Eisenhower hadn’t seen the Brigade landing plan…that explains why someone with his military experience hadn’t vetoed it but not that the Joint Chiefs weren’t clear about it to JFK. I had been puzzled why even JFK couldn’t see it obviously wouldn’t work, but if he was misled to that extent…

  4. larryjoe2 says:

    One of the elements that makes the Trinidad/Zapata proposal unique is that it occurred at the end of a project which had already been in progress for almost a year before JFK and his new national security team got involved with it. That means they did not have the background and context of months of briefings and discussions on the Cuba Project as it was initially proposed. The “landing/lodgement” plan had really only come together in general concept in November/December 1961, and it was only briefed in broad terms to Eisenhower’s Special Group for Covert Operations in December, and discussed with his National Security Advisor at that point in time- not Eisenhower himself and not with the Joint Chiefs. And certainly not in any level of operational detail.

    The best we can tell is that the detailed operational plan was never reviewed by JFK or his advisors and that only a high level verbal overview was provided to the JCS – they are on record as complaining that their review was made extremely difficult by the lack of detail they were given.

    Its hard to consider the lack of detailed operational plans as intentionally misleading (as compared to the standard CIA obsession with operational security). But the failure to review the “hidden measures” I discuss in the book as well as the fact that JFK was not given a true picture of the on island resistance movement and the total lack of any data supporting an island wide uprising in conjunction with the landings seems to me intentionally misleading. O course that was not a problem just for JFK, Grayston Lynch (with the Brigade on the beach) wrote that an uprising was never a part of the operational plan which he was briefed on (yet it was a given in the overview provided to the JCS and they comment on that being a key element).

    What I can say without reservation is that JFK approved an operation which he ordered to be totally deniable, an operation to covertly land the Cuban volunteer force as a trigger for a popular uprising. There was to be absolutely no evidence of American military involvement – he made that clear. Given that American main line Army tanks were an integral part of the Brigade infantry force, to me that implies that he and his advisors were not fully briefed and effectively misled.

    To your question, I can’t recall any covert operation during the Cold War with such a disconnect between the field operations and Executive Oversight. The closest are probably Angola and Afghanistan but in those activities even if the President was not fully aware of the dirty details, his principals such as Secretary of State/National Security Advisor most definitely were – and were encouraging the engagements.

    Of course all that exposes a fundamental issue with deniable operations – they are intentionally deniable so that the President receives political protection, The risks of that basic concept are what I really try to deal with in the book.

  5. Brandon says:

    Larry, I was thrilled today to see a post on KennedysandKing stating that an essay of yours was soon to be uploaded on the Mary Ferrell site. If this is true, and if it is what I suspect it is then I am thrilled beyond words. Congratulations on the hard work. I can’t wait.

  6. larryjoe2 says:

    Thanks Brandon, if you have not seen it yet, David Boylan and I completed a study on the Wheaton lead and it is already up on the MFF site. The next “essay”, which I think of as a “monograph” – and Rex Bradford assures me is really book length – is indeed in its final stages. Its been peer reviewed by several people, edited somewhat and Rex is now beginning to work with it.

    Unfortunately there is more editing to do, both the routine sort of corrections in punctuation and spelling and some structural work as well. That will be in Rex’s court and he deserves a real debt of gratitude for tackling it. As you can imagine the citations and links will be extensive, at last count there were something like 40 pages of citations, many of them actually many essays.

    Basically the piece will be my final thoughts on what sources I found to be credible during my 30 years work on this subject and a pretty detailed analysis of how their remarks connect, and the story they tell us about the conspiracy. And it is truly a study of the conspiracy – not an effort to convince anyone there was one, but rather to flesh out a scenario of how it developed and operated in Dallas.

    To paraphrase Jim Marrs, there was a conspiracy, get over it, we know that much already…go ahead and deal with it. And my attempt to deal with it is what you will see, hopefully by the end of Summer. For reference, much of the new information integrated in it has come from the recent work on the Wheaton lead and from the research I did related to the Cuba Project and the Bay of Pigs that appears in my new book, In Denial. Both of those introduce and explore key names that will appear again in the upcoming monograph (or book..whatever..grin)

    • Brandon says:

      Larry, thanks for writing back. I thought I had seen all of the Wheaton names essays, but the April post on Mary Ferrell is more comprehensive than what I have seen so far. It’s really well put together. I’m also thrilled to see some photos that I had only seen before on the now taken down site. Great stuff all around, and look forward to the rest.

  7. larryjoe2 says:

    Thanks Brandon, to a large extent it was documents from the Cuba Project and from JMWAVE that allowed us to follow the lead into some serious networking – both operational and social. The roots for a lot of the connections go back to revolutionary Cuba and the various anti-Castro group’s members and activities.

    In general its been possible to trace most of the most serious and experienced individuals back over some four years up to 1963 and then onward for another two at least – that gives a much deeper picture than we had previously.

    Most importantly it allows us to see the ebb and flow of associations – I’m,afraid we have too often spoken way to broadly about who was doing what without being specific as to date….activities among these folks could could and did change at least a couple of times every year and something written about who was doing what in 1961 could be far different than 1963.

    While we can connect most people together given their histories, one of the wild cards for us now is Remegio Arce, a fellow who seems to come out of nowhere and shows up first with Sturgis, then in an Interpen boat mission that was busted by INS. No obvious connections to anything or anyone but then he shows up in AMWORLD and on a very special mission of a hand picked team that Rip Robertson took to the Congo. And after that possibly someone deep enough inside to know details about the attack in Dallas.

    David Boylan is doing all the hard digging on this but so far this fellow has little of the relatively shared history of the Cuba project / JMWAVE maritime operations guys. His connection to Robertson is the real area of interest – its there but we don’t know who or why and Rip was not an easy man to impress, you had to prove yourself under fire to get on his A list.

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