Any historical review of President Kenney’s actions in regard to the Bay of Pigs landings in 1961 has to take full note of information that was withheld from the official inquiries which immediately followed that disaster. Of course it took decades for us to learn the full extent of the information that did not enter the official record – not unlike the decades it took historians to uncover the truth about the Tonkin Gulf incidents, which dramatically escalated American involvement in SE Asia under President Johnson.
At the moment I’m working on a presentation on JFK and the Bay of Pigs for the upcoming JFK Lancer virtual conference, and a couple of totally new items that I wrote about in my newest book (In Denial), popped out, especially since they are totally absent from the inquiries into that disaster.
One of the more interesting is especially intriguing because it may lead back to two separate occasions in which President Eisenhower told the Cuba Project leader (Richard Bissell) that he should create a provocation which would allow conventional American military action against the Castro regime. Dulles himself acknowledged that direction, but never admitted to doing anything which would have followed Eisenhower’s lead.
As it turns out, Bissell may indeed have pursued that idea. One possibility emerges from information that only emerged decades later, a story of a covert operation launched by CIA and Navy Intelligence officers out of the Guantanamo Navy Base in Cuba. If you have In Denial you will find that discussed on pages 280-284. The basic story involves infiltrating some six to eight Cuban volunteers via the base, and supplying them with a large quantity of explosives and detonators. Those volunteers would then link up with another group covertly deployed by ship to perform some still unknown (but apparently key) action.
The interesting element of the story is that there were no real, significant targets of opportunity for a diversionary action in the mountainous area of far eastern Cuba – other than the Guantanamo base itself. And Guantanamo had always been seen as a flash point for Cuban military action against the U.S. In 1962, mobile Soviet tactical nuclear missile launchers were deployed and hidden near the base in the event that it needed to be totally eliminated during any American military action.
According to those involved in 1961, only days before the planned landings at the Bay of Pigs, the team out of Guantanamo had begun to establish an explosives cache near the base. At that point an accident resulted in some 250 detonators exploding, badly injuring all the volunteers – who were aided back into the base by the Navy officers working with the team.
While there is no concrete proof that the explosives or teams were going to be used in a provocation against Guantanamo, something which would trigger an escalating American military response, it would make since of the otherwise mysterious events. Events which included not only the high risk deployment of a covert team out of Guantanamo, but also the choice of the landing place for the Nino Diaz mission – just across the mountains from Guantanamo.
We will likely never know for certain, but it certainly possible that Bissell had not totally ignored the option of provocation in his “hidden measures”, none of which were exposed in the official investigations of the project.