Cuba in the 1950s was a close ally of the USA. Their friendship was important because of Cuba’s proximity to the US coast; it was only 90 miles away, and well within America’s sphere of influence. Up until 1959, Cuba was lead by a pro-American government headed up by Batista, with most of the industry on the island being owned by American corporations. However, in 1959, Fidel Castro lead a revolution to overthrow the government, and gain independence from the US. Castro’s new government took over all American property in Cuba. In retaliation, the US stopped buying Cuba’s main export; sugar. Although the take over of American industry in Cuba angered America, the embargo on sugar sales hit Cuba hard, promoting Castro to turn to Khrushchev to help. Castro wasn’t a communist, though he was an enthusiastic left wing.
Khrushchev saw an opportunity to get a communist outpost right in the American sphere of influence, so he agreed to provide economic aid to Cuba to help them industrialize. Cuba and the USSR were now firm allies, and the USA began to sweat.
The US broke off all diplomatic relations with Cuba in the January of 1961 because of the Soviet involvement in Cuba. Relations worsened, and shortly before Eisenhower lost his presidency he sanctioned a scheme saying thatt Cuban exiles living in the US would be trained by the CIA, with the intention of invading Cuba. Kennedy continued this scheme when he came to power. The exiles consisted of men who had fled Cuba in 1959, after Batista was toppled by Castro.
The plan was for the rebels, who called themselves La Brigada 2506, to land in Cuba, and lead a national uprising against Castro. They underwent their training in Florida, where they were overheard talking about details of the plan, giving Castro and his army a head start.
On 15th April, US planes bombed some of the Cuban airforce, destroying some aircraft. However, the second wave of bombings, scheduled for the second day, were called off. That was a mistake. The Cuban airforce regrouped and were ready to fight the next day. On 17th April, La Brigada 2506 landed at the Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs), and were met by 20,000 men of Castro’s army. The CIA had not predicted this; they didn’t realize Castro’s popularity. He had provided Cubans with better schooling, and the nationalisation of industry benefitted Cubans who had previously been exploited by American businesses, so when La Brigada tried to gain support from the Cuban locals, they weren’t very responsive. Two days later, the fighting was finished, ending with 100 deaths from La Brigada, and over 1000 imprisoned. It wasn’t until December 1962 that the prisoners were released, after $53 million worth of food and medicines were given to Cuba by organisations and the people in the USA.
The Bay of Pigs had been a disaster. The USA now looked to be an imperialistic and brutal nation. So the US began more covert operations to remove Castro from power. However, as well as being a disaster for the US, it was a major success for the USSR. The Bay of Pigs had pushed Cuba further toward the Soviet Union, and the developing world saw Cuba and Castro as an acceptable example of a far left wing politcal system. Kennedy was humiliated, and the USSR’s position in the Cold War had been strengthened.