JFK+50: Volume 5, No. 1925THE REALITY OF THE BAY OF PIGS FIASCO SETS IN
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty-five years ago today, April 20, 1961, Americans awoke to newspaper headlines throughout the country detailing the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion that had ended one day before.
The Miami Herald's morning edition described a rally held at Bayfront Park, the same place where an assassin had attempted to shoot president-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. The anti-Castro rally sported 15,000 Cuban exiles chanting "Ayuda! Ayuda! Ayuda! (Help! Help! Help!)---"Kennedy! Kennedy! Kennedy!"
Despite President John F. Kennedy's effort to keep America out of it, everyone now knew, writes Jim Rasenberger, that the invasion "had been an American effort and an American failure." C.L. Sulzberger of the New York Times wrote..."We look like fools to our friends, rascals to our enemies, and incompetents to the rest."
The President found it hard, if not impossible, to explain it to himself. He was raised to believe nothing less was acceptable but victory. He was humiliated and so was the nation he loved. It was not to be a very pleasant day at the White House.
JFK was, however, able to escape the "grim" atmosphere in the West Wing by going to give a long-scheduled afternoon speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors at the Statler-Hilton Hotel. The President said...
"We intend to profit from this lesson. We intend to reexamine and reorient our forces of all kinds...We intend to intensify our efforts for a struggle in many ways more difficult than war."
Back at the White House, JFK met with former Vice-President Richard M. Nixon in the Oval Office. According to Mr. Nixon, the President sought his advice asking "What would you do?" Nixon replied "I would go in."
After what he had been through, JFK might have certainly wanted to do just that, but he was convinced that if he did so, the Soviets would attack Berlin. It was too risky.
The presidency has been called "the loneliest office in the world," and the next morning President Kennedy said to reporters...
"There's an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan."
"Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs," by Jim Rasenberger, Scribner, New York, 2011.
Bay of Pigs Memorial