March 24, 2001

Former Cold War foes head to Bay of Pigs for last day of conference

                  HAVANA, Cuba (AP) -- Fidel Castro and his former adversaries studied maps
                  and exchanged information about the Bay of Pigs invasion, as participants in
                  the event prepared on Saturday to visit the beach where the Cold War drama
                  was played out.

                  The trip to Playa Giron, as the beach on the island's south-central coast is
                  known, was being held on the last day of a three-day conference that brought
                  together Castro and other protagonists in the April 17-19, 1961 invasion of Cuba
                  by a group of exiles trained and armed by the CIA.

                  It was not clear if Castro would accompany the former CIA operatives,
                  members of the invasion team and former aides to President Kennedy who spent
                  Thursday and Friday poring over newly declassified documents on the event.

                  As Castro and other participants stood before a map on Friday they exchanged
                  recollections about the three days that Cubans from both sides of the
                  Florida Straits took shots at one another, Thomas Blanton of the National Security
                  Archive told reporters late Friday.

                  The archive, based at George Washington University, helped organize the event with the
                  University of Havana.

                  Dedicated to declassifying secret U.S. documents, the archive provided participants with
                  a wealth of new information about the invasion that went on to shape U.S.-Cuba relations
                  for four decades.

                  Without ammunition and U.S. air support, more than 1,000 invaders were
                  captured in the disastrous invasion. Another 100 invaders and 151 defenders

                  The Cuban government also released a number of formerly secret papers.

                  In one Cuban document released to reporters Friday evening, Vice President Jose
                  Ramon Fernandez, who as a young military captain led the defending forces on
                  the beach, listed what he considered to be his numerous errors.

                  Writing shortly after the battle, Fernandez considered his mistakes to include
                  subordinates who acted on their own, failure by leaders to sufficiently control
                  their troops, and the improper training of tank operators.

                  Conference participants described poignant moments, including a former
                  member of the invasion team shaking hands -- at Castro's urging -- with the head
                  of Cuba's artillery unit at the battle scene.

                  There were also light moments in the closed door conference. An amused Castro
                  read aloud a U.S. document assessing his personality after his U.S. visit as
                  Cuba's new prime minister in early 1959. The reading provoked many smiles and
                  even laughter, the participants said.

                  Also studied was the first-known CIA document calling for Castro's

                  An American delegation of nearly 60 people attended the conference, including
                  five former members of the invasion force, as well as former Kennedy special
                  assistants Arthur Schlesinger and Richard Goodwin, who both thought the
                  invasion was ill-advised.

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.