Cold War adversaries gather to discuss Bay of Pigs battle
HAVANA, Cuba (AP) -- Past adversaries in a Cold War battle are trying to
dispassionate look at the disastrous Bay of Pigs landing that shaped four decades of U.S.-Cuba
Former advisers to President John F. Kennedy, ex-CIA operatives, members
the exile invasion team and retired Cuban military men were meeting for three
days, starting Thursday. Behind closed doors, they will discuss their roles and
examine newly declassified documents to better understand the event still
dividing Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits.
Their findings and the documents will be released at the end of each day.
"That was a long time ago and our countries are still divided," American
Schlesinger, a former aide to President Kennedy, told a Wednesday night news conference. "It is
hoped that this conference will advance the normalization of relations."
"I hope that this conference serves one purpose: that Cubans from both
sides see that there is no
need for this conflict," said Alfredo Duran, one of five former members of the Bay of Pigs invasion
force who arrived in a delegation of about 60 Americans on Wednesday.
Invasion foreshadowed U.S.-Soviet crisis
Trained by the CIA in Guatemala, the 2506 Brigade was comprised of about
determined to overthrow Castro's government, which had seized power 16 months before.
New in office, Kennedy inherited the mission from the Eisenhower
administration. "I do not believe that Kennedy would have initiated this adventure,
but I think he felt admiration for the brave Cuban exiles who wanted to go back
and fight for their homeland," Schlesinger said.
At the time, Washington worried that the Soviet Union would use Cuba to
establish a beachhead 90 miles from American shores. The invasion
foreshadowed the crisis that blew up the following year over Soviet nuclear
missiles being deployed in Cuba.
The three-day invasion was disastrous. Short of ammunition and lacking
support, more than 1,000 invaders were captured. Another 100 invaders and 151
Duran admitted the presence of some former 2506 Brigade members at the
conference was been criticized by fellow exiles in Miami as a propaganda
maneuver by Cuba, but said that it was important that the brigade be represented.
"This is a historical event and we felt it was our duty to come express
and express our views," said Duran.
Other key American figures attending were Robert Reynolds, the CIA station
chief in Miami during the April 17-19, 1961, invasion; Wayne Smith, then a U.S.
diplomat stationed in Havana; and Richard Goodwin, another Kennedy assistant,
who with Schlesinger considered the invasion ill-advised.
Declassified papers on event to be released
On the Cuban government's side were Vice President Jose Ramon Fernandez,
retired general who led defending troops on the beach known here as Playa
Giron, and a host of other retired military men.
Unknown was an appearance by President Fidel Castro, who issued orders
battle field by telephone from a nearby sugar mill. "I am sure he would like to
come" if he can find the time, Fernandez told journalists.
Newly declassified Cuban and U.S. documents about the Bay of Pigs, as well
formerly secret papers from Brazil, Canada, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia
will be released in Havana after sessions Thursday, said Peter Kornbluh of the
National Security Archive at George Washington University.
"We hope to advance the historical record significantly with these documents,"
After two days in Havana, the group will visit the Bay of Pigs on the island's
south-central coast on Saturday.
Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.