60th Anniversary of U.S. Defeat
at the Bay of Pigs, April 19, 1961
Cuba’s Historic Victory at Playa Girón
On April 17, 1961 more than 1,400 U.S.-backed mercenaries, trained and led by the CIA, launched an invasion of Cuba at Playa Girón (also known as the Bay of Pigs), located in the south-central region of Cuba. Spearheaded by the notorious Brigade 2506, comprised of henchmen of the former U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, as well as terrorists and deposed oligarchs, the aim of the invasion was to overthrow the young revolution that had triumphed on January 1, 1959. The invasion was part of the CIA’s Plan Pluto, aimed at creating a pretext for the U.S. to self-righteously intervene and place a puppet regime in power.
The U.S. attempt to invade Cuba at Playa Girón took place at a time when the U.S. imperialists had already caused many tragedies through coups, military interventions and other interference in Latin America and the Caribbean. Thus, the decisive victory of Cuba over the enemy forces at the Bay of Pigs, regarded as the first defeat of U.S. imperialism in Latin America, had significance not only for Cuba but for all the peoples of the Americas.
In the days before the actual invasion, the U.S. and its mercenaries had stepped up their provocations, including bombing the bases at Havana and Santiago de Cuba, causing death and considerable damage. Likewise, U.S. aircraft disguised with insignia of the Cuban Air Force carried out attacks on Cuba.
Retired Colonel Armando Martínez Alvarez, in an article published in Granma International on the 50th anniversary of the U.S.-backed invasion, recounted how just days before the events at Playa Girón, he and other Cuban youth had been mobilized by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro into an anti-aircraft unit to defend Cuba from airborne attack:
“On April 15, 1961, at 06:00 am, three Cuban airports: Ciudad Libertad, San Antonio de los Baños and Santiago de Cuba, suffered a surprise attack by eight B-26 bombers flying out of Puerto Cabezas, Republic of Nicaragua, painted with the insignia of our air force in order to cause confusion, in their attempt to destroy the small and inadequate combat air force on the ground (the action prior to the mercenary invasion), thwarted by the opportune foresight of Fidel, who had ordered the aircraft to be dispersed.
“Only one of the eight aircraft that we had at that moment was destroyed, but the machinegun fire resulted in seven people killed and 53 wounded, mostly civilians. Two enemy planes were damaged by anti-aircraft fire, and one pitched into the sea, as could be seen from the Comodoro Hotel, located in what is now Playa municipality. The rookie gunners riddled the mercenary aircraft and, before dying, one of them, Eduardo García Delgado, wrote the name of Fidel on the wall for posterity with his own blood.”
Defiant Declaration in the Face of U.S. Aggression
On April 16, 1961, following U.S.-backed mercenary bombings of Cuba, Fidel Castro declared the socialist nature of the Cuban Revolution. The proclamation took place during the funerals for those killed in the bombings perpetrated by anti-Cuba U.S. mercenaries the previous day at airports and airfields in Havana and Santiago de Cuba, a prelude to the invasion at Playa Girón.
As the funeral procession and march of thousands of people made its way to Colón Cemetery in Havana, Cuban flags flew from balconies and flowers were thrown from windows. The march stopped at the corner of 23rd and 12th Streets where the leader of the Cuban Revolution made the historic proclamation.
Fidel stated: “This is the socialist and democratic revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble. And for this revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble, we are willing to give our lives.”
Referring to the U.S. imperialists, Fidel said, “This is what they cannot forgive, that we are here, under their noses, and that we have made a socialist Revolution under the very nose of the United States.”
In this way the Cuban Revolution defiantly announced its socialist nature to the world and the U.S.
Fidel then accused the U.S. administration of hindering the peaceful development of the Cuban nation, destroying its people’s economic resources and their citizens’ lives, and demanded that the United States take responsibility for the aggression.
“This Revolution is not defended with mercenaries,” he said in reference to the pilots hired with U.S. money who had conducted the bombings. “This Revolution is defended by men and women of the people.”
As Cuba prepared to repel the U.S.-supported mercenary invasion at Playa Girón, the people cheered Fidel’s speech and with their guns raised, affirmed their militant defence of the country and the socialist nature of the revolution that continues to the present.
“Who has the weapons?” Fidel asked the crowd. “Are they in the hands of the exploiters?” The people raised their guns above their heads and shouted “NO!” “Are the working people a majority? Is it democratic to have a revolution in which the working people have the weapons? Fellow workers and farmers, this is the socialist and democratic Revolution of the working people, with the working people and for the working people!”
U.S. Mercenaries Invade Playa Girón
On April 17, the U.S. imperialists and their mercenaries, emboldened by their cowardly acts of terrorism and recklessness, and illusions that the Cuban people would support them, proceeded with the invasion.
The mercenaries who landed at Playa Girón were poorly organized and ill-equipped. Their delusions of being greeted with open arms were abruptly shattered by the reality that the Cuban people were united with Fidel and the army and would not permit Cuba to become a U.S. colony once again.
A revolutionary militia unit composed of local charcoal workers confronted the invaders immediately. Although suffering heavy casualties, the workers kept the invaders engaged long enough for other units to arrive.
Under Fidel’s direct leadership on the battlefield, the Cuban forces handed a decisive defeat to the U.S. mercenaries by April 19, despite the latter being backed by the U.S. military. Many Cuban patriots died and a great number of farmers and civilians were victims of enemy fire. Some 1,200 invaders were taken prisoner and later exchanged for medicine, medical equipment and funds for the children of those killed by the mercenaries.
Speaking on the occasion of May Day 1961 after the victory of Playa Girón, the legendary leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro said that the type of homeland that the imperialists speak of is a homeland of the parasites who live off the labour of the majority, of the few who exploit the many. The new Cuban homeland, he said, is one where Cubans had won the right to control their destiny and the right to construct their own future that would of necessity be better than that of the past.
Referring to the U.S. administration under whose auspices the Bay of Pigs invasion was launched, Fidel Castro ended his May Day speech 60 years ago with the defiance that has characterized Cuba to the present. “If Mr. Kennedy does not like socialism, well, we do not like imperialism!” Fidel said, setting a line of march which guides Cuba to this day.
The demand of the Cuban and world’s peoples that Cuba be permitted to forge its independent path, free from U.S. interference, be it armed aggression, terrorism, the economic blockade, etc., is as relevant today as it was in 1961.
The fact that the small island of Cuba continues to control its own destiny in the face of the most powerful nation on earth commands respect and tremendous admiration. Against all odds, Cuba has maintained its independence and way of life, showing the entire world that it can be done because it must be done. It is a matter of principle, if the people are to be truly free with a democracy of their own choosing. It must be done if peace is to be preserved in the Americas, and if grinding poverty, illiteracy and disease are to be ended. Cuba has shown the world it can be done. It has shown the world, and continues to show the world, the true meaning of internationalism and humanitarian aid which are designed to address the needs of the people, not self-serving imperialist aims. This is the path that will change the world in a manner that favours the peoples, not a minuscule few.
Sixty years after its decisive victory at Playa Girón, the Cuban Revolution continues to calmly overcome every obstacle in the path of its socialist development, be it natural or manmade. All indications are that 60 years after Playa Girón, the U.S. imperialists are more isolated than ever. The people of the world resolutely reject U.S. terrorism against Cuba and its retrogressive recourse to violence as a solution for differences between itself and Cuba or any other nation. The U.S. imperialists should finally learn the lesson of their ignominious defeat at Playa Girón and keep their hands off Cuba.
(TML Archives, Granma International, www.fidelcastro.cu)