Apr 17 2011

On This Day In History April 17

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

April 17 is the 107th day of the year (108th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 258 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1961, The Bay of Pigs invasion begins when a CIA-financed and -trained group of Cuban refugees lands in Cuba and attempts to topple the communist government of Fidel Castro. The attack was an utter failure.

Fidel Castro had been a concern to U.S. policymakers since he seized power in Cuba with a revolution in January 1959. Castro’s attacks on U.S. companies and interests in Cuba, his inflammatory anti-American rhetoric, and Cuba’s movement toward a closer relationship with the Soviet Union led U.S. officials to conclude that the Cuban leader was a threat to U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere. In March 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the CIA to train and arm a force of Cuban exiles for an armed attack on Cuba. John F. Kennedy inherited this program when he became president in 1961.

Political Background

On March 17, 1960, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved a document prepared by the 5412 Committee (also known as the ‘Special Group’), at a meeting of the US National Security Council (NSC). The stated first objective of the plan began as follows:


   1. Objective: The purpose of the program outlined herein is to bring about the replacement of the Castro regime with one more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S. in such a manner to avoid any appearance of U.S. intervention.

The outline plan (code-named Operation Pluto) was organized by CIA Deputy Director for Plans Richard Mervin Bissell, Jr., under CIA Director Allen Dulles. Having experience in actions such as the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’etat, Dulles was confident that the CIA was capable of overthrowing the Cuban government as led by prime minister Fidel Castro since February 1959. The first detailed CIA plan proposed a ship-borne invasion at the old colonial city of Trinidad, Cuba, about 270 km (170 mi) south-east of Havana, at the foothills of the Escambray Mountains in Sancti Spiritus province. Trinidad had good port facilities, it was closer to many existing counter-revolutionary activities, it had an easily defensible beachhead, and it offered an escape route into the Escambray Mountains. When that plan was rejected by the State Department, the CIA went on to propose an alternative plan. On April 4, 1961, President Kennedy then approved the Bay of Pigs plan (also known as Operation Zapata), because it had an airfield that would not need to be extended to handle bomber operations, it was further away from large groups of civilians than the Trinidad plan, and it was less “noisy” militarily, which would make any future denial of direct US involvement more plausible. The invasion landing area was changed to beaches bordering the Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) in Las Villas Province, 150 km south-east of Havana, and east of the Zapata peninsula. The landings were to take place at Playa Giron (code-named Blue Beach), Playa Larga (code-named Red Beach), and Caleta Buena Inlet (code-named Green Beach).

In March 1961, the CIA helped Cuban exiles in Miami to create the Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC), chaired by Jose Miro Cardona, former Prime Minister of Cuba in January 1959. Cardona became the de facto leader-in-waiting of the intended post-invasion Cuban government.

Bay of Pigs: The Invasion

The first part of the plan was to destroy Castro’s tiny air force, making it impossible for his military to resist the invaders. On April 15, 1961, a group of Cuban exiles took off from Nicaragua in a squadron of American B-26 bombers, painted to look like stolen Cuban planes, and conducted a strike against Cuban airfields. However, it turned out that Castro and his advisers knew about the raid and had moved his planes out of harm’s way. Frustrated, Kennedy began to suspect that the plan the CIA had promised would be “both clandestine and successful” might in fact be “too large to be clandestine and too small to be successful.”

But it was too late to apply the brakes. On April 17, the Cuban exile brigade began its invasion at an isolated spot on the island’s southern shore known as the Bay of Pigs. Almost immediately, the invasion was a disaster. The CIA had wanted to keep it a secret for as long as possible, but a radio station on the beach (which the agency’s reconnaissance team had failed to spot) broadcast every detail of the operation to listeners across Cuba. Unexpected coral reefs sank some of the exiles’ ships as they pulled into shore. Backup paratroopers landed in the wrong place. Before long, Castro’s troops had pinned the invaders on the beach, and the exiles surrendered after less than a day of fighting; 114 were killed and over 1,100 were taken prisoner.

Bay of Pigs: The Aftermath

According to many historians, the CIA and the Cuban exile brigade believed that President Kennedy would eventually allow the American military to intervene in Cuba on their behalf. However, the president was resolute: As much as he did not want to “abandon Cuba to the communists,” he said, he would not start a fight that might end in World War III. His efforts to overthrow Castro never flagged-in November 1961, he approved Operation Mongoose, an espionage and sabotage campaign-but never went so far as to provoke an outright war. In 1962, the Cuban missile crisis inflamed American-Cuban-Soviet tensions even further.

Fidel Castro is still Cuba’s symbolic leader today, although his younger brother Raul (1931-) has taken over the presidency and serves as commander in chief of the armed forces.

 69 – After the First Battle of Bedriacum, Vitellius becomes Roman Emperor.

1080 – King of Denmark Harald III dies and is succeeded by Canute IV, who would later be the first Dane to be canonized.

1397 – Geoffrey Chaucer tells the Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of Richard II. Chaucer scholars have also identified this date (in 1387) the start of the book’s pilgrimage to Canterbury.

1492 – Spain and Christopher Columbus sign the Capitulations of Santa Fe for his voyage to Asia to acquire spices.

1521 – Martin Luther speaks to the assembly at the Diet of Worms, refusing to recant his teachings.

1524 – Giovanni da Verrazzano reaches New York harbor.

1555 – After 18 months of siege, Siena surrenders to the Florentine-Imperial army. The Republic of Siena is incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

1797 – Sir Ralph Abercromby attacks San Juan, Puerto Rico in what would be one of the largest invasions of the Spanish territories in America.

1797 – Citizens of Verona, Italy, begin an eight-day rebellion against the French occupying forces, which will end unsuccessfully.

1864 – American Civil War: The Battle of Plymouth begins – Confederate forces attack Plymouth, North Carolina.

1895 – The Treaty of Shimonoseki between China and Japan is signed. This marks the end of the First Sino-Japanese War, and the defeated Qing Empire is forced to renounce its claims on Korea and to concede the southern portion of the Fengtien province, Taiwan and the Pescadores Islands to Japan.

1905 – The Supreme Court of the United States decides Lochner v. New York which holds that the “right to free contract” is implicit in the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

1907 – The Ellis Island immigration center processes 11,747 people, more than on any other day.

1912 – Russian troops open fire on striking goldfield workers in northeast Siberia, killing at least 150.

1941 – World War II: The Kingdom of Yugoslavia surrenders to Germany.

1942 – French prisoner of war General Henri Giraud escapes from his castle prison in Festung Konigstein.

1945 – Brazilian forces liberate the town of Montese, Italy, from German Nazi forces.

1946 – Syria obtains its Independence from the French occupation.

1949 – At midnight 26 Irish counties officially leave the British Commonwealth. A 21-gun salute on O’Connell Bridge, Dublin, ushers in the Republic of Ireland.

1961 – Bay of Pigs Invasion: A group of CIA financed and trained Cuban refugees lands at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba with the aim of ousting Fidel Castro.

1964 – Jerrie Mock becomes the first woman to circumnavigate the world by air.

1969 – Sirhan Sirhan is convicted of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy.

1969 – Czechoslovakian Communist Party chairman Alexander Dubcek is deposed.

1970 – Apollo program: The ill-fated Apollo 13 spacecraft returns to Earth safely.

1971 – The People’s Republic of Bangladesh forms, under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Mujibnagor.

1975 – The Cambodian Civil War ends. The Khmer Rouge captures the capital Phnom Penh and Cambodian government forces surrender.

1982 – Patriation of the Canadian constitution in Ottawa by Proclamation of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada.

1984 – Police Constable Yvonne Fletcher is killed by gunfire from the Libyan People’s Bureau in London during a small demonstration outside the embassy. Ten others are wounded. The events lead to an 11-day siege of the building.

1986 – The Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years’ War between the Netherlands and the Isles of Scilly ends.

2006 – Sami Hammad, a Palestinian suicide bomber, detonates an explosive device in Tel Aviv, killing 11 people and injuring 70.

Holidays and observances

   * Christian Feast Day:

       Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (Canada)

       Pope Anicetus

       April 17 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

   * Earliest day on which Store Bededag or General Prayer Day can fall, while May 13 is the latest; observed on the 4th Friday after Easter day. (Denmark)

   * Evacuation Day, celebrates the recognition of the independence of Syria from France in 1946.

   * FAO Day (Iraq)

   * Flag Day (American Samoa)

   * Women’s Day (Gabon)

   *World Hemophilia Day (International)

1 comment

  1. TMC

    Dalai Lama

    No matter what our situation, we all share the same aspiration for happiness.

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