The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs
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Now in paperback, a “balanced, engrossing account” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) of the Bay of Pigs Crisis drawing on long-hidden CIA documents and delivering the vivid truth of five pivotal days in April 1961.
THE BRILLIANT DISASTER is a remarkably gripping account of America’s Bay of Pigs crisis, drawing on long-hidden CIA documents and delivering, as never before, the vivid truth—and consequences—of five pivotal days in April 1961.
At the heart of the Bay of Pigs crisis stood President John F. Kennedy, and journalist Jim Rasenberger traces what Kennedy knew, thought, and said as events unfolded. He examines whether Kennedy was manipulated by the CIA into approving a plan that would ultimately involve the American military. He also draws compelling portraits of the other figures who played key roles in the drama: Fidel Castro, who shortly after achieving power visited New York City and was cheered by thousands (just months before the United States began plotting his demise); Dwight Eisenhower, who originally ordered the secret program, then later disavowed it; Allen Dulles, the CIA director who may have told Kennedy about the plan before he was elected president (or so Richard Nixon suspected); and Richard Bissell, the famously brilliant “deus ex machina” who ran the operation for the CIA—and took the blame when it failed. Beyond the short-term fallout, Rasenberger demonstrates, the Bay of Pigs gave rise to further and greater woes, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, and even, possibly, the assassination of John Kennedy.
Written with elegant clarity and narrative verve, The Brilliant Disaster is the most complete account of this event to date, providing not only a fast-paced chronicle of the disaster but an analysis of how it occurred—a question as relevant today as then—and how it profoundly altered the course of modern American history.
Donovan returned to New York. “Remember, don’t say anything good about me in public,” Donovan joked to Castro after revealing his intention to run for the Senate. “A couple of friends like you and I won’t need enemies.” “Don’t worry,” said Castro. “We men in public life understand these things.” Donovan returned to New York on September 2 and got to work. A few days later, he received a wish list from Cuba containing products Castro deemed acceptable for the indemnity package. Despite
running high in the Little Havana section of the city. There was no telling what the exiles might do if they found Castro’s men in their midst. They might attempt to kill them. They could certainly kill the deal. Castro accepted the offer. He told Donovan he would send a team from the Cuban Red Cross to examine the merchandise. On the morning of Friday, December 21, four days before Christmas, the letter of credit was formally issued by the Royal Bank of Canada and delivered to Castro. Later
later.” Allen Dulles never did end up publishing My Answer to the Bay of Pigs before his death in 1969. Later, in donating drafts of the article, along with the rest of Dulles’s papers, to the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library at Dulles’s beloved alma mater, Princeton University, his wife, Clover, enclosed a note in the file: “Mrs. Allen W. Dulles wishes to state that her husband decided not to publish this article, because there was so much more in his favor he could have said, if he had been
every April 17 on the anniversary of the invasion, they bring arthritic joints and creased faces, but also memories that are sharp and vivid. They grow animated and loud as they talk of the battle, the anticipation, the excitement and confusion, the grief and anger that came later. The anger is still remarkably raw, against Castro, but also against John Kennedy, whose unfilled promise at the Orange Bowl to return the brigade flag to a liberated Cuba still rankles. (In 1977, the brigade demanded
Castro, too; and those by Cuban nationals who hail the events of 1961 as a great defeat of American imperialism and a defining episode in the hagiography of Fidel Castro. With the possible exception of Castro, no one came out of the Cuban venture smelling sweet, but over time the CIA came to assume the rankest odor of all. Starting with the publication of two important memoirs by senior Kennedy aides in the fall of 1965—Arthur M. Schlesinger’s A Thousand Days and Theodore Sorensen’s Kennedy—a