The Bay of Pigs Invasion
The Bay of Pigs Invasion was a failed invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles who opposed Fidel Castro, the operation was covertly financed and directed by the U.S government. The Cuban exiles were trained by the CIA The operation took place from the 17th of April 1961 to the 20th of April 1961 at the peak of the Cold War. This event later set the stage for the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
After Castro's rise to power, militant counter-revolutionary groups developed wanting to overthrow the new regime. The CIA's idea to overthrow the Cuban government emerged in early 1960. The CIA noticed that Cuban exiles were willing to fight and started to recruit and train them. On the 17th of March 1960, the CIA showed their plans to overthrow the Cuban government to the U.S. National Security Council where President Eisenhower gave his support and approved a budget of $13 000 000.
The first stated objective of the plan was 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 CIA also had four major forms of action to aid anti-communist opposition in Cuba. These included providing a powerful propaganda offensive against the regime, perfecting a covert intelligence network within Cuba, developing paramilitary forces outside of Cuba, and acquiring the necessary logistical support for covert military operations on the island. However, at this stage, it was still not clear that an invasion would take place and contrary to popular belief Eisenhower had neither ordered nor approved of an amphibious assault on Cuba. On the On 28th of January 1961, President Kennedy was briefed and authorized the active departments to continue and to report progress.
Why Did the U.S Want to Invade?
After the success of the Cuban revolution, the U.S recognized Castro’s new government. However, the relationship quickly soured after Castro repeatedly condemned the U.S for its misdeeds in Cuba over the previous 60 years. Before Fidel Castro, the U.S was so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba that the American ambassador was the second most important person in Cuba, sometimes even more important than the President himself. Castro legalised the communist party, nationalised property owned by U.S citizens totalling $1,5 billion and strengthened Cuba's ties to the Soviet Union. This enraged the U.S, which wanted to punish Cuba severely. Their relations worsen even more when Castroaccused most of the U.S. State Department personnel in Havana of being spies and subsequently ordered them to leave the country, to which Eisenhower responded by withdrawing recognition of Castro’s government.
Doomed to Fail and the Aftermath
On paper, the U.S should have dominated Cuba. But as we know, they didn’t. What went wrong? First of all, JFK wanted to have deniability, this came at a cost. This meant that the Cuban exiles were poorly supported and the 1500 of them were easily outmatched by Cuba’s military.
JFK was in a tough spot if he directly aided the exiles he’d have risked upsetting the Soviet Union and escalating things to a bigger scale. But if he did nothing he’d have looked weak on communism and the Soviet Union would have access to the U.S front yard.
A big factor in why the invasion failed comes down to the lack of American air support for the exiles which would have certainly tipped some things in their favour. But even when Kennedy knew the invasion was failing he refused to send in the air force and there are two reasons for this. The first one is America’s previous foray into Korea and the current one in Vietnam weren’t exactly proving to be a riveting quick success. The second one is that the CIA told him that even without air support they’d expect the exiles to win since the Cuban people would rise up against Castro. One problem about this though, Castro was quite popular. So the Cuban people were largely at this foreign-backed invasion and Castro’s popularity rose even more after the invasion.
All of the exiles were either killed or captured. The fiasco led to major shifts in international relations between Cuba, the United States, and the Soviet Union. It set the stage for the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, pushed closer ties between Cuba and the Soviet Union and it solidified Castro's role as a national hero.
My Opinion and Similarities Today
One similarity that pops into my head is the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Why? Because of the similar agendas of Kennedy and Putin. On the 24th of February 2022 Putin invaded Ukraine, what was his justification? That modern, Western-leaning Ukraine was a constant threat and Russia could not feel "safe, develop and exist" and "demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine", to protect people subjected to what he called eight years of bullying and genocide by Ukraine's government. "It is not our plan to occupy the Ukrainian territory. We do not intend to impose anything on anyone by force," he insisted. This is the same thing Kennedy wanted.
For comparison, this is what the CIA wrote: “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.” This is the same thing Putin want. Another small similarity is that the underdog is doing better than expected and that both Russia and Ukraine underestimated their enemy.
My opinion on the Bay of Pigs invasion is that the U.S had no right in trying to overthrow the Cuban government, as much as I condemn the invasion of Ukraine. I think that their justifications for invasion are not good enough and that the rest of the world should condemn such actions. If a country invades with no valid justification, actions should be made to hinder and cripple the country’s economy like the actions against Russia.
Great thanks to our volunteer historian Gustav Falk
Gustav Falk was born in Malmö, Sweden in December 2004. He started studying at the vocational school of Universitetsholmen Gymnasium in 2020, wanting to become a plumber. He has always had a keen interest in history, especially military history and political history.
The Liberation of Auschwitz
Auschwitz was the largest of the German Nazi concentration camps. There were around 1,3 million people who were deported to Auschwitz between 1940-1945 and 1,1 million people of them died there. The number of victims includes 960,000 Jews (865,000 of whom were gassed on arrival), 74,000 ethnic Poles, 21,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and up to 15,000 other Europeans. Those who were not gassed were murdered via starvation, exhaustion, disease, individual executions, or beatings. Others were killed during medical experiments.
As the Soviet Red Army closed in on the Reich, the SS sent 60 000 prisoners to death. Red Army soldiers from the 322nd Rifle Division arrived in Auschwitz on the 27th of January 1945 at 15:00. The Soviet soldiers were ready for a fight, but no nazis could be found. About 7,000 prisoners had been left behind, most of whom were seriously ill due to the effects of their imprisonment.When the remaining prisoners saw the Soviet soldiers they started to kiss, cry and hug the soldiers. “They rushed toward us shouting, fell on their knees, kissed the flaps of our overcoats, and threw their arms around our legs,” remembered Georgii Elisavetskii, one of the first Red Army soldiers to step into Auschwitz. Red Army soldiers found 600
corpses, 370,000 men's suits, 837,000 articles of women's clothing, and 7,7 tons of human hair.
The Germans had long known they might have to abandon Auschwitz, but they planned to use it as long as possible, further exploiting the workers whose slave labour they rented to companies that produced chemicals, armaments and other materials. Even as they waited to determine if a mass evacuation was needed, the Germans began to destroy evidence of their crimes. They murdered most of the Jews who had worked in Auschwitz’s gas chambers and crematoria, then destroyed most of the killing sites. The destruction didn’t end there: The Germans ordered prisoners to tear down many buildings and systematically destroyed many of their meticulous records of camp life.
The Soviets did not know that the camp existed. They were not supposed to liberate the camp, but when scouts spotted the camp they knew they had found something terrible. “We knew nothing,” Soviet soldier Ivan Martynushkin recalled to the Times of Israel. Then, he saw it: inmates behind barbed wire. "I remember their faces, especially their eyes which betrayed their ordeal,” he told the Times. Even the battle-hardened soldiers were horrified of what they found.
The scouts were followed by troops who entered the camp. They were shocked by what they saw there: piles of ash that had once been human bodies. People living in barracks were encrusted with excrement. Emaciated patients who became ill when they ate the food they offered. Red Army General Vasily Petrenko, commander of the 107th Infantry Division, remarked, "I who saw people dying every day was shocked by the Nazis' indescribable hatred toward the inmates who had turned into living skeletons. I read about the Nazis' treatment of Jews in various leaflets, but there was nothing about the Nazis' treatment of women, children, and old men. It was in Auschwitz that I found out about the fate of the Jews.".
Finally, after five years, the hell was over. In 1947 Rudolf Hess, the SS officer who served as Auschwitz’s commandant for more than four years was hanged. The 27th of January is recognized as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Auschwitz caused 1,1 million dreams to fade away and turned 1,1 million hopes into dust.
We ought never forget what happened to show our respect to the victims.
A Level Student, Year II
Universitetsholmen Gymnasie, Malmo, Sweden.
By presumably word of mouth only, the Christmas Eve policy became “live and let live” and it is suspected that this was ordered by lower-ranking officers. This order meant that one was not to fire unless fired upon. The officers’ decision was made without authorization from the higher-ranking officers and the flimsy truce started to slowly take hold. On or around Christmas Eve, German soldiers started to emerge from their trenches, waving their arms to show that they mean no harm. When it became clear for the British soldiers that they were unarmed, the British soldiers joined them and met the Germans in No Man’s Land. When they met each other they started to exchange gifts, sharing food and drink. There was even a football match between them, where, it is rumoured, the Germans won 3-2.
How do we know that any of this actually happened? Well at this time of the war, the censorship of letters sent home had not been imposed yet. British and German soldiers wrote of playing football and sharing food and drinks with the men who had been their mortal enemies the day before.
Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch, a schoolteacher of the 134th Saxons, wrote in his diary.
“The British brought a ball from the trenches, and soon a lively game ensued.
How marvellous, how wonderful, yet how strange it was. The British officers felt the same way about it. And so Christmas, that celebration of love, managed to bring together mortal enemies as friends, for a time”.
These letters stress the fact that the soldiers could not believe their eyes that they were celebrating and chatting with the enemy. But it was not all fun and games, however, as the most common activities in areas observing the Christmas Truce were joint services to bury the dead and to repair and improve the trenches. This implies that the soldiers knew that the peace was not going to last. They were right.
The Allied and German High Commands knew nothing about these Christmas Day festivities. When the news reached them, in their secluded chateaux, a safe distance from the front, they did their utmost to put a stop to it. The following days after Christmas the violence began again on the Western Front.
“At 8.30 am I fired three shots in the air and put up a flag with ‘Merry Christmas’ on it, and climbed onto the parapet,” wrote Captain JC Dunn, of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. “The German Captain appeared on the parapet - he put up a sheet with ‘Thank You’ on it. We both bowed and saluted and got down into our respective trenches, and he fired two shots in the air, and the war was on again.”
I think that this is a beautiful thing that happened. It makes me both happy and sad at the same time. It makes me happy because this unusual event shows the humanity of the soldiers. That they’re not some programmed killing machines, where their only purpose is to kill. They were human, like the rest of us. But it makes me sad thinking of how many of them actually survived until 1918, to the end of the war. Or the fact that they had no clue of the horrors that would come. The second battle of Ypres and its asphyxiating gas were months away and the seemingly endless, mindless slaughter of Paschendale and Verdun would come in the following years. The explosions from artillery shells, the sight and smell of poison gas, the screaming, the loss of friends and limbs. They were young men with ambitions and passions, but it was unfairly taken from them by a pointless war. This was their last time of peaceful silence before they would experience the horror of The War to End All Wars.
Gustav Falk Year II student.
Universitetsholm Vocational College.