Fidel: “The historical importance of April 19th is beyond the framework of our own country, because on that day, Yankee imperialism suffered its first great defeat in America”. Photo: Granma Archive
On April 19, 1961, on the sands of Playa Giron, a people’s army, or a people in arms, as we prefer to call it, overwhelmingly defeated the meticulously planned invasion by the United States government. The victory at Playa Giron has gone down in history as the “first great defeat” of U.S. imperialism in America.
Operation Pluto, prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was the empire’s organized revenge against the powerful forces of the Cuban Revolution. To carry it out, it employed representatives of the spurious interests of the putrefying society that had been overcome, members of the CIA and its own armed forces.
The reaction of the Eisenhower government to the defeat that January 1, 1959 inflicted on an army fashioned in its own image and likeness was immediate. The response was inevitably military, although they would first use their entire subversive arsenal, preferably the representatives of the old Batista army and the former system.
The traumatic blow that the revolutionary triumph represented was joined by another forceful one in political and economic terms. The increasingly radical measures of the Revolution, to make the Moncada Programme a reality, directly affected the interests of the monopolies and foreign companies, especially those of the United States. Cuba was an ominous precedent with regard to the empire’s domination of the hemisphere.
Reactions were immediate. Sabotages, attacks, bombings, encouragement and support of counter-revolutionary gangs, piracy operations, media campaigns demonizing the Revolution and its leaders, diplomatic war, economic blockade and the breaking of relations were only one side of the face of the aggression in the making.
In January 1960, the CIA’s Task Force (TF) WH-4 was created, which drew up the Program of Covert Action against the Castro Government, approved by President Eisenhower on March 17.
The Program, which prepared the conditions to subvert the internal order in the Island employing mercenaries and counterrevolutionaries, was accompanied by the intensification of the combat readiness of elite units of the U.S. Armed Forces, especially the Marines, which substantially increased their exercises and manoeuvres in areas of the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
In the summer of 1960, the company asked the Special Group of the National Security Council to approve the flights of U-2 exploration planes over Cuba. The operation was called Kick Off and was carried out by U-2s from the company’s G detachment, flying from the Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas. The CIA requested the Special Group to authorize other flights, which took place between October 26 and 27.
In January 1961, after the abrupt rupture of diplomatic relations with Cuba, the empire threatened the island, undertaking the Convex-1/61 manoeuvres in the Caribbean, with the participation of an aircraft carrier, an atomic submarine, three conventional submarines, ten destroyers and other support units, as well as a thousand marines.
The destroyer dd-844 Perry, converted into a signal interceptor ship and temporarily based at the naval air station in Key West, Florida, had been monitoring Cuban transmissions since February, moving throughout our territorial waters.
On 19 and 21 March, U-2 Dragon Lady strategic exploration aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base, California, carried out overflights to obtain data on the combat order of Cuban air and ground troops, as well as geographical data that would allow for the selection of the appropriate place for the mercenary landing.
Subsequently, a detachment of U-2s moved from Edwards Air Force Base in California to Laughlin, Texas, and from 6 April, within the framework of Operation Flip Top, they carried out 15 flight missions over Cuba.
As of March 27, in the context of the psychological warfare associated with Operation Pluto, counterrevolutionary station Radio Swan only broadcast information linked to enemy organizations in Cuba. Before, during, and after the invasion, it distorted the facts. In doing so, they emulated the ap, upi and afp agencies, that were so imaginative and fanciful, that with a complete lack of professional ethics and scruples, they landed forces in the port of Bayamo, announced bloody battles in the streets of Havana and Cienfuegos, the impetuous advance of Russian tanks against the capital, the overflight of Soviet Migs that had never reached Cuban soil, and massive uprisings in the Sierra Maestra, among other fallacies. Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, the masters of Jingoism, were children compared to these.
On April 3, the State Department published its first White Paper on Cuba, where it stated: “The present situation in Cuba makes confronting the Western Hemisphere and the inter-American system a serious and urgent challenge”.
In the beginning of April, the Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), to execute Operation SouthernTip, which established a radar surveillance station at sea, with three right and left vessels, to monitor airspace between Cuba and southern Florida. The ships, which were rotated, were located about 100 miles east of Key West, about 80 miles south of Miami and 90 miles off the northern coast of Cuba.
The invasion forces prepared for more than a year
As of April 13, the command ship gci Northampton, with the leadership of the second fleet, has been conducting operations to transfer the mercenary brigade 2506, in Nicaragua, to Cuba from the vicinity of Bimini Island, Florida. Armed and fully equipped, it included the possession of some 35 aircraft, 16 of them B-26 bombers, and was escorted by a powerful US naval group which provided cover when it landed, while waiting for the order -which never came- to go into action in support of the self-styled spurious government of the traitor José Miró Cardona, anchored in a Florida military installation.
The US naval detachment providing cover was far superior in firepower to the mercenary brigade. Named Task Force Alpha, it was composed of the amphibious assault helicopter carrier lph-4 Boxer, with a battalion from the 2nd Marine Division on board; the aircraft carrier cvs-9, Essex, with 40 combat aircraft: the destroyers dd 507 Conway; dd 756 Murray; dd 701 Eaton, and the aircraft carrier cva Independence, with 70 aircraft. It was accompanied by two submarines. These were the same forces and means that had been preparing intensely for more than a year for an imminent war.
On April 16, U.S. naval units carried out demonstration actions at night north of Havana and Pinar del Rio, Oriente and Isla de Pinos, with approaches of between ten and six miles from the coast, with the aim of confusing and delaying the Cuban command in identifying the place of the landing. On April 17, U.S. Navy naval units carried out a radio-electronic diversionary manoeuvre from the northern port of Mariel, in Havana, to Bahía Honda, Pinar del Río, in an attempt to divert attention from the direction of the main strike.
The company recruited its mercenaries in the United States and prepared them in camps in Guatemala, Puerto Rico and Miami, and in U.S. military installations such as Fort Bragg and Norfolk in Virginia, Fort Myers and Opalocka in Florida, Vieques in Puerto Rico, and Fort Guly in Panama. At Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, the U.S. Army trained a counterrevolutionary shock force, which sought to land directly in the Eastern Province, with the support of the Guantánamo Naval Base, where an unusual force of about 40 combat and security ships was waiting, concentrated there at the beginning of April 1961. To justify such a presence, the Pentagon announced a military manoeuvre in the Caribbean area. In reality, it was to provide cover for the invasion of Playa Giron.
The U.S. organizers of the invasion sent exploration teams ashore to secure the mercenary landing. Four American pilots belonging to the Alabama National Guard were killed by the fire of our planes and, once the invasion was defeated, in a mixture of arrogance and impotence, combat aircraft from the aircraft carrier Essex flew over the mercenary-free fields of Playa Girón.
Although the main outcome of the events took place in the Zapata Swamp, it was not only there that they occurred. The whole country was threatened by the landing and aggression. On April 15, in the eastern province, very close to Baracoa, the mercenary group of the traitor Nino Díaz was dissuaded from disembarking, upon realizing the presence of revolutionary forces. That attempt was linked to a probable self-aggression at the Guantánamo Naval Base, as a pretext for direct armed intervention.
Had the beachhead been consolidated, and the direct intervention of the US armed forces taken place, history would have been different. We would certainly be fighting the empire today, if we had not defeated it before. As our Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz said at the 25th anniversary of the Giron Beach victory:
“…The importance of Girón is not in the magnitude of the battle, of the combatants, of the heroic deeds that took place there; the great historical significance of Girón is not what happened, but what did not happen thanks to Girón”.