We have to remind ourselves of this at every moment: that we are in a war, a cold war as they call it; a war where there is no front line, no continuous bombardment
- Che Guevara, 21 days before the Bay of Pigs invasion.
As a Communist country located just a few hundred miles off the coast of Florida, diplomatic relations in the second half of the 20th century between Cuba and the United States were often rather tense. The Bay of Pigs invasion exacerbated the decline in good relations between the two nations, and could be considered a key event that lead to the much more dangerous Cuban Missile Crisis 18 months later.
In January 1961, reacting on pressure to invade Cuba but also the need to avoid a nuclear war with the USSR, John F. Kennedy authorised an invasion of Cuba. While US weapons, limited air support and CIA training and intelligence were provided to the 1,500 or so invaders, they were all exiled Cubans rather than US troops. The reason for this was to avoid the USA being dragged into both a war with Cuba and a nuclear war with the USSR that a more aggressive move was expected to bring.
On April 17th, 1961 the 1,500 exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs in southern Cuba. As Castro had managed to overthrow the Batista regime with just ten people, after 70 of his original invasion force were killed or captured, the reasoning behind the American-supported invasion was that 1500 exiles would be able to trigger a similar revolution. Unfortunately for the invaders, the amount of local support was much lower than expected and the planned uprising and march on Havana never materialised.
The lack of local support and the fact that the invasion force fought a three day battle with just one day's supply of ammunition meant that it was eventually easily defeated by Cuban forces. By the end of fighting, 90 exiles were dead and the over 1000 more were captured. Getting the exiles back would cost the US $53,000,000 in aid.
The Bay of Pigs invasion was, overall, an abject failure. As well as the fact that the event achieved none of its political or military objectives despite costing the US taxpayer tens of millions of dollars, the invasion worsened diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba and the USSR. It also highlighted a number of inadequacies within the CIA, such as their overestimation of the level of local support that the attempted coup would receive and their failure to prevent the US government from being implicated.
Through the failure of the invasion, the world was brought even closer to the horror of a nuclear war.