April 17, 1961: The Bay of Pigs Invasion begins.

The name of Kennedy’s ill-fated invasion of Cuba is now more or less synonymous with “failure”, although President Kennedy himself (having held office for less than three months at this point) was able to recover from this fiasco fairly well. The same cannot be said for the 1,400 Cuban exiles who landed at Bahía de Cochinos on this date in 1961 with the intent to incite a popular uprising and overthrow Castro.

According to A History of the American People, the invasion failed mainly for two reasons:

"… Castro was able to read all about it, in advance, in the U.S. media; and, once things went wrong, Kennedy refused to authorize the US carrier Essex… to come to the rescue of the stricken men pinned down on the swampy bay."

The invasion lasted two days and ended with an overwhelming victory by the well-prepared and far more numerous Cuban forces, who took prisoner a thousand or more of the anti-Castroites. Kennedy took responsibility for the disaster at a press conference two days later, famously remarking: “victory has a hundred fathers, and defeat is an orphan.” And, although the unprovoked invasion was offered up as yet another example of “Yankee imperialism”, Kennedy also remarked to his brother regarding the plot: “I would rather be an aggressor than a bum.”

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