The Bay of Pigs by Alejandro de Quesada

Ideologically opposite of my previous post on the communist North Vietnamese Army, Alejandro de Quesada studies the efforts of exiled Cuban forces to overthrow the communist government of Fidel Castro in the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961.  Quesada’s booklet, The Bay of Pigs, Cuba 1961,  is part of Osprey’s “Elite” series, which explores the history of military forces, artifacts, personalities, and techniques of warfare.

Quesada provides a brief history of Fidel Castro’s rise to power against the corrupt Batista dictatorship.  After gaining power, Castro initiated a brutal purge that drove many Cubans into exile in the United States – especially around Miami.  These exiles provided a pool of recruits for a CIA plot to overthrow Castro.  The plans were started under President Eisenhower,but came to fruition under President Kennedy.

The exiles (called brigadistas) were organized into three different branches – army, air force, and navy.  The CIA and U.S. armed forces personnel provided the equipment and training for the brigadistas.  They were provided training grounds in various Central American countries that were sympathetic to the exiles’ cause (and because of American influence).

The brigadistas’ mission was doomed almost before it started.  They would need firepower support (especially air cover) from the U.S. in order to succeed against Castro’s larger forces.  Unfortunately, President Kennedy got cold feet at the last minute and forbid American overt support – although a few American commanders disregarded this in a few instances (in fact, four Americans lost their lives when their aircraft were shot down).

Quesada provides all of this information in an easy-to-read format.  He includes several photographs from private collections that have never been seen by the public.  Also, illustrator Stephen Walsh includes some excellent illustrations that show the uniforms, insignia, and weapons of the combatants and some battle scenes.

This booklet gives an excellent overview of the men who tried and failed to overthrow Fidel Castro in 1961.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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