Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Max Hastings

Sixty Years Later, the Bay of Pigs Remains a Cautionary Tale

From Cuba to Vietnam to Afghanistan to Iraq, presidents have blundered by not viewing intelligence agencies skeptically.

Unsafe harbor.

Unsafe harbor.

Photographer: Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Some years are so crowded with memorable anniversaries that it seems like the world once faced one damn sensation after another. So it is now, the 60th anniversary of 1961. That spring, French generals in Algeria attempted to overthrow President Charles de Gaulle through a military coup, including a planned Foreign Legion parachute drop on Paris. That summer, the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev defected to the West. On April 12, it will be six decades since the launch into orbit of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, first human being in space.

And five days later, the U.S. launched one of the most disastrous military operations in history, in an effort to reverse the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in Cuba.