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Erneido A. Oliva and the Bay of Pigs

John Simkin

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This article, written by Guillermo I. Martínez, appeared in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (February 17, 2005)

Since Ronald Reagan's election as president in 1980, the stereotype of Cuban political belief has two maxims:

Republicans are good.

Blame for Castro's longevity in power lies squarely at the feet of President John F. Kennedy. He withheld promised American air support to those who landed in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and reached a secret agreement with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev after the October 1962 missile crisis promising not to oust Castro.

This explains the faith that Cuban-American voters have for Republican presidential candidates and the automatic antipathy the Democratic nominees receive. Now a new version of events is slowly gaining credence that defends President Kennedy and his brother Robert for their commitment to a free Cuba.

This is new history and it is news.

The information comes from Erneido A. Oliva, one of the two top military leaders of the Bay of Pigs invasion, who upon his return joined the United States Army. After 30 years of service, he retired in 1993 as a major general.

Oliva's defense of the Kennedy brothers appears on the Web site of the Cuban American Military Council, which he founded in 1997.

In his article, Oliva explains why as a representative of Brigade 2506 -- the force that invaded Cuba on April 17, 1961 -- he gave the brigade's flag to President Kennedy before thousands of cheering Cubans at Miami's Orange Bowl.

Oliva recounts: "Mr. President, the men of the Brigade 2506 give you their banner; we temporarily deposit it with you for safekeeping." Kennedy's reply: "Commander, I can assure you that this flag will be returned to this Brigade in a free Havana."

That is history. What is news is Oliva's explanation of why he and the other top two leaders of Brigade 2506 gave the flag to Kennedy as a sign of their commitment to the president's secret plans to oust Castro.

Oliva explains he had remained silent because much of the information was top secret until recently. Now he can detail meetings in Washington and Miami between top Brigade military leaders, the president and his brother Robert to talk about "Operation Mongoose," approved by the Kennedys in November 1961, less than six months after the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

Oliva says this was U.S. government policy until Jan. 14, 1964, two months after president Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, when President Lyndon Johnson decided to stop all military missions against Castro.

Oliva does not exempt President Kennedy from blame for withholding air support during the Bay of Pigs invasion, which many historians say doomed the Cubans to failure. "President Kennedy wanted to continue the fight to remove the tyrant from power. The president who failed us at the Bay of Pigs was truly and sincerely remorseful about his failure to support us, and he worked to rectify his historic mistake and to free Cuba of the tyrant's communist dictatorship."

Oliva writes that much of what he says is corroborated by the book Inner Circles, written by Alexander Haig, retired Army general and former secretary of state for Reagan.

Haig's book talks about the Orange Bowl ceremony and says that many in the crowd knew of Operation Mongoose and President Kennedy's commitment to free Cuba from Castro. "The American people knew nothing about it … 13 raids into Cuba … were approved for the three-month period beginning in November 1963, the last month of the Kennedy presidency. I processed the decisions, handing them on to representatives of the CIA for execution by their operatives in the field."

The revelations in Oliva's article explain much about a murky period in Cuban exile history. One that saw hundreds of Cubans enlist together in the American armed forces to serve in a unit formed to oust Castro. It explains why after Oliva's January 1964 meeting with President Johnson, they were allowed to resign from the U.S. military. It makes clear how Manuel Artime, the head of Brigade 2506, operated anti-Castro military bases in Costa Rica and Nicaragua to launch attacks against Cuba -- raids that continued well into 1964.

"I hope that members of the Brigade and the public realize that the fault for 46 years of dictatorship in Cuba should not fall solely on the shoulders of John F. Kennedy," Oliva said.

His words may have limited immediate political effect, but they will have a profound impact on how history judges what President Kennedy did and did not do to try to oust Castro.

Guillermo I. Martínez is a journalist who resides in South Florida. His e-mail address is: Guimar123@aol.com


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John, this is a good post.

I believe it supports my position that the peace initiatives were indeed a ruse.

I believe Castro knew that as well. In fact, about a week before the assassination he made a point of executing seven exiles his forces had caught on a CIA sponsored raid.

The question is what explains the Kennedy brothers' strong commitment to eliminate Castro, a commitment so strong one author called it a vendetta.

Part of it was no doubt that JFK was indeed a strong anti-Communist and did not want a Communist enclave ninety miles from Key West. But I think there was more to it than just that.

Part of it, I think, can be explained by the failure of the BOP. It was JFK's first real political defeat and Castro acted like he was rubbing Kennedy's nose in it.

I think that Kennedy also felt some internal guilt re the failure of the BOP and the men who died there. Some of his advisers warned him against attending the Brigade rally at the Orange Bowl in December of 1962 but he went anyway and most of the brigade members loved him and Jackie, who spoke to them in Spanish.

And part of it was probably simple politics. In the 1960 election campaign JFK had blamed the Eisenhower Administration for losing Cuba to the Communists, a fair indictment, IMO. Having been so critical of Esisenhower and Nixon, it would have bben politically disastrous for him to esssentially cede Cuba to Castro.

And of course Castro hated Kennedy and in speeches called him a "cretin", "the Batista of our times", etc; language that would clearly fuel the Kennedys' antipathy toward Castro.

The article was a very worthwhile read.

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Intersting. The most interesting part for me is AL HAIG, blowing his own horn, yet again. Anyone who has considered my theory of a joint agency executive sanction of Kennedy should read Alexander Haig's words carefully. He tends to puff himself up and say more than he means to....given his role in the JCS spy ring involving Admiral Moorer and Yeoman Radford, his role as chief transisiton officer in the Nixon Ford event, his hawkish self aggrandisement under natrional security, I think this is a fateful statement.

Was he the Military CHief of the CIA WH Caribbean AM and ZR programs?

Certainly looks like it, and if he is claiming to be THE MAN over MONGOOSE,

INTERPEN and TILT for the Armed Forces, then I think his role in 11/22/63

needs to be seriously re-apprised.

Does anyone else see what I am saying :

Is he claiming to be military honcho on the Joint agency WH plans for 11/63?

Looks like he is ..... AL HAIG stands expossed by his own unwise statements, again.

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