Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs

Historian article

By David Smith, published 4th December 2020

David Smith investigates how the USA made such a big mistake in the Bay of Pigs.

In his inaugural address, President Kennedy attempted to balance the demands of Cold War rhetoric with setting out a vision of a post-Cold War world. Praise for the speech came across the political divide, with the Republican minority leader Senator Everett Dirksen describing it as ‘inspiring [and] a very compact message of hope’. Just three months later, the new president was overwhelmed by the failed operation at the Bay of Pigs. It destroyed much of that ‘hope’ and led Kennedy to doubt his own capacity to discharge the role of Commander in Chief. It was a defining moment for Kennedy, changing his understanding of the role of the presidency. It did not, however, dent his determination to remove Fidel Castro from power...

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