A “balanced, engrossing account” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) of the Bay of Pigs crisis drawing on long-hidden CIA documents and delivering the vivid truth of five pivotal days in April 1961.
At the heart of the Bay of Pigs crisis stood President John F. Kennedy, and journalist Jim Rasenberger traces what Kennedy knew, thought, and said as events unfolded. He examines whether Kennedy was manipulated by the CIA into approving a plan that would ultimately involve the American military. He also draws compelling portraits of the other figures who played key roles in the drama: Fidel Castro, who shortly after achieving power visited New York City and was cheered by thousands (just months before the United States began plotting his demise); Dwight Eisenhower, who originally ordered the secret program, then later disavowed it; Allen Dulles, the CIA director who may have told Kennedy about the plan before he was elected president (or so Richard Nixon suspected); and Richard Bissell, the famously brilliant “deus ex machina” who ran the operation for the CIA—and took the blame when it failed. Beyond the short-term fallout, Rasenberger demonstrates, the Bay of Pigs gave rise to further and greater woes, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, and even, possibly, the assassination of John Kennedy.
Written with elegant clarity and narrative verve, The Brilliant Disaster is the most complete account of this event to date, providing not only a fast-paced chronicle of the disaster but an analysis of how it occurred—a question as relevant today as then—and how it profoundly altered the course of modern American history.
As John F. Kennedy greeted guests at a White House reception for members of Congress, 1,400 Cuban ex-ile-fighters waited in vain for a round of American air strikes to help launch an invasion to topple Fidel Castro, Cuba's communist leader. Journalist Rasenberger marks the fiftieth anniversary of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion attempt with a gripping narrative about the genesis of the doomed covert action. With new documents at his disposal, including a declassified CIA inspector general's report, Rasenberger upends the "conventional wisdom" that a na ve young president was misled by an overconfident CIA. The CIA operatives and JFK come in for equal measures of blame: the CIA for failing to strongly oppose JFK's refusal to give the go-ahead for the air strikes that the agency believed were integral to giving the fighters any hope of success on the ground, and Kennedy for failing to stop the operation given his growing mis-givings about the plan. Rasenberger provides interesting details about the aftermath, including the Christmas-time release of the captured fighters several years later, his attorney father's role in that epi-sode, and sums up how the Bay of Pigs continued to reverberate from the Cuban Missile Crisis to Water-gate.
This book is a real page turner. Rasenberger's best yet. Highly recommended.