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Who, if any, in JFK's inner circle argued against the plans for the Bay of Pigs invasion?

Who, if any, in JFK's inner circle argued against the plans for the Bay of Pigs invasion?

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Political discussions leading up to the Bay of Pigs invasion are a notorious example of 'groupthink' and the failure of a committee in coming to a well-informed decision. Accounts of the decision-making process of JFK's inner circle include poor communication and various group pressures/fumbles on the part of the committee.

Given this, of JFK's critical advisers, did anyone speak out (publicly or privately) against the planned Bay of Pigs invasion either in principle or out of tactical concern?

Apparently, Arthur Schlesinger wrote a memo against the "upcoming" Bay of Pigs idea. But he didn't push it very hard.


In the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs, John F. Kennedy himself didn't think anyone could be absolved of blame except J. William Fulbright. However, there were other advisors and / or decision makers who expressed doubts about the operation, especially Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

Also opposed (at least in part) were Dean Rusk, Chester Bowles, John Kenneth Galbraith, Dean Acheson and Richard N. Goodwin.


J. William Fulbright

Head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he

sent Kennedy a memo, warning that, among other things, the plans violated a host of treaties and the OAS Charter renouncing a right to intervention."[T]he Castro regime is a thorn in the flesh; but it is not a dagger in the heart."

Source: Howard Jones, The Bay of Pigs

Also, at a meeting in the State Department on the 4th of April 1961 which included (among others) the President, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Fulbright

repeated his opposition to an invasion based on information he had gleaned from newspapers.

Source: Jones

Fulbright's opposition is also mentioned in Manuel E. Falcon's thesis Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis where he states that the senator was one of the two "greatest dissenters".

Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., who was Special Assistant to the President, also expressed his doubts. This from early February 1961:

“However well disguised any action might be,” Schlesinger told Kennedy, “it will be ascribed to the United States. The result would be a wave of massive protest, agitation and sabotage throughout Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa (not to speak of Canada and of certain quarters in the United States). Worst of all, this would be your first dramatic foreign policy initiative. At one stroke, it would dissipate all the extraordinary good will which has been rising toward the new Administration through the world. It would fix a malevolent image of the new Administration in the minds of millions.”

Source: Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 - 1963

Schlesinger was, according to Robert Kennedy,

"the one person who was strongly against"

Source: Jones

Dean Rusk

Rusk was against at least some aspects of the operation. At the same 4th of April meeting that Fulbright expressed his opposition, the Secretary of State also opposed

a detailed recommendation of the logistical operations needed to support the Zapata landing

Source: JonesNote: The Bay of Pigs landing was formally known as Operation Zapata

Rusk may well have been influenced by Chester Bowles, the Under Secretary of State. Bowles sent him a memo before the 4th of April meeting. In the memo, dated the 31st of March, Bowles says the proposal is "profoundly disturbing" and that "I believe this operation will have a much more adverse effect on world opinion than most people contemplate.… " He concludes with "We should not, however, proceed with this adventure simply because we are wound up and cannot stop."

Two others from whom Kennedy sought advice were his long-time friend John Kenneth Galbraith and Dean Acheson. Galbraith told the President that

Involvement in this coup attempt would undermine the"reputation you have already won for your conservative, thoughtful, non-belligerent stance."

Source: Jones

The veteran Acheson, an unofficial advisor to Kennedy, when told by the President about the plan, replied

“Are you serious?”

Source: Jones

Acheson later said:

It seemed to me that this was a disastrous idea. We talked about it for a little bit and then I went off. I really dismissed it from my mind because it seemed like such a wild idea. While I was in Europe the Bay of Pigs came off and this really shattered the Europeans. They had tremendously high expectations of the new administration, and when this thing happened they just fell miles down with a crash.

Richard N. Goodwin was a Kennedy aide and one of the New Frontiersmen group of advisors; he also opposed the invasion.

Perhaps the final word should go the President who, Dallek states,

When newspapers began publishing stories blaming different officials except the Joint Chiefs for the debacle, Kennedy took note of the omission and told his aides that none of the decision makers was free of blame. He named Fulbright as the only one in the clear

John F. Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by his initials JFK, was an American politician who served as the 35th president of the United States from 1961 until his assassination near the end of his third year in office. Kennedy served at the height of the Cold War, and the majority of his work as president concerned relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba. A Democrat, Kennedy represented Massachusetts in both houses of the U.S. Congress prior to becoming president.

Kennedy was born into a wealthy, political family in Brookline, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard University in 1940, before joining the U.S. Naval Reserve the following year. During World War II, he commanded a series of PT boats in the Pacific theater and earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his service. After a brief stint in journalism, Kennedy represented a working-class Boston district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953. He was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate and served as the junior senator for Massachusetts from 1953 to 1960. While in the Senate, Kennedy published his book, Profiles in Courage, which won a Pulitzer Prize. In the 1960 presidential election, he narrowly defeated Republican opponent Richard Nixon, who was the incumbent vice president. Kennedy's humor, charm, and youth in addition to his father's money and contacts were great assets in the campaign. Kennedy's campaign gained momentum after the first televised presidential debates in American history. Kennedy was the first Catholic elected president.

Kennedy's administration included high tensions with communist states in the Cold War. As a result, he increased the number of American military advisers in South Vietnam. The Strategic Hamlet Program began in Vietnam during his presidency. In April 1961, he authorized an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro in the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. [2] Kennedy authorized the Cuban Project in November 1961. He rejected Operation Northwoods (plans for false flag attacks to gain approval for a war against Cuba) in March 1962. However, his administration continued to plan for an invasion of Cuba in the summer of 1962. [3] The following October, U.S. spy planes discovered Soviet missile bases had been deployed in Cuba the resulting period of tensions, termed the Cuban Missile Crisis, nearly resulted in the breakout of a global thermonuclear conflict. He also signed the first nuclear weapons treaty in October 1963. Kennedy presided over the establishment of the Peace Corps, Alliance for Progress with Latin America, and the continuation of the Apollo space program with the goal of landing a man on the Moon. He also supported the civil rights movement, but was only somewhat successful in passing his New Frontier domestic policies.

On November 22, 1963, he was assassinated in Dallas. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson assumed the presidency upon Kennedy's death. Marxist and former U.S. Marine Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the state crime, but he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby two days later. The FBI and the Warren Commission both concluded Oswald had acted alone in the assassination, but various groups contested the Warren Report and believed that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy. After Kennedy's death, Congress enacted many of his proposals, including the Civil Rights Act and the Revenue Act of 1964. Despite his truncated presidency, Kennedy ranks highly in polls of U.S. presidents with historians and the general public. His personal life has also been the focus of considerable sustained interest following public revelations in the 1970s of his chronic health ailments and extramarital affairs. Kennedy was the most recent U.S. president to have been assassinated as well as the most recent U.S. president to die in office.

Watch the video: Bay of Pigs Invasion: Lessons Learned (June 2022).


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