The meaning of the Playa Giron Victory, on April 19, 1961, will never disappear from Cubans' daily life. Without that victory, the Revolution would have been lost, as well as the great opportunity to change the country's destiny.
The U.S. caprice to destroy the Cuban Revolution collided with an unprecedented heroic deed in Latin America, the defeat of a powerful mercenary invasion by this people, headed by their leader, Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro.
In Cuba's case, it was impossible for Washington to repeat successfully the model of a mercenary invasion implemented to overthrow President Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954.
The declaration of the socialist nature of the Revolution, a few hours before the mercenary landing in 1961, is one of the decisive political factors of the victorious battle in Playa Giron, whose significance surpass its historic moment.
Only a strong political and revolutionary motivation led to the victory of the Cuban people, who was aware that if Washington won in Bay of Pigs, the United States would be more powerful.
This encouraged hundreds of Cuban combatants, mostly young people, to fight relentlessly under adverse conditions and to defeat a well-armed enemy, supported by aviation, in three days and two nights.
Along with the members of the Rebel Army and the National Revolutionary Police, the militias, made up of workers, farmers, students and the people in general, were the largest force in Cuba.
In addition, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), the country's largest mass organization, played a key role to neutralize elements opposed to the Revolution.
Fidel's accurate leadership, on site, achieved what the enemy thought it was impossible, the defeat of the mercenaries who occupied Playa Larga and Playa Giron, in Bay of Pigs. In general, the essential guidelines of the Moncada Program, enunciated by Fidel Castro in 1953, were already achieved, and new steps for social justice had been taken.
The revolutionary triumph in January 1959 eradicated the neocolonial condition imposed on Cuba by the United States for more than half a century.
THE DEFEAT OF THE MERCENARY INVASION
The landing of 1,550 men who belonged to the so-called Assault Brigade 2506, including tanks and armored vehicles and supported by parachutists and air raids, began in Playa Larga and Playa Giron, in Bay of Pigs, at 2:30 hours on April 17, 1961.
The Brigade 2506 was trained in Retalhuleu, Guatemala, and had departed from Puerto Cabeza, Nicaragua, while the air force took off from the U.S. base of Oppalocka, in Florida.
The objective was to occupy the Zapata Swamp, on the south coast of today's Matanzas province, and to establish U.S.-sponsored 'counterrevolutionary government' that would immediately request a military intervention by Washington. The Zapata Swamp, the largest wetland in the insular Caribbean and one of the most isolated regions in Cuba at the time, was the spot chosen by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to carry out Operation Pluto.
Those plans failed in less than 72 hours, when, at a high cost, the forces from the Rebel Army and the National Revolutionary Militias occupied the last stronghold of the mercenaries in Playa Giron, at sunset on April 19.
As a result, 176 combatants of the revolutionary forces and civilians were killed and more than 300 were wounded, 50 of whom suffered from disabilities for the rest of their life.
In the invaders' ranks, more than 200 mercenaries were killed and 1,197 were taken prisoners. Weapons were seized and 12 planes, two transport ships and three barges were destroyed. Another ship and three barges were damaged.
The Brigade was made up of more than 100 landowners, 112 business people, 67 owners of apartment buildings, 35 industrialists, 24 medium-size property owners, 89 top business executives, 415 middle-class people and 112 criminals.
It also included 194 ex-soldiers from the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship, some of whom were tried separately, because they had committed crimes previously.
The mercenary nature of the Brigade is evident, because the CIA gave each member 175 tax-free dollars a month to single men and 225 dollars to married men, in addition to 50 dollars for the first child and 25 for every person under his protection, as well as food and accommodation.
On April 24, 1961, in a statement from the White House, President John F. Kennedy claimed responsibility for the invasion. 'The president strongly opposes anyone, within or outside the Administration, trying to vary the responsibility,' the text added.
Kennedy, a Democrat, was the stepfather of the plan designed by the previous Republican administration, because, according to his memoirs (My Years in the White House), Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the CIA, on March 17, 1960, to start organizing the training of Cubans, mainly in Guatemala.
Although the Republican administration planned the invasion, President John F. Kennedy carried it out to its last consequences.
CIA General Director Allen Dulles, who was following instructions from General Eisenhower, informed Presidential Candidate Kennedy and running mate, Lyndon Johnson, about the plan in July 1960.
The CIA was in charge of all counterrevolutionary activities, both domestic and external, prior and after the invasion. The report from CIA General Inspector Lyman Kirkpatrick in October 1961 corroborates the U.S. implication in the invasion and the beginning of terrorist and counterrevolutionary operations against Cuba in the summer of 1959.
With that objective, anti-Cuba diplomatic and counterrevolutionary campaigns on the radio and the media were carried out, and a wave of sabotages was launched to terrorize the Cuban people.
The terrorist sabotages throughout the country destroyed or damaged factories, schools, businesses, offices, movie theaters and other public places.
Pirate planes and light aircraft bombed economic targets and towns in Cuba, causing several victims and material damage.
From 1959 to 1961, some 300 counterrevolutionary organizations and armed bands were sponsored in the country, and the militias and the Rebel Army placed more than 1,000 bandits hors de combat in the Escambray mountain range, in central-southern Cuba. / Marta Denis Valle - *Historian, journalist and Prensa Latina contributor.