About the National Security ArchiveSearch the Archive WebsiteArchive NewsDeclassified Documents OnlineArchive PublicationsFreedom of Information ActInternship OpportunitiesDoing Research at the Archive
Main page
March 23, p.m.
Conference points to missed opportunities for dialogue
March 23, 10 a.m.
CIA expected uprising against Castro
March 22
CIA's Dulles wanted Cuba to ask for Soviet Bloc arms in 1959
Conference Agenda
Index of Declassified Cuban Documents
CIA Oral History Transcripts
Audio Clips
U.S. Delegation Bios
Read the most recent press release, March 23, 5 p.m.

March 21, 2001, 1 p.m.



Cuban Government Declassifies 480 pages
of Documents in Unprecedented Release

Havana, Cuba: On the eve of an historic meeting in Havana, former combatants, covert operatives, policy makers and Cuban government officials gathered to discuss one of the most infamous episodes in the Cold War—the April 1961 invasion at the Bay of Pigs.  The three-day international conference, “Bay of Pigs: 40 Years After,” which includes former officials from the Kennedy Administration, the CIA, and Brigade 2506 members, and their counterparts in the Cuban military and government of Fidel Castro, opens tomorrow, March 22.

George Washington University’s National Security Archive, which is co-sponsoring the event along with the University of Havana and several Cuban government agencies, today announced the members of the U.S. delegation.  They include Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Richard Goodwin, two former advisors to President John F. Kennedy; two retired CIA covert operatives, Robert Reynolds, chief of the Miami station in 1960-61 and Samuel Halpern, the executive officer on Operation Mongoose; and five members of the 2506 Brigade, including two former presidents of the Brigade’s Veterans Association, Alfredo Duran and Robert Carballo. 

Peter Kornbluh, the Archive’s Cuba specialist who organized the U.S. delegation for the conference, called the meeting “an historical, and historic, event.”  Kornbluh promised that the conference “would produce new documents, details, and interpretations” of events before, during and after the 3-day battle at the Bay of Pigs.  The Archive is posting key documents on its website—www.nsarchive.org—during the conference.

In an unprecedented official declassification, the Cuban government has declassified dozens of secret records relating to the invasion, amounting to some 480 pages.  The Cuban documents include intelligence reports on U.S. preparations, and Fidel Castro’s directives during the fighting -- records that “shed substantial light on Cuba’s ability to repel the invasion,” said Kornbluh.

The conference, which addresses the most bitter and still controversial U.S. effort to overthrow Castro’s revolution, is being held “in the spirit of historical exploration,” according to Thomas Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive.   Given the continuing tension in U.S.-Cuban relations, he noted, “it is imperative to learn the lessons of this conflict so as not to repeat the past, and this kind of serious scholarly discussion—with actors, witnesses, experts and declassified evidence—gets us beyond rancor to dialogue.”

CIA Oral History Transcripts

The Archive also today posted the transcripts of two interviews conducted in the mid 1970s by the CIA’s internal historian Jack Pfeiffer. The interviews are with Richard Bissell, the CIA’s architect of the Bay of Pigs plan, and with Jacob Esterline who directed the CIA’s task force on the invasion. The interviews were used for a major four-volume internal history written by Pfeiffer—known only as DCI 8—which the CIA has refused to declassify despite multiple Freedom of Information Act requests and a lawsuit brought by Pfeiffer himself. 

The Pfeiffer report is the last major U.S. government document to remain secret. Over the last several years, the Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project has obtained the declassification of the CIA internal critique of the operation, known as the Inspector General’s Survey of the Cuban Operation, and the full report of the Taylor Commission, the board of inquiry appointed by President Kennedy to investigate the debacle. Archive called on the CIA to immediately declassify the Pfeiffer study and enable students of this history to have full access to still secret CIA information on this Cold War episode.

Transcript of Oral Interview of Mr. Richard M. Bissell, Jr., by Jack B. Pfeiffer, Farmington, Connecticut, 17 October 1975 on the Bay of Pigs Operation
Transcript of Oral Interview of Jacob D. Esterline by Jack B. Pfeiffer, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, 10-11 November 1975 on the Bay of Pigs Operation
About the National Security ArchiveSearch the Archive WebsiteArchive NewsDeclassified Documents OnlineArchive PublicationsFreedom of Information ActInternship OpportunitiesDoing Research at the Archive