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