Books about the BOP invasion have varied from factual (Peter Wyden's 'BAY OF PIGS, The Untold Story', to editing out any US Navy presence (all others). Mr. Wyden's book was not well received by critics in the late 70's, it did not sell as well as expected. I have published a few articles on the subject.
I was asked by my now deceased Captain, Frank Dunham Jr. to speak before his nephew's Upper Arlington Ohio Kiwanis Club in 1986. The presentation went well and several other Kiwanis Clubs asked me to speak. I did.
A few years ago my child's teacher asked me to speak at the school on Veteran's Day. I gave the short Chronology that follows. I was never asked back!
Here is what I call Chronology:
This is for the period of the Cuban Crisis 1/10/1961 THE BAY OF PIGS
1961, an unsuccessful invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles, supported by the U.S. government. On Apr. 17, 1961, an armed force of about 1,500 Cuban exiles landed in the Baha de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) on the south coast of Cuba. Trained since May, 1960, in Guatemala by members of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with the approval of the Eisenhower administration, and supplied with arms by the U.S. government, the rebels intended to foment an insurrection in Cuba and overthrow the Communist regime of Fidel Castro. The Cuban army easily defeated the rebels and by Apr. 20, most were either killed or captured. The invasion provoked anti-U.S. demonstrations in Latin America and Europe and further embittered U.S.-Cuban relations. Poorly planned and executed, the invasion subjected President Kennedy to severe criticism at home. Cuban exile leader Jos Mir Cardona, president of the U.S.-based National Revolutionary Council, blamed the failure on the CIA and the refusal of Kennedy to authorize air support for the invasion. In Dec., 1962, Castro released 1,113 captured rebels in exchange for $53 million in food and medicine raised by private donations in the United States.
The following are from The VFW Magazine, in which I contributed to the article:
Trouble in the nations backyard "pond" the Caribbean In early January 1961, U.S. Navy vessels began taking up station off Cuba. By April 19, 1961 the invasion to overthrow Fidel Castro was under at the Bahia del Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) on the islands southern coast: Cuban exile Brigade 2506 (some 1,300 men) had landed.
On scene for the operation was the Carrier ESSEX, escorted by the Destroyers CONWAY, CONY, EATON, MURRAY and WALLER, who was designated Task Force " Alpha." The diesel powered Sub USS COBBLER (SS-344), along with another Sub of the Atlantic Fleet's Antisubmarine Development Force, were part of Task Force Alpha. So were the Destroyer escorts BACHE and BEALE, according to veterans. Aboard the ESSEX was VA-34, a jet fighter squadron called the "Blue Blasters" and 1,200 Marines. All told probably 6,000 American servicemen covered the invasion. (In addition, the CIA had recruited at least 18 U.S. civilian aviators as pilots, navigators, radio operators and flight engineers to fly B-26 bomber missions for the exiles.)
Directly involved was the landing ship dock SAN MARCOS (LSD-25) with a complement of 326 men. Under the cover of darkness, we picked up a contingent of Cuban freedom fighters and transported them to the Bay of Pigs, recalled David M. Scott, a machinist's mate the SAN MARCOS. One of the non-U.S. ships was sunk but our ship was not hit. But other U.S. ships came close to being hit. The EATON led the invasion flotilla into the Bay of Pigs. It received fire from the beach, and was bracketed by two stray shells from Cuban tanks positioned along the Bay. Joe Knoblock, a radarman on the USS CONY, remembered: Small arms fire started dinging off the ship so we moved out of range during the invasion. During one patrol we picked up a sub contact. On our way back to Norfolk the crew was told to keep quiet about where we were and what we did. Moreover, a whaleboat, carrying sailors heavily armed with Browning Automatic rifles, from the CONY, was beached at one stage. While rescuing Brigade survivors, it was fired upon by a Cuban helicopter. ESSEX put up a recon flight, and its unmarked AD-4s drew fire over the beaches on April 19. Carrier aircraft also attempted to protect the vulnerable B-26 bombers. Volunteer U.S. training advisers flew four of the B-26s.
Tragically, all four Alabama's lost their lives that day.
One bomber was brought down by anti-aircraft fire over Castro's headquarters at the central Australia sugar mill. Both pilots survived the crash. But were subsequently shot. The other plane was pursued by a Cuban T-33 and shot down over the sea with the loss of both men. These American deaths were not officially admitted until Feb. 25, 1963.
CIA's clandestine operation failed, and as a consequence the Cuban exile brigade lost 114 KIA and 1,189 captured. In repulsing the aborted invasion Communist troops sustained 106 killed.
U.S. Navy vessels remained in Cuban water up through the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. (The Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal kicked in October 24, 1961).
Here is a clip from the USS Cony website:
The following is an email that was sent from Cony Shipmate David A. Barker to Shipmate Wayne Brotherton and cc'd to me. David has personally helped me in answering some important information for me. Have you ever wished that you "knew someone that worked there" that could help you find the information you need? You have at your disposal a former Cony sailor who knows or will find your answers.
Roger Rieman 62-65
Wayne: I have more good news for you. Besides every Cony sailor in the Bay of Pigs earning the Navy Expedition Medal. Your records were not burned in the fire in St. Louis unless you joined either the Army or Air Force. There indeed was a fire at the National Personnel Record Center in 1973.
Many Army and Air Force records were burned. However many were reconstructed and many were not damaged severely. There were no Navy, USMC or Coast Guard records involved. Now you may ask how do I know these facts.
In the past 25 years I have represented multiple thousands of veterans in their claims with the VA and fortunately with a very high success rate. We assist veterans in obtaining their rightful entitlements and benefits from the VA, military and naval services.
I have authored three books in the Library of Congress they are: In Search of the Truth for Vietnam Veterans, The Combat Veteran From World War II to the Present and Desert Storm the Untold Story.
The first two are supposed to go on the Ohio AMVETS web site in the near future. However they are free to anyone who requests copies.
The first two listed are over 165,000 each distributed over the past ten years. Formerly I was employed by the Veterans Service Commission in Columbus Ohio. I served as the Senior Veterans Service Officer until I retired.
Our main thrust was assisting veterans in VA benefits and Social Security. Prior to my moving to the AMVETS (American Veterans). many veterans came to me to assist them in discharge upgrades and correction to military records. Now the AMVETS do not do discharge upgrades; but, we do assist veterans in correcting their military and naval records.
The AMVETS do not do Social Security hearings either, as we do not have the time required. I think the Bay of Pigs is an issue beyond comprehension for nearly all other veterans, as they are all stuck in their own grooves and do not realize what affects them today is what we did in April 1961.
We were the very first American force to walk (steam) away and leave our souls behind. When we were ordered to leave the Bay of Pigs and leave behind the Brigade 2506 we had been committed to those fine people. If you recall we were all upset and bothered by those tragic events. Remember the poem from the Conway about the Bay of Pigs? It did not take the Skipper long to get those out of circulation!
Remember when a GM3 on our ship talked about it while in a bar on the beach and the SP's brought him back? Spooky. We were the first of the modern day to do a spook operation. This set the stage for Vietnam, commit, fight and leave unfinished. This in no way can be blamed on any of us that were in the Bay of Pigs; or our commanding officers; this is the responsibility of the same man who led us into the depths of Vietnam.
Mr. Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense, who called off the air support AFTER we had had already gone into the total support of Brigade 2506. We even had leaders of the Brigade on the Cony. Gunners Mate Stokes and others cleaned their weapons. We carried them on our 26' motor whale boat like a taxi service and then left them stranded, based on Mr McNamara's change of mind after the event was totally in motion.
If you want to place a face to my name go into the Navy Memorial on line, it is: lonesailor.org then go to the Nay Log and type in Barker, David there are two listed at this time, my middle initial is A. My comments of the Bay of Pigs are recorded on that site as well. If I can be of assistance to you or any other Cony sailor from any period I will do all within my ability to assist. We are really brothers to the highest degree possible in my book! If you wish to share this with any Cony sailor feel free to do so.
Sincerely, David A. Barker
Decision for Cony to participate in the Cuban Blockade
You may be eligible for a medal if you participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Check it out 10/27/1962
The Cuban Missile Crisis
The following is from the book "October Fury" published 2002 by CAPTAIN PETER A. HUCHTHAUSEN, U.S. Navy (Retired), served as Electronics Materials Officer and a watch officer aboard the USS Blandy when it took part in the blockade of Cuba in 1962, mere months after his graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. In a distinguished career, Captain Huchthausen served as a Soviet naval analyst and as a naval attach in Yugoslavia, Romania, and Moscow, where he met Russian submariners who had been involved in the Cuban encounter at sea. He is now a consultant and writer living in Maine.
OCTOBER 27, 1962
Carrier Randolph Finds Savitsky's B-59 Submarine CAPTAIN VITALI SAVITSKY B-59 NORTH ATLANTIC 380 MILES SOUTHEAST OF BERMUDA One hundred seventy miles northeast of the Essex group hunter-killer group, called HUK Group Alfa, made up of t USS Randolph (CVS-15) and escort destroyers USS Bache, Be Eaton, and Murray, picked up solid sonar contact on C19 the quarantine line.
The contact turned out to be Captain B-59. After receiving orders from the Moscow Main Navy Staff to cancel the transit to Mariel, Cuba, Captain Savitsky in his B-59 had been assigned a patrol area in the Sargasso Sea to the east of Dubivko's B-36 and about 170 miles north of Shumkov in B-130.
After weathering a severe storm south of Bermuda on October 25-27, B-59, with two captains aboard Captain Second Rank Vitali Savitsky, the commanding officer, and Captain Vasily Arkhipov, the brigade chief of staff- continued their strained relations but worked an effective sharing of the top watch in central command.
Their first contact with U.S. antisubmarine hunter-killer groups was in mid-Atlantic after passing south of Bermuda. The USS Randolph carrier group, with the escorting ASW destroyers, were their first contact. The hunter-killer group held B-59 in an iron grip, and by using combined tactics - destroyers, S2F Tracker aircraft, and Sea King helicopters with dipping sonars-they finally locked onto B-59 and wouldn't let go.
The destroyers closed in with groups of three and four and had a picnic with their sonars pinging away in active mode. Savitsky couldn't break away. The Americans knew they held contact on a real submarine, and despite using decoys and false target cans, the Soviet submariners were unable to shake the destroyers.
The USS Cony began to drop practice depth charges, in accordance with the U.S. notice to mariners. Savitsky had received the notice on the submarine broadcast two days earlier. To the Russians, more than a hundred meters below the surface, the grenades sounded like regular depth charges when they exploded.
Savitsky was maneuvering at sixty to a hundred meters and had no isothermal layer to hide beneath. The destroyer dropped its grenades in series of five at a time, which was in accordance with the warning notice. At B-59's depth the grenades exploded more than sixty meters above them. It scared the submariners, mostly because their first impression, that they were under attack, was hard to dispel, despite the warning they now held.
The first contact with the hunter-killer group was at about ten in the morning, and by four the next morning the Russians were practically suffocating and had thrown in the towel. After nearly a day of those simulated attacks, Savitsky was finally forced to surface amid his hunters to charge batteries.
Savitsky surfaced slowly and carefully on the prescribed easterly course. The Russians felt defeated in a way, and Chief of Staff Arkhipov was not very pleased with Savitsky, but there was little else they could do. They were heavily outnumbered by ships and aircraft.
USS Cony DD-508 Chased and surfaced Russian submarine USS CONY (DDE-508) NORTH ATLANTIC THREE HUNDRED MILES SOUTH OFF BERMUDA The destroyer USS Cony had gained solid contact at about 10:00 A.M. on October 27 and was directed to drop practice depth charges in accordance with the notice to mariners.
Ensign Gary Slaughter was aboard Cony, and ironically was IJS talker on the bridge at the time, the same position I was in aboard Blandy. Cony chased the submarine contact for nearly twelve hours. The submarine had set his course to the northeast and was on economy electric drive at slow speed.
When he finally broke the surface late on October 27, Cony communicated with him by flashing light. Ensign Slaughter had studied some Cyrillic transliteration tables they had aboard, and they passed the Soviet submarine a message with flashing light. Cony's Signalman First Class Jessie challenged the submarine with flashing light shortly after it broke the surface. Cony signaled: "What ship?" Savitsky answered: "Ship X' Cony: "What is your status?" Savitsky: "On the surface, operating normally." Cony: "Do you need assistance?" Savitsky: "No, thank you."
The next morning Savitsky permitted his signalmen to ask Cony for bread and cigarettes. The destroyer moved in to about eighty feet alongside the submarine to set up a light line transfer. Then Cony's bosun mates fired a shot line to the sail of the submarine (the shot line is fired from what appears like a sawed-off shotgun, which projects a weighted monkeyfist" which is made up to another line, a considerable distance. When the bosun fired the line gun the Russians in the sail cockpit ducked and scampered below. They thought the Americans had opened fire on them.
When the Russians realized what Cony was trying to do, they settled down. Apparently the Russian submariners had never seen a shot line gun-they instead used bolo lines with a good, strong arm. Cony steamed for hours on parallel courses on the submarine's port beam at five hundred yards. The submarine had no illusions about who was in control.
Earlier as the two ships were steaming northeast together, a U.S. Navy P2V Neptune suddenly swooped out of the darkness and dropped several small incendiary devices, presumably to activate its photoelectric camera lenses. The explosions stunned the bridge watches aboard both ships. The Cony officers looked out after regaining their night vision and saw to their horror that the submarine had wheeled toward the destroyer to unmask her forward torpedo tubes and looked about ready to launch.
The Cony's commanding officer immediately called the nearby task group commander aboard the carrier Randolph to let someone on the end of the radio line have an earful of old-fashioned navy invective, to be relayed to the pilot and squadron commander of the guilty P2V for their conduct. Cony's captain then sent a flashing light message to the submarine apologizing for the pilot's conduct. According to Ensign Gary Slaughter, who was on Cony's bridge at the time, it was a pretty exciting moment.
From ABC News.com Washington, D.C., Oct. 11Saturday, Oct. 27, 1962 was the most dangerous day of what may have been the most dangerous week in American history.
Bad news kept streaming in during the day," said Ted Sorensen, a member of President John F. Kennedy's crisis team. "The worst news was that our U2 high flying reconnaissance plane for Cuba had been shot down." Gen. Maxwell Taylor and the Joint Chiefs of Staff urged an all-out attack on Cuba, but Kennedy resisted the pressure.
No one in the Cabinet Room knew that, at the same time, U.S. destroyers were playing a perilous cat and mouse game with a Soviet submarine, Sub B-59, heading towards Cuba.
Documents released today by the National Security Archive confirm that late that Saturday afternoon, the USS Beale and the USS Cony lobbed 10 concussive grenades at Sub B-59. The American crew was unaware of the Soviet's secret payload. "It felt like you were sitting in an empty barrel and somebody's constantly beating it with a stick," said Vadim Orlov, an intelligence officer aboard Sub B-59.
The American crew was unaware that the Soviet sub was carrying nuclear weapons. "I don't think we even speculated that they were nuclear armed because our ships were not," said Capt. John Peterson, who was deck officer on the USS Beale. Grenades Almost Triggered Nuclear Strike The grenades were designed to scare the sub to surface. Instead, they almost triggered a nuclear strike.
As Orlov recounts, his commander, Valentine Savitsky, lost his composure. "The situation was becoming so difficult that Commander Savitzky was extremely stressed out and at one point decided to assemble the nuclear torpedo," Orlov told ABC NEWS. "When that order was given, we realized that if the nuclear weapons were used it would have meant death for every one of us." And death for maybe millions more. U.S. war plans called for a nuclear response to any nuclear strike and official documents also released today reveal that the Pentagon already had depth charges on Guantanamo that were ready to be armed with nuclear warheads.
"Both sides would have gone up that nuclear ladder of escalation very quickly and very soon there would be nothing left," said Sorensen. Cooler heads prevailed and the nuclear torpedo was disarmed. "Commander Savitsky just calmed down," said Orlov. That gave President Kennedy time to send his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to Russian Ambassador Anatoly Dobrinyn with a secret deal for Khrushchev: If Soviet missiles were removed from Cuba, U.S. missiles would later be removed from Turkey. Sunday morning, Radio Moscow reported that Khrushchev would dismantle the missiles. And President Kennedy went to church. The Cony returned to Norfolk Virginia.
It is my opinion 90% of the American people do not know how close we came to a nuclear exchange 96 miles from Miami Florida!