An attempt by some 1,500 Cubans, selected, trained, armed and directed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to attack their former homeland, ended in complete failure after their troops were captured in just over 66 hours. Photo: Archive

On one of his tours during the campaign leading up to last year’s general elections in the United States, Republican candidate Donald Trump visited Florida, and in particular Miami-Dade County, where the majority of Cuban-American voters reside, and which serves as the headquarters for extremist organizations of Cuban origin which, for more than half a century, have used violence as a means of achieving their political objectives.

One of these is the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association, which takes its name from the Assault Brigade 2506 which was defeated in April of 1961, when an attempt by some 1,500 Cubans, selected, trained, armed, and directed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to attack their former homeland, ended in complete failure after their troops were captured in just over 66 hours. They returned to the United States at the end of 1962, eager for revenge, although they did not receive as much support from the Democrat administration of the time.

Politicians of the era were faced with a dilemma: what to do with the brigade. Some wrote proposals and submitted them for approval. On December 29, 1962, U.S. President John F. Kennedy made the “solemn” promise to return them to a free Cuba. However, both the flag supposedly used by Brigade 2506 during the Playa Girón invasion, and the members themselves, were disappointed. The flag itself was a fake, never used on the island, but instead created for the occasion. The U.S. President also failed to keep his promise, although secret U.S. documents declassified over the years have helped to set the historical record straight and reveal what really happened.

Mercenaries from the failed Playa Girón invasion released by the revolutionary government arriving back in the U.S. Photo: Archive

Ideas about what to do with the returnees began to take shape. A summary record of the 38th meeting of the National Security Council Executive Committee [1], on January 25, 1963 reveals the proposals and feelings toward the formerly backed Brigade at that time. According to the document, Sterling J. Cottrell, Department of State Coordinator of Cuban Affairs, speaking before the U.S. President also present at the encounter, "summarized the recommendation covering our policy toward the Cuban brigade. He said no one favored continuing the brigade as a “hard core” and all favored a medium course of action."

Meanwhile, “General Taylor expressed reservations about allowing members of the brigade, upon completion of their military training in the U.S. training camps, to become eligible for membership in a reserve unit.

“The Attorney General explained his views in detail…He felt that some members could be usefully placed in special forces units assigned to Latin American countries.
“He thought that the brigade members should be treated as equal partners…in order to avoid their turning hostile, he felt they must be treated properly and must have a sense of participation…One way would be to tell them honestly that we cannot now invade Cuba and that they can” be more effective “by undertaking tasks suggested to them in other Latin American countries, either as special forces members or as civilians in the academic field.
“The Attorney General concluded by saying that the brigade members should participate in some way in planning our Cuban intelligence actions.He acknowledged that one reason why this had not, so far, been done was because of the reputation the Cubans had of being unable to keep a secret. Mr. McCone (CIA Director) urged that we not destroy the value of the brigade but use it as an asset, preferably by working with individual brigade members.”

U.S. President John F. Kennedy (left ) and Vice President Lyndon Johnson, in the White House gardens. In early April, 1961, the Kennedy administration found itself faced with the dilemma of what to do with Brigade 2506 following its defeat in Cuba and return to the U.S. Photo: UPI

This summary reveals the feelings of the then-President’s chief aides regarding the Brigade and its members. Meanwhile, similar attitudes were expressed just days prior on January 24, 1963, during a National Security Council Executive Committee meeting to review a memorandum sent by the Coordinator of Cuban Affairs, regarding just one matter: The Cuban Brigade.

Three possible courses of action were proposed: First, start the process to disband the Brigade as a military unit without special additional aid from the U.S. which in Cottrell’s opinion would be the simplest and most economic solution.
The second consisted of training the brigade and other Cubans as a military unit; maintaining and supporting them as part of the U.S. armed forces’ military reserves. However, in this regard Cottrell noted that it would be difficult to maintain their morale, discipline and spirit in the long-term without actively attempting to retake Cuba. Incorporating foreign groups into the U.S. Army reserves could incite national political and military criticism. There is the risk that an irrational, impulsive act by members of the brigade, serving as members of the U.S. armed forces reserves, could be a source of serious discomfort for the United States, he noted.
The third and final proposal consisted of a military and civil program for brigade members, encouraging the group to continue as a fraternal unit.

In keeping with the Kennedy administration’s true aims, this option would allow for the members to be geographically dispersed across different activities, thereby effectively dismantling the brigade in its entirety.

Cottrell recommended option three, a program specially designed for the brigade members, with no immediate military role for the group. He asserted that it must be disbanded, and urged members to accept the proposal if approved.
He concluded, “Our moral obligation would be discharged to the Brigade members, and creation of a privileged class in the exile community would be avoided.”

Thus the end of the Brigade 2506 was conceived, a group that would later become the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association.

The second half of 2016 saw final preparations for the U.S. general elections draw to a close. On Sunday, April 24, the former Brigade 2506 held biennial elections to renew its executive board. Various candidates were put forward, with Humberto Díaz-Arguelles elected President. Additional new board members were appointed, such as Fort Benning graduate Aurelio Pérez Lugones, as well as other mercenaries trained by a torturer from the Batista dictatorship, José Ramón Conte Hernández, aka El Chama.

On October 25, the Veteran’s Association received a visit from Republican candidate Donald Trump, during which the board made the historic decision to publically endorse a Presidential candidate for the first time.

Regarding this encounter, the old mercenaries’ new President stated: “Our decision was obvious…Mr. Trump’s values and his political agenda are more in line with ours than the progressive and socialist agenda of Hillary Clinton or the Democrats.”

All the mercenaries in attendance expressed their support for the Republican nominee, who following his election stated, “To the Cuban people, we know what we have to do and we’re going to do it, don’t you worry about that.”

At that time he failed to recall how the Kennedy administration was faced, in early April of 1961, with the dilemma of what to do with Brigade 2506, at which time, according to counter-revolutionary Enrique Ros Pérez in his book Girón. La Verdadera Historia[2], the President offered a solution to the problem: “If we have to get rid of these 2500 men, it is much better to dump them in Cuba than in the United States, especially if that is where they want to go.” •

* Investigator at the State Security Historic Research Center

[1] Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Executive Committee, Meetings, Vol. IV, 38-42. Top Secret; Sensitive. This record is part I; part II relates to European policy.

[2]See Enrique Ros Pérez, Girón. La Verdadera Historia, Ediciones Universal, Miami, Florida, 1994 p. 217