A Brief History of the President’s First 100 Days

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JFK and the Bay of Pigs (cont.)

This feeling was only exacerbated when in May 1960, Castro established diplomatic relations with our Cold War opponent the Soviet Union. Then-president Eisenhower authorized the CIA to recruit 1,400 Cuban exiles living in Miami and begin training them to overthrow Castro. By the time Kennedy was sworn in, these men were primed and ready to invade Cuba, and what convinced him to authorize such an invasion was that Kennedy believed that removing Castro, it would show Russia, China, and skeptical Americans that he was serious about winning the Cold War.

However, the failed invasion would have entirely the opposite effect as on April 17, 1961, the main invasion force landed on the beach at Playa Girón in the Bay of Pigs and within just three days, they were defeated by the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces. This would only bolster support for Castro as a national hero and push him further towards the Soviet Union, setting the stage for the Cuban Missile Crisis just a year later.

This wouldn’t be the only Soviet Union related crisis that Kennedy would face, as in the same month as the Bay of Pigs debacle, 5 days earlier, in fact, he had to contend with the fact the Russians had just achieved a historical first with cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin becoming the first human being to travel into space, giving them a considerable lead in the ongoing “space race”.

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