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Playa Giron: The Cuban Exiles’ Invasion at the Bay of Pigs 1961

Playa Giron: The Cuban Exiles’ Invasion at the Bay of Pigs 1961 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review March 2017 Title Playa Giron: The Cuban Exiles’ Invasion at the Bay of Pigs 1961
Author Santiago Rivas Publisher Helion
Published 2017 ISBN 9781911096023
Format 72 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $39.95


Situated on Cuba's southern coast, the Bay of Pigs was the site of a failed, April 1961 invasion by anti-Castro Cuban exiles organized and equipped by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

America's humiliation ignited worldwide anti-US sentiment, proved a Communist propaganda boon and directly influenced events that produced the Cuban Missile Crisis 18 months later.

Now Santiago Rivas recaps the tragic tale in Playa Giron: The Cuban Exiles' Invasion at the Bay of Pigs 1961 – second title in Helion's exciting new "Latin America @ War" series.

The first two chapters competently chart the invasion's background – Batista's dictatorship, Castro's revolution, communist influence and counter-revolutionary actions.

Rivas thoroughly mines his sources – including participants' memoirs – for fascinating nuggets. Did you know that four T-33s were reportedly delivered to Liberation forces – the Fuerza Aérea de Liberación (FAL) – in Nicaragua before the conflict? Neither did I.

Text next turns to the invasion itself. CIA "plausible deniability" fueled nearly every major move – including the decision to reduce initial airstrikes, thereby ensuring survival of key Castro air assets and dooming the exiles' mission.

That produced, as Rivas correctly concludes, a cascading effect – and proved "one of the main causes of the failure of the whole invasion".

Almost hour-by-hour, Rivas competently chronicles the combat in south Cuba. He wisely avoids political commentary – and largely restricts his coverage to military matters.

Canceled air support. Unexpected landing obstacles. Shifting tactical objectives. Ineffective IFF markings. Almost from the moment operations began, Liberation forces faced fiasco.


Was the CIA really "an intelligence agency with no war experience to conduct the direction of the invasion"? In 1961, "Little Miami" was less a "town" than a Cuban exile enclave. The M41 Walker Bulldog was a light – not medium – tank. And Eglin Air Force Base is located in Florida – not in the District of Columbia.

Dozens of color and B&W photos illustrate the effort. An "aftermath" nicely concludes coverage. And maps, annotations and a selected bibliography augment the account.

Fourteen color profiles of participating aircraft and vehicles also provide potent model project possibilities. But as the book's photos confirm, artwork of FAL B-26B "935" sports an incorrect style of "R" in "FAR" on the fin.

Modelers spot stuff like that!

Helion's handy history superbly summarizes the ignominious effort. Make it your introduction to this Cold War debacle.

Robustly recommended!

With thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy!