President Richard M. Nixon (1960 - 1968)

Part II
The Cuban War

Just a month before President-elect Richard Nixon took office, outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower ordered relations with the leftist regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba. Even before that, however, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had been training antirevolutionary Cuban exiles for a possible invasion of the island. With friction growing rapidly between the opposing governments of the United States and the Republic of Cuba, President Eisenhower set the wheels into motion to launch the invasion.

In February of 1961, outgoing President Eisenhower conferred with his Vice President, Richard Nixon. He advised him of the CIA�s plan for the �Bay of Pigs� invasion In the first week of March, Richard Nixon is sworn in as President of the United States. Only two days later, after some conversation with Allen W. Dulles, the head of the CIA, President Nixon gave the orders for the CIA to conduct the Bay of Pigs invasion at its earliest opportunity.
Fidel Castro                                              Dwight Eisenhower
The operation was originally designed as a means of overthrowing the Castro regime without revealing U.S. involvement in the operation. The plan originally called for the gradual buildup of anti-Castro forces within Cuba into a cohesive political and military unit capable of toppling Castro. However, the operation quickly escalated into plans for a full-scale invasion, with the budget expanding from $4 million to $46 million and the CIA training and supplying anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Guatemala.

On April 14, 1961, several days before the invasion, CIA pilots destroyed part of Castro�s air force. Two days later, the CIA finished the job, leaving Castro, effectively, without an Air Force. On April 17, about 1500 exiles, armed with U.S. weapons, landed at the Bah�a de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) on the south coast of Cuba. However, Fidel Castro and the Cuban Army were able to mobilize to meet the threat, and, with the poor choice of the landing site, the Cuban �Patriots� became almost immediately bogged down.

On April 18, President Nixon is awakened to the sickening news that, unless US military backing is applied swiftly and forcefully, the beachhead is going to collapse and the rebels will be defeated. Knowing what a severe blow to the prestige of the United States a rebel defeat would be, Nixon ordered US troops into combat alongside the Patriots. Within twenty-four hours, the 101st Airborne Division and 2nd Marine Division were each on their way to Cuba.

By May 15, the two American divisions (vastly outnumbering the small number of Cuban rebels) had scored a couple of key victories, but they too were becoming bogged down in an increasingly slow-moving war. With the Air Force flying around the clock and the Navy blockading the Cuban coast, the American ground troops ground their way forward against tough Cuban resistance. However, with the Cubans cut off from their Soviet masters, the war was essentially a matter of time.

In September of 1961, with American casualties reading up into the thousands and Cuban casualties swelling fast, the Soviets finally made their long awaited counter-move.

The German Border Crisis

By September of 1961, with American troops crawling across Cuba, the Soviet Union finally made a counterthrust. The CIA and West German governments, beginning in mid-August, reported massive new buildups of Soviet troops in East Germany. And then, overnight, on September 13, 1961, East German soldiers and members of its militia surrounded West Berlin with temporary fortifications that were rapidly replaced by a concrete wall.

Soon, members of Congress and America�s western allies were screaming bloody murder, calling for a Soviet withdrawal and American reinforcements for West Germany. Nixon, facing a potentially explosive scene in Germany, found himself lacking for soldiers. By the end of September, the orders were in place initiating the call-up of Reservists and National Guardsmen around the nation, most of which were rushed to Cuba so that the battle-hardened Regular Army could head to Europe.

Congress, of course, divided along party lines. The Democrats, headed by Hubert Humphrey and Robert Kennedy, criticized Nixon for his callousness in the use of American troops. Republicans, however, applauded their party�s president, calling his actions a necessary evil. A third group of ultra-conservatives, headed by Senator Barry Goldwater, called for large troop buildups (including the possible reinstatement of the Draft) followed by a massive preemptive strike, if necessary.

As members of 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions arrived in Europe, fresh from the lines in Cuba, the Soviets and Americans continued to stare down at each other, a single shot threatening to unleash a global thermonuclear war. President Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev seemed locked in a war of wills, as well. Each one waited, watching for the other to blink. Almost all Americans had confidence in their seemingly iron-willed president.
Nikita Khrushchev
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