Fidel Dead! Time For A Bay of Pigs Wargame?

I’ve always loved history and what ifs. I don’t like war, but I like wargaming, for many reasons. Now that Fidel died, historic Fidel, the last remnant of the Cold War, I thought about combining it. A Bay of Pigs wargame.

Not to honour him. More to honour the end of an era which started with Fidel and the Bay of Pigs. I’m not a Fidel supporter. I visited Cuba, fifteen years ago, as tourist. Cuba was not an enlightened Socialist state, I discovered. Cuba was a police state with a lot of hidden inequality. The people I met were afraid. Afraid of the police. Afraid of stool pigeons who would betray them. Cuba is/was not a Socialist Spain, in my humble opinion, but as grim as East Germany. Only sunnier. It’s too easy to blame only the US, Eisenhower, Kennedy and the embargo for all the suppression.

Castro might have had good intentions when he started his revolution, but in the end, power and bad judgment corrupted him. Excellent free medical service in Cuba for everybody? A myth. Political prisoners? Yes. A dictatorial state? For sure. Cuba has a dark side not well known.

Talking about bad judgment: the Bay of Pigs invasion was bad judgment, too. Eisenhower wanted to topple Fidel’s new revolutionary government and had an action planned. (Eisenhower denied in 1965 that he instigated an invasion. He only supported a ‘program against Castro’, he said). Kennedy inherited the plans which now materialized as true invasion plans. But he decided to skip all direct US military involvement. Location was changed last minute: not Trinidad, but the Bay of Pigs. Kennedy’s chief of staff and his defense secretary advised against the plan but Kennedy didn’t want to listen. Top government officials warned and the most influential Senator from the Foreign Relations Committee Fulbright, denounced in advance in a private session with the president the whole idea.

“The operation, he said, was wildly out of proportion to the threat. It would compromise our moral position in the world and make it impossible for us to protest treaty violations by the Communists. He gave a brave, old-fashioned American speech, honorable, sensible and strong; and he left everyone in the room, except me and perhaps the President, wholly unmoved.” (Arthur Schlesinger in the book ‘A Thousand Days’)


In the end, a Cuban defector rag-tag 1400-men infantry army invaded the Cuban beach without any American air support, and was quickly defeated by a prepared 20.000-men Cuban militia army which had at least some air support. Eisenhower, who commanded D-Day, would not have made this strategic mistake. Kennedy blamed the CIA, but should have blamed himself. If you pretend to be a powerful president of a powerful state, stay out and show that you believe in your own democracy. Never start a doomed military invasion, in particular not an unjustified one.

Anyway, that said, the invasion is good source for an historical scenario. Some ideas:

  1. A skirmish. CIA-trained special ops try to destroy an airfield. Cuban militia guarding. With Bolt Action or Black Ops rules.
  2. A retreat. The invasion army tries to retreat and avoid capture by the Cuban Republican Army. Maybe with skirmish rules or Flames of War.
  3. A fictional what-if. The invaders have to withstand Castro’s attack for a critical number of turns until big brother Kennedy sends in his bombers and recognize the invaders as ‘the true government of Cuba’. FOW or Blitzkrieg Commander.

The Devon Wargames club played a Bay of Pigs wargame in 2011 with the FoW-rules and the Vietnam Supplement. Link here. With Cuban tanks:

Time to dust them off?

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