CIA shot own planes, used napalm in Bay of Pigs, documents show

CIA documents

CIA documents

Newly declassified documents show that the CIA mistakenly fired at its own assault planes and resorted to using napalm to stave off successive Cuban counterattacks during the Bay of Pigs invasion. The revelations are included in a multi-volume Official History of the covert operation, which the CIA was forced to declassify after a lawsuit by George Washington University’s National Security Archive. On April 17, 1961, a brigade of 1,300 CIA-funded and -trained anticommunist Cubans mounted a surprise assault on the Caribbean island. But prior intelligence collected by spies working for Havana, and stiff resistance by pro-Castro troops, resulted in the CIA’s biggest known covert action failure. Approximately 1,200 surviving members of the CIA’s army were captured by pro-Castro forces, many of whom were severely interrogated or executed in subsequent years. According to the declassified documents, CIA forces eventually resorted to bombing Cuban government troops with napalm. Initially, operation planners were hesitant about using napalm, because of fears that doing so “would cause concern and public outcry”. But all hesitation had dissolved by the early hours of April 18, as American military commanders faced the possibility of seeing invading troops completely annihilated by successive waves of counterattacks. The documents also reveal that at least one CIA paramilitary officer opened fire on the Agency’s B-26 planes, which had been disguised to resemble those used by the Cuban Revolutionary Air Defense Force. According to the officer, Grayston Lynch, who is quoted in the documents, CIA support vessels could not distinguish friendly from enemy planes, while the CIA’s B-26 bombers, which were piloted by Cuban exiles, failed to heed warnings to “stay away” from American ships. The documents, however, do not clarify whether any of the invading Cubans were killed or injured by CIA ‘friendly fire’.

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