Book Review: Decision for Disaster: Betrayal at the Bay of Pigs (Grayston L. Lynch) : MHQ | HistoryNet

Book Review: Decision for Disaster: Betrayal at the Bay of Pigs (Grayston L. Lynch) : MHQ

8/12/2001 • MHQ Reviews, Reviews

Decision for Disaster: Betrayal at the Bay of Pigs, by Grayston L. Lynch, Brassey’s, $24.95.

A bang-up military adventure story, this book also contains a bitter, intriguing all-out attack on President John F. Kennedy and his handling of the ill-fated attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s Cuban regime in April 1961.

The author was one of two American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers who went ashore with the fifteen hundred-man brigade of Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs. He was also the first to pull a trigger in the aborted effort and a key witness in the Kennedy administration’s secret post-debacle review. The book grabs and retains the reader’s attention with fast-paced action, convincing tactical commentary, tales of bravery, a few accounts of cowardice, and the story of a brutal, tragic end to the enterprise.

The second half of the book is intensely interesting but becomes overblown. It is a point-by-point refutation of three accounts of the operation: two by Kennedy administration apologists–Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Theodore Sorensen–and the third by newsman Haynes Johnson. Here, Lynch attempts to demonstrate how after President Kennedy took the blame for the disaster, his political aides began a successful and deceitful campaign to lay the mess at the feet of the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He cites a number of widely held views that still exist about Bay of Pigs, common perspectives that were fabricated by Kennedy’s lieutenants. Lynch then attacks each one in turn. For example, Lynch proves the operational scheme was Kennedy’s own, not the Eisenhower administration’s. He shows that Kennedy then changed his own plan (considered marginal at best by the Joint Chiefs) by reducing critical pre-invasion air sorties by some 76 percent–without consulting or even informing his own military advisers. And the author tells of Kennedy aides lying to former president Eisenhower about the operation, thereby provoking the old soldier to condemn the CIA. All of this shocking portion of the book is written convincingly.

Unfortunately, Lynch does not stop there. He attempts to claim the operation had a chance of overthrowing Fidel Castro’s Marxist regime if only the originally planned eighty pre-invasion air sorties had been flown. And he fails to take CIA leaders to task for not recommending cancellation of the operation the minute they learned of Kennedy’s drastic cut in the number of air sorties planned. Grayston Lynch should have stopped while he was ahead.

However imperfect, this is a thought-provoking book and is highly recommended.

Rod Paschall


2 Responses to Book Review: Decision for Disaster: Betrayal at the Bay of Pigs (Grayston L. Lynch) : MHQ

  1. Michael says:

    After 50 years the vermin are coming out into the daylight and asking for our understanding. Go ahead Grayston tell exactly how much of a traitor was JFK and tell us why it was necessary and just to massacre our President on a city street. Come on Grayston we are ready to listen and understand you poor CIA patriots.

  2. Ron Gilliam says:

    I was happy to see that Rod Paschall’s review of the late Grayston Lynch’s book on the Bay of Pigs fiasco came pretty much to the same conclusions as my letter to the editor of Military History commenting on Lynch’s Nov.-Dec. 2007 magazine article on the operation, namely that Lynch had allowed his loathing of the Kennedy Administration to cloud his judgment and recollection. The CIA’s intelligence directorate (in which I served shortly afterwards) believed the operation never had a chance of success as it depended on a popular uprising and that early in the revolution Castro still enjoyed the support of most of Cuba’s population (all but the very rich, who had moved to Florida). The Agency’s clandestine services, however, using “intelligence” from its own Cuban agents who were happy to tell the Americans what they thought they wanted to hear, came to the opposite conclusion. (The planners’ dependence on 65-year-old Spanish colonial maps that didn’t show the modern extent of the swamps in the landing area didn’t help either.)

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