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Cuba Releases Bay of Pigs Documents

By Anita Snow, AP, Friday March 23 2:06 PM ET

HAVANA (AP) - A young Fidel Castro joked and swore as he barked out orders by telephone to defending troops at the Bay of Pigs 40 years ago, according to Cuban documents declassified this week at a conference bringing together former opponents in the Cold War battle.

"I think that up to now you have been missing the party," Castro tells his younger brother Raul, who was far from the fighting the morning of April 17, 1961, shortly after the three-day invasion began.

Then turning serious, the 34-year-old military commander adds: "But you had better be ready."

Later in the day, calling from a sugar mill near the battlefield, Castro shouted to another military chief: "Tomorrow we are going to shoot down planes, but today we have to sink ships.

"Sink ships! Sink ships, (expletive)! You have to sink ships! (Expletive), fire at them!"

Much of Castro's communications were with Jose Ramon Fernandez, then a captain and now a retired general who led defending troops on the beach known here as Playa Giron.

"We are going to wipe them off the map with mortars!" Castro tells Fernandez, now a vice president in Castro's government and one of the conference organizers.

Also made public for the first time were two Cuban intelligence documents written before the invasion, the first a detailed Jan. 12, 1961, report on the camps in Central America and Florida where the anti-Castro exile forces were trained.

The report also mentions articles by U.S. newspapers about what was supposed to be a secret training camp for the invasion force in Guatemala, demonstrating that U.S. plans to invade Cuba were well known months before.

Another Cuban document, written by intelligence officials two days before the invasion, showed that Havana was well aware of a division inside the Kennedy Administration over invasion plans.

The document cites a source whose name is blacked out as saying that "Kennedy's advisers are divided, while the Central Intelligence Agency exercises pressure over the president to support an invasion with bases in Guatemala and Florida, an opinion shared by some functionaries of the State Department."

After the failed invasion, five invaders who fled the fighting and sought asylum at the Brazilian Embassy in Havana determined that only a direct U.S. military attack could have dislodged the Castro government, according to a declassified Brazilian document.

"We also doubt that the rupture of diplomatic relations between Cuba and some countries of the continent and the decree of commercial embargoes could shake the regime, just as they have not shaken the position of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic," Brazilian business attache Carlos Jacyntho de Barros concluded in his May 9, 1961, memo to his foreign ministry. "The Cuban exiles, which North Americans support, could, at the most, create permanent difficulties for the Cuban government."

Castro spent Thursday at the conference, even reading aloud with amusement a U.S. document assessing his personality after his U.S. visit as Cuba's new prime minister in early 1959. Castro returned to the conference Friday morning.

Also studied was the first known CIA document calling for Castro's assassination.

The Dec. 11, 1959, memorandum by J.C. King, then Chief of the CIA's Western Hemisphere Division, suggested that "thorough consideration be given to the elimination of Fidel Castro."

Blacked out on the memorandum were the names of two recipients - including that of conference participant Robert Reynolds, former CIA station chief in Miami.

Without ammunition and U.S. air support, more than 1,000 invaders were captured in the disastrous invasion. Another 100 invaders and 151 defenders died.

Attending the conference are five former members of the invasion, as well as former Kennedy special assistants Arthur Schlesinger and Richard Goodwin, who both thought the invasion was ill-advised.

On Saturday, the group goes to the Bay of Pigs on the island's south-central coast.