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Big Trouble in the New Frontier: The Bay of Pigs

by Max A. Delgado
Boise State University

Grade: 11
Time Allotment:One, 1 hour and thirty minute "block" period
Subject Matter: Social Studies and History

On January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro, along with his guerrilla army marched triumphantly into Havana, Cuba, successfully defeating the U.S.-backed regime of Fulgencio Batista. The successful Cuban Revolution was a social revolution unlike any other so close to the United States. After first proclaiming that his regime was not communist, Castro became intimately close to the Soviet Union. As a result, a serious threat to the United States materialized just 90 miles from American soil. Shortly after, President Eisenhower announced that the United States would not "tolerate the establishment of a regime dominated by international communism in the western hemisphere." Because of this new threat, the U.S. began to plot the demise of the fledgling Cuban government. In 1961, John F. Kennedy succeeded Eisenhower as well as inheriting a plan of destroying the Castro regime. This plan called for a U.S. sponsored invasion of Cuba. The counterrevolutionary forces, known as Brigade 2506 were comprised of Cuban exiles trained and equipped by the United States. The plan called for this invasion to be launched from Honduras under the support of U.S. B-26 bombers. This operation was to be a covert one in which the U.S. could deny any involvement. After the invasion began, President Kennedy received a letter from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev informing the president that it was already known that the invasion force was indeed an American operation and that the Soviets would regard the invasion as an attack on an ally. Kennedy, bowing to pressure called off the air support to Brigade 2506, and as a result, the operation failed miserably. The Kennedy administration suffered a tarnished reputation and lost much prestige throughout the world. However, from this setback, President Kennedy learned a valuable lesson which no doubt saved the United States during the subsequent Cuban Missile Crisis.

Students will explore the Bay of Pigs invasion and defend both sides of the issue.

Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to:

  • Understand the conditions that lead to the Cuban Revolution;
  • Understand the dangers faced by the U.S. by having a hostile neighbor;
  • Describe the United States' responses to the formation of a communist Cuba;
  • Understand the basic plan of the Bay of Pigs invasion;
  • Understand Kennedy's decision to halt air support to the exile force and the lessons that he learned from the whole debacle.


From the Idaho Board of Education for grades 9-12, available online at:

Standard 497: Critical and Analytical Skills
Students will acquire critical thinking and analytical skills by evaluating and interpreting other points-of-view using primary and secondary sources (497B)

Standard 489: International Relations and Conflicts
01. Students will understand significant conflicts in United States history by identifying causes and consequences of the Cold War including the Korean War and the conflict over Berlin (489.01.F)

From the Independent School District of Boise City Secondary Curriculum, available online at:

Instructional Objective
1321.16 Assess the cultural, social, and political struggles in the 1960's 01. Examine the successes and failures of John F. Kennedy's foreign policy.

Media Components :
The Bay of Pigs Videocassette Dist. By PBS Video

Web Sites

For each student:
Introductory Overview: The Bay of Pigs (see attached)
Pencil or Pen
Study Guide (see attached)

Prep For Teachers
Before the lesson bookmark the Web sites on each computer in the classroom.

Prepare for the hands-on element of the lesson by:

  1. Make copies of Introductory Overview: The Bay of Pigs, for all students.
  2. Make copies of Study Guide worksheet, for all students.

When using media, the students will be provided with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, for each media interaction. Each media source, whether it is a video clip, Web site, or any other multimedia element will be included on the Study guide worksheet.

Introductory Activities

Distribute the attached document "Introductory Overview: The Bay of Pigs" to your students. Discuss with students.

Learning Activities

Cue and BEGIN the video where the trumpet player is shown on screen. FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION: Have students watch for and list three reasons the revolution was succesful.

At approximately 4:09 (on time counter) into the video segment press STOP and check for comprehension: What conditions were responsible for the success of the revolution? (#1 on Study Guide)

FAST FORWARD to 4:30. FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION Why was Castro successful in his revolution? Why was it important for the U.S. to become involved? PLAY video. PAUSE at 8:38 and check for comprehension. Why was it important for the U.S. to become involved?

RESUME the video, FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION Which presidential administration began plans to disrupt the Cuban regime? Which government agency was responsible? Pause at 10:30 and check for comprehension. Discuss with students the plan to undermine Castro was based on the assumption that Castro's regime was an unpopular one and therefore vulnerable. However, this was not the case.

FAST FORWARD to 17:00 FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION Have students raise their hands and note on their study guides when they hear what the invasion plan was. PLAY until 19:12, PAUSE and discuss Why Kennedy agree to the plan even though it was evidently flawed? FAST FORWARD to 19:42, stop at 26:04. Discuss why the plan was no longer a secret.

Review the study sheet and revisit the video segments if necessary.

Have students to log on to: and answer questions 8, 9,10,and 11 on study guide. After twenty minutes review the questions and discuss. What are their opinions? Did Kennedy do the right thing by calling off air support?

Have students to log on to:,8599,106537,00.html and answer question 12 on their study guide.

Culminating Activity
DIvide the class into two groups.
Designate one group as the "pro-invasion" group. Within this group, designate three subgroups with one being CIA people, another Kennedy's advisors, and yet another group as the Cuban exiles themselves.

The second group will be the "anti-invasion" group.

These two groups will be able to use the three Websites in the lesson to research each respective opinion. There will be a debate on what was the correct way of dealing with Cuba; they must be persuasive in presenting their case. Those within the groups will each have a specific task in their groups.

Based on the debate, the teacher will take the part of President Kennedy; who will ultimately decide on what action to take based on the arguments made by the students.

To assess students' knowledge of the issue, each student will personally write an essay on the particular stance they were given and write it from that point of view. Students will then write another small essay on their own opinion on the situation. They must defend their stance. Students may consult the Websites as well additional research.


  • Language Arts
    Interview a family member about their views on the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
  • Technology
    Develop a PowerPoint defending their "group".

Community Connections

  • Although there is not a large group of Cubans in Idaho, there are other groups that disagree with what has happened or is happening now in their homeland. These groups may or may not be here for any or all of the following reasons such as politics, economics, or persecution. These groups include, but are not limited to the Bosnians, the Basques, and the Mexicans. Invite a member from the community in to talk about these issues and their feelings.

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