The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba

Unabridged Audiobook

Written By: Jim Rasenberger

Narrated By: Bob Walter

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Date: April 2011

Duration: 17 hours 30 minutes



The U.S.-backed military invasion of Cuba in 1961 remains one of the most ill-fated blunders in American history, with echoes of the event reverberating even today. Despite the Kennedy administration’s initial public insistence that the United States had nothing to do with the invasion, it soon became clear that the complex operation had been planned and approved by the best and brightest minds at the highest reaches of Washington, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President John F. Kennedy himself.

The Cuban-born invaders were trained by CIA officers, supplied with American matériel, and shadowed by the U.S. Navy. Landing by sea with fighter-plane support, they hoped to establish a military beachhead and spark a counterrevolution against Fidel Castro’s regime. The gambit was a stupendous failure, resulting in the death or imprisonment of more than a thousand men. In its wake, the United States appeared inept, reckless, and corrupt.

Now, journalist Jim Rasenberger takes a closer look at this darkly fascinating incident in American history. At the heart of the crisis stood President Kennedy, and Rasenberger traces what Kennedy knew, thought, and said as events unfolded. He examines whether Kennedy was manipulated by the CIA into approving a plan that would ultimately involve the American military. He also draws compelling portraits of the other figures who played key roles in the drama: Castro, who shortly after achieving power visited New York City and was cheered by thousands (just months before the United States began plotting his demise); Dwight Eisenhower, who originally ordered the secret program, then later disavowed it; Allen Dulles, the CIA director who may have told Kennedy about the plan before he was elected president (or so Richard Nixon suspected); and Richard Bissell, the famously brilliant “deus ex machina” who ran the operation for the CIA—and took the blame when it failed. Beyond the short-term fallout, Rasenberger demonstrates, the Bay of Pigs gave rise to further and greater woes, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, and even, possibly, the assassination of John Kennedy.

Written with elegant clarity and narrative verve, The Brilliant Disaster is the most complete account of this event to date, providing not only a fast-paced chronicle of the disaster but an analysis of how it occurred—a question as relevant today as then—and how it profoundly altered the course of modern American history.


  • Anonymous

    This is a powerful book and by far the best I have read on the " Bay of Pigs". The author, the son of a member of the Kennedy administration, draws upon much previously unavailable material to paint a vivid and ,at times, shocking picture of what is one of our countries most shameful moments. The author is generally fair, although at times he lets the administration off too lightly for what were inexcusable failures in judgement and execution. But, as is pointed out, there is plenty of blame to go around. The author not only gives an, at times, hour by hour account of the failed invasion, but also ties this failure into a much bigger one--Vietnam. He shows how politicians thousands of miles away tried to make tactical decisions for political, not military reasons and how this lead to the disaster in Cuba. This was then repeated on a much larger scale in Vietnam, which escalated as a priority partially as a result of the failure of the "Bay of Pigs". Truly a powerful, sad tale.

Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba

by Jim Rasenberger

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Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba, Jim Rasenberger