A Critical Analysis of How
Selected Florida Newspapers
Reported the Bay of Pigs Invasion
and the Cuban Missile
RICHARD DUDLEY SHELTON
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FiLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILTW: I'N' OF THE REi1RE::?,'i'. FOR TUHE
DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN JOURNALISM A'D COlUNIOCATIONS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Sincere appreciation is expressed to Dean John Paul
Jones, Dr. Harry H. Griggs and Professor Smith Kirkpatrick
for their encouragement, guidance and kind cooperation in
the completion of this study.
A very special thanks goes to my wife, Dawn, and my
daughters Lynne, Diana and Laura for their most patient and
loving support and encouragement.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ABSTRACT OF THESIS ........... ... ...... .........
I FORMALIZATION OF THE U.S.-CUBAN RIFT....
II INVASION TENSIONS HEIGHTEN .............
III BAY OF PIGS.............................
IV TRACTOR-PRISONER SWAP...................
V PUNTA DEL ESTE CONFERENCE..............
VI LIBERATION....................... .......
VII FOCUS ON THE SOVIET UNION................
VIII CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS....................
IX CONFLICT RESOLUTION.......................
CONCLUSIONS .. .... ................ ...............
BIBLIOGRAPHY. ...... ....................... .........
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................... ...........
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate Council of the
University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Master of Arts in Journalism and Communications
A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF HOW SELECTED FLORIDA NEWSPAPERS
REPORTED THE BAY OF PIGS INVASION AND THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS
Richard Dudley Shelton
Chairman: Dean John Paul Jones
Major Department: Journalism and Communications
The press coverage of Cuban events has historically been
highly controversial. This controversy reached particularly
bitter heights during the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban
missile crisis. Some critics charged the press printed too
much about these events, others that they did not print
enough. Most agreed, however, that the coverage was poor and
often misleading.LJ ---
The news and editorial treatment of the major Cuban
events occurring during the 27-month period from January,
1961, to March, 1963, was examined and analyzed in five sel-
ected Florida newspapers.
fhe coverage given Cuba by these five newspapers during
this period can be described as intensive superficial cover-
age, lacking in important background information necessary to
place the news in proper perspective. Much of the coverage
was clouded by censorship and controlled news. The press, as
represented by the subject newspapers, did not do its job
well during this study period and earned the criticism leveled.
This thesis will examine and analyze how five selected
Florida daily newspapers covered the Cuban Bay of Pigs
invasion in 1961 and the missile crisis in 1962.
The press coverage of Cuban events has been highly /1
controversial since the "Yellow Journalism" days of the f(-
Spanish-American War. This controversy over the performance
of the press reached particularly bitter heights in recent
years during the Fidel Castro revolution and the following
Bay of Pigs invasion and Cuban missile crisis.
An examination of the criticism of the press during the
Castro revolution has been completed in a most interesting
University of Florida thesis study by Thomas M. Fullmer,
entitled "A Critical Analysis of How Selected Florida News-
papers Reported the Cuban Revolution."
Fullmer examined the coverage given selected important
events of the Castro revolution in light of the charges and
countercharges made against the press. Some critics charged
that "Castro was glamorized by the press and pictured as a
savior while his leftist tendencies were ignored." Others
charged that "the American press was too critical of the
Castro government and turned against it during the difficult
early weeks and months without sufficient justification....
and helped push Castro into the waiting and all too willing
arms of the Communists."
The conclusion of Fullmer's study was that the press had
not done its job in covering Cuba or the Castro revolution.
It had failed to be critical and accurately report the events
in Cuba leading up to the Castro revolution but during the
first two years of Castro's rule had been highly critical,
perhaps to the point of presenting an unbalanced picture of
Fullmer described the coverage given the Cuban revolution
during 1959 and 1960 as "intensive superficial coverage"2 of
the transient events while neglecting the important background
information which was necessary to place those events in
This coverage did much to promote the illusions that
Cuba was facing eventual economic collapse and that the Cuban
people were ready to revolt against Castro. These illusions
led to the Bay of Pigs invasion and were disastrously refuted
by events there.
This thesis is, in effect, a continuation of Fullmer's-
study. The same subject newspapers are examined and the
methods of analysis are similar to Fullmer's, in that the
coverage given selected important events of the Bay of Pigs
1Thomas M. Fullmer, "A Critical Analysis of How Selected
Florida Newspapers Covered the Cuban Revolution" (unpublished
Master's Thesis, University of Florida, 1965), pp. 1-2.
2Ibid., p. 107.
invasion and Cuban missile crisis are critically examined in
light of controversial charges and countercharges leveled at
the press's performance.
The Bay of Pigs invasion coverage became as controversial
as the invasion itself, with critics blasting the press for
revealing too much about the impending invasion and others
charging that the press had not told enough, nor kept the
Michael J. Francis, in a study of U.S.-Cuban relations,
points out that by April, 1961, the Cuban invasion plan was
"the worst-kept secret in the history of modern 'black-hand'
diplomacy. Most newspapers carried stories of the impending
action, although the stories generally did not directly tie
the United States to the operation but rather gave the
impression that it was an effort by Cubans held together by
their common goal."3
Conversely, Charles Collingwood, in an April 23, 1961,
C.B.S. newscast noted that:
As far as the public is concerned, last week's
explosion in Cuba took place in a sort of vacuum of
information....We now know that we were badly mis-
informed about most aspects of the Cuban situation.
Because no one told us, we did not know about
Castro's strength in his own country or about the
limited power of the underground in Cuba. We had not
been led to estimate the consequences of failure but
only of victory. Above all, we did not know the
extent to which the United States Government had
aided and abetted, financed and planned this operation.
3Michael J. Francis, "The U.S. Press and Castro: A Study
in Declining Relations," Journalism Quarterly, (Summer, 1967),
J. Allen Bradford, Jr., "The.Cuban Invasion: A Case
Study in'Foreign Affairs Reportin" (unpublished Master's
Thesis, George Washington University, 1966), p. 74.
Time magazine summed up the differences of opinion on
the invasion coverage in noting that the invasion "set some
kind of Journalistic record for coverage and non-coverage."5
The government was critical of the pre-invasion coverage
that had been given; the press was angry over being compro-
mised and misled and the public was confused and disgusted.
The Cuban missile crisis coverage received little
initial criticism in comparison, perhaps due to the level of
danger reached in the confrontation and the successful facing
down of the Soviets and removal of the missiles.
Criticism was voluminous, however, following the Soviet-
American resolution of the confrontation. The press sharply
criticized the Kennedy administration for controlling and
manipulating the news of the missile crisis and for using the
press coverage as a foreign policy tool. The administration -1
was critical of the press for its lack of cooperation in the
latter days of the crisis. Much of the public and some
members of the press were critical of the press's performance
in covering the crisis and in its dependence upon government
This study covers the important Cuban events of the
27-month period from January, 1961, through March, 1963. It
picks up where Fullmer's earlier study of the Castro revo-
lution left off and carries through the growing confrontation
between the Soviet Union and U.S. over the presence of
communism in Cuba, at America's back door.
5Ibid., p. 2.
The events of this period resulted in several historic
watermarks--the introduction of a Communist nation into the
Western Hemisphere; the approach to the brink of World War III
and the turning point in the Soviet Union's Cold War use of
nuclear blackmail to further Communist expansion.
The selections of-specific time periods and issues of
the newspapers to be studied were made after determining the
major events occurring in this 27-month period, by use of the
New York Times index and various books, reports and articles.
The major events selected for study include the Bay of Pigs
invasion, tractor-prisoner exchange negotiations, Punta Del
Este Conference, Cuban arms buildup, missile crisis and the
Microfilmed copies of the five subject newspapers were
extensively utilized in this study. Issues of each of the
five newspapers, from several days prior to the major events
through several days following the events, were examined. Due
to the length and continuing nature of many of the major
events, such as the missile crisis confrontation, the invasion
preparations and aftermath, the arms buildup and the prisoner
negotiations, a significant majority--approximately 75 per
cent--of all the five newspapers' issues published during
the study period were examined.
The papers examined were the Miami Herald, Tampa Tribune,
Orlando Sentinel, (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, and
Pensacola Journal. This is the same group of newspapers used
in Fullmer's study. They were selected as representative
papers covering various geographic areas of the state and
expressing varying editorial outlooks. These papers represent
approximately 80 per cent of the circulation of daily morning
newspapers in Florida.
The Miami Herald is the largest of the five papers
studied. The Herald's circulation during the 27-month period
studied averaged 318,923 on weekdays and 371,019 on Sundays,
covering not.only the Miami and Gold Coast area, but the
entire state as well. Miami was the refuge for most of the
Cubans who fled their homeland after the revolution and it
was the center of the anti-Castro exile activities. The
Herald often drew upon these local Cuban refugees for news
and background information, particularly during and after the
Bay of Pigs invasion, when news from Cuba was restricted. Of
the five papers studied, the Herald generally gave the
greatest coverage of the Cuban events, both in depth and
The next largest newspaper studied was the (Jacksonville)
Florida Times-Union. During the report period its circulation
averaged 159,938 on weekdays and 170,298 on Sundays, reaching
well into southern Georgia and throughout northern Florida.
One of the most distant of the five newspapers from the Cuban
scene and lacking the Latin American communities of Miami and
Tampa, the Florida Times-Union gave comparatively little
coverage to the Cuban events.
The Tampa Tribune had a circulation average of 154,516
on weekdays and 157,270 on Sundays. Tampa, like Miami, has
a large Latin American community, but the city never drew
the Cuban refugees that Miami did, nor did the anti-Castro
activities and involvement reach the level of that in Miami.
Of the five papers studied, the Tampa Tribune's coverage of
the Cuban events was exceeded only slightly by that of the
The Orlando Sentinel's circulation average for weekdays
totaled 88,587 and for Sundays 116,660. Unlike the other
papers studied, the Sentinel is not located in a Florida port
city. It serves the conservative, fast-growing central part
of the state. A long-time, staunch critic of the Castro
regime, the Sentinel devoted considerable coverage to Cuban
events covered in this study.
The Pensacola Journal, with a weekday circulation of
52,638 and Sunday circulation of 59,145, was the smallest
newspaper studied. Its circulation area, which covers much of
the Florida Panhandle and reaches up into southeastern
Alabama, is more rural than those of the other papers. The
Journal coverage of the Cuban events was significantly less
than that of the other papers, particularly in editorial
Attention was directed to both news reports and
editorials about the Cuban events which were covered in these
five newspapers during the study period. Most of the news
stories examined were wire stories, primarily from Associated
Press and.United Press International, which were usually
carried in each of the five newspapers. Although substantially
the same basic news was carried by each of the newspapers,
the play of the stories varied considerably, as did the
volume of local and.staff-written stories and editorial
The significance of the analysis of the news reports is
in recording the type of news on the Cuban events of this
period that was available to the readers of those papers
examined. This analysis should, likewise, validly reflect the
type of news available to newspaper readers nationwide, to
the extent that the wire stories were relied upon. Due to
Florida's proximity to Cuba, coverage in Florida papers could
be expected to be the most complete in the nation.
The significance of the analysis of the editorial stances
assumed by the five papers is in defining the varying inter-
pretations and reactions expressed on the Cuban events of
this study period.
The role of the press in U.S.-Cuban relations has his-
torically been an important one. The illusions that Cuba was
facing economic collapse and that the Cuban people were ready
to revolt against Castro were generated primarily through
distorted news coverage of Cuban events in late 1960 and i
early 1961. As Cuba drifted into the Communist camp, public
opinion and governmental policy projected her as a threat to
U.S. prestige and security and American interests were seen
as committed to the destruction of the Castro regime.
The .power of the press in shaping public opinion is well
documented. In recent years this power has come under close
scrutiny regarding the Castro revolution and its tumultuous
aftermath. Equally important, however, is the question raised
by these events, of how well the press is doing its basic job
of covering Cuba.
FORMALIZATION OF THE U.S.-CUBAN RIFT
Cuban-American relations at the beginning of 1961 were
explosive. They had degenerated over the two years of Castro
rule to the point that the overthrow of the Castro regime was
directly linked to American security and prestige.
Castro had seized the U.S. oil refineries in Cuba; nat-
ionalized over 160 American businesses; established relations
with the Soviet Union and Red China and was receiving economic
and military assistance from them. The United States, alarmed
at the Communist influences in the Castro government and its
actions, had retaliated. The U.S. had cut the Cuban sugar
quota, placed an embargo on all exports to Cuba, except food
and medicine, and recalled the U.S. Ambassador.
The year began with charges by Cuban Foreign Minister
Raul Roa before the U.N. Security Council that the U.S. was
"using the reported installation of 17 Soviet rocket launching
pads in Cuba as an excuse to invade."l The invasion was
reportedly scheduled between January 1 and January 18.
The Miami Herald and Tampa Tribune carried staff-written
stories on January 1 of interviews with local Cuban exiles.
Both stories stressed that a deteriorating economy and
IMiami Herald and Tampa Tribune, January 1, 1961.
growing discontent of the Cuban people had sharply cut into
the allegiance of Castro's militia and his Cuban supporters.
Two days later, Fidel Castro ordered the United States
to reduce the American embassy staff to 11 persons within
48 hours. He charged that more than 80 per cent of the staff
were spies and had been directing anti-Castro terrorism under
protection of diplomatic immunity.
The Miami Herald was the only paper to carry the story
on January 3, with a front page lead article by George South-
worth, the Herald's Latin American editor. Castro was
reported as making it clear that he was not breaking relations
with the U.S. The growing concern over the Communist influence
in his regime was noted, however, and his assertion that
"Cuba is not alone and will have support if the fight against
imperialism comes," was emphasized.
That night Washington officially broke diplomatic rela-
tions with Cuba. All the papers carried wire stories of the /
relations break in their January 4 editions, which placed
responsibility for the shattered relations on Castro's Cuba.
The Associated Press reported that "the United States
broke off diplomatic relations tonight with the left-leaning,
boisterous regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba." The report noted
that "although the U.S. adopted what it called a policy of
patience toward his regime, relations worsened as Castro
began seizing American property without compensation and
issuing a stream of anti-American sentiments."2
2Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, (Jacksonville) Florida
Times-Union anua tensacola Journal, January 4, 1961.
The Miami Herald, in addition to a lengthy lead-story
from the Herald wire services, carried several sidebars and
an analysis by Southworth. He reportedly felt that Castro,
"the bearded Messiah," had hoped that the U.S. would break
relations after his reduction order, as he needed to "build
a fire under some of his followers who have been pulling off."
Southworth saw Castro as "using the U.S. as the big, hated
enemy abroad to unite the people at home in the common fight"
and Cuba as "a small satellite now, but it is beginning to
orbit--and that red glow you see isn't coming from the sun.,"3
Editorially, all five papers criticized the Cuban
situation. The Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel aimed their
barbs at Castro directly, while the Tampa Tribune, Pensacola
Journal and (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union were more con-
cerned with the Castro regime's introduction of communism
The Miami Herald expressed hope that the relations break
would produce Castro's downfall. He was described as a tyrant
and a "paranoid personality" who thinks or pretends Cuba to
be in imminent danger of invasion one minute and the next
minute "foams at the kisser with delusions of grandeur."
The Orlando Sentinel noted that the limit had been
reached "some time ago, considering that Castro has executed
V nd imprisoned American nationals, has seized billions of
dollars worth of American property and has slandered us
3Miami Herald, January 4, 1961.
almost daily in his particularly psychotic way.5 The paper
urged that the relations blackout be maintained until such
time as Castro left Cuba or agreed to make restitution for
American property seized.
The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union also attacked
'astro's mental capabilities. He was described as a "crazed
ruler who may resort to any extremes to hurt this country."
The Soviet Union was seen as "the primary foe in the Cuban
conflict" and the editorial called for firm and resolute
handling. "Our warnings should be clear and precise and then
backed up if Russia violates one."
The Pensacola Journal and the Tampa Tribune both criti-
cized Communist aggression in Cuba, in January 5 editorials,
and urged united action by the American states to get rid of
the Castro regime. The Tampa Tribune declared that Castro had
two ends--to drive American interests out of Cuba and under-
mine her influence in Latin America and, with the help of
Russia and Red China, to become the dominant voice in Latin
Editorial attacks upon Castro's mental capabilities and
stability were frequent during this period. He was also often
ridiculed in editorial cartoons, as he was easily caricatured
with his bushy beard and constant fatigue uniform.7.
5Orlando Sentinel, January 5, 1961.
(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, January 5, 1961.
The Tampa Tribune, in particular, frequently used edi-
torial cartoons attacking Castro, often running them on page
Following the break in diplomatic relations, Castro
placed his island nation on military alert, expecting an
imminent invasion by the United States. Associated Press dis-
patches from Havana described frantic preparations to repel
The Pensacola Journal and the Miami Herald editorially
discounted Castro's invasion claims. The Pensacola Journal
claimed the real reason for Castro's mobilization was for
his own defense due to internal uprisings and revolution
which were drawing ever nearer and which he had begun to fear.
"Castro is coming nearer and nearer to the end of the patience
of his own people,"19 the paper summed up.
The Miami Herald, in a much more vitriolic tone, saw the
mobilization as a move to cow the Cuban people and distract
and deter them from "booting out Castro and his Communist
cohorts." The paper charged that "the latest antics of the
maniac in Havana have turned out to be a buildup for fresh
aggression against his own people."10
Four days later, the Miami Herald gave some credence to
V astro's invasion charges, when it ran a story by staff writer
V James Buchanan on the training of anti-Castro Cuban exile
forces at Retalhuleu, Guatemala. The story was prefaced with
an editor's note that it had been held up more than two months
Miami Herald and Tampa Tribune, January 6, 1961; Pensa-
cola Journal and (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, January
Pensacola Journal, January 11, 1961.
1Miami Herald, January 7, 1961.
and printed only after it had been revealed elsewhere.11
The story noted that some 4,000 Cuban exile guerrillas
and 100 pilots were training in Guatemala, although the report
was denied by the American embassy and Guatemalan government.
The information was also carried in an Associated Press
dispatch from Guatemala, which said the exiles were training
for a possible clash with Cuba.12
The Cuban military alert was called off in late January
and Castro charged that the Yankee invasion was averted only
by the mobilization of Cuba's militiamen. The U.S. State
Department restricted business and tourist travel to Cuba by
Americans, putting it in the same category as Red China,
North Korea, North Viet Nam and Albania--all Communist coun-
tries where travel by Americans is banned without special
The Orlando Sentinel ran a comprehensive, six-part
series on Cuba in its Sunday edition "Florida Magazine"
from the middle of January through the end of February, 1961.
In the first two weekly installments, the paper noted
the coming confrontation with the Cuban exile counterrevo-
lutionaries, whom it said were financed by U.S. and Cuban
industrial interests whose property had been confiscated. It
was speculated that Castro's downfall could well be achieved
by early summer.
11The story was published in the Nation and in the New
York Times the previous day, January 10, 191l.
Tampa Tribune, January 11, 1961.
The series included information on Castro's fight with
the Catholic Church; collapse of the Cuban economy; rela-
tionship with other Latin and South American countries and
other reported conditions within Cuba, including the defection
of thousands of soldiers from Castro's rebel army. Much of
this information was compiled from interviews with Cuban exile
leaders, significant portions of which were later to be proven
During February, the Castro regime made several overtures
to improve relations with the U.S. In a memorandum to the
Western Hemisphere foreign ministers, Cuban Foreign Minister
Raul Roa guaranteed that the Castro government would not
export revolution in the Western Hemisphere. The memo also
expressed willingness to accept mediation by other Latin
nations to try to bring about better Cuban-American relations.
The memorandum reportedly brought a chilled reaction from
Western Hemisphere capitals.
On March 23, 1961, the formation of the National Rev-
olutionary Council by the Cuban exile leaders was announced.
The council president, Dr. Jose Miro Cardona, said that the
council was not a government-in-exile but would be trans-
formed into a provisional government on Cuban soil as soon as
it won some territory from Castro. He emphasized that the
council was not receiving U.S. financial support and predicted
that a military offensive would get under way "in a very
130rlando Sentinel, January 15,22, 29, 1961 and February
5, 12, 19, 1961.
short time through an invasion and a general uprising on the
The U.S. issued a "white paper" on Cuba, April 3, 1961,
which called on the Castro regime to end its ties with inter-
national communism and which expressed a determination to
support future democratic governments in Cuba and help the
Cubans achieve freedom, democracy and social justice. It
tacitly rejected acceptance of the Castro government within
Cuba and particularly distinguished between the Castro regime
and the Cuban people.
Actions and reactions between the Cuban and American
governments during the latter part of 1960 and the beginning
of 1961 steadily intensified. The American attitude, as
expressed in the press, was unequivocally committed to the
downfall of the Castro regime. As the Cuban military buildup
progressed, the more urgently the press called for action
against Cuba. The more urgently the press called for action
against Cuba, the more desperately Castro built up his
military forces. The two sides were locked in a spiraling
escalation which was headed for a seemingly inevitable
4Miami Herald, Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel, March
INVASION TENSIONS HEIGHTEN
In an Associated Press dispatch from New York, National
Revolutionary Council President Cardona called for all Cubans
to join in a "second war of liberation" to overthrow Castro.
He discounted the possibility of an imminent, large-scale
invasion of Cuba by exile forces from either the U.S. or Latin
America. He did, however, imply that some 5,000 exiles were
being trained outside Cuba, but denied that U.S. experts were
Columnist Drew Pearson saw the confrontation much nearer.
He claimed the National Revolutionary Council was ready to
start a combined mass uprising and mass intervention in Cuba
"probably in May." He noted:
Thousands of guerrillas have been training ,
in the Florida Everglades and in Guatemala. Under-
ground units have been organized inside Cuba and t!
are awaiting the signal for action. The revolu- ,
tionaries have been supplied with shiploads of '
small arms, most of them more modern than those
used by the U.S. Army. Cuban pilots have been
training at secret Central American airfields.
No U.S. troops, however, will be involved.
None of this is really a secret from Castro.
That's why he's been crying wolf for so long. But
now the invasion is really imminent.2
Tampa Tribune, April 9, 1961.
Ibid., April 10, 1961; (Jacksonville) Florida Times-
Union, April 8, 1961 and Orlando Sentinel, April 11, 19b*.
Castro again mobilized his rebel army as the rumors of
an impending invasion intensified.
President John F. Kennedy was quoted in an April 13,
1961, UPI dispatch that there would not be any U.S. armed
intervention in Cuba. He reportedly barred any Cuban invasion
attempts or other actions from U.S. territory which might be
interpreted as American intervention.
Most of the papers studied were relatively quiet
editorially during April, choosing not to examine the
impending action against Cuba in the editorial columns. The
Tampa Tribune, however, declared its firm commitment to the
ouster of Castro and urged U.S. aid to the counterrevolu-
tionaries' push against a Soviet-backed, Communistic Cuban
It is time for the United States to stop
being hypersensitive to the criticism of others.
It is our duty to support what is honorable and
'2 --right. We never will be wrong when we are on the
side of freedom.3
The lead stories in all the papers on April 16 were
AP and UPI dispatches on the reported revolt of three Cuban
pilots who bombed and strafed three Cuban airfields before
flying their B26 bombers .to the U.S. and Jamaica. Castro
angrily blasted U.S. aggression and appealed to the United
Nations to stop the U.S. invasion of Cuba. He charged that
the pilots were not revolting Cubans but exiles and the
planes had attacked Cuba from foreign soil. The U.S. State
3Tampa Tribune, April 15, 1961.
Department reportedly disavowed knowledge of the bombing
The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union and the Orlando
Sentinel carried AP wire stories by Robert Berrellez that the
bombing raids underlined the seething internal opposition to
Fidel Castro's 28-month-old regime. Berrellez noted growing
attacks upon the Castro government in early April and con-
cluded that the "acts of terrorism, together with outbreaks
of rebel violence from one end of the island to the other,
seem to support the contention of foreign observers and anti-
Castro Cubans here that the present opposition to Castro
outweighs by far that which confronted deposed dictator
Fulgencio Eatista on the eve of his flight January 1, 1959."5
In the Miami Herald, staff writer James Buchanan des-
cribed increasing tension among the Cuban exiles in Miami, in
expectation of a strike against Castro. He reported a deadline
for the invasion-backed uprising, ranging from a minimum of
14 to a maximum of 35 days.
The Tampa Tribune editorially saw the bombing attack as
verification of Castro's lack of support by the Cuban people
and compared his expected fall as a dictator with that of
The bombing raid, conducted by six bombers of the exiles'
revolutionary brigade, originated in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua,
which was the jumping-off point for the Cuban invasion. The
bombing raid was aimed at destroying Castro's limited air force
in preparation for the impending invasion.
5(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union and Orlando Sentinel,
April 16, 1961.
Fidel Castro is finding it increasingly
difficult to maintain the myth that the people
of Cuba stand solidly behind him....the bombing
of three major Cuban targets yesterday by what
obviously were Cuban Air Force planes is con-
vincing evidence that the Castro regime is
honeycombed with potential defectors ready to
help overthrow the government.
While the air force defectors may be few
in number, when a dictator's military arm
starts withering--as Castro's predecessor, Ful-
gencio Batista learned--the foundation of his
whole regime begins to totter.
The truth is that except for a brief
period after he came to power, the demonstra-
tions of popular support Castro has enjoyed in
the past have been forced, not won. Government
based on such false support cannot endure.0
The Miami Herald and the Tamoa Tribune carried wire
stories on April 17, 1961, however, that reported doubts
about the bomber pilots' stories and speculated that they had
indeed been flown from exile bases in another Latin American
country.'The Tampa Tribune story quoted Castro as labeling
his regime, for the first time, as Socialistic--"The United
States sponsored the attack because it can't forgive us for
achieving a Socialist revolution under their very noses."'
Also on April 17, 1961, the Tamoa Tribune carried a
staff-written story by Paul Wilder of an interview with Cuban
exile leaders which epitomized the controversial coverage
given Cuba and the impending invasion, which would be secretly
launched that same morning. He predicted the Cuban exile
action would be a "24 hour war" with a general uprising
Tampa Tribune, April 16, 1961.
7Ibid., April 17, 1961.
sparked "by word the war was on." He expected an internal
upheaval to be the agent of Castro's downfall and he
discounted reports of a massive invasion.
He prophetically noted that there were too few exile
counterrevolutionaries for a beach invasion as "Castro's
militia and army, with modern weapons supplied by Russia,
Czechoslovakia and Red China, would make short work of any
such mass assault..."
BAY OF PIGS
The invasion that Castro had decried for so long in the
press and in the United Nations, and which the U.S. Government
and press had indignantly and loudly denied, was launched in
the early morning hours of Monday, April 17, 1961.
The invasion was the lead story for all the papers on
April 18 with most of them running it under banner headlines
to the effect that the rebels claimed early successes in the
The Tampa Tribune, (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union
and Orlando Sentinel carried an AP story on the invasion
which noted that direct communications with Cuba had been cut
off and that few of the rebel claims and reports on the
invasion could be confirmed. The Miami Herald, in a staff-
written story by Dom Bonafede, and the Pensacola Journal, in
a UPI story, also noted that the reports on the invasion
action were from rebel sources and unconfirmed.
The press coverage of the invasion during the news black-
out from Cuba was voluminous and replete with erroneous
stories, some of them labeled as unconfirmed, some not. Unable
to get on the scene or establish communications with Havana,
reporters covered the story by monitoring radio broadcasts
from the Caribbean and from interviews with the Cuban exiles
A Madison Avenue public relations firm, Lem Jones
Associates, Inc., vras recognized as the National Revolu-
tionary Council's information spokesman. In all, six press
releases were issued by Jones. Three of them, issued Monday
following the invasion, reported troop landings and internal
resistance, with a major battle seen shaping up Monday
evening. The fourth release appeared Tuesday afternoon and
was less optimistic, noting that heavy Soviet tanks and MIG
Jet fighters had destroyed sizable amounts of the rebels'
medical supplies and equipment. The fifth release, issued
Wednesday, emphasized a "hard fighting underdog" image and
the sixth, and last, on Wednesday night said the action was
not an invasion but a successful landing of guerrillas and
supplies to carry on operations against Castro from the
The invasion, launched from Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua,
by 1500 Cuban exiles of Brigade 2506, was, indeed, a major
invasion. They had been trained, financed and well armed by
the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.2 With air superiority;
a planned diversionary landing in Cuba's eastern Oriente
Province and a simulated attack near Pinar del Rio in western
Cuba, the exiles expected to invade and occupy forty miles of
1Haynes Johnson, et al. The Bay of Pigs (New York: W. W.
Norton & Co., 1964) pp. 128, 14b. The effects of the releases
were to generate optimism over a successful invasion at first,
then suspicion and finally disappointment and bitter frust-
ration at the end, when failure of the invasion was realized.
Ibid., pp. 69, 241. The CIA, principal architects of the
invasion, estimated the cost of the invasion at $45 million
in testimony before the.Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee
on Latin American Affairs.
Cuba's southern coastline, running from Playa Larga at the
head of the Bay of Pigs to twenty miles east of Playa Giron,
near the mouth of the bay.
The invaders expected relatively little determined resis-
tance from Castro's militia and they anticipated that in the
first two days of the invasion five thousand Cubans would
rise up and join them. They carried weapons for four thousand
men and had plans to airdrop thousands more for those Cubans
joining the rebellion.3
Stories of the first day's fighting stirred the hopes of
the exiles' supporters with the publication of rumors and
unconfirmed reports that much of Castro's 400,000-man militia
had defected; that 5,000 rebels had landed on three fronts
and were pushing Castro's forces back; that the Isle of Pines
had been seized and 10,000 political prisoners freed to fight
Castro; that Pinar del Rio had been captured and that Cubans
were expected to rise up enmasse in coordinated waves of
sabotage and rebellion.
The Miami Herald carried, under a head of "Which side do
you believe?", a comparison of rebel claims and Castro's claims.
The story noted the rebel claims of a successful invasion with
fresh troops and supplies standing by offshore versus Castro's
claims that government troops had repulsed "a multi-pronged
3Ibid., pp. 82-87. The invading Brigade 2506 was heavily
armed with automatic weapons, cannons, mortars and tanks.
Miami Herald, Tampa Tribune, Pensacola Journal, Orlando
Sentinel and (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, April 1T, 1961.
attack by counterrevolutionaries." The rebels reportedly
claimed that.much of Castro's militia had defected and that
Jose Miro Cardona was ready to enter Cuba and set up the
revolutionary government. Castro, however, reportedly claimed
that the Cuban masses had given "an overwhelming response in
favor of the Fatherland," and that everything was under
As it turned out, neither side was accurate in its
claims, and the rumors were grossly wrong. The invasion force
was severely hampered with poor plans, poor intelligence
reports and lack of support. The dangers and difficulties of
a night amphibious assault were compounded by coral reefs in
an uncharted landing zone; the use of small fiberglass boats
with faulty outboard motors for personnel landing craft and
a significant concentration of Cuban militiamen with commun-
ications facilities in the supposedly deserted Bay of Pigs
assault area. The problems delayed completion of the landing
so that by daylight the majority of the brigade's supplies
and many of the troops had not reached the shore.6
A second air strike against Castro's air force that was
scheduled for dawn was cancelled due to rising criticism and
world opinion against U.S. participation in the attack upon
Cuba. Although the first air strike on April 15 did consid-
erable damage, Castro was left with four fighters--two "Sea
5Miami Herald, April 18, 1961.
6Johnson, pp. 103-109.
Furies" and two jet T33's--and two B26 bombers.7
At daylight Castro's planes attacked the invaders. They
sank the troopship Houston in the Bay of Pigs; shot down a
rebel B26 which was providing air cover for the invaders and
sank the Rio Escondido off Playa Giron with the brigade's
communications equipment and ammunition and supplies for the
first ten days of.fighting aboard. The remaining troops, some
of whom were scheduled to be landed near Cienfuegos, farther
east, were hastily put ashore under fire at Playa Giron also
and the rest of the ships in the brigade's task force beat a
hasty retreat for the safety of the open sea. The invaders
were left with their supply lines cut, their backs to the sea
and no communications.
The diversionary landing in Oriente Province was aborted
and the word to underground groups within Cuba to start
sabotage and guerrilla campaigns to draw attention from the
invasion was not sent for some 12 hours after the landing.
During that time Castro's militia rounded up all Cubans sus-
pected of supporting the exiles, including more than 200,000
in Havana alone.9
Castro turned his full attention to the Bay of Pigs
invasion site after being briefly distracted by the simulated
attack at Pinar del Rio. He mounted continuing attacks to
7Ibid., pp. 94-97.
Ibid., pp. 113-114.
9Ibid., p. 121. This figure seems high in comparison to
later estimates by other reporters who estimated perhaps
50,000 jailed throughout Cuba, including 15,000 in Havana.
keep the invaders surrounded and contained; keep supporters
from joining them and prevent them from landing their pro-
visional government and seeking recognition and aid from
The invaders drove little farther inland than their
original positions taken up Monday morning and held throughout
Monday night with hard fighting. On Tuesday morning the rebels
at Playa Larga, and the paratroopers dropped to cut the roads
leading through the surrounding swamps into the Playa Giron
area, began retreating to Playa Giron. After brisk battles
Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, which expended their
remaining ammunition and supplies, the rebels disbanded and
took to the swamps in the face of the overwhelming numbers of
Castro's advancing militia. The dense, surrounding swamps,
which aided the rebels in defending their positions and
restricted the Cuban militia's advance, now pinned the rebels
in and made the job of capturing them relatively simple.
Three newspapers commented editorially on the invasion
in their Tuesday, April 18, editions. All three denied U.S.
participation in the action. The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-
Union described the invasion as "not instigated by any action
on our part but fomented instead by the people of Cuba who
are resisting the Socialist regime of their Communist-inspired
dictator." The Miami Herald called the invasion a struggle
SIbid., p. 110. U.S. forces escorting the brigade's task
force sent rubber rafts ashore at Pinar del Rio containing
radio equipment simulating the sounds of combat. The ruse
distracted Castro briefly.
between Cubans "working out their own destiny" and although
U. S. sympathies lie with the rebels, the U.S. would not inter-
vene "under any circumstances." The Tampa Tribune noted that
Sthe U.S. was abiding by the Organization of American States'
principles of non-intervention and should insure that Russia
does not interfere either. The Tribune also prophesied that
it was too early to tell whether the invaders had "pried the
lid off the Cuban cauldron of discontent....The result
depends largely upon whether the discontent is seething or
merely simmering--whether the exiles seeking to reestablish
freedom in their homeland gain the necessary internal support
or not. If they do not, their effort will have been premature,
and will mean but a tighter Castro clamp on the lid."
All five newspapers carried front page wire stories on
April 19 of President Kennedy's warning to the Soviets to
stay out of the Cuban fighting. He warned that America would
take action if they interfered militarily and he pledged
that the U.S. would not intervene with force in the battle.
The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, Pensacola Journal
and Orlando Sentinel also carried wire stories containing
the fourth Lem Jones' release, that the rebels had lost
significant equipment to Castro's tanks and MIG fighters and
were fighting against high odds.11
The Tampa Tribune and (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union
carried AP wire stories as sidebars in their April 19 editions
11(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, Pensacola Journal
and Orlando Sentinel, April 19, 1961.~
noting a growing fear among the anti-Castro Cubans that the
rebel invasion may have been premature, exposing an under-
manned movement to Castro's militia, and touching off a
"reign of terror" in Havana.
James Buchanan of the Miami Herald saw the current
action as a "mass infiltration rather than a mass invasion"
and he described the invaders' primary objectives as
"achieved." Buchanan said the invaders were on Cuban soil
again to keep a long-standing promise; that there was every
reason to believe the reports that they had broadened their
Bay of Pigs beachhead.to take in additional guerrilla bands
and that there will be landings of still larger armies which
were "reportedly ready to move at a second's notice."12
A Miami Herald editorial, also in the April 19 edition,
emphasized the lack of "impartial eyewitness accounts" of the
invasion and the fact that most of the news so far reported
was rumor. The editorial pointed out that what was known
about events in Cuba was "sparse and in most instances with-
out meaning." It noted some doubts that the invasion may
have been premature and expressed the growing frustration of
the situation in that "here, and in our time, this hemisphere
finds the Cold War joined on the very doorstep of the North
American continent. While we cannot participate, let us not
be accused of being neutral."
All five papers carried the National Revolutionary Coun-
cil's last press release, that the landing was a success and
12iami Herald, April 19, 1961.
the exile forces had reached the Escambray Mountains with
supplies and support for the guerrillas operating there.13
They also carried conflicting reports from various other
sources, however, that the invasion had been defeated. Fran-
cis McCarthy, UPI Latin American editor, reported flatly that
"the invasion of Cuba is beaten. It is Fidel Castro's
greatest hour of triumph since he came to power.4 Dom
Bonafede reported that the Castro government had announced
the "invasion force would be wiped out within hours." He
pointed out the lack of coordination between the invading
forces and the underground in Cuba and noted that "exile
leaders pinned their hopes on a massive uprising among the
Cuban masses. But it hasn't come. Some say the Cuban people
failed to get the word.",15
The Tampa Tribune editorially acknowledged the exiles'
defeat in its April 20 edition and was already looking ahead
to the future anti-Castro conflict. The editorial dismissed
any thoughts of U.S. intervention and anticipated the guilt
the U.S. would shoulder--"unfortunately our protestations of
innocence have convinced neither our friends or our enemies.
We are tarred with the interventionist's brush. Despite our
best efforts to remove it, there is every indication the tar
13Miami Herald, -Orlando Sentinel, (Jacksonville) Florida
Times-Union, Pensacola Journal and Tampa Tribune, April 20,
4Tampa Tribune, April 21, 1961.
15Miami Herald, April 20, 1961.
American reaction to the outcome of the ill-famed
invasion was reflected in a speech given by President Kennedy
before the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 21
and carried in all the papers. Edwin Lahey, chief of the
Miami Herald's Washington bureau, wrote that the President
"like millions of other Americans had been cut deeply by the
sense of humiliation over the Cuban invasion fiasco.16 Pres-
ident Kennedy told the editors that American patience and
restraint were "not inexhaustible" and if it ever appeared
that the other American states were shirking their commitments
against communism because of the doctrine of non-intervention,
then the U.S. would not hesitate to act on its own.
Most of the papers editorially lamented, quite bitterly,
the lack of U.S. action to insure success of the invasion.
The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union questioned whether
American prestige, which would be damaged by intervention in
Cuba, was so "all-fired important." The editorial argued that
"prestige is a poor substitute for national security, and
this is what we are risking if we allow the Communists to
retain Cuba. The island would then become a veritable arsenal
aimed directly at this country."17
The Orlando Sentinel charged that the U.S. "backed out
of Cuba too soon and with too little fight. Now we face a
bearded little squirt with a well-equipped army and plenty
16Ibid., April 21, 1961.
17(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, April 21, 1961.
of firepower."l8 The Sentinel saw the U.S. in an "undeclared
war" which could develop into another world war and suggested
that President Kennedy should back up his hard line towards
Cuba expressed in his speech at the ASNE meeting by "putting
an embargo on everything Cuban and supplying the freedom
fighters with as much U.S. military equipment as they need."19
James A. Clendinen, editorial page editor for the Tampa
Tribune, declared, in a signed editorial, that the Cuban
issue was an issue of survival and that the U.S. must discard
some of the traditional niceties of diplomacy in dealing with
it. He said "the dismal truth is that America's attempt to
maintain a technically correct position of non-intervention
in Cuba has brought us both failure and scorn. Our aid to the
rebels has been too little to assure victory; yet it has been
enough to permit the Communists to point a hypocritical
finger at us as sponsors of an assault upon the independent
government of Cuba."20
Clendinen called for action against Castro with the
prompt establishment of a naval and air blockade of Cuba to
close off receipt of any more weapons, supplies or manpower
from the Communist countries.
The Pensacola Journal and the Miami Herald in more
moderate editorial tones said that communism in Cuba must go.
8Orlando Sentinel, April 21, 1961.
19Ibid., April 22, 1961.
Tampa Tribune, April 21, 1961.
The Pensacola Journal simply noted that the U.S. couldn't
tolerate Communist missile bases in this hemisphere nor the
"subversion of Cuba by Communists" and still hold to the
The Miami Herald, in a most positive editorial outlook,
saw the invasion as only "round one" in the fight against
Castro. Emphasizing the reported infiltration successes of
the invasion, it declared "the first wave of the liberation
army has accomplished its mission. There will be another and
another and another."22
The Miami Herald called for Cuba to be "the first nation
to be liberated from the clutch of Communist imperialism,"
noting that the "Reds can't defend Cuba and they know it."
The editorial said that Americans should be proud of trying
to help Cuban patriots recapture their homeland and should
"roll up their sleeves to liberate Cuba. 23
Early analysis of the invasion failure centered on the
incorrect evaluations of Castro's loss of political support
and military support within Cuba. Much of the blame for the
errors was placed on misleading information from Cuban
refugees and inept U.S. Latin American advisors. Considerable
discussion was also carried, after the fact, on the reaction
of other Latin American countries over the U.S. role in the
21Pensacola Journal, April 20, 1961.
2Miami Herald, April 21, 1961.
23bid., April 25, 1961.
invasion. This coverage was typified in a series by George
Southworth, who reported that U.S. prestige had "hit rock
bottom in Central America, Colqmbia and Venezuela for
bungling the Cuban invasion." Southworth declared "the U.S.
better wake up. She's losing Latin America. The Communists
don't fight by the rules and the United States doesn't fight
By the end of April, the Cuban story had evolved into
one of speculation over the next U.S. move against Castro.
Among the plans reported under consideration were a naval
blockade; an economic embargo; direct U.S. military inter-
vention; a new anti-Castro operation by Cuban exiles; col-
lective action by the Organization of American States and an
intensified propaganda campaign aimed at Castro's overthrow
The papers rallied around President Kennedy shortly
after the invasion failure, assigning most of the blame to
\ the Central Intelligence Agency.25 The U.S. commitment to
the overthrow of Castro was reemphasized by columnists, in
news stories and in editorials. By the end of April, however,
some of the newspapers began expressing second thoughts, par-
ticularly after President Kennedy urged them, in a speech to
the American Newspaper Publishers Association, to "reexamine
24Ibid., April 26 and 27, 1961.
25Francis, p. 265. President Kennedy is supposed to have
remarked upon receiving a Gallup poll showing that he gained
popularity following the Cuban invasion that "It's like
Eisenhower. The worse I do, the more popular I get."
their obligations in the light of global danger and in
presenting the news, to heed the duty of self-restraint....
Newspapers must now ask the question, is it in the national
interests instead of is it news.26
The Tampa Tribune, which had earlier called for action
against Castro, examined Krushchev's threat of retaliation
against U.S. aggression in Cuba in an editorial entitled "The
Price of a Free Cuba." The editorial noted that the retal-
iation question was a serious one which should be pondered by
every U.S. citizen and then it asked "If all action short of
intervention fails, how much is a free Cuba worth to us?"27
Two days later the Tribune examined another aspect of
the problem in a political cartoon entitled "William Tell's
Dilemma." Uncle Sam was depicted about to shoot the rotten
apple "of communism" off the head of a man, labeled "Latin
American friendship," with a shotgun, labeled "any military
action against the Castro regime." Uncle Sam pondered--"I
might just hit him too.'28
President Kennedy's call for "self-restraint by the
newspapers drew a sharp rebuff from the Tampa Tribune. The
editorial maintained that the paper had reported "only what
was visible to other eyes or was babbled by Cuban refugee
spokesmen intent on building up their own cause." It reasoned
(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, April 28, 1961.
27Tampa Tribune, April 26, 1961.
28bid April28, 196
Ibid., April.28, 1961.
that if newspaper reporters could get the information, surely
Castro's agents could get it also and that "the evidence
indicates Castro had advance information on the time and
place of the landing which could have come only from someone
in the inner council of planners." The Tribune charged that
the culprit was not "irresponsible journalism, but inadequate
security controls on a poorly handled military project."29
As April drew to a close, criticism of the press
coverage of the Cuban invasion grew and with it grew the
papers' expressed sense of humiliation and bitterness at
being compromised by the government.
29Ibid., April 29, 1961.
During speeches at a May Day celebration in Havana, Fidel
Castro declared Cuba to be a Socialist state, without the
need for elections. Wire stories of the speech were carried
by all the papers and it drew editorial fire from each of
them. All the editorials decried the use of Cuba as a spring-
board for communism in the Caribbean.1
The Tampa Tribune editorial was the most harsh, calling
Castro's Cuba a "Communist cancer at the heart of the hemis-
phere" which required removal by "an inter-American team of
surgeons" lest the heth of all the hemisphere become
imperiled. It also clearly illustrated the difference in per-
spective over Cuba in commenting that the "leaders of Latin
American states must face up to the threat posed by Castro's
Cuba, no matter how popular he is to masses in their home
states because of his social and economic reforms in Cuba."
If the inter-American effort was not forthcoming, the edi-
torial declared that the U.S. must "operate" on its own.2
The conservative (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union and
the Orlando Sentinel, a long-time critic of Castro as a
1Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel, May 2, 1961; Tampa
Tribune, (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union and Pensacola
Journal, May 3, 1961.
Tampa Tribune, May 3, 1961.
Communist, also included swipes at the U.S. "leftists and
socialists" as contributing to the Cuban problem.3 The Sentinel
pointed out, matter-of-factly, that "the most important
lesson which the recent abortive invasion attempt should have
taught is that Fidel Castro has the support of the masses of
Cuba. He's given them land; is feeding them. They're loyal.
Nobody else gave them a piece of land."4
The editorial went on, however, to point out that despite
the gross estimates of 500,000 men needed to conquer Castro,
his army of 400,000 was mostly "ill-trained militia" and a
"division of Marines with good air support and good sea
support should be able to handle the situation."5
During early May the Cuban story began to cool off some-
what, although on May 5 several of the papers carried Drew
Pearson's "Merry Go Round" column which analyzed the invasion
in detail and placed the blame for the "tragedy" on the
"fumbling and bumbling of the Central Intelligence Agency."
Pearson charged that the CIA fathered the invasion operation
but neglected to coordinate the landing with a planned
internal uprising. He detailed mistakes and poor preparation
for the invasion, including failure to cut Castro's communi-
cations systems and use of "motley" ships and crews as an
3(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, May 3, 1961 and
Orlando Sentinel, May 2 and 4, 19b1.
4Orlando Sentinel, May 4, 1961.
Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel and (Jacksonville)
Florida Times-Union, May 5, 19b1.
On May 18, 1961, Castro offered to trade the 1,124 cap-
tured invaders for 500 tractors and he permitted 10 prisoners
to return to the U.S. to try and negotiate the swap. A "Trac-
tors for Freedom Committee," headed by Eleanor Roosevelt,
Walter Reuther and Milton S. Eisenhower, was organized to
help obtain the tractors.
The tractor-prisoner swap proposal generated as much, or
perhaps more, controversy and editorial reaction as did the
invasion itself. Even the wire service news columns reporting
the offer used harsh comparisons in describing it as "remi-
niscent of Adolph Eichmann's attempt to swap Jewish hostages
for trucks during WWII."7
Some-of the papers were strongly against the swap. Others,
while angrily denouncing Castro as inhumane or worse, felt a
responsibility to the rebels and saw the ransom effort as
compassionate. All agreed that the U. S. Government should
not be involved in the transaction, however.
The Tampa Tribune, one of the most vehement opponents to
the swap, described it as "an eclair argument, richly coated
with sentiment but hollow of logic." The paper declared that
"if it be called heartless to reject Castro's bodies-for-
bulldozers deal, let us remember that there are times when
free men must be willing to sacrifice both liberty and life
in defense of principle."8
7Pensacola Journal, May.18, 1961. The controversial
Eichmann trial was underway in Israel at the time.
Tampa Tribune, May 21, 1961.
The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union also took a firm
stand in opposition to the swap, charging that it would
"hasten the capitulation of the honor of the Americas" and
that the U.S. has "sunk to a low ebb in integrity" when it
permits such distasteful bargains. The paper dramatically
urged that we "remember Jackson's statement prior to the War
of 1812 that 'We are going to fight for the reestablishment
of our national character' and until we do so again, we can-
not remove the blot on our escutcheon."9
The Miami Herald saw the swap as "compassionate and
worthy," but feared a propaganda trap and emphasized that it
should "be the Cubans' business and the U.S. Government
should not be involved.10
The Orlando Sentinel,.in perhaps the most realistic
appraisal of all, wryly expected that the Americans, "soft-
hearted as well as soft-headed," would no doubt meet the
conditions of the swap. The Sentinel maintained that the U.S.
felt a responsibility to do something to help the exiles, as
"we have a sense of guilt about the invasion fiasco since if
it hadn't been for our ineptness, the freedom fighters
wouldn't today be prisoners." The editorial urged settlement
of the swap for 50 or 100 tractors and then an end of all
business with Cuba.11
9(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, May 24, 1961.
lOMiami Herald, May 23, 1961.
11Orlando Sentinel, May 23, 1961. The U.S. was reportedly
still buying 6bO million annually in goods--mostly tobacco--
from Cuba at the time.
President Kennedy lent his support to the tractor swap
and urged citizens to contribute, but he maintained, rather
speciously, that it was a private action and the government
would not be a party to it. Even with the President's support,
or perhaps because of it, the tractor swap drew widespread
opposition from the public and particularly from the press.
The newspapers which had closed ranks behind President
Kennedy immediately after the invasion failure began finding
increasing fault with his handling of the Cuban situation.
Through the latter part of May and the first part of
June the tractor-prisoner swap was a frequent news and edi-
torial topic. The administration and supporters of the swap
maintained that the humanitarian act struck a propaganda blow
against Castro, while the critics charged that the swap was
blackmail and submission to it was against all American
The negotiations between the "Tractors for Freedom
Committee" and Castro broke down in the latter part of June.
The committee offered to meet his conditions with 500 agri-
cultural tractors--D-6's weighing up to 18,000 pounds. Castro,
however, maintained that he had meant D-8 tractors which were
much larger, weighing 48,000 pounds, and were suitable for
construction and roadbuilding. He also insisted that the pay-
ment was an "indemnity" for U.S. support of the invading
exiles, and not a ransom.
Castro did agree, in talks with the committee in Cuba,
to accept the smaller tractors, but he demanded 1,000 of them
as an equivalent value. This "change in price" brought a howl
from critics of the swap and supporters alike. All the papers
editorially called for breaking off negotiations.
The Tampa Tribune, describing the swap as a scheme which
had been "proceeding from impulsive folly to determined
absurdity," declared that the U.S. had "suffered humiliation
enough.from Washington's Cuban policies" and urged Congress
to prohibit the swap if President Kennedy did not repudiate
the Cuban offer.12
The committee again offered Castro 500 smaller D-6
tractors and when he refused, it was disbanded on June 24,
1961. The newspapers editorially uttered a collective sigh of
relief. Even the Miami Herald, which had supported the swap
as a private action, saw the "end to the folly as fortunate."
The editorial said that Castro never really took the swap
seriously but used it as a propaganda move to humiliate the
U.S. and to "have a quiet laugh at the Yankee Colossus." The
Herald editorial denied any lack of compassion for the pris-
oners, however, and maintained that they would not "languish
long in captivity."13
The changing attitudes regarding U.S. actions over Cuba
are perhaps reflected in a Gallup poll published in mid-June,
1961. The response to the question "Do you approve of the way
President Kennedy is handling his job as President?" would
12Tampa Tribune, June 16, 1961.
13Miami Herald, June 24, 1961.
seem to substantiate the growing disapproval over U.S.
actions. The question asked just after the invasion in April,
elicited a response of 83 per. cent approval; 5 per cent
disapproval and 12 per cent no opinion. In May the question
drew responses of 76 per cent approval; 9 per cent disapproval
and 15 per cent no opinion. In early June, during the height
of the tractor-prisoner swap controversy, the question got
responses of 74 per cent approval; 1l.per cent disapproval
and 15 per cent no opinion.14
The Miami Herald's George Southworth was permitted to
accompany the "Tractors for Freedom Committee" on a negoti-
ation trip into Cuba and he filed a penetrating series of
stories on conditions there. He reported that Castro had
"more power and greater control over his people than ever
before." He emphasized that Castro's revolution had many
strong points, such as low cost housing developments, many
new state-owned collective farms and many new cooperatives.
He noted that although many items were in short supply, there
was always food for sale and those claiming the Castro gov-
ernment would fall from hunger were only wishfully thinking.
Southworth emphasized, however, that the price of these
economic gains by the Cuban masses were high--"the loss of
almost every personal liberty."15
Following various predictions that Latin America would
14Orlando Sentinel, June 16, 1961.
15Miami Herald, June 18, 1961.
be under Communist domination within from three to five years
if something was not done to get rid of Castro, Cuba drifted
out of the news through most of the remaining summer and fall.
Castro popped back into the news in banner headlines on
December 3 when he declared, on the fifth anniversary of his
July 26th Movement's landing in Cuba, that "I am a Marxist-
Leninist and I'll remain one till I die."16
The Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel and (Jacksonville)
Florida Times-Union also carried an AP comparison of the
recorded, changing statements by Castro regarding his assoc-
iation with communism. Castro's positions reportedly ranged
from "Ours is not a Communist revolution," declared at the
time Eatista fled Cuba on January 1, 1959, and "We are not
Communists," spoken in his address to the American Society
of Newspaper Editors on April 17, 1959, to "We are in accord
with communism," declared in a March 28, 1961, speech, and
his announcement that Cuba was a Socialist state on May 1,
Editorial comment on Castro's announcement agreed that
his confession should convince any doubters of his true
colors and serve to unite opposition throughout the Americas.
The Tampa Tribune called the statement "all the evidence
necessary for the Organization of American States to declare
Castro's Cuba a Soviet satellite and take collective
16Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, (Jacksonville) Florida
Times-Union, Miami Herald and Pensacola Journal, December 3,
17Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel and (Jacksonville)
Florida Times-Union, December 3, 19b1.
diplomatic and economic measures against it.'18
The United States set out to accomplish that very goal
at the Punta Del Este Conference of the Organization of
18Tampa Tribune, December 2, 1961.
PUNTA DEL ESTE CONFERENCE
The U.S. presented a "white paper" to the Inter-American
Peace Committee of the Organization of American States
charging that Cuba had become a "bridgehead of Sino-Soviet
imperialism, posing a serious threat to the security of the
American Republics." The "white paper" was in preparation for
a U.S. request for joint economic and diplomatic sanctions
against Cuba by the OAS nations at the Punta Del Este Con-
ference which began January 22, 1962. It was described by the
wire services as a "detailed summary of Cuba's military,
economic, political, cultural and propaganda ties with the
The negotiations at the Punta Del Este Conference made
front page news each day. The first few days resulted in a
deadlock among the member nations regarding passage of the
U.S. proposed sanctions against Cuba. These included recog-
nition that Cuba's alignment with the Sino-Soviet bloc was
incompatible with the inter-American system; exclusion of
the Castro regime from the Organization of American States;
a halt to trade between Cuba and the American states, par-
ticularly in arms traffic, and the activation of individual
and collective defense acts against Cuba's political and
1Miami Herald, January 4, 1962.
The United States and the smaller Latin American coun-
tries close to Cuba pushed for the sanctions while the larger
Latin American countries, located some distance from Cuba and
with large numbers of Castro admirers among their own masses,
were reluctant to pass the anti-Cuban measures.2
The U.S. warned the OAS members that Cuban communism
must be quarantined to insure the success of President
Kennedy's $20 billion Alliance for Progress aid program for
Latin America. The nation's newspapers were more plainspoken,
however, in urging that those Latin American countries holding
back on OAS action against Cuba be excluded from the Alliance
for Progress funds.
Reluctance of the OAS to adopt the sanctions against
Cuba drew some editorial criticism from the American press,
most of it directed at the ability of the organization only
to talk and not act.
The inability of the OAS to arrive at a resolution
against Castro acceptable to all the participants caused the
meeting to be extended two days and focused considerable
attention on U.S.-Latin American relations. Dom Bonafede, of
the Miami Herald, saw the Kennedy administration's
prestige at stake in the stalemate, with any defeat at the
conference for "forceful anti-Castro action becoming almost
Among those reluctant nations were most of the largest
and most influential in Latin America, including Argentina,
Chili, Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia and Ecuador.
as humiliating to the U.S. as the Bay of Pigs disaster."3
The OAS nations voted overwhelmingly to censure Castro
for allowing Communist intrusion into the Western Hemisphere
through Cuba but the required vote on the proposed sanctions
against Cuba could not be obtained. The impasse was finally
broken on January 31, when 14 of the 21 nations voted only to
expel Cuba from the OAS, giving the bare two-thirds.vote
necessary. The larger Latin American nations continued to
abstain from voting. The expulsion saved some face for the
U.S. and.anti-Castro countries but had minor material effects
other than embarrassing Cuba diplomatically.
William L. Ryan,.AP news analyst, reported that U.S.
prestige suffered "a painful bruise" due to the major OAS
nations' reluctance to act against Cuba.4
Others did not see quite so bleak a picture in the
results of the conference. The Miami Herald reported that
although the U.S. didn't achieve everything it wanted at
the conference, certainly "all was not lost." The editorial
noted Cuba's ouster and Castro's censure but also acknowledged
the "hollow aspects of the victory" in the opposition of the
six major nations "four of which are the core nations of
Latin America and among the largest recipients of U.S.
Miami Herald, January 27, 1962.
Tampa Tribune, February 1, 1962
5Miami Herald, February 1, 1962.
It had been rumored that the U.S. intended to cut off
all trade with Cuba as soon as the Punta Del Este conference
was completed. On February 3, President Kennedy did just that,
placing an embargo on all trade with Cuba except medical
The embargo was endorsed by all the papers but the
Pensacola Journal, which did not comment editorially on the
action. Especially noteworthy was the unqualified support
given by the Tampa Tribune, since the majority of the Cuban
imports--$27 million of the total annual $35 million--was
tobacco for the cigar industries of Tampa.
The Orlando Sentinel described the action as a "severe
blow to the ability of Prime Minister Fidel Castro to export
Communist subversion to other Latin American countries." The
administration's aim, according to the Sentinel, was to
"fasten a kind of economic-military-political stranglehold
around the island country" and to urge our allies to do the
The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union expressed some
reservations, however, in pointing out that it remained to be
seen whether the U.S. could "provide the leadership necessary
to make the economic pressure effective." Such sanctions in
the past had'proven difficult to make work, the paper added,
because "those nations with the greatest pocketbook interests
refused to cooperate."7
60rlando Sentinel, February 4, 1962.
7(Jacksonville) Florida TiTs~mq-Union, February 6, 1962.
Shortly after Cuba's expulsion from the OAS, and perhaps
because of it to some degree, Castro tried the captured Cuban
exile invaders before a five-man military tribunal in Principe
Propaganda efforts to have the prisoners denounce the
U.S. as instigators of the invasion failed, for the most part,
as only 10 prisoners reportedly admitted during the trial
that the invasion was masterminded by the CIA.
The Tampa Tribune saw the invaders' trial as a reminder
to the Cubans that they could expect no outside help in over-
throwing the Castro regime. "All of this is intended to
impress upon the Cubans the picture of disaster that awaits
them if they revolt against their Communist masters or aid
others from the outside who might attempt to bring down the
Castro regime," the paper declared.1
Whatever the reason for the trial, on April 9, 1962, the
military tribunal found the 1,180 still-imprisoned members of
Brigade 2506 guilty of treason. They were given prison senten-
ces of up to 30 years but Castro offered to free them for $62
million in ransom. He had divided them into categories based
1Tampa Tribune, April 2, 1962.
upon their participation in the invasion and had put varying
prices upon the individuals' heads.
A "Cuban Families Committee" represented by James B.
Donovan, a prominent New York attorney, began negotiations
with Castro for the release of the prisoners, amid rising
protests against the second round of Cuban "blackmail."
There was a wide diversity of opinion on the effects
the ransom money could have upon the embargoed Cuban economy
if paid. Dom Bonafede, in a Herald news analysis, reported
that "the $62 million won't mean much in a Castro effort to
stave off unrest among the Cuban people, as the deterioration
in the Cuban economy has gone far beyond the need of such a
The Tampa Tribune, in an April 10, 1962, editorial,
argued against ransoming the prisoners as "Castro needs
dollars desperately, that's the reason for the ransom
scheme. The Cuban economy is faltering and pressure is
building on Castro." The editorial emphasized that the $62
million was more than two years' tobacco sales to the U.S.
and would strengthen Castro's regime immeasurably. It con-
cluded that "conceivably the money could mean the difference
between a continuance of Communist rule in Cuba or its over-
throw by popular uprising. Sympathy urges the ransoming of
the prisoners, but we should also recognize sympathy for the
six million Cubans whose enslavement by communism would
certainly be prolonged thereby."
2Miami Herald, April 10, 1962. ..
The Orlando Sentinel also counseled against paying the
ransom, not so much due to economics but rather to principle.
The paper noted editorially that if the ransom were only a
dollar a man, the principle would be the same and although
"our hearts bleed for the abortive invasion victims" it is
still blackmail and unacceptable. The paper noted also that a
"pretty good war of liberation for Cuba" could be fought for
$62 million and suggested this as a more acceptable alter-
The Pensacola Journal also pointed out editorially that
if, by chance, Castro did get the $62 million which his
faltering economy needed so badly "it would give his economy
a shot in the arm and would thus evade, for a time, the con-
sequences of the tight embargo against trade with Cuba which
this country has imposed."'
The administration remained aloof from the prisoner
ransom negotiations at first; however, President Kennedy made
known his tacit approval of the project. Much of the same
criticism raised over the tractor swap was again raised over
the ransom effort, but perhaps more intensely due to the U.S.
embargo efforts and the reported condition of Cuba's economy.
Some 54 sick and wounded prisoners were released on
credit and returned to Miami on April 15, reportedly drawing
the largest crowd ever to visit Miami International Airport.
All but approximately one column of the Miami Herald's front
3Orlando Sentinel, April 11, 1962.
4Pensacola Journal, April 10, 1962.
page on April 15 was devoted to stories about the prisoners
and their arrival and reception. Also noted was a report from
the liberation committee indicating that less than $2 million
had been raised in cash and $26 million in pledges of food-
stuffs and equipment.
The criticism of the ransom effort and of the Admin-
istration's support of it continued to increase in volume and
sharpen in tone. The Tampa Tribune, the most steadfast critic
of the five papers studied, succinctly expressed the general
attitude against the ransom in pointing out that "It seems
unbelievable that the Kennedy administration would sanction
a scheme to ease Castro's dollar shortage when the Cuban
economy is on the verge of collapse."5
5Tampa Tribune, April 15, 1962.
FOCUS ON THE SOVIET UNION
On August 31, 1962, a U.S. Navy plane on a training
flight off Cuba was fired upon by two boats believed to be
Cuban. The incident received considerable play in the press
as it came at a time of "heightened tension" in U.S.-Cuban
relations due to large scale arrivals of Soviet equipment
and technicians at Cuban ports.1
There had been growing rumors and reports from Cuban
refugees and Congressional critics of the administration
of the installation of missile sites and the presence of
Soviet troops in Cuba, all of which were played down by the
On September 2, the Soviet Union announced it had agreed
to supply arms and technicians to Cuba to help build up its
defense forces against "imperialist threats of aggression."
Appropriately enough, a sidebar to the story in some of the
papers noted mounting pressure in Congress for military inter-
vention to destroy Castro's regime.
The Soviet buildup in Cuba became a frequent editorial
topic for the papers. The Tampa Tribune, in an early editorial
warning and call for action, analyzed the Soviet move as an
1Miami Herald, September 1, 1962.
Orlando Sentinel and Miami Herald, September 3, 1962.
effort to "rescue Cuba from the disorder into which Castro's
irrational administration has thrown it" so it wouldn't
collapse internally. The Tribune editorially prophesied that
"Russia means to control Cuba, and if they do, they will
certainly set up missile bases which can be aimed at targets
in the U.S."3
The Miami Herald saw the Soviet announcement of military
support for Cuba as an "open challenge" with the U.S. and
Cuba on a collision course. The paper declared that "we may
have waited too long to root out this evil from the heart of
the Americas without heavy cost. But the Soviet Union has now
left no doubt that the longer we wait, the harder will be the
President Kennedy responded to the Soviet buildup in a
statement released September 5, in which he declared that the
U.S. would take "whatever means may be necessary" to prevent
Cuba's use of arms against any part of the Western Hemis-
phere. He explained that "as yet there is no evidence of any
significant buildup of Cuban offensive capabilities through
the big influx of arms from the Communist bloc. Were it to
be otherwise, the gravest of issues would arise."5
The President's statement pacified few, however. The
(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union noted editorially that the
3Tampa Tribune, September 2, 1962.
4Miami Herald, September 4, 1962.
5Tampa Tribune, Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel, Sep-
tember 5, 1962.
President's firm warnings were fine, but they needed backing
up. Somewhat sarcastically, .the editorial charged:
The time is long overdue for calling a halt by
'whatever means may be necessary' to a clear, well
defined and proudly proclaimed Communist plan of
aggression in the Western Hemisphere from an impreg-
nable fortress on the nation's doorstep. Delay, com-
promise and equivocation will only postpone the
inevitable, with immeasurably increased cost in
blood, sweat and tears.6
The Orlando Sentinel also had a different editorial per-
spective of the Soviet arms buildup than the administration's.
The Sentinel declared that although the President did not
consider the problem too serious and that he feared an
invasion of Cuba would start World War III, it did not agree.
"We don't consider an ultimatum would lead to World War III
for the reason Krushchev isn't prepared to fight it." The
editorial suggested that the U.S. give Castro an ultimatum
"to expel the Russians or the U.S. will do it....If the
ultimatum means war, -then it's better to fight now than wait
till Russia has a million men in Cuba and enough missiles and
launching bases to insure our defeat."7
By the middle of September the pitch of the demands for
U.S. action against Cuba had reached an ominous rumble. Con-
gress, the public and the press were growing steadily more
critical and irritated with the administration's "do-nothing"
The focus of the Cuban-American conflict was, for the
6(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, September 6, 1962.
7Orlando Sentinel, September 5, 1962.
most part, redirected with the introduction of Russian arms
and technicians. The conflict became a Soviet-American con-
flict, and the desire to rid Cuba of communism took on even
more determined and bitter tones.
On September 11, 1962, the Soviet Union warned that any
attack by the U.S. upon Cuba or upon Soviet ships in the
Caribbean would mean war. The Miami Herald, in a perceptive
editorial response to the threat, noted that it was the third
time that the Soviets had threatened the U.S. over Cuba. It
emphasized the changing focus of the Cuban conflict and
pointed out that the introduction of Soviet military forces
into the Western Hemisphere "becomes a fact far more impor-
tant than the rise of a seedy dictator in Cuba." The Herald,
in as plain and straightforward a manner as possible, declared
that it was time to call Krushchev's bluff and "tell the
Soviet military cooly and calmly to get the hell out of Cuba
and stay out."8
In the face of continuing rumors and reports of offensive
missile installations and Soviet troop concentrations in Cuba,
the American public and the press grew more.and more upset.
Many of the reports originated with Cuban refugees and exile
groups and although they got considerable press coverage, the
administration tended to ignore them as unreliable, since they
could not be confirmed by U.S. sources.
President Kennedy also tended to downgrade the early
intelligence agencies' suspicions of possible installation of
Miami Herald, September 12, 1962.
offensive missiles, perhaps due partially to his "once
burned, twice shy attitude towards the CIA and the Joint
Chiefs of Staff. The Bay of Pigs adventure had taught him to
be skeptical of the professionals."9
The introduction of missiles into Cuba was such a rash
and dangerous act that the President and his advisors must
have found it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that
Krushchev would take such a gamble. Also, the Soviet denials
of the missile installations made it that much harder for the
administration to believe the reports and rumors,*as the
denials logically pointed out that the Soviets already had
ICBM's on line inside the Soviet Union that could reach the
Pressure from Congress escalated also. On September 20,
1962, the Senate passed a joint resolution sanctioning the
use of force, if necessary, to curb Cuban aggression and
Communist subversion in the Western Hemisphere. The resolu-
tion passed the Senate by a vote of 86 to 1, and the single
objector, Senator Winston L. Prouty of Vermont, did so
because he didn't think the resolution went far enough.
The House of Representatives, by a vote of 382 to 7,
adopted the joint resolution on September 26, 1962, and again
the main objections in debate were that perhaps it was not
worded strongly enough.
As 1962 was an election year and the campaigns were
9Elie Abel, The Missile Crisis (Philadelphia: J.B.
Lippincott Co.., 19bb), p. 40.
approaching full swing, Cuba became a political hot potato.
The political outs seized upon the Cuban situation as a major
campaign issue and denounced the Kennedy administration for
the Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco and the presence of Soviet
military forces 90 miles from the U.S. shore. The Kennedy
critics charged the administration with playing a game of
semantics over the Soviet buildup. They declared that the
Cuban surface-to-air (SAM) missiles which the administration
continued to call defensive weapons were, indeed, offensive,
as were the MIG fighters and patrol boats with guided missile
armaments which had arrived in the Soviet arms shipments.
President Kennedy came in for considerable editorial
abuse, as did the State Department, over the Soviet presence
in Cuba. Although all the papers acknowledged the changed
relationship due to the Soviet intervention and the possi-
bility of a major, large-power confrontation, they all called
for action. Few prescribed exactly what action was appropri-
ate, although by late September recommendations became more
and more specific with less and less concern over the con-
The Tampa Tribune endorsed a proposal by Senator George
Smathers, a staunch anti-Castro critic, for recognition of a
Cuban government in exile and an "inter-American military
alliance to act against.Cuba." This proposal was also sup-
ported by the Orlando Sentinel, which, along with the Tribune,
was the most "editorially militant" of the papers studied.10
10Tampa Tribune, September 19, 1962 and Orlando Sentinel,
September 29, 1962.
The captured Cuban exiles came back into the news in
early October, as James Donovan was reportedly finalizing the
$62 million ransom negotiations with Castro. The U.S. Govern-
ment's role in the negotiations was reportedly unknown, but
the ransom arrangement flamed the criticism of the Kennedy
administration even higher.
The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union and the Tampa
Tribune saw the administration's influence in the negotiations.
The Times-Union saw the "connivance" by the administration in
the "blackmail" arrangements as an "ultimate degrading demon-
stration of the spirit of compromise and abandonment of the
traditional will to win."11 The Tribune compared the admin-
istration's Cuban policy to the round-and-round movement of a
dog's wagging tail. "This circular movement--support for an
invasion but not enough to win, a blockade sign in one hand
and ransom money in the other--has gone on so long that the
average American has grown dizzy watching it."12
The movement of Soviet personnel and materiel into Cuba
during the buildup was closely watched by the U.S. Government.
All Soviet vessels bound for Cuba were photographed and the
island itself was covered twice a month by aerial reconnais-
sance flights. A special daily intelligence report was begun
on August 27, 1962, and the hundreds of Cuban refugee reports
of surface-to-surface missile sightings were checked out. All
11(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, October 12, 1962.
12Tampa Tribune, October 12, 1962.
such reports of offensive missiles proved to be false, how-
ever, due to the refugees' inability to distinguish between
offensive missiles and the defensive SAM missiles, or "wishful
thinking" of the anti-Castro refugees hoping to prompt the
U.S. into attacking Cuba. Reports by Cuban refugees of missile
installations on the island had begun well before 1960 and
the receipt of "Soviet arms of any kind."13
The U.S. increased its U-2 overflights of Cuba when
Castro began installing the Russian SAM sites. On October 14,
suspicious of unusual activity reported in Pinar del Rio,
west of Havana, the U-2 reconnaissance mission photographed
the area, particularly near the town of San Cristobal. The
developed photographs showed concrete proof of construction
of offensive missile sites. The Cuban missile crisis was on.
The offensive missile site construction was given the
highest security classification and was known only to a small
group of government department heads directly involved and a
few trusted Kennedy advisors, who comprised the impromptu
Executive Committee of the National Security Council. The
committee met secretly with President Kennedy numerous times,
from shortly after discovery of the missile sites until
October 22, when the missile crisis was announced to the
nation. This small group of men helped frame the U.S. response
13Theodore C. Sorenson, Kennedy (New York: Harper & Row,
1965), p. 669.
to the awesome threat posed by the missile installations.14
Although the activities of the committee were kept in
strictest secrecy until the U.S. response could be decided
upon and preparations made, some of the Washington reporters
became suspicious. Paul Scott and Robert S. Allen published a
column on October 19 reporting the discovery of offensive
missile sites in Cuba. The Pentagon issued a denial of the
report, stating that they had no information indicating the
presence of missiles in Cuba and also that no alert had been
ordered and no emergency plans had been put in effect against
Most of the papers carried wire stories on October 19
reporting the transfer of a Navy squadron of F4B Phantom jet
fighters from Virginia to Key West. Although the story noted
that the transfer was explained by official sources to be a
normal response to Castro's receipt of new MIG fighters and
nothing unusual, it was also pointed out that U.S. plans for
a "quarantine" of Cuban shipping were reportedly being worked
By Saturday, October 20, James Reston of the New York
Times had run down most of the facts of the missile crisis,
but at the urging of presidential advisors George Ball and
McGeorge Bundy he sat on the story "in the interests of
14Abel, p. 46.
1Ibid., p. 84. In truth, the alert order had just prev-
iously gone out that day to the Atlantic and Caribbean Commands.
16Pensacola Journal and Orlando Sentinel, October 19,
The troop movements and naval deployment in response to
the crisis and in preparation for U.S. reaction drew the
attention of the press. The Washington Post, New York Times
and New York Herald-Tribune had pieced together fairly
accurate stories on the impending U.S. action, but the papers'
publishers responded to an appeal by the President and Sec-
retary of Defense not to report the U.S. actions in Monday
The stories that they and the wire services did publish
noted only "an air of crisis" in Washington; troop movements
to the Florida Keys and a Navy and Marine military exercise
near Puerto Rico. The stories speculated that the activity
had to do with the Cuban situation, however.19
The administration secretly briefed America's allies
on October 21 and 22. At 7 p.m. on October 22, 1962, President
Kennedy announced the Cuban missile crisis to the public over
national network radio and television and over a Spanish
language radio network hookup which reached throughout Latin
America. Soviet Ambassador Anatoyl Dobrynin was presented a
copy of the President's speech and the U.S. position and
demands one hour before the announcement.
1Abel, p. 99.
18Ibid., pp. 108-109.
19Pensacola Journal, (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union,
Orlando Sentinel, Tampa Tribune and Miami Herald, October 22,
CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS
The President's announcement of the missile crisis was
covered in banner headlines in all the papers the next
morning.1 Most of the papers devoted their entire front pages,
as well as voluminous inside page space, to the missile
crisis and the U.S. response.
The entire text of the President's speech was printed
inside by all the papers and its major seven points were
extracted and given front page play. These seven points
included a quarantine of ships bearing offensive weapons to
Cuba; continued close surveillance of Cuba; retaliation
against the Soviet Union for any missile attack launched from
Cuba; reinforcement of Guantanamo; a request of the OAS to
invoke inter-American defense pact provisions; a request for
an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council and an
appeal to Krushchev to "halt and eliminate this clandestine,
reckless and provocative threat to world peace.
The Miami Herald, Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel
declared strong support of the President's actions in
immediate editorials on Tuesday, October 23. Each of the
Miami Herald, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Pensacola
Journal and (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, October 23,
editorials noted that war with the Soviet Union was a very
real possibility, but that the choice was up to the Soviets. Ref
The Tribune couldn't resist pointing out that, in the paper's
opinion, the action was "18 months tardy but better late than
never" and that it would go far "to retrieve the mistakes of
The lead stories in all the papers on Wednesday, October
24, described the expected confrontation as 25 Soviet ships
reportedly steamed toward the blockade put into effect by the
U.S. Navy. The Organization of American States was reported
to have endorsed the arms quarantine by a 19 to 0 vote and the
world's capitals were nervously watching the outcome of the
blockade, which was seen as a "possible Cold War showdown on
the high seas."3
The missile crisis and related stories again took up
most of the front pages of all the papers. This was to continue
throughout the eight days of the crisis coverage, from
October 23 through October 30, 1962. Most of the editorial
pages on those respective days were also taken up with
editorials, opinion columns and letters to the editor on the
The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union and the Pensacola
Journal expressed strong editorial support of the President's
actions. The Times-Union stoically noted that "only in risking
war is there hope of peace" and the Journal declared that "all
leading American newspapers endorse the naval quarantine, or
3(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, October 24, 1962.
blockade, and urge the American people, regardless of party,
to unite in support of the President."
The Miami Herald, Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel,in
editorials on October 24, expressed a general feeling that h
although the blockade was a calculated risk, the Soviet Union
would probably not start a war over it.
Headlines the next day, reporting that some of the Soviet
ships had turned back and that Krushchev had called for a sum-
mit hearing to discuss the blockade, indicated that the three
papers were accurate in their appraisal, Krushchev, in a pub--
lic reply to an appeal from philosopher Bertrand Russell,
promised that the Soviet Union "will not make any reckless
decisions" but warned that it would defend its rights.5
The Tampa Tribune, in a sidebar on the blockade, reported
that 84 per cent of the persons interviewed in a Gallup poll
approved the blockade but many felt that it should have been
done sooner. The story explained that "President Kennedy's
decision eased many frustrations that had been building up
for months--the frustration of wanting to 'do something'
about Cuba, but not wanting to go to war."
President Kennedy's insistence on maintaining the block-
ade while Acting U.N. Secretary General U. Thant attempted to
Pensacola Journal and (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union,
October 24, 19b2.
5(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, Miami Herald, Pensa-
cola Journal, Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Tribune, October 25,
6Tampa.Tribune, October 25, 1962.
negotiate the removal of the missiles drew support from all
the papers. The U.S. had seized the initiative and in the
period of a slight easing of tension did not mean to relin-
Columnist Roscoe Drummond saw the missile crisis as "a
radically different and potentially decisive stage" in the
Cold War. He pointed out that this was the first direct con-
frontation between the U.S. and Soviet military powers with no
intermediaries and the first time the U.S. had taken a stand
which could yield only one of three consequences--"the back-
down of the United States, the backdown of the Soviet Union
or war." Drummond added that the Soviet Union trades on the
universal fear of nuclear war to extend Soviet power but had
been called by the U.S. and no matter which side backed down,
the missile crisis would be.a turning point in the Cold War.7
The lead story in all the papers on October 27 reported
that the Soviets were continuing rapid completion of the
offensive missile sites in Cuba, apparently attempting to get
them operational as soon as possible. An administration
spokesman reportedly declared that if the offensive military
preparations did not stop, "further action" would be justi-
fied, implying that the "further action" threatened would
include bombing the missile sites or an invasion of Cuba.
J. M. Roberts, an Associated Press news analyst, reported
that Washington was laying the groundwork for more direct
action against the missile sites and he noted public speculation
7Tampa Tribune, October 26, 1962.
on whether nuclear or conventional weapons would be used.8
President Kennedy received a secret letter from Premier
Krushchev on October 26 which included vague proposals for
resolution of the Cuban crisis. Also, John Scali, diplomatic
correspondent for the American Broadcasting Company, was
contacted by the Soviet Embassy to pass on to the admin-
istration possible terms for resolution of the crisis. These
1. The missile sites would be dismantled and
shipped back to the Soviet Union under
United Nations supervision.
2. Fidel Castro would pledge himself to accept
no offensive weapons in the future.
3. The United States would pledge itself not
to invade Cuba.9
Before President Kennedy could respond to the proposals,
a second letter from Krushchev was broadcast over Radio Moscow
on October 27, which called for swapping the Soviet Cuban
missile sites in exchange for the North Atlantic Treaty Organ-
ization missile sites in Turkey.
President Kennedy ignored the second Krushchev letter
and responded to the first, rephrasing the proposals more
precisely and reporting them acceptable to the U.S. The pro-
posals included Soviet removal of offensive weapons from Cuba
under U.N. supervision and a halt to further introduction of
such weapons into Cuba. The U.S. in return would remove the
naval blockade of Cuba and give assurances against an invasion.
8Ibid., October 27, 1962.
9Abel, p. 176.
The President emphasized that the first step towards
resolution of the crisis was the cessation of work on the
existing missile sites and that time was very short.10
The story of the President's response to Krushchev's
offer shared the headlines on October 28 with a report that
14,000 U.S. Air Force troop carrier reservists had been
called to active duty, implying that an airborne invasion was
in the making.
Premier Krushchev quickly accepted the terms contained in
President Kennedy's letter, broadcasting his reply over Radio
Moscow on Sunday morning, October 28. The acceptance was the
lead story in all the papers on October 29, with sidebars on
U.N. Secretary General U. Thant's preparations to fly to Cuba
to arrange for U.N. monitoring of the missile removal oper-
ations. The Miami Herald and Tampa Tribune also carried
stories underscoring the effect of the Soviet withdrawal on
Castro's reputation and pride.11
The Tribune, in an editorial on the same day, predicted
that the outcome of the crisis should destroy Castro as an
influence in Latin America. It noted that "this posturing
demagogue who proclaimed himself the 'liberator' of Cuba and
the champion of the Latin masses against 'Yankee imperialism'
has been exposed as the Kremlin's monkey-on-a-string, jerking
10Ibid., pp.198-199. The U.S. Air Force was prepared to
bomb the missile sites on the following Tuesday morning,
October 30, 1962.
11Miami Herald and Tampa Tribune, October 29, 1962.
and jumping at Krushchev's yank."12
The naval blockade was reported lifted during U. Thant's
two-day trip to Cuba in the October 30 issues-of all the
papers. On October 31, the lead story was on a tax cut, the
first day since October 23 that the missile crisis was not the
lead story--usually in banner headlines.
Criticism of the Soviet-U.S. agreement was quick in coming.
J. M. Roberts, in an AP news analysis, reported he was "dis-
turbed by the no invasion pledge" and declared that if it
means the Communists in Cuba are free to pursue their subver-
sion and sabotage without fear of the U.S., then the victory
is "very heavily qualified.l13
David Kraslow, of the Miami Herald's Washington bureau,
reported that removal of the missiles did not solve the prob-
lem of Communist. Cuba in the Western Hemisphere. He pointed
out, however, that since Cuba would no longer be available for
Soviet missile installations that it would gradually diminish
in importance to the Communists.14
Columnist David Lawrence described the crisis outcome as
a "hollow victory" if a victory at all. He declared that "the
U.S. Government has sacrificed an opportunity to liberate the
12Tampa Tribune, October 29, 1962.
13(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, October 30, 1962.
1Miami Herald, October 30, 1962.
1Tampa Tribune, October 31, 1962 and Orlando Sentinel,
November 1, 1962.
The Pensacola Journal also noted in an editorial entitled
"Red Backdown Points Way to Victory" that the crisis settle-
ment was being assessed as incomplete because Castro was not
booted out of Cuba and Communists still controlled the island.
The editorial noted that Castro had been exposed as a Soviet
pawn and the OAS had been solidified and been shown that they
had better "take strong, collective action, short of invasion,
to topple him from his wobbly eminence."l6
16Pensacola Journal, October 31, 1962.
The newspapers' criticism of the U.S.-Soviet settlement
of the missile crisis continued to mount through early Nov-
ember. Castro balked at allowing U.N. inspectors into Cuba to
verify the missile withdrawal and upon U. Thant's return from
his fruitless two-day negotiations with Castro, the U.S.
naval blockade was resumed.
The Tampa Tribune and the Orlando Sentinel both called
for an invasion of Cuba in response to Castro's refusal to
submit to international inspection. The Tribune editorial
urged the President to establish a 48-hour ultimatum during
which Russia could try to convince Castro to allow inspections.
If, at the end of the 48-hours, he still refused, then the
U.S. was urged to invade, as Castro's delaying tactics were
seen as eroding the prestige won by the President's firm
stand in the missile crisis.1
The Orlando Sentinel also called for a U.S. invasion,
but for different reasons. The Sentinel editorial declared
that the missile bases were not the issue in the Cuban crisis
but that communism was. The editorial criticized the Presi-
dent's "no invasion" pledge as "a renunciation of the Monroe 5
Doctrine" and noted that the Communists intend to subvert
Tampa Tribune, November 2, 1962.
Latin America first, then the U.S. and "the time to stop them
The Miami Herald, in more moderate tones, also expressed
concern over the inspection stalemate. The paper called for
reassurance by national leaders during the uncertainty of the
negotiation period3 and expressed fear that Castro would be
"protected from the just wrath of his countrymen and neigh-
bors" and remain in power as a result of the negotiations--
a price too high to pay for the removal of the missiles.4
President Kennedy, in an address to the nation on Novem-
ber 2, 1962, reported that the missiles were being dismantled
and the sites destroyed and that progress was being made
towards satisfactory settlement of the crisis. As Fidel
Castro continued to refuse on-site inspection, a temporary
substitute was agreed upon by the U.S. and Soviet Union
whereby the U.S. Navy would make visual inspections of the
dismantled missiles at sea. The administration maintained,
however, that the check at sea did not remove the requirement
for on-site inspection.
None of the papers endorsed the at-sea inspection pro-
posals for the missile withdrawal, and most continued to call
for an invasion of Cuba to get the Communists out along with
the missiles. Nevertheless .the at-sea inspection was utilized
2Orlando Sentinel, November 2, 1962.
3Miami Herald, November 1, 1962.
4Ibid., November 9, 1962.
to check out 42 missiles which were dismantled and shipped
back to the Soviet Union. Wire stories on November 11, 1962,
reported that "most, if not all" of the long range ballistic
missiles had been removed from Cuba.5
On the same day, however, the administration announced
that the missile withdrawal had been only a partial fulfill-
ment of the settlement agreement and that thirty to forty
IL-28 medium bombers which the Soviets had given Castro were
also "offensive weapons" and would have to go. Castro vigor-
ously protested that the bombers had been given to him by the
Soviet Union and that they were Cuban property and would stay.
The Cuban crisis began to heat up again in mid-November
as Castro continued to hold back the IL-28 bombers and
threatened to shoot down future U.S. reconnaissance planes
found in Cuban air space. The administration was reported to
be determined to take "appropriate measures" to protect con-
tinuing reconnaissance flights, with hints at fighter escorts
and "pin-point bombing attacks on anti-aircraft installations."6
President Kennedy scheduled a news conference for Novem-
ber 20, amid much speculation that it was to announce a new
administration policy regarding removal of the bombers. A few
hours before the news conference a letter from Krushchev was
received, pledging that the IL-28 bombers would be withdrawn
within 30 days, under inspection, and that the Soviet combat
5Orlando Sentinel, November 11, 1962.
Ibid., November 17, 1962.
troops in Cuba would be withdrawn shortly thereafter.7
The wire service accounts of the President's statement,
which was carried as the lead story by most of the papers,
reported that the bombers would be out within 30 days and
that the President ordered the naval blockade lifted. Pres-
ident Kennedy reportedly emphasized that the problem of
achieving international inspection remained and that the U.S.
would continue intensive aerial surveillance indefinitely,
until such inspection was achieved. He explained that his
"no invasion" pledge would be withheld pending satisfactory
inspection of the Cuban missile sites.
The President's announcement was editorially examined by
all the papers on October 22 and was met with a variety of.
interpretations. Some, such as the Tampa Tribune and (Jack-
sonville) Florida Times-Union, strongly criticized the Pres-
ident for not demanding on-site inspections of Cuba. The
Miami Herald sharply criticized "apparent indecision" by the
President for the past month and saw the bomber withdrawal
and blockade end as not making much change in the Cuban
threat. The Herald noted that neither the U.S. nor friendly
Latin countries would be safe until Castro's regime was
removed from Cuba. The Pensacola Journal and Orlando Sentinel,
however, praised the President's great success in forcing the
Soviet missiles and bombers out of Cuba.
The.editorial position taken by the Orlando Sentinel, a
Sorenson, p. 721.
Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Tribune, November 21, 1962.
dedicated Castro critic and invasion supporter, was the most.
surprising. The editorial, entitled "JFK Achieves Peace With
We've been saying Castro should be strung
up, boiled in oil, drawn and quartered, chased
out of Cuba.
We don't take back anything we've indicted
him for, but at the rate things are going, and
with Mr. Kennedy's firm insistence upon a Cuba
unable to be aggressive, time should take care
In other words, we don't think it is
necessary for the U.S. to invade Cuba now.9
On November 21, 1962, President Kennedy announced the
lifting of 12 restrictive guidelines on news that had been
instituted during the crisis on October 24, 1962. In com-
menting on the secrecy of the events leading up to his
announcement of the missiles in Cuba, he explained that the
administration did not want to make known the extent of the
information it possessed until it had determined what the U.S.
response would be. He noted that during the crisis week that
followed, further restrictions on news were due to an attempt
to "have the government speak with one voice."10
The 12 restrictions regulated various categories of
military information that was not to be made public during
the crisis and which was regarded as "vital to national
security." The administration had no executive authority to
enforce the restrictions upon the news media but instead
9Orlando Sentinel, November 22, 1962.
Pensacola Journal, November 21, 1962.
appealed for their cooperation and discretion in handling the
The Miami Herald had, at the time, reported the adminis-
tration's introduction of the restrictions and appeal to the
news media for cooperation. Below the story, it also ran a
note that the Herald was "cooperating fully with the White
House request for caution in publishing information vital to
the national security during the Cuban crisis.12
John S. Knight, Herald publisher, was highly critical of
the news coverage of the missile buildup, however. In his
weekly column, "The Publisher's Notebook," he charged that I
newsmen rely too heavily on official sources for the news,
and that they should be:
...more alert, more resourceful, more industrious
and infinitely more skeptical of the news handouts
preferred by public officials. These releases do
not, in fact, necessarily shatter the truth, but
they often fail to tell the whole story. The
reporter's business is to find the news elements
which are missing.13
Arthur Sylvester, assistant secretary of defense for
public affairs, announced the last of October that the Cuban
crisis news had been "managed" by the administration as a
weapon against the Communists. His statement drew quick and
loud editorial blasts from several of the papers against the
administration's news policy.
1Abel, p. 152.
12Miami Herald, October 25, 1962.
1Ibid., October 28, 1962.
The Tampa Tribune attacked the news policy endorsed by
Sylvester of "speaking in one voice to your adversary,"
pointing out that the "lifeblood of a free society is the
free flow of public information. When the government sets out
to control the content and timing of news of official activ-
ities, it straps blinders on the public which permits it to
see only one direction."14
The Miami Herald pointed out that Sylvester's reputed
efforts to keep the Soviet Union guessing and prevent them
from knowing how much the administration knew by manipulating
the news also "kept the American people from full access to
the facts in an hour of deep national peril."15
David Lawrence declared in his column that suppression
of military news in time of international emergency was
defensible, however, deliberate misrepresentation was "inde-
fensible in a democracy" and carried grave consequences for
an administration's credulity.16
James Reston, of the New York Times, expressed a differ-
ent opinion of the administration's news manipulation. He
noted in an opinion column that the administration was being
charged with "calculated deceit" in its handling of the news
during the Cuban crisis. He defended the administration's
There is without question some truth in
this charge. The President didn't come back.
Tampa Tribune, November 1, 1962.
15Miami Herald, November 1, 1962.
160rlando Sentinel, November 3, 1962.
from Chicago on October 20 because he had a
'cold.' The Marines weren't moved.from Cali-
fornia to Florida as a 'normal exercise.' The
naval maneuvers in the Caribbean were not
called off because of hurricane Ella. The
Soviet missiles in Cuba were known to be 'offen-
sive' days before some officials were saying
they were 'purely defensive.' And the President
was not precisely-on the point of 'invading
Cuba' when Krushchev withdrew ... at one time or
another some official encouraged publication of
all these things.
The question in the present case, therefore,
is not whether the administration told all the
truth--obviously it didn't--but whether, under
the grave circumstances of the crisis it con-
ducted itself in a dishonorable way.l (_
Sylvester, in response to his critics, blatently denied
the charges, declaring that "contrary to some of the edi-
torials and columnists I have read, there has been no distor-
tion, no deception and no manipulation of the news released
by the Defense Department during theCuban crisis."18
The controversy over the settlement continued through
the middle of December, with President Kennedy withholding
his "no invasion" pledge and Premier Krushchev warning the
U.S. to honor its pledge not to invade Cuba. U.S. policy
toward Cuba became one of applying pressure on Castro econom-
ically and diplomatically in isolating his regime.
According to a Miami Herald editorial, it cost the Soviet
Union $1 million daily for supplies just to keep Cuba alive
and that was barely enough. The missile crisis reportedly
cost the Soviets $1 billion and the controversial arms sent
17Ibid., November 2, 1962.
8Tampa Tribune, November 2, 1962.
to Cuba cost some $912 million. The editorial pointed out
that Cuba cost the Soviets twice as much in 1962 as the U.S.
invested in aid to all of Latin America and that the amount
was not nearly enough. It noted matter-of-factly that "Castro
may be around for some time while the Cuban economy strangles
and the myth of Communist plenty grows bitter."19
The administration's emphasis on economically strangling
Castro, which was beginning to be reluctantly accepted by the
newspapers, produced some criticism upon the announcement
that Castro and James Donovan were again nearing.agreement on
the prisoners' release for $62 million in food, drugs and
The Tampa Tribune expressed sympathy for the prisoners
but argued against paying the ransom, whether it was in "cash
or strained carrots." The editorial criticized the Kennedy
administration's tacit approval of the negotiation, which it
called an "exercise in schizophrenia" since the President
was ready only a few weeks earlier to invade Cuba.20
Negotiations were completed on December 23, 1962, and
the first of the remaining 1,113 prisoners began leaving Cuba
by air for Miami. The administration's involvement in the
ransom collection was discovered to be considerably more than
"tacit approval" despite denials by administration spokesmen,
and the tone of the newspapers' criticism sharpened.
1Miami Herald, December 15, 1962.
Tampa Tribune, December 17, 1962.
The Tampa Tribune declared that the American people
could take little pride in the way the ransom was achieved as
it was a "shameful reflection" upon the U.S. which would
inevitably tarnish U.S. prestige. The paper sarcastically
expressed hope that the administration, in the future, would
act "as forthrightly against Castro as it has so deviously in
the ransom negotiations."21
The Miami Herald charged that "pharmaceutical houses,
food processors and an airline were held up at the point of
an income tax return to cooperate with the Federal government"
in arranging the ransom. The Herald noted that "high officials
ram-rodded the whole thing, all the while denying that they
had any part in it" and then bitterly added that "it is no
longer a secret that getting a straight answer to a straight
question in Washington today is the next thing to futility."22
The Orlando Sentinel in a short editorial quietly noted
only that the paper disagreed with paying the ransom but that
"we rejoice with the prisoners and their families that the
matter has been settled."23-
The Pensacola Journal, on the other hand, declared that
the U.S. was "obligated to the prisoners in a way" although
it was not a legal or perhaps moral duty and "as long as
Tampa Tribune, December 24, 1962.
Miami Herald, December 22, 1962.
23Orlando Sentinel, December 27, 1962
those men remained confined the consciences of North Amer-
icans were pricked."24
The arrival of the prisoners in Miami on December 23 and
24 was-well covered by all the papers. The Miami Herald, in
particular, covered the prisoners from every angle and ran
pages of personal interviews and stories of them and their
families. The prisoners again made headlines on Degember 29,
when the President reviewed them and received their battle
flag in ceremonies at the Orange Bowl. In accepting the flag,
the President declared "I can assure you that this flag will
be returned to the brigade in a free Havana."25
The Miami Herald, in a front page editorial entitled
"Turning of the Corner," pointed out that the President, in
his speech, had "bound the U.S. in honor to help wrest Cuba
from the foul tyranny which infests it" and that there can be
no more "confusion of interest and befuddlement of strategy...
no more vacillation and no more turning back."26
Although the Herald's view was what the Cuban refugees
wanted to hear and was agreed upon in principle by most of
the papers, it was quite different from the actual policy
adopted by the administration following the Cuban missile
crisis. The U.S. policy was reported as one which "wants
Prime Minister Fidel Castro overthrown but, barring Cuban
24Pensacola Journal, December 27, 1962.
25Johnson, p. 344.
26iami Herald, December 30, 1962.
Miami Herald, December 30, 1962.
aggression or threats to the peace of Caribbean neighbors, it
has no intention of launching an invasion or permitting one
by Cuban exiles."27
Columnist David Lawrence succinctly described the post-
crisis Cuban situation as being "back where it was before,
but this time with Castro getting a new lease on life for his
revolutionary government--secure against any invasion from
On January 7, 1963, the U.S. and Soviet Union issued a
joint statement formally ending direct negotiations over the
Cuban missile crisis but leaving several major issues
unresolved. The negotiations were terminated on the basis
that Castro refused to permit on-site inspections in Cuba and
the U.S., as a result, did not issue the "no invasion" pledge.
The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, in commenting on
the close of negotiations, lamented that the United States'
military victory in the missile crisis had been "swallowed up
in a diplomatic stalemate....The island thus remains con-
firmed as a Communist satellite, boasting an unknown quantity
of Soviet-supplied military manpower and arms and a continuing
threat to the peace of the Western Hemisphere."29
The presence of Castro's Communist regime, still'firmly
entrenched just 90 miles from Florida after all the oppor-
tunities for removal during the Bay of Pigs invasion and
27Pensacola Journal, January 2, 1963.
28Orlando Sentinel, December 29, 1962.
29(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, January 9, 1963.
missile crisis, was a constant irritation to the papers. The
slow rate of withdrawal of Soviet military forces from Cuba
aggravated the situation even more during the first three
months of 1963, as did Cuban refugee claims of Castro's loss
of support in Cuba; of missiles hidden in caves and of a vast
Cuban military arms buildup.
Although a majority of the public seemed to agree with
the papers that Cuba was a threat, they did not agree with
the editorials and opinion columns which still urged U.S.
military action. Response to a Gallup poll reported in late
February indicated that 59 per cent of those polled thought
the Cuban situation was a current threat to world peace. Only
31 per cent felt that it was not a threat and 10 per cent had
no opinion. In response to a question of whether the U.S.
should send armed forces into Cuba, however, only 20 per cent
agreed, 64 per cent disagreed and 16 per cent had no opinion.30
The newspapers continued to apply editorial pressure on
the Kennedy administration. The Miami Herald declared that
"North American anger over the nearby combat troops was plain.
Alarm in Latin American capitals was mounting. No one doubted
that another showdown was approaching with the possibility of
another nuclear confrontation."31
The Pensacola Journal, which had made no editorial
comment on the Cuban situation throughout early 1963, spoke
out against the administration's critics. In an editorial
3Tampa Tribune, February 27, 1963.
31Miami Herald, February 21, 1963.
reprinted from the Louisville Courier-Journal, the paper
blasted irresponsible politicians and critics for a "one-way
propaganda campaign, conducted in newspaper headlines." The
editorial pointed out that "heavy charges are made without
substantiation; shocking figures are cited without disclosure
of their sources. Obviously, hot words on the Cuban crisis
form a passport to the golden realms of publicity."32
The growing public antagonism over Cuba peaked somewhat
in late March, following a MIG attack on an unmarked American
shrimp boat near the Cuban coast and several Cuban exile hit-
and-run raids on Soviet freighters in Cuban waters.
Cuba's quick apology over the MIG attack was reportedly
seen by Western diplomats as an "indication that the Castro
regime wants to prevent the Caribbean cold war from becoming
Moscow charged the U.S. with violation of the Cuban
missile crisis agreement by backing the anti-Castro exile
raids which damaged the Soviet freighters Lgov, on March 17,
1963, and Baka, on March 26, 1963. The administration denied
the accusations but "deplored .the attacks as irresponsible"
and charged that they did not weaken the Communist grip on
Cuba, but instead strengthened it.34
As a result, the administration announced the implemen-
tation of the Neutrality Act to stop the exile raids, which
32Pensacola Journal, February 23, 1963.
33Miami Herald, March 31, 1963.
34Tampa Tribune and Pensacola Journal, March 28, 1963.
they charged could "light a spark in the explosive Caribbean
atmosphere."35 The Neutrality Act provided penalties of up to
three years imprisonment and $3,000 fine for those taking
part in a military or naval expedition from the U.S. against
a nation with which the U.S. was not at war.
The Tampa Tribune objected to the administration's
clamp-down on the exile raiders. The paper noted that "except
for making speeches promising eventual Cuban freedom, the
Kennedy administration has done precious little to upset
Castro."36 It called upon the administration to build and
supply an effective Cuban.underground and to help support the
exile raiders' efforts against Castro.
The Kennedy administration maintained its announced pos-
ition of isolating Cuba and neutralizing any efforts at
sabotage and subversion in the other Latin American countries.
The President continued to reject proposals to bring Castro
down militarily, actions which he pointed out would bring the
U.S. to the brink of war again.
In time the criticism and controversy over Castro's
presence faded and was replaced in the newspapers' headlines
and editorial columns by other concerns through the remainder
(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, March 31,- 1963.
STampa Tribune, March 29, 1963.
In analyzing the news reports and editorials published
in these five newspapers during the 27-month study period, it
can be seen that the press coverage given the Cuban events
during this time is a continuation and a magnification of the
"intensive superficial coverage"1 which Fullmer used to des-
cribe the coverage of the Castro revolution.
That is, in the coverage of both the Bay of Pigs invasion
and the missile crisis, the papers neglected, for the most
part, to.report the important background information necessary
to place the news events in proper perspective. Not only were
they negligent in this respect, but much of the news that was
reported was strongly biased. What the papers saw in the
Cuban conflict during this period strongly affected their own
political ideologies and much of the news coverage that was
given was colored by editorial manipulation and controlled
Albeit the manipulation of the news was seen to be in
the national interest, it nonetheless assaulted traditional
journalistic standards while prompting little retrospective
The papers woefully misled the public over the Bay of
Pigs invasion. Although many stories were published reporting
Fullmer, p. 107.
the Cuban exiles' activities and preparations for the invasion,
little or no accurate information was reported on the U.S.
involvement; on conditions in Cuba and Castro's strength or
on the advisability or morality of the pending invasion.
News coverage of the invasion was the nadir of the
papers' performance during this study period. Not only did
they mislead the public for several months prior to the
invasion, the invasion accounts themselves were replete with
erroneous and false information.2 Although most such stories
were tagged as unsubstantiated, some were not.
The press knew most of the details of the impending
Cuban invasion and although some papers reported the story,
most sat on it. After the invasion failure, President Kennedy
told Turner Catledge, then managing editor of the New York
Times,.that he wished more information had been disclosed
than was, because then perhaps the American people might have
forced cancellation of "one of the most.embarrassing American
military and diplomatic adventures of the century."3
One of the most discerning evaluations of the Cuban
invasion censorship points out that:
After it was over some of the same indiv-
iduals who talked magazines and newspapers out of
running factual articles on the CIA venture con-
ceded that they wished the editors hadn't
listened. If there is any utility in freedom of
the press, it is precisely that the press can act
2Bradford, p. 72. "The Miami papers--closest to the
story--became almost a partner in the venture. Not only did
they hold back on publishing all they knew, they also
sidetracked other newspapers from doing so."
3James Reston, The Artillery of the Press (New York:
Harper and Row, Publishers, 190b), p. 30.
as an independent corrective on the blunders of
government'.-'With the best aand mos'patrid'6t
intentions, a great many newspapermen and some
administrative officials failed to rely on the
veryprinciples of freedom-T:o7 cthe" Cuban
invaders were ready to die.
Castro came under continued personal attack in these
five papers following the bitter invasion debacle. He was
seen as having the support of the lower classes and farmers,
but the country was projected as facing eventual economic
collapse and ruin. As the evidence of communism in Cuba grew,
the downfall of the Castro regime became ever more closely
linked to U.S. security and prestige in Latin America.
The growing Soviet presence in Cuba following the
invasion shifted the scope of the papers' criticism to
include Krushchev and the Soviet Union also. As the swiftly
developing events of the missile crisis unfolded, the focus
centered directly upon the Soviet Union while Castro was, to
a large degree,_ ignored.
Censorship of the Cuban missile crisis was more the
responsibility of the administration than the press, as the
information on the discovery of the missiles was kept as
secret as possible while the U.S. response was being formu-
lated. Several newspapers that had obtained the story prior
to the President's announcement, however, delayed publishing
it at the administration's request.5
.Karl E. Meyer and Tad Szulc, The Cuban Invasion (New
York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962), p. 11b.
5Abel, pp. 98-109.
The press rallied behind the President's announcement of
the Cuban naval blockade and the coverage during the week of
crisis was considerable and consistently in support of the
administration. In the frustrating post-crisis days, however,
when it was realized that Castro would not be removed with
the missiles, most of the papers sharply criticized the
President's Cuban policies and attacked the administration's
manipulation of the news during the crisis.
Little discussion was presented on whether or not the
press should have participated in the decision-making phase
of the missile crisis. Perhaps the advent of intercontinental
ballistic missiles; thermo-nuclear weapons and strike times
which can be counted down in minutes have altered the role
of foreign affairs reporting?
Robert Kennedy in his detailed, inside account of the
missile crisis declared:
The time that was available to the President
and his advisors to work secretly, quietly, pri-
vately, developing a course of action and
recommendations for the President, was essential.
If our deliberations had been publicized, if we
had had to make a decision in twenty-four hours, v.
I believe the course that we ultimately would have '"
taken would have been quite different and filled
with far greater risks.... Such time is not always
present, although, perhaps surprisingly, on most
occasions of great crisis it is; but when it is,
it should be utilized.
In the case of the Bay of Pigs invasion, disclosure of
the administration's actions would probably have brought
Robert F. Kennedy, Thirteen Days-A Memoir of the Cuban
Missile Crisis (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1969),
about a cancellation of the adventure. The same action in the
missile crisis would probably have forced premature action on
a world-shaking decision. Somewhere between the public's
right to know and the administration's need to control sen-
sitive military information in a time of national crisis
lies the proper avenue of press coverage for the two events.
The deliberate misleading of the press in an effort to
use the news coverage as a calculated foreign policy tool,
as was done in the missile crisis, lies nowhere within these
bounds, however, and endangers not only the public's right
to know but also the administration's credibility.
Likewise, the deliberate surpressing of the news; the
acceptance of questionable news sources and reliance upon
superficial information which shapes the news to reflect
political ideologies, as was done in reporting the Bay of
Pigs invasion, shakes the public trust in the press and is
perhaps the greatest danger of all.
Abel, Elie. The Missile Crisis. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippin-
cott Co., 1966.
Bradford, J. Allen Jr. "The Cuban Invasion: A Case Study in
Foreign Affairs Reporting." Unpublished Master's Thesis,
George Washington University, 1966.
Francis, Michael J. "The U.S. Press and Castro: A Study in
Declining Relations." Journalism Quarterly, (Summer,
Fullmer, Thomas M. "A Critical Analysis of How Selected Flor-
ida Newspapers Reported the Cuban Revolution." Unpub-
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Houghton, Neal D. "The Cuban Invasion of 1961 and the U.S.
Press, in Retrospect." Journalism Quarterly, (Summer
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Johnson, Haynes, et al. The Bay of Pigs. New York: W. W.
Norton & Co., Inc., 1964.
Kennedy, Robert F. Thirteen Days-A Memoir of the Cuban Missile
Crisis. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 19o9.
Larson, David L., ed. The "Cuban Crisis" of 1962. Boston:
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Matthews, Herbert L. Return to Cuba. Stanford University:
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Miami Herald, January 1961-March 1963.
Monahan, James, and Gilmore, Kenneth 0. The Great Deception.
New York: Farrar, Straus & Co., 1963.
Orlando Sentinel, January 1961-March 1963.
Pachter, Henry M. Collision Course. New York: Frederick A.
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Pflaum, Irving Peter. Tragic Island. New Jersey: Prentice-
Hall Inc., 1961.
Phillips, R. Hart. The Cuban Dilemma. New York: Ivan Obolen-
sky Inc., 1962.
Pierce, Catherine Joan. "The Cuban Missile Crisis-1962: A
Study in Executive Decision Making." Unpublished Master's
Thesis, University of Florida, 1965.
Reston, James. The Artillery of the Press. New York: Harper
& Row, Publishers, 196b.
Sorenson, Theodore C. Kennedy. New York: Harper & Row, Pub-
Tampa Tribune, January 1961-March 1963.
Richard D. Shelton was born October 6, 1939, in Lake
Wales, Florida. In June, 1957, he graduated from Lake Wales
High School. From August, 1957, until June, 1965, he served
as an administrative specialist in the U.S. Air Force and
was stationed in Florida, Texas and Colorado. He attended
night classes at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado, for
two years prior to his discharge; enrolled at the University
of Florida in September, 1965, and received a Bachelor of
Science degree in Journalism in August, 1967.
In September, 1967, he enrolled in the Graduate School
of the University of Florida and worked as a graduate assis-
tant in the College of Journalism and Communications until
July, 1968. Upon completion of his thesis research and class
requirements he accepted the position of director of public
relations, and later acting general manager, of the Florida
Electric Cooperatives Association in Tallahassee. He is
presently the Information Director for the Florida Department
of Pollution Control. He has written for the Gainesville Sun,
radio station WGGG, Accent, All Florida Magazine and Florida
Richard D. Shelton is married to the former Dawn Marcelle
Alt and is the father of three daughters. He is a member of
Kappa Tau Alpha and the Florida Public Relations Association.
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a thesis for the degree of Master of Arts in Journalism
Joha/Paul Jones, Chairman
Dean, College of Journalism and Communications
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a thesis for the degree of Master of Artsin Journalism
Associate Professor of English
This thesis was submitted to the Dean of the College of
Journalism and Communications and to the Graduate Council,
and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of Master of Artsin Journalism and Communications.
Deant College Zof Jo nalism and Communications
Dean, Graduate School