The Bay of Pigs Invasion, launched from Guatemala on 17 April 1961, was one of the most painful moments in the Cold War for the US government. The mission was led by a group of Cuban exiles known as Brigade 2506, who had been recruited in Miami and trained by the CIA. This attempt to overthrow the rule of Fidel Castro was an unmitigated disaster for the counter-revolutionaries and was quashed in less than 3 days by Cuban forces. An estimated 114 men lost their lives while the majority of the recruits were captured and imprisoned. Most would eventually be purchased back by the United States in December 1962 in exchange of $53 million worth of food and medicine.
The next year, on 10 May 1963, LIFE magazine printed an extended account of the invasion, featuring interviews with veterans to highlight the ‘heartbreaking price they paid for U.S. miscalculations’.
The piece featured 19 spreads illustrated by Sandy Kossin. An acclaimed and prolific illustrator, Kossin’s horribly vivid and tragic images were startlingly different from his usual output of lightly-comic film posters and book covers. Kossin worked from life, hiring a team of models to recreate poses based on photographs of the action, while a Cuban veteran advised on the authenticity of armaments and vehicles.
Kossin spoke about the series in an interview of 1969, which was recently republished on the Today’s Inspiration blog.
Images: Sandy Kossin, illustrations from Life magazine, 10 May 1963 © All rights reserved.
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