Betrayal at Bahia de Los Cochinos by William E. Dempsey

four stars

betrayalA harrowing tale mixing history with creative invention, Betrayal at Bahia de Los Cochinos outlines, on a grand scale, the invasion of the Bay of Pigs. Fred Schmidt, captain of the U.S. destroyer Jaffey, takes front and center in William E. Dempsey’s novel as a protagonist tormented by agonizing political and military decisions. The story revolves around the historical event of the CIA’s work to uproot the communist Fidel Castro. In order to oust Castro in Cuba, the CIA trains and equips a brigade of Cuban exiles. The Jaffey offers up a trio of its own personnel for the invasion, and the plot is launched. What seems like an airtight and covert plan rapidly dissolves into chaos when Schmidt and the Jaffey are ordered to cease their involvement and all military action is canceled by the president. Abandoned by their own ship, three men face the social, political, and literal wilderness of Castro’s Cuba. On April 17, 1961, the brigade of Cuban exiles named La Brigada de Asalto waged war on the beaches of the Bay of Pigs. Dempsey’s Betrayal at Bahia de Los Cochinos offers a vivid look at the men behind the action and the possibilities behind their unspoken adventures and sorrows.

Betrayal at Bahia de Los Cochinos is undoubtedly a novel of considerable density. It spans a large number of events and happenings, stretching from end to end of the Bay of Pigs conflict. Thus, reading Dempsey’s novel becomes a commitment, and one that history buffs will eat up without any hesitation. The content is packed with naval references and lingo, making it a pleasure for military enthusiasts as well, although readers without a previously-established fondness for history or the military may find certain sections dry and hard to swallow. Nonetheless, the text serves its purpose and, with creative gusto, fills in the questionable gaps in the reporting on the invasion of the Bay of Pigs.

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