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Publisher's Summary

A remarkably gripping account of America's Bay of Pigs crisis, drawing on long-hidden CIA documents and delivering, as never before, the vivid truth - and consequences - of five pivotal days in April 1961.

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

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

Now, journalist Jim Rasenberger takes a closer look at this darkly fascinating incident in American history. At the heart of the crisis stood President Kennedy, and Rasenberger traces what Kennedy knew, thought, and said as events unfolded. He examines whether Kennedy was manipulated by the CIA into approving a plan that would ultimately involve the American military. He also draws compelling portraits of the other figures who played key roles in the drama, including Fidel Castro.

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

©2011 Jim Rasenberger (P)2011 Simon & Schuster

Critic Reviews

"A balanced, engrossing account of the U.S-backed invasion of Fidel Castro's Cuba.... succeeds admirably in offering a nuanced view of the entire botched operation." (Kirkus)

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  • Overall

US Government Perspective

This story is told almost exclusively from the perspective of high level members of the US government. There is little input from Cuban exiles or anyone who fought on the side of the Cuban government. It is not badly written but does feel very limited in its scope.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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A Great Introduction to the Bay of Pigs

Most literate Americans with a historical sense are at best vaguely familiar with "the whole Bay of Pigs thing" but not many have anything but a superficial understanding of what it was about or what its significance is. Jim Rasenberger's history is perfect for the lay reader who has a fairly clear picture of the larger context of the Cold War but who seeks to fill the knowledge gap. The narrative is clear and concise and free of heavy-handed authorial conjectures slanted toward a particular political viewpoint.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Narrator is fantastic!

Would you listen to The Brilliant Disaster again? Why?

Not only do I love history, but the Narrator (Bob Walter) is fantastic! He has an amazing voice that I could listen to anytime. I am always leary about listening to books because some Narrator's voices are grating. Bob Walter's voice is a pleasure to listen to and I would buy/rent any book narrated by him.

What does Bob Walter bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He is an absolutely fantastic narrator! Wonderful to listen to anytime. He has a tremendous voice and does a great job of keeping the listener engaged.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The description of Castro during his visit to New York City really brought a different aspect of his character to life. History classes tend to depict him ranting and drain the life out of the character.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kobi
  • Pittsburgh, PA USA
  • 05-26-11

Excellent history

Well written, balanced account that details the events and reveals the thinking, blindspots and character of the decision makers. An easy listen that never drags.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Philip
  • Upper Hutt, New Zealand
  • 05-04-16

US vs Cuba - the true story

A must for anyone over 60 that can even remember Kennedy or Castro. In many ways thus reverses their appeal. Perhaps more surprisingly this portraits Kennedy as no hero but someone overwhelmed by politics. In my childhood he was a hero, a great leader but one wonders whether the reality was that close. Yet even this adverse story fails to blunt my indoctrination. Likewise Castro. Modern Cuba was created by America and Castro could have been a useful ally. Initially a hero then a devil. His desire to be a friend of the US was never acknowledged simply because he was s 'socialist'. This was the time of the USSR, the space race and 2 superpowers. How little dies the ordinary man know. An essential read if you want to understand Modern Cuba. I go next week.

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  • moe sims
  • la canada, ca United States
  • 12-14-15

exellent

I absolutely 100% loved this book. well written. narrator was exellent. I could not put it done. the best accounting of the historical events.

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  • Carroll
  • Hilo, HI, United States
  • 11-25-14

A well researched history

This was great to fill in all the holes of what I had heard over the years. This was the most thorough history of it I've found!!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mike
  • 04-20-11

Great book to listen to!!!!

I never had a great understanding of what was the cause of the tensions between the US and Cuba but this book has given me a better understanding and was excellently narrated. Kudos to the publisher!!!