Guest Historian Eric Lipps says, in this thread we explore the possibility of paralell conflicts in Cuba and Vietnam during the 1960s. Please note that the Linebacker thread is set in a congruent timeline but extends in a different direction into the 1970s; the POD for both is the last minute pardon of Alger Hiss by President Harry S. Truman. If you're interested in viewing samples of my other work why not visit My AOL site.
In 1965, the first 'teach-in' against the war in Cuba is held at the University of Michigan. A similar demonstration will be held at the University of Wisconsin eight days later. At both schools, students who participate in the rallies will be threatened with expulsion, and professors will be warned that they may be fired for involvement.
At the University of Wisconsin teach-in, an effort will be made to broaden the focus to include the escalating conflict in Southeast Asia. It will fail, largely because those in charge fear that extending their protest to cover another conflict will dilute its energies.
In 1965, a rally against the war in Cuba, held in Washington D.C., attracts 10,000 demonstrators. It is the largest such protest to date, and its size alarms the Johnson administration, which fears public support for the U.S. occupation may be eroding. While the stigma of Oswald remains, it is fading as time passes and the war goes on with casualties mounting and Castro still at large.
President Johnson's concerns are amplified by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who insists the growing anti-war movement is controlled by Communists. In late July, acting on his own initiative, Hoover will order a massive expansion of the FBI's COINTELPRO operation. Established in 1956 to sabotage the U.S. Communist Party, it was expanded in 1961 to go after the Socialist Workers Party and has been used since 1964 to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. Now it will be employed against opponents of the Cuban war.
In 1968, Cuban guerrillas led by Fidel Castro, who had been overthrown as Cuba's president with U.S. military assistance in April 1961, begin the so-called 'Moncada Offensive.' Named after a famous 1953 battle in the Cuban revolution which had brought Castro to power six years later, the attack, targeting Havana, is a military failure for the rebels but a huge propaganda success, vividly underscoring the inability of the restored Batista regime and its U.S. patrons to crush the Castroites.
In 1967, at a secret meeting with top advisers, President Johnson discusses the mounting opposition to the Cuban and Southeast Asian conflicts. He makes it clear that he regards the growing anti-war movement as 'Communist-influenced' and asks what can be done to neutralize it.
The outlines of a plan to identify, round up and incarcerate up to several thousand of 'the most dangerous radicals' are sketched out. Several of the camps used during World War II to hold Japanese-Americans are to be reconditioned for use as holding centers, along the lines envisioned but never fully implemented under the 1948 Hoover-McGrath 'Security Portfolio' and the 1950 Internal Security Act. The new plan is codenamed 'Operation Garden Plot' and is immediately classified top secret.
At the same meeting, Johnson discusses using conventional or nuclear weapons to breach key dikes in North Vietnam, a measure which would food large areas and potentially kill hundreds of thousands of people, as a means of forcing Hanoi to surrender. His military advisers favor the idea, but several key civilian figures present argue that the diplomatic damage such a move would cause would outweigh any military gains. Johnson decides to order that the military prepare to carry out this scheme, codenamed 'Noah's Ark,' but hold off on actually carrying it out.
In 1961, on the sixth anniversary of the founding of the Republic of South Vietnam, President Kennedy sends a letter to that country's president, Ngo Dinh Diem, pledging that 'the United States is determined to help Vietnam preserve its independence.' This pledge is soon followed up by the sending of several thousand additional military advisers on top of those who have been in the country since Eisenhower's time. Kennedy's action is deemed inadequate by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who favor a massive show of force involving at least 200,000 troops. On the same daay, General William Westmoreland assumes command of the U.S. forces in fighting the rebel forces of deposed leftist president Fidel Castro in Cuba.
In 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson orders an additional 50,000 troops dispatched to Cuba.
When General Maxwell Taylor of the Joint Chiefs of Staff protests, calling the Cuban conflict a 'sinkhole' for men, materiel and money, Johnson snaps: 'Do you want the Soviets to regain a base of operations right here on our doorstep, General? Perhaps it's time for you to retire!' Taylor backs down.
In 1961, with U.S. troops ashore in Cuba following the mass landings at Bahia de Cochinos on the 17th, anti-American riots have erupted throughout the Caribbean and in Mexico. In Mexico City, the U.S. embassy is under siege, with angry crowds being kept at bay by U.S. Marines and Mexican federales.
In 1961, U.S. troops occupy Havana.
Fidel Castro and many of his government's leaders flee the city, but the Cuban president's brother Raul is captured. The fall of the capital does not mean the end of Castro. He and forces loyal to him take to the hills, vowing to drive out the 'Yankee imperialists' and their exile 'running dogs.' The U.S. will respond by sending more troops and by sponsoring, under the aegis of the CIA, a series of attempts to apprehend and/or assassinate Fidel Castro, initially using his brother as bait.
In 1961, General Fulgiencio Batista, deposed by Fidel Castro's revolutionaries in 1959, returns to Havana aboard a U.S. Air Force transport. That evening, Raul Castro is discovered hanged in his cell at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, where he had been held since his capture on April 28 during the occupation of Havana. Although the official verdict is suicide, President Kennedy does not believe it, and is furious: the prisoner's demise means he can no longer be used against his brother, who remains at large.
In 1962, 'free elections' are held in Cuba. To no one's surprise, General Fulgencio Batista wins out over the several obscure figures permitted to oppose him.
The General, however, can read the writing on the wall. He understands all too well that he will remain in power exactly as long as his U.S. patrons find him useful. To help ensure that he remains in their good graces, President Batista quickly issues a series of orders revoking Castro's nationalization of leading industries and returning to its 'legal owners' land taken by the Castro regime for distribution under his land reform program.
While these moves are popular in Washington, they anger many ordinary Cubans who had personally benefited from Castro's edicts. The revocation of land reform, in particular, drives many into the arms of the new Castro insurgency.
In 1961, General Westmoreland announces that 'free elections' will be held in Cuba. All Cubans will be permitted to vote and run for office, except those found to have been connected to or actively supportive of the Castro government. A 'ballot integrity commission' consisting of U.S. military officers will supervise the vetting of voters and candidates.
In 1965, Lyndon Baines Johnson is sworn in as president of the United States in his own right. Several hundred anti-war protesters briefly obstruct the inaugural procession; they are clubbed down and carted away by the District of Columbia police for disturbing the peace. While being held in jail awaiting trial, several are assaulted; anti-Cuban War zealot Lee Harvey Oswald's arrest for the assassination of President Kennedy has discredited all anti-war activism.
In 1966, reports in the Sunday editions of several U.S. newspapers detail the activities of the Vietcong in South Vietnam, bringing the Southeast Asian war to the forefront of American public awareness for the first time. Conservatives blame the late President John F. Kennedy and his successor Lyndon Johnson for 'fighting with one hand behind their backs' in Vietnam. Liberals question the wisdom of U.S. intervention in 'an Asian civil war,' especially when American soldiers are already fighting and dying in Cuba, much closer to home.
In 1965, after reading a CIA report which says that Castro's rebels are gaining support in the Cuban countryside, President Johnson orders another 75,000 troops sent to the island. Accompanying them will be CIA covert operations forces charged with identifying and 'neutralizing' Castro supporters among the populace, under the code name Operation New Broom. "We're going to sweep that country clean", CIA Director Vice-Admiral William Raborn promises.
In 1963, at a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Johnson learns that General Taylor has been sharing his objections to escalation in Cuba with his fellow officers. Moreover, he discovers that a number of them agree with Taylor.
The President is furious that the Chiefs have been conferring behind his back, and particularly enraged at Taylor, whom he thought he had brought into line. He leaves the meeting determined to follow his own counsel from now on, rather than heeding that of military advisers he no longer feels he can trust.
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson appoints Gen. Maxwell Taylor to replace Kennedy appointee Henry Cabot Lodge as ambassador to South Vietnam. Besides being a way of placing Johnson's personal stamp on that embassy, the move also essentially sidelines a powerful military critic of the escalating Cuban war. Taylor is aware of this, and resents being 'exiled' to 'this Asian sh*thole,' as he pungently puts it. Conditions in South Vietnam have been deteriorating since the coup against Diem the previous November, and the General fears he will be stuck with the blame for whatever goes wrong on his watch.
In 1968, former Vice-President Richard M. Nixon announces he will run for president on the Republican ticket. He tells reporters he has a 'plan for peace with honor' in both Cuba and Southeast Asia, but provides no details then or later; the media will take to referring to Nixon's 'secret plan' to end the wars, although the candidate never uses that phrase.
In 1970, a demonstration against the Vietnam War and in favor of emergency aid to North Vietnam at Ohio State University's main campus in Columbus, Ohio swells to several thousand people. After several incidents in which demonstrators yell obscenities at campus and local police called in to "maintain order", Columbus's mayor Maynard E. Sensenbrenner calls for the assistance of the National Guard.
The following day, tensions at OSU-Columbus escalate when, just prior to the arrival of National Guard troops requested by Mayor Sensenbrenner, the campus Reserve Officer Training Corps erupts in flames. Attempts to put out the blaze are hampered by demonstrators, who throw rocks and bottles at police and firemen trying to extinguish it. When the Guard troops arrive, they set up headquarters on campus and make numerous arrests, employing tear gas and bayonets on the crowd. One student is injured by a bayonet.
Three days later, with demonstrators and National Guard troops still facing off on the OSU-Columbus campus, Guard troops read the assembled protesters a formal order to disperse or face arrest. When the protesters do not back down, the Guard troops advance on them. The student demonstrators retreat until they find themselves boxed in by a chain-link fence, at which point some of them begin moving forward, attempting to get out of the cul-de-sac. Several Guardsmen, apparently interpreting the students' forward motion as the start of an attack, fire their weapons into the crowd.
Chaos ensues. The crowd surges forward as the demonstrators, many of whom now fear they have been herded into a trap to be shot down en masse, try to break out. The opposing Guardsmen, none of whom have been trained in riot control, panic and begin firing indiscriminately. Eight students are killed and several dozen injured; of the slain, two are found to have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, rather than active participants in the protest. Two Guardsmen are also killed, one apparently by fire from another Guardsman's rifle, and several others are hurt.
The violence changes the political dynamic within the U.S. antiwar movement, escalating the importance of the Southeast Asian conflict, which until then had most often taken a back seat to the much closer war in Cuba.
In 1959, the government of strongman General Fulgiencio Batista in Cuba falls to left-wing rebels led by former law student Fidel Castro. General Batista escapes to Miami.
Reaction in the U.S. is swift and hostile. Over the next few months, the Eisenhower administration will organize and launch a semi-secret campaign of economic sabotage and military raids, operating out of bases in the United States, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Under the supervision of Vice-President Nixon, right-wing Cubans who have fled their island country are organized into a secret army in preparation for an invasion, which they will spearhead but the U.S. military is to support, aimed at 'freeing' Cuba.
Unaware of Ike's covert destabilization efforts, Senator Joseph McCarthy will lose no time in going to the media to blame the Eisenhower administration for the fall of Batista. 'We can choose to believe that the Administration is incompetent,' he thunders, 'or that it is riddled with traitors, as was the Democrat administration of Truman before it, or both. There are no other choices.'
Even as the administration's plans go forward, the Wisconsin senator will keep up his assault. A fuming Eisenhower has no choice but to let him, in order not to expose the anti-Castro operation.
In 1970, Fidel Castro is reported to have been killed in fighting between his guerrilla forces and U.S. Army Rangers.
The former Cuban president, deposed by right-wing counterrevolutionaries with the aid of massive U.S. support in April 1961, has become something of a hero to many antiwar protesters for his ability to elude U.S. occupation forces, who have put a 'dead or alive' bounty of 100,000 USD on him. When no one steps forward to claim the reward, suspicion grows that he has gotten away again.
In 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev is overthrown by a cabal of hard-liners angry over Khrushchev's failure to act to prevent the U.S. from occupying Cuba and deposing its leftist president Fidel Castro in April 1961 and what they see as his 'weakness' in the Berlin crisis of that fall.
Some, in addition, still nurse bitterness over the Premier's denunciation in 1956 of Stalin-era 'excesses,' which they do not regard as excesses at all.
Khrushchev's fall will be followed by a period of 'troika' rulership which will last until March 1964, when Communist Party apparatchik Leonid Brezhnev will finally consolidate his position as the Soviet Union's supreme leader.
In 1970, reports of the death of guerrilla leader and Fidel Castro are proven false when the deposed Cuban president makes a daring public appearance in Camaguey, capital of the Cuban province of the same name.
Castro's survival and the fact that he was able to appear in the open in a major Cuban city and escape drive President Nixon into a frenzy of rage. The President drinks himself into a red-eyed stupor and then, shortly before midnight, issues the order for a massive bombing of the area around Camaguey.
"I don't care how many sp*c-monkey villagers you have to kill," he screams at Cuban occupation commander Gen. Westmoreland over the phone. "I want Castro dead, do you hear me! For real, this time!".
In 1972, South Dakota Senator George S. McGovern announces he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination.
McGovern has emerged as an outspoken critic of both the occupation of Cuba and the war in Southeast Asia. His entry into the race signals that the peace movement is gaining in influence, at least within the Democratic Party.
|George S. McGovern|
In 1973, Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar, president of Cuba, dies in Havana at the age of seventy-two.Death of Batista by Eric Lipps
Batista, who had been overthrown in 1959 by revolutionaries under the leadership of Fidel Castro, had been restored to power following the U.S. invasion of that island nation in April 1961 and maintained in office by elections 'supervised' by U.S. troops. His death touches off a scramble, not only for power but for the over $300 million the Cuban leader is believed to have accumulated by means of corrupt business dealings and extortion. Most of the money is apparently hidden in foreign bank accounts.
Batista's leftist archfoe Castro remains at large, still leading the guerrilla movement he had reconstituted following his ouster.
In 1961, the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba begins, as 1,500 Cuban exiles storm the beach at Bahia de Cochinos. U.S. government supporters of the invasion had assured President Kennedy that once the exiles were ashore, the Cuban army would mutiny against Castro and the Cuban people would rise in support of their exile 'liberators.' U.S. troops in Cuba. Within hours, however, it is clear that nothing of the sort is happening and that, absent direct U.S. intervention, the exiles will be overwhelmed.On the beach by Eric LippsFearing that this will lead not only to the humiliation of the United States, whose sponsorship of the exile invaders is an open secret, but to political disaster for the Democratic Party, Kennedy orders that air support be provided to the invasion force 'commencing immediately.' In a live national TV broadcast that night, he reveals that in addition, he has directed that 15,000 Marines be dispatched to Cuba to 'aid in the liberation of that imprisoned island from Communist tyranny' and sharply warns that any attempt by 'any foreign power' to interfere with this mission will be considered an act of war against the United States. Privately, the President is seething. He believes that the CIA and Pentagon either bungled their intelligence work or deliberately misled him to make sure he went through with a military intervention they had helped plan under his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower. However, he feels he now has no choice but to, as he tells his aide Ted Sorenson, 'see this goddamned thing through to victory.'
In 1977, newly inaugurated U.S. President James Earl Carter ignites a storm of controversy when, in response to a reporter's question, he suggests that American troops should be withdrawn from Cuba and Vietnam.
Out of the Quagmire
by Eric Lipps"In both nations," he declares, "whatever threat to American security and American interests might have emanated from those nations is past. Maintaining a large troop presence indefinitely in both Cuba and Vietnam places an unnecessary burden upon this nation". He goes on to state that he plans to open negotiations aimed at arranging an orderly U.S. withdrawal, to be accompanied by "free and fair elections" which Carter will invite the United Nations to monitor.
Conservatives respond with fury, denouncing Carter's words as a "sellout to Communism". Zealous right-wing pundit Patrick Buchanan storms that Carter is opening the door for Fidel Castro, who has carried on a guerrilla resistance since his ouster in April 1961 by a Cuban insurgent force backed up by the U.S. military, to return to power. Buchanan also charges that if Carter's plan is carried out, the "ragtag remnants" of the Vietcong and the former North Vietnamese Army will be freed to "undo the progress of freedom in Southeast Asia purchased at the cost of so many American lives".
Many ordinary Americans, however, applaud Carter's words. At a time when there is supposedly a new "detente" between the U.S. and its Communist adversaries, the USSR and the People's Republic of China, the continuing stream of American casualties in two guerrilla wars against Marxist insurgencies in small, unimportant countries has come to seem increasingly pointless.
This article is part of the Cuba War thread.
In 1976, during the vice-presidential debate between Democrat Walter Mondale (pictured below) and Republican Robert Dole, Sen. Dole (pictured top) asserts, "If you add up all the people killed in Democrat wars in this century, starting with World War I and continuing through World War II and Korea to the present conflicts in Cuba and Vietnam - and yes, they were all started by Democrats - you get a total of over 1.6 million American dead, more than the population of Detroit". Click to watch the Youtube
Unbelievable by Eric LippsHis Democratic opponent responds, "Unbelievable. Does Senator Dole seriously expect Americans to believe my party started wars which began years before America entered them? World War I began in 1914; we got in in 1917. World War II started in 1939; as Mr. Dole, a veteran of that war, must recall, the U.S. didn't get in until December 1941. Even in the case of Korea, the U.S. sent forces in response to a United Nations Security Council resolution following the North's unprovoked and deadly assault on the South. Even Cuba and Vietnam don't prove his point: planning for the Bahia de Cochinos intervention which began the conflict was initiated under the Republican administration of President Eisenhower, and it was Eisenhower, too, who sent the first 'advisers' to Indochina after the French collapse at Dien Bien Phu.
Or does the Senator mean to suggest that we shouldn't have become involved at all? That we should have stood aside while our friends in Europe were torn apart in the world wars? Does he mean to suggest that we should have let the Communists prevail on the Korean peninsula and in Indochina and maintain their grip on an island nation ninety miles off our own shore? And if not, what would he have said of Roosevelt, or of Truman, or of Kennedy had they avoided the confrontations he wishes to blame not on foreign aggressors but on my party?
"I am as opposed to war as anyone, but there come times when it cannot be avoided. And for Senator Dole to attempt to exploit the sacrifices of our troops in past and present wars for partisan advantage is - well, frankly, Senator, I thought better of you". Mondale's peroration stuns the audience, which had expected Dole to be the aggressor. Post-debate polls detect a significant shift toward the Democratic ticket and a distinct rise in voters- favorable impressions of Mondale himself. Following Carter's razor-close victory in November, political analysts will mark Mondale's debate performance as a crucial tipping point in the campaign.
© Today in Alternate History, 2013-. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.