Recent Praise for The Brilliant Disaster

Read all the reviews and praise HERE.

“From Castro’s journey to New York, where he was greeted by thousands of cheering Americans, to an examination of the CIA’s role in the invasion, the book is filled with copiously researched historical information. Yet, thanks to Rasenberger’s skillful writing, Brilliant Disaster reads more like a thriller than a history book, making it accessible to any reader with even the faintest interest in the topic.”  –The Daily Beast

“Jim Rasenberger’s new book lets the facts speak for themselves….Its context is richly detailed, its tempo novelistic. Forthright and accessible, it delineates a convoluted chain of events leading to humiliation and tragedy.”
–The Miami Herald

“An enthralling and illuminating history of the bloody mess that unfolded on the beaches of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs…..In addition to providing a thoroughly detailed account of events, Rasenberger raises larger issues, such as the hubris that has characterized an increasingly militarized U.S. foreign policy during the span of years from the Bay of Pigs invasion to the war in Iraq. He makes a very plausible connection between the Bay of Pigs and the accelerated U.S. involvement in Vietnam, as Kennedy was determined to ‘draw a line in the sand’ that he would not allow communists to cross.” –The Dallas Morning News

Starred advance reviews for Jim Rasenberger’s new book.

READ IT ON LIBRARY JOURNAL Almost 50 years ago, on April 17, 1961, the U.S. government and anti-Castro exiles launched the Bay of Pigs invasion to remove the Communist regime in Cuba. Instead, as Rasenberger (America, 1908: The Dawn of Flight, the Race to the Pole, the Invention of the Model T, and the Making of a Modern Nation) vividly shows, this Mission Impossible became a Cold War fiasco that strengthened Castro’s hold and tarnished the reputation of the United States throughout the world. CIA director Allen Dulles and master spy Richard Bissell are faulted here for their ill-conceived plans; however, Rasenberger concludes that JFK’s decision to cancel air support strikes was the main reason for the failure. This gripping investigation relives the events as they unfolded on a day-to-day and hour-by-hour basis. Especially absorbing is the harrowing story of 1,113 prisoners of the Cuban government (others had already been executed) and the effort to win their release. The author’s father worked for JFK to free the captives. VERDICT This important and engrossing work, offering updated history owing to recently declassified documents, will appeal to general readers and historians, especially those who enjoyed Howard Jones’s The Bay of Pigs. —Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA

READ IT ON KIRKUS REVIEWS Kirkus Star Editor Review (reviewed on January 1, 2011) |A balanced, engrossing account of the U.S.-backed invasion of Fidel Castro’s Cuba.
On Apr., 17, 1961, a CIA-trained brigade of 1,400 Cuban exiles, mostly students and former soldiers, made an unsuccessful amphibious assault on the Bay of Pigs, in southern Cuba, hoping to spur a popular revolt and overthrow the Castro regime. Fifty years later, Rasenberger (America, 1908: The Dawn of Flight, the Race to the Pole, the Invention of the Model T and the Making of a Modern Nation, 2007, etc.) succeeds admirably in offering a nuanced view of the entire botched operation, from its planning in two U.S. administrations to the Cuban armed forces’ quick defeat of the exiles, whose attack lacked air cover and the element of surprise. Nicely re-creating the nation’s near-hysteria over the spread of communism in the period, the author traces Castro’s coming to power in 1959, his friendly-seeming early visits to America and Eisenhower’s first steps later that year as the “prime mover” behind planning to remove the bearded leader’s Communist regime. Drawing on previously classified documents, Rasenberger shows how John F. Kennedy, already on record as a foe of the Castro regime, took up the Cuban invasion plan upon election as president, but remained conflicted about it until the last minute, when he canceled planned air strikes for fear of revealing America’s clandestine role. The invasion—marked by “the twin sins of deceit and incompetence”—was doomed for many reasons. The Joint Chiefs, deeply involved in planning, failed to express misgivings about the military prospects; the CIA oversold the operation to Kennedy; and Castro was aware of a coming invasion, thanks to intelligence from his agents and reports in the New York Times. Yeoman efforts by White House aide Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Senator J. William Fulbright to halt the operation on moral grounds were to no avail. Rasenberger notes that since 1961 the United States has forcibly intervened in the affairs of nearly 25 nations.

Graceful, dramatic writing makes this well-worn story new again.

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