The Bay of Pigs Invasion Had Roots on a Remote Florida Island

The secret history of Useppa Island

Bay of Pigs invasion
Forces clashing during the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Rumlin, CC BY 3.0

We’re nearing the 60th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, in which a group of American-trained forces landed in Cuba with the hopes of overthrowing the Castro government. The operation was not a success, and the effects of the failed invasion are still being pondered decades later. An NPR report from 2011 examined some of the lessons learned (or not learned, in a few cases) from the invasion — and helped to explain why it remains a compelling moment in history.

It turns out that this history has an unexpected reach, which encompasses a small island off the Florida coast. At Smithsonian Magazine, Tony Perrottet paid a visit to Useppa Island, located west of Fort Myers. Perrottet’s voyage took him to the Collier Inn, which had its own part to play in history.

“[U]ndercover CIA agents took over this former millionaire’s abode in the spring of 1960, when Useppa Island, then a down-at-the-heels holiday resort, transformed into a secret training camp for the invasion of Fidel Castro’s Cuba that would become known as the Bay of Pigs,” Perrottet wrote.

The island’s remote location and welcoming accommodations sound like an appealing combination to those organizing the trailing. The article also notes that a small museum located there now spotlights its history, and that some veterans of the planned invasion have visited over the years.

It’s also very possible that reading Perrottet’s account of the Collier Inn might prompt some travel plans of your own — he hails its “particular Old World charm, decorated with mounted tarpon fish and antique photographs, including one of Teddy Roosevelt weighing his catch on the island’s jetty.” Evidently, the CIA’s training mission wasn’t the island’s only place in history.

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