In reality, the attack began even sooner than the morning of the 17th. The night before, paratroopers had landed near the only access roads in the area, two highways that ran through Zapata Swamp and went all the way to the beach. Offshore, the USS Essex aircraft carrier with a full compliment of planes and marines could be seen bobbing in the Cuban waters. The idea was to land the marines on the beach once it had been secured. But even before the arrival of the paratroopers, a squadron of B-26 bombers piloted by both American and former Batista soldiers were illegally painted with Cuban colors on April 15 had attacked the few airfields on the island virtually destroying all of Cuba's military aircraft. On the morning of the 17th, Fidel had no airforce, few military options, and only the will of the Cuban people to hopefully stop the illegal, surprise attack launched by the US with its ominous naval fleet just miles offshore.
The day after the illegal bombing of Cuba's airfields at the burial proceedings of those who were killed, and realizing that there now existed an imminent and real war with the United States, Fidel announced the intention of his government to follow a truly Socialist path of government. If he were to go down now under the crushing blow of the world's largest military force, he would do so as the revolutionary fighter he had become, fully attached to the Socialist philosophy and way of life.
The decision to land at the Bay of Pigs was obvious due to its remote location and hard to reach beaches. But the Cuban forces had spotted them early on and were able to meet the first landing forces as they came ashore. By aggressively disrupting even the earliest attempts of the mercenaries to create a foothold on the beach, the Cuban forces were able to effectively counterattack at key locations and keep the invading troops in a defensive posture. Fidel climbed onto at least five different tanks during that battle and one photo of the event has even become legendary. The audacity and fighting spirit of the Cuban forces were too much for the mercenaries and the battle was decided after only 60 hours.
The terms of return of these mercenaries to the US was approximately $100,000 per POW to be paid in $2 million cash and $50 million or so in food and medicinal supplies for the island. Even though it was understood that these same people would very likely return to fight again, there was no reason for the Cuban government to keep them incarcerated on the island. From the beginning, the idea was to allow these prisoners safe passage back to their families in the US, even if that meant possible future retaliation by the same. One of the more audacious aspects of the post-attack resolution of these prisoners was the fact that the CIA tried to use the American diplomats to assassinate Castro. During the Church Commission report in the mid-1970s, the CIA revealled that on one occasion they had sought the services of chief negotiator, james Donovan, to present Fidel with a diver's wetsuit which was full of biological spores which would have killed him had he ever used it.
Over the years many attacks by many different American-sponsored groups such as alpha 66 and Omega 7 plotted attacks against the Cuban government and the people of Cuba. Biological, chemical as well as regular military warfare beseiged the island and killed thousands of its citizens. Fidel has been attacked at least 600 times by CIA-sponsored agents, most of which have become public record through the Church Commission reports and other documents. At each turn, however, Fidel, his administration and the citizenry of Cuba were there to confront, interdict, defend and protect the island from its aggressors. It has been against international law since the Nuremberg trials to attempt to assassinate a sitting leader of a country, yet the US is guilty of this on at least 600 different occasions. It has been illegal to attack any country unless it is in strict self-defense or is sanctioned by a unanimous vote of the Security Council of the United Nations, yet the US is guilty of this on numerous occasions such as the Bay of Pigs catastrophe.