Money as a weapon of war I: From the Operation Bernhard by the Nazi Germany against Britain to the Cuban pesos forged by the CIA in the invasion of the Bay of Pigs

Money has always been a part of military conflict. As a weapon of war it has adopted a variety of formats and served different uses: a vehicle for propaganda messages, safe-conducts or as part of an operative to sow terror or confusion amongst the enemy.

But the case of the CIA in the Bay of Pigs, inspired in the Operation Bernhard, is somewhat exceptional, as the tactical objective was not only the enemy’s mind but its economy. Counterfeit Cuban 20-peso notes were printed and handed out among the invading forces trying to overthrow Fidel Castro. The CIA’s justification was that, given that this was an undercover operation in which the invaders were passing themselves off as Cubans, they had to come equipped with local money. The question, then, was why so many notes were printed, far more than the troops could spend on the island without arousing suspicion.

This military action, perhaps owing to its resounding failure, was one of the best known of Operation 40, a group created by Eisenhower and directed by Richard Nixon, whose objective was the overthrow of Latin American governments contrary to USA policies.

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