In 1961 the Bay of Pigs invasion took place. This was an invasion of Cubans from the US, Prior to this there was massive anti-Castro civil disobedience throughout Cuba. Castro locked up 250,000 of the protesters so they could not help with the invasion. And then President Kennedy reneged on his promises of help with the invasion. So, it turned out to be a complete dud!
It seemed things couldn't get much worse - but they did, when, in 1962, we had the Cuban Missile Crisis. This was a dust up between the United States, Cuba and the Soviet Union. As I said, a very scary time in South Florida. Every day there were planes flying in formation across the skies. Every day, more instructors at the college quit and moved north, believing we were about to be invaded or blown off the map.
So I thought, until a few months ago, that I knew quite a bit about Cuba in the early 60s because I was living close by. But I never heard of "Operation Peter Pan."
In 1960 Castro launched his slogan "Cuba si, Yankee no!" and ordered communist indoctrination in Cuban schools. He ordered only Marxist textbooks be used. Many parents thought that it was time to get their children out of Cuba. The parents could not leave but they wanted their children to be saved. So a complicated program, helped by the Catholic Church and the American Embassy, was born and thousands of unaccompanied children were sent to the United States.
Our neighbors, Pilar and Iggy were two of those kids. They were sent, separately, to Chicago where they each had family members. (Some children, who did not have family in the states were sent directly to orphanages.) Pilar and Iggy met each other in Chicago and have spent their entire lives here in the states. Iggy's father was part of the Bay of Pigs Invasion and was sent to prison in Cuba.
Pilar and Iggy, along with the vast majority of Peter Pan kids, became professional people and raised wonderful families. So what is the answer to the question "How could parents send their kids away, unescorted, to another country?" Most of the time the answer is "To give them a better life."