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Article from All Hands 582 (July 1965): 2-5.

  • Relief Efforts--Humanitarian Aid-Rescue
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Answering a Call in a Crisis

[Dominican Republic Intervention, 1965]

When the call came to evacuate U.S. citizens and the nationals of other nations in the first days of the crisis in the Dominican Republic, the Navy was prepared to move in a matter of minutes.

Fighting broke out in the Dominican Republic on Saturday, 24 April. By Tuesday, 27 April, the situation had deteriorated and the U.S. took the precaution of stationing a task force - including USS Boxer (LPH-4) and 1,500 Marines - off the Dominican Coast. Removal of U.S. citizens, however, was not ordered until two days later, when Dominican government officials warned that they could no longer guarantee the safety of foreign nationals.

On the evening of the 28th Boxer airlifted 400 Marines into the city of Santo Domingo for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens. By the following morning, 29 April, 530 Marines were in the city. Later in the day they were joined by 1,000 reinforcements.

While Marines cleared a safety zone between the U.S. Embassy and the Embajador Hotel, where refugees were gathered, helos ferried civilians to Boxer for further transfer to other Navy ships in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

By 1 May paratroop units had been flown into the city, bring the U.S. military strength to about 4,200 men. As the safety zone was sealed off and the waterfront area was secured, Navy ships began to take refugees directly aboard.

On 2 May the Navy transported 1,415 civilians to San Juan, raising the total number to 3,000. In Santo Domingo 5,000 more awaited rescue - about 1,500 of them citizens of 30 different countries.

On 3 May Great Britain officially thanked the U.S. for having evacuated British citizens from the danger area.

Navy ships which played a major part in the rescue mission included: USS Boxer (LPH-4), Wood County (LST-1178) Ruchamkin (APD-89) and Yancey (AKA-93). Other ships involved were: USS Rankin (AKA-103), Fort Snelling (LSD-30) and Raleigh (LPD-1).

By 8 May U.S. forces in the island republic totaled 14,000 men, including paratroop units flown from the United States and Marines landed by Navy ships.

The evening before, in a televised address, the President had said" "What began as a popular democratic revolution that was committed to democracy and social justice moved into the hands of a band of communist conspirators." Later in the same address, he declared, "We will defend our nation against all those who seek to destroy not only the United States but every free country of this hemisphere."

Here is an on-the-scene report from USS Boxer (LPH-4): Boxer was acting as flagship for Amphibious Squadron 10 when she answered an urgent call on 25 April from the United States Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She steamed to the revolt-torn country to assist in the evacuating of U.S. and other nationals.

It was a new experience for the officers and enlisted man of Boxer - acting as baby sitters, luggage porters, stewards, translators, and general unofficial Ambassadors of the U.S. Navy.

The scene was unusual as one walked down the hanger deck - sailors changing diapers, feeding babies, watching over infants. But the problems of the sailors were minute compared with those of the evacuees. Each person who came aboard had his own personal tale to tell of the crisis. Some were lucky enough to escape without incident; others were not so fortunate.

On Tuesday, 27 April, 294 persons were brought aboard Boxer and were then transferred to USS Raleigh (LPD-1) on Wednesday morning. As the situation worsened, later that same day 705 additional persons were brought aboard. During the entire week Boxerevacuated more than 1,000 men, women and children from the island, administering medical aid, hospital facilities and food, and providing sleeping spaces.

More than 500 Marines from the Sixth Expeditionary Unit and Marine Helicopter Squadron 264, embarked in Boxer, were deployed to insure the safety of the evacuees. 

Men were berthed in the troop berthing areas, and the women and children in the officers' staterooms. After three days aboard Boxerthey were transferred to adjoining ships, USS Ruchamkin (APD-89), Raleigh [LPD-1], and Wood County (LST-1178) for transit to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Many evacuees had gone without food or water for three days, some lost contact with their children during their escape. One woman who arrived aboard was in tears because she was separated from her family. The tears quickly disappeared as she found her children - for the first time in two weeks - already safe aboard.

Violence was present in all quarters of the city as shooting rang out from building after building. Many of the people, hearing that they might be evacuated to Navy ships, had gathered in the Embajador Hotel to await their evacuation.

For a large number of these evacuees most of that day was spent lying on the ground, listening to the whine of bullets overhead.

In another incident, a woman employed by a Canadian electric firm had been sitting in her car, ready to leave, when she realized she left something behind. As she returned to her house, she glanced back and saw her car riddled by the strafing of an aircraft.

Three young women, teachers at the American School in Santo Domingo, had had hopes of staying on the island when the violence broke out. They quickly changed their minds after a narrow escape from the fire of armored tanks.

These were a few incidents mentioned by the evacuees. Those who were fortunate enough to find their way to Boxer left the ship with a sincere appreciation of the assistance and protection offered by the Navy-Marine Corps team.

After the transfer of the evacuees to San Juan, Boxer stood by off the coast of the island, continuing to lend support in the form of food and medical care, remaining prepared in case additional evacuees were flown aboard.

One of the events in the evacuation was the cause of a shipboard celebration.

A birth was recorded in the medical records of cargo ship USS Yancey (AKA-93) on 1 May, when Lieutenant Ben Passmore, MC [Medical Corps], USN, delivered Stephen Yancey Paez.

The delivery was made while the ship was transporting 593 evacuees from the Dominican Republic to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The eight-pound boy was the first child for Mr. and Mrs. Rodolfo Paez of the Dominican Republic.

The boy's middle name was given in honor of the ship. A cake-cutting ceremony and the traditional passing out of cigars were held in honor of the newborn Dominican Child.


Published: Wed Sep 30 15:17:33 EDT 2020