Skip to main content

The Navy Department Library

Related Content
Document Type
  • Publication
Wars & Conflicts
  • Korean Conflict 1950-1954
  • Vietnam Conflict 1962-1975
File Formats
  • Image (gif, jpg, tiff)
Location of Archival Materials

Caribbean Tempest: The Dominican Republic Intervention of 1965

Colloquium on Contemporary History January 9, 1990 No. 2

Welcome - Dr. Dean C. Allard
Opening Remarks - Dr. Edward J. Marolda
Prelude to the Storm: The United States Navy and the Dominican Republic, 1959-1964 - Dr. Theresa L. Kraus
A Marine's View of the Dominican Intervention - Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Retired)
Intervention in Three-Part Harmony: The 1965 U.S. Dominican Intervention - Major Lawrence M. Greenberg, USA
Speakers' Biographies

Dr. Dean C. Allard
Director, Naval Historical Center

Thank you, Dr. Marolda, for organizing this Colloquium session and thank all of you for coming out on this day of uncertain weather. I would like to make two points with regard to today's discussion. First, I think it's good to have a joint enterprise in this day of jointness. indeed, we can all learn from this operation from varied perspectives. I think there is a naval perspective here, even though the naval representative is now with the Army's history office. But, we have a Navy perspective, a Marine perspective, and an Army perspective. I apologize to our Air Force friends, if there are any in the audience, I assure there is that perspective as well. Military operations are complex and thus many modern operations can only be understood from a joint perspective and that is exactly what we are going to do today.

Secondly, I'd like to refer to contemporary history a bit. As you know, Ed Marolda heads our contemporary History Branch. We didn't do contemporary history until about three years ago, when the Secretary of the Navy became interested in that subject and directed that we do contemporary history- By contemporary history we mean post-1945 history. I'm delighted that we are involved in that enterprise; in something that's useful to our clients, that is to say, the Navy. But, I'm also continually impressed by the controversial nature of doing contemporary history. Which is to say, I'm impressed by the truth that we all know, which is that history is, after all, opinion. History is hopefully opinion based upon good evidence; informed opinion. But, it is in fact opinion and one is reminded of that when one does contemporary study when there are other people around who can say, "no, that's not the way it was." And history, I think, never really is the way it was. History is, as we all know, an interpretation of the events and it cannot really be 100 percent real because there is too much out there and also there's a requirement to interpret these data. And so, I am going to be interested in the informed opinion that we hear today. Welcome one and all.

Dr. Edward J. Marolda
Head, Contemporary History Branch
Naval Historical Center

The subject for today's discussion, the Dominican Republic intervention of 1965, could not have been more timely. During the last few weeks, headlining the news has been the U.S. operation to secure Panama from the depredations of General Manuel Noriega and his "dignity battalions." General Maxwell Thurman, Commander in Chief of the Southern Command and the overall commander of the Panama evolution, recently noted a relationship between the Dominican intervention and current American activities in Panama. There are a number of similarities between the recent operation, "Just Cause," and the 1965 action, including the involvement of the Navy's Atlantic Fleet Marine and naval forces and the Army's 82d Airborne Division. The casualty figures for the earlier operation of 27 men killed in action and 172 wounded approximate current losses in Panama. More important than these surface similarities, however, is the similarity in the nature of the mission assigned American military forces. in both operations, political concerns were paramount. Restoration of political and economic order and the reestablishment of friendly ties between the U.S. government and the governments of the Dominican Republic and of Panama were key objectives. Further, both operations involved coordinated or joint action by the U.S. armed forces. Consequently, our discussion of the Dominican Republic intervention promises to shed some light not only on Panama, but the Libya air strike, Grenada, and other recent joint operations.

As today, in the late 1950s and early 1960s the American national security establishment was especially concerned about Caribbean developments. The administrations of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson feared the encroachment in the region of Communist military power and political influence. They were especially troubled that as Fidel Castro consolidated the hold of his 26 July movement on Cuba he would export Communist revolution to the economically and politically vulnerable nations of the Caribbean basin.

This region, of course, was of great strategic importance to the United States. Control of the sea and the canal through the Isthmus of Panama ensured the expeditious wartime deployment of American military forces between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This control also ensured the ready access of international shipping to the East, West, and Gulf coasts of the United States and to the ports of Latin America. Further, the United States had substantial economic interests in the islands of the Caribbean and along its shores. In the realm of international politics, the United States benefited significantly from the support of the traditionally conservative Caribbean governments.

An American military response to threats in the Caribbean has a long history. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, U.S. military forces frequently intervened in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, and other nations of the region. Moreover, resort to force figured prominently on the American menu of crisis options during the era under study. With the adoption of a "flexible response" strategy to counter the range of Communist threats, including "wars of national liberation," the Kennedy and Johnson administrations were inclined to use the increasingly powerful conventional forces at their disposal. In keeping-with this strategic concept, during October 1962 President Kennedy positioned strong U.S. naval forces in the Caribbean to moderate Soviet and Cuban behavior. That same year, he ordered the deployment of Army and Marine forces to Thailand, in another troubled region of the globe. In following years, U.S. Pacific naval, air, and ground forces frequently were employed to influence politico-military developments in Southeast Asia. In March 1965, one month before the Dominican intervention, U.S. Seventh Fleet ships landed the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade at Danang, South Vietnam. The initial purpose of this deployment vas not to engage U.S. forces in combat, but to deter the Communists from actions against the pro-U.S. governments of Southeast Asia. Force was used as a political instrument. In this context, it will be instructive to learn of the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of U.S. military force in achieving the political objectives of the Dominican Republic operation.

Dr. Theresa L. Kraus
Military Studies Branch
U.S. Army Center of Military History

For the most part, historian's examining the relationship between the Dominican Republic and the United States have naturally concentrated on the 1965 intervention. The decision to intervene, however, was the culmination of a strained, and often hostile, relationship that deteriorated throughout the 195" and early 1960s. Decisions made by both President Eisenhower and Kennedy helped shape public and congressional opinion of the Dominican government and ultimately led to support for Lyndon Johnson's actions in 1965. Hence, Operation Power Pack, the 1965 U.S. intervention in the Dominican Republic, can be better understood in the overall context of U.S.-Dominican relations between 1959 and 1964.

Disenchanted with the Trujillo regime and convinced that the Dominican leader had become a political embarrassment to U.S. hemispheric policy, the successive administrations of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy worked to liberalize the political structure of the Dominican Republic. Neither was prepared to coexist with a second Cuba, and both openly and actively worked to depose Trujillo and to impose a pro-American government. Responding more quickly and harshly to the crisis in the Dominican Republic than they had to the continuing crisis in Cuba, Eisenhower and Kennedy "engaged in the most massive intervention in the internal affairs of a Latin American state since the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy" in 1933. To achieve their ends, both used a wide variety of instruments of power and influence: the threat of overt military intervention, covert aid to Dominican dissidents, multilateral diplomacy and political pressure through the OAS, and unilateral economic sanctions.1

Throughout the twentieth century, the crucial objective of U.S. policy in the hemisphere had been to prevent the rise to power of any government or political movement that could threaten the security of the United States. In practice, the safest way to do this was to support the existing, generally conservative, governments in Latin American and to use U.S. influence to maintain the political status quo. The political character of Latin American regimes was irrelevant, if they maintained internal order and supported U.S. policies abroad.

Raphael Trujillo came to power in the Dominican Republic in 1930, and for nearly 30 years no one more fervently adhered to U.S. policies and desires. But, in the early 1950s his political support weakened as economic problems and increasing violence disrupted Dominican life. Trujillo faced a growing internal crisis as a number of clandestine opposition groups formed and the political situation became turbulent. Faced with internal and external criticism, the dictator became more ruthless as he tried to sustain power.2

By the late 1950s, U.S. opinion of the Trujillo regime also eroded as the dictator's grip on his country began to slip. The general Dominican environment, with its endemic instability, violence, and the complete absence of democratic and effective political institutions, was considered uncomfortably similar to that during the final days of Batista in Cuba. Serious concern developed first in the Eisenhower and then during the Kennedy administrations that Trujillo's sudden collapse would lead to chaos and the emergence of a second Castro.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower was determined to prevent the establishment of a Dominican government antagonistic towards the United States. In January 1960 he approved a State Department policy paper which outlined possible courses of action in the event of the flight, death, or overthrow of Trujillo. Realizing that "there may not be time quietly to encourage a moderate, pro-United States leadership among the civilian and military dissident elements," State Department planners concluded that the President would have to be willing to employ, if necessary, military and naval units. This naturally raised the question of whether the United States should try to forestall a pro-Castro takeover by actively seeking to bring about the early overthrow of Trujillo.3

After concluding that Trujillo must be unseated, the administration contemplated several plans of action. Secretary of State Christian Herter, anxious to avoid unilateral commitment of military forces, encouraged the President to work through the OAS. Eisenhower agreed with this cautious approach, saying "we must not seek to dominate the affair, but must move very carefully, inducing the OAS to take the lead."4 But if events moved too rapidly for the OAS to act, the President approved a contingency plan. If the situation deteriorated further "the United States would immediately take political action to remove Trujillo from the Dominican Republic as soon as a suitable successor regime can be induced to take over with the assurance of U.S. political, economic, and - if necessary - military support."5

While Eisenhower and his advisors debated what course of action to take, Trujillo forced the administration into a decision. In April he aided an unsuccessful attempt by right-wing Venezuelan military officers to overthrow the Romulo Betancourt government. Two months later, on 24 June, the dictator's agents tried to assassinate President Betancourt, detonating a bomb placed near his passing automobile. That same month Trujillo legalized the Communist Party and attempted to establish close political relations with the Iron Curtain countries.

Both the-assassination attempt and the maneuver toward the Iron Curtain6 provoked immediate condemnation throughout Latin America. once its representatives confirmed Trujillo's complicity in the assassination attempt, the OAS, for the first time in its history, decreed sanctions against a member state. On 20 August, at the Sixth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Relations at San Jose, Costa Rica, the foreign ministers agreed, by a 19 to 0 vote, to break diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic and to a limited suspension of economic relations.7 Trade in arms and all implements of war was immediately stopped.

The United States severed diplomatic relations on 26 August and in January 1961 suspended the export of trucks, parts, crude oil, gasoline and other petroleum products. Eisenhower also took advantage of OAS sanctions to cut drastically purchases of Dominican sugar, that country's major export. This action ultimately cost the Dominican Republic almost $22,000,000 in lost revenues at a time when its economy was in a rapid decline.

While working with the OAS, Eisenhower, as he had done with Castro, also turned to the CIA and to covert activity to assure that U.S. interests were protected. As early as February 1960 Eisenhower had considered a program of covert aid to Dominican dissidents. He subsequently gave approval to the CIA to furnish arms and munitions to Dominican dissidents - the CIA knew that dissidents wanted to obtain weapons for an assassination attempt on Trujillo.8 These groups made abundantly clear to their CIA contacts that the regime could not be toppled unless the dictator himself was eliminated.

When Eisenhower broke relations with the Dominican Republic and recalled the U.S. ambassador and most of the embassy personnel, Henry Dearborn remained as Consul General and de facto CIA Chief of Station. Dearborn worked closely with the dissidents and kept the administration appraised of the Dominican situation. As conditions in the country deteriorated he wrote Under Secretary of State Thomas Mann, "If I were a Dominican, which thank heaven I am not, I would favor destroying Trujillo as being the first necessary step in the salvation of my country and I would regard this, in fact, as my Christian duty." "If you recall Dracula," Dearborn continued, "you will remember it was necessary to drive a stake through his heart to prevent a continuation of his crimes."9

By November, as the United States elected its next president, John F. Kennedy, diplomatic and economic pressure had failed to stabilize the Dominican situation. The Eisenhower administration left office unable to resolve the Caribbean crisis.

Kennedy, like his predecessor, was generally less interested in Caribbean economic development than in achieving political stability in the region. And particularly after policy failures in Cuba and the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Kennedy wanted to establish a progressive democracy in the Dominican Republic that would serve as a stalwart supporter of U.S. foreign policy goals. The new president recognized that continuation of the Trujillo regime would increase the endemic instability throughout the Caribbean.

Kennedy's Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, agreed that the Dominican dictator had become a threat, but speculated that despite continued internal difficulties there was no solid evidence that Trujillo would soon be driven from office. As Rusk wrote Kennedy, "Trujillo rules by force and will presumably remain in power as long as the armed forces continue to support him."10 Unable to formulate quickly a coherent Dominican strategy and preoccupied with Cuba, Kennedy continued Eisenhower's reliance on overt OAS actions and covert CIA operations.

Dominican dissidents assassinated Raphael Trujillo on the evening of 30 May 1961. Atlantic Fleet units, already steaming toward Hispaniola, became Kennedy's primary coercive tool for protecting U.S. lives and interests in the Dominican Republic and for assuring that a new Castro did not emerge from the resultant chaos.11 One hour after Trujillo's death, Rear Admiral Robert L. Dennison, Commander in Chief Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANT), informed his naval commanders that the "situation in the Dominican Republic may require intervention in (the] near future on short notice. "12

The day after the Dominican leader's death, the Caribbean Ready Amphibious Squadron (TG 44.9), permanently stationed in the Caribbean since Castro seized power in 1959, was patrolling off Ciudad Trujillo and planning for a possible hostile landing on Dominican shores.13 Additional forces, previously alerted, were enroute to the Caribbean. Those forces included 2 additional amphibious squadrons with approximately 5,000 Marines embarked, 3 aircraft carriers - Intrepid (CVA 11), Shangri-La (CVA 38), and Randolph (CVA 15) - 1 submarine, and about 50 surface combatants and 280 aircraft.14 The U.S. government also made arrangements to have two destroyers visit the Haitian ports of Port au Prince and Cape Haitian. Admiral Dennison believed the presence of both ships would help stabilize the shaky Haitian government in light of the Dominican situation and would also provide key intelligence information to Washington regarding the political climate on Hispaniola.15

The JCS had the naval task force establish air and surface surveillance in the Windward Passage; air surveillance around the Dominican Republic; and ordered that the carrier Randolph arriving off Ciudad Trujillo should remain not less than 40 miles from the city, and all other surface units including the amphibious task group to remain 100 miles from the coast.16 The following day, on 2 June, the JCS ordered Dennison to reduce the ships' distance from shore to not less than 50 miles.17

Dennison, however, believed that the 50-mile distance would prohibit effective naval action if units were needed to protect U.S. interests ashore. As Dennison later recalled: "Our policies toward the Dominican Republic seem to me to have never been really firmed up or understood. . . . we have a tremendous stake in that area, but we were so hamstrung really as to what exactly to do about it." The admiral felt particularly hampered by the decision to keep naval units out of sight of land. "I hate to keep disagreeing with some of the things the State Department has done, or did, but this is typical. A show of force was supposed to include naval forces plus air power, but my ships were supposed to stay so far offshore that they couldn't even be seen. My idea of a show of force was to steam right along the coast where you could throw a baseball on the beach if you wanted to, and if we were going to do any air demonstrations to do them where everybody could see them....What good is a show of force if nobody except dolphins are going to look at it "18

On 9 June, when the immediate crisis seemed over, the JCS ordered Dennison to decrease the over-all readiness posture, but to retain a relatively small amphibious force in the area ready for immediate action. The rest of the force was to maintain a 72-hour reaction time."19 Dennison ordered I amphibious squadron with its embarked Marine battalion landing team, 1 destroyer division, and I mine division to remain in the Caribbean. The rest of Task Force 122 phased into exercise Axle Grease from 14-17 June to test Caribbean Contingency Plan 310-60.20

Once the immediate crisis was over, Kennedy postulated that there were only three possible future scenarios in the Dominican Republic. In descending ' order of U.S. preference, Kennedy's list included the formation of a democratic regime, a continuation of a Trujillo family dictatorship, or the creation of a Castro-type regime. As the President told his advisors, "We ought to aim at the first but we really can't renounce the second until we are sure of the third."21 In the aftermath of the assassination the Kennedy administration worked to stabilize the government of Joaquin Balaguer, with the ultimate objective of creating a democratic, anti-Communist government. Balaguer, at the time, was legally the chief executive, having served as puppet ruler for Trujillo. Raphael "Ramfis" Trujillo, Jr., however, controlled the armed forces and in reality ruled the country after his father's death.

While Kennedy and his advisors discussed how best to deal with the Dominican situation, the president maintained naval units offshore. The President also continued economic sanctions in hopes of pressuring the Dominican government to liberalize its policies and prepare the country for elections. Throughout this period, Kennedy maintained: "It should be made clear to Balaguer that we are not going to back him in any circumstances simply because there is a threat that the Dominican Republic may be Cubanized. Indeed, a failure on Balaguer's part to provide real reform is the best possible assurance that this threat will become a fact. If Balaguer proves intransigent, he and Ramfis should be provided with a vivid description of the difference between retiring on the Riviera and being drawn and quartered in the streets of Ciudad Trujillo."22

The ideal situation, according to Kennedy's State Department advisors, would be to strengthen President Balaguer and moderates within the government and to encourage and support an anti-Castro, middle-of-the-road opposition. Those elements, however, were weak and untested and faced those who hoped to continue the Trujillo era with as few changes as possible.23

Ramfis Trujillo was an unknown factor. Although he outwardly worked with President Balaguer to implement moderate political reforms, U.S. observers worried about his possible ulterior designs. Assistant Special Counsel Richard Goodwin recommended that for the time being the administration should "accept the fact of Ramfis remaining in power and bargain to create an acceptable democratic facade which will win the confidence - if reluctant confidence of the opposition - and create the conditions under which future democratic government may be possible." Goodwin concluded that the U.S. "should negotiate with Ramfis under the shadow of the U.S. Fleet."24

Within three months of the initial June naval deployment, the Dominican situation again worsened as riots and strikes threatened the new government. On 15 September the JCS warned the Navy to prepare for a second deployment.25Although it proved unnecessary to send fleet units at that time, one month later, as tensions in the Dominican Republic again increased, Dennison moved the Caribbean Ready Amphibious Squadron to a position 50 miles south of Ciudad Trujillo.26

In November the second crisis came to a head when Hector and Arismendi "Petan" Trujillo, two of the late dictator's brothers, returned to the Dominican Republic on 16 November in an attempt to block the liberalization process and restore the family dictatorship. President Kennedy again decided to take whatever steps necessary to prevent the restoration of a Trujillo regime.27

In addition to the Caribbean Ready Amphibious Squadron already in the area, Kennedy ordered a naval task force consisting of the carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA 45), the helicopter carrier Valley Forge (CVA 45), and other amphibious ships with 1,800 Marines on board, the cruiser Little Rock (CLG 4), 12 destroyers, and a number landing craft off the Dominican coast. The naval force remained just outside the 3-mile limit but in plain sight of Santo Domingo (Ciudad Trujillo renamed after Trujillo's death). Beginning at first light on 19 November, Little Rock, Hyman;(DD 732), Bristol (DD 453), and Beatty (DD 756) steamed back and forth in front of the capital city in a show of force operation codenamed Seagull.

During the 19th, the U.S. task force observed attacks by Dominican Air Force-planes against ground targets. Shortly after twelve o'clock the American consul general requested that Amphibious Squadron 8, then out of sight of land, feint toward the beach. As the ships neared the city, Hill cancelled his request and the squadron returned to its former station. On the same day, jet fighters from VMA 224 at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, streaked along the Dominican coastline in a display of force designed to intimidate the Trujillos. That afternoon operation Seagull was extended west to the city of Barahona. Three days later, as fighting continued, an additional patrol was established to the north of Santo Domingo off the city of Puerto Plata.28

On the evening of the 19th, with continued jet overflights and as Spanish broadcasts from the offshore ships warned the Dominicans that the Marines were prepared to come ashore, Ramfis and his uncles decided to flee the country the following morning. Over the next several months, the Kennedy administration continued to pressure the Dominican government for further democratization. Kennedy backed diplomatic efforts with economic sanctions and the presence of the Caribbean Amphibious squadron in the region. Under the watchful eye of the U.S. Navy, the various factions within the country agreed to create a council of state to provide interim rule. On 19 December, Balaguer stepped aside in favor of a seventeen-man Council of state, which was dominated by the conservative, but anti-Trujillo, Union Civica Nacional (UCN). This council would serve as a transitional body, ruling only until the election, scheduled for December 1962, was held. Operation Seagull ended on 19 December, and shortly thereafter, OAS sanctions were lifted and the United States resumed diplomatic relations.

During 1962 the political situation in the Dominican Republic remained chaotic. There were several changes among those who controlled the government, as well as continued rebellions by both rightist and leftist elements. U.S. warships kept an almost constant vigilance over the Dominican Republic throughout the year.

On 20 December 1962 the Dominican electorate selected Dr. Juan Bosch as its new president. Even before his inauguration, the Kennedy administration granted Bosch's new government a 3.5-million dollar loan. Despite its show of faith in the new government, Kennedy and his advisors remained unconvinced that Bosch could create long-term stability in the country or that he could prevent a Communist takeover. As CIA analysts observed: "The Communist danger in the Dominican Republic is of immediate, but potential. It is none the less serious. Given present freedom to organize and agitate, the Communists will become better prepared to exploit some future opportunity. If, through administrative ineptitude, Bosch should fail to satisfy the expectations of the Dominican masse, or if he should be overthrown by a reactionary coup, the Communists will be in position to seize the leadership of the popular revolutionary movement.29

Despite solid attempts at liberalization and democratization, Bosch's administration failed to create a solid, stable, political structure. Perhaps Bosch's first major error occurred when he angered and hence lost the support of the Dominican armed forces. He advocated a controversial constitutional amendment declaring the military to be an apolitical institution and permitting the use of the armed forces to foster social and economic development. In addition, his tolerance of the Communist Party angered the more conservative officers, especially Colonel Elias Wessin y Wessin, the rightwing leader of the Dominican loyalists and the commander of the Armed Forces Training Center located at San Isidro Airfield.

On 25 September 1963 Wessin y Wessin and the other military leaders, angered by Bosch's refusal to outlaw the Communist Party, stormed the presidential palace and arrested Bosch. The military leaders dissolved the national assembly and abrogated the 1963 Constitution. A civilian council sanctioned by the military took over the government pending the 1965 elections.

The Kennedy administration, never fully persuaded that the Bosch government could succeed, did little to either stop the military coup or aid it. As one State Department observer commented: "In his seven-months tenure, Bosch has failed to capitalize on his landslide election victory and to consolidate his position. His cabinet was weak, ineffective, and even in part unsavory. Bosch, attempting to govern alone, moved from crisis to crisis without facing up to the country's major problems. Additionally, he persistently refused to adopt a firm policy against Communism and Castro, despite repeated warnings from the military and recent well-attended anti-Communist demonstrations.30

During this crisis, the United States again suspended diplomatic relations and cut off economic aid. The Caribbean Ready Amphibious Squadron was alerted for response; the alert was cancelled on 14 December.

The civilian "Triumvirate" which came to power after Bosch's overthrow was threatened from the outset by opponents from the right and left. Donald Reid Cabral headed the Triumvirate in the last year of its existence. Cabral embarked upon an economic stabilization program and took the first steps toward reform of the military establishment. He proved unable, however, to attract significant popular support and his government's position remained precarious.

Until Bosch's overthrow, U.S. short-term policies in the Dominican Republic had proven successful. As a direct result of its combined military threats and economic leverage the United States was able to induce all major Dominican actors to conform to its wishes. These policies, however, proved disastrous in the long ran.

Two months after the coup and before a new U.S. Dominican policy had been established, President Kennedy was assassinated. It was left to Lyndon Johnson to determine how to stabilize the situation. Within two years, President Johnson landed the Marines on Dominican shores.


1. Jerome Slater, Intervention and Negotiation: The United States and the Dominican Revolution (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1970), p. 7.

2. Furthermore, the 1956 kidnapping and murder of Dr. Jesus de Galindez, an outspoken critic of Trujillo, outraged Americans -and marked the beginning of the end of Trujillo's tacit alliance with the United States. The Columbia University professor was seized on the streets of New York and was executed in the Dominican Republic.- Charles Murphy, an American pilot who claimed he had participated in the kidnapping and had flown de Galindez to the Dominican Republic, subsequently disappeared mysteriously from his Ciudad Trujillo apartment.

3. Memo, Herter to DDE, "Possible Action to Prevent Castroist Takeover of Dominican Republic," 14 Apr 1960, Herter, Christian April 1960 (1), box 10, Dulles-Herter Series, Ann Whitman Files, DDE Library.

4. Memcon, Herter, Clark, Goodpaster, DDE, 26 Apr 1960, Staff Notes April 1960 (1), box 49, DDE Diary Series, Ann Whitman Files, DDE Library.

5. U.S. Congress, Select Committee to Study Governmental operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, An Interim Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, Together with Additional, Supplemental, and-Separate Views (hereafter cited as Alleged Assassination Plots), 94th Cong., 1st sess., Rept. No. 94-465, p. 192.

6. Traditionally Caribbean countries, when they were politicking for additional U.S. aid, threatened to align with the Iron Curtain. As with the Dominican Republic, the United States government rarely took such threats seriously.

7. By 9 September 1960 all OAS nations except Paraguay had broken relations with Dominican Republic - 7 had broken before OAS sanctions, 13 after.

8. Alleged Assassination Plots, pp. 192-194.

9. Ibid, p. 195.

10. Memo, Rusk to JFK, 15 Feb 1961, DOMREP General 1/61-6/61, box 66-67, NSF Countries series, JFK Library.

11. After Trujillo's assassination, the OAS, under U.S. leadership, established a presence in DOMREP in the form of a four-nation committee which included the United States, and for the next 18 months the United States was able to use this opening as well as the prospect of the resumption of normal diplomatic and economic relations to exert great influence on internal Dominican affairs. During. his reign, Trujillo occasionally relinquished the office of the presidency to a puppet, but he never once permitted anyone other than himself to control the armed forces. Trujillo recognized that the armed forces constituted his major source of power, but also realized they represented the greatest threat to his rule.

12. Msg, CINCLANT to COMJTF 122/CG CONARC/ COMTAC/CINCLANTFLT 31354Z May 1961, Flagplot Briefers, DOMREP Ops #1, Operational Archives, Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C. (hereafter cited as OA).

13. Msg, CTG 44.9 to COMCARIBSEAFRON 010515Z Jun 1961, Flagplot Briefers, DOMREP Ops #I(C), OA.

14. Msg, CINCLANT to JCS 03173OZ Jun 1961, Blue Flag Files microfilm,143(S), OA.

15. Msgs, CNO to CINCIANTFLT/COMSECONDFLT/COMCARIBSEAFRON 031955Z Jun 1961, Blue Flag Files microfilm 141(C); COMNAVB GTMO to AMEB PORT AU PRINCE 021116Z; CINCLANTFLT to COMCARIBSEAFRON 02180OZ; CNO to CINCLANTFLT 041627Z; and Tel, DEPTSTATE to AMEM PORT AU PRINCE, I Jun 1961(C), Flagplot Briefers, DOMREP Ops #1, OA.


17. JCS to CINCLANT 020043Z Jun 1961, Blue Flag Files microfilm 143(C), OA.

18. "Reminiscences of Admiral Robert Lee Dennison," U.S. Naval Institute, 1975, p. 457, OA.

19. Msg, JCS to CINCLANT 092314Z Jun 1961, Flagplot Briefers, DOMREP Ops #I(C), OA.

20. Msg, CINCLANT to JCS 101753Z Jun 1961, Flagplot Briefers, DOMREP Ops JI(S). In addition to the elements of Second Fleet which included amphibious and mine warfare ships and Marine ground and air components, Headquarters Command elements of the Air Force Tactical Air Command and the Strategic Army Command participated in this exercise, OA.

21. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965), p. 769.

22. Memo, "The Dominican Republic,n 12 Jul 1961, DONREP General 1961, Box 115A, President's Office Files, Countries, JFK Library.

23. "Courses of Action in the Dominican Republic," 17 Jul 1961, DOMREP General 7/61-8/61, Box 66-67, NSF Countries Series, JFX Library.

24. Memo, Goodwin to JFK, 3 Oct 1961, D0MREP subjects: Murphy Trip 8/61-5/63, Box 66-67, NSF Countries Series, JFK Library.

25. Msg, JCS to CIMCLAMT 152339Z Sep 1961, Blue Flag Files, microfilm 147, OA.

26. Msg, CINCLANT to JCS 201712Z Oct 1961, Flagplot Briefers DONREP #9, OA.

27. Msgs, ANCONSUL CIUDAD TRUJILLO to OSD, 15 Nov 1961(S) and CINCLANT to CJTF 122 180016Z Nov 1961(C), Flagplot Briefers, DOMREP Ops #9, OA.

28. Second Fleet, "Report of Operations During Dominican Crisis Caused by Unwelcome Return of the Lately Assassinated Dictator Trujillo's Brothers," ser 009, 26 Feb 1962, Post World War II Reports File(C), OA.

29. CIA Memo (Coordination Draft), "President Bosch and Internal Security in the Dominican Republic," 7 Jun 1963, DONREP Subjects: Juan Bosch 6/10/63 Tabs 1-4, Box 66-67, NSF Countries Series, JFK Library.

30. Memo, Hughes to Acting SECSTATE, "Bosch Overthrown in Dominican Republic," 25 Sep 1963, Domrep Cables 9/25/63, Box 6667, NSF Countries Series, JFK Library.

Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Retired)
Director, United States Marine Corps Historical Center

(All rights reserved by BGEN Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret.)

I did serve in the Dominican Republic during these troubled times so I will be speaking as such as a participant as well as a military historian. I ask you to note that the title of my remarks is "A Marine's View of the Dominican Intervention." It is just that, "A Marine's View . . . ." It most certainly is-not the 'Marine Corps' official view of the intervention.

The course or events leading up to the intervention of 1965 really began with the assassination of Generalissimo Rafael Loeonidas Trujillo Molina.

Some Dominican accounts link me to the assassination. It was said that I provided U.S.-made M-1 carbines to the assassins. The truth is that I was in Washington, D.C., at the time of the killing. If anything, I was sympathetic toward Trujillo whose virtues, in my opinion, outweighed his vices. On leaving the Dominican Republic I had been ordered to turn over certain equipment of the office of the Naval Attaché, including as I remember four carbines, to another agency. I later heard that they had been given to a dissident group. If so, the gift was purely symbolic because the dissidents had readily available San Cristobal submachine guns which were at least as good as our carbines.

As was said in my introduction, I went to the Dominican Republic in August 1959 as Naval Attaché. My rank was lieutenant colonel. My qualifications were a year of college Spanish and a burning curiosity as to this fellow Rafael Trujillo who was dictator. I had known numbers of senior Marine Corps officers who had served in the Dominican Republic during the U.S. occupation of 1916 to 1924. Now I would have a chance to see for myself and make my own judgments.

On 20 August 1960 the organization of American States voted to break diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic. Six days later the U.S. Embassy staff got ready to come home.

I am afraid I overstayed my welcome because by the 18th or 19th of September Radio Caribe and the local press were making remarks about my continued presence. The Foreign Minister called in the British Ambassador, who was representing our diplomatic affairs, and suggested tactfully that it was time for me to leave and not to come back. Accordingly, on 20 September I left for Puerto Rico where I set up my office in exile, so to speak.

The-past history of the Dominican Republic had been most stormy. Since gaining its independence from Haiti in 1844, it had alternated between dictatorships and other more permissive forms of government. It had 26 constitutions, all different. As I have mentioned, the country was occupied by the U.S. Marines from 1916 to 1924, and, actually, it was as a marine-trained Guardia officer that Trujillo had gotten his start.

After the Marines left, the country was run for six years by a weak but liberal government. Then in 1930, General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo had taken over and he had been running the country ever since. The question I was being asked was, how long could Trujillo last? He was getting old. on 26 October 1960 he had his 69th birthday. There were rumors about his health. One week it would be cancer. The next week it would be his heart.

He was confronted with the active animosity of his Caribbean neighbors. He considered his principal enemies to be Betancourt of Venezuela, Castro of Cuba, and Munoz Marin of Puerto Rico. The OAS acts of censure had grown out of charges that Trujillo had aided and abetted an assassination attempt against Betancourt. I can assure you that those charges were well founded. To my personal knowledge two radio-controlled car bombs were tested on the Generalissimo's estancia at San Cristobal. He watched the tests himself and saw two cars blown up with his approval, a third bomb was sent to Venezuela.

That was not a nice thing to do. On the other hand, Betancourt had been involved in a Cuba-based invasion of the Dominican Republic the year before. This had been a small-scale air-sea operation. On 14 June 1959, two months before my arrival, a C-46 had landed 45 guerrillas at Constanza, a mountain resort in the western part of the country, and days later small craft had landed 145 more invaders on the north coast west of Puerto Plata.

The Dominican Armed Forces reacted slowly and clumsily. Nevertheless, by 24 June, ten days after the air landing, Trujillo was able to report that the invasion had been crushed. of a count of 224 invaders, 217 were dead and seven taken prisoner. The invaders had been a mixture of Cubans, Guatemalans, Dominican exiles, and two or three Americans.

Some were killed where they were encountered, hacked to pieces with machetes. others were taken as prisoners to the air base at San Isidro, eight miles northeast of Ciudad Trujillo, where they could be executed in more leisurely fashion. It was said that this was done by cadets from the military academy to put iron in their souls, rather like Stonewall Jackson having the cadets from VMI bury the dead after the battle of McDowell.

The Dominican Army was organized at that time on a geographic basis into six brigade areas. Each brigade had one to -three infantry regiments, and each regiment was roughly equivalent to an American World War II infantry battalion in terms of organization and weapons. The basic tactical and administrative unit was the company. Every town of any size had a well-built masonry barracks called a fortaleza housing one of these companies. To those of you who have worked with the organization of the South Vietnamese Army this must sound very, very familiar.

The Dominican Air Force had its major air base at San Isidro. There was also a northern base at Santiago and a southern base at Barahona. The Air Force had about 160 aircraft, 30 of which were obsolescent Vampire jet fighters. In addition to its air units, the Air Force had its own vest-pocket army consisting of an infantry regiment, an artillery group, and an armored battalion with the only tanks in the country.

The Dominican Navy had two English-built destroyers, two U.S.-built frigates, and five Canadian corvettes, all of World War II vintage. Facetiously, I could say that the primary mission of the Dominican Navy was to ensure that the presidential yachts, Angelita and Presidente Trujillo, were in good condition and ready to sail at all times.

The National Police had to be considered one of the Armed Forces. It was an effective, well-run, and respected organization, not to be confused with the secret or security police.

Certainly the most feared and hated organization in the Dominican Republic was the Servicio Inteligencia Militar or "SIM," the so-called military intelligence service. Fear of SIM pervaded the life of every Dominican whether he lived inside or outside the Dominican Republic. SIM claimed to be the most efficient intelligence service in the Caribbean. At least it had demonstrated its capability of carrying out assassinations in such diverse places as Havana, Caracas, Mexico City, and New York.

SIM agents watched all foreign embassies and were quick to use their pistols when they had reason. to suspect that visitors were about to seek political asylum. That summer of 1960 we called Avenida Maximo Gomez, the street on which several of the embassies were located, the "shooting gallery" because there were almost daily instances of persons trying to get into embassies and getting gunned down.

There was also a Foreign Legion of sorts, consisting of six light infantry battalions. Originally it was planned to recruit an anti-Communist legion amongst professionals in Europe. Instead of getting high-class freedom fighters what was recruited was low-class riff-raff of the Mediterranean. After a series of imprisonments, mutinies, and so forth, the ranks were filled up with Cuban émigrés and Dominican volunteers. Most of the Legion was kept up on the Haitian frontier.

All in all, there were some 25 to 30 thousand persons in the Dominican armed forces.

The era of Trujillo should have come to an end at about 10:15 the night of 30 May 1961. At that moment he was driving alone, except for his chauffeur, from Ciudad Trujillo to San Cristobal. The 70-year-old Generalissimo had a pressing engagement with his current mistress, but he didn't get to keep the date. He was ambushed in Chicago gangland style just outside the city.

His older son, General Rafael Trujillo, Jr., better known as Ramfis and best known here as the playmate of Zsa Zsa Gabor and Kim Novak, flew back from Paris in a chartered Air France jet and took over as the head of the Dominican Armed Forces. This made his the real head of the Dominican government. There was also a president - Joaquin Balaguer - who was useful for making speeches. otherwise no one paid much attention to him.

Ramfis revenged the death of his father in a most horrific way. There were hundreds of arrests, much torturing, and dozens of deaths, some of then by Ramfis' own hand. Despite this, Ramfis was able to charm a considerable element of the U.S. government including some of the in-place members of the U.S. consulate, who were all new since the assassination.

Indeed, for awhile it looked as though Ramfis intended to lead his country toward a more liberal government. At least he was willing to liquidate a significant part of the Trujillo financial expire (estimated at $800 million) in order to save the rest.

I was one of those who could not believe that the leopard had changed his spots. On the Ist of September 1961 1 was ordered to return to the Dominican Republic, ostensibly to see if there was a basis for the resumption of more normal military relationships. Nominally, I was on the staff of consul general, John Calvin Hill, Jr., a career Foreign Service officer who incidentally was a 1961 graduate of the National War College. Actually, I had been sent down to see if there was an element in the leadership of the armed forces which could be depended upon to act as a counterforce if Ramfis moved too far to the left or right of his announced course of direction.

While I got equivocal promises from a number of military leaders, the one person who made a clear commitment to act was Brigadier General Rafael Rodriguez Echavarria, a rated pilot and the commander of the northern air base at Barahona.

By the first of November I had picked up indications that Ramfis was about to pull out for Europe. He was going to turn over the Armed Forces to his good friend and drinking companion, 33-year-old Major General Fernando A. Sanchez, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Two other players were two of Ramfis' uncles, Hector and Arismendi. Hector had been the president of the Republic until his resignation in 1960 and he had a fairly good reputation, but he seems to have wanted to revenge his brother's death. Arismendi was better known as "Petan" and he was a real piece of work. He looked, dressed, and acted like Mussolini. He commanded his own private army, "Los Cocuyos de la Cordillera," which is to say "The Fireflies of the Mountains." Earlier, under pressure from our government, the brothers had left the country in the yacht Presidente Trujillo for what was to be an extended vacation in Europe. Instead, they had stayed in the Caribbean, and on the 15th of November with Ramfis' consent they had returned to the Republic.

Another player I should mention is Maximo Lopez Molina, a confirmed Communist, who was permitted to come into the country to organize the Castro-oriented Movimiento Popular Dominicano - MPD.

The 18th of November was a Saturday and I had spent the afternoon at the Hotel El Embajador swimming pool. An American news journalist had introduced me to Juan Bosch, a longtime exile who was well known throughout Latin America as an intellectual and a writer, who had just been permitted to return to the Republic. My chief impressions of Juan Bosch were his crisp white hair and his very bright blue eyes. The three of us were having drinks together on the terrace of the pool when, at about five o'clock, I received a telephone call summoning me to the consulate general.

At the consulate Mr. Hill told me that the yacht Angelita had sailed with Ramfis on board and the announcement of his resignation and departure from the country was about to be made public. There were rumors of a general officers meeting at San Isidro. He asked that I go out to the air base to see if I could learn what was going on.

I telephoned the air base and made an appointment to see Fernando Sanchez, whom you will remember, we suspected of being Ramfis' replacement as head of the Armed Forces. That night was a long night and many things happened. Rodriguez Echavarria was amongst the generals gathered at the air base and, getting me aside for a brief moment, he asked that I keep talking until he could get back to Santiago. Without going into details, it is enough to say that Sanchez got the message that when morning came he would see a sizable demonstration of U.S. naval power in front of Ciudad Trujillo and that because of this he might want to modify his plans for the immediate future.

When morning came the Navy was as good as its promise. There in full view steamed the cruiser Little Rock and three destroyers. This was the beginning of Operation Sea Gull, a naval demonstration which was later extended to other Dominican ports. Vice Admiral John M. Taylor, commander of the Second Fleet, was in the Little Rock as Commander, Naval Task Force 123.

We had no decent radio communications with the Little Rock. I was dependent on MARS amateur radio that the Marine Security Guard had in the embassy. So we had to talk in the clear. Earlier I had been flown out to the Little Rock to meet Admiral Taylor. (I'm the first Marine Lieutenant Colonel ever to have commanded the Second Fleet.) We arranged on three code words; we arranged on "Sea Gull" for the overall operation. For the aerial demonstration, depending upon circumstances, we would use "Wave High," if they were not to penetrate the territorial waters of the Dominican Republic, or "Grass Cutter," if they were to come in closer. We would call for these over MARS. Thus if the message were intercepted, it would not be understood.

The rest of the task force was not yet in sight but it included an Amphibious Group with an embarked Marine expeditionary unit and a Striking and Covering Group that included the big carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Morning also brought bombing and strafing attacks mounted from Santiago Air Base by Rodriguez Echavarria against the army garrison at Fortaleza Ozama in the port area of Ciudad Trujillo and against the air base at San Isidro. These attacks, plus the very visible presence of the U.S. Navy, convinced Sanchez and the two wicked uncles, Hector and Petan, that their conspiracy had no future. They met with President Balaguer at the National Palace at 11 o'clock in the morning in the presence of Mr. Hill to negotiate a safe exit from the country.

Various and sundry other events took place that afternoon, including a most dramatic aerial demonstration flown just offshore by Marine Attack Squadron 224 flying Douglas A4-D Skyhawks. They came over at precisely three o'clock and extinguished any last lingering doubts as to whether the United States meant business. Now, we called for "Wave High" but with their enthusiasm they may have gotten a little closer. There were the front-page pictures all over the United States, and most particularly in the New York Times, showing the planes just behind the palm trees along the waterfront. And this caused consternation. Had these Marines invaded the territorial waters of the Dominican Republic? But, I was able to explain that this was distortion caused by telephoto lens.

A chartered Pan American plane was brought into the International Airport and at midnight took Sanchez, the uncles, and other assorted Trujillos off to gilded exile.

Monday, 20 November, was marked by the looting of Trujillo properties and the knocking over of the multitudinous Trujillo statues and monuments throughout the country.

On 22 November, Rodriguez Echavarria was promoted by Balaguer to major general and made Secretary of the Armed Forces. He gave me his brigadier general's insignia as a souvenir of the occasion.

But the holiday spirit did not long prevail. Both President Balaguer and General Rodriguez Echavarria had handled themselves very well in the crisis, but their popularity was brief and transitory. Balaguer was contaminated in the public mind because of his long association with the Trujillo regime. Echavarria was suspected of having ambitions of becoming a military dictator. There is a great deal of personalissimo in all of these things. something we don't always understand when we deal with these things. These are not necessarily one government entity and another government entity; but a lot of personalissimo. I had relationships with Rodriguez Echavarria during this period that were as close as relationships could be.

There were three important political parties in opposition to the Balaguer government. The Union Civica Nacional (UCN) or National Civic ' Union was the largest. UCN was headed by Dr. Viriato Fiallo and included most of the so-called "best people" of the Republic. The Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD) or Dominican Revolutionary Party was the next strongest. Its leader was Juan Bosch. The Catorce do Junio (14th of June) was politically the farthest to the left of the three parties. It took its name from the date of the abortive anti-Trujillo invasion - 14 June 1959. It was not necessarily Communist, but it was anti-U.S. and pro-Castro.

The one thing that the various parties had in common was their opposition to Balaguer. Political negotiations broke down and on 28 November there was a general strike which lasted 12 days. Negotiations then resumed. It was generally agreed that there would be some sort of junta to act as a caretaker government until free and open elections could be held.

Meanwhile the temper of the crowds in the street grew more ugly, aggravated by the strike and manipulated by Castro-Communist elements operating under the banner of Catorce de Junio. The same persons who had cheered the Navy show of force now denounced the continued offshore presence of the few American destroyers as Yankee imperialism and intervention. On the 13th of December the visa office of the U.S. Consulate was sacked by a mob and forced to close.

On 17 December, Balaguer announced agreement on the creation of a seven-man Council of State. Membership came almost entirely from Union-Civica Nacional as both the PRD and Catorce de Junio chose to stay out of the government. Two days later the last remaining U.S. destroyer sailed away and Operation sea Gull came to a close. On 1 January 1961, the Council of State was sworn in with Balaguer continuing as president. Rafael F. Bonelly of the UCN was vice president and was to take over as president once the OAS sanctions were lifted. The OAS quickly met and on 4 January voted to resume diplomatic relations and to lift sanctions. I left the Republic by 5 January.

I wish I could say that the installation of the Consejo de Estado brought things to a happy ending, but such was not the case. The Council was scarcely in office before it demanded the immediate resignation of Balaguer and censured Echavarria. Echavarria in turn demanded that the UCN stop inciting the people against him. Instead, the UCN scheduled a mass meeting in Parque Independencia, the Lafayette Square of the Dominican Republic, on 16 January. Echavarria moved tanks and infantry into the square to break up the meeting. In the ensuing melee, four civilians were killed and 19 or more wounded. As an aftermath, Balaguer resigned and Echavarria substituted his own military-civilian junta for the Council of State. Without U.S. support, Echavarria's position was untenable and he knew it. He did not resist when two days later a group of his own Air Force officers arrested him and restored the Council of State. Echavarria was allowed to go to Puerto Rico, and then, with a little help from me, to New York City where he went into the dress-making business.

Balaguer, after resigning on 18 January, took refuge in the residence of the papal nuncio and was given safe conduct to Puerto Rico. Bonelly had become president but it was soon apparent that Donald Reid Cabral, an American-educated car dealer, was the real power in the council. U.S. economic aid was a disappointment to the provisional government and public disorders, street riots, and sabotage marked the year. General elections were held on 20 December and to no one's surprise Juan Bosch of the PRD overwhelmingly defeated Viriato Fiallo of the UCN.

As a pledge of U.S. support, Vice President Lyndon Johnson was in attendance at Bosch's inauguration on 27 February. Bosch was inept as a president as you have heard. In addition to his domestic problems there was a near-war with neighboring Haiti. on 25 September 1963, he was deposed in a coup headed by Brigadier General Elias Wessin y Wessin and supported by conservative elements. To give the new government a civilian facade, a civil triumvirate was formed. Bosch was briefly imprisoned and then deported on board the Dominican frigate Mella.

Bosch's overthrow caused consternation in Washington. As a small part of the action, I was sent to New York to talk with Rodriguez Echavarria and then, on the first of November, down to the Dominican Republic to talk to the military. At the request of the Dominican generals, I met with two of the three members of the triumvirate and gave them the terms under which the U.S. would recognize their government, chiefly that free elections would be quickly held.

In December 1963, President Johnson recognized the military-imposed government with the understanding that elections would be held in 1965.

The members of the triumvirate resigned in rapid succession and amongst the new members Donald Reid Cabral emerged as the head of the government. From the right, Reid Cabral was increasingly opposed by conservative elements including senior officers of the armed forces, the urban upper classes, and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. On the left, Bosch's PRD still has a strong following amongst the lover classes and certain elements of the armed forces. By early in 1965, intelligence was reporting that at least two separate groups were planning coups.

On 23 April 1965, Ambassador William Taplett Bennett, Jr., left for Georgia to visit his mother en route to Washington where he was to brief the State Department on the Dominican situation. Eleven of the 13 officers of the U.S. Military Assistance Group were in Panama for a regional MAAG conference.

On Saturday, 24 April 1965, a faction in the Dominican Army revolted, seeking to re-install Juan Bosch, who was waiting in Puerto Rico. The rebellious troops passed out thousands of guns to the crowds in the street.

The police, remaining loyal to Reid Cabral, were able to clear the streets by late afternoon and impose a curfew. In addition to the police Reid Cabral had perhaps 500 troops in the city he could depend upon. About 1,200 soldiers, mainly from the 16th of August camp outside the city, were supporting the "rebellion." Wessin y Wessin, who controlled the Air Force's pocket army (which is another word for the Armed Forces Training Center) of infantry, armor, and artillery, numbering about 1,750, at San Isidro, turned down Reid's request for help. The bulk of the Dominican Army, some 18,300 officers and men, was not really involved.

Reid Cabral asked the then-U.S. Naval Attaché, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Heywood, who had been in the eastern part of the country on a shooting trip with Brigadier General Antonio lmbert Barreras, one of the two surviving Trujillo assassins, if the United States would intervene.

Late that day, 24 April, word reached the Ready Amphibious Task Group, anchored south of Puerto Rico's Vieques Island with the 6th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked, that a communist-inspired coup was underway in Santo Domingo. Orders were to-take station off the southern coast of the troubled republic, hull-down, but prepared to move in to evacuate up to 1,200 U.S. citizens.

By 0200, Sunday, 25 April, the task group was off Haina, the sugar port and small naval base just west of Santo Domingo city. The 6th MEU included Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 3/6 and Medium Helicopter Squadron 264. In all, the 6th MEU had 1,702 Marines. Fixed-wing support would be based in Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.

By this time (early -morning hours, 25 April) the so-called "rebels" had gained substantial control of downtown Santo Domingo. I think it is romantic to call them "rebels." The word should be "rabble" - "r-a-b-b-l-e." This was a street mob, comparable to Noriega's Dignity Battalions and the looters of Panama City. The loyalists had been pushed out of the National Palace and Donald Reid Cabral had quit as president. As a kind of last official act, he had made Wessin y Wessin the chief of the armed forces and thus the de facto head of the government. The estimated number of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals to be evacuated had grown to three thousand.

Rumors were rife that Juan Bosch was about to return. On that same, Sunday, the Dominican Air Force strafed the rebellious Army camps around Santo Domingo and with Dominican Navy help (a few shells tossed into the city) attacked the National Palace.

On Monday, 26 April, the Ready Group was 30 miles off the Dominican coast, out of sight. At this point Wessin y Wessin asked for U.S. intervention. Washington, not wanting to seem to be supporting an unpopular regime, instructed the Embassy to stay neutral, obtain a ceasefire, and begin evacuating U.S. citizens.

At daylight on the 27th, a command group from the 6th MEU made a helicopter reconnaissance of the Haina port area. During the morning a message reached the Boxer that Ambassador Bennett was arriving by jet at the Punta Caucedo International Airport outside Santa Domingo. Colonel George Daughtry, commander of the 6th MEU, and Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Kleppsattel, CO of the embarked helicopter squadron, vent to the airport by helicopter and found the operations tower unmanned. Kleppsattel took over the transmitter and talked the jet-in. Ambassador Bennett-was indeed on board. He was whisked by helicopter to the Boxer. Here he met with Commodore James A. Dare, commander of the Caribbean Ready Group, and was briefed on the situation ashore and impending evacuation operations before being taken by helicopter to his Embassy. By noon orders were received from Commander in Chief, Atlantic (CINCLANT) to begin evacuation operations with San Juan, Puerto Rico, designated as a safe haven.

Evacuation began at 1300, 27 April. Persons wishing to be evacuated had gathered at the Hotel Ambassador and were to be moved by truck and bus to Haina. While they were waiting a band of hooligans briefly terrorized then by firing weapons over their heads. A polo field, once used by the Trujillos and which I had scouted years before, offered an elegant helicopter landing zone. 1,712 persons were taken on board Navy ships that first day.

When Ambassador Bennett got back to his Embassy in downtown Santo Domingo on Tuesday, 27 April, he found it receiving sporadic sniper fire. Security of the Embassy was in the hands of an eight-man marine security guard and 36 Dominican National Policemen.

That same day, when efforts to negotiate a ceasefire failed, Nessin y Wessin sent his troops into the city behind a rocket and strafing attack by the Dominican Air Force. A confused battle raged in the streets. Hundreds were reported killed and wounded. it was widely believed that Bosch's PRD had lost control of the street gangs to the Castro-oriented MPD. Ambassador Bennett asked for a show of force.

Next morning, Wednesday, 28 April, with the streets of Santo Domingo again filled with demonstrators, the National Police announced they no longer could guarantee the security of either the evacuation site or the Embassy. Accordingly, a platoon of Marines-was put in by helicopters at both places.

In the absence of a legitimate government and at the urging of the U.S. Embassy, Wessin y Wessin had announced the formation of a military junta with Colonel Pedro Benoit as president. One of Benoit's first actions was to ask the Embassy to land 1,200 Marines to "help restore peace in this country." Late that afternoon, 28 April, Bennett asked Washington to land the Marines to ensure the safety of the evacuees and to reinforce the Marine guard at the Embassy, "something short of what Benoit had requested."

At 6 p.m. President Johnson authorized the landing of 500 Marines. Within two hours, two rifle companies and the battalion headquarters, a total of 536 Marines, had arrived at the Embajador landing zone. That evening 684 more civilians were evacuated from the hotel and on the following day some 516 more were whisked away.

CINCLANT'S Joint Task Force (JTF) 122 had been established for just such contingencies. CINCLANT activated JTF-122 on 28 April under command of Vice Admiral Kleber S. Masterson. Masterson and his deputy, Marine Major General Rathvon M. Tompkins, flew to Ramey Air Force Base early on the 29th. Here they boarded the destroyer Leahy for a fast trip to the Boxer where Admiral Masterson broke out his flag. However, very little authority was delegated to him. The decision-making process was firmly concentrated in the White House and the State Department. The Chairman of the JCS was the only uniformed person in the President's immediate decision-making group. The primary source of information was Ambassador Bennett.

Early in the afternoon, Thursday, 29 April, the U.S. Embassy came under heavy small-arms fire. Colonel Daughtry and Captain Dare went to the Embassy to confer with Ambassador Bennett. From Washington came word that the organization of American States was considering an International Safety Zone. The JCS ordered the rest of the marines to land at Haina at 5:50 p.m. By nightfall all of BIT 3/6 - some 1,500 Marines - was ashore.

The 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne, began landing in C-130s at 2:30 a.m. on Friday, 30 April. The control tower there was unmanned after dark and a Navy aviator and two Marine officers rushed there by helicopter to turn on the lights and talk down the planes.

The operation plan for 30 April called for the 3d Battalion, 6th Marines, to move east from the polo field to a north-south line just beyond tfie U.S. Embassy so as to establish the International Safety Zone agreed to by the OAS. The 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne, was to come in from San Isidro as far as the vital Duarte Bridge over the Rio Ozama. The loyalists, relieved at the bridge, were to go forward and patrol the center of the city. All parts of the plan worked except the last. Instead of going forward, the loyalists fell back to San Isidro, where a three-cornered negotiation for a cease-fire was taking place.

Next morning, I May, the Marines and Airborne pushed forward their patrols and linked up in the center of the city shortly before noon. Then they got orders from the negotiators to withdraw to their original positions.

Lieutenant General Bruce Palmer, USA, arrived at San Isidro the morning of I May concurrently with the 2d Brigade, 82d Airborne and took over command of all U.S. ground forces. Other arrivals that day at San Isidro were the air-lifted BLT 1/6 and Marine Brigadier General John H. Bouker as Commanding General, 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade. A five-man peace commission from the OAS also arrived.

The Marines and Airborne were now permitted to link up once again, which they did shortly before midnight on 3 May. Later on a third BIT, 1/8, arrived at San Isidro by air, and BIT 1/2 arrived offshore on board the LPH Okinawa to serve as floating reserve.

On 6 May, after bitter debate, the OAS voted to create an Inter-American Peace Force. On 7 May, Brigadier General Tony Imbert, whom we met before, took over as head of the San Isidro group. He energized the languid loyalist effort and began the cleanup of the remaining pockets of disorder in the old part of the city.

On 25 May the first contingent of Brazilians arrived. On 26 May the Marines began to withdrawn. Last elements had gone by 6 June and the Dominican intervention, as far as the Marines were concerned, was over. With three battalion landing teams ashore and one afloat, Marine strength had peaked at about 8,000. Marine casualties had been nine killed and 30 wounded, about one-third of the total American casualties.

There seems to be no exact final count of the number of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals evacuated. Major Greenberg states that 5,000 persons were evacuated by mid-September, half of whom were Americans. Perhaps so, but I think this figure is high. many Dominicans claim dual citizenship by virtue of Puerto Rican family ties and for some at least the evacuation was a U.S.-paid vacation.

I aim one of those who would say that the threat of a communist takeover was never as great as assumed by President Johnson and that the amount of U.S. force sent ashore went far beyond that required. I also believe that the Dominican situation was exploited as a laboratory opportunity for testing the respective strategic mobility systems of Navy-Marine Corps amphibious forces and the Army-Air Force airborne forces. There was a great deal of hyperbole and theater in the whole affair, both militarily and politically.

Hostilities never really spread beyond downtown Santo Domingo. The countryside remained quiet. The Dominican Army, as such, stayed out of the struggle. I have not yet seen a believable estimate of the total number of Dominican belligerents nor Dominican casualties. Major Greenberg accepts the figure of 3, 000 Dominicans killed; I find this incredible. I think the total would be closer to 300.

General David M. Shoup, Commandant of the Marine Corps from 1960 through 1964, later wrote, that "only a fraction of the force was needed or justified. A small 1935-model Marine landing force could probably have handled the situation."

Both before and after Trujillo's assassination in May 1961, ship's visits and a showing of the flag had helped keep a highly inflammable situation from bursting into a conflagration. In November 1961, when civil war did threaten, an adroit amphibious demonstration dampened it down. Similar actions were effective in 1963, but in April 1965 the situation got out of hand.

Major Lawrence M. Greenberg, U.S. Army
Defense Intelligence Agency

Just before 0200 on 30 April 1965, two battalions of paratroopers from the 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, under the command of Major General Robert York, landed at San Isidro Airfield in the Dominican Republic. Ten miles to the east, the beleaguered capital of Santo Domingo was in the grip of a violent civil war that erupted unexpectedly just six days before, leaving American diplomats and military advisors surprised by its level of violence and bloodshed.1

Two Dominican Army battalions, whose officers supported the return of deposed president Juan Bosch, had entered into open revolt against the government and were joined quickly by several well organized Communist and left-wing political parties. Within 24 hours, the two rebel groups controlled most of the capital. Bosch's supporters adopted the name Constitutionalists after the 1963 constitution that was supplanted by the post-Bosch government.

The rest of the Dominican military and its supporters became known as Loyalists. After considerable delay, the Dominican military decided to fight the rebels under the command of General Elias Wessin y Wessin, a right-wing caudillo closely associated with former dictator Rafael Trujillo. Loyalists made two halfhearted attempts to reassert control, but managed to occupy only two small areas in the city.2

The division's arrival in the Dominican Republic displayed President Johnson's resolve to prevent another pro-left regime from taking power in the Caribbean. Dark and inactive just hours before, San Isidro Airfield was transformed into the center of the third armed American intervention in the Dominican Republic in the twentieth century and the first such expedition undertaken by the U.S. Army. As each Air Force C-130 transport arrived, soldiers unloaded weapons and equipment, and established a hasty security perimeter around the airfield. Within the hour, San Isidro became so overcrowded with aircraft arriving from Fort Bragg that pilots were diverted temporarily to Ramey Air Force Base on nearby Puerto Rico.3

Thus began the largest and most rapid build-up of U.S. Army forces outside the United States. During the next fourteen days, the Air Force devoted all of its transport aircraft not involved in Southeast Asia to the Dominican Republic. Landing, on average, one plane every five minutes, the Air Force delivered 14,600 soldiers and nearly 30 million pounds of equipment and emergency supplies to the island in more than 1,500 sorties.4 But the 1965 intervention did more than test American deployment capabilities. The intervention confronted the commander of U.S. forces in the Dominican Republic with new and delicate problems involving carefully orchestrated military support for diplomatic initiatives.

But I am getting ahead of the story. Three days before the division flew to San Isidro, President Johnson detailed his agenda to General Earl Wheeler, the chairman of the joint chiefs. The president wanted the situation in Santo Domingo brought under control quickly and with no doubt about American intentions to stop the violence. Even as he instructed General Wheeler to use whatever force he needed to stop the fighting, Johnson made it clear that military operations would become secondary to diplomatic considerations once the fighting stopped.5 Johnson envisioned that once the Army brought the civil war under control, its combat mission would be subordinate to State Department initiatives involving the Organization of American States. In this capacity, the military's primary mission would be to apply the right amount of pressure on the right players at the right time.

Johnson's plan required an exceptional amount of flexibility and restraint from American military commanders as well as from individual soldiers. The proposition that military actions must always support greater political and diplomatic goals was not new but, in 1965, the situation in the Dominican Republic put this theory to the test.

A six-vessel Navy task force, under the command of Vice Admiral Kleber S. Masterson, had been ordered to the area from Puerto Rico on 26 April and prepared immediately for possible evacuation of American civilians. The first evacuation took place the next day after rebels fired machine guns over the heads of Americans gathered at the Embajador Hotel. Unarmed Marines accompanied two ships and several helicopters to the port of Haina where they received the evacuees. By nightfall, 1,176 civilians, most of them Americans, were lifted safely aboard U.S. Navy warships for transport to Puerto Rico.

The next day, 28 April, another 1,000 civilians were airlifted to ships from a makeshift heliport at the Polo Grounds adjacent to the Embajador Hotel. At 1800, after being informed by the embassy that "collective madness" engulfed the city, President Johnson approved a joint chiefs' proposal to land three Marine battalions (approximately 1,700 men) in Santo Domingo. The armed Marines would be used to reinforce the area surrounding the embassy, to protect remaining American citizens, to bolster sagging Loyalist morale, and to assure American military presence on the island should the 82d Airborne Division be introduced into the foray, which it was just 31 hours later.6

Shortly after arriving on the island in the division's lead aircraft, General York boarded a Marine helicopter and met offshore with American Ambassador W. Tapley Bennett, Jr., and Vice Admiral Masterson to formulate a scheme to move the paratroopers into the heart of Santo Domingo. Together they developed a simple and straightforward plan -- divide the city by extending a line of American and loyal Dominican army forces from San Isidro Airfield, across the Duarte Bridge, to Marine positions near the embassy.7 This would provide a continuous line with paratroopers on the east, Loyalists in the center, and Marines on the west in the international security zone, the diplomatic section of Santo Domingo.

At dawn on 30 April, the 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry advanced west toward Santo Domingo and secured the Duarte Bridge, 'the only route out of the city to the east. Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion, 505th Infantry secured San Isidro as additional troops and equipment arrived from Ft. Bragg. It was during the move to Santo Domingo, when the division was confronted with the first of many unique problems it would face -- how to tell the difference between the Dominican factions.

Since both Dominican forces wore identical uniforms, a way was needed to determine who was whom. An imaginative young officer suggested that, as a temporary measure, Loyalists wear their hats sideways or backwards. As unlikely a solution as this appeared, it worked.8

Daybreak also showed local commanders how fortuitous the eleventh-hour change of plan from airdrop to air land had been. Reconnaissance patrols reported that the division's planned landing zone was covered with sharp coral outcroppings that would have inflicted heavy casualties to paratroopers. Although the entire operation was based on an approved contingency plan, CINCLANT OPLAN 310/2, no one from the American military advisory group had conducted an on-the-ground survey of this key area.9

Once York's men secured the bridge and a small strong-point in Santo Domingo the operation to divide the city fell apart. Loyalists cheered the paratroopers' arrival, picked up their equipment, and withdrew across the bridge to San Isidro Airfield. This unexpected turn of events presented York with a serious tactical problem--his defensive line lacked a center. Instead of dividing rebel forces, the Loyalist retreat left the Americans separated.

Since military necessity required a continuous defensive line, York requested permission from the joint chiefs to close the gap. To his surprise, the answer was an emphatic no. Presidential advisors, particularly former Ambassador John B. Martin, feared another overt military move would jeopardize ongoing negotiations at the OAS where anti-American debates quickly followed the division's unannounced arrival on the 30th.10

General York experienced the first of many decisions that demonstrated how Johnson intended to use the Army. Although he wanted the rebellion ended quickly, military initiatives would be subordinated to diplomatic considerations. This point was reinforced again at the height of the build-up on the first day when, in response to an embassy request, General Wheeler ordered humanitarian supplies flown to the island ahead of scheduled combat troops.11

Chart 3 - Organization, Inter-American peace Force

That same day, 30 April, General Wheeler responded to the President's order to got "the best General in the Pentagon" to Santo Domingo. That afternoon Wheeler named Lieutenant General Bruce Palmer, Jr., Army ground force commander. (Chart 1) Before he arrived in the Dominican Republic at midnight, General Wheeler briefed Palmer on the absolute necessity to work hand-in-hand with Ambassador Bennett, and promised Palmer additional forces if he needed them to stop the rebellion.12 After assuming overall command from General York, Palmer requested permission to close the gap in his lines. Like York, Palmer was told that the operation would have to wait while negotiations on an OAS-sponsored peacekeeping force continued in Washington.13

At the Pan American Union, debate was not going well for President Johnson. He had seriously underestimated Latin reaction to the unannounced arrival of the Army in the Dominican Republic. OAS delegates were furious and subjected the United States to endless condemnation. Violent anti-American demonstrations erupted in many capitals and anti-American newspaper articles outnumbered pro-American ten to one.14 Not only had Johnson violated the non-intervention clause of the OAS charter, he had done so without consulting the OAS. President Johnson, it appears, knew the OAS would not endorse his plan and therefore chose to seek its concurrence after the fact. As a result, Latin governments rightfully felt slighted and taken advantage of. Even those governments which supported the two Marine evacuations and understood Johnson's rationale for the intervention could not accept the manner in which he did it.

Few OAS representatives were convinced when Ambassador Bunker explained that the intervention had been unannounced because there was not enough time for consultation. Even fewer were impressed when President Johnson publicly compared the situation to "another Cuba" or when the American embassy in Santo Domingo released an ill-prepared, and error-fraught, list of supposed Communist agents within the rebel movement.15 Despite their feelings, delegates saw the reality of the situation and turned their attention to finding a graceful way to reduce American military presence and to end the civil war.

On 2 May, after Ambassador Bunker reported to the president that progress was being made toward a regional peace-force, General Palmer received permission from Washington, and from an OAS committee in Santo Domingo, to close the gap in his lines. At one minute past midnight on the morning of 3 May, three infantry battalions advanced west from the Duarte Bridge and closed on the embassy compound in only one hour and eleven minutes and without serious incident.16

Chart 2 - Command Relationships, Inter-American Peace Force

The move secured a corridor that divided the city from east to west and isolated nearly 80 percent of the rebel force in the southeast portion of Santo Domingo, Ciudad Nuevo. The corridor, officially named the line of communication, was affectionately called the "All American Highway," and united Army and Marine forces. By separating the two Dominican factions, the line of communication enabled Palmer and his forces to adopt a more neutral position. As such, it started the second phase of the intervention -- unilateral American peacekeeping. In Washington, OAS delegates continued to question sponsorship of a regional force to assume peacekeeping duties in the Dominican Republic. Although such plans had been suggested prior to 1965, national sensitivities about armed intervention had always prevented the organization from establishing one. Influenced by reports from its on-site commissions and Ambassador Bunker's offer to reduce U.S. forces and provide logistic support for Latin troops sent to replace them, the Council approved the formation of an inter-American peace force on 6 May.17 This regional force would be made up from voluntary member contributions, would be under the control of the Meeting of Foreign Ministers (the organization's highest body), and would be commanded by a Latin general officer. General Palmer, the American force commander, would serve as the commander's deputy.18 (Chart 2)

While the force was being assembled, Palmer strengthened positions in Santo Domingo and established a cadre headquarters for the OAS force.19 By doing this he hoped to influence the structure of the peace force and maintain greater autonomy for U.S. forces (14,000 men in nine Army and three Marine battalions, and peaking at 21,900 men on 17 May) while at the same time placing them under formal OAS command, a situation he did not like. (Chart 3) When he expressed his apprehension to General Wheeler, he was told that, "We devised the IAF (inter-American force] concept for the purpose of giving an international cover to American military involvement in the Dominican Republic and to legitimatize our activities in world opinion by identifying them with the OAS.20

Chart 1 - Command Relationships, U.S. Forces

As Palmer laid the administrative foundation for the Inter-American Peace Force, he also paved the way for diplomatic negotiations. He accomplished this sensitive task by constantly refining the rules of engagement for his force. With the line of communication separating Loyalists and rebels, Palmer stressed restraint and neutrality. The use of force in response to rebel attacks was limited to individual and light crew-served weapons, with specific permission required before troops could respond with recoilless rifles or artillery. In fact, after American artillery fired eight illumination rounds on the first day of the intervention, it thereafter remained silent for fear of causing excessive damage and hurting the American peacekeeping mission.21 Despite these restrictions, the division prevented armed rebels from leaving their stronghold in Ciudad Nuevo and also prevented Loyalists from venturing into it.22 This was a dramatic change from the initial situation when American troops actively supported the Loyalists.

In just three weeks U.S. forces changed the complexion of the Dominican civil war. Overwhelming American military presence separated rebels from Loyalists, forced a military stalemate, and stopped the majority of the fighting. The Army had achieved the president's first and primary goal--to prevent the possibility of another Castro-style regime in the Americas, thus ensuring that history would not record Johnson as the president who lost the Dominican Republic to Communism.

To accomplish this, however, the president paid a high cost. The unilateral intervention destroyed Latin trust in the post-war U.S. policy of military non-intervention in the hemisphere.23 With a stable situation brought about by the controlled application of a disciplined, restrained, and well-led force, the president turned his attention back to Southeast Asia. Concurrently, his advisors concentrated on soothing Latin feelings and finding a permanent, OAS-sponsored peace in Santa Domingo.

For-the next four months, while American soldiers guaranteed relative quiet in Santo Domingo and pressured the Dominican factions toward the negotiating table, the OAS and its peace force began to play a more visible role. As military contingents from six Latin American nations joined the Inter-American Peace Force in mid-May, they augmented or replaced American' troops along the line of communication and along the boundary of the international security zone and Ciudad Nuevo.24

At full complement, the Inter-American Peace Force fielded 1,600 Latin soldiers and policemen from Brazil, Honduras, Paraguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Costa Rica. As the Latin soldiers arrived, American strength was reduced gradually until it stabilized at only 6,243 men.25

In mid-June, a major rebel offensive failed to breach the line of communication held jointly by U.S. and OAS troops. Convinced of OAS solidarity and determination, rebel leaders found their only hope for concessions lay in negotiation.26Shortly thereafter, both factions entered into serious talks to find an acceptable interim government until general elections could be held.

While diplomats negotiated, American peacekeeping forces divided their time between keeping the combatants separated and providing assistance to Dominican civilians. U.S. Army doctors treated more than 58,000 Dominicans before the last American soldier left the country in the fall of 1966.27 Many OAS members, who for a variety of reasons had not offered military assistance, joined the humanitarian effort and provided food, clothing, medical supplies, and doctors.28

On 31 August, Constitutionalist and Loyalist representatives signed the OAS-proposed Acts of Reconciliation and Institutional Act. This agreement established an interim government under Hector Garcia-Godoy pending elections the following June. During the interim period, the Garcia-Godoy government worked to reunite the Dominican armed forces, restore public utilities and services, and begin economic recovery.29

As the provisional government sought to return the island to normalcy, American forces entered a third and final phase of operations. This time, General Palmer shifted emphasis from neutrality to active support for the provisional government. Before the provisional government disbanded after elections in 1966, Garcia-Godoy requested Palmer's help several times to stop outbreaks of violence in Santo Domingo, Santiago, and Barahona.30 American infantry were also used to stop an attempted coup by General Wessin y Wessin only six days after the provisional government was inaugurated.31

In June 1966, American military forces were called upon to support a final diplomatic objective. Augmenting three sets of international observers, the paratroopers monitored the election process. Despite minor irregularities, the elections were generally honest and peaceful.32 Joaquin Balaguer, representing political moderates, defeated Juan Bosch and won the presidency with more than 57 percent of the vote. Bosch, who according to General Palmer suffered from apparent cowardliness and a lack of machismo by remaining in exile during the civil war, captured, only 40 percent of the 1.3 million ballots cast.33

On 24 June 1966, exactly sixteen months after the start of the rebellion, the OAS Meeting of Foreign Ministers called for the gradual withdrawal of the peace force. Three months later, on 27 September, the last American soldier left the Dominican Republic and the 0 AS deactivated its only-ever peace force.34 The civil war had been stopped, but at a heavy cost. During the first weeks of fighting, several thousand Dominicans and 27 American servicemen were killed and another 172 wounded. Although no Latin members of the inter-American force were killed during the sixteen-month deployment, 17 were wounded.35

Although the analysis of any large military operation should consider more than military actions, the 1965 Dominican intervention requires it. In the political arena it produced wide-spread and long-lasting results. President Johnson's decision to reintroduce military intervention to American foreign policy damaged political relationships across the hemisphere. Within the Organization of American States, the unilateral intervention nullified gains made by Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy and Kennedy's Alliance for Progress. once again the United States was viewed with increased caution and mistrust by Latin neighbors. Within the American government, Johnson's unannounced military action opened deep cleavages between the president and Congress on matters of foreign policy. Ideological debates spawned by the 1965 intervention continued long after the 82d Airborne Division returned to Fort Bragg, and eventually encompassed American involvement in the war in Vietnam.

While demonstrating little regard for Latin sensitivities or even the OAS charter, Johnson clearly sought Latin participation in negotiating a settlement to the civil war. Immediately after the Army stabilized the situation in Santo Domingo, the president down-played military action and sought diplomatic assistance from the OAS. To reach his objectives; prevent Communist expansion, protect lives, and calm a destabilizing situation in the hemisphere; Johnson employed the Army as a means to support diplomatic initiatives, not as a solution.

At each stage of the intervention, General Palmer vas called upon to perform different missions, each tailored to support changing diplomatic initiatives. To accomplish this, Palmer modified his rules of engagement and relied on disciplined and well-led American soldiers to reduce tensions and to promote tranquility. By providing American diplomats with this type of flexible military support, General Palmer and the men of the 82d Airborne Division stopped the bloodshed and helped promote a negotiated settlement in the Dominican Republic. In a speech delivered in the fall of 1966, Palmer summarized the situation: "The solution of the problems of a nation do not necessarily lie in the defeat of a specific political faction.... Thus, our military task in stability or national development operations may often be to control opposing factions and bring about an atmosphere of tranquility and stability."36


1. On 4 April 1965, when the rebellion erupted, the American ambassador had just returned to the United States to visit his mother and all but two members of the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group had gone to Panama for a routine meeting. Herbert G. Schoonmaker, "U.S. Forces in the Dominican Crisis of 1965,11 doctoral dissertation (Athens: University of Georgia, 1977), p. 21.

2. One force from the Armed Forces Training Center at San Isidro secured an area west of the Duarte Bridge, while a battalion from Camp Mella fought its way into western Santo Domingo. Despite these initial gains, the two forces stopped fighting and did not attempt to combine or enlarge their territory. Center for Strategic Studies, Dominican Action -- 1965: Intervention or Cooperation (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University, Jul 66), p 27; Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "Chronology of the Crisis in the Dominican Republic" (Washington, D.C.: Historical Division, Joint Secretariat, 30 Sep 66), p. 14.

3. Department of the Army, Office of the Chief of Staff, "Stability operations Dominican Republic," pt.2, Vol. IV (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 28 Jun 71) p. 93.

4. Department of the Army, "Stability Operations," p. 42; "The Dominican Intervention 1965" (Carlisle Barracks, Penn.: U.S. Army War College, 1984), p. 9.

5. Speech, General Bruce Palmer, Jr., for AUSA meeting, 11 Oct 66, Washington, D.C., sub: US Stability Operations in the Dominican Republic, in Palmer private papers.

6. Msg, State to Bennett, AMEMBASSY Santo Domingo, 281313Z Apr 65, NSC History; Memo, State Dept, 28 Apr 65, in Bennett personal papers, box 4416 83D358.

7. R. McC. Tompkins, "Ubique," USMC Gazette 49 (Sep 65): 34.

8. Eldredge R. Long, Jr., "The Dominican Crisis 1965: An Experiment in International Peace Keeping," student thesis (Newport, R.I.: U.S. Naval War College, 1967), p. 35.

9. The proposed landing-zone was covered with tall grass and, although members of the American Military Assistance Advisory Group photographed it from a nearby road, they never walked the ground. Department of the Army, "Stability operations Dominican Republic,", pp. 90-91; Palmer speech, 11 Oct 66; Edward E. Mayer, "The Dominican Crisis -- 1965" student thesis (Carlisle Barracks, Penn.: U.S. Army War College, 8 Apr 66), p. 32.

10. Yale H. Ferguson, "The Dominican Intervention of 1965: Recent Interpretations," International Organization 27 (Autumn 1973): 530.

11. List of Assignments, U.S. State Dept, 1 May 65, NSC History, p. 3.

12. Although it was never deployed to the island, the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, was placed on alert during the first week of the intervention by the JCS as backup for the 82d Airborne. Oral history, Gen. Bruce Palmer, Jr., Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pa.

13. U.S.ForCes, Dominican Republic, "Report of Stability Operations" (Santa Domingo: HQ, USFORDOMREP, 31 Aug 65), encl. 4 to ch. 4, p. 9.

14. Duty Log, State Dept, 6 May 65, NSC History.

15. On CIA Director Raborn's order, the embassy released two lists to the press. The lists named fifty-eight Communists or communist-supporters within the rebel movement. Unfortunately, the lists which had been compiled hastily were filled with errors that the press was quick to publicize. Five names were duplicated and several others were only loosely associated with any Communist movement or activity. Working paper, U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo, sub: Communists Identified as Working in Rebel Movement, in Bennett personal papers, box 4416 83D358.

16. USFORDOMREP, "Report of Stability operations," p. 9.

17. Action Memo, White House for Bundy, 6 May 65, sub: Committee Meeting, Dominican Republic Task Force, NSC History, p. 2.

18. Resolution, OAS Tenth MM, sub: Inter-American Force, doc. 39, rev. 2 (Washington,, D.C.: Pan American Union, 6 May 65),, pp. 1-2; Luis Iturralde Chinel, La O.E.A. y la Revolucion Dominicana. (Washington, D.C.: Union Panamericana, 1967), p. 59.

19. Oral History, Gen Bruce Palmer, Jr.

20. Msg, CINCLANT to JCS, 271832Z Nay 65, and Nsg, JCS 2997 to CINCLANT and USCOMDOMREP, 27 May 65, file: CJCS 091 Dominican Republic, Historical Records Division, Joint Secretariat, Washington, D.C.

21. At times this proved frustrating for American soldiers subject to sniper attack. Soon after they entered the city, they discovered that the 57mm Light Anti-Tank Weapon (IAW), and both the 90mm and 106mm recoilless rifles were excellent anti-sniper weapons, although they did cause considerable damage in urban areas. One 106mm recoilless rifle crew also found a completely new application for the anti-tank weapon -- anti-ship. After receiving permission to return fire on a rebel gun boat that shelled their position with mortar fire, the 106mm crew sank the of ender with a single round. Long, "The Dominican Crisis" p. 41

22. After the situation became stable, Palmer established more than ten checkpoints through which unarmed civilians and military personnel were allowed to pass. This not only soothed tensions in the city, it demonstrated American control and confidence. Palmer speech, 11 Oct 65.

23. Lyndon B. Johnson, The Vantage Point (New York: Holt, Rinehart are Winston, 1971), p. 198.

24. USFORDOMREP, "Report of Stability operations," p. 14.

25. Brazil contributed the largest Latin contingent, an entire infantry battalion (1,130 men) and was the only Latin nation to provided its own logistic support. The other five Latin nations provided soldiers or police, but most arrived in the Dominican Republic with little else than what they were wearing. Not surprisingly, this placed additional demands on General Palmer, who was not overjoyed at their arrival. MFM Resolution, "Inter-American Force," p. 26; "Statement and Diplomatic Notes of Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker to Tenth Meeting of Consultation of Foreign Ministers of the American Republics," U.S. State Dept Bulletin 52 (7 Jun 65): 912.

26. Although there had been several small and unorganized rebel attempts to force their way out of Ciudad Nuevo, the mid-June attempt was well orchestrated and a deliberate rebel military operation. Msg, AMEMBASSY Santo Domingo to SECSTATE 2422, 15 Jun 65, 2:15 P.M., in Bennett personal papers, box 4417 83D358; Chronology, U.S. Department of State, NSC.

27. The last American to leave the Dominican Republic was Brig. Gen. Robert R. Linvill who replaced General Palmer as commander of American forces and IAPF's deputy commander in January 1966. Memo, Palmer to Bunker, 27 Nov 65, sub: Support for Provisional Government, in personal papers of Amb. Ellsworth Bunker, box 14384 67D291; Ltr, Garcia-Godoy to Comision de la OEA, 7 Jan 66, in Bunker personal papers, box 14383 67D291.

28. Msg, Acting Director of OAS Secretariat Services in the Dominican Republic to Secretary General of the Organization, 18 Sep 65, file OEA, ser. F/II.10, doc. 270-463, at OAS Columbus memorial Library; OAS Tenth MFM, "Second Report of the Special Committee of the Tenth Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs," doc. 81 (Washington, D.C.: Pan American Union, 2 Jun 65), pp. 17-20.

29. OAS Tenth MFM, "Act of Dominican Reconciliation and institutional Act," doc. 363 (Washington, D.C.: Pan American Union, 7 Sep 65), in OAS Columbus Memorial Library, file OEA, ser. F/II.10, doc. 270-463.

30. In both Santiago and Barahona, American forces inserted themselves between Loyalist and rebel factions and stopped the, fighting through a show of strength and resolve. Palmer speech, 11 Oct 66; XVIII Airborne Corps, "Stability Operations Report," P. I-1.

31. Following the attempted coup, General Wessin y Wessin was removed from the Dominican Army, named the Dominican Counsel General to the United States, and forcibly placed aboard a plane to Miami by two armed U.S. officers. At approximately the same time, the Constitutionalist military leader, Colonel Francisco Caamano was named the Dominican Military Attaché to England and flown to London. In 1973, Colonel Caamano was killed while attempting to return to the island secretly with a small band of conspirators from Cuba. Palmer, oral history, p. 181; Memo of Daily Notes, Anb. Ellsworth Bunker, 21 Aug 65, in Bunker personal papers; Msg, AMEMBASSY London to State, 5 Apr 67, sub: Col. Caamano. in Bennett personal papers; Ltr, Chief of Dominican National Police to Representatives of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 15 Feb 66, in OAS Columbus Memorial Library, file OEA, ser. F/II.10, doc. 270-463; Bracey, Resolution of the Dominican crisis, p. 33.

32. OAS, "Report Presented by the Mission of observers to the President of the organization" (Washington, D.C.: Pan American Union, 2 Jun 66), in OAS Columbus Memorial Library, file OEA, ser. F/II.10, doc. 270-463; Memo, Bunker, 21 Jun 66, sub: members of Thomas Group, in Bunker personal papers, box 14383 67D291.

33. Palmer oral history; Johnsrud, "Was Peace Victorious?" p. 15.

34. OAS, "Resolution on the Withdrawal of the IAPF from the Territory of the Dominican Republic," doc. 461 (Washington, D.C.: Pan American Union, 27 Jun 66), and OAS Ad Hoc Committee, "Special Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Tenth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Organization of American States," 15 Sep 66, both in Bunker personal papers, box 14383 and 14384 67D291.

35. Washington Center of Foreign Political Research, National Support of International Peacekeeping and Peace Observation operations (Washington, D.C.: Johns Hopkins University, Feb 70), pp. 289-313.

36. Palmer speech, 26 Oct 66.


Dr. Theresa L. Kraus completed her BA and MA degrees in history with Catholic University and Shippensburg University in 1979 and 1980,, respectively. She was chosen as the office of Air Force History's Dissertation Fellow in U.S. Military Aerospace History for the academic year 1984-1985. In the latter year, she took the Ph.D degree at the University of Maryland, focusing in her dissertation on the establishment of U.S. Army Air Corps bases in Brazil during World War II. In May 1987, following a short tour at the U.S. Army's Center of Military History, Dr. Kraus joined the Naval Historical Center's Contemporary History Branch. During her productive years at Naval History, she prepared two forthcoming works; a monograph on the Navy and the Bay of Pigs action and a larger volume, tentatively entitled The United States Navy and the Caribbean. 1945-1963. In October of last year, Dr. Kraus joined the staff of the Military Studies Branch at the Center of Military History.

Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired) has had a long and distinguished career as a military and naval historian. Since 1972, General Simmons has served as the Director, Marine Corps Historical Center, and in that capacity has overseen the publication of a number of works treating Marine Corps activities in the Caribbean. The general has published several books of his own, including the highly regarded history, The United States Marines. 1775-1975 (NY: Viking Press, 1976). Further, he has been a leader among military history professionals, having served as President of the American Military Institute and as Vice President of the U.S. Commission on Military History. Less well known, but appropriate to the Dominican Republic Intervention, General Simmons was assigned to Santo Domingo from late 1959 to late 1961, serving there first as the Naval Attaché and then as the U.S. Military Liaison Officer. From 1962 to June 1965, he continued this close involvement with Caribbean affairs as a staff officer with the Strategic Plans Section, Operations Division, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps.

Major Lawrence M. Greenberg, U.S. Army, holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science from The Citadel and a master's degree in International Relations from Webster University. He was commissioned in the Army in 1971 and since then has served in armor and ordnance units and on the staffs of the Defense Nuclear Agency and the U.S. Army's Center of Military History. In 1987 Major Greenberg joined the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he currently is employed as a politico-military analyst concerned with Latin American developments. During this assignment, he has served as the primary analyst for the Caribbean and Panama. During his tour with the Center of Military History, Major Greenberg authored a number of historical monographs, including a study of the post-World War II counterinsurgency campaign against the Hukbalahap guerrillas in the Philippines and United States Army Unilateral and Coalition Operations-in the 1965 Dominican Republic Intervention.


Note: The views or opinions expressed or implied are those of the speakers alone and not those of the Department of the Navy or any other agency of the U.S. Government.


Published: Tue Aug 29 09:45:36 EDT 2017