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1965 United States occupation of the Dominican Republic: Wikis


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Operation Power Pack
Part of the Cold War
Date April 28, 1965 – September 1966
Location Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Result Ceasefire called.
Juan Bosch excluded from Presidency.
Election of Joaquín Balaguer.
 United States
Inter American Peace Force:
 Costa Rica
 El Salvador
Dominican Republic Dominican Armed Forces Training Center
Dominican Republic (SIM) Dominican Military Intelligence Service
 Dominican Republic
United States Lyndon B. Johnson
United States Gen. Robert York
Dominican Republic Col. Francisco Caamaño
42,000 U.S. Marines and Paratroopers
1,130 Brazilian soldiers
250 Honduran soldiers
184 Paraguayan soldiers
160 Nicaraguan soldiers
21 Costa Rican military police officers
3 El Salvadoran staff officers
Casualties and losses
United States:
13 killed
200+ wounded
20+ killed
500+ killed
100 captured
1,500 Dominican civilians killed

The United States Invasion of the Dominican Republic took place in 1965. The Marines landed on April 28 and were later supported by elements of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. The intervention ended in September 1966.



After a period of political instability following the assassination of long-time Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1961, candidate Juan Bosch, a founder of the anti-Trujilloist Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), was elected President in December, 1962 and inaugurated in February 1963. His left-leaning policies, including land redistribution and the nationalization of certain foreign holdings, led to a military coup seven months later by a right-wing faction of the military led by General Elías Wessin y Wessin.

Wessin controlled the Centro de Entrenamiento de las Fuerzas Armadas (Armed Forces Training Center or "CEFA"), an elite group of about 2,000 highly trained infantry. Stationed at the San Isidro Air Base, it was unlike the regular army units: it was supplied with tanks, recoilless rifles and artillery, as well as its own attack aircraft. It was a quasi-independent organization, originally established by Ramfis Trujillo, the son of the former dictator, and was formed to protect the government and keep watch over the national guard, navy and air force. Elías Wessin had stated: "The Communist doctrine, Marxist-Leninist, Castroite, or whatever it is called, is now outlawed."[1]

Subsequently, power was turned over to a civilian triumvirate. The new leaders quickly abolished the constitution, declaring it "nonexistent". The two years that followed were filled with strikes and conflicts.

Donald Reid y Cabral, who now found himself at the head of the junta, was unpopular with most of the high-ranking officers in the military for his attempt to cut back on their privileges. He suspected that some or all of these officers would try to overthrow him in the spring of 1965. Hoping to forestall a coup, Reid, on 24 April 1965, dispatched his Army Chief of Staff General Marcos Rivera to cancel the commissions of four conspirators. The four officers not only failed to surrender, but seized a military camp northwest of Santo Domingo, and captured the Chief of Staff.

Immediately the Dominican Revolutionary Party, and 14th of June Revolutionary Party put large numbers of armed civilians into the streets, resulting in the creation of unruly armed squads, known loosely as "Comandos". Well-armed bands of teenagers (Los Tigres) swarmed through Santo Domingo shooting at the police. The Dominican Popular Movement distributed Molotov cocktails to the crowds, and the rebel military established defensive positions at the Duarte Bridge.

The pro-Bosch rebels, known as "Constitutionalists" for their focus on restoring the constitutionally elected president, took to the streets, swiftly seizing the national palace and the government radio and television stations in the capital, Santo Domingo and demanding Bosch's return. Colonel Francisco Caamaño and Colonel Manuel Ramón Montes Arache were the leaders of the Constitutionalists. Reid was captured at the presidential palace by rebel forces commanded by Francisco Caamano Deno. Chief of the Armed Forces General Wessin y Wessin now stepped into Reid's vacant position and became the de facto head of state.

Bosch, still in exile in Puerto Rico, was able to convince Jose Rafael Urena, a party leader, to become the provisional president until Bosch could return to the Dominican Republic. The military loyal to the Reid junta and opposed to the Constitutionalists adopted the word Loyalist

In the days that followed, Constitutionalists clashed with internal security agents and the right-wing military elements of the CEFA. By 26 April 1965, armed civilians outnumbered the original rebel military regulars. Radio Santo Domingo, now fully under rebel control, began to call for more violent actions and for killing of all the policemen.

Both sides were heavily armed and civilians were caught in the crossfire. Washington began immediate preparations for the evacuation of its citizens and other foreign nationals who might wish to leave the Dominican Republic.

The extent of participation by "communists or Castroites", including the Dominican 14th of June Revolutionary group, has been disputed.

Constitutionalist Provisional President Molina Urena and Colonel Caamano asked the US ambassador for US intervention to stop the Dominican Air Force attacks on the Constitutionalist-held areas. The US ambassador refused. Utterly dismayed by this rejection, Molina Urena relinquished his position as Provisional President to Colonel Caamano. In San Isidro, Loyalists generals chose Air Force Colonel Pedro Bartolome Benoit to head a new Loyalist junta.

On 28 April the Dominican Air Force resumed its bombing of rebel positions in Santo Domingo and armed rebel civilians overran a police station and summarily executed the policemen. Of the 30,000 Dominican soldiers, airmen and police at the start of the civil war, General Wessin now commanded less than 2,400 troops and only 200 national police.

Initial US military action was limited to the evacuation by United States Marines of U.S. and other civilians from the city of Santo Domingo. A landing zone was established at the Hotel Embajador in central Santo Domingo for this purpose.

The Loyalists failed to regain control of Santo Domingo, and a demoralized CEFA retreated to its base at San Isidro on the east side of the Ozama River. General Wessin and the last leader of the deposed governing regime, Donald Reid - best known as "El Americano" (The American), both requested U.S. intervention.

US invasion

U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, convinced of the defeat of the Loyalist forces and fearing the creation of "a second Cuba"[2] on America's doorstep, ordered U.S. forces to restore order. The decision to intervene militarily in the Dominican Republic was Lyndon Johnson's personal decision. All civilian advisers had recommended against immediate intervention hoping that the Loyalist side could bring an end to the civil war. President Johnson, however, took the advice of his Ambassador in Santo Domingo, W. Tapley Bennett, who pointed out the inefficiency and indecisiveness of the Dominican military leaders. Bennett suggested that the US interpose its forces between the rebels and those of the junta, thereby effecting a cease-fire. The United States could then ask the Organization of American States to negotiate a political settlement between the opposing factions.

Citing as an official reason for the invasion the need to protect the lives of foreigners, none of whom had been killed or wounded, a fleet of 41 vessels was sent to blockade the island, and an invasion was launched by Marines and elements of the United States Army's 82nd Airborne Division on 29 April. Also, around 75 members of E company of the 7th Special Forces Group were deployed. Ultimately, 42,000 soldiers and marines were ordered to the Dominican Republic. The United States along with the Organization of American States (OAS) formed an inter-American military force to assist in the intervention in the Dominican Republic.

The Constitutionalist forces resisted the invasion. By mid-afternoon of April 30, a cease-fire, facilitated by the Papal Nuncio, was negotiated.

On May 5 the Act of Santo Domingo was signed by Colonel Benoit (Loyalist), Colonel Caamaño (Constitutionalist) and the OAS Special Committee. The Act provided for a general cease-fire, recognition of the International Security Zone, agreement to assist relief agencies, and the sanctity of diplomatic missions. The Act set the framework for later negotiations but failed to stop all of the fighting. Constitutionalist snipers continued to shoot at US forces, however, major fire fights between the Dominican factions did subside for a time.

Denied a military victory, the Constitutionalist rebels quickly had a Constitutionalist congress elect Caamano president of the country. US officials countered by backing General Imbert. On May 7, Imbert was sworn in as president of the Government of National Reconstruction. The next step in the stabilization process, as envisioned by Washington and the OAS, was to arrange an agreement between President Caamaño and President Imbert to form a provisional government committed to early elections. However, Caamaño refused to meet with Imbert until several of the Loyalist officers, including Wessin y Wessin, were made to leave the country.

On 13 May General Imbert began Operation LIMPIEZA (Cleanup) and his forces were successful in eliminating pockets of rebel resistance outside Ciudad Nuevo and silencing Radio Santo Domingo. Operation CLEANUP ended on 21 May.

By May 14, the Americans resorted to a ruse: established a "safety corridor" connecting the San Isidro Air Base and the "Duarte" Bridge to the Embajador Hotel and United States Embassy in the center of Santo Domingo, essentially sealing off the Constitutionalist area of Santo Domingo. Road blocks were established and patrols ran continuously. Some 6,500 people from many nations were evacuated to safety. In addition, the US forces airlifted in large relief supplies for Dominican nationals.

By mid-May, a majority of the OAS voted for Operation PUSH AHEAD, the reduction of United States forces and their replacement by an Inter-American Peace Force (IAPF). Inter-American Peace Force (IAPF) was formally established on May 23. The following troops were sent by each country: Brazil - 1,130, Honduras - 250, Paraguay - 184, Nicaragua - 160, Costa Rica - 21 military police, and El Salvador - 3 staff officers. The first contingent to arrive was a rifle company from Honduras which was soon backed by detachments from Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Brazil provided the largest unit, a reinforced infantry battalion. Brazilian General Hugo Alvim assumed command of the OAS ground forces, and on 26 May the US forces began to withdraw.

The fighting continued until 31 August 1965 when a truce was declared. Most American troops left shortly afterwards as policing and peacekeeping operations were turned over to Brazilian troops, but some U.S. military presence remained until September 1966.

Facing ongoing threats and attacks, including a particularly violent attack at the Hotel Matum in Santiago de los Caballeros, Camaaño accepted an agreement imposed by the USA government. The Dominican Provisional President, Garcia Godoy, sent Colonel Caamano as the Military Attache to the Dominican Embassy to the UK.

In 1966, former President Joaquín Balaguer (Trujillo's 4th puppet president) was elected over Juan Bosch - with the overt support of the US government. Bosch would never regain power. Relative political stability followed as the initially oppressive yet highly politically crafty Balaguer would go on to dominate Dominican politics for twenty-two years.




  • A total of 13 American soldiers were killed during the operation, mostly by snipers. Over 200 were wounded.[3]
  • A total of 20 IAPF personnel were killed.[citation needed]


  • Around 2,000 total, civilian and military deaths

Notable participants

See also


  1. ^ Draper, Theodore: "The Dominican Crisis", Commentary magazine Vol. 40 • December 1965 • No. 6
  2. ^ Stephen G. Rabe, "The Johnson Doctrine", Presidential Studies Quarterly 36
  3. ^ Operation Power Pack

External links

  • 82nd Airborne History Page - Operation Power Pack: A "Road" Test for the 82nd Airborne Division
  • Warnock, A. Timothy. Dominican Crisis: Operation POWER PACK. Short of War: Major USA Contingency Operations edited by A. Timothy Warnock. Air Force History and Museums Program, 2000. pp 63–74.
  • Dominican Republic PSYOP, reportage from SGM Herbert A. Friedman (ret)


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