Operation Power Pack

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Operation Power Pack was the American intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965. The Marines landed on April 28 and were later supported by elements of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.


[edit] Background

After a period of political instability following the assassination of long-time Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo in 1961, left of center candidate Juan Bosch, a founder of the anti-Trujilloist Dominican Revolutionary Party, 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 an archconservative faction of the military led by General Elias Wessin y Wessin.

Wessin Y Wessin controlled the Centro de Entrenamiento de las Fuerzas Armadas (Armed Forces Training Center or "CEFA"), an elite group of about 2000 highly trained infantry stationed at the San Isidro Air Base that, unlike the regular army units, was supplied with tanks, recoilless rifles and artillery, as well as its own attack aircraft. It was a quasi-independent organization, originally established by the son of the former dictator, Ramfis Trujillo, and formed to protect the government and keep watch over the national guard, navy and air force. Wessin & Wessin had said: "The Communist doctrine, Marxist-Leninist, Castroite, or whatever it is called, is now outlawed."<ref>Draper, Theodore: The Domincan Crisis, Commentary Magazine Vol. 40 • December 1965 • No. 6</ref>

Subsequently, power was turned over to a civilian triumvirate. The new leaders quickly abolished the constitution, declaring it "nonexistent." Because Bosch was in favor of nationalizing certain industries held by American corporations, many believed that the United States had supported the coup. Yet the U. S. government refused to recognize the new military-installed government.

The two years that followed were filled with strikes and conflicts. On 24 April 1965, a group of young officers within the armed forces, led by Coronel Francisco Alberto Caamaño Deñó, rose up against the triumvirate and attempted to restore the elected Juan Bosch to the presidency. This action was accelerated when the Chief of Staff of the Dominican armed forces, General Marcos A. Rivera Cuesta, attempted to arrest four army "conspirators," but was himself arrested instead. The pro-Bosch rebels, known as "Constitutionalists" for their focus on restroring 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. Caamaño Deñó become de facto President of the country. In the days that followed, Constitutionalists clashed with internal security agents and the right wing military elements of the CEFA.

The Constitutionalists handed out firearms in an unsupervised and uncontrolled manner, resulting in the creation of unruly armed gangs, known loosely as "Los Tigueres", and arbitrary violence. 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, though the great majority of those participating in the revolution were neither.

[edit] US Invasion

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 pro-government forces, called "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 y Wessin and the last leader of the deposed governing regime, Donald Reid Cabral - best know as "El Americano" (The American'one), both requested U.S. intervention.

Despite a lack of intelligence indicating communist leadership in the revolution, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, convinced of the defeat of the Loyalist forces and fearing the creation of "a second Cuba"<ref>Stephen G. Rabe, The Johnson Doctrine, Presidential Studies Quarterly 36</ref> on America's doorstep, ordered U.S. forces to restore order. 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. Ultimately, 23,000 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. Later, the Inter-American Peace Force (IAPF) was formally established on May 23. In addition to the United States military presence, the following troops were sent by each country; Brazil 1130, Honduras 250, Paraguay 184, Nicaragua 160, Costa Rica 21 military police, and El Salvador 3 staff officers. This force was also covertly controlled by the United States.

By May 14, the Americans had a trick: 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 Consitutionalist 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 8 millions tons of relief supplies for Dominican nationals. 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.

Although there is some dispute about the actual numbers, by the end of the attempted revolution and invasion, more than 3,000 Dominicans and 24 American servicemen had lost their lives. Another 156 Americans were wounded.

In 1966, former President Joaquin Balaguer, backed by U.S. interests, was elected over Juan Bosch in carefully observed elections. 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 thirty-five years.

At the end, US Senator, William Fulbright, said that the United Stated had displayed bad judgment and an "arrogance of power in interveining in interenal affairs of sovereign country.

Liberal politicians, statesmen and academicians held that the administration had misinformed the American people and the world about its reasons for intervening in the Dominican Republic and in about its "neutrality" in the civil war.

[edit] Notes


[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Operation Power Pack

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