Dominican Civil War

The Dominican Civil War (Spanish: Guerra Civil Dominicana) took place between April 24, 1965, and September 3, 1965, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. It started when civilian and military supporters of former President Juan Bosch overthrew acting President Donald Reid Cabral. The coup prompted General Elías Wessin y Wessin to organize elements of the military loyal to President Reid ("loyalists"), initiating an armed campaign against the so-called constitutionalist rebels. Allegations of foreign support for the rebels led to a United States intervention in the conflict, which later transformed into an Organization of American States occupation of the country. Elections were held in 1966, in the aftermath of which Joaquín Balaguer was elected into the presidential seat. Later in the same year, international troops departed from the country.

Dominican Civil War
Part of the Cold War

American soldiers engaged in a firefight while a child takes cover under a jeep for protection in Santo Domingo on May 5, 1965
DateApril 24 – September 3, 1965[1]

Loyalist victory

  • Ceasefire declared
  • Formation of the provisional government for new elections
  • Deposition of Juan Bosch of the presidency
  • Organization of presidential elections in 1966 under international supervision
  • Election of Joaquín Balaguer as the new president

 Dominican Republic (Loyalist faction)
 United States

 Dominican Republic (Constitutionalist faction)
Commanders and leaders
General Elías Wessin y Wessin
General Antonio Imbert Barrera
President Lyndon B. Johnson
General Bruce Palmer[1]
General Hugo Panasco Alvim[2]
Colonel Roberto Cubas Barboza[3]
Dr. Juan Bosch
President Francisco Caamaño[1]
2,200 regulars
12 AMX-13 light tanks
24 L-60 light tanks
13 Lynx armoured cars
1 frigate
4+ fighters
United States & IAPF:
1,500 regulars
5,000 armed civilians
5+ light tanks
1 gunboat
Casualties and losses
44 killed
(10 Marines and 13 82nd Airborne killed)
283 wounded[4]
500 regulars killed
325 police killed
5 light tanks captured
2 fighters shot down[4]
11 wounded[4]
600 regulars killed[4]
unknown armed civilians killed
5 light tanks destroyed
1 gunboat sunk
6,000–10,000 Dominicans killed (in total)[4]


Constitutionalist troops attempted to reinstate overthrown President Juan Emilio Bosch Gaviño into power.

On November 19, 1911, General Luis Tejera led a group of conspirators in an ambush on the horsedrawn carriage of Dominican President Ramón Cáceres. During the shootout, Cáceres was killed and Tejera wounded in the leg. In the ensuing power vacuum, General Alfredo Victoria, the commander of the army, seized control and forced the Dominican Congress to elect his uncle, Eladio Victoria, as the new president. The general was widely suspected of bribing the Congress, and his uncle, who took office on February 27, 1912, lacked legitimacy. The former president Horacio Vásquez soon returned from exile to lead his followers, the horacistas, in a popular uprising against the new government.[5]

The result was several years of great political instability and civil war. US mediation by the William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson administrations achieved only short respites each time. A political deadlock in 1914 was broken after an ultimatum by Wilson telling Dominicans that unless they chose a president, they would see the United States impose one. A provisional president was chosen, and later that year, relatively-free elections returned the former President (1899–1902) Juan Isidro Jimenes Pereyra to power. To achieve a government that was more broadly supported, Jimenes named opposition individuals to his cabinet. However, that brought no peace and, with his former Secretary of War Desiderio Arias maneuvering to depose him and despite a US offer of military aid against Arias, Jimenes resigned on May 7, 1916.[6]

Wilson thus ordered the United States occupation of the Dominican Republic. The US Marines landed on May 16, 1916 and controlled the country two months later. The US military government, led by Rear Admiral Harry Shepard Knapp, was widely repudiated by Dominicans, with many factions within the country leading guerrilla campaigns against the US forces.[6] The occupation regime kept most Dominican laws and institutions and largely pacified the general population. The occupying government also revived the Dominican economy, reduced the nation's debt, built a road network that finally connected all regions of the country, and created a professional National Guard to replace the warring partisan units.[6]

Vigorous opposition to the occupation continued, nevertheless, and after World War I, it increased in the US as well, where President Warren G. Harding (1921–23), Wilson's successor, worked to put an end to the occupation, as he had promised during his electoral campaign. The US occupation ended in October 1922, and elections were held in March 1924.[6] The victor was the former President (1902–03) Horacio Vásquez Lajara, who had co-operated with the United States. He was inaugurated on July 13, 1924, and the last US forces left in September. Vásquez gave the country six years of stable governance in which political and civil rights were respected and the economy grew strongly in a relatively-peaceful atmosphere.[6][7]

A rebellion or coup d'état[8][9] against him broke out in February 1930 in Santiago. Rafael Trujillo secretly cut a deal with the rebel leader Rafael Estrella Ureña. In return for Trujillo letting Estrella take power, Estrella would allow Trujillo to run for president in new elections. As the rebels marched toward Santo Domingo, Vásquez ordered Trujillo to suppress them. However, feigning "neutrality," Trujillo kept his men in barracks, which allowed Estrella's rebels to take the capital virtually unopposed. On March 3, Estrella was proclaimed acting president, with Trujillo confirmed as the head of the police and of the army. As per their agreement, Trujillo became the presidential nominee of the newly-formed Patriotic Coalition of Citizens (Spanish: Coalición patriotica de los ciudadanos), with Estrella as his running mate.[10] The other candidates became targets of harassment by the army and withdrew when it became apparent that Trujillo would be the only person who would be allowed to campaign effectively. Ultimately, the Trujillo-Estrella ticket was proclaimed victorious with an implausible 99% of the vote. According to the US ambassador, Trujillo received more votes than there were actual voters.[11]

On May 30, 1961, Trujillo was shot and killed when his blue 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air was ambushed on a road outside the Dominican capital.[12] He was the victim of an ambush plotted by a number of men, such as General Juan Tomás Díaz, Antonio de la Maza, Amado García Guerrero, and General Antonio Imbert Barrera.[13]

The country came under the rule of a military junta until 1963, when democratic elections were organized with US aid. Juan Emilio Bosch Gaviño emerged victorious in the elections, assuming office. Bosch then tried to implement a number of social democratic reforms, which caused the anger of the clergy, business magnates and members of the army, who initiated a rumor campaign that accused Bosch of being a communist. On September 25, 1963, a group of 25 senior military commanders, led by Elías Wessin y Wessin, expelled Bosch from the country and installed Donald Reid Cabral as the new president. Reid failed to gather popular support, and several factions prepared to launch a coup, such as Constitutionalists under Bosch, a group in the Dominican army under Peña Taveras, supporters of the former Dominican Revolutionary Party leader Nicolás Silfa and plotters siding with Joaquín Balaguer.[14]

Civil war

April Revolution

On April 24, 1965, three junior officers requested a meeting with President Donald Reid Cabral, who revoked the commission after he had received news of a suspected anti-government plot. When Chief of Staff Riviera Cuesta was instead sent to discuss with the officers at the August 16 military camp, he was immediately detained. A group of military constitutionalists and Dominican Revolutionary Party (DRP) supporters then seized the Radio Santo Domingo building and issued calls of sedition while Constitutionalist officers distributed weapons and Molotov cocktails to their civilian comrades. The transmissions prompted the garrison of the February 27 camp and a unit of the Dominican Navy's frogmen to defect. Large numbers of police officers abandoned their positions and changed into civilian clothing.[15]

The following day, Reid appointed General Wessin y Wessin as the new chief of staff. Wessin rallied the government troops, branded them Loyalists, and announced his plans of suppressing the rebellion. At 10:30 am rebels stormed the presidential palace and arrested Reid. Several hours later, four Loyalist P-51 Mustangs conducted aerial bombings of the National Palace and other Constitutionalist positions, and one plane was shot down during the incident. A single Loyalist vessel, Mella, on the river Ozama, also bombarded the palace. Fearing that a mob, which had gathered at the palace, would lynch Reid, the rebel commander Francisco Caamaño allowed him to escape, as Reid had already lost the support of the Loyalists. The majority of the DRP leadership fled the capital, and Constitutionalists mobilized a total of 5,000 armed civilians and 1,500 members of the military.[14][15] On April 26, José Rafael Molina Ureña was declared the provisional president, and large crowds gathered in the streets to demand Bosch's return from exile.

US intervention

In the meantime, US diplomats in Santo Domingo initiated preparations for evacuating 3,500 U.S citizens. In the early morning of April 27, 1,176 foreign civilians who had assembled in Hotel Embajador were airlifted to the Bajos de Haina naval facility, where they boarded USS Ruchamkin and USS Wood County, as well as the helicopters of HMM-264, which evacuated them from the island to USS Boxer and USS Raleigh. Later that day, 1,500 Loyalist troops, supported by armored cars and tanks, marched from the San Isidro Air Base, captured Duarte Bridge, and took position on the west bank of the Ozama River. A second force, consisting of 700 soldiers, left San Cristóbal and attacked the western suburbs of Santo Domingo. Rebels overran the Fortaleza Ozama police headquarters and took 700 prisoners. On April 28, armed civilians attacked the Villa Consuelo police station and executed all of the police officers who survived the initial skirmish. One US Marine battalion landed in Haina and later moved to Hotel Embajador, where it provided assistance in the upcoming airlifts. During the night, 684 civilians were airlifted to USS Boxer. One US Marine was killed by a rebel sniper during the operation.[15]

On April 29, the US ambassador to the Dominican Republic, William Tapley Bennett, who had sent numerous reports to US President Lyndon Johnson, reported that the situation had reached life-threatening proportions for US citizens and that the rebels received foreign support. Bennett stressed that the US had to act immediately, as the creation of an international coalition would be time-consuming. Contrary to the suggestions of his advisers, Johnson authorized the transformation of evacuation operations into a large-scale military intervention through Operation Power Pack, which was aimed to prevent the development of what he saw as a second Cuban Revolution.[14][15][16] It was the first U.S. military intervention in Latin America in more than 30 years.[17]

International Security Zone map.

At 2:16 a.m. on April 30, 1965, the 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division landed at the San Isidro Air Base and started the US military intervention in the conflict. During the next couple of hours, two brigade combat teams and heavy equipment were also dispatched. At sunrise the 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment moved up the San Isidoro highway, securing a position east of the Duarte bridge. The 1st Battalion 505th Infantry Regiment remained at the airbase and sent out patrols to the perimeter. A force of 1,700 Marines of the 6th Marine Expeditionary Unit occupied an area containing a number of foreign embassies. The locale was proclaimed an International Security Zone by the Organization of American States (OAS). Earlier in the day, the OAS also issued a resolution calling the combatants to end all hostilities. At 4:30 p.m., representatives of the loyalists, the rebels, and the US military signed a ceasefire that was to take effect at 11:45 p.m. That timing favored the demoralized Loyalists, who had lost control of Ciudad Colonial.[15][18]

On 5 May, the OAS Peace Committee arrived in Santo Domingo, and a second definite ceasefire agreement was signed, which ended the main phase of the civil war. Under the Act of Santo Domingo, the OAS was tasked with overseeing the implementation of the peace deal as well as distributing food and medication through the capital. The treaties failed to prevent some violations such as small-scale firefights and sniper fire. A day later, OAS members established the Inter-American Peace Force (IAPF) with the goal of serving as a peacekeeping formation in the Dominican Republic. The IAPF had 1,748 Brazilian, Paraguayan, Nicaraguan, Costa Rican, Salvadoran and Honduran troops and was headed by Brazilian General Hugo Panasco Alvim, with US Army General Bruce Palmer serving as his deputy commander.[1][18]

US withdrawal

On 26 May, US forces began gradually withdrawing from the island. On June 15, the Constitutionalists launched a second and final attempt to expand the boundaries of their stronghold. In the bloodiest battle of the intervention, the rebels began their attack on US outposts. Using the greatest firepower yet, they used tear gas grenades, .50-caliber machine guns, 20 mm guns, mortars, rocket launchers, and tank fire. The 1st battalions of the 505th and 508th Infantry quickly went on the offensive. Two days of fighting cost the US five KIA and 31 WIA. The OAS forces, consisting of a large number of Brazilians and whose orders were to remain at their defenses, counted five wounded. The Constitutionalists claimed 67 dead and 165 injured.

The first postwar elections were held on July 1, 1966 and pit the conservative Reformist Party candidate, Joaquín Balaguer, against the former president Juan Emilio Bosch Gaviño. Balaguer, with the support of the US, emerged victorious in the elections after he built his campaign on promises of reconciliation. On September 21, 1966, the last OAS peacekeepers withdrew from the island, which ended the foreign intervention in the conflict.[1][14]

See also

  • History of the Dominican Republic
  • Football War
  • United States occupation of the Dominican Republic (1916–24)
  • Bay of Pigs Invasion
  • Johnson Doctrine
  • United States involvement in regime change
  • Latin America–United States relations


  1. Lawrence Yates (July 1988). "Power Pack: U.S. Intervention in the Dominican Republic 1965–1966" (PDF). Lawrence Papers. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  2. Celso Castro. «O golpe de 1964 e a instauração do regime militar». Fundação Getulio Vargas. Consultado em 16 de fevereiro de 2010
  3. "El Gobierno del General Alfredo Stroessner" by Helio Vera. Portal Guaraní. Retrieved on March 18, 2017
  4. Palmer, Bruce (2015). Intervention in the Caribbean: The Dominican Crisis of 1965. University Press of Kentucky. p. 137. ISBN 9780813150024.
  5. Maurer 2013, pp. 194–96.
  6. "Dominican Republic: Occupation by the United States, 1916–1924". Country Studies. Library of Congress; Federal Research Division. Retrieved May 29, 2007.
  7. "Dominican Republic – The era of Trujillo". Country Studies. Library of Congress; Federal Research Division.
  8. "Golpe de Estado a Horacio Vásquez" (in Spanish). Santo Domingo: Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana. 2010. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
  9. Torres, José Antonio (February 20, 2010). "Golpe de Estado a Horacio". El Nacional (in Spanish). Archived from the original on September 27, 2013. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
  10. Galindez, p. 44.
  11. Official results: 223,731 vs 1,883. Galindez, p. 51.
  12. Harris, Bruce. "Moreorless: Heroes & Killers of the 20th century". Archived from the original on November 12, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
  13. Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana. "Heroes del 30 de Mayo. Resenas Biograficas" (in Spanish). Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  14. James Fearon (June 26, 2006). "Dominican Republic" (PDF). Stanford University. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  15. Lawrence Greenberg (November 1986). "US Army Unilateral and Coalition Operations in the 1965 Dominican Republic Intervention" (PDF). US Army Center of Military History. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  16. David Coleman (April 28, 2015). "The Dominican Intervention". NSA Archives. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  17. Gleijeses, Piero (October 28, 2011). "The United States Invasion of the Dominican Republic, 1961–1966". Oxford Bibliographies Online. doi:10.1093/OBO/9780199766581-0071. Retrieved February 1, 2018.
  18. Jack Ringler (1970). "US Marine Corps Operations in the Dominican Republic April–June 1965" (PDF). Historical Division USMC. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 3, 2015. Retrieved June 28, 2015.

Further reading

  • McPherson, Darrell G. The Role of the Army Medical Service in the Dominican Republic. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Surgeon General, Department of the Army.
  • Warnock, Timothy (2000). Dominican Crisis: Operation POWER PACK. Short of War: Major USA Contingency Operations. Air Force History and Museums Program.
  • Maurer, Noel (2013). The Empire Trap: The Rise and Fall of U.S. Intervention to Protect American Property Overseas, 1893–2013. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691155821.
  • Galindez, Jésus (1962). L'Ère de Trujillo. Paris: Gallimard. ISBN 0816503591.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.