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Intervention in the Caribbean

Intervention in the Caribbean: The Dominican Crisis of 1965

Bruce Palmer
Copyright Date: 1989
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Intervention in the Caribbean
    Book Description:

    The 1965 U.S. intervention in the Dominican Republic remains a unique event: the only time the Organization of American States has intervened with force on a member state's territory. It is also a classic example of a U.S. military operation that drew in America's hemispheric allies. Finally, its outcome was that rare feat in the annals of diplomacy -- a peaceful political settlement of a civil war.

    Here for the first time is the full story of that action, as told by one of its leading participants. General Palmer was the U.S. Army's operations chief in Washington in April 1965 when the Dominican crisis broke, and was placed in command of U.S. forces deployed to the Republic. His perspective thus reflects both the perceptions of Washington officials and those of the U.S. commander on the scene.

    Palmer's instructions from President Johnson were to prevent another Cuba. Although the intervention remains controversial today, especially with Latin Americans, it was successful both politically and militarily, bringing unprecedented stability to the long-troubled Dominican Republic. The lesson Palmer draws is that success in such a venture comes only when political and military actions are orchestrated toward a common political goal.

    Palmer concludes with an assessment of the current situation in the broader Caribbean area, including a comparison of the 1965 Dominican and 1983 Grenadian interventions, and an analysis of the situation in Panama with its implications for the Canal Treaty. His book is a timely contribution to the history of the Caribbean that enlarges our understanding of this region's vital importance to the United States.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5002-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Maps and Figures
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. 1-11)

    When the United States intervened in the Dominican Republic in late April 1965, bitter controversy broke out in the United States and allover Latin America. Indeed, the action found few supporters in the West and was categorially denounced throughout the Communist world. It was not popular—but then, no American intervention in Latin America has ever claimed general approbation. Virtually all the civilian authors who have written about the crisis have condemned the U.S. action with little, if any, sympathy for official American views. Relatively few commentators have acknowledged the fact that the Dominican Republic in a political sense has...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Origins of the Revolution
    (pp. 12-29)

    The origins of the 1965 Dominican revolution go back to the early 1900s, when the United States time and again intervened in the Caribbean to protect its national interests—strategic, political, and economic. After the ejection of Spain from the region as a result of the Spanish-American War, the United States was ever alert to any attempted foreign penetration that would jeopardize the political or territorial integrity of the area or the substantial U.S. economic investments there. Of major strategic importance, the Panama Canal was built during these first years of the twentieth century. In the Dominican Republic, as in...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Initial U.S. Operations: 29 April–3 May 1965
    (pp. 30-49)

    Shortly after the president made the crucial decision at about 7:30 p.m., 29 April, to intervene with force to prevent a hostile takeover in the Dominican Republic, the leading elements of the 82d Airborne Division took off from Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina. (The 3d Brigade with two parachute infantry battalions constituted the initial “package” of the 82d Airborne’s deployment plan called “Power Pack.”) At about the same time the remainder of the U.S. Marine force afloat off Santo Domingo came ashore to secure the area of the city that a few hours later was designated an International Security...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Stabilizing the Situation: 3–15 May 1965
    (pp. 50-68)

    Realizing that getting the American embassy off the front line of the ISZ would go a long way toward calming the situation in Santo Domingo, on 3 May Bennett and I sought the approval of the OAS commission to move the eastern boundary of the ISZ well to the east at the first opportunity. OAS agreement was readily given because several other embassies in the area, notably, those of Ecuador and El Salvador, had also been harassed by rebel fire and had urgently requested protection. Marines of the 4th MEB swiftly accomplished this objective, making several advances under cover of...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Creating the Inter-American Peace Force: 6 May–15 June 1965
    (pp. 69-85)

    Almost from the beginning, when it appeared that the United States might become directly involved in the crisis, the Johnson administration was actively engaged in getting the OAS to focus on the potentially dangerous situation developing in the Dominican Republic. The State Department had been particularly busy, and Ellsworth Bunker, ambassador to the GAS, had vigorously taken the initiative to keep the other member states abreast of the fast-moving events and to enlist their support. Concurrently, the United States was pressing for the active participation of the OAS in an inter-American peacekeeping force in the Dominican Republic.

    Not unexpectedly, given...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Establishing a Provisional Government: 4 June–3 September 1965
    (pp. 86-100)

    Arriving in Santo Domingo on 4 June, the three-member OAS Ad Hoc Committee established itself in the Embajador Hotel and immediately went to work. Its recognized chairman, Ellsworth Bunker, made it clear from the outset that he was not an agent of the U.S. State Department but was his own man, devoting his full attention to the Dominican crisis even when his Brazilian and Salvadorean colleagues were attending to other OAS duties in Washington. Bunker had a personal staff of five bright, relatively young U.S. foreign service officers that gave him an organizational base independent of the U.S. embassy, though...

  11. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  12. CHAPTER 6 Return to Normalcy: 4 September–25 October 1965
    (pp. 101-118)

    Originally, the Ad Hoc Committee had recommended its own dissolution once President Godoy was in office, but at Godoy’s urgent insistence the OAS approved an extension of the committee’s mandate to include the planned June 1966 elections. It was a sound decision because the road to the elections was a rocky one, and the committee’s presence proved to be essential.¹

    By this time I had acquired an immense admiration for Ambassador Bunker, who single-mindedly refused to let any obstacle impede his steadfast path toward a negotiated settlement. Few people of any nationality would have had the courage and tenacity to...

  13. CHAPTER 7 The IAPF Completes Its Mission: 26 October 1965–21 September 1966
    (pp. 119-138)

    With the Inter-American Peace Force in control of the old rebel zone, life in Santo Domingo began to improve steadily, though only gradually. On 26 October we withdrew all IAPF tanks from the city and by the end of the month had thinned out our troops in Ciudad Nueva and the old corridor. Police performance in the city was still disappointing, however, and tension still high, while outrages continued to occur in the countryside. In one instance the left-leaning governor of Van Verde Province was foully murdered near Santiago in late October, allegedly by regular Dominican military personnel. We assisted...

  14. CHAPTER 8 An Assessment
    (pp. 139-161)

    What are the major lessons of the 1965 Dominican crisis? The political-military issues raised by the intervention, the overall effectiveness of the Organization of American States, the operational performance of U.S. forces and agencies need to be examined so that conclusions and judgments may be drawn from this experience. Because nearly a quarter-century has passed since the intervention, hindsight will no doubt color some judgments, although I feel that the passage of time has not substantially altered my own views.

    Two related issues dominated the debates at the time and continue today: the legitimacy and legality of the intervention, and...

  15. CHAPTER 9 Caribbean Realities for the United States Today
    (pp. 162-191)

    Twenty-four years have gone by since the 1965 intervention in the Dominican Republic, and many significant developments have taken place in the Caribbean region that affect the future of Americans. Five U.S. presidents—Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan—served during those years, and Central America and Caribbean island nations often required their close attention. Given the enduring importance of the Caribbean Basin to U.S. national interests, did the Dominican experience teach the United States anything of lasting value?

    A look at the Dominican Republic today shows not only the remarkable political stability outlined in the preceding chapter—both conservative...

  16. Glossary of Acronyms
    (pp. 192-193)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 194-209)
  18. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 210-213)
  19. Index
    (pp. 214-226)