Military Crisis Management: U.S. Intervention in the Dominican Republic, 1965

By Herbert G. Schoonmaker | Go to book overview

communists developed the techniques of taking over peoples' revolutions. All agreed that it would be easier to prevent a Communist takeover than to dislodge a Communist government once established, and that the military buildup should be paralleled by diplomatic efforts to obtain a cease-fire, to bring the two factions together in some kind of interim government, and to schedule free elections at a later date. Since Bennett was not on good terms with the rebel leader, Caamaño, another American spokesman should be assigned to deal with the rebel forces. Washington officials assigned this job to Martin. Later Thursday night, following another meeting between Johnson and his advisers to work out the details of the military operation, the Joint Chiefs directed CINCLANT to plan for the establishment of an international security zone. The council of the OAS passed a resolution early Friday approving the immediate establishment of such a zone. 30

A series of orders approved by the White House over the next few days implemented the president's Thursday decision to commit substantial forces to the Dominican operation. The troop increases resulted not from a single decision to commit a certain number of troops to the operation but from a series of decisions based on calls for more support from the deployed forces and expanding troop missions. From five hundred marines landed to protect the embassy and civilian evacuation on Wednesday, the intervening force increased to about two thousand marines on Thursday to secure an international safety zone, and then by another two thousand army paratroopers on Friday, 30 April. On 2 May the president ordered another two thousand troops to the Dominican Republic and directed McNamara and Wheeler to land an additional 4,500 troops as soon as possible. Justification for these troops was to establish a line of communications between U.S. troops and the need for distribution of food, providing security for Americans and foreign nationals, and helping in evacuation operations.

The president and his advisers at first presented the intervention as a humanitarian effort and played down the political aspects of the action. There is ample evidence, nevertheless, that the president and his advisers were very much concerned by the possibility of a Castrotype communist takeover in the Dominican Republic and the troubles of dislodging the communists once in power. The analogy with Cuba seems to have limited the choices of the decision-makers, as did the president's tendency to rely on unanimous agreement of a small number of key advisers. Johnson did not want the establishment of another communist base in the Caribbean from which revolutionary activity could be launched against friendly Latin American nations. Nor did he desire history and public opinion to blame him for permitting formation of such a base. 31


NOTES
1.
The degree of the communist threat was the first, and probably the most, controversial subject concerned with the intervention. Many American correspondents and observers believed that the Johnson administration grossly overestimated the communist threat in the Dominican Republic. A review of declassified government documents

-42-

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Military Crisis Management: U.S. Intervention in the Dominican Republic, 1965
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Military Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Maps ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Preface xv
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Revolt and Response (24-27 April) 19
  • Notes 29
  • 3 - Decisions and Initial Operations (28-29 April) 33
  • Notes 42
  • 4 - Crisis Management 49
  • Notes 74
  • 6 - Military and Diplomatic Coordination (30 April-5 May) 77
  • Notes 92
  • 7 - Support Operations 97
  • Notes 106
  • 8 - Peace Force and Political Settlement (may 1965-Sept. 1966) 109
  • Notes 119
  • 9 - Conclusions 123
  • Bibliography 135
  • Index 145
  • About the Author 153
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