On 24 April 1965 army troops attempted to overthrow the ruling civilian triumvirate in the Dominican Republic. The bloodless coup was successful, but an armed struggle for control of the government broke out between dissident troops and other military forces seeking to establish a military junta. Civilians soon joined the rebellion and the ensuing anarchy in Santo Domingo led to military intervention by the United States. This action occurred at approximately the same time that President Lyndon Johnson made the decision to commit ground troops to the Vietnam War. So just as the United States became involved in conventional warfare in Southeast Asia, U.S. forces carried out a counterinsurgency action in the Caribbean region. The question is, what caused this additional commitment at this time?
One answer to that question lies in the strategic importance to the United States of the Dominican Republic and its critical location in the Caribbean. As practically every U.S. president since Monroe has stated, the region is in our "own backyard." The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and lies about 600 miles southeast of Miami between Cuba and Puerto Rico, a free commonwealth associated with the United States. Because of its proximity to the continent and Puerto Rico and its strategic position as a gateway to the Caribbean Sea and a guardian of the approaches to the Panama Canal Zone, the Dominican Republic has a long history of military, political, and economic involvement with the United States. The importance of the country to American security interests increased when nearby Cuba became a stepping-stone for the attempted introduction of Soviet offensive missiles into the Western Hemisphere and a base for communist subversion of other Latin American countries (see map 1). 1
The eastern shore of the Dominican Republic borders the Mona Passage, one of four major choke points of sea lanes in the Caribbean Sea. These are points at which shipping lanes could be severed. The other three major choke points are the Straits of Florida, the Yucatan Channel, and the Windward Passage; all of which border on Cuba. The