Decisions and Initial Operations (28-29 April)
Crises such as the initial days of Dominican revolt require presidential decisions under the pressures of limited time, high stakes, and incomplete information. Such factors affected the series of decisions made by President Johnson committing American forces to the Dominican action. On Wednesday 28 April the president authorized the landing of a limited number of marines to protect U.S. citizens and property in Santo Domingo. On the following day he authorized increased troop landings to prevent a communist takeover. The president made these controversial decisions on the basis of incomplete information but with the unanimous agreement of his advisers both at the Washington and embassy levels.
Information important to the presidential decisions included the degree of communist participation in the rebel movement and the extent of disorder in Santo Domingo. During the first days of the revolt before U.S. troops landed, the principle sources for this information were military attaché, CIA, and other embassy staff reports. A large number of information reports included descriptions of the activities and plans of the Dominican Communist leadership, warnings that the Caamaño faction had lost control of the revolt, constitutionalist propaganda and rhetoric frequently Castroite in tone, and evidence of a major communist role in the arming, training, and leadership of guerrilla warfare commando units in the rebel zone. The Dominican communists lacked mass appeal, an organizational network, and inspired leadership, but their presence among the revolutionaries led to repeated warnings by Bennett and the embassy staff of a possible communist takeover. Although initial intelligence agency and embassy reports magnified the participation of communists in the revolt, there was considerable evidence of their involvement. What remained in doubt was the degree of communist control of the revolt. 1
Embassy staff, CIA personnel, and on-the-scene observers tended to accept as fact rumors of rebel atrocities current in the early days of the revolt. Such rumors are characteristic of a chaotic situation in which communications break down, police control is nonexistent, and