Section 8. Marine Corps Counterintelligence in the Dominican Republic 1965

CI Operations

With the overthrow of the Dominican Republic's Rafael Trujillo - brought Marines into the Caribbean once again.

Six weeks after the "Bay of Pigs" disaster, Generalissimo Trujillo was shot to death. In February 1963 the popular Juan Bosch was elected as the Republic's president. Bosch was overthrown following a period of low sugar prices, unemployment, demonstrations, riots and finally civil war. The government, dominated now by Donald Reid Cabral grew progessively unpopular and weaker. On April 24, 1965, a faction of the Republics's military who were pro-Bosch supporters, revolted against Reid Gabral's Government. The pro-Bosch supporters wanted the return of Bosch and the 1963 constitution without elections. Overnight, pro-Bosch soldiers took up positions in Santo Domingo and large crowds rioted in the city's streets demanding Bosch's return. Reid Cabral contacted the U.S. Naval Attache, to inquire for U.S. assistance.

The next morning, the pro-Bosch rebels captured the National Palace and arrested Reid Cabral. A short time afterwards, Reid Cabral resigned and allowed to go into hiding. That afternoon, the U.S. Navy's six-ship Caribbean Ready Group began moving from Puerto Rico towards the Dominican Republic, in the event it would be necessary to evacuate U.S. citizens out of Haiti. Aboard the Caribbean Ready Group ships were the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264 - a total of some 1,702 Marines.

On Monday, 26 April 1965, the Caribbean Ready Group stood 30 miles off the Haitian coast. When efforts to negotiate a ceasefire failed the next day, anti-Bosch military units entered the capital. The Republic's Air Force rocketed and strafed the city. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Ambassador asked the U.S. Navy to make a show of force off the coast of the capital.

On 28 April, 1965, acting on the best available intelligence pertaining to the situation in Haiti, President Johnson authorized the landing of U.S. Marines to evacuate U.S citizens. Armed and authorized to take positive action if necessary, they were the first combat-ready U.S. forces to enter a Latin American country in almost forty years.

CI Support of Operations in the Dominican Republic

In order to provide Marine Corps Counterintelligence support to the Marine battalion, several former CI Marines who had involvement with this operations were interviewed. Majors Robert Connly and William Sterling along with Captain Ben McCauly were interviewed.

Major Connly was assigned Temporary Addition Duty (TAD) from the 4th Counterintelligence Team to the 6th Marines for Caribbean Cruise 2-65 (April-July 1965). His primary duties was to act as the Regimental S-2, with the additional duty as Counterintelligence (CI) Officer.

The following comments of the operation are provided by Major Connly.

"Following a joint exercise on the island of Veques with the 82nd Airborne Division, the 6th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) sailed to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base for a brief stay and then set sail towards Panama to receive Jungle Warfare Training. Once back aboard the ship and sailing towards Panama, orders were received for the MEU to close within 30 miles off the coast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The Command Group of Regimental Landing Team-6 (RLT-6) was commanded by Colonel George Daughtry and the Battalion Landing Team 3/6 (BLT 3/6) was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Pedersen aboard the USS Boxer LPH-4."

As Major Connely continues, "On 24 April 1965 at approximately 1530 hours, the ship was informed that Rebel forces in Haiti had seized the Government Controlled Radio Station and the Police Barracks at Ozama. Large stores of weapons were distributed on street corners to anyone who wanted one".

Additional report received aboard the USS Boxer noted, "the situation ashore was one of looting and random shooting -later it was reported that over 1,000 civilians lost their lives. In order to evacuate U.S. citizens out of harm way, elements form BLT 3/6 landed and began evacuating some 1,100 civilians from Haina Port. Both helicopter and the Landing Ship Tank (LST) from the Amphibious Task Force were used in the evacuation process. Ultimately, some 5,600 civilians were evacuated".

"During the evening of 27 April 1965, in a driving rainstorm, 400 Marines from BLT 3/6 were airlifted ashore by H-34 helicopters from HMM-264. A reinforced platoon moved to the U.S. Embassy to provide security. The remainder of BLT 3/6 landed and linked-up with elements from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division".

In order to provide adequate CI support for the operation, Major Connly requested this support from Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic early on. Because of the short duration of the operation, CI operations mostly consisted of debriefing of evacuatee's until a CI sub-team arrived from the 8th CIT, Cherry Point, N.C.

The commander of the sub-team was then CWO Ben McCauley. CWO McCauly - as he explained, "That upon arrival from Cherry Point into Santo Domingo, we estalished liaison with a Peugoet dealership owner who seemed to like Americans and was against those rebel forces in the Republic. The owner of the dealership let us set-up shop at his residence in his three car garage. Of course due to the short duration of the crisis, we were just getting off the ground in establishing our "Black, White and Gray List" (B/WG) for operational purposes and began to make contact with the local populace to obtain information about the rebel forces etc., The set up was great because the car dealership probably would have given the shirt off his back to assist the U.S. military efforts."

Another member who participated in the Dominican Republic Crisis was Major William Sterling, who was then a Staff Sergeant. Major Sterling provided the following information,

"I was assigned to 4th CIT as a sub-team commander, Headquarters Company, Headquarters Battalion, 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, FMF, Camp LeJeune, N.C. and called upon to participate in operations in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, against Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Caamano Deno and his anti-government army which was bottled-up at Ciudad Nueva - a part of the city of Santo Domingo.

Another faction that we dealt with was the June 14th group which were the more active revolutionaries of the many groups called "rebels" which the U.S. troops faced. The Sub-team took up residence in the Hotel Embajador along with the Commanding General (CG) of the Marine Expitionary Brigade (MEB). This whole mess began several years prior - which has already been mentioned - when President Trujillo was assassinated (May 1961) and the government of Juan Bosch was established through elections, etc, etc.

As a result of a few generals private war and the indiscriminate killing that followed, the Marines were landed to protect American lives and property. I operated as the CG's CI Staff Officer during the month-long operation and found most of the time devoted to keeping track of the Bosch Party (PRD) and the numerous factions who were on the rebel side. It seemed that Camano was pro-Bosch in most respect. One Marine was captured, while lost and trying to drive back to the "Zone" (the International Zone protected by U.S. troops). He was detained for a few days and then released during a diplomatically arranged cease-fire period. I had the task of debriefing the young Marine after his return. The task took three days. After which we found that the whole incident was on Television in the States; from the capture to the place he was incarcerated and the rebels that spoke to him. Several incidents of operational impropriety were reported by both sides during the cease-fire; however, the diplomatic chain-of-command interceded rapidly and we did not have to respond. The Air Force of the Dominican Republic's government, that was in power after throwing out Reid, attacked the radio station, Radio Santo Domingo (which was held by the rebels); however, they failed to coordinate their strafing runs with the U.S. troops and one of their plans was shot down . . . . to the chagrin of the U.S. commander."

Summary: Major Connly noted, "Having his hands full as the Regimental S-2 and coupled with the fact of only being ashore a little over month, Marine Corps CI really didn't get off the ground". Also, "what little CI activities that did take place bythe sub-team, were under the total control of the U.S. Army - they remained in the Dominican Republic for over a year".

During the operations in the Dominican Republic, BLT 3/6 suffered 5 Marines killed in action and 14 were wounded.

Published By:
Bob McDonough
July 15, 2017