SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
Note: Material from this article was used with permission by the 301st PSYOP Company in a short movie heralding their history The 301st Psychological Operations Company (Airborne) Past and Present.
Sadly, little has been published on the psychological Operations used during the United States intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965. In fact, I have actually held only one aerial propaganda leaflet from that campaign. I hope that this article will lead to some additional items being discovered. We need to hear from troops that were there and brought back leaflets.
General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo
We will begin the article with a brief history of how the United States got involved in what appeared to be a Dominican internal conflict. In 1930, Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo won the presidency of the Dominican Republic. He was a dictator of the worse sort whose National Guard (Guardia) took part in terror, murder, torture, and repression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "He is a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch." Trujillo's 31-year dictatorship ended with his assassination in 1961. Trujillo loyalist Joaquin Balaguer then assumed the presidency. Balaguer's term lasted until December 1962, when he resigned under pressure. Juan Bosch, the head of the Dominican Revolutionary Party was then elected and inaugurated in February 1963. His pro-Castro sentiments and left-leaning politics led to a military coup seven months later by an archconservative faction of the military led by Colonel Elias Wessin y Wessin.
Wessin controlled the Centro de Entrenamiento de las Fuerzas Armadas (Armed Forces Training Center), an elite group of about 2000 highly trained infantry that unlike the regular army units was supplied with tanks, recoilless rifles and artillery. It was an independent organization formed to protect the government and keep watch over the Army, Navy and Air Force. He declared, "The Communist doctrine, Marxist-Leninist, Castroite, or whatever it is called, is now outlawed." Later a civilian triumvirate ruled the nation. The new leaders quickly abolished the constitution, declaring it "nonexistent." Although some believed that the United States had supported the coup, the U. S. government refused to recognize the new military government.
14th of June Movement Propaganda
Power Pack, Dominican Republic, 1965-1966
Out the Yankee Invader IJ4
Col. Francisco Caamano Deno
The two years that followed were filled with strikes and conflicts. On 24 April 1965, a group within the Army, led by Col. Francisco Caamano Deno rose up against the triumvirate and attempted to restore Juan Bosch to the presidency. This action was accelerated when chief of staff of the Dominican Army, General Marcos A. Rivera Cuesta attempted to arrest four army "conspirators," but was himself arrested. The pro-Bosch rebels known as Constitutionalists, took to the streets, seized the national palace and the Government radio and television stations in Santa Domingo, and demanded Bosch's return. By 3:00 in the afternoon Santo Domingo's streets were filled with looting and lawlessness as the Soviet-oriented Dominican Revolutionary Party, and the Castroite 14th of June Revolutionary Party armed their members. Bands of teenagers (Los Tigres) swarmed through Santo Domingo shooting any policemen they could find. The pro-government forces, called Loyalists, attempted to defend the old regime but were outgunned and outmanned. Both sides were heavily armed and civilians were caught in the crossfire. Washington began immediate preparations for the evacuation of its citizens and other foreign nationals who might wish to leave the Dominican Republic.
President Lyndon Johnson
Fearing another Cuba on America's doorstep, President Lyndon Johnson ordered U.S. forces to restore order and sent a fleet of 41 vessels to blockade the island. In April, 2015, Stars and Stripes added on the 50th Anniversary of the invasion:
With loyalists and rebels fighting over control of the capital of Santo Domingo and fears of a second Cuba to America's south, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered Marines and paratroopers to the country. The leader of U.S. forces in Santo Domingo was the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, Lt. Gen. Bruce Palmer. According to the U.S. Department of State's Office of the Historian, Palmer had a stated and unstated mission.
Your announced mission is to save U.S. lives. Your unannounced mission is to prevent the Dominican Republic from going communist. The president has stated that he will not allow another Cuba - you are to take all necessary measures to accomplish this mission. You will be given sufficient forces to do the job.
We seldom hear from the other side in these articles. In this case I heard from a person who told me about his grandfather who took part in the uprising and fought as a member of the Castroite Movimiento Revolucionario 14 de Junio ["14th of June Revolutionary Party"] in the Dominican Republic. The group named itself "14th of June" in honor of the 200 men who had been trained in Cuba and invaded the Dominican Republic to fight Trujillo in 1959. The invasion was a failure and most of the invaders were quickly rounded up and imprisoned and many were later tortured and killed. He said in part:
My grandfather was labelled a Communist and lived much of his life in exile. He was caught like most of the members of his group by Trujillo's Servicio Central de Inteligencia [Central Intelligence Service] and spent several years in the prison known as La Cuarenta [The Forty] where he was tortured until Trujillo was deposed.
The 14th of June group defended the election of President Juan Bosch who they considered a defender of democracy in Latin America. Bosch was made aware of the overthrow plans of Air Force General Elías Wessin y Wessin by other military members and was advised to fire him immediately. Bosch thought that was unconstitutional and would not do anything he thought to be illegal.
After the U.S. intervention, the Dominicans found themselves ruled by another dictator, Joaquin Balaguer. Soon people were disappearing and being assassinated. Balaguer accused his enemies of being Communists and was given free rein by his friends in the West. The United States eventually pressured Balaguer to give a limited democracy in 1979. Free elections were allowed and the political party initially founded by Bosch put him back in power.
Grandfather returned from exile to the Dominican Republic in 1979. He supported the new Democratic society where everyone has a voice, including the Communists. In CIA documents he was apparently labelled a "hard core" Communist. He was never allowed in the United States because of his Communist background, but ironically, at the end of his life he got as form of cancer that could only be treated in the USA. He was given a humanitarian visa by the American ambassador and was allowed to visit for treatment.
400 Marines were ordered to the Dominican Republic on 27 April as part of Operation Power Pack. The United States convinced the Organization of American States (OAS) to form an inter-American military force to intervene in the Dominican Republic on 28 April 1965. Later, the Inter-American Peace Force (IAPF) was formally established on May 23. In addition to the United States military presence, the following troops were sent by each country; Brazil 1130, Honduras 250, Paraguay 184, Nicaragua 160, Costa Rica 21 military police, and El Salvador 3 staff officers. The South American troops were so weak, ill-trained and poorly supplied that a Navy Admiral asked that no further OAS troops be deployed in the Dominican Republic "Until they are equipped to exist and function in the field." 2,200 paratroopers of the U.S Army's 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division arrived on 29 April. The 1st Brigade and elements of the 11th Air Assault Division joined them later on 4 May. The 6th Marine Expeditionary Unit was landed in strength. Eventually, a force of 23,000 U.S. troops was in-country. By the end of the operation 27 U.S. troops were killed in action, including 13 82nd Airborne paratroopers.
President Johnson stated in a television address:
The United States Government has been informed by the military authorities in the Dominican Republic that American lives are in danger. These authorities are no longer able to guarantee their safety and they reported that the assistance of military personnel is now needed for that purpose.
82nd Airborne Division Soldiers in Dominican Republic
The American troops occupied the Dominican Republic to stabilize conditions on the island and prevent a takeover by Marxist rebels. By May 14, the American had enforced a safety zone. Road blocks were established and patrols ran continuously.
Major William E. Klein discusses the military aspect of the operation in an article entitled Stability Operations in
, INFANTRY, July-August 2004. Readers who are interested in the Lessons Learned aspect of the battle within the city of Santo Domingo are urged to read this article. He says in part: Santo Domingo
The outbreak was primarily confined to the city of
, where the rebels, influenced by a strong Communist element, had issued guns and ammunition to civilians. Most of the Americans and foreign nationals fled to the Ambassador Hotel, located on the western edge of the city. It was this hotel which was the original objective of the Marines who poured ashore on Santo Domingo Red Beach, near , approximately 20 kilometers west of the city. About the same time, two airborne infantry battalions of the 82nd Airborne Division landed at Jaina Port airfield, some 12 kilometers east of the city. San Isidro
Lieutenant General Bruce Palmer Jr., sent in to assume command of the
U.S.forces in the recommended the rapid establishment of a line of communications between the two units. The plan was approved by higher headquarters on 2 May in a surprise midnight move, the 82nd Airborne Division, commanded by Major General Robert H. York, stretched five battalions through the city to link up with the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Dominican Republic
The troopers and Marines began to improve their defensive positions on a continuing basis and controlled the flow of traffic in and out of the rebel zone by sealing off all roads and alleyways, except for seven check points. There was no restriction as to entering or leaving the zone except that weapons and ammunition could not be carried in or out. The rebels tried many tricks at first, such as attempting to run the checkpoints in ambulances without being searched, and later they attempted to hide the weapons underneath wounded they were evacuating. Gradually, their undercover methods were discovered and the arms exodus was reduced substantially.
Speaking of the 82nd, Power Pack, Dominican Republic, 1965-1966 adds:
After 4 May 1965, the 82nd Aviation Battalion provided support for units of the division in the form of extensive aerial reconnaissance, medical evacuation, loudspeaker and leaflet drop missions, airlift or personnel and cargo, command control missions, classified missions into the interior for the U. S. Embassy and Special Forces, and provision of airlift for a platoon quick reaction force.
The U.S. Land Forces News
This news sheet was a regular newspaper for the troops taking part in the Dominican Republic action. It was printed by US forces and kept them up to date on current affairs. This issue, the very first one dated 7 May 1965, contained a message from General Palmer, Commander of Joint Task Force 120.
One of the most important missions during these early days was civil affairs. It was crucial to get the starving populace fed, the streets cleaned, water and electrical services restored, medical aid supplied to the needy, and to find adequate solutions to myriad other problems. It was one thing to accomplish these tasks in a peaceful environment and quite another to work at them under the constant harassment of sniper fire.
The situation improved gradually throughout the month of May, and in June the President announced the withdrawal of all the Marines. The 82nd Airborne Division then occupied the entire perimeter and held it until the
Latin Americacontingent began to assume some of the security and peacekeeping missions.
Some 6,500 people from many nations were evacuated to safety. In addition, the US forces airlifted in 8 million tons of relief supplies for Dominican Nationals. The fighting continued until 31 August 1965 when a truce was declared. Most American troops left shortly afterwards, but some remained until September 1966.
Although there is some dispute about the actual numbers, by the end of the invasion, more than 3,000 Dominicans and 24 American servicemen had lost their lives. Another 156 Americans were wounded. Trujillo loyalist Joaquin Balaguer was eventually returned to power and ruled with an iron fist for many years afterwards.
Although the fighting was mostly small arms fire in an urban environment, there was at least one sea battle. The Stars and Stripes adds:
Paratroopers with the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment sank the 350-foot freighter SS Santo Domingo in the early days of the conflict with a 106 mm recoilless rifle after rebels used the ship to stage attacks on U.S. troops. A telegram from the U.S. State Department the evening of May 6, 1965, noted the incident:
Despite cease-fire sporadic sniper fire at US forces continues it read. Rebels have been using small boats in river as sniper positions. US forces returning fire sank one small boat and set fire to freighter.
In a later legal battle between the ship's owners and its insurers in New York federal court, court documents detail the freighter had been abandoned by its crew after returning to its namesake port amid the civil war. The court documents, from Flota Mercante Dominicana vs. American Manufacturers Mutual Insurance Co., said that after the crew fled, the freighter was briefly taken over by members of the national police before again being abandoned, this time to rebel forces.
The new occupants of the ship used it to direct fire at paratroopers who had taken up positions on the other side of the Ozama River. Exchanges of gunfire came to an end when the Americans resorted to the use of 106 mm explosive shells, which burned and sank the ship.
LTC Wallace J. Moulis, Commanding Office of the 1st PSYWAR Battalion wrote about Dominican Republic psychological operations in an article entitled "Key to a Crisis," Military Review, February 1966. He says:
On the afternoon of 1 May, in response to Mr. Ryan's (USIA Director) request, the 1st PSYWAR Battalion at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, was directed to dispatch the first elements of the Army's psychological warfare effort in support of the operation directed by the USIS.
Operational elements of the 1st PSYWAR Company (Field Army), reinforced with radio broadcast and light, mobile audiovisual teams, as well as language experts, were readied for a midnight departure. A liaison officer was dispatched to join Mr. Ryan with the mission of coordinating military support and assisting the over-all operation in any way possible. The battalion's van-mounted radio was prepared to follow shortly by heavy airlift.
Almost before the roar of their aircraft had left their ears, the radio teams with Ray Aylor, Voice of America radio engineer, were rehabilitating a 1000-watt transmitter to begin relaying Voice of America transmission from Greenville, North Carolina. Production of leaflets by mimeograph began even before the arrival of light, mobile presses. Loudspeakers took positions along the Ozama River to bring the voice of the United States to the people.
1st PSYWAR Battalion troops in front of the Radio Broadcast Van Santo Domingo
Bert H. Cooper Jr. wrote two essays entitled "Teamwork in Santo Domingo" and "Divided Counsels." The essays are reprinted in Department of the Army Pamphlet 525-7-1, The Art and Science of Psychological Operations: Case Studies of Military Application. Much of the next few paragraphs are paraphrased from the essays. He stated that the most significant organizational achievement of the Dominican operation in the area of communications was the combining of civilian and military talents by the United States Information Agency (USIA) and the Armys 1st PSYWAR Battalion (later to become the 1st PSYOP Battalion). He called it a classic case of successful interagency cooperation in a crisis situation. In fact, the USIA later presented the 1st PSYWAR Battalion with its Award for Distinguished Service, its highest commendation. The citation reads:
United States Information Agency
Award for Distinguished Service.
Presented to the
First Psychological Warfare Battalion United States Army
In recognition of outstanding support and assistance to the United
Information Service in the Dominican Republic during the month of May 1965.
June 15, 1965
Carl T. Rowan
Each Battalion member received a personal letter of commendation from their commander. Specialist Fourth Class James Robeson, the Battalion S-1 (Personnel) clerks letter stated in part:
The occasion marked the first time on which the United States Information Agency Distinguished Service Award has been presented to a military organization. This recognition is due in no small part to your efficient execution of each assigned task with vigor, a sense of urgency, and dedication
The USIA staff in the Dominican Republic was familiar with the country and had the professional and language skills. However, they lacked the communications equipment and facilities that the Army could supply. The military lacked language skills. This is attested to in part by correspondence from SP4 Dave Hagen who was assigned to the 1st PSYWAR Battalion as a broadcast specialist:
I was one of 8 or 9 GI's running a portable radio station called the "Voice of the Security Zone" that went on the air May 5th. We were up and running a few days before that but I was the only announcer (my MOS listed "broadcast specialist") and I did not speak Spanish. We got a civilian in from "VOA" (that is where he said he was from) and were up and running for the next few months.
SP4 Dave Hagen
Courtesy of Psywar.com
Because the main government radio station was in rebel hands, Hagen and his team had to broadcast from a small station in the countryside:
We drove west from the San Isidro Air Base several miles and turned off the main road into a residential area before (I believe) we reached the Ozama River and the Duarte Bridge (a scene of heavy fighting). In this residential area we arrived at a one-acre field with a standing AM radio broadcast tower and a small cement building. The building was empty and there were no signs of any combat in the area. This building was about 10' x 10' which was the perfect size for an AM radio transmitter and its associated equipment. There were no studio facilities in the area. We set up our equipment and used the standing antenna. Overall we had a generator, studio truck, transmitter truck, communications truck, and the antenna tuning truck. As mentioned, we were in a residential area, and the rest of the city block we were located in was all single story houses and some duplexes.
Our unit had a complete radio station in our five trucks. We did not re-broadcast VOA, we broadcast our own programming. The 1st Psywar consisted of three groups...RB (radio broadcast), Loudspeaker, and Leaflets. We also had an FA unit for support. All were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Wallace Moulis. Our RB group was commanded by Captain William Perry. We also had two lieutenants, Williams and Pojmanski. We had two Master Sergeants, Tokifuji and Fewles, and three specialists, including myself. We were in a war zone and even slept with our weapons. When things got quiet we tried to win the "hearts and minds" of the kids. We played baseball with them. Many had mitts and softballs.
Was the radio station successful?
We were trying to let people know what was happening and that American troops had established a buffer zone between three warring factions. We also wanted to let them know that we were their friends. We saw both civilians and military listening to us on portable radios. Kids hung around our radio station and women brought us coffee in the morning. We seemed to be well liked. Of course, we were heavily armed and brought a sense of security to the area of
that we were in. At the time, it appeared that our messages helped to end the fighting. Reports in the years following the American "intervention" contend that we were simply trying to stop the spread of Communism. That is true, but we also helped to end a civil war. Santo Domingo
In 2015, Dave Hagen spoke again, this time to my friend Lee Richards. To see his complete comments see Psywar.org. He added:
Latin American specialists working for the United States Information Service (USIS) in Santo Domingo could have performed those tasks except that their printing and broadcast equipment were located in buildings now controlled by the rebels. Fully armed, we arrived with our broadcast facilities at San Isidro Air Base near Santo Domingo on 2 May.
On 4 May we were ready to start broadcasting to the Dominican Republic. I was the only announcer (broadcast specialist) with the 4th RB team and did not speak Spanish so we did not start actual broadcasts until 5 May when an employee of the United States Information Agency (USIA) arrived. Our Voice of the Security Zone hit the AM airwaves and was powerful enough to be picked up in the surrounding countryside. I was told our broadcasting explained to the population the positive side of the intervention, and the need to restore order and democracy. Civilian specialists wrote scripts and other forms of propaganda under the direction of Mr. Hewson Ryan, associate director of the USIA. Our team was not involved with any "propaganda" planning and was simply tasked with keeping the radio station on the air.
Our radio broadcast equipment consisted of three truck mounted modules and two semi-trailers. The modules contained a communications unit (teletype and voice), an antenna tuning unit, and a power generator. The semis pulled a studio trailer and a transmitter trailer. When the rest of the 1st Psychological Warfare Battalion arrived in the Dominican Republic between 3 and 7 May, it brought with it mobile printing presses and loudspeaker units.
Within a week I was later told, the first pamphlet drop was made over Santo Domingo using two Air Force C-47s. One report stated that by the end of May leaflets were being printed at a rate of 70,000 per day. The printing facilities were in a different location than our broadcasting station so I did not see any of the leaflets. None were air dropped in our area.
The 1st PSYWAR Battalions radio station, "The Voice of the Security Zone" went on the air on 5 May. It had a 5000-watt signal capable of reaching a good portion of the nation. Later, two additional transmitters were added to the network. The Army conducted 600 hours of loudspeaker operations, and broadcast over 900 hours of in-country programs. In addition, they relayed the Voice of America broadcasts for 35 days.
There was a lively propaganda war on the airwaves of the Dominican Republic. The history of the 193rd USAF Special Operation Wing says:
The efforts of U.S. military forces, operating alongside Dominican Republic governmental troops, were hindered by a rebel-operated radio station, which continually broadcast information to resistance forces.
1st PSYWAR Battalion Trooper hands out newspaper to Dominican civilian.
Stanley Sadler says in Cease resistance: Its Good for you! A History of U.S. Army Combat Psychological Operations, 2nd Edition, 1998:
U.S. PSYWAR radio was able to monitor and answer rebel radio diatribes about "Yanqui imperialismo" and put out the first newspaper since the outbreak of the revolt.
We should point out here that it was not only the U.S. Army fighting the various rebel radio stations. Carl Black was a radioman aboard the Destroyer USS Perry, DD844. The ship was assigned to the naval battle group sent to the Dominican Republic. He told me:
Initially we were in the destroyer screen closest to shore off Santo Domingo. We were notified that an AM radio station had fallen into the hands of the rebels and we were given its frequency and instructed to jam it. Since we had an AM transceiver with over twice the output power of the radio station we came up on their frequency with a deliberately bad transmitter setup and keyed the transmitter. This bad setup caused the transmitter to create a variable frequency audio tone osculating in the audio range centered on their frequency.We maintained this until we were notified that the radio station was back in government hands.
The insurgents were not above the using tragic American accidents and incidents as anti-American propaganda.PFC Bill Quigley assigned to the 307th Medical Battalion near the
Duarte Bridgetold me that a trooper accidentally killed a 10-year old Dominican shoeshine boy when his .45 caliber pistol discharged while he was using it to remove the cap from a bottle of Coca Cola. US
The body was held in a building next to the aid station until the family claimed it. Eventually, a Dominican man came for the body, claiming to be an uncle. Unit officers suspected that the "uncle" was really a rebel who wanted to parade the body through the streets as anti-American propaganda. Army Intelligence assigned a warrant officer to interrogate the alleged uncle. After questioning, he confessed that he was not a relative. He was a member of Colonel Caamano Denos rebel forces and his mission was to collect the boy's body for propaganda purposes. He was immediately turned over to the Policia Nacional and probably never heard from again.
Speaking of the Duarte Bridge, Specialist Fourth Class Don Sebastian was a member of the 82nd Airborne who arrived in the Dominican Republic on day two of the invasion. He says that he was called to the headquarters of General Robert York; Commander of the 82d Airborne Division shortly after the division took some losses at the battle of the Duarte Bridge. The Dominican Popular Movement, a small Communist party force had distributed Molotov cocktails to the crowds, and the rebel military, well supplied with mortars, machine guns, bazookas and small arms were defending the Duarte Bridge. Both the pro and anti-Government forces wore the same uniform and it was impossible to distinguish friend from foe.
Come get your money
Don says he was called to headquarters by General York and found two finance officers and a jeep full of shopping bags containing $100 bills. His orders were to hand out individual banknotes to individuals near the bridge. Don had no idea why he was given that mission but believes it was to empty the enemy ranks of fighters. When word got out that the Americans were giving out $100 bills Dominican civilians came from everywhere, and many of them were young men of military age who might have been carrying AK-47s just minutes earlier. Could this have been a ploy to clear the area of Dominicans and reduce collateral damage?
U.S. Navy Blue Eagle I
In fact, it was not just the Army that ran a psychological operations radio station. The Navy was also involved. In late 1964 Navy Capt. George Dixon became Manager of Project Jenny, the U. S. Navy operation to use aircraft to broadcast radio in support of psychological operations. He met with the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) concerning the feasibility of using an aircraft as a radio broadcasting platform. Although dubious, RCA agreed to provide equipment and technical expertise. The aircraft configuration and technical work was performed by Navy enlisted personnel.
The first "Blue Eagle" aircraft was constructed in January 1965 using a NC-121J Lockheed Super-Constellation shell. Blue Eagle I was the first project aircraft and configured to do AM, FM, and SW radio broadcast missions. A crew of naval officers and enlisted personnel was selected. Operational and flight training began in July 1965. In September 1965 Blue Eagle I was ordered to Naval Air Station Roosevelt Roads Puerto Rico to fly radio missions in support of U. S. PSYOP efforts in the Dominican Republic. Blue Eagle I was on station for approximately 2 weeks and then returned to Andrews AFB. The aircraft was sent to Vietnam shortly afterwards where it broadcast Armed Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN) radio from 1965-1967 and earned the nickname "Danang Dirty Bird." A year later the Air Force was given the assignment of airborne psychological operations and it has continued that mission ever since.
We learn more about the navys use of aircraft as propaganda platforms from Electronics Technician Second Class Chuck Hammond who was stationed at the Anacostia Naval air base from mid-1963 to November 1966. Chuck was assigned directly to Chief of Naval Operations for special assignments. He told me:
I was assigned to the US Naval Security Station, Washington D.C. in November 1963 after Electronics Technician A School in San Francisco. We worked for the Chief of Naval operations as a mobile communications unit. Most of our assignments were temporary additional duty to some other location.
The unit was stationed at the old Anacostia Naval Air Station just north of Boling Air Force Base in S.W. Washington. All that was there at that time were empty hangers. We stored all of the communications equipment in those hangers except for any cryptologist gear. In early 1965 we began testing radio broadcasting from a navy 4-propeller aircraft (not the Super Constellation mentioned above).I do not remember the name of the aircraft but we strung a steel cable out behind the plane as an antenna.
The RCA TR-22 video tape recorder
The equipment that we had in our possession at the time was two RCA TR-22 video tape recorders. I believe they were the first solid state recorders and used a 2 tape.
On about 12 May we were sent to Andrews Air Force base and deployed to Roosevelt Roads air base in Puerto Rico. On board the plane were the two video tape recorders and a diesel generator to provide power to them. We initially had RCA technicians come in and train us on-site. The diesel generator was 55 kilowatts which to me to be a case of overkill. Our job was to maintain the recorders as the plane flew over the Dominican Republic and broadcast a TV signal. I dont know what we broadcast since it was all in Spanish but it was surely a propaganda message. We landed in Santo Domingo a few times and returned to Washington after two to three weeks. When we returned a Super Constellation equipped similarly to our plane was at Andrews AFB and a member of our unit was working on it.
I have no idea if this is true but we heard a rumor that television sets were at a premium in the Dominican Republic so the United States sent a plane full of 13-inch black-and-white TV sets to be distributed to the people so they could watch what we were broadcasting.
RMC Steve Robbins, United States Navy, remembers it a bit differently:
I just wanted to set the record straight on Blue Eagle I. To the best of my memory (and that of a few of my fellow Project Jenny crewmen who were around in 1965), Blue Eagle I deployed to NAS Roosevelt Roads to provide airborne broadcast services for the Dominican Republic, but for whatever reason never actually conducted any broadcast operations. I'm guessing that we were probably a contingent operation that was simply never needed.
1st PSYWAR Battalion Loudspeaker Jeep in the Dominican Republic
I was contacted in 2009 and told that the officer in the front right passenger seat is Lieutenant Lawrence Karlock.
Hewson A. Ryan, Associate Director USIA (Policy and Plans) was assigned the task of coordinating all PSYOP in the Dominican Republic. He had been involved in the Cuban missile crisis and as a result was aware of the need for air delivery of leaflets, radio and loudspeaker broadcasts. Cooper says that to assist him, the Army sent the entire 1st PSYWAR Battalion to Santo Domingo from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, in early May. A temporary base of operations was set up in the home of the Public Affairs Officer near the American Embassy. The Battalion soon moved into a nearby school building. The Army supplied radio transmitters, mobile presses, multilith machines, loudspeaker trucks, and aircraft for leaflet and loudspeaker operations. Cooper says that the working relationships were particularly good and the military-civilian mix worked extremely well. Most of the Battalion and the heavy equipment returned to Fort Bragg by June. At that time, the priority changed from psychological operations to civil affairs and nation-building support.
At the height of the operation there were some problems with both the hostile press and with the OAS, For instance, Cooper says:
When a visiting delegation of OAS representative complained that the leaflets being dropped from U.S. planes contained propaganda material in support of the "loyalist" military junta, the State Department asked the leaflet drops by military aircraft be halted.
Lawrence A, Yates seems to agree that some of the leaflets were less than truthful in Power Pack: U.S. Intervention in the Dominican Republic, 1965-1966, U. S. Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, 1988:
Leaflets bearing pictures of President Kennedy and LBJ and pamphlets extolling the virtues of the OAS and the evils of communism became standard, if innocuous fare. Some propaganda, however, was blatantly false, as USIS officials tried to convince the population that the intervention was a benevolent undertaking. One of the Battalions after-action reports listed among the USIS-imposed propaganda themes such fictions as "the landing was made for peaceful and humanitarian ends," and the "U. S. government supports neither side nor has it given military aid to either faction."
Yates seems to think that the poor performance of the Army Public Affairs Officers (PAO) and the admitted lack of the ability to run a fair and balanced briefing was the start of the adversarial attitude between the Army and the press that came to a head in Vietnam. In their defense, the PAOs were forced to parrot the line that the United States was neutral and simply trying to bring peace to a divided nation, when it was clear that the military action was taken rid the Dominican Republic of a movement that was perceived as communist inspired.
One individual who prefers to remain anonymous was there during the invasion and told me:
I think the PSYOP group was handed a difficult role because they did not have a good intelligence feed and had to use what came from the embassy and Washington DC. They had to parrot the official line. The American Ambassador was noted for being close to the old Trujillo crowd including the rich and the corrupt military leadership. Most of the military and the civilian population, constituting the so called Rebel or Constitutional faction, did not want yet another military coup and leadership by the corrupt generals. Communism was used as an excuse to invade, but much later I was told by intelligence sources that they never found evidence of significant communist influence among the Constitutionalists. We continued to say that the United States of America was neutral while funding the junta and allowing it to move through the disarmed corridor.
There were no good answers. Juan Bosch was an ineffective administrator and leader. General Trujillo had eliminated any potential leaders and corrupted the influential and rich. Arranging for Joaquin Balaguer to win elections was probably the best of the poor choices for ending the situation. Unfortunately, he continued the corruption and did nothing for the development of the country or to help the general population.
The Special Forces had two missions. The overt mission was to deliver food with choppers to various locations. The second mission had small groups tucked away at key points around the country with heavy firepower where they could control the major roads. We were aware of about 6 such locations.
The Cooper State Department comment is interesting because it is one of the few written references to leaflets dropped during the campaign, and also is a very rare case of American PSYOP being influenced and changed by foreign pressure. The State Department seems to have been out of step with the USIA and the military, interfering with a complex operation. This causes confusion among personnel and leads to mixed messages being sent to the enemy. The State Department also seems to have disagreed with the Central Intelligence Agencys conclusion of a strong communist influence in the Dominican Republic. Like Vietnam, we have one segment of the government treating the action as a civil war while another treats it as a communist insurrection. The lack of a strong PSYOP effort was commented upon by Captain James B. Oerding who spent 22 days in-country at the height of the fighting as a team leader in the 7th Special Forces Group. He says:
During my 22 days in the Dominican Republic, (a fairly normal time - few were there beyond 60 days) I never saw any indication of PSYOP activities - no leaflets, no posters, no newspapers, no loudspeakers - nothing. As an SF Team Leader, we were somewhat isolated, but if there had been anything much, I'm sure that I would have seen it. I did hear, however, that the Radio Station in Santo Domingo, after it was recaptured was used for PSYOP and other broadcasts. We didn't have a radio to listen to it, so I can't be sure.
Ten U.S. leaflets dropped over the Dominican Republic
Moulis disagrees and says that after the light mobile printing presses arrived on 3 May the production of leaflets was greatly enhanced. Two C-47 aircraft were assigned the task of dropping the leaflets and broadcasting to the people of Santo Domingo. Leaflets were also distributed by trucks and at certain designated locations. When those locations ran low, the leaflets were sold on the street by Dominican youngsters for a nickel each. One published report states that 70,000 leaflets a day were being printed by the end of May.
Army Specialist Fifth Class Bill Cohune tells us more about the PSYOP campaign. He was drafted September 1963 and assigned to the 1st PSYWAR Battalion Ft. Bragg, U.S. in January 1964. In April 1965, his entire unit including the Printing Platoon, Radio Broadcast Platoon, and the graphic artist contingent was deployed to North Carolina . Bill was assigned to the graphics group as a photographer with Colonel Mouliss headquarters group encamped near the Santo Domingo U.S.Embassy in . The graphic group was assigned the task of developing leaflet and poster ideas that would depict the positive sides of the Santo Domingo involvement and motivate the Dominican people to reject the rebels. The reaction from the population was generally positive. Bill told me: US
My specific tasks were to take pictures of subjects that could be used in the leaflets, and then to take pictures of the distribution of the leaflets and posters. I also made a number of helicopter leaflet drops in various areas of
. Santo Domingo
My equipment was a Pentax SLR for color slides, which were all retained by the headquarters, and a speed Graflex press camera with a Polaroid pack for proofs and confirmations. The final black and white films were processed by a technician in another group, as the PSYWAR battalion did not have mobile dark room capabilities. I was only allowed to keep some of the proofs.
Printing Press Compound in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Army PSYWAR operators produced and distributed over two and a half million printed propaganda items. They are extremely rare and as I said at the start of this story, I have held only one. It seems apparent that the leaflets were dropped for a short period and probably only in and around the capitol city of Santo Domingo. Moulis illustrates 10 such leaflets in his Military Review article. Most are plain text with symbols such as the flag or seal of the Dominican Republic. Two of the leaflets depict U.S. presidents; John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. The titles of some of the leaflets are, "Dominicans this is your peace. Do not permit the Communists to deceive you!" "We are Working Together," "Dominican Citizens" and "A Report by Costa Rican Journalists."
1st PSYWAR members distribute posters telling of the Communist Subversion of
A newspaper was printed in support of the Army operation by the USIS starting 5 May. 75,000 copies per issue were printed in Miami, Florida, and forwarded to the Dominican Republic for dissemination. At the same time, to help support the Army printing on mobile presses, posters and pamphlets were printed by the USIA plant in Mexico City.
Captain Blaine Revis who commanded the 19th PSYOP Company from June 1964 to August 1965 told me about deploying his troops to the
during Operation Power pack. Dominican Republic
We sent two loudspeaker teams augmented with two Spanish speaking linguists and a print section (a 3/4-ton truck with pod). They flew into
on D+1 on a C47 Skytrain and a C119 Flying Boxcar. [Author's note: We enlisted personnel affectionately called them Gooney Birds and Flying Coffins]. The C47 was hit by three rounds of small arms fire on landing approach. San Isidro
Our assigned sector was rather agrarian and soon quiet and compliant. I attribute that to some extent to the rice and beans and odd C-rations that we gave out to the people, along with Latin music that we played on the loudspeakers.
The 82nd Airborne Division had a roving medical team that was well received among the local populace.
From our standpoint, about the most exciting thing that happened was that one of the Special Warfare Center PSYOP people (a Lieutenant Ralph M.) created a lasting legacy by inventing a dry margarita mix while on that mission. There was lots of rum and lots of fruit but no way to blend it. The mix is now sold in liquor stores around the country under the name "Lieutenant Blender Margarita Mix." The front of the bag depicts the lieutenant wearing aviator sunglasses and a beret and holding a frozen cocktail. The back panel tells the tale of
U.S.paratrooper Lt. Blender, an officer who was born on a Caribbeanisland and later held back the "forces of thirst."
Some problems that were identified were the time it took to receive supplies from the United States, the obsolescence of some of the equipment, the lack of good maps and intelligence, and the lack of Spanish-trained linguists. This affected not only the radio operations, but also the printing operations where errors were made due to the lack of knowledge of the language.
The OAS "Jeep" leaflet
I said at the start of this article that I had seen only a very few leaflets to the Dominican Republic. One leaflet was 20 x 13cm on thin cardboard and pictured an Army jeep with three military personnel and an Organization of American States (OEA in Spanish) flag. The jeep is olive green. The rest of the leaflet is black and white except for the flag and the armbands on the soldiers which are blue. The back is all text and says:
The forces of law and order are here for the protection and good of all Dominicans.
Laws and additional precautions are necessary in time of war.
The above leaflet depicts the flag of the Dominican Republic and the text:
Dominicans this is your country
Do not be fooled by the communists
Lyndon B. Johnson
The above leaflet depicts President Lyndon B. Johnson and the text:
As stated by President Johnson
The United States will give its full support to the work of the OAS and never vary from its commitment to preserve the right of all free peoples of this hemisphere to follow their own path without falling victim to the international conspiracy from wherever it comes.
The back is all text:
May 3, 1965
This is the TRUTH, the TRUTH about the American landing.
The landing was made only for peaceful and humanitarian purposes.
The landing was made only when the Dominican civil and military forces lost the ability to protect the lives of North American citizens and those of other nations.
The United States government does not support any faction nor has it lent military aid or materials to any faction.
The United States government only advocates the freedom and welfare of the Dominican people within a constitutional framework.
The United States government has collaborated with the Red Cross to provide emergency aid all the Dominicans affected by the current crisis.
The United States government is lending its entire support to the negotiations by the Organization of American States to solve the crisis.
This colorful leaflet depicts the Virgin Mary on one side and the text:
USMC Santa Domingo
The anti-American forces within the Dominican Republic produced propaganda in the form of posters. I have seen one that depicts a grotesque crazed U.S. Marine coming ashore holding his rifle in such a way that it was plain that he was about to bayonet the innocent viewer. In the background are American ships and aircraft
Combat Psy-Warrior Certificate presented to PSYOP participants
Certificate courtesy of SP4 David Hagan
The Dominican Republic campaign was like the Vietnam War in many ways. Although I have not delved on the problems of leadership, intelligence, and communications, the military was deployed without a clear mission, lacking proper maps and intelligence, and without a way to communicate with the enemy or each other. It was impossible to tell loyalist from constitutionalist, and at one stage the "friendlies" were told to wear their military caps backwards to aid in identification.
Washington did not want to send a large military force and doled out the troops by dribs and drabs, debating before each deployment, sending them, turning them around in flight, and then sending them again. Spanish-speaking Special Forces troops had been sent to Vietnam and for some reason were not deployed to the Dominican Republic. Units that had Spanish-speaking troops from Puerto Rico or elsewhere kept them hidden to make sure that they were not transferred to headquarters, wanting to keep them for their own operations. The government eventually sent Spanish-speaking FBI agents to help interrogate and translate, but they were not trusted by the CIA and there was little exchange of information.
President Johnson tried to micromanage the affair from Washington with little information or intelligence on the actual status of political and military conditions on the ground. The government infuriated the press by calling the U.S. involvement solely for the protection of American citizens in the Dominican Republic, while the Commanders and members of the armed forces spoke publicly of stopping the founding of "another Cuba" on America's doorstep and "killing commies." Truce after truce was declared, allowing both sides to continually rearm and prepare for further attacks. Worse, on two occasions the civil war might have been quickly ended. The 82nd Airborne was ready to attack and end the rebellion "within a day or two" in one case, in another the loyalist army wanted to attack the constitutionalists and end the revolt. Both times LBJ cancelled the attacks, worrying that a military victory would harm the image of the United States in Latin America and Europe. He did not want a military solution. Instead, he held out for a political resolution, lengthening the war and possibly causing greater death and destruction. It was another war where the military would find its hands tied by a government more worried about image than victory.
Fact Sheet The Dominican Crisis
The fact sheet was produced by the United States Government to explain why it had intervened in the Dominican Republic
During the peace-keeping "stability operations" U. S. authorities constantly changed the rules of engagement. Yates says that the rules were called, "dumb," "crazy," "mind-boggling," "demoralizing," "convoluted," and "confusing." He adds, "Where frustration gave way to anger was in those cases in which civilian and military leaders in Washington appeared to ignore military considerations completely as they sacrificed the safety and morale of American soldiers in Santo Domingo on the altar of political considerations."
Stanley Sandler says in Cease Resistance: It's Good for You: A history of U. S. Army Combat Psychological Operations:
In some significant ways the Dominican intervention could be considered a low-level rehearsal for psychological warfare in Vietnam, where the situation was rapidly deteriorating: a civil war/insurrection of leftists with considerable nationalistic support, no hard and fast battle lines, no sure way to determine who was a rebel and who a student (when often they could be both), and semi-orchestrated U.S. home front and international opposition to American intervention.
The author would appreciate hearing from anyone who can shed more light on this subject. Readers with comments or questions are encouraged to write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 28 July 2004