Dominican Civil War
Part of the Cold War

American soldiers engaged in a firefight while a child takes cover under a jeep for protection in Santo Domingo on May 5, 1965.
Date24 April 1965 – 3 September 1965[1]
(4 months, 1 week and 3 days)

Loyalist victory

  • Ceasefire declared
  • Formation of the provisional government for new elections
  • Deposition of Juan Bosch of the presidency
  • Organization of presidential elections in 1966 under international supervision
  • Election of Joaquín Balaguer as the new president
Loyalist faction
 United States

Constitutionalist faction

Commanders and leaders
Dominican Republic Elías Wessin y Wessin
Dominican Republic Antonio Imbert Barrera
United States Lyndon B. Johnson
United States Bruce Palmer[1]
Dominican Republic Juan Bosch
Dominican Republic Francisco Caamaño[1]
2,200 regulars
12 AMX-13 light tanks
24 L-60 light tanks
13 Lynx armoured cars
1 frigate
4+ fighters
United States:
6,924 Marines
12,434 82nd Airborne
Unknown number of M48 Patton main battle tanks
1,500 regulars
5,000 armed civilians
5+ light tanks
Casualties and losses

Dominican Republic Dominican Republic:

  • 500 regulars killed[2]
  • 325 police killed[2]
  • 5 light tanks captured
  • 2 P-51 Mustang fighters shot down

United States United States:

  • 44 dead (9 Marines and 18 82nd Airborne killed)[3]
  • 283 wounded or injured[4]
  • 1 M50 Ontos damaged


  • 11 wounded
600 regulars killed[2]
unknown armed civilians killed
5 light tanks destroyed
1 cargo ship damaged[5]
6,000 Dominican casualties and 350 U.S. casualties[2]
The Inter-American Peace Force (IAPF) was designed as a peacekeeping force and thus is not considered a war participant.

The Dominican Civil War (Spanish: Guerra Civil Dominicana), also known as the April Revolution (Spanish: Revolución de Abril), took place between April 24, 1965, and September 3, 1965, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. It started when civilian and military supporters of the overthrown democratically elected president Juan Bosch ousted the militarily installed president Donald Reid Cabral from office. The second coup prompted General Elías Wessin y Wessin to organize elements of the military loyal to the dictator Reid ("loyalists"), initiating an armed campaign against the "constitutionalist" rebels.

Allegations of communist support for the rebels led to a United States intervention in the conflict (codenamed Operation Power Pack),[6] which later transformed into an Organization of American States occupation of the country by the Inter-American Peace Force. Americans and Dominicans skirmished several times but fought only one battle, which occurred on June 15–16, 1965, in the Dominican-held Ciudad Nueva area of the city, where the 82nd Airborne Division lost 5 KIA, 31 WIA, and 3 DOW, while inflicting casualties of 67 KIA and 165 WIA on the Dominican forces. Elections were held in 1966, in the aftermath of which Joaquín Balaguer was elected. Later in the same year, foreign troops departed from the country. The conflict resulted in around 6,000 Dominican casualties and 350 U.S. casualties.[2]


Constitutionalist troops attempted to reinstate overthrown President Juan Emilio Bosch Gaviño into power.

Juan Emilio Bosch Gaviño was the first democratically elected president of the Dominican Republic. Sworn into office on February 27, 1963, he tried to implement a number of social reforms, which caused the anger of the business magnates and members of the army, who initiated a rumor campaign that accused Bosch of being a communist. On September 25, 1963, a group of twenty-five senior military commanders, led by General Elías Wessin y Wessin, expelled Bosch from the country and installed Donald Reid Cabral as the new president. Reid failed to gather popular support, and several factions prepared to launch a counter-coup; Constitutionalists under Bosch, a group in the Dominican army under Peña Taveras, supporters of the former Dominican Revolutionary Party leader Nicolás Silfa and plotters siding with Joaquín Balaguer.[7]

Civil war

April Revolution

A Universal Newsreel about the U.S. invasion.

On April 24, 1965, three junior officers requested a meeting with President Donald Reid Cabral, who rejected the offer after he had received news of a suspected anti-government plot. When Chief of Staff Riviera Cuesta was instead sent to discuss with the officers at the August 16 military camp, he was immediately detained. A group of military constitutionalists and Dominican Revolutionary Party (DRP) supporters then seized the Radio Santo Domingo building and issued calls of sedition while Constitutionalist officers distributed weapons and Molotov cocktails to their civilian comrades. The transmissions prompted the garrison of the February 27 camp and a unit of the Dominican Navy's frogmen to defect. Large numbers of police officers abandoned their positions and changed into civilian clothing.[8]

The following day, Reid appointed General Wessin y Wessin as the new chief of staff. Wessin rallied the government troops, branded them Loyalists, and announced his plans of suppressing the rebellion. At 10:30 am rebels stormed the presidential palace and arrested Reid. Several hours later, four Loyalist P-51 Mustangs conducted aerial bombings of the National Palace and other Constitutionalist positions, and one plane was shot down by ground machine-gun fire during the incident.[9] A single Loyalist vessel, Mella, on the river Ozama, also bombarded the palace. Fearing that a mob, which had gathered at the palace, would lynch Reid, the rebel commander Francisco Caamaño allowed him to escape, as Reid had already lost the support of the Loyalists. The majority of the DRP leadership fled the capital, and Constitutionalists mobilized a total of 5,000 armed civilians and 1,500 members of the military.[7][8] On April 26, José Rafael Molina Ureña was declared the provisional president, and large crowds gathered in the streets to demand Bosch's return from exile.

US intervention

United States occupation of the Dominican Republic (1965–1966)
Part of the Dominican Civil War

Wounded American soldier in Santo Domingo, 1965.
Date28 April 1965 – 21 September 1966
(1 year, 4 months, 3 weeks and 3 days)
Result Allied victory

In the meantime, US diplomats in Santo Domingo initiated preparations for evacuating 3,500 U.S. citizens. In the early morning of April 27, a group of 1,176 foreign civilians who had assembled in Hotel Embajador were airlifted to the Bajos de Haina naval facility, where they boarded USS Ruchamkin and USS Wood County, as well as the helicopters of HMM-264, which evacuated them from the island to USS Boxer and USS Raleigh. Later that day, 1,500 Loyalist troops, supported by armored cars and tanks, marched from the San Isidro Air Base, captured Duarte Bridge, and took position on the west bank of the Ozama River. A second force, consisting of 700 soldiers, left San Cristóbal and attacked the western suburbs of Santo Domingo. Wessin y Wessin ordered his armored units to cross the Duarte Bridge into Santo Domingo's center. However, the tanks quickly became bogged down in fierce combat within the narrow streets; armed civilians destroyed them. Unable to advance, the Loyalists retreated to San Isidro. The battle resulted in hundreds of casualties.

Rebels overran the Fortaleza Ozama police headquarters and took 700 prisoners. On April 28, armed civilians attacked the Villa Consuelo police station and executed all of the police officers who survived the initial skirmish. One US Marine battalion landed in Haina and later moved to Hotel Embajador, where it provided assistance in the upcoming airlifts. During the night, 684 civilians were airlifted to USS Boxer. One US Marine was killed by a rebel sniper during the operation.[8] On April 29, the US ambassador to the Dominican Republic, William Tapley Bennett, who had sent numerous reports to US President Lyndon Johnson, reported that the situation had reached life-threatening proportions for US citizens and that the rebels were Communists. Bennett stressed that the US had to act immediately, as the creation of an international coalition would be time-consuming. Contrary to the suggestions of his advisers, Johnson authorized the transformation of evacuation operations into a large-scale military intervention through Operation Power Pack, which was aimed to prevent the development of what he saw as a second Cuban Revolution.[7][8][10] It was the first overt U.S. military intervention in Latin America in more than 30 years, although it came on the heels of U.S.-backed coups in Guatemala and Brazil, as well as ongoing covert operations in Cuba.[11]

International Security Zone map.

At 2:16 a.m. on April 30, 1965, the 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division landed at the San Isidro Air Base and started the US military intervention in the conflict. During the next couple of hours, two brigade combat teams and heavy equipment were also dispatched. At sunrise the 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment moved up the San Isidoro highway under the cover of F-4 Phantom jets flying from Puerto Rico, securing a position east of the Duarte bridge. More units of the 82nd Airborne landed and secured the entire east bank of the Ozama River. Rebel positions across the river were destroyed by 105 mm howitzers. U.S. soldiers crossed the bridge and occupied a six-block area on the western side of the Duarte Bridge, but suffered casualties from sniper fire. The 1st Battalion 505th Infantry Regiment remained at the airbase and sent out patrols to the perimeter. A force of 1,700 Marines of the 6th Marine Expeditionary Unit occupied an area containing a number of foreign embassies. The locale was proclaimed an International Security Zone by the Organization of American States (OAS). Earlier in the day, the OAS also issued a resolution calling the combatants to end all hostilities. At 4:30 p.m., representatives of the loyalists, the rebels, and the US military signed a ceasefire that was to take effect at 11:45 p.m. That timing favored the demoralized Loyalists, who had lost control of Ciudad Colonial.[8][12]

On May 5, the OAS Peace Committee arrived in Santo Domingo, and a second definite ceasefire agreement was signed, which ended the main phase of the civil war. Under the Act of Santo Domingo, the OAS was tasked with overseeing the implementation of the peace deal as well as distributing food and medication through the capital. The treaties failed to prevent some violations such as small-scale firefights and sniper fire. A day later, OAS members established the Inter-American Peace Force (IAPF) with the goal of serving as a peacekeeping formation in the Dominican Republic. The IAPF had 1,748 Brazilian, Paraguayan, Nicaraguan, Costa Rican, Salvadoran and Honduran troops and was headed by Brazilian General Hugo Panasco Alvim, with US Army General Bruce Palmer serving as his deputy commander.[1][12] General Palmer proposed sending U.S. troops to eliminate the northern rebel sector and shut down the rebel-held radio station, but Washington blocked any offensive operations involving U.S. troops.

Francisco Caamaño, rebel leader in Dominican War of 1965.

Utilizing Radio Santo Domingo as their primary weapon, the rebels launched a psychological campaign against the United States, the OAS, and the Loyalists. Through numerous outlets, studios, and transmission sites nationwide, they employed Radio Santo Domingo to incite a nationwide rebellion. In response, American forces initiated jamming operations, deploying Army Security Agency (ASA) units on land, air force units in the skies, and naval ships at sea. Additionally, a reinforced company from the army's 7th Special Forces Group, led by Col. Edward Mayer, attacked critical relay sites beyond the capital. Their initial efforts were not effective, however, and rebel broadcasts continued to make their influence felt countrywide.[13]

On May 13, the Loyalists launched an air attack on Radio Santo Domingo and its main transmitter sites. One of the planes accidentally strafed U.S. troops, prompting the Americans to return fire and shoot down another P-51 of World War II vintage.[14] The following day, the Loyalists initiated an offensive against the rebel-held northern sector. They overwhelmed the rebels' initial defense line, seizing control of the majority of the city's industrial sector. By May 20, the Loyalists had completed the destruction of the rebel northern zone and captured Radio Santo Domingo.

United States withdrawal

A Marine machine gunner monitors a position along the international neutral corridor.

On May 26, US forces began gradually withdrawing from the island. On June 15, the Constitutionalists launched a second and final attempt to expand the boundaries of their stronghold. In the bloodiest battle of the intervention, the rebels began their attack on US outposts. Using the greatest firepower yet, they used tear gas grenades, .50-caliber machine guns, 20 mm guns, mortars, rocket launchers, and tank fire. The 1st battalions of the 505th and 508th Infantry quickly went on the offensive. Two days of fighting cost the 82nd Airborne 5 killed and 31 wounded in action.[15] The OAS forces, whose orders were to remain at their defenses, counted five wounded. The Constitutionalists lost 67 killed and 165 wounded.

The first postwar elections were held on July 1, 1966, and pit the conservative Reformist Party candidate, Joaquín Balaguer, against the former president Juan Emilio Bosch Gaviño. Balaguer – with the support of the US – emerged victorious in the elections after he built his campaign on promises of reconciliation. On September 21, 1966, the last OAS peacekeepers withdrew from the island, which ended the foreign intervention in the conflict.[1][7]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Lawrence Yates (July 1988). "Power Pack: U.S. Intervention in the Dominican Republic 1965–1966" (PDF). Lawrence Papers. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e Palmer 2015, p. 247.
  3. ^ "In 1965, U.S. And Dominican Tanks Fought Brief, Violent Skirmishes". June 22, 2016.
  4. ^ Palmer 2015, p. 246.
  5. ^ Palmer 2015, p. 96.
  6. ^ "US Invasion Dominican Republic 1965". Retrieved August 8, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d James Fearon (June 26, 2006). "Dominican Republic" (PDF). Stanford University. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 3, 2015. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e Lawrence Greenberg (November 1986). "US Army Unilateral and Coalition Operations in the 1965 Dominican Republic Intervention" (PDF). US Army Center of Military History. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 11, 2017. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  9. ^ Palmer 2015, p. 50.
  10. ^ David Coleman (April 28, 2015). "The Dominican Intervention". NSA Archives. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  11. ^ Gleijeses, Piero (October 28, 2011). "The United States Invasion of the Dominican Republic, 1961–1966". Oxford Bibliographies Online. doi:10.1093/OBO/9780199766581-0071. ISBN 978-0-19-976658-1. Retrieved February 1, 2018.
  12. ^ a b Jack Ringler (1970). "US Marine Corps Operations in the Dominican Republic April–June 1965" (PDF). Historical Division USMC. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 3, 2015. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  13. ^ Palmer 2015, p. 98.
  14. ^ Palmer 2015, p. 99.
  15. ^ Palmer 2015, p. 142.

Further reading