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DOCUMENT  0150


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Plot to Invade the Dominican Republic
U.S. Embassy - Havana

[Reference: State Dispatch #4615.  839.00/12-1947]

THE FOREIGN SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Red'd Dec. 29 No. 4615
American Embassy
Habana Cuba, December 19, 1947

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The Honorable
The Secretary of State
Washington

Subject:  Frustrated Plot to invade the Dominican Republic Summer of 1947 (Continued).

Sir:  I have the honor to refer to this Embassy's despatch No. 4434 of October 17, 1947, reporting in acme details on the abortive attempt during the past summer to organize in Cuba an invasion of the Dominican Republic.  As indicated in that despatch and in subsequent communications to the Department (see A 1035 of November 5, 1947) this Embassy has been endeavoring to obtain from the Cuban authorities information as to the sources and quantities of arms and ammunition obtained by the revolutionists.  Although thus far no information of this nature has been forthcoming from official circles, the Embassy possesses fairly complete data on the vessels and planes as well as the personnel which were to be used in the attempt.  It does not, however have detailed or definite information as to the arms and ammunition most of which were seized by the Cuban military authorities.  Under these conditions and pending the possible receipt from the Cuban authorities of more complete data, it has been considered advisable to recapitulate  this despatch information in the Embassy's possession under the following headings: (1) Personnel, (2) ships, (3) planes, and (4) arms and ammunition.

I. PERSONNEL

Since reports are now being received that an effort is being made to organize another attempt (possibly in Venezuela) to overthrow the Dominican dictator, it is thought that the Department and other missions concerned might find it useful to have an alphabetical list of the personnel of the revolutionary force formed last summer in Cuba.  Such a list might prove particularly helpful in view of the possibility that certain of those who participated in the Cuban attempt may take part in another conspiracy.  The enclosed alphabetical lists (Annexes I and II) have therefore been compiled.  Although every effort has been made to cross check various sources, it is possible that some of the names are incorrectly stated.  Annex I includes those revolutionary personnel who were arrested by the Cuban Army.  In despatch No. 4434 of October 17 biographic details were given concerning certain Cuban, Dominican and other key figures in the attempt.  Their names are again listed without details in Annex II.

II. SHIPS

Although at least eight vessels were to be used in connection with the attempt, only five reached the scene [unreadable] Cayo Confite.  As the Department well aware, LCI (landing craft infantry) [unreadable] renamed Patria was detained at Baltimore by Customs authorities at the Department's request early in August 1947.  Two PT boats (Nos. R-41 and R-42) which, according to the Naval Attache, and had been purchased by the Cuban Navy some time before through private channels in Mobile, Alabama, and which had apparently been promised to the revolutionists, never left the Mariel Naval Base near Habana.  (A member of the expedition, J. L. WANGUEMERT y Maiquez, writing in the magazine Carteles of October 19, confirms that two PT boats were being prepared at Mariel.)  The ships which actually participated in the venture were:  LCT Libertad, renamed Aurora; LCI No. 1006, renamed El Fantasma and Maximo Gomez; the Diesel "crash boat" Victoria, renamed Berta; a small rented auxiliary schooner the Victoria; and the Dominican schooner Angelina, renamed the Maceo.

The following information is furnished regarding each of these units:

1.  The Aurora, according to the testimony of four British seamen (see Embassy's despatch No. 4273 of August 14, 1947), sailed from New York on July 9, 1947, and reached Nipe Bay about July 16.  According to information furnished to the Treasury Representative here by Miguel A. RAMIREZ, formerly doing business at 4 West 104th Street, New York City, this unit had been purchased in 1946 in the name of CRUZ ALONSO, a Cuban who took a leading part in procuring vessels and arms for the expedition.  This ship was seized by the Cuban Navy and brought to Antilla about September 30, 1947.  An aerial photograph showing the Aurora at Cayo Confites is enclosed (Enclosure No. 2).

2.  The Maximo Gomez (LCI 1006), according to testimony given, by Rupert Irwin Waddell, an American connected with the expedition when questioned by our customs authorities in Miami on October 6, left the United States from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on August 25 and arrived at the Mariel Naval Base on August 29.  At Mariel supplies and munitions were loaded and the ship sailed for Cayo Confites about September 7.  Like the Aurora, the Maximo Gomez was seized by the Cuban Navy and brought to Antilla about September 30, 1947.

3.  The Berta, approximately 100 feet long with twin Diesel Engines and described by our Naval reconnaissance as a "crash boat", was used principally to ferry supplies and arms between Nuevitas and Cayo Confites.  An officer of this Embassy who examined the Berta at Nuevitas on December 11 ascertained that she is a United States Army aircraft rescue vessel (Navy Hull No. C-77421), built in 1944 by the Ventnor Boat Works, Incorporated, Atlantic City, New Jersey.  She is equipped with a radio transmitter (Signal Corps, United States Army, type BC-191, serial No. 118869).  According to a report published in the Habana newspaper Alerta on September 30, one Jose MILO Martinez was the Captain of the Berta, which originally operated under the Honduran flag.  According to testimony before our customs authorities at Miami on October 6 given by Thomas E. LAWYER, an American who participated in the attempt, a Captain SHERWOOD (who brought the Maximo Gomez from Elizabeth City and who was originally scheduled to command the Patria), made a trip to Guatemala in the Berta for the purpose of bringing back rifles.  This boat was reportedly procured from J. E. MAJORRIETA, a Cuban dealer in arms and aircraft, by or for the account of CRUZ Alonso.  An aerial photograph of the Berta is enclosed (Enclosure No. 3).

4.  The Victoria, an auxiliary schooner of about Seventy five feet, was apparently chartered by the revolutionists and was used when the first contingent of troops was moved from La Chive (Nipe Bay) to Cayo Confites.  During this voyage the Victoria went aground, two soldiers were drowned and the rest were rescued by the Berta.  This unit was apparently no used thereafter.

5.  The ironclad Dominican schooner Agelina with a crew of nine was captured by the Maximo Gomez off Cayo Confites about September 11.  Equipped with a Diesel engine and about 120 feet long, this unit was renamed Maceo.  She is now under Naval custody at Nuevitas and was seen there on December 11 by an officer of this Embassy who noted that her name had apparently been painted over.

III.  PLANES

That the plans of the revolutionists for air support were ambitious is indicated by the fact that they succeeded in bringing to Cuba at least sixteen aircraft.  As the Department knows, a number of other planes were detained in the United States, including a J2F-6 seized at Miami about August 9, a PB-4Y seized at Ponca City, Oklahoma, on November 6, and a B-24 Liberator confiscated at Tulsa about November 7.  As reported in this Embassy's telegram No. 572 of October 1, 3 p.m., full information, including photographs, was obtained by the Treasury Representative in Habana, Mr. Joseph DILLON, and forwarded on that date to the customs agent at Miami regarding the twelve aircraft confiscated by the Cuban Army and held at Campo Columbia Airfield.  Although Mr. Dillon was introduced by Ambassador Norweb to the Minister of State on August 25, at which time his interest in obtaining date regarding these planes was explained, it was not until October 1 that through other channels he succeeded in examining the following twelve aircraft:

1.  A B-24 Liberator which had landed at Rancho Boyeros on July 31, at 3:15 p.m., piloted by Chester H. PICKUP who registered at the Sevilla Biltmore Hotel here as "John Brown" of Rio de Janeiro.  This plane brought in cargo consisting of stretchers, cooking utensils, aircraft receivers, cartridge belts, rifle slings and other miscellaneous military equipment which could readily have been purchased at any army and navy store.

2.  Two Vega Venturas which were moved by the military authorities from Rancho Boyeros to Campo Columbia on August 1.

3.  Six Lockheed P-38 type (F-5) aircraft.  On August 16, two of these planes were observed at the Mariel Naval Base flying field.  On August 19 four of these planes were observed at that field.  On August 23 one arrived at Camp Columbia and was moved to Mariel on September 4.  The sixth plane landed by mistake at Camp Columbia and was seized by the Cuban Army (Embassy's telegram No. 504, August 25).  These planes were designed primarily for long range photographic work and were not equipped with guns or bomb racks upon arrival in Cuba.

4.  Two B-25's (Mitchell bombers).  On October 29 the Treasury Representative (Dillon) observed that the Cuban insignia had been painted on the wings of these planes.  (Cuban insignia are on all planes now.)

5.  One C-46A (Curtis Commando) transport.

In addition to the above-mentioned planes which were taken over by the Cuban Army and held at Campo Columbia, the revolutionists had the following aircraft in Cuba:

Two Cessnas C-78 at the Anacra Field, Rancho Boyeros.

Two C-47's based at the Anacra Field, Rancho Boyeros; one of these (license NC-56001) crashed near Managua (Habana Province) on August 27 because of motor trouble, and the other (license NC-66113) was confiscated by the Cuban Army at Santiago de Cuba when it landed there on September 5.  According to information furnished this office on October 13 by Kenneth ROBINSON, an American pilot who had accepted a position as instructor at this Anacra base, the revolutionists also had two Vultee BT-13's, one of which returned to the United States and the other was destroyed in an accident in Cuba.

However, only part of the air fleet with which the revolutionaries expected to strike a paralyzing blow at Trujillo's air force and ground installations ever reached Cuba.  According to Rolando MASFERRER (Bohemia, October 12), the revolutionaries had bought eight B-25 bombers but this Embassy can account for only three (two at Campo Columbia and another seized by the customs authorities at Tulsa about October 15).  Masferrer also stated that six Douglas transports were to be used to carry 225 paratroopers, but of these  planes only the two C-47's mentioned above apparently reached Cuba.

IV.  ARMS AND AMMUNITION

Authoritative data on the origin and quantity of arms and ammunition assembled in Cuba have not been released.  Nevertheless, highly indicative information has appeared in one form or another.  For example, the statements of three American citizens who were members of the expeditionary force and in a position to observe (Hollis B. SMITH, Erwin Rupert WADDELL and Thomas LAWYER), the article by Rolando Masferrer published in Bohemia on October 12, and other published material furnished a good deal of detailed information which has been assembled and is summarized below.

In addition the Embassy has been able to obtain from a local newspaper four photographs released by the Cuban Army at the time of the seizure on September 20 of the arms stored at the farm "America" (see despatch No. 4382, September 26, 1947).  Reproductions of these photographs have been made at the Embassy and three copies of each are enclosed (Enclosures Nos. 4 to 7) together with explanatory notes.  In connection with these munitions, which at the time were reported to have filled thirteen trucks, it should be emphasized that they were apparently to be used in the event that adequate equipment, such as guns, gun mounts and bomb racks, could be obtained for the planes.  In short, the material at the farm, much of which apparently came from the Cuban Navy, was never actually moved to the scene of action.

It is clear from the photographs that the munitions on the farm "America" were of United States origin.  The ground forces of the expedition already had arms issued to them, or arms and munitions were on board the vessels.  These latter arms and munitions, with the specific exceptions noted below, came, as far as can be determined, from sources other than the United States.  the bulk of the small arms, comprising 1,500 Mauser rifles and four million rounds of cartridges as well as the three-quarter million rounds of 45-caliber cartridges, presumably came from Argentina.

(a) Rifles

The highest estimate regarding the number of rifles available to the revolutionaries was that of Lawyer who said that there were about 3,000 from Argentina, 1,500 Springfields, and some others.  Masferrer mentioned 1,500 rifles from Argentina which, according to Smith, were "similar to the Mauser-98".  It is understood that all marks indicating the origin of the rifles have been removed.  The origin of the Springfields is unknown and the existence of such a quantity of Springfields is seriously questioned.

As for rifle ammunition, according to Smith there were four million rounds for the Argentina model Mausers; Lawyer testified that there were four million rounds aboard the Aurora.  the Army official investigator informed the press on September 29 that two million rounds of rifle ammunition had been found on board the Aurora.  Masferrer stated that one million rounds had been received from Argentina.  There is photographic evidence that at the farm "America" there was also a supply of U. S. armor-piercing 30-caliber cartridges (see Enclosure No. 4).

(b)  Machine guns

Masferrer reported that there were about 50 machine guns of a German type manufactured in Argentina.  According to Smith, these machine guns were of 7.65 caliber, an exact copy of the Masden and made in Argentina.  However, Smith later stated when he visited the Department on October 20 that they also resembled the German Schmeizer.  Lawyer's statement coincides with that of Masferrer, viz. 50 of a German type manufactured in Argentina.

There was also a quantity of sub-machine guns.  One source mentions 215 Thompsons.  A Dominican exile on Cayo Confites reported to Embassy sources that of the troops on the Cayo 1,000 were equipped with rifles and 200 with sub-machine guns.  Ammunition supplies indicated that sub-machine guns were to be used extensively.  There was no mention of ammunition for the machine guns or automatic rifles.  The Embassy does not know if there was a difference in caliber between the machine guns and rifles, but it is presumed that the machine guns utilized the standard ammunition of the Mauser rifles, of which there was an ample supply.  Masferrer
stated that there were 775,000 rounds of 45-caliber cartridges.  These could only have been for sub-machine guns and automatic pistols.

  Pistols

Although some 45-caliber pistols were no doubt owned personally by members of the expedition, there were undoubtedly also pistols which had been purchased in quantity.  Our Military Attache (Colonel Glenn) reports that he has seen a late model 45-caliber Colt automatic pistol which was in the hands of the revolutionists.

(d)  Automatic rifles

According to Masferrer, there were ten automatic rifles which had been obtained in Argentina.  For a photograph of what appears to be one of these, see Enclosure No. 3 to this Embassy's despatch No. 4434 of October 17, 1947.

(e)  Bazookas

Masferrer stated that the revolutionaries had bought fifteen bazookas in the United States.  This estimate is supported by the statement made by the Cuban Army investigator on September 29 at which time he said that fourteen bazookas were found on board the Aurora.  According to Waddell, there were some 280 bazooka heads which were to be made into grenades.  Lawyer testified that 300 bazooka heads were loaded by him and Smith.

(f)  Bombs

Newspaper reports, e.g. Diario de la Marina on September 21, regarding the armaments seized at the Finca America indicated that bombs of various sizes were found, including some weighing 300 pounds.  Smith admitted that he had contracted to make as an experiment some thirty-six bombs (twelve of 5, 10 and 25-pound size).  According to information reported by a source of Lieutenant-Colonel S. R. KNIGHT, G-2, Third Army, mentioned in Ciudad Trujillo's despatch No. 1079 of August 19, 1947, the revolutionaries had some 300 fragmentation bombs stored in Habana.  A photograph taken at the Finca America, published in the Diario de la Marina on September 21, shows numerous cylindrical 325-pound depth bombs (see Enclosure No. 5) and several crates of fins.  It is believed possible that these were supplied by the Cuban Navy from stocks obtained during World War II.

(g)  Explosives

According to Lawyer, some 2,000 pounds of dynamite were aboard the Aurora when captured.  This was confirmed by the Army investigator at a press conference on September 29 (El Mundo, September 30, 1947).

(h)  Rockets

Smith testified in August that he made 300 rockets for Ramirez.  These were flown to Mariel from Baltimore on August 16.  Size and description are lacking and there has been no mention of launchers.

(I)  Mortars

Masferrer stated that the revolutionists had three Brandet model 81 mm. mortars, obtained from Argentina.  J. L. Wanguemert y Maiquez, a Habana student who joined the expedition, confirms that there was a battery of three 81 mm. mortars (Carteles, October 19).

(j)  Hand Grenades

Lawyer places the number of hand grenades at 2,000.  According to Masferrer, 1,000 had been bought in Argentina.  Smith on October 20 stated that 200 had been acquired in the United States.  As indicated above (see Bazookas), Waddell stated that some 250 bazooka heads were to be made into grenades.  According to Report No. 5001-M of October 15, 1947, from Headquarters Third Army, Smith said the hand grenades were "exceptionally good" and superior to any United States make that he had handled or seen.

(k)  Cannon

The army official investigating the case against the revolutionaries stated on September 29 that several 37 mm. guns were seized on board the Aurora.  This was corroborated by information furnished by Julio CESAR Martinez (U.P. despatch Habana, September 30).  On October 20 Smith said that the revolutionaries had three 37mm. anti-tank guns manufactured in the United States.  According to Masferrer, three such guns were installed by the Cuban Navy on the revolutionary ships.

As indicated in Enclosure No. 7, some 20 mm. anti-aircraft cartridges were stored at the Finca America; however, the Embassy has obtained no evidence that any 20 mm. guns were in the revolutionists' possession.

(l)  Helmets

Various photographs taken at Cayo Confites show that the revolutionaries were equipped with metal helmets, apparently of the same type as those used by our army during the past war.  The Treasury Representative here (Dillon) on August 18 interviewed Jay MATHEWS and Harold WEELER who said that they had brought by air fifty-three bags of army helmets from San Juan; that they left San Juan on August 15 in their own B-18 plans and claimed that the shipments had been cleared by customs in Puerto Rico.  Lawyer reported that Ramirez bought fifty helmets in New York.

(m)  Jeeps

According to Smith, some six to eight jeeps had been purchased in New York City.  Reports from various sources indicate that the revolutionaries made liberal use of automotive vehicles owned by the Cuban Government.  Two were furnished by Manolo CASTRO from the Cuban Palace of Sports.

(n) Parachutes

According to Smith, some 200 parachutes had been purchased in New York City (this checks with Masferrer's statement that some 225 men were to be used as paratroopers), but there is no evidence that parachutes were delivered to Cuba.

Source of arms.....Did Peron Furnish arms?

There is a reasonable amount of evidence to support the conclusion that a large part of the arms used by the expeditionary force, as indicated in the above summary, was manufactured in Argentina.  On this point Masferrer, in an article published in the weekly magazine Bohemia on October 12, made the following statements (translation):

"Not being too successful in the United States, the revolutionaries turned to a friendly country.  Through it two revolutionary envoys went to Buenos Aires and interviewed President Peron.  He sold arms in the belief that they were going to aid a government menaced by North American imperialism.  What is more, there was lacking $350,000 to pay for all the equipment acquired in Argentina and President Peron paid this from his secret funds.  When he discovered that the arms would be utilized against Trujillo, he decided to send him a larger quantity of arms so that he could defend himself.  For this he took advantage of the opportunity of the inauguration in Santo Domingo through the Argentina mission which represented him and sent it as a gift.  This happened on August 17 last (note:  this latter apparently did not occur).  The arms made available to us were 1,500 rifles, 50 machine guns of a German type manufactured in Argentina, 10 machine rifles, three mortars - Brandet model 81 mm. 1,000 hand grenades, 1,000,000 rifle cartridges, 775,000 45-caliber cartridges for the machine guns, all of which was taken to a secure part in Central America.  A new effort in the United States made it possible to acquire 15 bazookas, some carbines and pistols, as well as some Springfields and Brownings."

Although in the above revelation Masferrer merely stated that the "arms had been brought to a more secure port in Central America", he was more specific when interviewed following his return from Cayo Confites.  According to a reporter of the daily newspaper Prensa Libre (October 5):

"Masferrer is convinced that the arms of the expedition were bought by Guatemala from Argentina on the pretext that they would be used in an anti-imperialist movement.  Guatemala delivered the arms on condition that after the defeat of Trujillo the movement would be directed against Somoza and Carias.  This operation was carried out through Arevelo and Cruz Alonso, a Cuban who went to Argentina for that purpose."  (Felix Buenaventura Sanchez and Alejandro Del Valle, two members of the expedition, told the press stories which confirm the above; see notes to Enclosure 1 to despatch No. 4434, October 17.)

According to the Havana Post on October 5, Masferrer stated that Guatemala had offered to purchase the arms.  It will be recalled that Lawyer told our customs authorities on October 6 that the arms had come from Guatemala because he knew "some of the boys who went to get them", including five Dominicans and Captain Sherwood.

Although an Associated Press despatch from Guatemala on October 7 stated that Guatemala's Foreign Office had denied the report that arms had been furnished to the revolutionists by the Guatemalan Government, there would appear to be good reason to suspect that Guatemala was involved.  In this connection reference is also made to this Embassy's despatch No. 4503 of November 7, 1947, in which it was pointed out that the list of telephone numbers found on Manolo CASTRO, Cuban Director of Sports, at the time of his arrest at Miami on September 29 included the Guatemalan Legation in Habana.

I believe the Department will agree that the above summary shows that the revolutionists had collected an impressive army of war material.  Such an illicit accumulation in improper hands is in itself a dangerous thing.  In the present instance, the use of such arms against another country would have brought perilous consequences.  Moreover, had the Cuban Army not seized these arms, their clandestine existence in Cuba during an election year would at best have been a constant threat to domestic peace and order.

Respectfully yours,

Lester D. Mallory,
Charge d'Affaires a.i.

Enclosures (in triplicate except No. 1):

1.  List of personnel, Annexes I and II ..  Annex II
2.  Photograph of Aurora
3.  Photograph of Berta
4.  Photograph of 30-caliber cartridge boxes
5.  Photograph of depth bombs
6.  Photograph of depth bombs
7.  Photograph of 20 mm. ammunition

File No. 800

DVAnderson/dts:mk
Note:  The drafting officer acknowledges with appreciation the assistance of L. D. Mallory, Charge d'Affaires a.i.; Colonel E. E. Glenn, Military Attache; Colonel B. C. Batterton, Naval Attache; c. W. Moore, Attache; and V. L. Collins, Second Secretary.

Copies to American Embassies at Caracas, Ciudad Trujillo, Buenos Aires, Guatemala and Port-au-Prince.

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