"OPERATION POWER PACK - U.S. Military Intervention in the
Colonel Brendan J. O'Shea, U.S. Army Peace Keeping and Stability
April 20, 2010
Forty-five years ago, the week of April 25 started out relatively
calmly for the U.S. Army. When over, thousands of Soldiers and
Marines were engaged in combat and stability operations in the
Dominican Republic, and the 82nd Airborne Division had sustained its
first combat casualties since World War II.
1965, during the height of the Cold War, the Americans were
concerned about communist influence in the Western hemisphere. This
was particularly true with respect to the Caribbean Basin following
CubaAca,!a,,cs communist revolution in 1959.
Dominican Republic shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with
the nation of Haiti, and was geographically in the center of this
area of interest. The Dominican Republic conducted its first free
elections in 1962 after the 1961 assassination ended the 30-year
domination of strongman and former President Leonidas Trujillo. In
the three years after the elections, a constant struggle for
political control erupted between communist-sympathizing leftist
groups and conservative business and military leaders Aca,!" many
with ties to the sugar industry. On April 24, 1965, leftist forces
unexpectedly deposed the Dominican leader, Donald Reid y Cabral.
Communist-inspired groups of armed civilians, dubbed "Los Tigres,"
took to the streets throughout the capital of Santo Domingo and
quickly overwhelmed the Dominican security forces.
U.S. Ambassador, W. Tapley Bennett, Jr., described the situation as
"collective madness." To authorities in Washington he declared, "I
recommend that serious thought be given to armed intervention to
restore order beyond a mere protection of lives. If the present
loyalist efforts fail, the power will go to groups whose aims are
identified with those of the Communist Party. We might have to
intervene to prevent another Cuba." President Lyndon B. Johnson,
stating the need to protect American lives and property, directed
the U.S. military to deploy to the Dominican Republic to stabilize
and prevent the country from falling to the communists.
mission fell to Lt. Gen. Bruce Palmer, the newly-designated
commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, and Maj. Gen. Robert York,
commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. They initiated "Operation
Power Pack" and ordered a task force comprised of U.S. Marines and
the 82nd Airborne to deploy beginning on April 28. The 7th Special
Forces Group, Psychological Operations units, and various logistical
support elements also participated.
the Army, this was the first test of the new ROAD Concept
(Reorganization Objective Army Division) designed to develop
flexible, deployable forces capable of responding to multiple
initial Marine force arrived by helicopter from the USS Boxer and
landed on the western edge of Santo Domingo. The 82nd Airborne
Division's first elements were air-landed at San Isidro airfield
east of the capital. Maj. Gen. YorkAca,!a,,cs plan called for a
battalion size element from the 82nd to advance westward and secure
the Duarte Bridge connecting the eastern and western sections of the
city. They would then be assisted by loyalist elements in regaining
control of Santo Domingo.
1st Battalion, 508th Infantry advanced to secure the bridge with
close air support from Marine F-4 Phantom jets. Securing the area
around the bridge was a hazardous undertaking, requiring
house-to-house clearing operations while under fire from rebel
forces. The effort was further complicated by the fact that the
rebels were assisted by Dominican military defectors who wore the
same uniforms as loyalist forces allied with the United States. By
mid-afternoon on April 30, both the bridge and the city's
main power station were secure. By the following morning, the 82nd
had advanced further west and linked up with Marine forces.
Additional troops worked to permanently secure the east-west
transportation route and this Line of Communication (LOC) was dubbed
the "All-American Expressway" by the 82nd. To demonstrate that the
U.S. military was firmly in control, Maj. Gen. York marched the 82nd
Airborne Division band all the way through the corridor.
the end of the first week, 500 Marines and two full battalions from
the 82nd were conducting security operations on the ground, and by
the end of May, the entire division was in country. Lt. Gen. Palmer
directed subordinate commanders to begin stability operations. Soon
the troops were conducting constabulary operations and distributing
food, water, and medical supplies to the members of both factions.
Ultimately, more than 40,000 U.S. troops participated in Operation
September 1965, a provisional Dominican government had been set up
under the auspices of the Organization of American States. This, in
turn, began preparations for elections to reestablish a legitimate
government. Most security operations were transferred to a Latin
American military task force led by Brazil. One year later, all
American forces had left the Dominican Republic.
Operation Power Pack demonstrated the success of the ROAD Concept by
proving that the United States military could move rapidly and
forcefully to defend its interests in the western hemisphere. Power
Pack also served as an important building block for future
contingency operations, including Operation Uphold Democracy, the
1994 intervention in Haiti.
See video of 82nd operations taking the bridge
View "Leavenworth Papers", Number 15, Power Pack: U.S. Intervention
in the Dominican Republic, 1865-1966 The lengthy article contains
multiple references to the role of the 508th PIR, use PDF viewer's
search facility to locate each instance.