Military Wiki
American occupation of the Dominican Republic (1916–24)
Part of the Banana Wars
American marines during the occupation.
Date1916 - 1924
LocationDominican Republic, Hispaniola

American victory

  • Dominican Republic occupied
 United States Dominican Republic Dominican Rebels
 German Empire (clandestine support, 1916-1918)[citation needed]
Commanders and leaders
US Naval Jack 45 stars.svg William B. Caperton
US Naval Jack 45 stars.svg Harry Shepard Knapp
Dominican Republic Desiderio Arias
United States Marine Corps
United States Navy
Dominican Army

The first American occupation of the Dominican Republic lasted from 1916 to 1924. It was one of the many interventions in Latin America undertaken by the military forces of the United States. On May 13, 1916,[1] Rear Admiral William B. Caperton forced the Dominican Republic's Secretary of War Desiderio Arias, who had seized power from Juan Isidro Jimenes Pereyra, to leave Santo Domingo by threatening the city with naval bombardment.[1]


The occupation began gradually. The first landing took place on May 5, 1916 when "two companies of marines landed from the U.S.S. Prairie at Santo Domingo."[2] Their goal was to offer protection to the U.S. Legation and the U.S. Consulate, and to occupy the Fort San Geronimo. Within hours, these companies were reinforced with "seven additional companies."[3] On May 6, forces from the U.S.S. Castine landed to offer protection to the Haitian Legation, a country under similar military occupation from the U.S. Two days after the first landing, constitutional President, Juan Isidro Jimenes resigned.[4] Admiral Caperton's forces occupied Santo Domingo on May 15, 1916, Puerto Plata on June 1, and Monte Cristi on June 1, and enforced a blockade.[5]:247–252 Two days after the Battle of Guayacanas on July 3, American forces occupied Arias' stonghold at Santiago, with Arias accepting defeat, amnesty and a pardon from Caperton.[5]:253–263

Three days after Arias left the country,[1] United States Marines landed and took control of the country within two months,[1] and in November the United States imposed a military government under Rear Admiral Harry Shepard Knapp.[1] The Marines restored order throughout most of the republic, with the exception of the eastern region; the country's budget was balanced, its debt was diminished, and economic growth resumed; infrastructure projects produced new roads that linked all the country's regions for the first time in its history; a professional military organization, the Dominican Constabulary Guard, replaced the partisan forces that had waged a seemingly endless struggle for power.[6]

Most Dominicans, however, greatly resented the loss of their sovereignty to foreigners, few of whom spoke Spanish or displayed much real concern for the welfare of the republic. A guerrilla movement, known as the gavilleros,[1] leaders such as General Ramon Natera, enjoyed considerable support from the population in the eastern provinces of El Seibo and San Pedro de Macorís.[1] Having knowledge of the local terrain, they fought against the United States occupation from 1917 to 1921.[6] American naval forces maintained order during a period of chronic and threatened insurrection.[RL30172][6] In 1921, the gavilleros were crushed due to scorched earth tactics, superior air power, firepower and counterinsurgency methods of the United States military.[1]


After World War I, public opinion in the United States began to run against the occupation.[1] Warren G. Harding, who succeeded Wilson in March 1921, had campaigned against the occupations of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic.[1] In June 1921, United States representatives presented a withdrawal proposal, known as the Harding Plan, which called for Dominican ratification of all acts of the military government, approval of a loan of US$2.5 million for public works and other expenses, the acceptance of United States officers for the constabulary—now known as the National Guard (Guardia Nacional)—and the holding of elections under United States supervision. Popular reaction to the plan was overwhelmingly negative.[1] Moderate Dominican leaders, however, used the plan as the basis for further negotiations that resulted in an agreement between U.S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes and Dominican Ambassador to the United States Francisco J. Peynado on June 30, 1922,[7] allowing for the selection of a provisional president to rule until elections could be organized.[1] Under the supervision of High Commissioner Sumner Welles, Juan Bautista Vicini Burgos assumed the provisional presidency on October 21, 1922.[1] In the presidential election of March 15, 1924, Horacio Vásquez Lajara, an American ally who cooperated with the United States government, handily defeated Peynado. Vásquez's Alliance Party (Partido Alianza) also won a comfortable majority in both houses of Congress.[1] With his inauguration on July 13, control of the republic returned to Dominican hands.[1]


Despite the withdrawal, there were still concerns regarding the collection and application of the country's custom revenues. To address this problem, representatives of the United States and the Dominican Republic governments met at a convention and signed a treaty, on December 27, 1924, which gave the United States control over the country's custom revenues.[8] In 1941, the treaty was officially repealed and control over the country's custom revenues was again returned to the government of the Dominican Republic .[8] However this treaty created lasting resentment of the United States among the people of the Dominican Republic.[9]

The Dominican Campaign Medal was an authorized U.S. service medal for those military members who had participated in the conflict.


See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 "USA Dominican Republic Resistance 1917-1921". The Dupuy Institute. December 16, 2000. Retrieved June 29, 2014. 
  2. United States Naval Institute (1879). Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute. Annapolis, Md: U.S. Naval Institute. pp. 239. 
  3. Ibid.. 
  4. Atkins, G. Pope, and Larman Curtis Wilson. (1998). The Dominican Republic and the United States: From Imperialism to Transnationalism. Athens, Ga.: Univ. of Georgia Press. pp. 49. ISBN 0820319309. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Musicant, I, The Banana Wars, 1990, New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., ISBN 0025882104
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Haggerty, Richard A. (1989). "OCCUPATION BY THE UNITED STATES, 1916-24". Dominican Republic: A Country Study. Library of Congress. Retrieved June 29, 2014. 
  7. Calder, Bruce J. (1984). The impact of intervention: the Dominican Republic during the U.S. occupation of 1916-1924. Markus Wiener Publishers. p. 223. ISBN 978-1-55876-386-9. Retrieved September 22, 2011. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 JSTOR 2213777
  9. American foreign relations: a history. Since 1895, Volume 2, pg. 163

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