Invaders in Service with the Dominican Republic

Last revised August 26, 2000


The Caribbean nation of the Dominican Republic had since 1930 been under the control of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, who ruled the country like a medieval fiefdom. He was so vain that he actually had the capital of Santo Domingo named after himself. He maintained his control via a highly effective secret police force that ruthlessly eliminated any political opponents. He relied on the military for his primary support, controlling the officer corps through a combination of fear, patronage, and the frequent rotation of assignments.  Loyal officers were rewarded with generous pay and perquisites. 

During the 1950s, the Fuerza Aerea Dominicana (Dominican Air Force) of the Dominican Republic operated a large number of military aircraft. The Dominican Republic had, in fact, an air force far larger than any true defense need would require.  In 1958, the FAD requested permission from the US government to buy 12 B-26Bs. The US State Department was reluctant to fund the sale under the Military Assistance Sales program, but did agree to permit the Dominican Republic to approach civilian brokers who were at that time buying up lots of surplus USAF and ANG Invaders. In January 1959, Florida Aeroaccessories Inc of Miami, Florida applied for an export license to deliver 12 B-26B "demilitarized trainer" aircraft to the FAD. The next month, the request was increased to 14 or 16 aircraft. However, by that time US-Dominican relations had begun to deteriorate, and the State Department began to be suspicious about why the Dominican Republic needed so many former bombers as "trainers", and the deal ultimately fell through.

Undeterred, dictator Rafael Trujillo arranged for a deal with Manhattan Industries, Inc for five Invaders. Denied an export license yet again, the broker quickly arranged for the sale of these same aircraft to a Chilean aerial mapping firm. While supposedly being delivered to Chile, all five of the B-26s made "forced landings" in the Dominican Republic and were interned there as "undocumented warplanes". Under this subterfuge, the five planes were quickly added to the inventory of the FAD.

The former USAF serial numbers of these Dominican Republic B-26s are unknown, but all were solid-nosed B-26Bs. All had non-standard noses carrying a variety of 0.50-inch guns, depending on availability. None had turrets, and they did not have provisions for rocket rails or wing guns. FAD serials were 3202 through 3206.

In later years, the Trujillo government became increasingly isolated. Trujillo had an intense personal hatred of the Venezuelan president Romulo Betancourt, and had even financed an abortive assassination attempt against him. The backlash from the attempt on Betancourt's life led to an Organization of American States (OAS) imposition of economic sanctions against the Dominican Republic and the severing of diplomatic relations. The United States government had long tolerated Trujillo as a bastion of staunch anti-Communism in the Caribbean, but public opinion in in the late 1950s in the US had begun to turn against the dictatorship. By August of 1960, relations had turned sufficiently sour that the US embassy in Ciudad Trujillo was downgraded to consular level. At about the same time, covert operations were initiated aimed at Trujillo's ouster. On May 30, 1961, Trujillo was assassinated, supposedly by a CIA-sponsored plot.

Utilization of the B-26 aircraft dropped dramatically following the assassination of President Trujillo and the fall of his regime. By January of 1963, only four FAD Invaders still survived, with three being operational and the fourth serving as a spares source. An additional B-26 was acquired from unknown sources between 1963 and 1965.

After a period of instability which lasted over a year, Juan Bosch Gavino was elected as president on December 20, 1962. However, the Bosch government and it program of land reform aroused opposition from conservative landholders and military officers. The Bosch government was overthrown by a military coup on September 25, 1963. The coup installed a civilian junta headed initially by Emilio de los Santos and later by Donald Reid Cabral. The junta was never able to convince a majority of the population that it was legitimate, and widespread dissatisfaction with Reid and his government and lingering loyalties to the Bosch government produced a revolution in April of 1965.

The revolution was spearheaded by former supporters of Bosch along with some junior military officers. The reformists (known as Constitutionalists, a reference to their support of Bosch's 1963 constitution) seized the National Palace and installed Rafael Molina Urena as provisional president. Conservative military forces, led by General Elias Wessin y Wessin struck back on April 25 and full civil war broke out.

On April 28, United States forces intervened in the Dominican civil war. President Lyndon Johnson had acted because he believed that the Constitutionalists were dominated by Communists. Nearly 20,000 US troops were landed to secure Santo Domingo. After a period of instability, new elections were held. In a fractious campaign between Bosch and former Trujillo associate Joaquin Balaguer.  Balaguer was elected president on July 1, 1966, and remained president until 1978.

The B-26s were inactive during the civil war of 1965. With restructuring of the FAD in the mid- to late-1960s, the surviving Invaders were offered for sale beginning in 1967. However no takers were found, and the FAD Invaders were eventually scrapped.

Sources:


  1. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.

  2. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920: Volume I, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1988.

  3. American Combat Planes, Third Enlarged Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.

  4. Foreign Invaders--The Douglas Invader in Foreign Military and US Clandestine Service, Dan Hagendorn and Leif Hellstrom, Midland Publishing, 1994.

  5. US Library of Congress Study--Dominican Republic