Haiti, U.S. Military Involvement in
The Oxford Companion to American Military History | 2000 | John Whiteclay Chambers II
Given Haiti's location and the growing U.S. role in the Caribbean, Washington at the end of the nineteenth century paid increased attention to the island republic. By 1890, Americans provided half its imports and dominated its banks and railroads. When dictator Guillaume Sam was hacked to death in an uprising in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson, concerned about U.S. investments as well as possible German seizure of the island, directed Rear Adm. William B. Caperton to land Marines and sailors from the USS Washington to protect lives and property. They were followed by a brigade of Marines.
Real authority in Haiti then rested with the Americans, although they permitted the election of President Philippe S. Dartiguenave. Normally, the cacos (rebel bandits) would have faded back into the hills; but angered by white American occupation, they lashed out, particularly in northern Haiti. The Marines quelled sporadic violence for over a year. In 1916"18, U.S. occupation forces attempted to win over the peasantry and implement construction programs, but they remained unpopular. The resident U.S. naval commander dissolved the Haitian Congress and dictated a new constitution. By 1918, opposition leader Charlemagne Peralte mounted a rebellion in the north, while his lieutenant, Benoit Batraville, led a revolt in central Haiti. The Gendarmerie (local constabulary trained and officered by Marines), supported by the Marine brigade, tracked down and killed Peralte (1919) and Batraville (1920).
During the depression, President Herbert Hoover appointed the Forbes Commission, which concluded that the occupation, failing to respond to Haiti's problems, should be abolished. U.S. troops began to transfer responsibilities to Haitian nationals. The last Marines left Haiti under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's order in 1934, although U.S. fiscal control remained until 1947.
The United States took a renewed interest in Haiti during the Cold War. Washington reluctantly backed a series of military strongmen, including François (“Papa Doc”) Duvalier, a disarmingly simple country doctor without apparent military connections who was elected president in 1957. In 1958, Duvalier asked that Marines retrain and reorganize the Haitian Army, and again the Marines handled public works as well as police functions while trying to develop an army that would resist communism. Duvalier became increasingly dictatorial, using a paramilitary secret police to impose terror. Although the United States government was reluctant to cut off aid to Haiti after Cuba became Communist in 1959, it withdrew its military mission and virtually shut down its embassy. “Papa Doc” died in 1971; he was succeeded by his son, Jean Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier.
Unprecedented famine and terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s drove desperate peasants to flee to the United States. Duvalier responded to the Carter administration's outrage with inconsequential reforms. In 1983, Pope John Paul II visited Haiti. His attention to human rights emboldened Haiti's Catholic clergy to call for improvements in social conditions and a grassroots movement responded.
The Reagan administration distanced itself from Duvalier, now clearly weakened by internal unrest, and the United States orchestrated his departure in 1986. A National Council of Government took over, but showed little interest in reform. The growing liberation theology began to coalesce around Father Jean‐Bertrand Aristide, who was elected president in December 1990, in Haiti's first free election. Overthrown in September 1991 by a military coup, Aristide fled to the United States.
In 1994, the Clinton administration, confronted with a continuing exodus of seaborne Haitians seeking refuge in the United States, obtained economic sanctions and then authorization from the United Nations for military force to remove the junta. With a U.S. military and naval force offshore, and paratroopers en route to the island, a last‐minute mission headed by former president Jimmy Carter achieved an agreement with the junta on 18 September for its resignation. U.S. troops came ashore without opposition. Aristide returned 15 October. A U.S. intervention force of 20,000 remained in Haiti from September 1994 to March 1995, when it was replaced by a UN peacekeeping force of 6,000, including 2,400 U.S. troops. The poorest nation in the hemisphere, Haiti remained impoverished and plagued by periodic strikes and violence, but it had a democratically elected government at last.
[See also Caribbean and Latin America, U.S. Military Involvement in the.]
James H. McCrockin , Garde d'Haiti, 1915"1934, 1956.
Dana G. Munro , The American Withdrawal from Haiti, 1929"1934, Hispanic American Historical Review, 49 (February1969), pp. 1"26.
Hans Schmidt , The United States Occupation of Haiti, 1915"1934, 1971.
Robert D. and and Nancy
G. Heinl , Written in Blood, 1978.
James Ferguson , Papa Doc, Baby Doc. Haiti and the Duvaliers, 1987.
Anne Cipriano Venzon
John Whiteclay Chambers II. "Haiti, U.S. Military Involvement in." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. 2000. Oxford University Press. Encyclopedia.com. 17 Jan. 2010 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.