|U.S.S. Allen M. Sumner DD-692|
|Cuban Blockade/Dominican Republic Crisis|
The Sumner participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis from 24 October until 21 November 1963. A general view of these operations as reported in the "Department of Defense. Annual Report for Fiscal Year 1963" follows. This extract also appears in the Naval Historical Center's Online Website. You may also review the day-to-day operations of the Sumner by viewing The Ship's Deck Logs for 1962.
The Cuban crisis, which occurred in October-November 1962, was both a major
challenge to a variety of fleet units and a vital demonstration of the Navy's
ability to meet such challenges successfully.
A major activity carried on in support of this operation was the location, inspection, and diversion of Cuba-bound merchant shipping carrying certain excluded cargo. In accomplishing this task, naval aircraft flew approximately 6,000,000 miles and fleet units steamed approximately 780,000 miles, with each of the eight aircraft carriers utilized in the operation steaming more than 10,000 miles.
During the crisis, Navy photographic units were particularly active, monitoring the military activities of Cuban and Soviet forces. A new Navy-developed aerial camera was used by both the Navy and the Air Force in the highly effective photo-reconnaissance over the island; and the Naval Photographic Interpretation Center provided processing and photo-interpretation services that were vitally important to the hour-by-hour evaluation of the military buildup.
The quarantine operation provided the most demanding test of the Navy's Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities since World War II. It was also the first large-scale test of our ASW capability against modern submarines of the U.S.S.R.
In evident anticipation of possible United States reaction to the emplacement of offensive missiles in Cuba, the U.S.S.R. deployed a number of modern, conventionally powered submarines in the general area. During subsequent operations six of these submarines were photographed and identified by U.S. naval forces. So far as can be determined, no Russian submarines committed to the Cuban operation escaped detection and tracking. By tracking these submarines--and by being capable of destroying them if necessary--the Navy denied their effective use to the U.S.S.R.
The crisis also provided a particularly striking demonstration of the responsiveness of Marine forces. Guantanamo was rapidly reinforced by combat-ready units deploying simultaneously from three different locations. Five thousand Marines, completely equipped and ready to fight, were moved into position by sea and by air in 48 hours to augment the Guantanamo garrison. The Caribbean contingency force which is constantly deployed in that area for such purposes landed a battalion by sea. A second battalion was airlifted from Cherry Point, N.C., employing Navy and Marine transport aircraft. A third battalion was airlifted from Camp Pendleton, Calif., by Military Air Transport Service (MATS) aircraft. Appropriate supporting arms accompanied these combat units. The rapid and immediate introduction of these combat-ready forces into Guantanamo assured the defense of that key base during the following days and weeks of the crisis.
In similar fashion, a Marine air-ground amphibious striking force was quickly assembled for offensive operations. Elements which had been deployed to the Puerto Rico area for a training exercise joined other combat units of the Marine division/wing team outloading from the Cherry Point-Camp Lejeune complex on the east coast. Additionally, a Marine expeditionary brigade of more than 10,000 troops embarked from west coast ports in less than 96 hours and sailed to join the east coast division/wing team in the Caribbean area. This Marine air-ground striking force was fully prepared to execute its assigned missions at any time throughout the crisis period. Its presence in the Caribbean area provided ample testimony of United States intent to take any action required.
Finally, it should be stressed that the Cuban quarantine was undertaken as a legal operation within the spirit of international law. The Navy's role included both participation in the drafting of the quarantine proclamation and in its legal implementation.
Port Haina, Dominican Republic - September 1965
From the collection of Chuck Morrell
In 1965 Sumner was again on the scene of a Caribbean Crisis, this time in the Dominican Republic. A general view of these operations as reported in the "Department of Defense. Annual Report for Fiscal Year 1965" follows. This extract also appears in the Naval Historical Center's Online Website. You may also review the day-to-day operations of the Sumner by viewing The Ship's Deck Logs for 1965.
On April 24, 1965, dissident elements of the
Dominican armed forces seized the Government radio stations in Santo Domingo and
attempted to overthrow the ruling civilian junta in favor of deposed former
president Juan Bosch. Although the Government fell on the following day and the
rebels announced creation of a constitutional government with an acting
president, other military elements led by senior officers of the armed forces
initiated a counter-revolution and established a competing government. In
riposte, the dissidents passed out rifles and machineguns to several thousand
civilian sympathizers and adherents, including juveniles. The ensuing street
fighting between the opposing forces endangered the lives of noncombatants,
including the sizable foreign colony. Accordingly, the U.S. Government, while
trying to arrange for a cease-fire locally and through the OAS [Organization of
American States] in Washington, also began immediate preparations for the
evacuation of its citizens and other foreign nationals who might wish to leave
the Dominican Republic.
The Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic (CINCLANT), was directed to deploy an amphibious squadron off the Dominican coast. As the situation ashore continued to deteriorate despite the efforts through diplomatic channels to restore peace, the order was given to evacuate U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals. On Tuesday afternoon, April 27, loading began on board the [USS] Boxer and other ships of the naval squadron. Meanwhile, the bloody fighting in Santo Domingo intensified and spread to the western sector of the city, where many foreign embassies were located and where civilians had collected awaiting evacuation. Neither of the contending parties was willing or able to guarantee the safety of these people, since neither was really in control of the situation. Under these circumstances, the American Ambassador on Wednesday afternoon, April 28, urgently recommended to the President that U.S. Marines be landed to protect the American Embassy and help evacuate innocent bystanders caught in the cross-fire of civil war The President responded at once, and some 400 Marines were put ashore in western Santo Domingo. In the face of continued attacks, they were reinforced the next day, and early on April 30 Army airborne elements were airlifted from the United States to the San Isidro airfield to the east of the city. Supporting Air Force tactical units were moved to the Caribbean area and the naval task force was strengthened.
Although the Papal Nuncio in Santo Domingo on April 30 secured the agreement of both sides for a cease-fire, fighting continued. On the same date the Organization of American States, which had previously been advised of U.S. actions, convoked a meeting of consultation of foreign ministers and adopted a resolution calling for a cessation of hostilities and for the establishment of an international safety zone in the western section of Santo Domingo. U.S. Marines were deployed in positions to give effect to this resolution. The OAS Meeting of Consultation on May 1 then appointed a five-nation committee charged with proceeding to Santo Domingo and arranging for a cease-fire. By this time, although the situation was shifting and confused, it had become increasingly clear that elements of the extreme left were exercising an ever more predominant role within the rebel ranks. As Communists, including some trained in Cuba and other Communist countries, assumed positions of leadership, most of the original rebel leaders took refuge in foreign embassies.
This shift in rebel leadership, the continuing assaults on foreign embassies, and harassment of persons awaiting evacuation required the United States to reinforce its troops ashore. At the recommendation of the U.S. Ambassador, the Marines in western Santo Domingo and the Army airborne units at San Isidro extended their lines on May 2-3 to establish a neutral corridor 16 miles long. This international corridor also had the effect of separating rebel elements, which were largely concentrated in southern Santo Domingo, from the regular military units in the northern part of the city. American troops, in addition to defending themselves against snipers and assisting in evacuation, began to distribute medical supplies and food to the innocent victims of the uprising in all parts of the city.
Through the good offices of the OAS ad hoc committee, the opposing sides accepted a new cease-fire on May 5 and recognized the international safety zone. Taking note of these arrangements, the OAS on May 6 resolved to establish an Inter-American Peace Force in the Dominican Republic, charged with maintaining security and establishing an atmosphere of peace and conciliation. Pending arrival of Latin American contingents, U.S. troop strength was further reinforced in order to carry out OAS objectives, evacuate the remaining foreign residents who wished to leave, and distribute necessary relief supplies and food. By mid-May, a peak strength of 23,850 U.S. soldiers, Marines, and airmen were in the Dominican Republic, some 38 naval ships were positioned offshore, and other Navy and Air Force units were deployed close at hand in the Caribbean. These forces assisted in the evacuation of nearly 6,500 men, women, and children of 46 nations, and in the distribution of more than 8 million tons of food to Dominican citizens of all political beliefs.
The Inter-American Peace Force (IAPF) was formally established on May 23. Gen. Hugo Pansco Alvim of Brazil was named Commander; his deputy was Lt. Gen. Bruce Palmer, Jr., U.S. Army, Commander, U.S. Forces in the .Dominican Republic. In addition to Brazil and the United States, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and, later, Paraguay contributed troops or special police to the force. As these contingents arrived and as the situation stabilized, the United States began withdrawing some of its forces late in May. By the end of the fiscal year, U.S. troop strength ashore had been cut nearly in half.
With the lines more or less stabilized. U.S. and OAS diplomats labored to restore normal conditions and establish the "atmosphere of peace and conciliation" called for by the OAS resolution - but this task proved no easy one in a country so rent by political divisions. Sporadic small-arms fire and even occasional concerted attacks constantly disrupted the search for a peaceful solution. Throughout the summer of 1965, the IAPF continued to play a neutral role, separating the combatants and at times fending off attack on its personnel. Not until August 31 was an OAS special three-man commission successful in obtaining the agreement of both side to an "Act of Reconciliation" that provided for a provisional government to succeed both the military junta and the rebel regime. Pending the full restoration of peace and stability and a more permanent government, the OAS determined that the IAPF should remain on the island; the United States indicated its willingness to contribute a share of the necessary troop strength.
The U.S. defense establishment met the test in the Dominican Republic with great speed and efficiency, but not without cost. By the close of fiscal year 1965 a total of 24 American servicemen had given their lives and another 156 were wounded in helping the Dominican people to obtain a government of their own choice.
In the early part of 1968, SUMNER was moored in Mayport, Florida for a routine period of maintenance and R&R. One morning at quarters we were informed that the ship would be leaving for an undisclosed location at 0900. Our curiosity was certainly aroused but for once the "sea story" line was devoid of information, right or wrong. The next day we are at sea and still in the dark, when I told LTJG "Dale" Smith that I needed to know where we were going. He didn't want to say anything until he realized that I was the guy that did all the paperwork for fuel, which on a short-hull was pretty often. He asked the Captain if it was okay to tell me, the okay was given, and now I knew it was Key West!
Now I was really confused, unless Key West was attempting to leave the Union. We arrived at Key West and were told that nobody could leave the ship as we would not be in port long. Time slowly passed and it became apparent that we were not going anywhere. Late in the afternoon it was decided that local, in town, liberty would be allowed. Now we had our chance and sure enough, one of the crew was sitting at a local "refreshment" stand and struck up a conversation with the civilian next to him.
The civilian was actually a technician on a ship down the harbor from us, all white and with seemingly every antenna ever made sprouting from it. He relayed that they did electronic surveillance while cruising off of Havana. It had been about two weeks since the USS Pueblo had been captured by the North Koreans. The next morning we left port along with the "white ship" and headed for Havana. The ship turned out to be the USNS Sgt. Joseph E. Muller (T-AG-171). Once there we slowly cruised back and forth at the entrance to the harbor with our guns trained on the city. It turned out to be very boring duty, a lot like plane guard on Yankee Station. Just another little piece of Sumneriana.