817.00 Bandit Activities, 1931/33: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Nicaragua (Hanna)

80. Confidential for Hanna from the Secretary. The naval, Guardia and Consulate cables during the past 3 days seem to make it clear that certainly three and probably four bodies of bandits are making their way eastward towards the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua on an apparently concerted campaign against American persons and property. Altamirano and Blandon, lieutenants of Sandino, have been apparently identified as leaders of some of these bodies. One force has successfully attacked Gracias a Dios; another one has attacked Logtown, and has threatened Puerto Cabezas. Another is approaching San Pedro del Norte and El Gallo, and a fourth is at Muelle de los Bueyes, near Rama. While estimates of their numbers are undoubtedly grossly exaggerated and have been discounted by me, they have sufficient force and leadership to have successfully threatened the detachments of Guardia on the east coast and to have inflicted serious loss of life and property among civilians. The fact that these separate bodies should have successfully eluded the main forces of the Guardia in the bandit provinces and have made these long marches towards the east coast without earlier warning would seem to indicate serious lack in the leadership of the Guardia. I am informed that during the more than 3 years in which the Guardia has been trained no efficient Intelligence Service has yet been developed and the command has no organized espionage service in the bandit provinces. History shows that such a service in guerilla warfare is imperative and its lack in this case would seem to be indicated by the facility with which Guardia and Marine detachments have been frequently ambushed. I wish you would send me promptly your views and recommendations upon this situation.

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In the face of the present situation it would seem self-evident that some means of promptly transporting reenforcements from Managua to the east coast should be found and on my suggestion naval planes have been placed at the disposal of the Guardia for that purpose by the Navy Department. I have, however, yet heard of no such reenforcements being made. While I wish to avoid any intrusion into the function of the Guardia command I should like you to inform me whether any such reenforcement is in contemplation. Contrary to its announced policy the Administration has been forced to send warships to Puerto Cabezas and Bluefields and to land forces temporarily to meet the emergency. But it will not send any of these naval forces into the interior. The problem of defense must therefore be worked out by the Guardia itself and I wish to be kept informed of what they are doing and, so far as you can obtain them, their intentions and plans.