318. Memorandum From the Officer in Charge of Dominican Republic Affairs (Fromer) to the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom)1


  • Re-evaluation of Overall U.S. Policy Towards Dominican Republic in the Light of the Murphy Case Developments

Reference is made to my memorandum to Mr. Neal of January 7, 1957 (copy attached—Tab A),2 to which you asked me to add in the light of subsequent developments.

[Page 899]


We now have the FBI summary as of January 28, 1957, which you have seen. In general terms, this discloses how Gerald Lester Murphy hired a light plane in Linden, New Jersey, six days before the anti-Trujillo Spanish Basque exile Jesus de Galindez disappeared in New York on March 12, 1956. After changing airports in the metropolitan area twice during which the plane’s seats were removed and auxiliary gasoline tanks installed, Murphy took off from Long Island late in the night of March 12th for an airport in the Miami area which had been alerted previously by a telephone call from New York.

The plane carried an immobile man, who had been brought to the airport in a wheelchair, because of an alleged “cancer” condition. Apparently the same man was still aboard when the plane landed at a small suburban Miami airport early on the morning of the 13th, refueled and took off. Late the same afternoon, by which time the plane could have flown round-trip to Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic, Murphy landed at another Miami airport alone. Shortly thereafter, he replaced the seats which had been shipped from New York and eventually, on April 2, he returned the plane to its owner.

Without going into more details, it appears almost certain that Murphy was engaged in illicit activities on behalf of the Dominican Government, including the kidnapping of someone, who probably was Galindez.

Meanwhile, the Dominican Government has dragged its feet on our requests for information and documents regarding Murphy and Octavio de la Maza, the Dominican pilot whose suicide in a Ciudad Trujillo jail was announced by Dominican authorities on January 7. We finally now have a mass of reports and documents which in essence confirm the original official Dominican view that de la Maza was responsible for Murphy’s disappearance. Without waiting on the results of the detailed examination and study, we see no reason for dissenting from what is the consensus of non-official Dominican opinion in both the Dominican Republic and this country that de la Maza’s death and alleged suicide note smack of a contrived official Dominican attempt to close the Murphy case for good.


Our reaction must be guided at least by these circumstances:

Murphy, whatever he did, was an American citizen and therefore entitled to our protection. Moreover, his parents and newspapers and members of Congress on their behalf are demanding to know what happened to him and why. They are particularly insistent that the Department pressure the Dominican Government for the fullest cooperation in solving Murphy’s disappearance.
Whatever the truth of the matter, the Dominican Government has been acting as if it has something to hide.
Nothing should be done by the Department which might impede the FBI investigation still very much in progress.
Nevertheless, in view of the growing possibility that the full details of the Murphy–Galindez link will ultimately be disclosed, the records of the Department must show, not only for domestic impact but also on other Governments, especially those of Latin America, that this investigation was relentlessly pursued without fear or favor, especially as regards the Dominican Republic.
The ultimate test in determining our position should not be whether there is enough evidence to convict in a court of law. Rather, it is whether the U.S. Government is convinced to its own satisfaction where the guilt lies, and secondarily, what will be the general conclusion among not only our own people but the populations and governments of other nations who can be expected to have an interest in this matter.

Possible Courses of Action:

Now that the Dominicans have definitely concluded that de la Maza killed Murphy and then committed suicide and in so many words have made clear they consider these cases closed, it is recommended that you consider the following possible courses of action:

The Department could implement Embassy Ciudad Trujillo’s recommendations in Despatch 393 (copy attached—Tab B).3 Ambassador Salazar would be called in to see the Under Secretary/G. He would be given the brief summary outlined above of our evidence concerning this one facet of Murphy’s activities. We should add a brief reference to Murphy’s alleged Cuban involvement. Then, we should touch on Espaillat’s4 activities, especially in New York, and also mention the molestation to American citizens of Dominican nationality on various occasions. (A draft talking paper is attached—Tab C). On the Ambassador’s departure, we should hand him a note (see Tab D).5 While a minimum amount of publicity is advocated, we should disclose to the press that we have called in the Dominican Ambassador to inform him that we are not satisfied with his Government’s replies to our requests for the fullest information and documentation concerning Murphy’s disappearance. We should add that we still cannot accept the explanation that de la Maza killed Murphy regardless of the authenticity of the suicide note ascribed to the former.
To reflect U.S. dissatisfaction and displeasure over this turn of events in our relations with the Dominican Republic, we could:
Suspend indefinitely action on the Dominican Eximbank loan applications.
Keep at a low level our representation at February 27 (Independence Day) Dominican receptions here and at other embassies abroad. In addition, our Ambassador might be called home for consultations, coinciding with this celebration in Ciudad Trujillo.
In the event of a change in our Ambassadors, delay the appointment of a successor for several months.
Discourage visits to the Dominican Republic by high ranking civilian and military officers of the United States.
A carefully-drawn public statement, cleared with Justice, including the FBI, could be issued at a high governmental level (possibly using the technique of an unidentified official) along the lines of Point (2) in Embtel 360—that “information in the possession of the U.S. Government leads to the conclusion that a link exists between the Murphy and Galindez disappearances and that the de la Maza confession whether valid or not leaves many questions unanswered”.

Possible Dominican Reactions:

1. Expulsion of two Embassy officers most intimately concerned with prodding investigation of Murphy case reported in Embassy Despatch 463.


Without hesitation, we should retaliate by declaring persona non grata at least one Dominican Embassy officer and Consul General Espaillat (if he is gone, we should make it two Dominican Embassy officers).

2. The Dominican Republic might stop taking a position in U.N. meetings in support of the U.S.


In view of Generalissimo Trujillo’s self-proclaimed anti-Communist role, it is not likely he would jeopardize the main prop of his public political position by having the Dominican Republic vote with the Communist bloc.

3. The Dominican Republic might refuse to sign the pending Loran6 agreement.


As of now, they are still holding out for a concrete landing strip. The Coast Guard, while it prefers a site in the Dominican Republic, has already indicated it would accept a site in Haiti—which we probably could eventually arrange.

[Page 902]

4. The Dominican Republic might terminate the Sabana guided missile air base agreement.


Such abrogation would be a breach of an international obligation. But it would be a blow to our defense program. The Air Force considers this base quite important though not absolutely indispensable, since alternative sites, more expensive and not so satisfactory, could be procured elsewhere.

5. The Dominican Government might apply pressure on the few remaining large U.S. investors in the Dominican Republic.


The record shows that U.S. investors are always subject to the whim of Trujillo’s feelings. The West Indies Sugar Corporation was pushed out, the Lockjoint Pipe Company is under fire now anyway and Alcoa is being pressured for larger royalty payments. We have comparatively little left beside the South Puerto Rico Sugar Company and William Pawley’s mining interests.7

In conclusion, it appears that any strong reaction by the Dominican Government against the United States would result in more harm than good to the Dominican Republic, and therefore extreme measures by that country are unlikely.

Arguments for a Strong Reaction:

1. The internal security of the U.S. would be strengthened.


Dominican intelligence activities including recruitment of American citizens as agents and pressures on U.S. citizens and organizations are likely to be curtailed by our sharp crackdown.

2. Given the overwhelmingly-universal dislike of the Trujillo regime among the peoples and nations of the world, especially throughout Latin America, we would win added respect as a proponent of democracy.


The Dominicans could not criticize us for intervening in their internal affairs. In fact, we would be complaining about their interference. The responsible elements of the Dominican people would learn that we refuse to put up forever with Trujillo’s methods. Domestic critics of U.S. foreign policy on grounds of its lack of [Page 903] principles for “playing along” with dictators would be effectively silenced. In sum, we would win much more applause than criticism, both domestically and abroad.

3. Not to be overlooked, we would be asserting our right to protect American citizens overseas—despite whatever misdeeds they may have committed.


L informs me that we maintain a person is innocent until proven guilty. We insist people be given fair trials and equal justice. We defended the rights of Noel Field, the Rotterbach boy recently expelled from Hungary, etc. Whatever Murphy did, we must seek to clear up his disappearance if possible.

4. We have patiently borne up under the following record of not only Dominican interference in U.S. life but also conduct below the level of recognized civilized nations, certainly not much above that of the communists:

Murders of anti-Trujillo Dominicans such as Bencosme and Requena8 in New York City by Dominican agents;
Activities of such Dominican agents as Felix Hernandez Marquez (El Cojo) and Gloria Viera (since reportedly murdered in the Dominican Republic), and Alberto Pena Aybar.
Recruitment of Murphy, his employment to spirit Galindez (if not him, who?) out of the U.S., apparent murder of Murphy, then de la Maza. Now, Murphy’s maid is missing and de la Maza’s father-in-law is in jeopardy.
Molestation of naturalized American citizens of Dominican origin in the United States; firing their relatives in the Dominican Republic and forcing these naturalized American citizens to write letters to Trujillo apologizing for having changed nationality. Also publishing in the Dominican Republic lists of Dominicans who have become American citizens and threatening them with fines and imprisonment.
Distribution of virulent literature in the U.S. libelling such U.S. officials as Munoz Marin9 and making offensive remarks about prominent Americans such as former President Truman.
Causing, at least in one known instance, one resident in the United States to lose his job by going to his employer with derogatory information, true or otherwise—all because of Trujillo’s desire to send his daughter to a certain U.S. school.
Setting up subsidized front organizations which picket and attack in other ways U.S. publications and individuals in violation of U.S. law. This crime is compounded by using Dominican consular officers improperly as the brains and treasurers of such organizations. It is also reported that Puerto Rico groups and one newspaper, [Page 904] representing elements favoring independence from the United States, are being financed by Dominican funds.
We also have abundant evidence of Trujillo involvement in Cuban politics, thus disturbing peaceful Caribbean relations to the detriment of the U.S. aims in the area. A pointed example was Dominican attempts to exacerbate Cuban-Haitian relations in connection with the shootings at the Haitian Embassy in Habana.

(Note: This is not to pretend that the above list is all-inclusive.)

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 239.1122–Murphy, Gerald Lester/2–1557. Secret.
  2. Document 312.
  3. Document 315.
  4. Arturo R. Espaillat, Alternate Representative of the Dominican Republic at the United Nations and Consul General in New York City.
  5. Neither Tab C or D is printed.
  6. Reference is to a long-range navigation system consisting of a series of transmitting stations to be used by the U.S. Navy as a navigational aid.
  7. A handwritten note in the margin next to this paragraph reads: “settled”.
  8. Donato Bencosme, a former governor of Espaillat Province, Dominican Republic, and Andrés Requena.
  9. Luis Muñoz Marin, Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.