387. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy1

SUBJECT

  • Circumstances Giving Rise to Press Reports that the United States Stopped President Bosch from Invading Haiti

I refer to your Memorandum of June 4, 19632 referring to recent press stories about the United States stopping President Bosch from invading Haiti and asking what our role in this matter actually was. The statements in The Washington Post and elsewhere that the United States “intervened at least twice against positive steps to remove Duvalier from office with force of arms” are not accurate. The circumstances giving rise to the stories are probably the following:

President Bosch told newsmen Tad Szulc and Henry Raymont the evening of May 5 that he would invade Haiti at 4:30 a.m. May 7, and that he was holding a Cabinet-military meeting the following morning (May 6) at 8:00 a.m., presumably to iron out the final details. Messrs. Szulc and Raymont reported this conversation to Ambassador Martin who in turn reported to the Department, requesting instructions. The Department responded that Ambassador Martin should convey to President Bosch our opinion that he should refrain from moving against Haiti in the absence of OAS sanctions, pointing out that Haitian acts of provocation during the immediately preceding days had seemed insufficient to induce OAS majority approval of military action. At that particular moment, the OAS investigating committee had just returned to Washington to report its findings; the Haitian Government had requested a meeting of the United Nations Security Council; and there was a very real danger that the entire thrust of international concern about President Duvalier might be turned away from him and directed at President Bosch.

Ambassador Martin saw President Bosch on the morning of May 6, before receiving the Department’s instructions. President Bosch denied having told Messrs. Szulc and Raymont he would invade Haiti, saying they had deduced this from the general conversation. He admonished [Page 798]Ambassador Martin not to believe rumors, saying he was merely stirring up the press to prod the OAS and keep the crisis alive. He also told the Ambassador what our military advisers had already learned from Dominican military sources; i.e., that the Dominican military establishment was incapable of mounting a successful invasion of Haiti.

The other incident, which may have given rise to the news stories, occurred on or about May 14. Some 60-70 Haitian exiles, who had reportedly been training at a secret camp on Dominican territory to invade northern Haiti on May 15, were disarmed and forced to disband by Dominican authorities, apparently because the Dominican Government feared the operation would not succeed and a failure might result in unfavorable political repercussions within the Dominican Republic. We became privy to this operation only after it had been called off, but some of the disgruntled participants are known to have alleged (and perhaps believed) that the Dominicans prevented the invasion from taking place at our behest.

Dean Rusk3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL DOM REP-HAI. Secret. Drafted by Abbuhl and Crockett and cleared by Martin.
  2. The memorandum, drafted and signed by the President, reads: “I note several references, most recently in The Washington Post this morning, about the United States stopping Bosch from invading Haiti. Is this correct? What instructions did we send to our Ambassador to the Dominican Republic? Did we in short ‘intervene at least twice against positive steps to remove Duvalier from office with force of arms.’” (Ibid.)
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk signed the original.