Bombing of Sosúa

History of the bombing of Sosúa on June 20, 1959

On June 20, 1959, at around 8 AM, Sosúa was bombed by the Dominican Air Force. Airplanes from the Air Force strafed and bombed both the village and the beach, yet there appeared to be no cause for this attack. What follows below is a short history of the reasons for the bombing and its aftermath.

A group of Dominican exiles living in Cuba, along with others of different nationalities, were inspired by Castro’s populist success and decided that the Dominican Republic was ready for a similar revolution. Despite the enormous historical differences between Cuba and the Dominican Republic during the years 1930-1960, it was thought that the populace would rise against Trujillo. By this time Trujillo, the dictator, had been in power close to 30 years. There was a growing discontent among the Dominicans with the atrocities being committed by Trujillo, and the invaders hoped that their arrival would spur the people towards the overthrow of Trujillo’s dictatorship. According to the historian Cordero Michel, “…originally they planned to attack Trujillo from six different locations; there were to be two air strikes, through San Juan de la Maguana and Constanza, using C-46 aircraft; this would serve to divert attention from the four maritime landings that were to be made from fast English assault boats at two locations on the north coast and two on the south coast.” Later the project was altered to include “… one aerial landing in either San Juan de la Maguana or Constanza; and two maritime landings–one in Sosúa and another in La Isabela. Originally two boats set out from Cuba on June 15, but unfortunately they had to turn back due to technical problems and unexpected ocean surges which sickened virtually the entire crew. After dealing with the technical and health problems, they departed once again on June 19. This time they were escorted by two Cuban frigates that accompanied them until they were approximately 60 kilometers off the Dominican coast. Their final destination for this second attempt was not La Isabela or Sosúa, as that would have meant that they had to cruise by day, which was too dangerous. Instead, they chose Maimón and Estero Hondo, two bays that allowed them to arrive on Dominican soil at dawn on June 20.

Trujillo’s regime, through his extensive network of spies, already knew of the invasions that were due to land in Sosúa and La Isabela. Therefore, all the Dominican Navy frigates were forewarned and on high alert. When the Navy spotted the invaders, they gave notice to the Dominican Air Force, which then proceeded to bomb the beaches of Maimón and Estero Hondo. One Air Force squad even came to strafe and bomb the village and beach of Sosúa. Evidence of this attack was noted in Weekly Dispatch No. 50 of then United States Ambassador Joseph Farland, dated July 31, 1959.  It was confirmed that the town had been machine-gunned and bombed during the June expedition, and the officials were able to see the damage caused by bombs and fragments thereof.

This event caused great shock to all the settlers and their children.Very few years had passed since the settlers had experienced the atrocities inflicted on them and their families in the Holocaust. Luckily, no one was injured or killed during the bombing, but no one understood why the paradise that they had built in Sosúa was being attacked. The beach and Hotel Garden City were severely cratered and pockmarked from the strafing. Big holes were found in several buildings of the Hotel Garden City. Bomb shells could be found in El Batey and in the entire area surrounding the beach and the hotel.

The memories of the Holocaust returned to the settlers and they once again feared for their lives. During the bombing, some became ill, others took refuge under their beds for hours, while many others ran to find refuge on the farms which were several miles outside the Batey. Children did not understand what was happening and started reliving the tales and stories that they had heard in their homes about the Holocaust. The effects of the Sosúa bombing left an indelible mark on most of the settlers as well as their children.

Two years later in August 1961, shortly after Trujillo’s death, Sosúa’s beloved medical doctor Alejo Martinez was killed on the streets of Sosúa. Dr. Martinez, along with his best friend the engineer Pedro Clisante, were murdered by leftover forces of Trujillo’s regime. It was another great tragedy for the settlers, who again feared for their lives and for a time were afraid of walking on the streets or expressing any opinion about the bombing whatsoever. Eventually calm returned to the country and to Sosúa, but a great deal of damage had been done to the psyche of the settlers. Sadly, many people never recovered the sense of well-being and safety that had originally existed in Sosúa prior to these two horrific events.

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