Thursday, February 1, 2018

When the marines landed in Sosua 1904

Very little is known about the early days of Sosua when a small village grew around the United Fruit Compaany bananas plantation. Searching historical records and libraries I found a forgotten story about Sosua which I think it is worth to be told.
On November 24, 1903 the governor of Puerto Plata Carlos Felipe Morales Languasco became the 30th president of the Dominican Republic after the so call "Unionists' Revolution" managed to overthrow Alejandro Woss y Gil

Carlos Felipe Morales Languasco

Shortly after the election a group of the Jimenistas (followers of Juan Isidro Jimenez) rose against the new president  and a new armed uprising started. President Morales was supported by the United States. The United States had significant interests and fixed investments in the Dominican Republic and owned  a significant portion of the defaulted Dominican foreign debt. A US company, the famous United Fruit Company owned a huge amount of land and a bananas plantation in Sosua. According to the company official records United Fruits in 1904 owned 18,203 acres of land in Sosua (the bananas plantation was as large as 3,480 acres), the total book value of such United Fruit co. investments in Sosua (land, houses, buildings, machinery,railways)  was 523,480 USD in 1904 (I would say something equivalent, more or less, to today's 500 millions USD).

With such an important investment to protect in Sosua in December 1903 United Fruit Company was very worried about the uprising against the US friendly president Morales, therefore it started to actively lobby in Washington to do something about it: after all United Fruit Company was the first multinational company with so much power to be able to influence the policies of a government.

On December 26 1903 fightings between troops of Morales and followers of Jimenez started in Sosua on United Fruit's property....from the New York Times "...without notice houses were looted, lives of United States citizens absolutely disregarded, women and children had to flee for safety: property destroyed..."

NYT marines sosua 1904
NYT first page of January 7, 1904 describing the marines' landing in Sosua

In the first days of January 1904 the US administartion dispatched a Navy steam ship to the North Coast of the Dominican Republic: in the morning of January 3, 1904 the USS Detroit commanded by Commander Dillingham went to Sosua, a marine detachment led by Ensign C.H. Fischer was landed from the USS Detroit to protect the American interests. One officer, sixteen marines, a Colt automatic gun and steam launch remained in Sosua to prevent further fighting till January 15th 1904.

uss detroit marines sosua
The USS Detroit , steam vessel 1904

old sosua
Old Bay of Sosua were the manìrines landing took place

 Albert Caldwell Dillingham (1848-1925) commander of the USS Detroit in 1904 when the marines landed in Sosua

The colt machine gun which was used in Sosua by the marines was of the type known as "potato digger", it was the first machine gun adopted  by the US military