United States occupation of Cuba (1906–1909)
|United States occupation of Cuba|
|Part of the Banana Wars|
A 1909 cartoon from "Puck" showing President Theodore Roosevelt, dressed in his Rough Riders uniform, handing off his policies to the future president, William H. Taft. William Loeb, Jr. is at left, holding Roosevelt's "Big Stick."
|Objective||Protect United States interests, stabilize Cuba, hold free elections|
|Date||1906 - 1909|
|Executed by||United States|
- This occupation should not be confused with the United States occupation of Cuba (1917-1922).
The United States occupation of Cuba, or the Cuban Pacification, was a major United States military operation that began in September 1906. After the collapse of President Tomás Estrada Palma's regime, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered an invasion of Cuba and established an occupation that would continue for nearly four years. The goal of the operation was to prevent fighting between the Cubans, to protect North American economic interests, and to hold free elections. Following the election of José Miguel Gómez, in November 1908, Cuba was deemed stable enough to allow a withdrawal of American troops, which was completed in February 1909.
The conflict between Cuba's liberal and moderate parties began during the presidential election of September 1905, in which Tomas Palma and his party rigged the election to ensure victory over the liberal's candidate, José Miguel Gómez.`Because of this, the liberals orchestrated a revolt in August 1906. According to author Benjamin R. Beede; both the liberals and President Palma wanted the United States military to intervene, the latter hoping to use American forces in the suppression of the rebellion. So when Palma appealed to President Roosevelt to send the United States Army to Cuba, Roosevelt was reluctant and instead sent the Secretary of War William H. Taft and Assistant Secretary of State Robert Bacon to discuss a diplomatic solution to the problem. Arriving on September 19, Taft and Bacon were to mediate with both parties but Palma refused to seriously negotiate with the rebel leaders. Eventually, Palma realized that Roosevelt had no intention of intervening in Cuba on his behalf so he resigned his office on September 28, 1906. On the following day President Roosevelt named Secretary Taft the provisional governor of Cuba. He also invoked the Platt Amendment, which called for the use of force under these circumstances, and ordered the United States Navy to land a brigade of marines. The marines, under the command of Colonel Littleton Waller, were to protect American citizens and patrol the island until the United States Army arrived. The rebels offered no resistance though and, according to Beede; "At the first sight of U.S. soldiers, the Liberals, pleased with their success, laid down their weapons and cooperated with efforts to end hostilities." The United States Army General Frederick Funston supervised the surrender of the rebels which took place before the army had actually began to arrive. Funston resigned soon after though and was replaced by General James Franklin Bell.
On October 6 the first army soldiers landed from the transport Sumner. The force was originally called the "Army of Cuban Intervention" but it was renamed on October 15, by William H. Taft, to "Army of the Cuban Pacification". Congress and Roosevelt authorized the deployment of 18,000 men to Cuba for the expedition but the number of American military personnel never exceeded 425 officers and 6,196 enlisted men. About half of the troops were from the 11th Cavalry Regiment, under Colonel Earl Thomas, and the other from the 2nd Regiment, 1st Expeditionary Brigade. Beede wrote that the "Army of Cuban Pacification served as a strong moral presence on the island to encourage stability and obedience to the provisional government." Many of the officers were veterans of the Filipino War and they exercised a strict policy of discipline and good behavior which prevented serious incidents of misconduct. Since the rebels had already laid down their arms, the Americans focused on building roads and outposts across the island. A total of 92 kilometers of new roads were constructed during the occupation and the army manned about thirty different posts spread out through both the rural and urban areas, including Guantanamo Bay. Headquarters was at Camp Columbia, located west of Havana. Typhoid, malaria and gonorrhea were major concerns to the military, between the invasion in 1906 and the withdrawal in 1909, ten percent of the soldiers contracted the diseases. Another concern was the protection of American owned sugarcane plantations, the majority being in Santa Clara Province. To do this, most of the garrisons were stationed in Santa Clara, near the population centers, and strategically deployed along railways, roads, and other shipping lanes used to transport sugar cane. In order to prevent future rebellions, the Americans organized a Military Intelligence Division, to gather information about the rebels and other things.
The Military Intelligence Division prepared a list of names of all those who had participated in the revolt of 1906 and printed accurate maps of the Cuban topography. Civilian topographers accompanied the army reconnaissance patrols which would last for several days at a time. They also took detailed photographs for every strategic railroad bridge and waterway in the country. For the officers and men who weren't patrolling the jungle, they were assigned to train and reorganize the Cuban Rural Guard, or Guardia Rural in Spanish. According to Beede; "Military training schools were set up in Havana and elsewhere to improve the discipline, and morale of the soldiers. The advisors also sought to depoliticize the promotion and selection processes of the Guardia. By the end of the occupation, however, much of the army's efforts to transform the Guardia Rural into a formidable military force had proved unsuccessful because of a political decision to create a stronger, permanent Cuban army." Some members of Cuba's moderate party, as well as some United States Army officers, were afraid the formation of an army would "become a political instrument of the Liberals," but the proponents argued that the construction of a permanent fighting force would be the only way to ensure stability on the island. By 1908, Charles Edward Magoon assumed the position of Cuba's provisional governor and that September he decided that the country was stable enough to hold an election. The regional election took place on May 25, 1908 and the presidential election on November 14, both were supervised by the American military. The process took place without incident and José Miguel Gómez was elected, he took his seat on January 28, 1909. President Gómez's election and the formation of the Cuban Army ended the need for an American occupation force so the troops were withdrawn over the following weeks.
President Roosevelt said the following about the expedition to Cuba;
"The readiness and efficiency of both the Army and Navy in dealing with the recent sudden crisis in Cuba illustrate afresh their value to the nation. This readiness and efficiency would have been very much less had it not been for the existence of the General Staff in the Army and the General Board in the Navy; both are essential to the proper development and use of our military forces afloat and ashore. The troops that were sent to Cuba were handled flawlessly. It was the swiftest mobilization and dispatch of troops over sea ever accomplished by our Government. The expedition landed completely equipped and ready for immediate service, several of its organizations hardly remaining in Habana over night before splitting up into detachments and going to their several posts. It was a fine demonstration of the value and efficiency of the General Staff."
See also 
- Beede, pg. 28-30
- Beede, pg. 28-30
- United States War Department, pg. 313
- Beede, pg. 28-30
- Beede, pg. 28-30
- Otero, pg. 157
- United States War Department, pg. 315
- Beede, Benjamin R. (1994). The War of 1898, and U.S. interventions, 1898-1934: an encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-8240-5624-8.
- United States War Department (1907). Annual report of the Secretary of War, Part 3. United States Government Printing Office.
- Otero, Juan Joaquin (1954). Libro De Cuba, Una Enciclopedia Ilustrada Que Abarca Las Ates, Las Letras, Las Ciencias, La Economia, La Politica, La Historia, La Docencia, Y ElProgreso General De La Nacion Cubana - Edicion Conmemorative del Cincuentenario de la Republica de Cuba, 1902-1952.