The Dominican Civil War was not even a week old before Lyndon Johnson decided that it posed a threat to US interests (to be fair to Johnson, the Cuban Missile Crisis was only three years earlier, and Johnson was worried that ‘another Cuba’ was about to form). The US Marines landed near Santo Domingo (the capital of the Dominican Republic) on April 28, and had captured the city within a day or so – the Constitutionalist forces surrendered the city on the following day.
The Dominican Civil War dragged on until September, and American forces remained in occupation until July of the following year, when somebody the US liked could be elected.
The first extra-territorial land battle fought by the armed forces of young United States of America. It is the source of the Marine Corps Hymn (“To the Shores of Tripoli”), because the American forces – which consisted mostly of a few hundred mercenaries, backed by three ships – were led by 54 marines. It was the decisive engagement of the First Barbary War (fought between the United States and Sweden on one side and the so-called Barbary States – the Eyalet of Tripolitania and Morocco – on the other).
The battle itself took place after the mercenary forces, led by 8 US marines, attacked the fort at the city of Derne, taking it after heavy fighting against a greatly numerically superior enemy. The surrender of the Barbary forces came a month later, and the US set an early precedent for its poor treatment of its veterans by stiffing the mercenaries on part of their pay.
Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone (best known for his four Charlie Chan films made from 1936 to 1938), “To The Shores of Tripoli” takes its named from a line of the Marine Corps Hymn. Like “Casablanca”, it was in production when that attack on Pearl Harbour took place, and the entry of America into the war led to changes in its plotline. From being simply a romance about Maureen O’Hara’s character, it changed to focus more on John Payne’s character enlisting.
The film was a hit in 1942, grossing 2 million dollars. It was credited by the US Marine Corps (who assisted in the film’s making by allowing the use of the actual Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego) as a major recruitment tool for them during the war.
On July 28, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced an increase in the numbers of American troops deployed to Vietnam. From their prvious level of 75,000, another 50,000 troops were to be sent, bringing to total level to 125,000 – representing more than quintupling of American numbers from the end of 1964. By the end of 1965, numbers would have quintupled again, and American casualties would be running at over a thousand dead each month.
Johnson was acutely conscious of the importance of public opinion in the prosecution of the Vietnam War, and watched the polls closely. He made strong efforts to downplay the war, which were largely successful. At first. Only a few years later, backlash against the war would be enough to end Johnson’s political career.