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Nicaragua, Henry Carlisle, truth and fiction



Henry Carlisle says "The ghost of Beals has indeed sparked a lively discussion! I welcome it all, especially the 99% "anti-Beals" reaction, but not forgetting that if the Dulles brothers, the CIA, the State Department (and let's not forget Coolidge and Reagan) had read and understood his assessment of the "REALITY" of the social and political situation, hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved..." Tim Brown disagreed. I stood by. However to his statement that my view of Nicaraguan history "appears to be shaped by war-time propaganda, not reality" I would like to reply:

As a historical novelist I rely upon documents to render past events as vividly and as accurately as possible, however my real work begins where the record ends. For instance I don't know exactly what Kellogg and Coolidge said to each other in the White House when they planned the Marines' Second Nicaraguan Campaign, but I count on literary artifice to make you think I do. The same goes for the Stimson and Moncada's meeting under the blackthorn tree at Tipitapa and Sandino's defection from the Liberal party afterwards. And for the bombing of Ocotal. And for Minister (Ambassador) Lane's "wink" at Somoza I, and the assassination of Sandino that folllowed. Nor has my view of the Marines been influenced by "war-time propaganda," but by my admiration for outstanding Marines, including, among others, Shilte, Carlson, Foss, Boyington, Daly, Puller, Smedley Butler, and especially my great-uncle, D.C. McDougal, already introduced (do any members rem! ember him?}. And no, I don't claim my novel-in-progress to be historically accurate. Only true.

Nor does my jackdaw research method ("if it shines, pick it up") allow me to retrive the source of the term "Popular Anti-imperialist Revolution" but I'm pretty sure it's somewhere in the pages of "propaganda produced by Sandinistas." Here I must add that the idea that Sandinistas like Carlos Fonseca and Sergio Ramirez "had no idea who Sandino really was, and who frankly didn't much care as long as using his name earned them public sympathy" strikes me as being pretty far off the mark. I do thank Tim Brown for offer to arrange an escort for me to meet Don Alejandro on his mountain, however I must gratefully decline. The truth is that I don't feel up to it. I'm grateful also to General Sullivan for the best and most detailed account of the Battle of Ocotal I've come across. It will be useful. Thank you.

Bewilderment in the case of "Rosser" is understandable. This was the name of a character in my novel-in-progress very like Major Ross E. Rowell, commander of aircraft squadrons in Nicaragua (1927-8) and originator of dive bombing tactics. I inadvertently used my fictional name for him in my message, his true one has since been restored. As for Lemly (sic--not Lemley), all I know for sure is that in 1985 W.C. Lemly was a retired Marine corps general living in San Diego. His 172-page journal of his service as a pilot in the VO-1 squadron under Rowell is inscribed in his hand: "Personal diary of Lt. W.C. Lemly, and record of events of Observation Squadron One, U.S. Marine Corps on Nicaragua Expedition of 1927." I know nothing about his service career after that. Timothy Brown's message (cited 4/6) is of the highest interest to me, in particular his remarks about the Marines' likely role as midwife to the Somoza dynasty. (I have ordered his The Real Contra War and am most anxious to read it.) I apologize for any bewilderment I may have spread. I can assure you that I have none to spare.

To John Heelan: the first real dive-bomber was no doubt the Curtis F8C but the technique was first developed by Ross Rowell at San Diego in 1926, and first used in combat at Ocotal in '27. The planes were DH-4B's, not designed for the stresses of the maneuver, but used anyway faute de mieux. The Curtiss plane no doubt saved pilot's lives. Torpedo bombing is a very different technique, far less diving and stresses involved".

General Sullivan writes: "Ocotal was the first time aircraft were ever used in close support of their ground troops. During WWI several aircraft had their pilots throw small 12 lb bombs over the side in enemy territory but it wasn't coordinated with the ground scheme of manuever. This type of aerial bombing is called deep air support". I am afraid that these technicalities of warfare are outside the scope of WAIS. I am sure there would be more pro-Beals reaction from Ltin Americans.

Ronald Hilton - 4/8/02


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