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ir28.02.02   r-2 report, ocotal


28.02.02  •  R-2 Report  •  Ocotal  •  January 22-28, 1928  •  Capt. L. B. Reagan


2 February 1928

From: 0000 22 Jan. 1928
To:   2400 28 Jan. 1928

MAPS: (a) Map of Nicaragua by Clifford D. Ham.

      (b) Map by 1st Liet. G. S. O'Shea, U.S.M.C.


          (a) Sandino no longer has a definable front line, nor even a known base of operations. It appears certain that his forces have broken up into a number of small groups which are now operating in various towns, principally within the province of Nueva Segovia. These include the towns of Concordia, Condega, San Lucas, Telpaneca, Palacaguina, Plano Grande and Las Cruces.


          (a) Enemy total strength, by undercurrent of information established originally at 1000, is believed to be materially less now. Both armed and unarmed bands are reported moving in various directions from Chipote, and the population of many adjacent towns has suddenly increased. This may be due to various reasons, but it is probable that many of Sandinos followers are returning to their homes and resuming a normal livelihood.

          (b) A mixed force of Nicaraguans and Hondurians of about 100 in number is reported to have been, on January 26, in San Lucas, a small town about three miles North-East of San Juan de Telpaneca.

          (c) A force of fifty men, under Jefe Sanchez, was reported in Telpaneca on January 26th.

          (d) On Janauary 26th, a force of about thirty-five men under Jefe Furera [Ferrera], a Hondurian, and Miguel Ortes [Ortez], a twenty year old boy of Ocotal was in vicinity of Palacaguina stealing cattle. This forces is reported to operate between Palacaguina and San Juan de Telpaneca on a trail which avoids Telpaneca itself.

          (e) On January 17th, Miguel Ortes, the Ocotal boy bandit, was reliably reported in area of EL CHIPOTILLO, located midway between Palacaguina and Totegalpa, and one and one-half leagues NE of Yalaguina.

          (f) The Air Patrol reported on January 21st, the belief that a band of outlaws occupied San Pedro, a town about five miles north of Palacaguina.

          (h) The Air Patrol for January 29th, reported the area around Palacaguina - San Pedro - Sabana Grande - Terrero Grande to appear very active. It was estimated that Terrero Grande was held by between two and three hundred men.


          (1) A Marine patrol from Telpaneca, under Sgt. Wagner, and consisting of thirty (30) men, had contact with an enemy group on a ridge about two miles east of PERICON, on January 22nd. Two bandits were killed. There were no Marine casualties. This patrol was again fired upon at Pericon on January 23, at long range. There were no casualties.

          (2) A column under Capt. R. W. Peard had five skirmishes with bandit groups on January 21 and 22nd. Excerpts from Capt. Peard's report are quoted below:

          FIRST CONTACT: At 0830 on January 21, 1928 just as our pack train was loaded and ready for the days march, a heavy rifle and machine gun fire from concealed bandit forces, estimated at not less than fifty rifles and one machine gun, opened up on us from the hillside across a deep, densely wooded canyon, at a range of from 1500 to 2000 yards. The range was so great that they could not hope to deliver accurate fire with rifles, but many hits in and around our posittion were made. The bandits waited to commence this attack until they felt assured that our machine guns had been packed on mules ready to move out. As a matter of fact, both of our machine guns were in position and manned, in good positions, at each end of the camp. Our machine guns returned the fire instantly, combing the ridge lines to the west, but I soon stopped their fire, and withheld all other fire, as the range was too great for rifle fire and no enemy targets could be seen, not even smoke puffs from their rifle or machine fun fire being visible with field glasses. The bandit fire continued all along our right flank for about thirty minutes, with many of their shots going over our heads. The bandits expended several thousand rounds of ammunition in rifle fire alone. About 0900, upon signal of a dynamite bomb, from Las Cruces, to our front, this fire stopped, and bandits retired amid repeated shouts of "VIVA CHAMORRO". The deep heavily wooded canyon between us and the bandit position prohibited us from doing anything except taking secure positions and letting them waste their ammunition. It appeared to me, that the firing from our right flank, was probably planned to detract our attention in that direction, while another bandit force moved into position to ambush us at Las Cruses. We remained in position at Plan Grande until 10000, waiting for "Letter of Instructions", which was due by plane. This letter was never received until my return to San Albino today. At 1005, no planes having arrived, I gave orders to move out for Buena Vista via Las Cruses, as the road to Buena Vista turns to the southwest at top of Las Cruces mountain, within fifty yards to the bandits' favorite ambush position, where Richal's column was ambushed, and where an ambush of my Quilali Column was broken up by airplanes, and trench mortar fire when we were enroute to San Albino.

          SECOND CONTACT: About half way up Las Cruces mountain and about half a mile from the summit, our advance routed out an ambush of about fifteen rifles, on the DOWN HILL side of the trail. These bandits were smoked out by protective fire from automatic weapons along flanks of wooded trail. This was the first bandit ambush that has come to my attention in which their dispositions were made on the down hill side. I immediately put our trench mortar into action, covered Las Cruces as far up as possible, then raked the balance with machine gun fire. One dead bandit was found and two wounded were seen being carried off by machete men.

          THIRD CONTACT: We continued on up Las Cruces mountain with caution and had about reached the top, when a machine gun opened up on me from a knoll, about 1200 yards to the west, in the direction of Buena Vista. We at once silenced this gun by well directed machine gun fire, and continued our advance on Buena Vista.

          FOURTH CONTACT: At 1530, when about five hundred yards from entrance to Buena Vista, Lieut. W. s. Brown, at head of the point of our advance guard, was challenged by a bandit sentry. This convinced me, that our approach had been a complete surprise, as otherwise no challenging would have been resorted to by these bandits. Lieut Brown answered this sentry's challenge by shouting "AMIGOS", and concealing himself on side of trail until balance of advance guard had caught up, at which time he rose up and shot the sentry in his tracks. A general fire fight ensued for about ten minutes. It is estimated that the bandits had about thirty rifles in this fight. As soon as I was able to get our trench mortar into action, the bandits dispersed into a ravine on our left flank, where they were assisted in their flight by a shower of hand grenades from all along our line. Four dead bandits were found, and several wounded men were believed to have been carried away by machete men, as tracks were found in several places indicating that bodies had been dragged off the trail. Due to the danger of shooting our own troops, it was not considered advisable to leave the trail for any great distance in order to check up on casualties. One rifle was captured, several rounds of dum-dummed bullets and also ten rounds of loaded cartridges of Mexican manufacturers was found on the trail, which had been snapped but had failed to fire. It is believed we caught up with the rear guard of the forces withdrawing leisurely to Buena Vista, the same which had an earlier contact with our right flank.

          FIFTH CONTACT: At 1030, January 22, 1928, when we were about half way between Buena Vista and Las Cruces, our advance guard finished another ambush of about twenty five rifles, from a knoll near the trail on our left flank. Lieutenant Clark, who had the advance guard for the return trip, shot and killed one of the bandits were seen being carried off my machete men. Trench mortars and automatic weapon fire completely routed this ambush, and we proceeded on to San Albino, by forced march, as per orders "to return to San Albino tomorrow" as received by plane on January 21, 1928. We arrived at San Albino, at 1700 today.

          BANDIT PROPERTY AND SUPPLIES CAPTURED, ALL CONTRACTS: One Remington 45-70 rifles; two Krag.50 caliber rifles, numbers 369981 and 225551, Springfield Armory 1898; one good riding mule; two good saddles; two good horses; one male branded USMC & US, believed to have been lost by Richal's column; ten aparejos complete; fifty-five chickens; sixteen leather bags for pack saddle leads; two turkeys; numerous hogs and cattle; fifty pounds of salt and several hundred pounds of native brown sugar."

          There were no Marine Casualties in any of the five contacts.

          3. The force under Major Young, which began pushing out outposts from San Albino sometime ago, had covered the entire area of Chipote by January 27th, and had destroyed all enemy holdings and entrenchment there. Detailed reports of the various contacts have not been received, but it is known that Chipote was lightly held at time of its capture by Marines.


          (a) Sandino apparently has three lines of action open to him: (1) guerrilla warfare; (2) to flee the country; (3) surrender to us. The possibility of his surrender at this time is discounted as he still has strong support in a member of influential quarters. Also, there is no logical reason to believe his capture is imminent or that he would have much to gain by fleeing the country at present.

          The mountainous country in which Sandino is operating makes it possible for him to divide his forces into small bands, and probably exercise temporary control over various areas of the country. He may be expected to do everything possible under the circumstances to "save face" and to continue in some fashion the regime which he had built up. It is also probable that some of Sandino's lieutenants are not subject to his control since the loss of Chipote to the Marines, and that they will conduct raids on sundry towns as more or less independent bands.

          It is probably that Sandino will work his way to place near the border of Honduras, from which he will direct the operations of such forces remain loyal to him.

Capt., USMC,

Source:  US National Archives, RG127/209/2 and RG127/43A/3.
Many thanks to Lebanon Valley College student researcher Katrina Wells for transcribing this document.