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PC28.01.05   kilcourse

INVENTORY OF PC-DOCS, JANUARY—JUNE 1928

28.01.04 BROWN
28.01.04 BROWN
28.01.04 HUNT
28.01.05 KILCOURSE
28.01.08 SATTERFIELD
28.01.08 WADBROOK
28.01.21 SHAW
28.01.22 PEARD
28.01.31 KENYON
28.02.03 PEARD
28.02.04 MCDONALD
28.02.06 YOUNG
28.02.12 WATERMAN
28.02.18 GEYER
28.02.19 CLARK
28.02.19 GRAY
28.02.21 ORR
28.02.22 SHIEBLER
28.02.23 WELLS
28.02.24 SHIEBLER
28.02.24 ROCKEY
28.02.25 BROWN
28.02.26 CLARK
28.02.26 HOLMES
28.02.26 RIDDERHOF
28.02.27 GEYER
28.02.28 HUNTER
28.02.29 CLAUDE
28.02.29 CRONMILLER
28.03.01 O'DAY
28.03.05 MCNULTY
28.03.05 ROCKEY
28.03.11 AIKEN
28.03.15 CHAPPELL
28.03.16 ARTHUR
28.03.18 RIDDERHOF
28.03.22 ROCKEY
28.03.28 HUNTER
28.03.28 GEYER
28.04.05 ATKINSON
28.04.05 HART
28.04.05 ROBERTS
28.04.05 ROCKEY
28.04.08 HOLMES
28.04.09 PUTNAM
28.04.11 PUTNAM
28.04.11 SNEAD
28.04.15 HATFIELD
28.04.16 STOCKS
28.04.17 AIKEN
28.04.18 GALT
28.04.19 ESAU
28.04.19 MARSHALL
28.04.19 SNEAD
28.04.23 GALT
28.04.23 WILLIS
28.04.23 MCQUEEN
28.04.26 PEFLEY
28.04.28 MCQUEEN
28.04.30 ARNETT
28.05.06 HART
28.05.07 MERRITT
28.05.08 AIKEN
28.05.08 CLARK
28.05.09 KILCOURSE
28.05.11 AIKEN
28.05.11 ESAU
28.05.12 KILCOURSE
28.05.12 PEFLEY
28.05.14 HOLMES
28.05.16 CLAUDE
28.05.16 CRAMER
28.05.17 RIDDERHOF
28.05.17 ADAMS
28.05.18 SCHIEBLER
28.05.20 O'DAY
28.05.21 JENKINS
28.05.21 KENYON
28.05.22 CRAMER
28.05.24 CLAUDE
28.05.24 CRAMER
28.05.25 PIPER
28.05.25 PIPER
28.05.25 UNKNOWN
28.05.30 HATFIELD
28.06.01 SCOTT
28.06.04 HOLMES
28.06.04 O'NEIL
28.06.04 SNEDEKER
28.06.06 YOUNG
28.06.15 BROWN
28.06.16 ANDERSON
28.06.19 BERRY
28.06.20 HUMPHREY
28.06.20 ROCKEY
28.06.24 CRAMER

28.01.05.   Personal Diary of Lt. J. Kilcourse on Special Expedition against El Chipote

P C - D O C S :      P A T R O L   &   C O M B A T    R E P O R T S
thru 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 +

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  If I get killed please mail this book, with all enclosures, to my wife - address on other cover.

Matagalpa, Nic.
 
Dec. 18 - Pack train moved out in advance - camped about 5 miles out
 
Dec. 19 - Expedition cleared Matagalpa at 7:30 a.m. - found pack train in much confusion - mules stampeded with supplies - strayed - packages broken. Made camp at Zelandon's [Zeledón's] ranch 15 miles. Advance guard reached camp at 4:30 p.m.
 
Dec. 20. - Made Jinotega total 9 miles. Trouble with train due to lack of experienced packers. Muleros deserting in route - apparently afraid to go with us. Arrived Jinotega 1:30 p.m. Lt. Hunt with 1 infantry platoon of 36 men joined us. Left 3 mules Jinotega.
 
Dec. 21 - Broke camp 1100 - made 9 miles made dry camp - trail across half dry swamp - going bad in places. Two mules died - one lame - advance guard halted at 1600 - train and rear guard arrived 2200 - camp on prairie 3 miles south of Paso Real.
 
Dec 22 - Broke camp at 9:30 a.m. Camped at Paso Real at 3:30 made 3 miles Roads bad - mud knee deep - mules down continually. Rear guard arrived in camp 1000 p.m. Mules in poor shape because of bad going. Men working hard but impossible to make time. Plane sighted at 1030 a.m. but he did not get our signal. Manuel Gonzales taken prisoner and held on suspicion of spying - tells many conflicting stories. Muleros deserting. Lack of experienced packers badly handicap us.
 
Dec 23 - Broke camp at 0900 - only 22 muleros still with us. Roads bad - advance guard camped at Embarcadero [Embocaderos] at 1430. Plane dropped mail at 1030. Prisoner Gonzales escaped from Lt Hunts rear guard at 1900. Rear guard arrived in camp at 1900. Distance covered 6 miles. Lost 3 mules during days march from exhaustion. Health of command excellent - morale excellent.
 
Dec 24 - Xmas Eve - Broke camp at 0900 crossed Guale Mts. in rain & fog. Altitude 4500 feet. Roads almost impassable - mud waist deep for miles making it necessary to cut new trail for at least 1 3/4 mile thru woods in order to get thru. Five mules falling over cliff and lost with cargoes. Advance guard made camp at Guale at 1500 - distance made seven miles. Men in good shape - animals exhausted. All men sent back on trail to assist mule train in. 1 1/2 sections on train unable to make camp remained out all night. Everyone wet and covered with black gummy mud from head to foot. Equipment covered also. Worst day yet - conditions undescribable. Plane dropped mail at 1030. Officers slept in native shack - filthy - young pig crawled in and parked beside Lt. Gould.
 
Dec 25 - Xmas. In camp at Guale - part of train still out and coming in slowly all day. All available men sent out to assist in bringing them in. Rear guard arrived in camp at 1900 - from 0900, 24th to 1900, 25", making seven miles. Animals exhausted - equipment and stores smashed - broken - and torn. Shoes of men falling to pieces - heels off - stitching broken. Men's feet in bad shape in several cases because of continual immersion in mud and water. Necessary to camp over one more day to reorganize and allow animals to recuperate. Morale of command exceptionally good. Men are working cheerfully under most trying conditions. Two planes over camp at 1045 dropped mail. Christmas dinner, slum and hard tack - same old pig pen to sleep in - Had a bath - first since Dec 19.
 
Dec 26 - still at Guale reorganizing. Planes over at 1030.
 
Dec 27 - Broke camp at Guale at 900 am - some mules still in bad shape. Advance guard arrived at La Brellere at 4:00 p.m. Distance ten miles. Roads bad most of way. Cut 1 mile of new trail thru woods because of bad swamp. Rear guard arrived in camp at 2350. Three mules died enroute of exhaustion. At 1500 two shots fired from house at La Brellere and replied to by 4 rounds from 37 mm gun. House deserted upon our arrival but showed signs of recent occupancy. Planes over at 1030. Weather clear.
 
Dec 28 - Advance Guard cleared La Brellere at 0910. Planes over at 1000. Crossed Coco River 1430 crossing covered by Advance Guard. Camp at 1430 Las Piedras along Coco 2000 yds north of crossing. Feet of many in many cases in poor shape. Mules in poor condition. Roads for first mile in poor shape - fair afterwards. Rear guard arrived in camp at 0100, 29th. Distance - 9 miles. Weather good.
 
Dec 29 - Cleared Las Piedras 0830. Planes over at 1530. Advance guard camped at point 4 miles S.E. of Quilali, on Camino Real at 1500. Distance made 9 miles.
 
Dec 30 - Cleared at 0800. At 0930 were ambushed by bandits at point 2000 yds from Quilali. Bandits in well prepared ambush - opened fire with rifles, revolvers, machine guns, bombs, etc. from front and flanks. Fire was withering and resulted in our losing 5 marines and 1 guardia dead and 6 marines and 2 Guardia seriously wounded and 17 minor wounds. Killed included Lt. Hempel of the Guard. Capt Livingston, Dr. Minnick, and Lt. Neel (GN) were wounded. Livingston seriously hit first minutes of battle. Gould took command. Planes came over after fight was over (1100). Fired some machine gun fire on our troop on hill top. Dropped only one bomb. Planes left us at 1130 and were not seen again during that day. Strapped our dead on mules and carried wounded on stretchers into Quilali. Took up position there to reorganize. Much material and many pack animals lost. Enemy evidently intended to wipe out entire column but point discovered movement in bushes when were were half way in trap. I commanded advance guard with Lt. Neel (GN) on the point with 3 enlisted guardia, 1 commissioned guardia, 5 marines and 2 civilian guides, one guide was killed. Point was directly facing machine gun at about 75 yards distance when it opened fire. My platoon (advance guard) lost two killed and four wounded marines. Guardia on point lost 1 officer killed, 1 enlisted man killed - 1 officer and 2 enlisted wounded. Enemy displayed tactics far superior to anything heretofore shown by him - his position was of the best - his fire so accurate he pinned us to the ground until we got fire superiority. Action lasted about 1 1/2 hours. C ollected our dead and wounded and at 1430 got under way for Quilali, moving slowly to avoid further ambush. Arrived Quilali at 1050. Men on edge - much firing from sentries during night - no sleep.
 
Dec 31 - Buried our dead - 5 marines (inc. 1 Guardia officer) and 1 enlisted guardia at about 3 p.m. Graves dug in open space at south end of town - marines in one grave - guardia in separate grave Sad ceremony - americans giving their lives for no cause of their own. Planes over twice during day. Day spent checking property - stores - getting defenses in shape, etc. Some New Years eve - and what a greeting on New Years Day for the families and friends of the dead - slaughtered like rats in a trap - without a chance for their lives - to keep in power a man who, when he got himself in a mess, and about to be thrown out of office by a revolution - called for, and got the aid of American Marines to keep him in power - which means nothing but with his snout in the trough of the public treasury - to keep in power a man with a reputation of being the father of 28 children by as many different women - to keep a man of that type sitting on the upper floor of the Palace guzzling champagne - the lower floor being occupied by marines for his protection - to keep him there in absolute safety - while he should be out leading his forces against the revolutionists - regardless of the fact that we call them bandits as an excuse - an effort to screen our actions - to fool the public of the United States whose opinion would demand our immediate withdrawal were they to realize the true facts. That the situation was loaded with dynamite was, I believe, fully realized by Admiral Stimson and Brig. Gen. Feland, and their withdrawal and the reduction of the forces here with the statement that "all was well" was either a del- [deliberate] mis-statement of facts, or a lack of knowledge of the true situation that is lamentable. In any event, we are left holding the bag - junior officers are doing the dirty work - we are out here with nothing but beef and bananas to eat for last two days - badly shot up - and Richals column coming thru has been ambushed and has some casualties. We are in a most serious situation due to misconception of facts and mis-information supplied by officers who have no idea of the actual situation.
 
Jan 2 - Lt Hunt with 34 men sent to Richals aid at 0745. Orders reared [rec'd] to evacuate - Richal apparently shot up. See copy of letter in this book addressed to Brig. Comdr. this date in reply to order to evacuate. The Brigade has been led into a situation that is intolerable by misleading reports and information from so called intelligence officers who either have no military knowledge or are covering their own lack of information or inactivity by writing reports calculated to please the Brigade Commander. This town, Quilali, is from a military standpoint, untenable. It is surrounded by hills, sitting as it does in the bottom of a cup shaped Geographical formation, and can be raked by machine guns from a dozen or more hills surrounding it. It will take at least a battalion to make the town safe at present - and then the question of supplying this battalion is an enormous one. It cannot be supplied over the trail we came - it took us 12 days to make it over trails beyond my description. To supply a force here from points north or west is equally difficult - all supplies would have to be brought in by pack train which would require heavy guards to protect them - or strongly held points along the trails they are to follow to insure their safety.
 
Such far flung lines of communication are unsound from a military standpoint. And dope furnished by the Brig. Comdr. relative to the military situation is so far wide of the truth as to be astounding. I am personally of the opinion that information furnished by the Brigade is, more than anything else, responsible for the greatest military blinder the Marine Corps has made in many years. Regardless of the fact that we have reached here in spite of enemy resistance, he has won a moral victory at least that will do much to enhance his prestige and boost his morale. If we can withdraw from here without further serious losses and take a position along a line that will at least insure us a service of supply, we will be lucky. We have been living on native beef which we rounded up, for three days - that and coffee. We are entirely out of supplies - Richal's failure to get through with the rations he is bringing, has left us high and dry. However, we are still in the ring, and tho Lt Gould and myself are almost nervous wrecks from the strain, we are still in the game. Sleepless nights - lack of proper food - and worry over the safety of the lives of our men are leaving marks on us that we will carry forever. Planes have dropped us a message telling us that Lt. Hunt, with the platoon we send out to help Richal's column, has made it and that the combined column, will move out at 0900 tomorrow to join us here. Lord knows we need them . All other orders relative to our movements have been revoked - we are busy trying to clear a field for a small lane to land and take our wounded off so they can get proper care. Planes particularly active today strafing ground in all directions. They will cover the march of combined column of Hunt and Richal - now Hunts command - here's hoping they get in safely. It is hell to think of sacrificing lives of any more of our men in cause in which they have not the remotest interest.
 
Jan 3 - Planes over at 0920 - dropped tools and medical supplies - busy building landing field. Planes bombed and strafed with machine guns along route of Hunts march. Hunt with Richal's column arrived at 1545. Had no further trouble. They shot at everything suspicious looking in route. Sure were welcome with the rations - beef and coffee- nothing else for three days was getting monotonous. Had only 5 days rations with them - lost about 18 mules with some supplies enroute. Lt Richal seriously wounded - shot through the head - bullet entered under left eye and came out right - took his eye out with it. Had three enlisted men wounded with them. All carried about seven miles on stretchers. Body of Lt. Bruce of the Guardia (Nacional 1st Sgt of Marines) was buried by Hunt at scene of scrap. His body had been stripped and badly mutilated by bandits after he fell. Sandino himself is said to have been present at attack on Richal. Bandits charged the Marines twice - came close to victory. Marines held and finally drove them off with heavy losses. All arms and ammunition with Richal was saved. Force against Richal estimated about 400.
 
Jan 4 - Planes over at 1145. Dropped tools and medical supplies - still working on field. Someone finally has awakened to the fact that the situation is serious. All prior orders modified - we are to send our wounded out by plane on the sixth and proceed by forced marching to San Albino on the 7th. That passes us right through the country Richal just came through - we can look for more battling - if we get through without it and without serious losses we are lucky. Orders say planes will work with us every inch of the way - we sure need them if we are to get away safely. The gross blunder made by someone is more than appreciated by someone as we are informed that Gen. Feland with another regiment has been ordered here from the U.S. That such a blunder as this could be made should certainly be investigated and the person responsible kicked out out of the service. That is was a blunder was realized by me before we started - I made my will the night before we started out. To send a force of 150 men out this far from their base - a twelve day march - a line open behind them without one single thing to protect it - a trail such as we followed the only means of supply - no reenforcements within a week of us and that easily cut off by an active enemy - without adequate maps or guides - no means of communication except via planes which cannot always operate on account of the weather - to do this - to send us right into the heart of the enemy's country - against a force many times our strength - well armed - organized and entrenched - was a stupidly criminal blunder that should be punished. Now that it has been made a mad scramble is on to rectify it - strong forces ordered to San Albino - field officers at last are ordered to come out and do something - it has ceased being a war conducted by Lieutenants as it has been heretofore. Two lieutenants killed and one Captain and two lieutenants seriously wounded - and two other lieutenants slightly wounded - out of twelve engaged is some percentage. But the wine still flows freely in Managua, and I look for another brainstorm from that direction any time. Our wounded are in serious condition - our one medical officer is worked to death - we have no facilities for their proper care - and if some of them do not die before we can get them where they can be properly cared for it will be a miracle. Dr. Minnick is working like a Trojan - and worrying himself sick over his patients and his inability to do anything more. More blundering. And the joke of the whole matter is that we have received not one word of condolence for the officers and men wounded from the Brigade Commander - I would not be at all surprised if he did not want to court-martial us for breaking up his New Years eve party with such unpleasant news - it was on New Years eve he got our report. The Brigade Commander has no more idea of what this country is like than a rabbit - he has never been here - not even a flight over it by plane - nor has any member of his staff, to my knowledge - I doubt if he could find this place on the map before this debacle took place.
 
Jan 5 - Still working on landing field. Have had to burn and tear down about 20 native houses - pull up trees, etc., to make it possible. Scarcity of tools hampers our work. Field is now ready. Planes can land tomorrow.
 
Jan 6 - First plane landed - a Vought Corsair - Lt. Schilt pilot. Started removing our wounded one at a time - be slow work. They are being carried to Ocotal where a big plane picks them up and carries them to Managua - must be hell on them from here to Ocotal - they must sit up, strapped in the plane. And some of them are sure in bad shape.
 
Jan 7 - Still taking out the sick and wounded - sure is a relief. Contact with outside world boosted morale of command immensely. Lt. Schilt is doing all the piloting of the plane - That boy sure is a worker - and handles the plane most expertly. He cannot be praised too highly for his work of last couple of days. We will finish evacuating sick and wounded tomorrow. New we have received says in encounters with our and Richals column the enemy lost one hundred in killed against our seven. Some satisfaction in that, but no compensation for a single American life lost in fighting for a cause which is not their own and in which we have not the slightest interest. If the American people really understood the politics of this - knew what a bunch of grafting scoundrels the politicians of this country are - they would give them all the arms they want and let them kill each other off - the world would be better off. Rumor says that Sandino has been joined recently by 400 Honduranians - and that he also has some men from Mexico. In any event, someone with some military sense has been giving him pointers as we found out.
 
Jan 7 - Taking out the wounded - nothing new.
 
Jan 8 - Finished taking wounded out - 18 taken out. 4 officers and 14 men. Some job. As an aviator Lt. Schilt is a wonder and deserves the Flying Cross if ever a man did. Waiting orders.
 
Jan 9 - no change - but a little excitement. Lt. Diamond, flying a DH plane had a forced landing here today. Managed to get down on our field but it was too small for such a big plane. Hit some logs on lower end of field and plane turned a sommersault - landed on its back. Neither Diamond or his mechanic was injured but the plane was smashed so we burned it. We evacuate tomorrow - lets hope we get through safely - planes are to work with us and we need them. We have info. that a large bandit force is massed right on the line we are to move on - we'll sure give him hell if we can get him where we can work on him. Our long pack train of 240 mules is our weak point - takes lots of men to guard it - slows up our march and strings out over a mile or more. Its some job.
 
Jan 10 - Made about 10 miles en route to San Albino - camped at Plan Grande. Two planes covered us all the time and safed us several scraps. They flushed one gang at the point Richals column was ambushed near Las Cruces - bombed and gunned them - we worked on them also with our stokes. Saw four dead on the trail when we came along - much blood stains - think that both we and the planes got more down in the valleys with our bombs. Shot up any place that looked like a likely ambush and got through so far without casualties.
 
Jan 11 - Reached San Albino about 4 p.m. - one hell of a hike. Maj. Young with a detachment came from San Albino joined up at noon. Nothing startling - but we took no chance. Gunned the hills freely to flush enemy out if they were there.
 
Jan 12 - At San Albino - organizing a battalion for further action.
 
Jan 13 - S Gould in to Managua for medical observation. Major Young left at 11 p.m. with Guardia Co. on patrol - no change.
 
Jan 14 - Peard out with 100 men - both he and Young trying to scare bandits back to Chipote where the planes gave them merry hell with bombs and guns at noon. No report on it yet. Maj. Young's outfit had contact with small bunch of bandits - killed a couple - one of them a "Lieutenant". Had some papers on him - some signed Sandino but nothing important. Both patrols back to camp at 4 p.m. Pvt Hand died of disease and buried here today.
 
Jan 15 - Still in San Albino
 
16 Same
 
17 Same
 
18 Same
 
19 Same
 
20 Same
 
21 Same
 
22 Same
 
23 Same
 
24 16-20-45 Co. and most of 8th (?) are out with Maj Young working towards Chipote. Three wounded sent back so far. We are "in the air" as to what is going on - Young left here 20th and said he'd be back next day - he is still gone. Asked for all guardia join him tomorrow - leaves Kingsten and myself and 67 enlisted here.
 
Apr. 23. Cleared San Albino for Jinotega via Quilali. Maj Gray Cmdg Apr 24, cleared Quilali.
 
Apr. 28 - Arrived Jinotega.
 
May 3 - Left Jinotega with Lt Claude to relieve Capt Hall as CO Corinto (ranch) arrived there same date. Have 2 officers, 51 enl. marines and 1 enl. Navy.
 
(ON BACK COVER OF BOOK INSIDE)
 
Wife -
Elsie May Kilcourse
543 East "9" St.,
Brooklyn, NY
------------------------------
 
If I get killed please mail this book to above address.
 
K

MCRC/Personal Papers Collection/Kilcourse

Summary & Notes:

   Personal diary of USMC Lt. T. J. Kilcourse from a typed transcript housed in the Marine Corps Research Center, offering a unique insider's look at the Special Expedition against El Chipote from its march out of Matagalpa in mid-December 1927.
   Much of interest here — a gripping account with some remarkable details on these events.
   Marines blundering into Sandinista traps & ambushes, very little knowledge of the land or its people.
   Strong moral dimension to his condemnations; but even as he condemns the incompetence of the expedition's planners & pointedly questions the morality of the US intervention in Nicaragua (especially in propping up the regime of Adolfo Díaz), he continues to portray the Sandinistas as mere "bandits" — and once as "revolutionists," a term he leaves vacant of meaning.
   Adherence to the US and Nicaraguan governments' official representations of rebels shows how powerful this delegitimizing portrayal of Sandinismo was among ordinary Marines.
   Even as he condemns the "stupidly criminal blunder[s]" of his superiors, never broaches the possibility that rebels might have been genuine patriots or something other than "bandits."

   Depictions of the hardships suffered by the expedition; the practical problems it confronted and surmounted; his profound disenchantment with his government's policies and anguish in the aftermath of his comrades' deaths.

P C - D O C S :      P A T R O L   &   C O M B A T    R E P O R T S
thru 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 +

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