Header image
PC28.04.05   atkinson

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

28.04.05.   Atkinson, Report of Patrol to LaTrinidad—San Isidro, Vicinity of Ollanca

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 +

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Headquarters, 2nd Battalion, 11th Regiment, Esteli, Nicaragua.
5 March [April], 1928.

From: 1st Lt. B. W. Atkinson, U.S.M.C.
To: The Battalion Commander.
Subject: Report of Patrol to TRINIDAD-SAN ISIDRO and area
vicinity of OLLANCA.

     1.   In compliance with your instructions received Tuesday April 3, 1928, I took command of a mounted patrol consisting of 13 men and proceeded at 2045 to investigate bandit reports in the TRINIDAD-SAN ISIDRO-OLLANCA area. In this connection the undersigned has the following report to make:-

     The patrol cleared ESTELI at 2050 all mounted. Proceeded along the ESTELI-TRINIDAD road without incident. Two automobiles proceeding in the same direction were halted and instructed to return to ESTELI in order that information of our approach would not be received. On arrival at the outskirts of town two men were left at the junction where the road continued on to SAN ISIDRO and also branched into town, with orders to prevent any parties from continuing on to SAN ISIDRO. It was my intention to get the Chief of Police in TRINIDAD and have him lead me to the specific section of OLLANCA that the bandits had been reported. This being in the general direction of SAN ISIDRO, the above mentioned guards were left for this purpose. The patrol at this time was closed up to about 5 paces interval. The point started into town along the route. As we approached the plaza I passed word back to halt and riding up to Tpr Wilson, the first man in the point, who was familiar with the town and the location of the police station, directed him to come with me and also Pvt. E.F. Ballinger, the man directly behind him, and that we would bet the Chief of Police. It was at this time about 0015 and the location of the undersigned and members of the patrol is shown on sketch attached. We rode about 30 feet farther when suddenly a yell and shot was fired immediately followed by a burst of fire from the building used as a police station. At the first yell and shot I called "dismount" and the three of us threw ourselves from the horses and ran to cover, on the porch of a house where position was later taken up. Investigation later showed the shot hit the stirrup and guard of the saddle ridden by Tpr Wilson. Immediately fire opened up from houses on 3 sides of the square. At this time the other members of the patrol had taken up position under direction of Sgt Seyler to work with his men around in rear of our position and join me. This he did and positions for the automatic weapons and others were selected as shown in sketch. At this time I had 10 men. Two privates, Kronjaeger and Dolan were on guard at the road and were joined later by Pvt Vandenhoogen who had trouble with his mule and was unable to keep up. They took position in a house at the road and joined me the next morning.

     Although the moon was up and the square was very bright all firing was directed at us from houses, so all that could be seen were their flashes. I would judge fire from at least 25 rifles and five or ten pistols were directed at us. A position was built around the automatic rifle and assistant that controlled the square. From this position we were able to place fire on three sides of the square. Fire continued coming down the street from the police station but was ineffective. From a position alongside of the automatic riflemen I started eliminating fire from the houses directly to our front. Two houses were silenced almost at once by several bursts directed at their flashes. One man firing a pistol from behind a post was either killed or wounded by a short burst. The telegraph office caused the most trouble and the greatest volume of fire came from there. Some automatic weapons, firing entirely semi-automatic fire, came from this source. The following morning empty shells, caliber 30 showing marks of extraction and shells that had evidently caused jams were found. After the initial burst [ p. 2 ] firing continued quite heavily for the first half hour and then slackened off to spasmodic bursts. Yells, vivas, and the usual "Viva Sandino" were heard. Also the usual profanity were used. Several of our horses were grazing in the plaza and two men were killed when the [they] endeavored to steal them. I say killed, as I am certain they were, although the next morning only blood was found at the two spots where they fell. The bodies were evidently removed when the moon went down and we were unable to see, preventing anyone coming out to remove them. The firing completely stopped about 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. No Marine casualties.

     Position was maintained until daylight when two automobiles came into town followed by the other three members of my patrol mentioned above. One of these cars contained the Chief of Police from CONDEGA. Accompanied by him and while covered by the patrol we searched the buildings from which fire had been directed and all other buildings surrounding the square. The entire town was practically deserted but almost at once people began returning from all directions. The Chief of Police of TRINIDAD next appeared, and on questioning stated that the bandits had come in between 10 and 11 and that he and his policemen left the town for the hills. However, a few minutes later the Sergeant of the Police and one other policemen came in, both of whom were wounded in the legs. The Sergeant had been shot twice. On being questioned as to how they were wounded if they had been in the hills he replied that they had returned after our arrival and engaged in the fight. His whole story was filled with contradictions and I would not be at all surprised if he were not in some way connected with the bandit groups of that area. I do not trust him and believe little that he states.

     As far as could be ascertained from information gathered from several sources, considered reliable, the following was established:

     That a group of bandits stated to be from 25 to 50 entered the town from the S between 10 pm and 12 midnight. That they did not know who the leader was but that the group was from the group under Condelario Cardoza [Candelario Cardoza] which had been operating in that locality from time to time. That they had left for OLLANCA and SAN ISIDRO area in several groups after our arrival and that they said many had been wounded. Reports later in the day placed the wounded between five and ten. I personally saw two drop and am certain they were killed.

     2.   After gathering our horses I left at once with the Chief of Police as guide for SAN ISIDRO. Arriving there at 1000. Interviewed the Chief of Police who stated that things were quiet there but that the group encountered by me at TRINIDAD had left for that place the afternoon before about six. He estimated them to be fifty. That he did not know where they had gone but thought to OLLANCA valley and mountain. That the reports were that several had been wounded but did not know how many.

     3.   Left at once for OLLANCA accompanied by the Chief of Police of TRINIDAD and one policeman from SAN ISIDRO. This section in my opinion shows ever indication of being a locality where either bandits live or operate from. The valley itself is approached from SAN ISIDRO via BOPAL. A trail leads off from there up the valley. The valley is completely surrounded on three sides by high mountains which rise to an elevation of about 5000 feet. The trail goes up the center winding around between numerous small huts and houses. Would say at least 50. The area is very fertile, plenty of sugar cane, guate, and other grain. There was plenty of stock including many good looking horses. The houses were practically deserted of men. Many women and children who appeared frightened on our appearance sought cover until seeing we would do them no harm. On questioning many as to the whereabouts of the men they stated that they were out working. Observed many on the hills which rise almost straight up, [ p. 3 ] some of whom were at work, but to my opinion did not account for a third of the male population. They stated that they had not seen marines before and that they were told we killed all we saw. On reaching the end of the valley the ascent upward begins. This is almost a straight upward climb for over an hour and a half. The trail is well worn and shows lots of usage. On reaching the top a view for miles can be seen. The trail follows along the top of the mountain and then starts the descent down, taking nearly an hour and a half, and terminates right at the edge of the town of TRINIDAD. The accompanying sketch gives an idea of the route it follows. The table top of OLLANCA mountain is perfectly flat with the exception of a slight rise - almost in the center. This rise in an excellent field of fire of the entire top. Mounted on the crest controlling the area both for the trail coming out of the valley and the trail leading down into TRINIDAD, were many emplacements. To the South I observed six or seven fox holes and built up rock emplacements that had been recently made, which appeared to be machine gun positions or for several riflemen. The same number were on the sloe to the north. In view of their being absolutely no high brush or trees no the top a clean sweep is had over both approaches. They can enter the valley from either TRINIDAD or SAN ISIDRO and have a good retreat either way. These emplacements were new, showing no signs of ever having been used, and their selection showed an excellent judgment of the proper sites for defending an area that can be approached from either direction.

     4.   Arriving at TRINIDAD at 1540, rested animals and left for ESTELI at 1745. Arrived ESTELI at 1210 without incident enroute.

     5.   In this connection, I wish to bring to the Battalion Commander's attention the splendid spirit and soldierly conduct displayed on the part of all members of this patrol A distance of 52 miles was covered in a period 27 hours and contact made with bandits in an engagement lasting over an hour. Their conduct under fire was exemplary in every respect. All were cool and calm, listened for orders, executing them instantly, and without question. The next morning the patrol was continued and we left in an attempt to gain further contact with only coffee and a few rolls for breakfast in order to save time. They rode all day and up until 1540 without rest or food, and not once was there a murmur of complaint. I feel that all members should be commended for their actions while under fire at a time when it was unknown as to the odds that were against them, and under conditions which gave indication of their having encountered a band many times their size.

     6.   Attached hereto are special commendations for certain members of the patrol.

/s/ B. W. ATKINSON

127/43A/33; retyped copy in 127/212/1


Sketches that accompany Lt. Atkinson's report:

Notes on Sketches:

• Firing came from the three sides of the town square, from two houses, two stores, the telegraph office, and the police station.
• Writing at the bottom on the second image reads "My position & point when initial fire started. Arrows indicate route patrol followed to join me."

Maps in 127/113C/12

Summary & Notes:

   These were Conservatives, not Sandinistas; the yells of "Viva Sandino" were a ruse (trying to hide their identity and blame their enemies).
   A bold move, for local Conservatives to attack a mounted patrol of 13 Marines. 

   Turned into a big Conservative defeat; several killed (no Marine casualties), launched USMC-GNN investigation into principal players.
   Chief of Police Carmen Vílchez henceforth implicated in Conservative gang violence in the La Trinidad / San Isidro area; part of the larger Chamorrista effort to disrupt the upcoming Nov. 1928 presidential elections; soon afterward imprisoned in National Penitentiary  

   Photo: Carmen Vilchez, left, prisoner no. S-5, with fellow Chamorrista Conservative Anastacio Hernández at right, late 1928, National Penitentiary, Managua.  US National Archives

   Other police officials and local elites also implicated in the fight; episode part of larger and well documented local struggles for power in the post-Espino Negro Segovias.
   Zone remained a Conservative stronghold for years, while Conservative gang violence continued into 1929 and after.
   Vivid descriptions of moonlight mounted patrol of 13 men heading into La Trinidad "to investigate bandit reports"; turning around the automobiles; entering the town; eruption of the firefight; events of the 30 minute battle.

   13 Marines vs. 30-35 armed assailants firing from three sides of the town square; several assailants killed (bodies dragged away); no Marines killed or wounded.  Amazing.  In Atkinson's telling the Marines won this fight decisively, and there's no reason to doubt it.
   Candelario Cardoza, Conservative jefe in the district.

   Vivid description of Ollanco Mtn and environs.

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 +

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

TOP OF PAGE