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PC28.05.25   piper

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

28.05.25.   Piper, Patrol Report   •   Sandino's "El Combate de El Zapote"

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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    This is the first of two reports by 2nd Lt. Earl Piper that offer a gripping and detailed account of what Sandino called "el Combate de El Zapote" (the Combat of El Zapote).  In these two reports, Piper describes three distinct firefights between the Marine-Guardia-Navy patrol and the Sandinista rebel army in the zone around the Bocaycito and Cuá rivers on the eastern frontier of Las Segovias. As Piper reports, these three combats resulted in four Marine-Guardia casualties:  two Marines and one Guardia killed, and one Marine wounded in action. 

     Sandino, in a letter to Froylán Turcios of 15 May, later published in Turcios' literary magazine Ariel, inflated these four casualties into a battlefield "covered with cadavers" ("dejando el campo cubierto de cadáveres"), including the corpses of "the first and second chiefs of the punitive column" ("y entre ellos, el primero y segundo jefe de la columna punitiva").  In his communiqués and press releases, Sandino routinely inflated the numbers of enemy casualties.  He did so again for this series of firefights.

     The report housed on this webpage is Lt. Piper's "patrol report" covering the 14 days from May 9-22.  On the next webpage is housed Piper's "combat report," which describes three distinct military contacts on May 13-14.  Also housed on the next page is Sandino's account of these combats.

     An annotated sketch map of the patrol appears below; click on the thumbnail for the full image:

25 May, 1928

To:  Area Commander, Ocotal

Subject: Patrol report

     At 8:30 A.M. May 9, 1928, cleared Quilali with thirty-eight riding animals and eleven pack animals and ten days rations, Captain Hunter in command. Strength two officers marine, and twenty-five Marines enlisted, one Navy enlisted, one Guardia officer, and nine Guardia enlisted on combat reconnaisance patrol for Santa Cruz and the Coco Coco River. Weather and roads excellent. Arrived Santa Cruz 1:30 P.M. and made camp. Five Guardia were put on outpost about one hundred and fifty yards northeast of camp. About 7:00 P.M. firing was heard from this outpost. Upon being investigated the Guardia said they had fired at five men mounted, coming down the trail.

[p. 2] No evidence was found and report was unverified.

     Cleared Santa Cruz 7:30 A.M. May 10, and marched in general north-east direction. Crossed high range of bare mountains, and travelled through heavy bamboo brakes, trails good. Many houses along trail were burned. Reached Cua River about 2:30 P.M. having travelled twelve miles from Santa Cruz. Trails were investigated while up river and camp made in immediate vicinity on river bank. At 6:00 P.M. while several of our men were bathing in river, a native dugout was seen coming downstream close to our camp. Upon seeing men in river, dug-out was hastily beached and natives ran into bushes on opposite bank, both were carrying rifles. Shots were

[p. 3] fired at them and a short chase given, but they escaped. The dugout contained native food which being warm had just been prepared and the men were evidently making a journey of some distance downstream. At 8:00 P.M. Marine on guard one one hundred and fifty yards upstream from camp fired two shots saying a man had appeared in trail ahead of him. No evidences were found to verify this report. These two incidences caused us to believe that we were in the vicinity of bandits.

     Cleared camp 7:30 A.M. May 11 and searched up Cua River to junction of Cua and Gucinero Rivers. Followed Gucinero upstream for distance of about five miles. This immediate vicinity is known as "Finca de Cua." There is a native hacienda about twelve miles up Cua

[p. 4] River and four miles south-west of its banks which owner said was known as "Finca de Cua." Everything here appeared peaceful and there was nothing to arouse suspicion. They said bandits had passed through this territory eight days previous. Made camp that night on Gucinero River about five miles from its junction with the Cua.

Cleared camp the following morning at 7:00 A.M. travelling east until we struck Cua River and then followed trail paralleling river upstream. Weather and trails good. During morning crossed bare, rocky hills and in afternoon crossed heavily wooded mountains. Made camp at 2:00 P.M. at La Flor, belonging to Guadalupe Zelaya, this finca evidently being a deserted

[p. 5] logging camp and located on bank of Cua River about seventeen miles from its mouth. About eleven P.M. the Marine on guard close to camp fired several shots at what he said was a moving light about one hundred yards to south of camp. Next morning blood was found along the trail verifying in part his statement.

     Cleared camp May 13, at 7:00 A.M. marching to southeast, travelled until noon over very good trails which crossed heavily timbered range of mountains. Passed several houses some of which were occupied by apparently friendly natives. Others had evidently been deserted in a hurry. At noon reached Bocaycito River said by natives to be

[p. 6] approximately twenty miles from its mouth on the Coco Coco River. This river like the Cua runs to the south-west and is of about the same size. Followed trail paralleling Bocaycito River downstream. Several more houses were passed, mostly containing apparently friendly natives, this territory being more thickly populated than any we had yet passed through. At 3:40 P.M. after travelling through heavy timber and thick underbrush over good trails reached scene of combat. (See combat report).

     On May 14 continued march at 10:30 A.M. over previously travelled trail but in opposite direction, our object being to evacuate wounded as soon as possible. A plane appeared directly

[p. 7] overhead immediately we began to move but being so directly over our column we were unable to attract his attention. We continued our way slowly but unmolested, all houses along trail being deserted, and succeeded in reaching a fair position on high ground at 4:00 P.M. about six miles from scene of combat, where we made camp. Capt. Hunter gave signs of having stood the trip very badly and the men carrying him were in an almost an exhausted condition.

     Cleared camp next morning at 6:30 A.M. our objective being La Flor finca. Houses along trail showed signs of hasty desertion, none being occupied. Native footprints were found in trail headed in our line of march and one

[p. 8] place had evidently been the camping place of a group of natives, remains of several small fires being found. Reached La Flor at 10:40 A.M., Capt. Hunter again showing signs of weakness and men again exhausted. Realizing that Capt. Hunter could not be moved for several days and that we could not move without reinforcements, we asked for same and also rations, when planes appeared at 11 A.M. and when we found it was impossible to arrange a pick-up at this place. The panel "Help" was put out to give planes information that all was not well. Proceeded to make camp, surrounding same with log barricade, and gave Capt. Hunter all attention possible.

     [p. 9] On morning of 16th when planes appeared, gave information that Capt. Hunter was wounded and that we requested medical supplies. Received information that relief columns were heading in our direction and settled down to wait for same. Capt. Hunter appeared to be gaining in strength. Pvt. DuBois' wound was healing nicely. Gave men all rest possible.

     On 17th planes dropped medical supplies and rations as requested Capt. Hunter resting more easily and evidently gaining strength, as he was now able to swallow a few liquids and could talk much better. Planes in afternoon asked advisibility of evacuating Capt. Hunter via Coco River. Answered, "Yes, considered advisable," and prepared to move when

[p. 10]  reinforcements should arrive.

     Capt. Hunter's condition remained practically unchanged until his death at 3:25 A.M., May 18, 1928. Cadet Blackburn was with him at the time of his death and said that he passed away without strain after a few short breaths. Cadet Blackburn called the hospital corpsman, who was sleeping about ten feet away, when he noticed the difference in the breathing, but Capt. Hunter had died before the corpsman could reach him. Capt. Hunter's courage and fortitude were inspiring up until his death.

     Buried Capt. Hunter at 9:30 A.M. Gave planes information of his death when they appeared that morning. Received information in afternoon from planes when they dropped

[p. 11] rations and more medical supplies that Major Rockey was proceeding to join our column. On afternoon of 19th planes dropped sugar and gave information that Corinto column had been halted. Also that Major Rockey's column was close to the junction of the Cua and Gucinero rivers. Planes asked for location of Capt. Hunter's wounds. Gave chest as location of one wound, as it was impossible to describe a shoulder wound by panels.

     All quiet on 20th, Planes dropped Brigade Field Message in morning. Gave planes information on morning of 21st that Major Rockey had not yet arrived. Also requested rice, coffee and bacon, as our supply would soon be exhausted. Received rations as requested in afternoon, when planes gave us information that Major Rockey was now headed in our direction. Major Rockey arrived La Flor

[p. 12] at 10:30 A.M., May 22, 1928.

CONCLUSIONS

     From Santa Cruz to La Flor finca the country was very thickly populated. There were few signs of cultivation, coffee being somewhat in evidence but the chief industry seemed to be lumbering. From the Bocaycito River there were more signs of population and, in general, more prosperity. There is reason to believe that a fair-mixed bandit group might easily subsist in this region.

Signed,

Earl S. Piper,
2d Lieut., U.S.M.C.

[p. 13] Memorandum.

It is requested that clerical errors and mistakes be overlooked.  No typewriter was available, this report being copied freehand by one of the command.

Earl S. Piper, 2nd Lt. U.S.M.C.

Source:  RG127/113C/12; see also RG127/204/3.

Summary & Notes:

   A fascinating and highly revealing pair of reports; this patrol report should be read in tandem with the combat report on the next page.
   This big patrol of 49 animals & 38 men must have made a hell of a racket clunking its way through this thickly forested area.
   Patrol repeatedly encounters a very active and aggressive rebel response, starting on the first night (7 p.m. on May 9) when Guardia reported hearing gunshots and that they'd fired at "five men mounted, coming down the trail," and the next night (6 p.m. on May 10) with the "native dugout" coming down the river and its occupants, seeing the Marine patrol, abandoning it along the banks and scurrying away, rifles in hand, leaving warm food inside the dugout.  And, two hours later (8 p.m. on May 10) when the Marine on guard fired two shots at a man who'd appeared on the trail ahead of him.  And the next day, and the next.  One gets the sense that rebels and rebel supporters are thick on the ground throughout this district.

   The "many houses . . . burned" encountered along the trail north and east of Santa Cruz on May 10 are noteworthy.  Who burned them?
   Noteworthy that much of the area was given over to logging, and that the finca La Flor owned by Guadalupe Zelaya (a woman?) was evidently a "deserted logging camp."  Some coffee being grown in this area, but Piper reported "few signs of cultivation" and that "the chief industry seemed to be lumbering."
   Interesting description of the area around the Bocaycito River as "more thickly populated than any we had yet passed through" and marked by "more prosperity."  Are these families of men working in the logging industry?

   Lots of houses described as "hastily deserted," especially after the combat of May 13 -- shows a wary and attentive populace reacting quickly to unfolding events. 

   Airplanes play a critical role in providing relief supplies, reinforcements, and intelligence; still a very clunky communication system between the pilots in the sky and the men on the ground.
   Piper probably correct in his supposition that "a fair-sized bandit group might easily subsist in this region," which remains a hotbed of rebel activity for the next four-plus years.

   Thanks to Lebanon Valley College student Katie Dudding for transcribing this document.

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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