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usmc-docs  •  personal papers

     THIS IS THE FIRST OF TWO PAGES housing materials culled from the Wilburt S. Brown collection in the Marine Corps Research Center  (CLICK HERE FOR PAGE 2).   A 2nd Lieutenant in the Nicaraguan campaign, Brown rose to become a Major General in World War II.  In late 1927 and early 1928, Brown wrote some of the war's most richly descriptive and revealing patrol & combat reports (see e.g., PC-DOCS BROWN 27.12.07).  His Wikipedia biography (offsite) offers a crisp synopsis of his military career.  After his retirement from the US Marines, Brown went on to earn a Ph.D. in History at the University of Alabama in 1963, at age 63.

     This page houses 14 photographs and two drawings scanned from the Wilburt S. Brown materials, also housed in PHOTO-DOCS > MCRC.  They include the best known aerial photo of San Rafael del Norte during this period; a wonderful aerial photo of Matagalpa City; a close-up of the Matagalpa Cathedral; photos of Brown's Marine Corps buddies; three photos of Sandinistas by Sandinistas; and more.

     Page 2 of this Brown Collection houses 27 written documents in 48 JPEG files spanning the years 1927—1960.  Two sets of letters in particular shed much light on two key Nicaraguan players in the Sandino drama:  the Telpaneca lawyer Nicanor Espinosa — executed by the Sandinistas in 1929 for his collaboration with the Marines — and José Santos Rivera of San Rafael del Norte, an important informant and guide for the Marines & Guardia early in the war.  In these letters we learn more exactingly how Espinosa collaborated with the Marines, and how close of friends Brown & J. S. Rivera became.  The collection also includes the only known original letter written by the Mexican Sandinista General Manuel Echeverría (15 Dec. 1927) — and much else.

     An effective commanding officer and perceptive observer, 2nd Lt. Wilburt Brown was also proficient in Spanish, judging from the letter he wrote to José Santos Rivera in early 1941, when he was commanding the USS Pennsylvania in the Pacific.  A brief biography of Brown and an inventory of materials in the Wilburt S. Brown collection can be found online by searching the holdings of the Marine Corps University, or by clicking here (offsite link to PDF file).

     Grateful acknowledgement is extended to the staff of Archives & Special Collections of the MCRC; to Lebanon Valley College students Olivia Edwards, Nicole Wilhelm, and Mary 'Katie' Yost for their excellent work at the MCRC for three days in early January 2015; and to the Arnold Grant in Experiential Education for funding this research.

     Click on thumbnails below to view full images, all photos in high-resolution JPEG files (600 dpi). 


May 1927.  Rear reads:  "Diagram coupled with photograph of aircraft to show a system of message pick-up developed by Marines in Nicaragua, May 1927. From the manuscript collection of Maj Gen Wilburt S. Brown, USMC, Ret."

May 1927.  Aerial photograph of Matagalpa; see caption in photo below.  Rear of photo reads, in small tag in upper right:  "Aerial view of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, taken in May 1927. From the manuscript collection of Maj Gen Wilburt S. Brown, USMC, Ret."   Handwritten on rear:  "Matagalpa.  Locate:  Decompression Chamber.  Fort Erskine.  Petrona's.  The General's.  Amadors or Any other place and receive a prize consisting of A Hand Painted Picture of Lt. Col. Willis, Maj Reno, Maj Erskine, Lt Col Berry, Mr Hawkins (All composite).

24 May 1927.  Aerial photograph of San Rafael del Norte, facing northeast, with explanatory symbols written onto the photo.  Arrows point to two separate sets of "trenches & foxholes," while other arrows point "to Honduras," "to Estelí," and "to Jinotega".  Caption at bottom reads "San Raphael" and includes the date — perhaps from the same flight that produced the aerial photo of Matagalpa, above.  Tag on rear reads:  "Aerial view of the San Raphael area, Nicaragua, taken 24 May 1927.  From the manuscript collection of Maj Gen Wilburt S. Brown, USMC, Ret."

ca. May 1927.  "Catedral de Matagalpa, Nicaragua, C.A."  No date indicated. 

ca. May 1927.  Field encampment of US Marines, probably near Matagalpa or Jinotega, no date indicated. 

1928.  Photograph of 2nd Lt. Wilburt S. Brown, Battalion Quartermaster of the 5th Regiment, in Matagalpa, 1928. 

8 June 1928.  Rear of photo reads:  "El Gral Moncada saliendo del parque de Dictar su Conferencia Doctrinaria con el periodista Juan Ramón Aviles, Jinotega, 6/8/1928."   Also written:  "To my dear friend Mr. Wilburt S. Brown, Sincerely, J. S. Rivera, 2, 11, 929."

No date.  From Fred Becker, a Marine Corps buddy of Brown's.  Rear of photo reads:  "Hi Ya!  Wilbur Brown remember me?  We always were together on all patrols.  Quilali.  San Albino.  Ocotal.  Jicaro.  Nueva Segovia.  Fred Becker."

1927.   Rear of photo reads: "'Skid' Skidmore USNA, 1928 [overwritten with] 1927.  Forced out of USMC in 1936 for throwing Jap sentry over wall of Jap Embassy in Pekin.  Sentry with bayonet was trying to make Skid salute the Emperor." 

1929.  Rear of photo reads:  "My relief as Q.M., Harry Bacon." 

1929.  Rear of photo reads:  "Capt Billy Aiken who later went to Naval Prison for Post Exchange shortage in San Diego, 1931.  Too bad, good lad."

February 11, 1929.   Business card and photograph:  "J. Santos Rivera y Sra. San Rafael del Norte, 11 de Fbro. de 1929."  Rear of photo reads:  "A Mr. Brown, Santitas h. Fbro. 11, 1929.  Santitos. Josecito - Alexander - Paquita."

11 February 1929.  Photograph of Brown with two men, one of whom is José Santos Rivera.  Rear of photo reads:  "Duplicated.  One of my Matagalpa guides.  El Coronel is all I remember of his name."  Which one is Rivera?  Unclear.

11 February 1929.  Photo of child waving.  Caption beneath photo reads:  "Another message from J. Santos".   Rear of photo reads:  "San Rafael del Norte, Febrero 11 de 1929.  My dear friend Mr. Brown.  This one remembrance of my friendship for him.  My best remembers for your appreciated family in United States.  Sincerely, José Santos Rivera."

No date.  Two drawings showing technique for carrying wounded on horseback.

Photos of Sandinistas by Sandinistas in the Brown Collection



May 13, 1928.   Sandinista rebels on the march.  This is the best version of this photograph yet found.  Handwritten caption reads:  "Explorando el campo el 13 de mayo de 1928."  Rear of photo reads: "Sandino's bandits - Picture captured by intelligence dept."

1927 or 1928.  Sandinistas in formation.   Rear reads:  "Picture captured by the intelligence dept of Sandino's bandits."

1927 or 1928.  Sandinistas with flag mounted and on the march.  Rear reads:  "Picture captured by intelligence dept of Sandino's bandits."