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Interview with Robert Bielen, October 14, 2013

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:02 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: This is an interview with Dr. Robert Bielen, who was the Peace Corps doctor in the Dominican Republic at the time of the 1965 Dominican Revolution and United States intervention.

Segment Synopsis: Professor Howard Wiarda introduces Dr. Robert Bielen. He discusses Bielen's presence during the Dominican Revolution, and gives an introductory explanation of the context and significance of the Revolution.

00:01:51 - Early life and education / Decision to enter Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: Could you please give us a little sense of your own background?

Segment Synopsis: Bielen talks about his birthplace, early education, and attending undergraduate and medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. He discusses his decision to join the newly-created Peace Corps program as a doctor, in order to fulfill his military service requirement. He also mentions his limited knowledge of tropical medicine before going abroad.

Keywords: Peace Corps; University of Pennsylvania; Vietnam War; education; military service; tropical medicine

00:09:10 - Experience of Dominican coup d'etat / Relationship with Embassy

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Partial Transcript: So, you arrived in the Dominican Republic when? 1963.

Segment Synopsis: Bielen recounts his experience of the 1963 coup d'etat and how it impacted his work in the Peace Corps. He describes buying an apartment in Santo Domingo and his limited relationship with U.S. Embassy officials.

Keywords: Peace Corps; U.S. Embassy; coup d'etat; curfew

00:16:18 - Antecedents to the 1965 Revolution in the Dominican Republic

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Partial Transcript: Pressures began to build up in the Dominican Republic.

Segment Synopsis: Bielen contextualizes the role of the Peace Corps regarding the events unfolding before the Revolution. He describes hearing local people's perception about the political climate prior to the Revolution. Bielen also talks how about how the U.S. Embassy did not foresee the Revolution.

Keywords: Juan Bosch; Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD); military plots; political pressure

00:24:36 - Start of the Revolution

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Partial Transcript: And then, the Revolution broke out on April 24, 1965. Where were you and what are your recollections of that day?

Segment Synopsis: Bielen remembers being in a Peace Corps meeting on the first day of the Revolution. He discusses the initial calm and the escalating tension in the following days. He also comments on the local perception about the government overthrow and U.S. Embassy's delayed response to the events.

Keywords: Dominican Revolution; U.S. Embassy; government overthrow; popular reaction

00:32:37 - U.S. occupation / Communication and medical treatment

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Partial Transcript: So then four days later after the outbreak of the Revolution, on April 28, 1965, the American Marines landed in Santo Domingo.

Segment Synopsis: Bielen discusses his relocation to the U.S. Embassy for protection, along with other officials. He mentions the U.S. Marine and Armed Forces intervention onto the island. Bielen also comments on his and his wife's participation in monitoring and maintaining the radio communication channels between the Embassy and the Navy. Bielen also mentions the Navy's role in providing medical attention to U.S. combatants.

Keywords: U.S. Embassy; U.S. marines; armed services; medical treatment; military intervention; radio communication; rebels

00:41:00 - Peace Corps volunteer controversy

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Partial Transcript: And what was happening to the Peace Corps kids, both in the city and out in the countryside?

Segment Synopsis: Bielen describes the danger that some Peace Corps volunteers experienced as a result of living in the vicinity of military conflict. He also mentions the relocation of volunteers to the city hospitals where they helped with basic assistance to the medical staff. Bielen also discusses the controversy that arose when Peace Corp volunteers opposed U.S. diplomatic convention by condemning the U.S. military intervention.

Keywords: Lyndon B. Johnson; Peace Corps; anti-interventionism; controversy; diplomacy; dissident beliefs; hospital safe zones; volunteering

00:49:44 - U.S. intervention in Dominican Republic

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Partial Transcript: So then, the nature of the mission changed over a period of time.

Segment Synopsis: Bielen comments on the transition in the nature of U.S. interventionism from military action to peacekeeping following the 1965 Revolution. He comments on the communist containment motivation for the U.S. intervention and discusses the irony of U.S. interventionist rhetoric and its implications in recent events, such as the Iraq War.

Keywords: Ellsworth Bunker; Iraq War; anti-communism; communist containment; democracy promotion; peacekeeping; post-conflict reconstruction

00:55:05 - Impact of U.S. interventionism / Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: As we draw to a close here, what assessment have you reached 50 years--actually 49 years--later?

Segment Synopsis: Bielen denounces U.S. interventionism in the Dominican Republic and discusses his skepticism towards the integrity of U.S. State Department news sources. He mentions how this skepticism influenced his perception of the Vietnam War. Wiarda further speculates as to how U.S. interventionism could be perceived as a political warning against foreign intervention in U.S. spheres of influence.

Keywords: U.S. intervention; Vietnam War