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All Along The Watchtower:

A Memoir Of The 1970 Salvadoran Revolution


By Chris Oakley

Part 3




From the April 14th, 1972 Houston Post, page 3:

US State Dept. Reports 40% Increase In Asylum Requests From El Salvador

Ongoing civil war cited as main factor in surge


From the May 1972 monthly issue of Ligourian magazine:

As Americans and Catholics, it is critical for us to take an active interest in alleviating the plight of Salvadoran refugees displaced by that countryís ongoing civil war. At the time this article is being published, the conflict has been raging for nearly two years and shows few if any signs of abating...


Excerpt of a transcript of a conversation between President Richard Nixon, Secretary of State William P. Rogers, and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird on May 16th, 1972:

NIXON: Good morning, gentlemen...

LAIRD: Thank you, Mr. President.

ROGERS: Good morning, Mr. President.

NIXON: Let me get right down to cases...Iíve been keeping tabs on the fighting in El Salvador, and the news is-- to be frank, itís discouraging. Itís a total (expletive) disaster down there. I want your candid opinions on whether thereís any possibility of salvaging things....

LAIRD: Iím afraid not, at least in the short term. The Salvadoran regular army is experiencing some severe morale problems, and in spite of our efforts to help it meet its combat needs itís still short of many critical items, including munitions and medical supplies...

NIXON: Has there, uh, has the SCLN responded to the United Nations mediation offer?

ROGERS: Not a whisper. Nor have they answered the Vaticanís peace proposal. The sense Iím getting from our consular offices and embassy in El Salvador is that the rebels arenít going to give up their fight with the government until theyíve either won the war or been wiped off the map.

NIXON: (unintelligible)

LAIRD: As you previously requested, Mr. President, Iíve done some research on what it would take to make it possible for US combat personnel to intervene directly in the fighting in El Salvador. You may not like what Iíve found...

NIXON: Donít beat around the bush, dammit, give it to me straight.

LAIRD: The political support for such a move just isnít there in the House or in the Senate. And even if it were, we would need an almost superhuman effort to assemble the necessary manpower in time to have an appreciable effect on the ground situation in El Salvador-- to say nothing of the possible consequences for our relations with other Latin American nations....

NIXON: (expletive deleted)


From Ocho de Mayo:

By the time of the Watergate break-in, the handwriting was on the wall for the Rivera administration in El Salvador. It had lost almost all credibility in the eyes of most foreign governments and its grip on its own people was becoming more tenuous every day; in the dwindling number of regional department capitals not under the control of the SCNL, the calls for President Rivera to step down were growing louder and louder. Anti-Rivera rallies in San Salvador were now regularly drawing tens of thousands of demonstrators daily, and for the first time the ranks of those demonstrators included some of the landowning elite who had previously been Riveraís staunchest defenders.

In early August of 1972 the SCNL launched the first phase of the campaign that would eventually bring it final victory over the government forces. Dubbed "the Mochada offensive" because its battle plan had been personally drawn up by SCNL leader Francisco Mochada, the offensive opened with a bold thrust at the town of Aquilares...


From a UPI bulletin dated August 6th, 1972:

SAN SALVADOR(UPI)--Salvadoran defense ministry official sources confirm that a major battle is underway between regular army units and SCLN guerrillas at the river town of Aquilares. The engagement is believed to be part of a larger overall operation by the rebels to secure a bridgehead from which to begin a drive on San Salvador when El Salvadorís rainy season ends in October....


From Firefights and Fruit Stands by Jim Rykers:

If we had any doubts that the Rivera government was on the ropes, those doubts were gone when the regular army defenses at Aquilares collapsed. The day after the rebels took Aquilares, we started making contingency plans to evacuate San Salvador; we hoped we wouldnít have to use them, but we felt safer knowing they were in place...


From the August 23rd, 1972 New York Times, front page:




From the August 29th, 1972 broadcast of CBC News at Six:

The office of the Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs said today that remaining non-essential staff will be evacuated at the earliest possible moment from Canadaís embassy in San Salvador. This action is being is being taken in response to recent developments in the civil war which has been going on in El Salvador since 1970...


From the September 10th, 1972 Washington Post, editorial section:

By now, it is readily apparent to all objective observers that the current government in  El Salvador will not last through the end of the year, yet the Nixon Administration is still stubbornly insisting on sending arms and ammunition to support a regime that clearly has no hope for survival. That is just one of the many disturbing parallels between the White Houseís policy on the Salvadoran civil war and the previous administrationís conduct of the war in Vietnam; the only saving grace so far is that Nixon has not as yet gone back on his word to avoid sending combat troops into the blood-soaked Latin American country...


From the September 16th, 1972 broadcast of NBC Nightly News:

The chief of staff for the Salvadoran air force has resigned in protest of Salvadoran president Julio Adalberto Riveraís refusal to enter cease-fire negotiations with the rebel army...


From a leaflet distributed around the campus of Columbia University in early October of 1972:

No to U.S. intervention in El Salvador!

No to corruption and the greedy, repressive Rivera regime!

No to bloodshed and hate!

Long live the SCLN!



From an internal memo sent to Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern by the director of the Kansas state McGovern campaign office dated October 9th, 1972:

Here are those poll results you wanted. They back up to a great degree what you said in your last speech-- namely that thereís little public support for any military involvement in El Salvador. Whether we can make any headway with that I donít know, given that Nixon is continuing to stick to his stated policy of not sending any U.S. ground troops there; heís even talking about the possibility of a 5 percent cut in military aid to the Salvadoran government. So heís not very vulnerable on that front, unfortunately...


From the October 13th, 1972 broadcast of BBCís 9 OíClock News:

The two and a half-year-long struggle for control of the government of El Salvador drew one step nearer to its climax today with the capture of the town of Nueva ConcepcŪon by rebel forces after a week-long battle with the Salvadoran regular army. With the fall of Nueva ConcepcŪon, the SCNL guerrilla forces have gained yet another staging area from which to mount what defence and foreign affairs experts believe will be an all-out rebel drive in the coming weeks to take the capital city, San Salvador...


From the August 2007 episode "Dateline El Salvador: The Jim Rykers Story" of PBS-TVís American Experience:

Jim Rykers filed what would turn out to be his last dispatch from San Salvador on October 28th, 1972; five days later, as he was preparing for an interview with the El Salvadoran interior minister, he heard distant explosions from the window of his hotel room mingled with the wail of sirens. The SCNL had unleashed its final assault on San Salvador, and before it was over Rykers would find himself being evacuated to Honduras much to his regret. He had hoped to stay in the capital to the bitter end, but the decision had been taken out of his hands...


From the November 3rd, 1972 New York Times, front page:




From an ABC News special report broadcast November 4th, 1972:

The civil war between SCLN guerrillas and the Rivera government in El Salvador appears to be drawing to a close. Within the last half-hour weíve received word via telegram that rebel forces have surrounded the presidential palace in San Salvador and are firing on the palaceís defenders using rockets, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades. The commander of the regular army forces guarding the palace says he is holding is own against the SCLN troops but that his own troops have sustained heavy losses...


To Be Continued


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