(Guatemala 1954)

International Operation Name:  Not applicable

International Operation Dates: Not applicable

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada        

Region Name: Central America                   

Location: Guatemala                                  

Canadian Operation Name: (Guatemala 1954)

Canadian Operation Dates: 1954/06/28 – 1954/07/05    

Mission Mandate: To evacuate Canadians from Guatemala when ordered                        

Mission Notes:

In 1951, Jacobo Arbenz was elected President of Guatemala in a landslide victory. Arbenz began a progressive regime that allowed labour unions and restored many of the older political parties, even allowing the Communist Party to exist. He was also active in promoting the independence of the nation, and supporting the peasants, by redistributing land. One of the companies affected was the American-based United Fruit Company, which had a virtual monopoly of Guatemalan fruit production, owned large tracts of the best land, had interests in railroads and electricity and controlled the country’s only Atlantic port. United Fruit successfully lobbied the Eisenhower regime to remove Arbenz. Giving some support to American decision-makers was the fact that Arbenz had bought Soviet-designed weapons from Czechoslovakia, an act that suggested to some in Washington that Arbenz was leaning towards Communism. As a result, the CIA launched Operation PBFORTUNE.

Planning for the operation had begun in 1951; however, the plan was not activated until December 1953. In May 1954, the United States Navy with an embarked Marine Corps Battalion Landing Team began operations off Honduras under the pretext of protecting Honduras from a possible Guatemalan invasion. On 18 June, the forces of Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, an exiled Guatemalan officer chosen by the Central Intelligence Agency to lead an insurrection, invaded Guatemala from El Salvador and Honduras. The roughly 480 guerrillas were ill-equipped and –trained, and were no match for the 5,000 strong Guatemalan army. Soundly defeated, the invasion was on the verge of collapse when on 27 June Arbenz resigned. On receiving reports that the US Marines were landing in Honduras in preparation for an invasion of Guatemala and fearing that his own officers would join Armas, Arbenz chose to resign and proceed into exile. In the 11 days after his resignation, five successive military juntas occupied the Presidential palace. Guatemala began its descent from a nascent democracy into a military dictatorship engaged in human rights abuses and a counter-insurgency war that killed over 140,000 people.

Canadian Task Force Name Mission Statement:  

To evacuate Canadians from Guatemala when ordered.

CF Mission/Operation Notes:

With the political instability after Arbenz’ resignation and the fear that fighting would commence in the major cities, on 28 June 1954 the Department of External Affairs requested the RCAF have an aircraft stand-by in case the decision was made to evacuate Canadians from Guatemala. Any such effort would have been made in conjunction with the United States, and would have been initiated with the commencement of an American evacuation. The contingency plans remained in place until 5 July, at which time External Affairs indicated the plan could be abandoned. The records do not indicate which squadron was tasked with the potential evacuation duties; however, it is likely that 426 Squadron was the most likely given their role and the aircraft they used. 

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