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air-toons
cartoons & graphic art on the air war   •  Caricaturas y Arte Gráfico de la Guerra Aérea

      This page is devoted to various forms of graphic art treating the subject of the air war in Nicaragua — mostly editorial cartoons, along with some propaganda sheets and comic books.  About two dozen examples are included here, though a systematic search would probably reveal many more; each is accompanied by a brief summary and analysis.  

     Esta página se dedica a diversas formas de arte gráfico que tratan el tema de la guerra aérea en Nicaragua — en su mayoría caricaturas editoriales, junto con unas hojas de propaganda y libros de historietas.  Cerca de dos docenas ejemplos se incluyen aquí, pero una búsqueda sistemática probablemente revelaría muchos más.  Cada dibujo va acompañado de un breve resumen y análisis.

I.  Inventory of Cartoons & Artwork

   
21 July 1927 Another American Aviation Achievement  Louisville Courier-Journal
24 July 1927 The Black Hills of Nicaragua  St. Louis Post-Dispatch
3 Aug 1927 The Pacification of Nicaragua  The Daily Worker
7 Aug 1927 Salesmanship  St. Louis Post-Dispatch
5 Jan 1928 Unequal, Anguishing Struggle  Crítica, Buenos Aires
6 Jan 1928 You Can't Blame Him Much  The Detroit News
6 Jan 1928 Restating the Monroe Doctrine  The Daily Worker
7 Jan 1928 Viva Nicaragua Libre!  The Daily Worker
9 Jan 1928 Maybe That's Lindy, Bill  St. Louis Post-Dispatch
12 Jan 1928 Another 'We' The Detroit News
16 Jan 1928 Music Furnished by the Marine Bombs   The Daily Worker
17 Jan 1928 A Tip The Detroit News
18 Jan 1928 The Ambassador of Good Will  The Nation
19 Jan 1928 ¡Manos Fuera de Nicaragua!  El Libertador, Mexico City
24 Jan 1928 Airlines  The Daily Worker
25 Jan 1928 While We Drop Soft Words In Havana  St. Louis Post-Dispatch
25 Jan 1928 A Diplomatic Incident   The Detroit News
25 Jan 1928 King Oil  The Daily Worker
24 Feb 1928 Victim at Chinandega  All-American Anti-Imperialist League
7 Mar 1928 On the Trail of Sandino  Cover of The Nation
June-July 1976 El General Sandino   Prisma del Meridiano, Cuba
7 Aug 1983 Un Engaño Genial (An Inspired Deception)   Barricada, Managua
9 Oct 1983 Two North American Planes Downed, Barricada, Managua
   

 

II.  Cartoons & Artwork

 

21 July 1927

"Another American Aviation Achievement" 

Louisville Courier-Journal, 21 July 1927

 

Only two months earlier, on 21 May, Charles Lindbergh had achieved world fame by completing the first solo flight across the Atlantic.  In this era of aviation firsts, the battle of Ocotal (16 July 1927) was the first time in history that an air attack was directed by ground forces.  Five US Marine DeHaviland biplanes killed upwards of 300 Nicaraguan attackers, evoking a storm of protest and condemnation across the Atlantic World and especially in Latin America.  US Marine Captain Gilbert Hatfield's original reports on the Sandinista assault on Ocotal, along with Sandino's account of the battle, are transcribed in full in PC-DOCS 27.07.16 and PC-DOCS 27.07.20.
  Reprinted in the
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 22 July 1927 (sign at the bottom reads "200 Nicaraguans killed").

 


 

"Otro logro de la aviación americana"

Louisville Courier-Journal, 21 July 1927

 

Sólo dos meses antes, el 21 de mayo, Charles Lindbergh había alcanzado la fama mundial al completar el primer vuelo en solitario a través del Atlántico.  En esta era de innovaciones de la aviación, la batalla de Ocotal (16 de julio 1927) fue la primera vez en la historia que un ataque aéreo dirigido por las fuerzas de tierra.  Cinco de Marines de EE.UU. biplanos De Havilland mató a más de 300 atacantes de Nicaragua, que evoca una tormenta de protestas y condenas en todo el mundo atlántico y, sobre todo en América Latina.  Los informes originales del Capitán Gilbert Hatfield de los marinos sobre el asalto sandinista en Ocotal, junto con la cuenta de Sandino de la batalla, se transcriben en su totalidad en PC-DOCS 27.07.16 y PC-DOCS 27.07.20.
Reproducido en el St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 22 de julio de 1927 (signo en la parte inferior se lee "200 nicaragüenses muertos").

 

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24 July 1927

"The Black Hills of Nicaragua." 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 24 July 1927.

Representative of the reaction of most of the Latin American and much of the US and European press to the battle of Ocotal, the cartoon accurately portrays most rebel casualties of the bombings as having been killed on the outskirts of town, with the church and town still intact and the town smoldering in the background.

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3 August 1927

"The Pacification of Nicaragua."

The Daily Worker, 3 August 1927.

 

Portraying the US Marines as blood-stained, monstrous, hyper-masculine brutes taking macabre pleasure in the slaughter of innocent Nicaraguan civilians, and aided in their bloodletting by fleets of airplanes, The Daily Worker, organ of the Workers (Communist) Party of America, ranked among the most vociferous opponents of US policy in Nicaragua and Latin America; the paper was also very attentive to issues of race and gender, domestically and internationally.

Back to inventory

 

7 August 1927

"Salesmanship." 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 7 August 1927.

Anticipating the upcoming Sixth Pan-American Conference in Havana (January 1928), the cartoon memorializes the battle of Ocotal by depicting the United States as senselessly slaughtering innocent civilians as well as prospects for improved US-Latin American commercial relations.

BACK TO INVENTORY

5 January 1928

"Unequal, anguishing struggle of Nicaragua can only be waged with the courage of patriots like Sandino."

Crítica, Buenos Aires, 5 January 1928.

Expressing the sentiments of much of the Latin American press on the eve of the Pan-American Conference in Havana, the artist's rendition of the bombing of El Chipote portrays the Sandinista rebels as courageous patriots fighting against all odds against the vastly superior power of the US airplanes.  (Source:  USDS 817.00/5349; caption reads:  "Lucha desigual, anguistiosa, la de Nicaragua, sólo puede afrontarla el coraje de los patriotas como Sandino.")

 

 

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6 January 1928

"You Can't Blame Him Much." 

The Detroit News, 6 January 1928.

Evoking memories of Ocotal and subsequent aerial bombardments in Las Segovias, the cartoon ironically plays off Charles Lindbergh's "goodwill tour" of Latin America.  A few days before, on 2 January, Lindbergh was greeted in San Salvador by a cheering throng of thousands, while the day after this cartoon appeared he received a similar reception in Managua.  The cartoon captures the ambiguous imagery of aviation during this period, the "Nicaraguan citizen" fleeing in mortal terror from the innocuous airplane.

 

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6 January 1928 (The Daily Worker)

"Restating the Monroe Doctrine." 

The Daily Worker, 6 January 1928.

Offering an updated interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine, and anticipating the heavy criticism the United States was likely to receive in Havana, the cartoon's image of total destruction and senseless victimization is similar to the images published in the wake of the battle of Ocotal six months earlier (see above).  Significantly, this is the only such artwork encountered that portrays a woman victimized in the Marines' aerial campaign (in keeping with its attention to women and gender, two weeks later, on 20 January, the same newspaper carried the headline, "Marines Bomb Two Women; Sandino Defies Wall Street").

 

 

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7 January 1928

 

 

"Viva Nicaragua Libre!"

Fred Ellis, The Daily Worker, 7 January 1928.

 

Portraying Sandino and his followers as genuine revolutionaries struggling to establish a truly independent republic in Nicaragua, this dignified, almost regal depiction conveys an image of righteous patriotic defiance, and resembles some of the artwork of the US revolutionary era.  It is noteworthy that the cartoonist, Fred Ellis, does not presume to speak for Sandino or his followers, instead quoting him directly ("Nicaragua shall not be the patrimony of imperialists and traitors, and I shall fight them as long as my heart beats").  Also noteworthy are the airplanes, symbols of US imperialist aggression, hovering ominously in the distance.

 

 

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9 January 1928

 

 

"Maybe That's Lindy, Bill."

Rollin Kirby, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 9 January 1928.

 

On the eve of the Sixth Pan-American Conference in Havana, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offered yet another play on the disjuncture between Lindy's "goodwill tour" and the US use of airpower and amply-armed ground forces in suppressing the Sandino rebellion.  Yet compared to many portrayals of the Marines, here they are depicted as ordinary men, surrounded by high brush, in unfamiliar terrain, their vision obscured, and not really sure what the situation is.  (I touched up the airplane and caption; in the copy I made from microfilm, these were too faded to see.)

 

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12 January 1928

 

 

"Another 'We'."

The Detroit News, 12 January 1928.

 

As Uncle Sam readies to depart for the Havana conference aboard the "Spirit of the Monroe Doctrine," the unlikely confluence of three events -- the Pan-American Conference, Lindbergh's "goodwill tour," and the aerial violence in Las Segovias -- is once again highlighted, even as the intended meaning behind the cartoon's caption remains opaque.

 

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16 January 1928

 

 

"Music Furnished by the Marine Bombs"

The Daily Worker, 16 January 1928

 

Same themes, with the Marine airplanes' bombs providing music for the Havana conference.  The planes themselves are not depicted; the artist presumed that readers would know where the bombs were coming from. 

 

 

 

17 January 1928

 

 

"A Tip."

The Detroit News, 17 January 1928.

 

Included here because it references Lindbergh's "goodwill tour" of Latin America and the just-beginning Havana Conference, the cartoon includes a curious-looking businessman-cum-Uncle Sam (or not), a sour-faced US delegate (actually Charles Evans Hughes), and a heavy-handed punch line.

 

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18 January 1928

 

 

 

"In Nicaragua.  'What is that?'  'That is the Ambassador of Good-will!'"

The Nation, 18 January 1928.

 

With two armed Nicaraguan rebels pondering the strange apparition in the sky, The Nation offers yet another pointed criticism of US hypocrisy in Latin America just as the Sixth Pan-American Conference was getting underway in Havana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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19 January 1928

 

 

 

 

"Hands Off Nicaragua!  Aid to Sandino's Wounded!"

Supplement to El Libertador, Mexico City, 19 January 1928.

(two views)

 

In this propaganda broadsheet of the Hands Off Nicaragua Committee, the oversized US airplane conveys an image of overwhelming power, while the smoldering landscape evokes a sense of wanton massacre and total destruction.  Significantly, the US Marines never bombed Chinandega (though two private US mercenaries did, at the behest of Conservatives, in February 1927, during the Nicaraguan Civil War, though they did almost no damage).  Translation:  "Aid to Sandino's Wounded!  Public Collection in the Entire Mexican Territory and in the United States. ... Nicaragua's Struggle Is Our Struggle; its Wounded Our Brothers ... Remember the Massacres of Chinandega, Ocotal, and Chipote ..."  Source:  NA127/220/1/839.  I am grateful to David C. Brooks for providing a copy of this broadside.

 

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24 January 1928

 

 

"Airlines."

Fred Ellis, The Daily Worker, 24 January 1928.

 

Conveying the interpretation of the Worker's (Communist) Party of America, the Anti-Imperialist League, and many other left-leaning organizations of the late 1920s, the cartoon portrays the United States as a mighty behemoth determined to dominate and control Latin America by brute force, represented here by massive cannons and an endless fleet of airplanes emanating from the Capitol Building in Washington DC.

 

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25 January 1928

 

 

"While We Drop Soft Words In Havana."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 25 January 1928.

 

Compared to The Detroit News cartoon of the same date (below), this illustration conveys a similar sense of US-produced aerial terror and senseless victimization, while its depiction of the wounded and dead offers a more pointed and direct criticism of the hypocrisy of US Latin America policy.

 

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25 January 1928  (The Detroit News)

 

 

 

"A Diplomatic Incident."

The Detroit News, 25 January 1928.

 

Portraying a terrified "Nicaragua citizen" expressing his hope that "this 'temporary emergency' doesn't turn into a war," the cartoon pokes fun at the euphemisms used by US policymakers, highlighting the popular perception that US policy in Nicaragua was at core hypocritical. 

 

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25 January 1928  (The Daily Worker)

 

 

"King Oil."  Fred Ellis, The Daily Worker, 25 January 1928.

 

With airplanes hovering in the distance (lower right), the cartoon draws a direction connection between US military ventures overseas and the interests of the US petroleum industry.

 

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24 February 1928

 

 

"Another Victim of the American Fliers at Chinandega."

All-American Anti-Imperialist League, 24 February 1928.

 

In this detail from a propaganda pamphlet of the All-American Anti-Imperialist League, a man portrayed as a victim of US imperialist aggression lies dead on the street.  As noted above, the US Marines never bombed Chinandega, though two US mercenary pilots did, causing very little damage.

 

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7 March 1928

 

 

"On the Trail of Sandino."

Hugo Calvert, cover of The Nation, 7 March 1928.

 

In an ambiguous image, the oversized airplane conveys US imperial might, while its fragile appearance and lack of aggressive behavior conveys weakness and vulnerability.  The man on the ground, standing beside his mule and hut and taking careful aim at the plane, evokes not victimization but defiance, resistance, and righteous defense of his home and property.  The mule's lack of concern, and the simplicity of the surroundings, suggest that such defense is a simple, uncomplicated, easily understandable act.  This issue of The Nation launched Carleton Beals' famous series of articles on the Sandino rebellion, including his interviews with Sandino -- the only US journalist to interview the guerrilla chieftain.

 

 

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June-July 1976

 

 

"El General Sandino," No. 11

Script by Fidel Morales, drawings by Yordi

Prisma del Meridiano 80 (nos. 26-28), Cuba, June-July 1976

Reprinted in Barricada, Managua, 12 Feb 1980

 

In this comic book version of Sandino's fight against the Marines, published in Cuba three years before the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution in 1979, and 48 years after the event, the "unequal fight" against Marine Corps airplanes on El Chipote causes the deaths of more than fifty rebels, compelling Sandino to retreat, melt into the jungle, and rethink his tactics, from which evolved the "war of guerrillas." 

 

Below appear close-ups of the two panels showing airplanes (of poor quality because we are looking at a reprint of a reprint of a reprint, but accurate in that all are biplanes similar in shape and size to the Corsairs and Curtiss Falcons actually used against the rebels at El Chipote; the Marine pilots reported seeing at least 45 dead rebels, as seen in the original report):

 

 

[Marines:]  "We'll attack them by the flanks!  Call in the airplanes! 

 

  [Sandinista:]  "A I R P L A N E !"

 

 

"The battle became generalized . . . the Yankees attacked with the security of knowing their enemy was practically unarmed.  Soon the invading troops were on top of the Sandinista troops and the situation turned desperate . . . "

 

 

 

"It's useless, my valiant ones!  We have more than fifty dead!  We have to fight those accursed gringos another way!  Follow me!"

 

 

"The aeroplanes used the [resounding] tactic of frontal warfare that the revolutionaries had adopted, and soon all could see that the battle was lost."

 

In the last panel, the surviving Sandinistas melt back into the jungle, and from this defeat Sandino would develop "an invincible weapon:  ¡la guerra de guerrillas!" -- guerrilla war.

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Start of Comic Book

 

 

7 August 1983

 

 

Excerpt of a Serial Graphic History of Sandino's Rebellion

7 August 1983

Barricada, Managua

 

Excerpt of a serial graphic history of the Sandino rebellion, featuring Sandino's famous "men of grass" feint on El Chipote in mid-January 1928, published in the official daily organ of the FSLN during a period of intensifying conflict with the Reagan administration.  In these panels, US planes spend "16 days all blessed day long bombing.  Of course we got them too and many birds were mortally wounded."  Sandino orders his troops to build grass dummies; the planes foolishly attack the fake soldiers; the Marines, sweating profusely and scratching their heads like morons, are shocked at Sandino's escape.  The grinning, crinkly-eyed narrator, a wise and seasoned campesino, remarks, "The truth, my friend, is that the Yankees have a lot to learn about our own systems" -- giving contemporary voice to Sandino's comment at the time -- as the heroic rebel chieftain's steely-eyed visage lends silent authority to the campesino's comment.

 

 

9 October 1983

 

 

"North American Airplane downed in 1926 [and] in 1983.

Barricada, 9 October 1983  (fragment)

 

Appearing two months after "An Inspired Deception," this cartoon-photo composite seeks to establish a direct connection between Sandino's fight against the Marines in the 1920s and 1930s and the FSLN's ongoing conflict with the Reagan administration and the Contras.  The intended message is unambiguous:  two planes, two different periods, but the same struggle against US imperialist aggression.  (It is noteworthy that Sandino's Defending Army was founded in September 1927, and that Sandino's forces downed its first US plane in July 1927 -- not 1926, as noted here.)

 

 

HIGH-RESOLUTION ILLUSTRATIONS FOR IHR:

 

 

1.  Black Hills of Nicaragua - St Louis Post-Dispatch

2.    Map of Las Segovias

3.    Map of Las Segovias and adjacent zones, showing airfields built 1927-1934; adapted from US Army Map, Geographic Intelligence, Military Intelligence Division (G-2), 1934

4.    Sandino seals

5.    Inspired Deception, Barricada

6.    Critica, Buenos Aires, Jan 1928

7.    The Daily Worker

8.    Hands Off Nicaragua Committee broadside

9.    Hands Off Nicaragua Committee, detail of broadside

10.    The Nation - detail of cover

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