Monday, January 23, 2012

The Siege of Casernes Dessalines: the Story of Alix Pasquet, Haitian Tuskegee Airman

This week the movie "Red Tails" makes its debut at the box office. By comparison, the story of The Haitian Tuskegee Airmen is virtually unknown. Not many people know that Haitian men were recruited to be pilots and to fight in WWII. One intriguing event involving a Haitian Tuskegee pilot is the story of Alix Pasquet, who laid siege on the Casernes Dessalines in an attempt to dislodge Haitian dictator Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier.

Lieutenant Pasquet's attempted coup was the first of many against the hated dictator. It occurred less than one year into Duvalier's regime, when "the romance between the newly elected President and the people ended, causing the political opposition to gain much ground."

The whole dramatic story unfolds on the Fort Dimanche website. "[A] summary was sent to Fordi 9 in remembrance of the 48th anniversary of the events that took place on that day [July 28, 1958]. Submitted by Frantz Haspil"
A group of former Haitian military officers headed by Lieutenant Alix Pasquet gathered in Miami . On or about July 25, 1957, the group set sails on board a yacht called “Molly C” heading toward Haiti. On board were former Lieutenants Alix “Sonson” Pasquet, Henri “Riquet” Perpignan and Phillipe “Fito” Dominique (the brother in law of Pasquet). Accompanying them were five American soldiers of fortune whose names were: Arthur Payne (the leader), Dany Jones, Levant Kersten, Robert F. Hickey and Joe D. Walker (the boat captain). The Haitian officers had all been assigned while in the Army to either the Casernes Dessalines, or the National Palace and thus were very familiar with those two areas.
The Casernes Dessalines is a military barracks built in 1912, located behind the National Palace, which housed the 18th Battalion of the Haitian Armed Forces. The National Palace housed its own garrison called the Presidential Guard, mainly considered a ceremonial unit.
And since these officers had left the country some months earlier, they were confident that with the help of the soldiers they once had in their command, and the help of other officers still in the military, they could seize the moment, create an uprising and overthrow the Duvalier regime.
Read a full and dramatic account of the siege of Casernes Dessalines by Luitenant Alix Pasquet and the heart wrenching stories the victims of the Duvalier dictatorship at

Fordi 9 chronicles the thousands of individuals who, under the regime of both Duvaliers, were unjustifiably stripped of their undeniable rights and/or deprived unreasonably of their civil liberties. Many of these victims were incarcerated and subjected to physical and mental torture without cause or due process.


thezenhaitian said...

Is Pasquet a hero for trying to overthrow Duvalier and not succeeding, like many Haitians died attempting to do? Not really. In all probability, if Pasquet's military coup had succeeded, he would not have advanced real Democracy in Haiti, but would have continued the brutal military rule which had a grip on the Haitian leadership almost up until Papa Doc managed to outsmart the morally repugnant elitists* (MREs) and military to "win" the Haitian presidency.

It's like a friend of mine said:
"I don't know what is the big deal. We have Salvadorians , Dominicans, and other American (it is a continent) soldiers who participated in the Iraq massacre. On what pretext should we glorify those mercenaries[?]. ... As far as the "opposition" of Alix Pasquet to the Duvalier regime, one can observe he did not fare too bad. He, or at least his grandchildren, realized his dream of overthrowing Duvalier although it was through sex."

To know the context of that remark, one has to know that Duvalier campaigned on so-called "noirism." He was the "black" candidate, who brought back the black/red flag and was to topple the rule of the mulattos and their muscle the military. One only has to look at the demeanor / color of his son and who his son chose to marry (Alix Pasquet's widow Michele Bennett) to see my friend's point. A look at Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier's grandson, Francois Nicolas Duvalier, speaks to that point also:

Duvalierist Michel Martelly has brought in Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier's son "Ti Nicolas" into his Presidential Cabinet as an Advisor.

Anonymous said...

Hog wash! You have absolutely no evidence to support your claim. You can't just make things up! Pasquet was a distinguished, intelligent, and professional officer. We don't know how or if he would have governed Haiti. We don't even know if that was his intention. The one thing we do know is that if this attempted coup by these 3 former Tuskegee airmen and what was in all probability five American agents had succeeded....We may have avoided one of the most vicious dictatorships in the western hemisphere. Papa Doc brutalized, terrorized and killed his own people...How can you judge Pasquet based on your own assumptions and prejudices? You have a right to your opinion, but you should be aware that it is not based on rational thought or logic.

thezenhaitian said...

I respect my friend's judgement on the motives of Pasquet. It is "rational" to conclude that a member of that repugnant group of elitist Haitians, one who was married to Michelle Bennett, who later became the wife of the "baby" dictator (a woman who had a fur vault in a tropical country of very impoverished people!), had every intention of installing a military dictatorship.

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