The United States had an interest in Haiti long before occupying the country in 1915. Among other things, it was seen as a potential location for a U.S. naval base. The U.S. invasion was largely a move on behalf of President Woodrow Wilson to establish some stability in the country and lessen foreign influence. The U.S. would attempt, at times unsuccessfully, to exert a great deal of influence over Haitian policies from this time until it withdrew from Haiti in 1934.
Before the invasion, the United States had many concerns about foreign influence in Haiti. France, a previous colonizer of the country, maintained significant influence as a creditor to the young nation. German traders also started to gain a strong foothold in Haiti's economy by establishing branches on the island and acquiring Haitian land through marriages to local women.
Between 1911 and 1915, seven Haitian presidents were overthrown or killed. In response to the instability, the United States sent Marines to secure $500,000 from Haiti's national bank. Shortly thereafter, the current Haitian president was assassinated. This prompted President Wilson to send U.S. military to take control of the island until a new president could be elected with greater U.S. influence, forcing the election of a pro-American president and creating a joint American-Haitian military force that could intervene in the country whenever desired.
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images