Nicaragua, set between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, is a Central American nation known for its dramatic terrain of lakes, volcanoes and beaches. Vast Lake Managua and the iconic stratovolcano Momotombo sit north of the capital Managua. To its south is Granada, noted for its Spanish colonial architecture and an archipelago of navigable islets rich in tropical bird life.
The Nicaraguan Armed Forces are the military forces of Nicaragua. The long years of strife between the peasant and land-owning political factions and the existence of private armies led the United States to sponsor the National Guard as an apolitical institution to assume all military and police functions in Nicaragua.
The marines provided the training, but their efforts were complicated by a guerrilla movement led by Augusto César Sandino that continued to resist the marines and the fledgling National Guard from a stronghold in the mountainous areas of northern Nicaragua.
Upon the advent of the United States Good Neighbor Policy in 1933, the marines withdrew. Having reached a strength of about 3,000 by the mid-1930s, the guard was organized into company units, although the Presidential Guard component approached battalion size.
Expanded to no more than 9,000 during the civil war of 1978-79, the guard consisted of a reinforced battalion as its primary tactical unit, a Presidential Guard battalion, a mechanized company, an engineer battalion, artillery and antiaircraft batteries, and one security company in each of the country's sixteen departments.
The National Guard's main arms were M1 Garands and Israeli Galils, later augmented by antiaircraft guns and mortars. Nicaragua declared war on the Axis powers in 1941, immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Although Nicaragua was not actively involved in World War II , it qualified for United States Lend-Lease military aid in exchange for U.S. base facilities at Corinto. Additional shipments of small arms and transportation and communication equipment followed, as well as some training and light transport aircraft.
United States military aid to the National Guard continued under the Rio de Janeiro Treaty of Mutual Defense (1947), but stopped in 1976 after relations with the administration of Anastasio Somoza Debayle worsened. Some United States equipment of World War II vintage was also purchased from other countries Staghound armored cars and M4 Sherman medium tanks from Israel and F-51 Mustang fighter aircraft from Sweden. Except for minor frontier skirmishes with Honduras in 1957 over a border dispute, the National Guard was not involved in any conflict with its neighbors.
The guard's domestic power, however, gradually broadened to embrace not only its original internal security and police functions but also control over customs, telecommunications, port facilities, radio broadcasting, the merchant marine, and civil aviation.
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