- Historic Sites
How We Got Guantanamo
The Cuban situation was confused, but the Marines were ready. They landed, and our first overseas base was soon well in hand
February 1962 | Volume 13, Issue 2
By May 28, 1898, the uncertainty was over. Admiral Cervera’s fleet had been run to ground in the cliff-ringed harbor of Santiago de Cuba. “There can be no doubt,” cabled Admiral William T. Sampson to the Navy Department, “of presence of Spanish squadron at Santiago.”
After weeks of war nerves, punctuated by rumors of Spanish cruisers off every port on the Atlantic coast and by much backing and filling off Cuba, Commodore Winfield Scott Schley’s Flying Squadron had finally spotted the enemy ships at Santiago. The blockade of the Spanish fleet had begun. By urgent cable to the American consul at Kingston, and thence by fast steamer to the coast of Cuba, Secretary of the Navy John D. Long sent Schley his orders: “Unless it is unsafe for your squadron, Department wishes you to remain off Santiago”; then another phrase, whose consequences would bear heavily on American foreign policy six decades later— “Can not you take possession of Guantanamo, occupy as a coaling station?”
Secretary Long was not the first to visualize Guantanamo Bay as a potential advance base. It offered a sheltered anchorage covering some fifteen square miles of water. One hundred and fifty-seven years before, while his country was at war with Spain, British Admiral Edward Vernon dropped anchor with sixty-one sail on July 13, 1741, in Walthenham Bay, as the place was then known. Vernon renamed it Cumberland Harbor and occupied it as a base of operations against “St. Jago de Cuba,” forty miles westward. Aboard one of Vernon’s ships was the novelist Tobias Smollett, later to record the landings at Walthenham Bay in The Adventures of Roderick Random; an officer in Vernon’s regiment of American marines was Lawrence Washington, half-brother of George, who would give the Admiral’s name to his estate beside the Potomac River.
Still earlier, this “large and secure haven,” as Guantanamo was described in 1779, had been the lair of pirates plying the Windward Passage. And Columbus, who anchored in the bay on his second voyage, in April, 1494, was so struck with its expanse that he entitled it Puerto Grande.
Protected by dust-brown, scrub-covered mountains against observation or bombardment by sea, and sheltered from the force of hurricanes, Guantanamo Bay was indeed a prize. Moreover, despite its strategic position and a French cable station which linked Cuba with Haiti and thence Europe, the Spanish defenses of Guantanamo in 1898 were unimpressive. True, a brigade of some 7,000 men under General Felix Pareja held the town of Guantanamo, fourteen miles inland from the bay. But in 1898, as it would be again for Fidel Castro, Oriente Province was a cradle of revolution, and General Pareja was hard-pressed to hold his base and the weed-grown railroad that connected it with Caimanera, the fever-ridden, dirty sugar port near the head of the inner bay. All he could spare to defend Guantanamo Bay were the gunboat Sandoval, a handful of mines, and a few hundred soldiers occupying the region of Playa del Este (Windward Point) and a fort on Cayo del Toro, guarding the channel which joins the inner to the outer bay. “I continue serving out half rations of everything,” Pareja gloomily reported in early June, 1898, “and in that way I expect to reach only the end of the month, above all in bread, as I have no flour of any kind, as I said, and no way of getting any …”
Exactly six weeks before the thought of occupying Guantanamo Bay had entered the minds of Secretary Long and his Naval War Board—in fact five days before war was even declared on Spain—the Navy Department had ordered the Marine Corps to organize a battalion for service in Cuba. This battalion, to be composed of “young, strong, and healthy men,” was to include five rifle companies (each with its own drummer and fifer) and an artillery company armed with three-inch rapid-fire guns and the latest thing in automatic weapons—the 1895 Colt machine gun, called by the troops, because of its peculiar downward recoil, “Colt’s potato-digger.”
To command the battalion, whose twenty-four officers and 623 enlisted men included more than one fifth of the entire Corps, Marine headquarters had chosen Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Huntington, one of the toughest and most demanding officers in the Corps, whose career dated back to the first Bull Run. In the 1870’s, finding even the life of a Marine insufficiently challenging, he had sought assignment with the cavalry in order to fight Indians on the frontier. Junior officers and enlisted men still remembered the merciless field problems Huntington set as a major, when he pushed skirmishers back and forth all day through terrain alive with chiggers and infested with poison oak.
With somewhat greater foresight than the Army, Navy planners had early realized that getting troops to Cuba to fight the Spaniards would require transports. Consequently, while Huntington’s men were arriving at the Marine barracks in Brooklyn from posts throughout the East, the Navy Yard was working double shifts to convert the S.S. Venezuela, a dingy merchantman, into a suitable expeditionary vessel. Command of this ship, renamed the U.S.S. Panther, was entrusted to another Civil War veteran, Commander G. C. Reiter.
At length all was ready. The Spanish minister had been handed his passports on April 20; two days later, Huntington’s battalion paraded behind a band through Brooklyn’s cheering crowds and embarked on the Panther, the first American troops to leave for the war. In her holds was a carefully selected assortment of campaign equipment, reported by the quartermaster to include:”… mosquito netting, woolen and linen clothing, heavy and light weight underwear, three months’ supply of provisions, wheelbarrows, push carts, pickaxes, shovels, barbed-wire cutters, wall and shelter tents, and a full supply of medical stores …” Whereas Army troops, slowly mobilizing for Cuba, were issued long Krags and black-powder Springfields, the rifle the Marines carried was the Navy’s Lee. It was a thoroughly modern weapon which used smokeless powder; if its caliber, 6 mm. or .236 inches, was dainty, its velocity was high. “Campaign suits of brown linen”—the very first in the armed forces—were the Marines’ uniform (”comfortable, businesslike,” announced the quartermaster), while “felt campaign hats,” these an Army innovation, were on order.
But Cuba was not the first stop: all through May the Marines lay in Key West, sweating aboard ship for four weeks, then taking field training ashore under Huntington’s eye. Reports told them of Dewey’s victory at Manila; of the gallant action off Cienfuegos, when Navy launches grappled and cut some of the cables under fire from Spanish batteries; of the U.S.S. St. Louis ’s failure to cut Guantanamo’s cables on May 19; of the Oregon ’s dash from the Pacific around the Horn to join the war. And still the Marines stayed at Key West, and still they trained.
“Excellent Sir,” began General Pareja’s letter to his commander at Santiago:
The 7th day at dawn brought seven ships before the port of Caimanera. They fired grapeshot and all kinds of projectiles on the Playa del Este and Cayo Toro until they set fire to the fort on Playa del Este, and burning the house of the pilots … The American squadron in possession of the outer bay has taken it as if for a harbor of rest, they being anchored as if in one of their own ports …
Although the unhappy General’s count of ships was inaccurate (there were but three, the U.S.S. Marblehead and the Yankee, and the auxiliary cruiser St. Louis), the U.S. Navy had indeed arrived at Guantanamo Bay on June 7, chasing the Spanish gunboat Sandoval, which had only seven rounds of ammunition left, to shelter behind the mine fields in the upper bay. The commander of the naval force was the captain of the Marblehead, Bowman H. McCalla, a stern, walrus-mustached “sundowner”* of the old Navy and central figure in the “Old Blood-Tub” courts-martial which had followed the desertion of a third of his crew during a single cruise in 1889.
As soon as McCalla’s ships were seen to have disposed of the forts and the unfortunate Sandoval, two Cuban guerrilla officers made their way out to the Marblehead to announce that they held the western side of the bay. These officers brought word from General Calixto Garcia, of “A Message to Garcia” fame, that his forces were at the disposal of the Americans, and prayed for them to land.
On the same day that Commander McCalla anchored in Guantanamo Bay “as if for a harbor of rest,” the Marines at Key West received telegraphic orders to break camp and re-embark. Late at night two days later, on June 9, the Panther hove to off Santiago, where it received Admiral Sampson’s orders to proceed to Guantanamo Bay and land Marines immediately. To screen the landing and protect the proposed position on Fisherman’s Point, a group of forty Marines from the battleship Oregon and twenty from McCalla’s Marblehead, commanded by Captain M. C. Goodrell, would act as a covering force while Huntington disembarked his battalion from the Panther. Early on the bright morning of June 10, these sixty Marines landed on a bit of beach, Playa del Este, just south of Fisherman’s Point, which defines the eastern side of the entrance to Guantanamo Bay. A bluejacket diarist, Seaman Cross of the Oregon, captured the moment:
June 10. we went down to Guantanamo Bay to put some coal on and landed Marines in the Morning, we wer the first to put foot on Cuban soil in this war. The 9th the Marblehead and Dolphin Bombarded the place and made them look like Munkys; they ran away and left every thing behind them.
That afternoon under the guns of the Oregon, the Marblehead, and the monitor Yosemite (like many officers present, also a Civil War veteran), Huntington’s Marine battalion landed in cutters towed by the steam launches from the ships. Tents were put up on what appeared to be the most appropriate site: the slopes of the hill overlooking the bay, atop which Pareja’s blockhouse had stood. As a supposed precaution against yellow fever, the Marines set fire to a handful of adjacent shacks. All the while ships’ bands played ragtime, and sweating Marines unloaded the gear and manhandled it ashore. The first United States troops to invade Cuba were on the beach in good order. Not a shot had been fired. “There was an enthusiastic demonstration,” said a contemporary account, “as the Stars and Stripes were raised over the first American camp on Cuban soil.” To record the event, the Marines even had a combat correspondent, none other than Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage, now representing the New York Herald. Despite the realism of his famous war novel, Crane had yet to receive his baptism of fire.
Save for the usual starts and alarms of a first night ashore, the battalion was unmolested, and next day continued work on the camp. Progress was excellent, according to Seaman Cross: “they expect to have the cable work soon and the Harbor well under Hand … the latest report is that the Cubans are flocking in to Huntington’s camp.”
True enough, Colonel Huntington’s first visitor that afternoon was a guerrilla leader, Laborde, styling himself colonel in the Army of Cuba. Laborde, who had helped McCalla with pilotage, brought news of the Spaniards. Several hundred, he reported, were concentrated at Cuzco Hill, near which was a well, the only one in the region, some two miles southeast of the Marine camp.
Laborde might have saved his breath. While he and Huntington were conferring, the Spaniards announced themselves. In a swift ambush, they poured a volley at close range into a two-man outpost in the thickets, killing both sentinels, whose bodies bore more than eight wounds. Two Marine privates, William Dumphy and Charles McColgan, thereby became the first American soldiers to die in Cuba. The attackers melted away, and all the pursuing patrols found were tracks and spent cartridge cases from the Spaniards’ Mausers.
Soon after sundown, snipers fired into the camp, where the Marines lay on their arms. Four times thereafter, each time from a different direction, the enemy Mausers cracked, while the Marines replied with their Lees. “It needs little practice,” noted Stephen Crane in his detached way, “to tell the difference in sound between the Lee and the Mauser. The Lee says ‘Prut!’ … The Mauser says ‘Pop!’—plainly and frankly pop, like a soda-water bottle being opened close to the ear …”
After midnight the Spaniards formed for a night attack. Firing intensified from the ridges and ravines to the south and southeast. Manning battle stations, Marines answered with all their weapons, while the five-inch rapid-fire guns of the Marblehead hammered the mountain ridge a half-mile behind the camp. Roused by the din, Crane hugged the ground with”… a thousand rifles rattling; with the field guns booming in your ears; with the diabolic Colt automatic clacking; with the roar of the Marblehead coming from the bay, and, last, with Mauser bullets sneering always in the air a few inches over one’s head.”
Whatever their original intentions, the Spaniards found this burst of fire enough to dissuade them from closing with the Marines, and, as day approached, the fire slackened and died. For all the sound and fury, there were but six American casualties: two Marines dead, three others wounded; and the assistant surgeon, Dr. John B. Gibbs of the Navy, fatally shot through a lung. “He was dying hard,” said Crane. “Hard. He was long past groaning. There was only the bitter strife for air which pulsed out into the night in a clear, penetrating whistle with intervals of terrible silence in which I held my own breath in the common unconscious aspiration to help…”
On the two succeeding nights it was the same. Again, in Huntington’s words, the same “persistent and trifling attacks” out of the rocky, cactus-lined gullies, murdering sleep and burning up ammunition.
These attacks on the camp proved its location to be greatly exposed to enemy approaches through the thick brush. Consequently Huntington moved the camp toward lower ground, and the hill was made the main defensive position. But there was another problem: Commander Reiter, out in the bay aboard the Panther, found that his ship rode poorly after the Marines’ equipment was unloaded. Thereupon he had the reserves of rifle ammunition judiciously distributed below as ballast, a measure which greatly increased his comfort. When Colonel Huntington sent for more ammunition, word came back that it was needed for ballast, and besides, if the Marines wanted any of their gear, they had better send working parties back to the ship to unload it. When Commander McCalla heard what Reiter had done, he sent off a sizzling order calculated to endear him to any Marine:
Sir: Break out immediately and land with the crew of the Panther 50,000 rounds of 6mm ammunition.
In future do not require Colonel Huntington to break out or land his stores or ammunition with members of his command.
Use your own officers and crew for this purpose and supply the commanding officer of Marines promptly with anything he may require.
Very soon afterward, Colonel Huntington named his new outpost Camp McCalla. Nothing was named for Reiter.
Manifestly, if Guantanamo Bay were to become a true “harbor of rest,” there would have to be a showdown with the Spaniards at Cuzco. To drive them out and destroy their well became the day’s business soon after reveille on June 14. With fifty Cuban scouts under Lieutenant Colonel Tomas to guide and flank the advance, Companies C and D of the Marine battalion were to move south, skirting the base of the hills, then east along the coral cliffs facing the Caribbean until Cuzco came in sight. While the two companies, led by Captain G. F. Elliott, followed their circuitous approach, a platoon under Lieutenant Louis J. Magill would strike out southward, across the mountains, so as to hit the Spaniards from inland and be in position to cut their line of retreat. From the seaward side the gunboat Dolphin would steam out of the bay and lie off Cuzco’s open-ended valley, prepared to support the Marines once battle was joined.
An hour before noon the trap was set. Elliott’s column worked its way into position, and Magill was virtually across the mountains. Then, with one gaunt, razor-backed ridge still remaining between the Marines and Cuzco Valley, a Spanish outpost caught sight of the attackers. Men of both sides raced pell-mell through the thorn bushes and cactus to reach the top of the ridge. With the fifty-two-year-old Elliott in the lead, a platoon of Marines got there first, flung themselves out along the crest, and commenced firing down into the Spaniards.
Down in the valley, from the cover of thickets of sea-grape trees, the Spaniards fired back as best they could. Then Magill’s platoon toiled up, caution forgotten, winded but full of fight. From the crest of another dominating ridge on Elliott’s left, at the very inland end of the horseshoe-shaped valley, Magill joined the battle. At this moment, the Dolphin’s guns, pointing straight across Elliott’s front and into Magill’s line, began to shell the green clusters of sea grape, and four-inch “overs” whistled up among Magill’s Marines with a crack and a clump that drove them to ground.
To check the deadly naval gunfire, there was only one expedient. Choosing a spot on the crest line, where every Spanish rifleman could see him, but also where the Dolphin ’s gun-pointers could not mistake the signal, Sergeant John H. Quick improvised a semaphore flag out of a stick and a large bandanna, stood very straight—he was a tall, slim man—and commenced signaling the gunboat in Navy wigwag. Under a hail of rifle fire from less than two hundred yards away and with the Dolphin ’s shell fragments whistling about him, Quick completed his message, punctiliously got it receipted for by the Navy signalman on the opposite end, and dropped to the ground unscratched, not knowing that he had just won a Medal of Honor. “I watched his face,” Crane afterward wrote,
and it was as grave and serene as a man writing in his own library … I saw Quick betray only one sign of emotion. As he swung his clumsy flag to and fro, an end of it once caught on a cactus pillar, and he looked over his shoulder to see what had it. He gave the flag an impatient jerk. He looked annoyed.
Caught in the cross fire from the Marines and flayed by the gunboat’s corrected shelling, the Spaniards began to give way, exposing themselves as they broke cover from among the sea grapes. At each open patch in the brush their dirty white uniforms, ill-suited for field service in Oriente, showed up as targets for the Marine riflemen, who, in Captain Elliott’s words, “fired as coolly as at target practice.” To harry the retreating enemy, Elliott sent on Tomas’ guerrillas, who darted forward to complete the disorganization while the Marines mopped up Cuzco Valley, filled in the well, burned the Spanish comandancia, and took over a heliograph with which the Cuzco detachment had been reporting doings at Guantanamo Bay to General Pareja. One officer and seventeen Spanish enlisted men, some wounded, were captured; sixty more Spaniards were killed; and 150 others were reportedly wounded—all this at the cost of two Cubans killed and three Marines and two Cubans wounded (one the victim of an unintended discharge of Colonel Laborde’s pistol at the height of battle). Heat stroke felled many more Americans than Spanish Mausers did.
The fight at the Cuzco well, the first pitched battle between American and Spanish troops during the war with Spain, ended the little campaign. The beaten Spaniards made their circuitous way back to their garrison in Guantanamo town, and although there were one or two minor guerrilla attacks on Marine outposts around Camp McCalla during succeeding months, no further real fighting took place ashore. To underscore the Marines’ victory, Admiral Sampson sent the battleship Texas along from Santiago to bombard the fort at Cayo Toro on June 16, an action in which Commander McCalla and the Marblehead joined with gusto. Despite Lord Nelson’s gloomy dictum, “A ship’s a fool to fight a fort,” the Navy had all the best of it in an hour’s shelling that ended with all Spanish guns dismounted and the barracks in ruins.
In markedly edifying contrast to the ghastly casualties suffered from all forms of disease by the U.S. Army, only forty miles away at Santiago, the Marines had a negligible sick list. The reaction at home to the efficient operation at Guantanamo was one of immediate enthusiasm, which was only whetted as the scandals at nearby Santiago began to be known. Within less than a year, Congress tripled the permanent size of the Corps.
Throughout Shafter’s bungled and malodorous campaign against Santiago, Guantanamo Bay served as the Navy’s advance base, often harboring as many as a dozen ships for coaling or repairs. The Vulcan, first mobile repair ship in the Navy, accomplished sixty-three major jobs there. When the decision was made to capture Puerto Rico in July, 1898, Guantanamo was the rendezvous from which General Miles’ expedition departed. Fully as important, the presence of United States troops ashore at Guantanamo pinned down Pareja’s 7,000 men to guard the rear approaches of Santiago against an overland attack. Conceivably, in addition to providing the Navy with a superb base, the relatively small Guantanamo Bay campaign may have tipped larger scales at Santiago.
After hostilities ceased in August, 1898 (just as Colonel Huntington’s Marines were poised to seize the port of Manzanillo, on the south coast of Cuba), the Navy continued to use Guantanamo as an anchorage. But the original cordiality between the Americans and the Cubans had dampened. Garcia, who had warmly welcomed the Navy and Marines at Guantanamo, had been mortally insulted at Santiago by General Shafter. The gouty 300-pound American general had declined to let Garcia or his men take part under arms in the final surrender of the Spanish. As for using the Cuban irregulars, whom Colonel Huntington had found “excellent … and fearless,” Shafter thought they would best be employed as laborers about the army camps.
In the nature of things, and however necessary it was, the American occupation galled the Cubans. Had they been freed from Spain only to take on a new master? Màximo Gòmez, the Cuban generalissimo, had suspected American intentions all along, and it was useless to explain why Americans must establish at least some rudimentary governmental machine in Cuba. Racked by disease, malnutrition, ignorance, and Spanish cruelty (slavery had not been abolished in Cuba until the 1880’s), Cubans had no experience at all of self-government. The tension increased, yet the Guantanamo area suffered less from the unrest and frustration with which the Cubans awaited the end of the American occupation: the Navy’s hand was light, its garrison small.
In February, 1903, when Cuba’s new government had attained independence, an agreement was reached between Theodore Roosevelt and Cuban President Tomâs Estrada Palma, leasing to the United States in perpetuity, for $2,000 a year in gold, Guantanamo and another site, Bahia Honda, which was abandoned nine years later. (It lies just fifty miles west of Havana on the north coast of Cuba, facing Florida!)
In the spring of 1903, a congressional investigating party visited Guantanamo, and back in Washington appropriated $100,000 to set up the Guantanamo naval base; a joint Cuban-American commission, sitting aboard the U.S.S. Olympia, Dewey’s flagship at Manila, laid out the exact boundaries of the U.S. reservation; the Navy formally took over on December 10, 1903.
From a strategic point of view, the new acquisition was very useful. With the completion of the Panama Canal it became more so. For Guantanamo Bay flanks the Windward Passage, through which sails more than half the Atlantic traffic entering and leaving the Caribbean. Yet for all its potential, which would not be realized until World War II, Guantanamo Bay remained for years little more than “a pile of coal” at the old coaling station on Hospital Cay. Each winter, when the fleet came south for maneuvers, the somnolent station, manned only by some 300 officers and men, would come to life for a few weeks, and the bay, normally almost empty, would then be serried by lines of battleships and cruisers. If there was trouble in Cuba—and generally there was, with three major revolutions between 1906 and 1918—an expeditionary force of Marines might be held in readiness under canvas on Deer Point, Guantanamo’s springboard for West Indian and Caribbean interventions. Marines from the Deer Point camp went to Mexico in 1914, to Haiti in 1915, and to Santo Domingo in 1916; they were in and out of Cuba as governments rose and fell. Throughout World War I, a Marine brigade lay at “Gitmo,” the Navy’s nickname for the place, ready for action should the Germans seek to foment trouble at our back door.
In the lean years between world wars the base consisted of its dwindling coal pile (the last ship coaled at Guantanamo in 1937), a radio station, marine railways, and a cluster of tin-roofed green shops. As seen in 1926 by a correspondent of the American Mercury, life at Guantanamo had overtones of Kipling:
Here and there, a handful of officers, bleached as white as their uniforms under their wide pith helmets, plod doggedly along at their duties. If the day is not too hot, their wives are riding lazy ponies over the hill to call on the ladies of the Marine Corps at Deer Point. Chinese coolies methodically tend the boilers of the power plant or push tiny flat cars under the somnolent direction of a brown Cuban foreman … There is just enough tennis to keep in condition, just enough swimming to keep moderately cool, just enough bridge of an evening to exhaust the conversation …
But Guantanamo in those days contributed much, indirectly, to the morale of the U.S. Navy. It was the only place regularly visited by most of the Atlantic Fleet where a man could get a drink. To officers and men in the fell clutch of Prohibition, liberty runs up to Caimanera and Red Barn (just outside the station boundary) were a thirst-quenching treat.
Then, as the shadows began to fall over Europe, Guantanamo came to life. The Atlantic Fleet was strengthened. The Marines held landing exercises in the Caribbean almost every year from 1935 on. With stepped-up training and a larger Navy, and with worrisome speculations as to what Hitler’s submarines might do to merchant shipping in the Caribbean, Guantanamo loomed larger. After France fell in 1940, a $5,000,000 contract was let for development of the naval station (before World War II ended, $34,000,000 would be spent). A reinforced Marine garrison worked night and day to install coastal batteries and antiaircraft positions; a radar rig, one of our very first, topped Paul Jones Hill overlooking Cuzco Valley.
On the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Guantanamo had two airfields, a tank farm for fuel oil, a hospital, shops to support the fleet, and barracks for thousands of seamen and Marines. And the bay was never empty. After the German submarines struck (they were to sink 278 Allied ships in the Caribbean between December, 1941, and July, 1943), Guantanamo became a focal point in antisubmarine and convoy operations. As the Navy gradually won the submarine war, action slackened but training forged ahead. Before the war’s end, more than two hundred warships got final “shakedown” training at Guantanamo.
Although there was a momentary lag in Guantanamo’s pace after V-J Day, it picked up again under the demands of the cold war and the ceaseless training requirements of a thousand-ship Navy. In today’s intense search for effective defense against hostile submarines, the underwater environment and configurations of Guantanamo’s neighboring waters have proven ideal for training. In terms of modern strategic and logistic requirements (omitting its psychological importance), Guantanamo is a highly valuable staging and concentration point; and, for general war with a Communist enemy possessing perhaps 400 submarines, it could be the capstone of our defense of the Caribbean and the approaches to the Panama Canal.
Today, an airfield has leveled off most of McCalla Hill. Cuzco Valley is the site of a beach and recreation area. Farther up the valley, not far from the site of the Spanish comandancia which the Marines burned, lies a Navy cemetery. The mountain ridge that loomed behind Huntington’s camp has borne the name Stephen Crane Hill for more than half a century, and Cayo Toro, once garrisoned by the Spanish, is inhabited only by land crabs and scorpions. Generations of Cubans, some descended from Laborde, Tomas, and Garcia, have grown up beside the naval base, have worked there, and have shared the prosperity it brought to the region. United States Marines still guard the base their forebears captured, and American warships still use the great bay for “a harbor of rest.”
Until the advent of Castro’s revolution, our tranquil tenancy of sunbaked Guantanamo was taken for granted as a symbol of common interests between Cuba and the United States. Since then, while loudly attacking our presence at Guantanamo and persistently harassing the base, the Cuban Communists have so far stopped short of that ultimate provocation which might justify reprisal. If Huntington and McCalla, long in their graves, could hear Fidel Castro’s threats and his ranting over American occupancy of the bay which Cubans and Americans joined to wrest from Spain, they would be dumfounded. The Cubans were their friends.
* He earned this epithet because he was so strict that he would require all midshipmen to return aboard from liberty at sundown, just when, of course, a young officer’s life grows interesting.