Chapter XIV
The New Bases Acquired for Old Destroyers

During the 1930's the occupation by the United States of European possessions in the Western Hemisphere had become a favorite political tom-tom for Anglophobes and isolationists. Generally presented in the guise of a necessity for national defense, the several proposals of this nature were invariably stripped of their pretensions by the War Department, which, as late as April 1940, insisted that the potential military value of the European colonies remaining in the New World was not sufficient to justify their acquisition by the United States. But the rapid advance of German armies through northern France completely changed the perspective in which the strategic value of Atlantic bases had hitherto been viewed. What had been laid aside, in April, as of no pressing military importance had become, a few months later, a part of the basic plan for hemisphere defense. And yet, to take over the European colonies in America would have been to acquire also a host of unwanted problems. All the military advantages of such a step, without most of the liabilities, were gained on 2 September 1940 as a result of the history making Destroyer-Base Agreement, by which the United States acquired from Great Britain the right to lease naval and air base sites in Newfoundland, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua, Trinidad, and British Guiana for a period of ninety-nine years.1

Not much preparation had been made for the problems of construction, defense, and administration or for the action and reaction of the local setting--physical, political, economic, and social--upon the new tasks that suddenly confronted the War Department.


The Local Setting

The bare facts of geography were known or easily accessible to Army planners. Foremost were the fifty degrees of latitude, with all the consequent differences of climate and geography, that separated Newfoundland in the north from British Guiana in the south. One of the more obvious facts was the size of Newfoundland. With an area of 42,734 square miles, it was one of the larger islands of the world, larger than Iceland or Ireland or any of the Philippines, and about the same size as Cuba. Any plan had to take into account its rugged, fog-swept coasts, the bleak tundra-like plateau dotted with numberless ponds and lakes that made up the interior of the island, and the lack of communications. The only link between the coasts was a narrow gauge railroad that snaked north and eastward from Port-aux-Basques on the Cabot Strait through the wilderness past the few, small settlements in the interior to the Newfoundland airport at Gander Lake and then down to Argentia and St. John's on the Avalon Peninsula. Here the climate is only somewhat colder and slightly wetter than that of northeastern Maine, and the harbor at St. John's, the capital and only fair-sized city on the island, is generally free of ice.

At the other extreme were British Guiana and Trinidad, where rain and heat and tropic humidity took the place of Newfoundland's snow, cold, and fog. Trinidad, it was observed, had a more uniform climate than most of the other islands of the Antilles, because it lay directly in the track of the moderating northeast trade winds, but even so there was considerable variation. The western coast, where the majority of the people live, is the leeward side, and as a result Port of Spain--the capital city--and all the towns facing the Gulf of Paria become unpleasantly hot during the long wet season. Seasonal variations are more pronounced on the other Caribbean islands and in the coastal lowlands of British Guiana, where, when the trade winds shift in August and September, the heat becomes oppressive. In Jamaica, the largest of the British West Indies, regional variation is the rule. Between the coast and the mountainous interior of Jamaica the temperature range drops twenty degrees and the average rainfall increases from about thirty-three inches on the coast to as much as two hundred inches a year in the interior.

In contrast, prewar Bermuda had long been a delightful vacation haven for many Americans. And in particular contrast to Newfoundland, where streams and lakes make up one-third of the area, tiny Bermuda had no source of fresh water other than rainfall. A fishhook-shaped cluster of low-


lying islands and islets connected by causeways and bridges and with a total land area of only twenty square miles, Bermuda is the world's northernmost coral atoll. It has the mild, equable climate characteristic of Atlantic islands in the middle latitudes. Except for an occasional wayward hurricane that strikes with severe force, the tropical storms that blow north from the West Indies generally pass by. From the Royal Naval Station on the point of the fishhook, a railroad equipped for only the lightest traffic curved around the Great Sound through Hamilton, the capital, and then proceeded along the length of the islands to St. George on the eastern tip. A long-standing prohibition against automobiles gave, in 1940, an anachronistic shape to transportation. Roads and lanes were narrow and sharply curved, adequate only for the carts and bicycles for which they were intended.

In Bermuda, as well as in the Caribbean colonies, the white inhabitants were only a minority of the total population. Some 30,000 people, only one third of whom were white, made up Bermuda's permanent population in 1940. In most of the Caribbean colonies the white inhabitants were an even smaller fraction of the whole. Jamaica, with about a million and a quarter inhabitants, had a white population of only about 15,000. Possibly a third of the people of Trinidad, and a somewhat larger part of those in British Guiana, were of Asiatic extraction. Their turbans and jangling bracelets, the Hindu temples, and Mohammedan mosques added an oriental atmosphere to Port of Spain and to San Fernando, the principal port for the Trinidad oil fields. Local dialects made a complicated language pattern. In the country districts of Trinidad and St. Lucia, a French patois was still in use. Everywhere among the masses illiteracy was high.

The extent of self-government varied from colony to colony; in all of them, popular participation was extremely limited. Newfoundland, which had enjoyed dominion rank after the first World War, had fallen into financial difficulties and relinquished its status in 1933. After that date, a governor and commission appointed by the British Government had exercised all the powers formerly held by the Colonial Assembly. Among the islanders, some dissatisfaction with the arrangement could be found. Both in Newfoundland and Canada there were those who believed that the island's problems were a matter of Canadian, and not primarily of British, concern. Bermuda, British Guiana, and the four West Indian islands were crown colonies. Of these, only Bermuda had a local legislature that was chosen completely by ballot. In fact, Bermuda's House of Assembly, dating back to 1620, was the oldest English legislature outside Britain itself. The legislative councils of the five other crown colonies were only in part elected by popular vote. In


all the crown colonies, even in Bermuda, property qualifications restricted the franchise to a very small segment of the total population. The Governor, as the sole and personal representative of the King, dominated the government. His was the voice of authority. In him was centered complete responsibility for the government, and bearing the title Captain -General or Commander-in-Chief, he had certain, rather ill-defined responsibilities for the defense of the colony.

During the 1930's, a blend of economic distress, political discontent, and racial animosity had produced a bitter brew of strikes and riots throughout the Caribbean area. By 1940 a militant labor movement with definite political aims had taken shape. But, except in Jamaica, where a new constitution was granted in 1943, the coming of the war temporarily blocked the political aspirations of the people. In Trinidad and British Guiana local elections were suspended for the duration of hostilities, and one of the Negro leaders in Trinidad, Uriah Butler, was arbitrarily interned because he had taken a prominent part in the 1937 riots.

In August 1940, local defense forces in all eight colonies were extremely weak. In the Bahamas, British Guiana, Antigua, and St. Lucia they were nonexistent. In Trinidad, some two hundred lightly armed volunteers stood guard over the oil fields. A few small coast defense guns partially covered the northern approaches to the Gulf of Paria. The southern entrance to the gulf was undefended. In Jamaica, a battalion of Canadian infantry, with a strength of about 680 men, was stationed in Kingston, and four coast artillery guns, manned by native troops, guarded Kingston Harbor. Bermuda was defended by one British infantry company and two artillery batteries composed of militia. In Newfoundland, the defense of which had been assumed by Canada, there were, in addition to the local militia, a flight of RCAF bombers and a battalion of Canadian infantry. By the end of 1940 reinforcements had raised the strength of the Canadian garrison to about a thousand men at the Gander airfield and to about four hundred at St. John's. Although Newfoundland was thus better guarded than any of the other colonies, its defenses were weak in heavy antiaircraft and coast artillery guns.2 It was clear that in all the colonies, including Newfoundland, part of the burden of local defense would fall on whatever American garrisons were sent to the leased bases.


Planning the Garrisons

The War Department had taken no very active part in the preliminary negotiations leading to the Destroyer-Base Agreement and had made no attempt to anticipate the outcome by setting to work on plans for the bases. Until 20 August, when Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill revealed Britain's intention to offer the base sites to the United States, there was nothing tangible to work on. But on the very day that Mr. Churchill made his announcement the Army-Navy Joint Planning Committee was directed to begin an investigation of possible base sites.

The committee, reporting eight days later, on 28 August, gave top place to Trinidad, Newfoundland, and Bermuda for strategic reasons and to Jamaica as a base of supply. Trinidad's importance rested not only on its relation to the sea lanes, but also upon its suitability both as a staging area for moving aircraft to eastern South America and as an advanced base if ground operations were to be carried out in the southern continent. Newfoundland, squarely on the great circle route between New York and the British Isles, almost equidistant from Bermuda, New York, and the Azores, and only a little farther from Ireland, could control the North Atlantic air and sea lanes. In hostile hands it would have presented the same menace that two centuries before had impelled the New England colonies to oust the French from Louisbourg, just across the Cabot Strait from Newfoundland.3 Bermuda, lying midway between Newfoundland and the West Indies, would complete the line of Atlantic outposts; and Jamaica, the committee reported, would be valuable as a central supply base for the entire Caribbean. The remaining base sites--on St. Lucia, Antigua, one of the Bahamas, and in British Guiana--would be useful as emergency landing fields.4

The Joint Planning Committee took care to point out that the data on which its report was based were not complete and that any decision must rest on a thorough firsthand survey of the prospective base sites. In fact, the committee had scarcely begun work on its study when the Navy Department organized a board of officers to investigate the proposed sites. Within a few days steps had been taken to ensure Army participation, and, by the time


the President announced the exchange of destroyers for bases, the Board of Experts, as it was designated, was ready to function. Rear Admiral John W. Greenslade, USN, was at its head. The War Department was represented by Brig. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, former Chief of Staff of the Panama Canal Department and at this time commander of the Washington Provisional Brigade, by Lt. Col. Harry J. Malony, a member of the committee that had drawn up the detailed RAINBOW 4 plans, and by Maj. Townsend Griffiss, AC, who acted as General Devers' technical adviser on air matters. They were to determine, in agreement with experts to be designated by the British Government, "the exact location and bounds, the necessary . . . defenses, the location of sufficient military garrisons, stores, and other necessary facilities, etc.," of the bases contemplated in the eight colonies.5 Public announcement of the destroyer-base arrangement was made on 3 September 1940, and on the same day the Greenslade Board left for Bermuda to launch its first base survey.

While the Board of Experts was making its investigation in Bermuda, the War Plans Division was placed in general charge of developing all the base sites. Similar projects in the past, according to the War Plans Division, had bogged down for lack of a central agency that would not only plan the projects but push them through to completion. Consequently, when the War Plans Division was requested to draft plans on which construction estimates could be based, Col. Frank S. Clark, acting chief of the division, recommended that it be charged with the direction and coordination of all the base development programs.6 The Chief of Staff approved and on 6 September the War Plans Division was so notified. At the same time the division was instructed to draw up preliminary plans that would include a rough estimate of the funds required.7

The Board of Experts returned from Bermuda on 10 September and submitted its report. Four days later the board left Boston for Newfoundland, returned and made its report on 24 September, and on 2 October set out again. In the next three weeks the board visited all the remaining base sites and made a second trip to Bermuda. During its first visit to Bermuda early in September, the British Ambassador, Lord Lothian, had suggested that a British naval officer from the staff of the Commander in Chief, America


(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
28 Aug 1940 Sep-Oct 1940 24 Sep 1940 29 Jan 1941 19 Feb 1941 1 Apr 1941 9 Oct 1941
(grd forces
appd by C/S)
Table of
for mil.
      St. John's Argentia   St. John's Argentia     St. John's Argentia   St. John's Argentia
2 Inf bns (reinfor.) 1 each at St. John's & Gander. 1 Inf regt (reinfor.) (-1 bn) 1 bn each at St. John's & Argentia. 1 Inf regt (-2 bns) 1,067 --- Force hqrs & 1 Inf regt (-2 bns). 1,391 ---   Ground garrison same as 29 Jan, except:     Ground garrison same as 1 Apr, except:    
1 Inf bn --- 932 1 Inf bn (+ attchd med) --- 966 Add, 2 plats MP 54 54 1 Inf bn (-1 rifle co) --- 739
2 btrys, gun AA, mobile 184 184 2 btrys, gun AA mobile (90mm). 178 178 Change service units to 327 --- Hqrs & Hqr btry (AA) --- 139
2 btrys, 37mm AA gun 209 209 2 btrys 37mm. AA gun 177 177 Total ground 3,167 2,018 Add, B. CA (HD) --- 234
2 btrys, .50 cal mg AA 169 169 2 btrys.50 cal MG AA 181 181 Grand total 5,185 Services 342 ---
1 btry 155mm T/D 197 --- 1 btry 155mm gun T/D 185 --- Air units:     Total ground 3,182 2,026
2 plats, CA S/L AA 80 80 2 plats (AA) S/L 75 75 1 pur sq (I), 25 a/c --- 219 Grand total --- 5,208
1 co engr (combat) 104 --- 1 co engr (combat) 180 --- Det, air base gp --- 170 Air units same as:    
1 plat AT Co --- 50 1 plat AT co --- 49 Weather & comm dets --- 43 1 Apr, viz --- ---
Comm & trans secs (2) --- 36 Comm & transp. sees (2) --- 36 1 plat, ord co (Avn) --- 24 Total air & AC service --- 505
2 AWS dets 34 34 AWS co 238 --- Air Corps services (Stephenville) --- 49
Service & med units 227 221 Hqrs (AA) & Hqrs btry 138 138 Total air & AC service --- 505
Total ground 2,271 1,914 Am tn & S/Ls. 155mm 43 ---
Grand total --- 4,189 Service units (inc. AC) 338 164
Airways dets --- 81 Total ground 3,124 1,964
Grand total --- 5,088
1 pur sqn (I) 25 a/c --- 219
Det air base grp --- 170
Weather & comm dets --- 43
Airways det (AC services) (Stephenville) --- 46
Total air --- 478
1 Inf bn (reinf.). 1 Inf bn (reinf) (-1 rifle co.) 1 Inf bn (-1 rifle co.) 709 Force hqrs & 1 Inf bn (-1 rifle co) (+attchd med) 755 Same as 29 Jan (-Trans Sec) 18 Ground garrison same as 19 Feb,
  Ground units (less bn sigs):  
Comm, trans & med secs 67 Comm & trans secs 36 Same as 29 Jan   Add, 1 plat MP 54 Force hqr & 1 Inf bn (-1 rifle
2 CA trys AA mobile 368 2 CA btrys (AA) 90mm 302 Same as 29 Jan       Comm sec 18
1 CA btry 37mm (AA) 209 1 CA btry 37mm (AA) 154 Same as 29 Jan       2 btrys AA semimobile gun 278
1 CA btry 50 cal MG (AA) 169 1 CA btry 50 cal mg (AA) 181 Same as 29 Jan       1 btry 37 mm gun (AA) 140
1 CA btry 155 mm T/D 197 1 CA btry 155mm T/D 185 Same as 29 Jan       1 btry 50 cal. MG (AA) 165
1 plat (AA) S/L 80 1 btry (AA) S/L (-1 plat) 180   83     1 btry 155 mm (CA) T/D 194
Sig plat 53 1 AWS Co., frontier 86   134     1 btry S/L (-1 plat) (AA) semimobile 162
1 AWS det 34 Hqrs (AA) & hqrs btry (90 mm) 130 (-Am tn) 12     1 AWS co 83
Service units 186 Am to & S/L sec. 155 mm 44   395     Hq & hqr btry AA semimobile 123
Total ground 2,072 Service units 460         [Add] 1 btry SL (HD)-AA 95
Air units:   Total ground 2,513 Total ground 2,399 Total ground 2,453 1 plat MP 54
Hqrs & hq sqn 64 1 comp grp:   1 Comp grp: (11 bomb, 25 pur):   Air units & services same as 19 Feb 1,288 Service units 395
Air base gp 153 Gp hq & hq sqn (HB) 289 Gp hqrs & hqrs sq (HB) 289 Total ground 2,399
1 bomb sqn (HB) (8 a/c) 243 Bomb sqn (HB) 275 Bomb sq (H) 275 Air units & AC services, same as Apr, viz. Total 1,288
1 bomb sqn (med) (13 a/c) 268 Bomb sqn (med) 306 Pursuit sq (I) 219
1 pur sqn (25 a/c) 190 Pur sqn (I) 219 Air base det 334
Total air units 918 Air base grp 667 Weather & comm dets 40
Weather & comm dets 40 Air Corps services 131
Air Corps services 485 Total air & AC services 1,288
Total air units 2,281
1 Inf Div (reinf.). 1 Inf regt (reinf.). 1 Inf Div 15,317 Force hqrs & I Inf refit (+attchd med) 3,484   Ground garrison same as 29 Jan, except:   Ground garrison same as 1 Apr except:  
1 CA regt (AA) mobile 2,055 2 regts CA (AA) 3,848 1 regt engr (combat) (-1 bn) 770 [Change] 1 radio intel co 72
2 CA bus 155 mm T/D 1,076 1 regt CA 155 mm T/D 1,893 Add, 1 comp (-1 plat -1 sqd) 169 [Change] Service units 1,495
1 regt CA (HD), type B 1,286 1 regt engr (combat) (-1 co) 1,133 Total ground 12,059 [Add] l signal co 150
1 regt engr (combat) 963 1 radio intel co 222 Air units same as 29 Jan, except:   Total ground 12,089
1 sign bn 560 AWS co. frontier. 209 Change AC services to 781 Air units:  
1 radio intel co 212 Service units 1,465 Total air 4,529 Wing hqrs & hq sq 173
1 AWS co 336 Total ground 12,253 1 bomb grp (H), 55 a/c 979
Service units 1,200 Air units:   1 pur grp (I), 13 a/c 792
Total ground 23,005 Wing hqs & hq sqn 138 1 reconn sq (H), 13 a/c 276
1 comp grp:   2 grp hqrs & hq sqns 578 2 air base grps (-sta comp) 892
Hqrs & hq sqn (HB)-5 a/c 255 2 bomb sqns (H) 550 AC services 1,001
2 bomb sqns (H)-21 a/c 511 2 recon sqns (L/R) 630 Total air & AC services 4,113
1 pur sqn (I)-25 a/c 267 2 pur sqns (I) 438
Air base grp 549 2 Air base grp 1,334
Other AC services 530 Weather & comm dets 80
Total air units 2,112 Air Corps services 600  
Total air & AL services 4,348
1 Inf regt (reinf.). 1 Inf regt (-2 bns.). 1 Inf regt 3,447 Force hqrs & 1 bn Inf 979   Ground garrison same as 29 Jan, except:   Force hqrs & 1 comp Inf co 231
1 CA regt (AA) mobile 2,055 1 btry (-2 plats) 37 mm (AA) 107 [Add] 1 plat MP (-1 sq) 38 1 btry (-2 plats) 37 mm (AA) 108
2 CA bns, 155 mm, T/D 1,076 1 CA btry, 155 rum. T/D 185 [Change] services 215 1 CA btry 155 mm T/D 185
1 CA regt (HD), type A 1,800 1 plat AT co 49 Total ground 1,780 1 sec S/L btry 12
1 bn engrs (combat) 365 Air tn & SL secs 44 AC services same as 29 Jan 54 1 AWS det 99
1 sig bn 560 Comm & trans sec 36 Services 187
1 radio Intel co 212 1 AWS co, frontier 127 Total ground 822
1 AWS co 336 Service units 229 AC services, same as 1 Apr 54
Service units 234 Total ground 1,756
Total ground 10,084 Air Corps Services 54
Air units & AC services 490
"To be determined" Dets of 2 offs 40 EM at each. 1 AWS det 23 1 comp. Inf co 233   Same as 29 Jan. Hqrs & 1 comp Inf co 225
AC services 21 1 det AWS co 34 1 det AWS 99
1 det sig & med 48 Service units (Antigua-56) 52
Airways det (AC services) 27 Airways det (AC services) 54
"To be determined" 1 det - 42 1 AWS det 23 1 comp. Inf co 233   Same as 29 Jan. None
AC services 21 1 det AWS co 34
1 det sig & med 48
Airways det (AC services) 27

--360 thru 363--

and West Indies Station, accompany the board on its visits to each site.8 This proposal, as in the case of the President's suggestion that a corresponding British Board of Experts would be designated, was never formally acted upon, but there was constant informal contact and cooperation. Capt. J. S. Bethel, commanding H.M.S. Caradoc, accompanied the board as the personal representative of the British admiral, while the board upheld the spirit of the President's suggestion by conferring with the colonial officials and the British military and naval representatives in the various colonies.

Meanwhile, independently of the Board of Experts, the Army Air Corps had instituted its own study of the prospective base sites. An inspection of the airfield projects being developed by Pan American Airways was broadened to include the newly acquired base sites in the West Indies, and on 14 October the Air Corps submitted its report to the Chief of Staff.9

Another interested party was introduced by the peculiar status of Newfoundland, which for years had occupied the same strategic position relative to Canada that it now held in 1940 with respect to the United States as well. Coinciding with the destroyer-base negotiations in August 1940, the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, United States and Canada, had come into being. A cautious, recommendation that the United States participate in the defense of Newfoundland was included in the first report of the Permanent Joint Board. And the Greenslade Board in turn submitted its recommendations concerning Newfoundland to Maj. Gen. Stanley D. Embick, senior Army member of the Permanent joint Board on Defense, for his concurrence.

As long as the British remained in general control of the Atlantic, no heavier attacks on the bases were to be expected than raids by lone submarines or surface vessels and perhaps a few planes. At each base, the garrison, both ground and air, had to be sufficient to guard the installations and naval anchorage against an attack on this scale. The American forces would be further required to keep open all lines of communication within the colony. But the weakness of the colonial defenses meant that the American garrisons would have to supplement the local forces in defending the colony. These considerations, as well as those of strategy, were basic to the plans for manning the bases.10


The Greenslade Board, as well as the Joint Planning Committee in August, recommended fairly small permanent garrisons that could be readily expanded in an emergency. Subsequent discussion and decisions turned not only on the size of the permanent garrison and on that of the emergency garrison, but also on whether to build permanent facilities for the expanded emergency garrison or only for the smaller permanent garrison. As the reports of the Greenslade Board became available, during the fall of 1940, the War Plans Division revised the tentative schedules it had already drawn up on the basis of the Joint Planning Committee's report and brought them more into accord with the recommendations of the Board of Experts. With only slight changes, the ground forces recommended by the board in the fall of 1940 still stood as the approved garrisons on the eve of Pearl Harbor. Jamaica was the only real exception. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the role the Jamaica base was to play, the Greenslade Board's recommendations were whittled down over the course of the following year until the planned strength of the ground garrison on 7 December 1941 was about 8 percent of the original figure. As for the air garrisons, the War Plans Division at first accepted as the basis of its recommendations the report of the Air Corps survey rather than the smaller figures recommended by the Greenslade Board, but the War Plans Division almost immediately scaled down its recommendations to bring them, at the behest of the Chief of Staff, more into conformity with the Greenslade Board reports.11 (Table 1)

The garrisons, as established on paper in the fall of 1940 and periodically reviewed throughout 1941, represented the authorized strength, which at some indefinite time in the future might be sent to man the bases. They were to be the peacetime garrisons, not necessarily the forces that would be adequate in time of war or emergency. Yet there was no assurance that a garrison shaped to the requirements of peace would be adequate, even under those requirements, by the time construction was well enough advanced to permit sending it. At the same time it was clearly pointless to send troops to the bases until there were bases to defend. The solution adopted was to attack all aspects of the problem simultaneously. While War Plans Division was setting up the peacetime garrisons, negotiations with the British were proceeding toward a final agreement; while the negotiations were in progress,


construction work was started; and while construction was barely getting under way, a few troops were sent to some of the major bases.

Negotiating the Base Agreement

The Destroyer-Base Agreement of 2 September 1940 had been a striking example of confidence on the part of each nation in the good faith of the other. The agreement itself was not hedged with conditions of any sort. None was acceded to beforehand that placed definite bounds to the areas that might be leased or limited the rights and privileges that the United States as lessee might enjoy. The grant was made and accepted on the understanding that issues of this kind would be solved later, by mutual agreement.

Certain questions of procedure and interpretation arose almost immediately. Was permission to be sought, for example, each time it was desired to send a survey party to one of the base sites, or could a blanket request be made? Should the acquisition of lands wait upon the settlement of claims, and was the United States to be a party to the settlement with individual land-owners? There were differences, too, over the locations proposed for the bases, as the experience of the Greenslade Board had indicated there would be. The administration of justice posed another problem full of thorns. And as soon as American survey and construction parties began arriving at the base sites, the applicability of local regulations came into question. These were but a few of the myriad issues that if not resolved would certainly contravene the spirit and might even nullify the practical value of the original agreement.

It was soon apparent that these issues could not be settled without referring them to the colonial governments. Not having been consulted before the Destroyer-Base Agreement was consummated, the colonies, not unreasonably perhaps, made an effort afterward to assert what they felt were their rights. Local conditions, the temperament of the people, and the constitutional role of the governor made inevitable a closer scrutiny by the colonial governments of the measures proposed by the United States; and as the situation differed among the colonies, so their reaction to specific proposals varied. In Newfoundland and Bermuda, where the base sites were a free grant and not an exchange for the destroyers, the local governments felt they had more at stake than the other colonies. It became evident that rapid progress could not in every case be expected. This came to light as soon as the War Department made preparations


for sending out survey parties to the base sites. Immediately after the Greenslade Board returned from Bermuda in mid-September 1940, the State Department asked the British Government for permission to undertake preliminary surveys in Bermuda. Soon afterward a similar request was made concerning Newfoundland. A reply to the Newfoundland request was received in about two weeks, and on 13 October the survey parties arrived at St. John's.12 But in Bermuda, there was a local assembly to be considered, whose wishes the Governor could ill afford to ignore. It was therefore not until five and six telegrams had passed between Washington and London that the British Government, late in October, finally granted authority for a survey party to visit Bermuda. When members of the advance party reached the islands on 3 November, they found the Governor surprised at the failure of the British Embassy to notify him of their coming and emphatic in his insistence that there would be no preliminary surveys until a definite agreement on the site of the air base was announced. Although it was contrary to the Governor's "forceful" suggestion, the rest of the party soon followed; but no field surveys were permitted until 19 November, the day after the location of the base was publicly announced and more than a month after the War Department was ready to start.13

To avert similar delays in the future, the Navy Department had suggested that a single blanket arrangement be worked out for all the remaining bases, and on 1 November the State Department addressed an appropriate note on the subject to the British Government. The authorities in London were obviously unable to obtain the colonies' assent and unwilling to impose an agreement upon them, since the British reply, when it came a month afterward on 2 December, merely offered the suggestion that the United States handle the question directly with the Governors of the colonies concerned, through the American consuls and not by way of London. A blanket permission for such visits could not be given by the home government, the British note continued, for, unless the surveys were arranged through the Governor, they might be undertaken at some inopportune time.14 The colonial officials having established their point, no further delay appeared necessary,


and by 1 January 1941: survey parties had arrived at all the base sites. In Bermuda, the governor's reluctance to grant authority for the preliminary survey had come for the most part from a failure to agree on the location of the base. In Trinidad, the Greenslade Board's choice of sites was a similar source of annoyance and delay, and in Jamaica the same issue was only slightly less troublesome. In Newfoundland, no objections on this score were interposed until later, when the United States decided that facilities at Gander would be necessary.

Bermuda, more than the other colonies, was outspoken in its concern over the social and economic dislocations that might be expected from the establishment of American air and naval bases. No matter where the base might be located, the scale of development planned by the United States would, it was argued, seriously threaten the "peace, charm and amenities" that drew thousands of tourists to the islands each year. Real estate values would decline. The resettlement of families living on the sites chosen for the bases would add to the congestion of areas already overcrowded; while the presence of a permanent garrison would, it was feared, still further enhance the serious social problems. When the Greenslade Board, after its first visit, recommended the setting aside of a wide corridor across one of the most desirable parts of the main island as the site of the base, a surge of opposition developed that brought the board back to Bermuda on 24 October. On this second visit, the board considered an alternative proposal presented by the governor and found it to be feasible. It was accordingly agreed that both the Army and Navy would concentrate their activities in the Castle Harbour area, at the eastern end of the islands, and that only minor seaplane facilities, for emergency operations, would be installed in Great Sound.15 The controversy again flared up toward the end of November when the Navy Department decided to shift all its installations to Morgan's Island and Tucker's Island on Great Sound, where a permanent base would be built. The proposed shift aroused almost as much criticism as the original choice, and for more than a month the British withheld their approval.16 In the end the Navy obtained the two islands; the Army base stayed on the eastern side of Castle Harbour.


Similar objections were raised in Trinidad, but economic and social conditions there differed sufficiently from those in Bermuda to deprive the argument of much of its validity. The alternative choice offered by the Governor--a large, miasmic swamp south of Port of Spain--was most unimpressive. The improvement of this area, the Caroni Swamp, as it was known, was an old reclamation project, which the War Department suspected of being presented anew in the guise of cooperation. The Governor flew to Washington early in December to urge acceptance of his views, but he failed to convince even the officials of the British Embassy.17 The site proposed by the Governor was rejected in favor of that chosen by the Greenslade Board in the north-central part of the island, the so-called Cumuto Reserve just south of the northern mountains. From his discussions in Washington and with the Greenslade Board during its visit to Trinidad, it seems clear that the Governor was endeavoring to placate public opinion on the island, that he was especially interested in having as many matters as possible settled precisely and definitely, and that, while wanting to restrict the leased areas to as narrow limits as possible, he feared that American estimates were inadequate and would be revised upward from time to time. Despite the lack of agreement, the Governor authorized the United States to undertake preliminary surveys, and on 28 December 1940 a party of engineers arrived at Port of Spain ready to begin operations.

Formal leases had not yet been executed, and in their absence a number of questions remained unsolved. The whole question of taxes and customs duties, the matter of military control, and in general the reluctance of the British to accept safeguards considered necessary to secure the United States in its use and enjoyment of the bases were the stumbling blocks. Until they were removed and the land actually acquired, construction work could scarcely be started; and both Admiral Stark and General Marshall feared that the anti-administration wing of Congress would create embarrassment if the situation dragged on.18

During the next few days the President decided to send a commission to London to negotiate a formal agreement. Colonel Malony and Comdr. Harold Biesemeier, USN, who had been recent associates on the Greenslade Board, and Mr. Charles Fahy, Assistant Solicitor General, were designated for the task. They arrived in London on 25 January 1941 with hopes of returning


home in a fortnight; but before the job was done the two weeks had stretched into eight, and with some of the issues there had been a struggle all the way.19 An address of welcome by Lord Cranborne, Secretary of State for the Dominions, brought together the American commissioners and their colleagues.

The discussions that followed placed them immediately on opposite sides of a wide gulf. The agenda presented by the British chairman comprised twenty-three items ranging widely in scope. The American commissioners wanted to discuss the general problems first, in the belief that, once agreement was reached on such fundamentals as the boundaries of the base sites and the extent of American jurisdiction, then the incidental questions would solve themselves. The British, on the other hand, insisted on approaching the general by way of the particular.20 Furthermore, the American commissioners had not come to England to treat with the colonial governments, but representatives of the colonies insisted on taking part in the negotiations. The formal, plenary sessions soon reached an impasse. Consideration of most of the agenda drawn up by the British was postponed or referred to a subcommittee, and as soon as the draft leases representing the American position were presented, the opposing points of view were seen to be at such variance that the discussion was at once adjourned. When the first draft of an agreement was finally completed on 18 February, only twelve of twenty-eight articles were fully agreed upon. The next day's conference, the tenth that had been held, was the last, for at this point it was decided that faster progress could be made by holding small, informal meetings between members of the commission and officials of the colonial office.21

In weighing the American proposals, the officials of the home government tended to differ somewhat from the representatives of the colonies. To the British officials, such problems as the exercise of criminal jurisdiction, the conduct and control of military operations, censorship, and the use of the bases by powers other than the United States were the more significant; while to the colonial representatives, the question of post offices, of customs duties, and of anything involving financial sacrifices were the weightier. But the difference was one of emphasis only.


How much authority and military control the United States should have in order to defend the bases had been one of the points of contention on which the discussion of the draft leases had broken down. The draft presented by the commissioners would have given the United States "exclusive rights, power, authority and control" not only within the leased areas, but in the adjacent waters and air spaces as well. It reserved to the United States also the "right, power and authority to assume military control and conduct military operations" in any part of the colony outside the leased areas, in the surrounding waters, and in the air above to whatever extent the protection of American activities and national interest might require.22 This was far too sweeping to be agreeable to the British, mindful of the 99-year duration of the leases and of the fact that the United States was still a neutral. The grants were too extensive for peacetime, the British held, although in emergencies they might not be inappropriate; and the implications in the word "control" were unpleasant. Turning an old American argument to an unfamiliar use, the British pointed out that one of the effects would be to restrict the colonies' freedom of navigation.23 A compromise was discussed that would have deleted the particularly objectionable word "control" it would also have added an assurance that the powers granted to the United States in the air and waters adjacent to the leased areas would not be used unreasonably or so as to interfere with navigation, and it would have limited to time of war and actual emergency the extensive military authority granted to the United States. But the representatives of the colonies insisted on an amendment defining defense as a mutual problem and giving the colonial Governors the right to approve the detailed application of the powers reserved to the United States.24 This raised the whole question of the policy and measures of defense and command, which the United States was extremely anxious to avoid. Nothing of this sort, it was hoped, would be included in the final agreement, for it was to be made public as soon as it was signed.25 The commissioners, on instructions from Washington, rejected the proposition put forward by the colonies and substituted a provision for "consultation between the governments concerned" as the occasion might require. A suggestion, which the British were willing to present, that


staff talks be held on the subject or that a joint board be set up similar to the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, United States and Canada, was quickly scotched.26 The commission stood firm on the compromise proposed earlier in the month. Finally, during the first days of March, the American position was tentatively accepted and submitted to higher authority, after minor changes in phraseology were made and the provision for consultation clarified by specifying the United States and the United Kingdom as the two governments concerned.

In the meantime, more rapid progress had been made on the question of post offices and censorship and on the use of the bases by other nations. It was agreed, during mid-February, that United States post offices would be established within the leased areas for mail to or from other United States post offices, that domestic mail originating within the bases would be sent out under frank, and that no mention of censorship would be made in the agreement. And as soon as it was ascertained, on rather specious reasoning, that the War Department could as an administrative matter examine domestic mail without violating the laws, the United States by a separate exchange of notes undertook to examine all such mail moving to and from the bases. It was likewise agreed, fairly early in the negotiations, that the United States would not assign or part with any of the leased areas or any of the rights and powers granted to it. To meet a point raised by the commission, the Trinidad representatives suggested adding a clause that nothing in this provision would "be construed so as to prevent effective cooperation between the United States and other nations of the Americas in defense of the Western Hemisphere." This was agreeable to all except Bermuda, Newfoundland, and the Air Ministry; but, the commission not pressing its adoption, the clause was omitted from the final agreement.27 By the beginning of March there was a substantial measure of agreement on most of the remaining questions.

A deadlock, however, had been reached on customs duties and court jurisdiction. The colonies, for obvious reasons, objected strenuously to the free importation of goods consigned to the bases, but by the end of February


the American commissoners had obtained exemption for practically everything except supplies for ship's service stores, post exchanges, and commissaries. Beyond this, the British negotiators would not go.28 The question of court jurisdiction was more complicated. The United States was reluctant to set up civil courts and unwilling to yield jurisdiction within the leased areas. The British could not be swerved from their insistence that British subjects must be excluded from United States jurisdiction. The problem was susceptible to compromise, but as the negotiations proceeded compromise seemed more remote.29

At this juncture, Mr. John G. Winant arrived in London to take up his duties as Ambassador. Although the American Chargé d'Affaires, Mr. Herschel V. Johnson, had assisted the commission most ably, Mr. Winant brought with him the prestige of personal friendship with the President. He immediately carried the deadlock directly to Mr. Churchill. The story was told to the American Commissioners after their return to Washington that President Roosevelt, expressing great displeasure at the delays in transferring the base sites, had pointed out to the British Ambassador, Lord Halifax, that, if the American press ever got hold of the story, the result might be defeat of the lend-lease bill, then pending in Congress. Lord Halifax, according to the story, hastened to inform Prime Minister Churchill by telephone of the conversation he had had with the President.30 At any event, the Prime Minister, in the words of Ambassador Winant, at once "swept away as immaterial three-quarters of the objections raised by his negotiators, but at the same time he questioned the military clauses which, because of General Malony's skillful insistence, had been agreed upon."31

The "military clauses" to which Ambassador Winant referred were the first two articles--the general grant of rights and the special military powers--over which there had already been so much discussion. The failure to extend to the emergency military powers the provision for consultation adopted in connection with the general rights and powers seems to have been the principal cause of the Prime Minister's concern. As a remedy Mr. Churchill suggested adding a clause to the preamble that would embody a


pledge of cooperation. The American commissioners immediately agreed to this solution, and after some study of the precise wording of the clause suggested by the Prime Minister, the following, presented as a substitute by the American commissioners, was decided upon

. . . that this agreement shall be fulfilled in a spirit of good neighborliness between His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the Government of the United States of America, and that details of its practical application shall be arranged by friendly cooperation.32

The Prime Minister attached great importance to this, the fourth clause of the preamble, for to him it represented the spirit of the entire transaction. It set the tone of the whole agreement, which without this clause would be more of a "capitulation," he said, than a friendly arrangement between two great powers.33 He thereupon proposed a rewording of the article covering the special military powers to have it read, in part, as follows:

. . . without raising any question of naval or military compacts or assurance it is recognized that the various schemes of defense shall be concerted and adjusted at any moment to provide in the highest degree the security of each of the two contracting parties. For this purpose there will be consultation in accordance with the spirit of the preamble. . . .

In time of war or other emergency, Mr. Churchill continued, the United States should have whatever rights were necessary for the conduct of military operations, but, in exercising them "full regard shall be paid to the said preamble."34 This was on Saturday, 8 March. In the evening, Ambassador Winant sent a long message to the President and Secretary Hull in which he explained that the commission had declined, as unnecessary and unduly restrictive, the draft proposed by the Prime Minister. The next morning it became known in London that the Lend-Lease bill had passed the Senate the night before. The pressure on the commissioners eased perceptibly.35 On Tuesday, 11 March, President Roosevelt signed the bill that gave substance to his promise that America would be the "arsenal of democracy," and on the same day, in London, a complete settlement of the base agreement was reached. The troublesome grant of emergency powers was relegated to a simple declaration:

When the United States is engaged in war or in time of other emergency His Majesty's Government agree that the United States may exercise . . . all such rights, powers and authority as may be necessary for conducting any military operations deemed desirable


by the United States, but these rights will be exercised with all possible regard to the spirit of the fourth clause of the preamble.36

No mention was made of joint or "concerted" defense schemes or of consultation. At the same time, reference to the preamble was included, as Mr. Churchill had wished, but in terms that would not limit American freedom of action.

During the next two weeks, the draft of the agreement was put into final form and a separate protocol with Canada concerning the defense of Newfoundland was agreed upon. On 27 March 1941, Ambassador Winant, Mr. Fahy, General Malony, and Commander Biesemeier placed their names to the base agreement on behalf of the United States. Prime Minister Churchill, Lord Cranborne, and Lord Moyne, Secretary of State for Colonies, signed for the United Kingdom.

The commissioners had done their job well. They had obtained the authority considered necessary for the operation of the bases; they had, with equal success, kept out of the agreement any military commitments and other provisions that might have placed American defense forces under the control of the British Governors; and while doing so, they had won the respect and friendship of the British negotiators.37

Launching the Construction Program

By the time the agreement was signed, almost seven months after the sites were acquired, most of the preliminaries of establishing the bases had been disposed of. To supervise construction, the Eastern Division, Corps of Engineers, had been organized, under the command of Col. Joseph D. Arthur, Jr., who had accompanied the Greenslade Board on its surveys and participated in the early planning. District engineer offices were set up in Newfoundland, Bermuda, Jamaica, and Trinidad.38 By mid-February, contracts had been negotiated (except for Jamaica) with the firms that were to do the actual construction. The British had hoped that colonial and British contractors might participate, but in this they were disappointed. All the contracts went to firms in the United States on a negotiated cost-plus-fixed-


(Except as noted, does not include cost of land)
  WPD Estimates 18 Sep 40 C/E Estimate 25 Sep 40 C/E Estimate 8 Oct 40 C/E Estimate 20 Nov 40
Total $200,000,000 $215,000,000 $200,000,000 $200,000,000
Newfoundland 28,167,000 34,030,600 25,907,000 27,683,000
Bermuda 20,379,500 23,689,100 26,849,000 31,765,000
Trinidad 89,024,000 95,660,100 94,930,000 67,840,000
Jamaica 37,583,000 41,552,600 41,337,000 39,627,000
Antigua 1,706,000 2,409,500 2,377,000 3,785,000
St. Lucia 1,706,000 2,409,500 2,377,000 3,785,000
British Guiana 1,406,000 2,409,500 2,377,000 3,785,000
Bahamas 1,714,000 2,409,500 2,377,000 3,763,000
Overhead, contingencies, etc. 18,314,500 10,429,600 11,469,000 217,967,000


fee basis. In March, the contractors for the Trinidad base sent a few men to Port of Spain.39 They were apparently the first in the field.

Funds to begin construction had been obtained after considerable effort. Only two weeks after the destroyers-for-bases exchange had taken place in September 1940, and long before the plans for the bases had begun to mature, the War Plans Division drew up a statement of estimated costs. This first estimate, which included an item of $18,314,500 for overhead and contingencies, totaled an even $200,000,000. (Table 2) It was based on the August report of the joint Planning Committee and on the cost of permanent construction in the United States plus an arbitrary differential of 30 percent. The figures were admittedly tentative, subject to revision, and intended to serve only until the reports of the Greenslade Board became available.40 It was soon evident that an upward revision would be necessary. Between September 1940 and the following November, reductions were made in the estimates for Newfoundland, where the Greenslade Board at first made no provision for an air garrison, and in those for Trinidad, where the ground


(Including cost of land)
  W/D Estimate 7 Feb 41 W/D Estimate 7 May 41 C/E Monthly Report 30 Sep 41 C/E Monthly Report 31 Oct 41
Total $200,000,000 $204,170,000 $210,714,700 $244,253,700
Newfoundland 31,909,000 39,927,500 46,472,200 46,928,000
Bermuda 41,162,000 29,570,500 29,570,500 32,949,500
Trinidad 77,984,000 80,648,500 80,648,500 100,489,500
Jamaica 19,926,000 18,965,500 18,965,500 22,866,700
Antigua 4,321,000 9,165,500 9,165,500 13,982,500
St. Lucia 4,298,000 8,666,500 8,666,500 13,250,000
British Guiana 4,321,000 8,856,500 8,856,500 12,514,000
Bahamas 4,235,000 8,369,500 8,369,500 1,273,500
Overhead, contingencies, etc. 11,844,000 0 0 0


garrison was drastically cut by the Greenslade Board; but the upward swing of all the others more than balanced these two reductions.41 Nevertheless the $200,000,000 total of the first estimate became a ceiling for all the estimates during these first few months. The difference was taken out of the item for contingent expenses. (Table 3) By the end of the following year, 1941, all the estimates, except the Bermuda figures, had risen still further, with the three secondary bases--Antigua, St. Lucia, and British Guiana--accounting for a disproportionate share of the increase. As of 27 December 1941 the total estimated cost of construction had reached $260,605,000.42

By this same date, 27 December 1941, a total of $207,913,000 had been either appropriated or included in FY 1943 budget estimates. At the beginning President Roosevelt had not been satisfied with the War Department estimates nor was he convinced of the need for such large initial funds. It was his opinion that immediate expenses should be limited to acquiring the


Total $242,533,388 Jamaica $17,869,553
    Antigua 13,149,759
Newfoundland 62,470,513 St. Lucia 11,250,360
Bermuda 140,634,773 British Guiana 14,969,448
Trinidad 81,915,399 Bahamas 273,583


land, to providing some sort of docks and landing fields, and to purchasing the sites where the garrisons were to be housed. He wished ground troops to be quartered in tents wherever health conditions allowed and the bases to be occupied for some time before permanent construction was decided upon. When the Army in November 1940 presented a request for an additional emergency allotment, he is reported to have said that "if the Army thought they were going to get $200,000,000 for these bases they had another think coming."43 But by the following spring the President was urging haste in establishing the bases, and by early May 1941 a total of $163,825,000 had been authorized for the Army's use. The actual final cost of the bases turned out to be somewhere between the estimate of 27 December and the available funds of that date; but the final figures do not stand too close a comparison with the early estimates, for, among other things, after the attack on Pearl Harbor most of the permanent building construction was deferred. (Table 4)

Beginning in January and February 1941, before the contractors' people arrived at the bases, a certain amount of work was accomplished by local labor under the direct supervision of the district engineers. In spite of the season, temporary housing was beginning to go up along the frozen shores of Quidi Vidi Lake, on the outskirts of St. John's, Newfoundland. In British Guiana, the first assault was launched against the jungle growth that blocked the way to the site of the base. As soon as construction forces arrived, the work was turned over to them: in Bermuda, dredging operations were started; in Trinidad, temporary construction was begun in the "Dock Site" area at Port of Spain. By mid-May the contractors had assumed responsibility


at most of the base sites, where construction now, if not in full swing, was at least well under way.44

Priority was given to the airfields. In order to provide usable fields at the earliest possible date and with least disturbance to construction activities, temporary landing strips were rushed to completion in Trinidad, St. Lucia, Antigua, and British Guiana. In Bermuda, where space was at a premium, the same result was sought by building the permanent field in two stages. Three short runways, the longest of which was 3,500 feet, were to be completed in five or six months. Then they were to be extended, while in use, and the rest of the field completed. This second state, it was estimated, would require another twelve months.45 Before construction had gone very far, it was decided to lengthen the 3,500-foot runway to 5,000 feet, and with this change the work was pushed forward. In Newfoundland, one of the largest airports in the world was already available for emergency operations. By the end of June 1941 the temporary runways in St. Lucia, Antigua, and British Guiana were in limited use, and in Trinidad, where seasonal rains had delayed construction, the temporary runway at Waller Field was in use by the end of October. By this time, the 5,000-foot runway at Kindley Field, Bermuda, was ready, and one of the other runways was about half finished.46

Most of the materials for construction came from the United States. To be sure, Canadian lumber went into buildings at Fort Pepperrell, Newfoundland; Bermuda stone and coral block were used at Kindley Field; and a most ingenious and probably unique application of local materials was to be found in St. Lucia, where molasses was used as a stabilizing agent for the surface of the temporary runway. But for the most part, local materials were employed only as a substitute for goods unavailable in the United States or delayed in transit. Of the 430,000 tons of construction material used in Newfoundland, 75 percent was imported from the United States. The dependence upon imports was reflected in the concern with which transportation matters were regarded in every base.47


U.S. ARMY INSTALLATIONS IN THE BERMUDA ISLANDS. Air view of Kindley Field and Fort Bell (top). Army camp near Turtle Hill (bottom).


On the other hand, most of the construction, especially the unskilled labor, was done by local workmen. Of the total of 44,899 men employed on the bases at the end of October 1941, only 7,400 were Americans. In Jamaica, 93 percent of the workmen were local people; in Antigua, 81 percent. At all the other bases, except Bermuda, the proportion fell somewhere between these two extremes. In Bermuda, where dredging and filling operations were the chief activities at this time and where much of the available labor supply was already employed on the British navy yard, the figures were reversed: 14 percent of the workmen were Bermudians, 86 percent were brought in from the United States.48

Wages paid the local people were, in general, based upon the prevailing local rate; but American workmen received the same wages paid in the United States plus an added differential. The disparity was a major source of trouble. It was no coincidence that at Bermuda, where most of the labor was done by American workmen, there were fewer labor disturbances and a higher turnover than at the other bases. On the other hand, in British Guiana, where an American tractor driver received $10.00 a day for the same work for which a native received $2.80, the local workmen went on strike, and to put down the ensuing disorder required the use of American troops. Labor troubles and impending riots, and not the threat of external attack were what brought the first units of the garrison to Jamaica.49

One of the elements in the situation was the effort put forth by labor unions to consolidate and maintain their control of local labor. Union leaders in Jamaica resented the refusal of American authorities to deal with the Trades Union Council or to admit union representatives to the negotiations dealing with the employment of local labor. When their complaint was brought to the attention of the War Department, the War Plans Division pointed out that the Department's policy of not recognizing any union as the sole bargaining agency for local labor did not bar a consultative committee on which the unions had representatives, such as the Jamaica Trades Union Council had proposed, so long as it was clearly understood that the union represented only those workers affiliated with it.50 The same issue had been


raised in Trinidad six months before. There, the local workers striking for the right to bargain directly and collectively had invoked the National Labor Relations Act and appealed to American labor leaders for help. The question of the applicability of American labor legislation, if pressed, might have produced a rather awkward situation; but the strike was short-lived. Later, after the men returned to work, representatives of the unions participated in negotiating a local labor agreement. A pattern for cooperation existed in Bermuda, where the district engineer and a representative of the contractors had been invited by the governor to join in the deliberations of the local labor board.51 There was no attempt, however, either by the British Colonial Office or by the War Department to formulate a uniform policy and establish a standard procedure. Probably local conditions varied too widely to permit it.

At most of the bases, temporary housing had to be put up for the local workers. In Trinidad, however, it was more convenient to provide rail and truck transportation from Port of Spain than to erect housing at the construction site. The consequent overcrowding in Port of Spain was unwelcome to the local authorities; the travel to and from work was objectionable to the workers. The upshot was another strike. Like the others it was of short duration, more annoying than disrupting, and corrective measures followed. The transportation system was improved, but nothing was done about housing. The district engineer and the War Department agreed that it was unnecessary so long as there was no need of importing workers from other islands.52

American military authorities in Trinidad were convinced that the shadow of the swastika lay over the labor disturbances. There were, the commanding general of the Trinidad Sector reported, "a large number of Nazi sympathizers and Fifth Columnists in the Guianas," who might have "inspired and incited these ignorant laborers to strike." Nazi agents, he continued, were becoming more active, and the "incitation of local labor to strikes, violence, and serious sabotage must be anticipated with constantly increasing frequency." 53 A few weeks later he stressed his "growing conviction that radical and antagonistic agents and influence are increasing in energy and


boldness and are making an increasing effort to incite the native population to acts of violence and sabotage."54 According to the commanding general it all pointed to the desirability of immediately reinforcing the garrison. In truer perspective, the intervention of Nazi agents or the influence of Nazi sympathy appeared to have been a mirage. By the time World War II had ended, no evidence could be discerned that the labor troubles were anything more than attempts by the workers to better their lot by methods not entirely foreign to the United States.

In Newfoundland, the labor situation took a slightly different twist. The problem there was more a matter of long weekends, a fishing season that lasted through the summer, and an unwillingness to work during the winter.55 It was complicated by an early misunderstanding on the part of the Newfoundland Government. Although the contractors intended to employ local workmen as common laborers, the colonial government issued a communiqué to the contrary, to the effect that what the contractors wanted were skilled workers, and the result was that for a time the recruitment of ordinary laborers was discouraged.56

Early in 1942, after war came to America, German submarines succeeded at times in slowing down construction activities. Workmen recruited in the United States flinched at the hazards, real and rumored, of traveling to the bases by sea. A few essential cargoes of supplies and equipment were lost, but more serious than the actual sinkings were the delays and uncertainty that a newly instituted convoy system and the rerouting of shipments brought.

By this time the airfields at the bases were all in operating condition, and housing, hospitals, and storage and other facilities were adequate, although in temporary form, even for somewhat larger garrisons than those now stationed there. Not much permanent construction had been finished. But to proceed with the permanent structures as originally planned would add little to the immediate strength of the bases, would draw shipping away from more urgent commitments, and would require the continued presence of more than 10,000 American civilians whose wives and children were in wartime a source of military weakness. On these grounds it was decided in April 1942 to recast the program and to defer all permanent construction that would not contribute to immediate strength.57


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (13) * Next Chapter (15)


1. For a discussion of the critical turn of events that shaped American strategic plans in the summer of 1940 and of the negotiations leading to the Destroyer-Base Agreement, see Conn and Fairchild, Framework of Hemisphere Defense, ch. II, and Matlof and Snell, Strategic Planning 1941-42, chs. I-II.

2. Greenslade Board: Outline of Local Defense for Bases . . . in the Caribbean Area and British Guiana, 8 Nov 40 AG 580 (9-4-40), sec. 1, pt. 1. The strength of the Bermuda and Newfoundland forces is given in Memos, G-2 for ACofS WPD, 24 and 31 Jan 41, WPD 4300-6; Memo, WPD for CofS, 5 Apr 41, WPD 4351-92, sec. 6; and in Min, Conf in ODCofS, 24 Sep 40, OCS Conf, binder 3.

3. In recognition of this exploit, the principal U.S. Army base in Newfoundland was named, in May 1941, for the commander of the Louisbourg Expedition of 1745, Sir William Pepperrell of Kittery, Me.

4. Rpt of Jt Planning Comm to CNO and CofS, 28 Aug 40, WPD 4351-5. The report on Antigua, an appendix to the original report, is dated 3 September 1940. See also, Memo, WPD for COB, 29 Mar 40, sub: Acquisition of Foreign Possessions in the Western Hemisphere, WPD 3977-2.

5. Ltr, SN to Admiral Greenslade, 3 Sep 40; Ltr, President to Adm Greenslade, [1] Sep 40. Both in OPD Exec 13, item 22.

6. Memo, SGS for ACofS WPD, 4 Sep 40, OCS 21160-1; Memo, WPD for Gen Moore, DCofS WPD, 5 Sep 40, AG 580 (9-4-40), sec. 1 pt. 1. The WPD recommendation was drafted by Colonel Crawford, head of the Supply and Projects Section.

7. Memo, SGS for ACofS WPD, 6 Sep 40, AG 580 (9-4-40), sec. 1, pt. 1.

8. Rpt, WPD to CofS, 13 Jan 41, title: Present Status . . . of Army Bases . . . , WPD 4351-48; Memo, "Betty" [Admiral H.R. Stark) for President, 6 Sep 40, Roosevelt Papers, FDRL.

9. Min, Conf in ODCofS, 6 Sep 40, OCS Misc Conf, binder 6; Memo, CofAC for COB, 14 Oct 40, sub: Caribbean Familiarization Flight, WPD 4351-14, sec. 7.

10. Outline of Local Defenses for Bases Acquired From Great Britain . . . , transmitted by Memo, Adm Greenslade for CNO and CofS, 12 Nov 40 AG 580 (9-4-40), sec. 1, pt. 1.

11. In addition to the sources cited for table I, see the following: Summary of CofAC and Bd of Experts Recommendations for Air Corps Units and Facilities at Bases . . . , (Oct-Nov 40); Memo, WPD for CofS, 6 Nov 40; Memo, SGS for WPD, 9 Nov 40. All in AG 580 (9-4-40), sec. 1, pt. 1. Also various documents in WPD 4351-9, sec. 3; WPD 4351-11, sec. 6; WPD 4351-47; and WPD 4351-176, sec. 7.

12. Ltr, SN to Secy State, 7 Oct 40, AG580 (9-4-40), sec. 1, pt. 1; Rpt WPD to CofS, 13 Jan 41, title: Present Status of . . . Army Bases . . . , WPD 4351-48.

13. Jan 41, title: Present Status of . . . Army Bases . . . , WPD 4351-48. 13 SGS Memo for Rcd, 5 Nov 40, OCS Misc, binder 6; Jt Memo, SW and SN for President, 8 Oct 40, AG580 (9-4-40), sec. 1, pt. 1; Telg 6, American, Consul, Bermuda, to (Dept of State), 4 Nov 40, WPD 4351-3; North Atlantic Div, CE, MS, U.S. Army Bases: Bermuda, OCMH, p. IV-1.

14. Ltr, Capt R.E. Schuirmann, USN, to Secy State, 29 Oct 40, AG 580 (9-4-40), sec. 1, pt. 1; note, Foreign Office to U.S. Chargé d'Affaires, London, 2 Dec 40, OPD Exec 13, item 23; SGS Memo for Rcd, 5 Dec 40, OCS Conf, binder 6.

15. Draft of Lease of Certain Areas in Bermuda, (Ltr of transmittal to the President dated 26 Sep 40) and Supplementary Rpt of Bd of Experts-Bermuda, 26 Oct 40, in North Atlantic Div, CE, U.S. Army Bases: Bermuda, Supps. 2-3.

16. Ltr, Nevile Montagu Butler (British Chargé d'Affaires) to Actg Secy State Welles, 22 Nov 40; Memo, Col Crawford, WPD, for John Hickerson, State Department, 3 Dec 40. Both in OPD Exec 13 item 23. Memo, H.R.S. (Admiral Stark) for President, 26 Dec 40, Roosevelt Papers, FDRL.

17. Memo, H.R.S. for President, 26 Dec 40, Roosevelt Papers, FDRL; Memo, Col Crawford for Gen Gerow, 10 Dec 40; Rpt on Trinidad, Bd of Experts to SN, 23 Oct 40. Last two in WPD 4351-20, sec. 1.

18. Rpt, WPD to CofS, 13 Jan 41, title: Present Status of . . . Army Bases . . . , WPD 4351-48; Min, SLC Mtg, 3 Jan 41, SLC Min, vol. II; Memo, WPD for CofS, 9 Jan 41, WPD 4351-44.

19. Rad, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 25 Jan 41, WPD 4351-54; Rad 1207, John Gilbert Winant to Secy State, 27 Mar 41, OPD Exec 13, item 15.

20. Ltr, Rear Adm. Harold Biesemeier (Ret) to Actg Chief of Military History, 28 May 59 in OCMH files.

21. No verbatim record of the discussions was kept, but the minutes of the meetings as well as the daily messages that passed between the commission and the State Department can be found in OPD Exec 13.

22. The Trinidad draft lease, a part of the Greenslade Board Report, is in WPD 4351-20, sec. 1. The draft of the Bermuda lease, in WPD 4351-8, sec. 1, is identical in the description of rights.

23. Rad 383, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 31 Jan 41, OPD Exec 13, item 16; Rad 764, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 27 Feb 41, OPD Exec 13, item 18.

24. Rad 419, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 3 Feb 41; Rad 443, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 5 Feb 41. Both in OPD Exec 13, item 16.

25. Rads 502 and 503, Secy State to Base Lease Commission, 15 Feb 41, OPD Exec 13, item 19.

26. Rad 432, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 4 Feb 41; Rad 619, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 18 Feb 41. Both its OPD Exec 13, item 16. Rad 555, Secy State to Base Lease Commission, 20 Feb 41, OPD Exec 13, item 19.

27. Rad 515, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 10 Feb 41; Rad 632, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 19 Feb 41; Rad 672, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 21 Feb 41. All in OPD Exec 13, item 16. Rad 853, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 5 Mar 41, OPD Exec 13, item 18; Rad 1154, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 24 Mar 41, OPD Exec 13, item 15; Rad 579, Secy State to Base Lease Commission, 21 Feb 41, OPD Exec 13, item 19.

28. Rad 384, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 31 Jan 41; Rad 672, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 21 Feb 41. Both in OPD Exec 13, item 16.

29. Rad 555, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 13 Feb 41; Rad 672, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 21 Feb 41. Both in OPD 13, item 16.

30. Ltr, Adm Biesemeier to Acting Chief of Military History, 28 May 59.

31. John Gilbert Winant, Letter from Grosvenor Square (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1947) pp. 36-37. Soon after the negotiations began, Colonel Malony had been promoted to brigadier general.

32. Rad 853, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 5 Mar 41, OPD Exec 13, item 18.

33. Rad 942, Base Tease Commission to Secy State, 12 Mar 41, OPD Exec 13, item 18.

34. Rad 908, Winant to President and Secy State, 8 Mar 41, OPD Exec 13, item 18.

35. Rad 910, Winant to Secy State, 9 Mar 41, OPD Exec 13, item 18.

36. Rad 939, Base Lease Commission to Secy State, 11 Mar 41, OPD Exec 13, item 18.

37. For an appraisal of the negotiations, see Rad 1207, Winant to Secy State, 27 Mar 41, OPD Exec 13, item 15; and Min, SLC Mtg, 24 Mar 41, SLC Min, vol. 11, p. 5.

38. On 1 Aug 1941 the Eastern Division was superseded by the North Atlantic Division for Newfoundland and the Caribbean Division for all the other bases. On 23 Feb 1942 the Bermuda District was transferred from the Caribbean to the North Atlantic Division.

39. Memo, British Embassy, Washington, for Secy State, 9 Nov 40, WPD 4351-31; Memo, Col Crawford for ACofS WPD, 14 Dec 40, WPD 4351-26; TBC, Hist Sec, CDC, Hist of TS and BC, 1, 48.

40. Memo, WPD for CofS, 18 Sep 40, AG 580 (9-4-40), sec. 1, pt. 1.

41. Estimates of the fall of 1940 are in Memo, WPD for CofS, 18 Sep 40; Memo, CofEngrs (Lt Col William F. Tompkins) for TAG, 25 Sep 40, with Tabs A-H dated 8 Oct 40; and Memo, Col Tompkins for WPD, 20 Nov 40. All in AG 580 (9-4-40), sec. 1, pt. 1.

42. Estimates made in 1941 are in Memo, Col Albert E. Brown, Budget & Legislative Planning Br, for CofS, 17 Feb 41, OCS Conf, binder 10; Estimates of Funds for Army Air Bases . . . (2d Supp), 7 May 41, OPD Misc File 41; Eastern Div, CE, Report of Progress, Atlantic Bases, September 1941 and October 1941, AG 580 (9-4-40), sec. 1-D, Bulky Package; Routing Sheet, G-4 to TAG, 27 Dec 41, sub: Estimates for Construction . . . , OCS 2111160-123, bk. 20.

43. Memo, WPD for CofS, 3 Oct 40, WPD 4351-9, sec. 1; Memo, Lt Col Edward H. Brooks, Chief, Statistics Br, for Col Ward, SGS, 5 Oct 40, WPD 4351-8, sec. 1; Memo, CofS for Admiral Stark, 8 Nov 40, AG 580 (9-4-40), sec. 1, pt. 1; Memo, Col Ward for CofS, 22 Nov 40, OCS Conf, binder 6.

44. The figures in the Monthly Progress Reports purporting to show the percent of completed construction are in reality the percent of estimated cost actually expended. Since accuracy in estimating the final cost was almost impossible and revision inevitable, the figures are of little value as an indication of the true rate of progress.

45. Memo, Col Ward, SGS, for ACofS WPD, 8 Apr 41; Memo, WPD for CofS, 8 Apr 41; Memo, WPD for CofEngrs, 9 Apr 41; Memo, Gen Bryden, Acting CofS, for SW, 9 Apr 41. All in WPD 4351-8, sec. 1.

46. Memo, WPD for CofS, 18 Jun 41, WPD 4351-140; Eastern Div, CE, Rpts of Progress, Atlantic Bases June 1941 and October 1941, AG 580 (9-4-40), sec. 1-D, Bulky Package.

47. Eastern Div, CE, Rpt of Progress, Atlantic Bases, October 1941, AG 580 (9-4-40), sec. 1-D, Bulky Package; Div North Atlantic Div, CE, MS, U.S. Army Bases: Newfoundland, OCMH, pp. VI-7 to VI-9; U.S. Army Bases: Bermuda, p. V-2; TCB, Hist Sec, CDC, Hist of TS and BC, I, 88, 93, 95, III.

48. Eastern Div, CE, Rpt of Progress, Atlantic Bases, October 1941, AG 580 (9-4-40), sec. 1-D Bulky Package; ASF, Off Div Engr, Atlantic Div, U.S. Army Bases: Newfoundland, p. VI-4; ASF, Off Div Engr, Atlantic Div, U.S. Army Bases: Bermuda, p. VI-1.

49. Ltr, CG TS to CG CDC, 15 Aug 41, WPD 4351-20, sec. 1; Antilles Dept, CDC, MS, War Plans and Defense Measures, sec. 11, ch. 2, p. 225; Watson, Prewar Plans and Preparations, p. 483.

50. Ltr, British Embassy to State Dept, 16 Dec 41; Memo, WPD for Hickerson, State Dept, 4 Jan 42. Both in WPD 4351-11, sec. 6.

51. Min of Conf in OSW, 10 Jun 41, SW Conf, binder 1; Memo, WPD for CofS, 13 Jun 41, WPD 4351-20; Memo for Rcd, D/F, WPD to G-4., 25 Aug 4;, WPD 4351-8, sec. 2; Ltr, British Embassy to State Dept, 16 Dec 41, WPD 4351-11, sec. 6.

52. Memo, WPD for Hickerson, State Dept, 17 Sep 41, WPD 4351-20, sec.,1; Ltr, Governor Hubert Young, Trinidad, to Gen Talbot, CG TS, 29 Jul 41; D/F, WPD to G-4, 10 Oct 41; Memo, WPD for Hickerson, 14 Dec 41. All in WPD 4351-20, sec. 2.

53. Ltr., CG TS to CG CDC, 15 Aug 41, WPD 4351-20, sec. 1.

54. Ltr, CG TS to CG CDC, 28 Aug 41, WPD 4351-20, sec. 1.

55. ASF, Off Div Engr, Atlantic Div, U. S. Army Bases: Newfoundland, pp. VI-5, VI-8.

56. Dispatch, American Consul General, St. John's, to Secy State, 30 Jun 41, WPD 4351-9, sec. 4; ASF, Off Div Engr, Atlantic Div, U.S. Army Bases: Newfoundland, p.VI-4.

57. Memo, USW Patterson for SW, 8 Apr 42; Memo, CofS for Gen Somervell, 23 Apr 42. Both in WDCSA 42-43 CDC.

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