The Northeast door at the Guantanamo bay U.S. Navy Base. (Bob Strong/Reuters)

I take it command of the marine Corps defense Force company aboard United states Naval Base, Guantanamo only on respectable 29, 2001. Guantanamo only was familiar to me -- I had deployed over there in 1993 together a young sublieutenant to assist with the care and security of end 13,000 Haitian emigrants plucked indigenous the Caribbean Sea. Basically an idyllic little town, the tight-knit ar welcomed me and also my family with ceremony and also a fair amount of celebrity, the appropriate formality for the senior Marine, yet something come which ns was personal unaccustomed. Ns was a huge fish in a tiny pond, though fairly junior in rank.

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A short fourteen job after acquisition command, still acquiring oriented to the requirements of the job, i watched on CNN together the second plane flew into the people Trade Center. Automatically grasping the definition of the act, i turned to my second-in-command, john Griffin. "We’re in ~ war,” ns said. Those words to be to prove prophetic, and this sleepy little corner the Cuba was around to beat a an essential role in the coming conflict.

How go Guantanamo Bay, a small military base that was because that Fidel Castro “a dagger plunged into the Cuban soil,” come to be what Donald Rumsfeld later declared “The the very least Worst Place” for a detention facility?


The Naval basic at Guantanamo Bay has actually garnered significant attention due to the fact that September 2001, yet its significance in Western history began lengthy before modern America. Christopher Columbus touched under in Guantanamo bay in 1494, top top his second voyage to the new World, browsing unsuccessfully for gold. Despite the explorer’s disappointment, the exploration of the safeguarded bay opened it as a for sure haven because that pirates and British navy alike in the years the followed.

America’s interest come later, during the Spanish-American battle in 1898, as soon as a battalion that 647 Marines landing at Guantanamo Bay and tied under 7,000 Spanish troops in Guantanamo City, for this reason protecting Teddy Roosevelt’s fee up san Juan Hill 40 mile to the west. Prefer the brother Navy prior to it, the U.S. Navy discovered the bay"s safeguarded waters useful, and in the treaty of 1903, the Cuban government agreed to lease defined areas approximately Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. For use as a marine station. This to be the beginning of the earliest U.S. Overseas base, and also the only one (to at some point be) top top Communist soil.

Signed by chairman Theodore Roosevelt, the early stage lease allowed the united state to add to the defense that Cuba v the maintenance of “coaling and also naval stations.” A vital element that this covenant was the passing to the United says of "complete jurisdiction and control over and also within said areas." The only restrictions on the United states were the the area be used only as a coaling and naval station, and vessels engaged in trade v Cuba would certainly retain cost-free passage v the bay encompassed by the reservation. A subsequent agreement, signed by president Roosevelt top top October 2, 1903, broadened on the initial lease, stipulating, among other things, a rental of two thousand dollars in gold every year, and also that fugitives indigenous Cuban justice, fleeing come the U.S. Reservation, would certainly be went back to Cuban authorities.

When the Fleet Training team departed in 1994-95, much of the base’s usefulness to the navy evaporated.

In the run up to world War II, the base expanded greatly. The steady acoustic problems for echo ranging made the sea locations close come Guantanamo Bay best for cultivate ships’ crew in anti-submarine warfare, and deploying convoys come the southern Atlantic. Post-WWII, the Fleet Training team was developed to train marine units, and also the excellent amphibious training opportunities listed by surrounding islands led to staging that the first Marine department at the marine base. The Fleet Training group was the bane of many a seafarer -- the Navy’s variation of finals and the satellite rolled right into one. Liberty in city was a welcome respite for sailors who spent long tours underway, maintain under the demanding and also often career-ending eye of the Fleet cultivate Group.The agreement, later shown by the treaty of 1934 in between the unified States and also Cuba, in effect gives the United states a perpetual lease on this reservation, capable of being voided only by ours abandoning the area or by common agreement between the two countries. After acquisition power, Castro refuse to identify the treaty that developed the base. He additionally refused come cash any type of of the U.S. Check after the just of Pigs occurrence in 1961. The Castro government maintains the the perpetual lease provision of the contract of 1934 because that the basic is illegal.

That off-base liberty concerned an abrupt finish with the kidnapping, ~ above June 27, 1958, of 29 Sailors and Marines by Cuban rebel forces under Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, six months prior to they got victory end the Batista government. Through diplomatic efforts, the hostages to be released 21 days later, uninjured. Throughout the just of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban Missile crisis that complied with Castro’s ascent to power, tensions between the U.S. And also Cuba soared. The events led to the joined States’ decision to create at Guantanamo only a permanent base the Marines augmented with artillery, tanks, and also attack aircraft. Defensive lines of fortifications and also obstacles were created in order to slow-moving the possible advance of Cuban pressures while civilians and non-combatants could be evacuated and the basic reinforced native the U.S.

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But, together we know, that attack never came. Once the Fleet Training team departed in 1994-95, much of the base’s usefulness to the navy evaporated. Some felt much of what the base listed could be change to Roosevelt roads in Puerto Rico or navy bases state-side. The Navy’s solution to the reduced usefulness the Guantanamo was a program called Minimum shaft Performance or MPP. For the Navy, it expected the base was in a caretaker status, with just the barest of resources to keep the provisions the the 1934 treaty. The treaty would certainly be the radical -- under press from the department of State, the Navy would certainly not minimize the base past its capacity to comply v the treaty"s tenets. As beforehand as 1996, discussions were ongoing within the marine Corps about the elimination or palliation of the place in Guantanamo -- a natural continuation of the Gulf war downsizing. These interior conversations focused on the late of a non-existent danger from the Cuban pressures arrayed roughly the base. This forces, ostensibly to respond to the U.S. Presence, actually served the primary purpose of preventing Cuban asylum seekers.