CHAPTER XV

Manning and Organizing

the New Atlantic Bases

Newfoundland on the northern flank, Trinidad on the southern, and Bermuda in the center were the first of the new Atlantic bases to be garrisoned. The first contingent arrived in Newfoundland in January 1941, ahead of the construction forces, and in April the first garrison troops arrived in Trinidad and Bermuda, only a few weeks after the advance party of construction people.

The timing was not exactly what the War Department had at first envisaged. In spite of the pessimism over the chances of Britain's winning the war which in September 1940 still colored the War Department's estimate of the situation, General Marshall laid down the dictum that garrisons would riot be sent to the Atlantic bases until construction was well advanced. Some definite threat to the base sites might require the dispatch of a garrison prematurely, but this was a possibility that could apparently be waited for.1

The Garrisons and Their Mission

It was at the suggestion of General Embick, senior U.S. Army member of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, United States and Canada, that a garrison was sent to Newfoundland before the bases there were scarcely under construction. The board, recognizing Newfoundland as an especially vital area, had assumed that the United States would send forces for its defense "at the earliest practicable date." 2  When the subject came up for discussion during a conference in the Chief of Staff's office on 12 September, General Embick urged that they be sent without waiting for the bases to be completed, and on the next day G-3 was directed to consider the matter.3

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The principal consideration, apart from factors of strategy and available forces and of immediate deployment as opposed to training for the future, was the question of housing. When reinforcements had been sent to Anchorage, Alaska, in June 1940, it had been necessary to house them in tents for a month or so until barracks were available. But Anchorage in midsummer was very different from Newfoundland in winter, and it would be many months before suitable accommodations could be erected in Newfoundland. The enactment of the Selective Service law was bringing this question of Army housing into the glare of public interest, which would have flamed quickly into public criticism, loud and widespread, had American soldiers been sent to Newfoundland with nothing but tents as shelter against the rigors of winter. An alternative to housing the troops in tents lay apparently unnoticed among the pages of the Greenslade Board Report: that a vessel be chartered and used as a floating barracks at St. John's until accommodations were provided on shore. Col. Douglas C. Cordiner, chief of the Water Transport Branch in the Transportation Division of the Quartermaster Corps, seems to have had the same thought quite independently.4  This solution was finally adopted. The large but antiquated ocean liner America, taken over from Germany during the first World War, was refitted and renamed the Edmund B. Alexander. After a longer delay than had been expected, she finally left New York on 20 January 1941 and made her way slowly northeastward with the first contingent of the Newfoundland garrison: 58 officers and gig enlisted men principally of the 3d Infantry, 62d Coast Artillery (AA), and 57th Coast Artillery under the command of Col. Maurice D. Welty. Their task was to defend, in co-operation with the Canadian and Newfoundland troops, the city and harbor of St. John's.5

No further steps toward manning the Atlantic defenses were taken until April 1941, when the first units went to Bermuda and Trinidad and reinforcements were dispatched to Newfoundland. The impetus then came from the President.

During the intervening months the focus of American military plan-

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Photo: THE ARMY TRANSPORT, EDMUND B. ALEXANDER, leaves New York for Newfoundland.

THE ARMY TRANSPORT, EDMUND B. ALEXANDER, leaves New York for Newfoundland.

ning had shifted. The probability now was that England and the British Fleet could withstand the German war machine, that if the United States were forced into the war (and there was a tendency to substitute "when" for "if") it could be as an ally of an undefeated Britain. With this the probability, the ABC-1 agreement had been concerted to the end that American power might be brought to bear against the Axis in Europe. The Atlantic islands, already considered essential as outlying bastions of defense in the event of a British collapse, could serve equally well the interests of attack, as bases for the projection of American power eastward or for the protection of this eastward advance. But the architects of Army strategy were not yet ready to blueprint the course of the eventual offensive by garrisoning the islands as advance bases; and the more convinced they were that Britain and the British Fleet would hold out, the less urgent it seemed to man the bases as outlying bastions of hemisphere defense. As late as 31 March they had no expectation of sending reinforcements to Newfoundland or any forces to any of the other

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bases before the first of July.6  Furthermore, however one viewed the Atlantic bases, the Army's strength in trained men and in ammunition was still limited. To disperse the available forces at this time would, it was feared, disrupt the training of the larger army that would some day be needed.

While the Anglo-American staff conferences were going on in Washington, the Battle of the Atlantic had taken an extremely critical turn. In Admiral Stark's opinion it had become, in fact, "hopeless except as we take strong measures to save it." 7  Four of the most powerful surface vessels of the German Navy-the pocket battleship Scheer, the heavy battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and the 8-inch cruiser Admiral Hipper---were on the loose, prowling the Atlantic sea lanes and adding serious destruction to the mounting toll of the U-boat packs.8  Submarine attacks could be countered by light escort vessels; but the German surface raiders, whether in refuge or at sea, presented a different threat, one that only capital ships or strong cruiser and carrier forces could meet. Admiral Stark had not at all exaggerated the seriousness of the situation. By March it seemed to him only a matter of at most two months before the United States would be at war, "possibly undeclared," with Germany and Italy; although the Army at this time was counting on at least five months' grace. Admiral Stark discussed his analysis with the President on 2 April and again the next day, thrashed out the steps to be taken, and was told to adopt the strong measures he thought were required: to draw up plans for escort of convoy west of longitude 30 west and issue orders for the transfer into the Atlantic of a heavy striking force, including three battleships, from the Pacific.9  The destructive forays of the Scharnhorstand Gneisenau had given President Roosevelt an understandable concern for the safety of the American bases, particularly those which were most exposed or of most value to the Navy-Bermuda, Trinidad,

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and Newfoundland. On 7 April he directed the Secretary of War to have Newfoundland reinforced and to send garrisons to Bermuda and Trinidad immediately.10

In quick succession, two other steps followed. On 9 April Secretary of State Hull and the Danish Minister in Washington signed an agreement under which the United States undertook the defense of Greenland and was granted the right to establish any facilities considered necessary for that purpose or for the defense of the North American continent. Then, on 14 April, Mr. Harry L. Hopkins and Under Secretary of State Welles met with the Icelandic consul general in Washington and reopened the question of defending Iceland, a question which both the State and War Departments had hitherto regarded with a noncommittal attitude.11  In the meantime, Mr. Hopkins had been casting about for some way of using the Atlantic bases for delivering lend-lease materials to the British. He had discussed with his chief legal assistant, Mr. Oscar Sydney Cox, the possibility of convoys, of transshipping goods within the western hemisphere, even of transporting goods in public vessels. Although their discussions reached no firm conclusion, they were closely tied in with the developments of April, if only by reason of their contemporaneousness.

The War Department had immediately set about making the preliminary arrangements for sending the garrisons. Heavy coast artillery, bombers, and sufficient infantry to repel landing parties appeared to be the answer to the particular threat seen by the President. His special concern for the safety of Bermuda gave that base the highest priority and evoked an admonition to the War Department to "get planes there as soon as any place can be prepared." 12 There were as yet no facilities, however, for land plane operations and no housing at the base site. Fortunately, one of Bermuda's large, modern resort hotels, the Castle Harbour, was available for lease. Conveniently situated about two miles across the harbor from the site of the Army base, it could accommodate approximately 1,000 men. But for the time being, air defense would have to be limited to the three patrol bombers stationed at Great Sound, which the Navy agreed to make available for purposes of local de-

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fense, assisted, whenever their ship was in port, by the dive bombers of the Atlantic Fleet carrier that was to be based there.13  The situation was somewhat better in Trinidad. There too the Army base would not be ready for occupancy for several weeks at the earliest, but a camp site suitable for troops was available in Queens Park, on the outskirts of Port of Spain; and a limited number of bombers could be accommodated at Piarco Field, the commercial airport. In Newfoundland, thanks to the airport at Gander and the fact that an American garrison was already at St. John's, less improvisation would be necessary. Operating facilities for a bomber squadron together with quarters for the men were to be ready at Gander by 19 April, and additional ground troops to the number of about one thousand could be housed on board the Edmund B. Alexander. Reinforcements thus presented no great problem. Transports were to be available during the month on the dates set for each move.14 The consent of the British Government to the stationing of troops outside the leased areas was given without delay. By 8 April only one detail remained to be worked out, the choice of officers to command the Bermuda and Trinidad forces, and this was taken care of the next day.15

The recommendations of the War Plans Division as to the strength and composition of the respective forces were not accepted in their entirety. The infantry units for Bermuda and Trinidad were scaled down to one company each, and no B-17's were available for Newfoundland. Furthermore, owing to the President's desire to speed the defenses of Bermuda, the sailing dates of the Newfoundland and Bermuda contingents were interchanged.16

The Bermuda force of some 860 men, comprising Company G, 11th Infantry, Battery F, 52d Coast Artillery, and Battery B, 57th Coast Artillery, and commanded by Col. Alden G. Strong, landed in Bermuda on Sunday, 20 April. It had been preceded, a week before, by Brig. Gen. Francis B. Wilby, chief of staff of the First Army, and Lt. Col. Harold F. Loomis of the War Plans Division, who had been surveying the general situation and choosing sites for the coast defense guns and who now were among those on hand to

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welcome Colonel Strong and his men. Within a few hours after he arrived, Colonel Strong had drawn up in collaboration with Capt. Jules James, USN, commandant of the naval base, a joint plan for the defense of the islands, for which he disposed his troops as follows: one 2-gun battery of the 8-inch coast defense guns was to be placed at Fort Victoria, on St. George's Island, and another on Somerset Island, not far from the U.S. naval base; a like-sized battery of 155-mm. guns was to be placed on Cooper's Island, near the Army base, and another on Hamilton Island, in the vicinity of Riddle's Bay; and the infantry company, quartered in the Castle Harbour Hotel, was to be the mobile reserve.17

The air unit of the Trinidad garrison was the next to reach its destination. On 24 April some 432 men of the 1st Bomber Squadron arrived from Panama on board the USAT Chateau Thierry. They set up a tent camp at Piarco Field, where the planes arrived on 28 April, about the time the ground units were leaving New York. The arrival of the latter at Port of Spain on 5 May brought the total garrison to about 1,487 men, under the command of General Talbot. The principal ground elements were one battalion, 252d Coast Artillery, 155-mm., and a rifle company of the 11th Infantry. A site was chosen for the artillery on Chacachacare Island, at the northern entrance to the Gulf of Paria, but for the time being most of the men were housed in a tent camp on recently reclaimed land near the Port of Spain docks.18

Meanwhile, on 1 May the Newfoundland force consisting of some 646 officers and enlisted men had arrived at St. John's. Six B-18's of the 21st Reconnaissance Squadron were flown from Miami to Gander, and the remainder of the force sailed from New York on board the USAT Leonard Wood, Apart from the air unit, the principal component was the coastal defense battery, a unit of the 52d Coast Artillery, whose 8-inch railway guns were to be the backbone of the harbor defenses.19

Much valuable planning experience that would have been useful when the Iceland occupation was undertaken later in the year could have been gained had the Newfoundland, Bermuda, and Trinidad movements been

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carried out as task forces. As it was, the preparations resembled those made for a routine change of station. Instead of an operations plan, the commanding officers were given a Defense Project, drawn up by the War Plans Division, in which the mission of the Army forces, the available strength, and other pertinent military and geographical data were set forth.

The primary mission-to defend the United States military and naval installations-was clear. The corollary-to deny hostile forces an approach to the eastern seaboard or the Caribbean-was almost equally clear, whether expressly stated, as in the case of Bermuda and Trinidad, or implicit, as in the case of Newfoundland.20 The perplexing element was the question of the steps to be taken at the appearance of German warships or planes. Secretary Stimson, on 24 April, proposed to instruct the base commanders that any such forces approaching within twenty-five miles of a British possession in which an American base was located must be warned, and that, if the warning went unheeded, the vessel or plane should be "immediately attacked with all available means." 21 Although the President put his "O.K." on the proposed instructions, he directed Secretary Stimson to show them to the Navy. As a result the formal directive drafted for The Adjutant General by the War Plans Division on r May was withheld by the Chief of Staff for discussion with Admiral Stark and Under Secretary of State Welles. After an attempt to put through a revised draft which omitted reference to the 25-mile zone, the tear Plans Division learned that the President wanted all mention of American forces opening fire eliminated also. Secretary of State Hull thought the President's views would be best followed by having the base commanders report by radio and ask for instructions when "hostile" forces appeared; but from a military point of view such a procedure would have been unrealistic.22 Finally, Lt. Col. Robert W. Crawford, head of the War Plans Division Projects Group, and Mr. Green Haywood Hackworth, of the State Department's legal staff, agreed on a draft which they thought would meet the views of the President and Secretary Hull, but which Secretary Stimson apparently found too ambiguous. He changed it to read as follows:

In case any force of belligerent powers other than those powers which have sovereignty over Western Hemisphere territory attacks or threatens to attack any British

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possession on which any United States air or naval base is located, the commanding officer of the Army Base Force shall resist such attack, using all means at his disposal.23

And in this form, the instructions went out from the War Department on 10 May.24

The question of what constituted a threatened attack remained vague until midsummer. Then, during the planning for the Iceland movements, the President revived the idea of an interdicted zone, of fifty miles, within which the presence of Axis forces would be considered as evidence of hostile intentions and justification for attack. This was a "shoot on sight" policy in all but name, and on 11 September the President announced it as such. By the end of October 1941 American forces were committed to the task of destroying all German and Italian vessels or planes encountered anywhere in the western Atlantic.25

Added responsibility had fallen on the Newfoundland garrison in early June when the Air Corps Ferrying Command was created and a military air transport service was begun across the North Atlantic. General Embick, who in the past had not been entirely in sympathy with the Air Corps' expanding conception of its role, and who as the Army representative on the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, United States and Canada, had participated in drafting the mission of the Newfoundland force, was of the opinion that the security of the ferry route and the protection of transport operations were purely incidental. Both General Drum and General Arnold insisted that this mission was of equal importance to that of defending the base installations.26 The matter was discussed by General Arnold and members of the Air Staff and of the War Plans Division on 21 August; and the conclusion was reached that no change in the mission need be made for the time being. It was, it seemed, sufficiently comprehensive to cover the situation.

Problems of Organization and Command

At the beginning of 1940, before the Atlantic bases were acquired and before the Alaska defenses were built up, the Army's overseas garrisons were organized into the four departments: the Panama Canal Department and

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the Puerto Rican Department in the Caribbean, the Hawaiian Department in the Pacific, and the Philippine Department in the Far East. They were primarily designed to provide local defense. The wider operations that would be necessary in time of war were to be conducted by theater commanders under the direct control of GHQ, and into this chain of organization and command the various base forces would be linked. No provision, however, had yet been made for the twilight time between war and peace which the United States was about to enter. When the first reinforcements went to Alaska in mid-1940, they were kept under the tactical commander most interested in that area, General DeWitt, the commanding general of the Fourth Army and Ninth Corps Area.27 Alaska served as a precedent for Newfoundland and Bermuda.

Both Newfoundland and Bermuda were intimately tied in with the defense of the northeastern seaboard, the responsibility for which rested with the Commanding General, First Army. Both garrisons, except troops engaged in construction work under the immediate supervision of the Chief of Engineers, were therefore attached to the First Army. Each was responsible for its own supply, which was to be provided by the Second Corps area to the same extent as for units of the field forces within the corps area.28

After some discussion by one of General Marshall's deputies with the heads of the several staff divisions, it had been decided that the only designation that would not be a source of confusion with the Navy was the rather unwieldy one, U.S. Troops in Newfoundland (or Bermuda, as the case might be).29 But the official orders, a week later, designated the Newfoundland force as the Newfoundland Base Command, U.S. Army, and the same terminology was used later for the Bermuda and Trinidad garrisons.

In the Caribbean, the need of an integrated regional command as well as unity of command was obvious if the new bases were to play a part in the defense of that area. A "defense command," with the organizational features of a theater of operations, was the answer to the regional side of the problem, and on 10 February 1941 the Caribbean Defense Command officially came into being. It became the foster parent of the Trinidad garrison on 18 April when the latter, now formally designated the Trinidad Base Command, was assigned to the Caribbean Defense Command. All the

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Antilles south of Martinique, the Dutch islands off the Venezuelan coast, together with Venezuela itself and British Guiana, Surinam, and French Guiana were grouped together into a Trinidad Sector of the Caribbean Defense, Command under General Talbot, who thus occupied a dual position.30 The other side of the problem-unity of command- was a perennial troublemaker, one which involved the arrangements not only for the entire region but within the respective base commands as well. The authority of the commanding officers of the various bases over the air units assigned to them was, in the Caribbean, limited by the regional air command, and the bounds of authority were not always distinct. It was therefore a source of misunderstanding and frustration for the local commanding officers.31

In Newfoundland, on the other hand, where a unit of the First Air Force was placed under the direct command of an infantry colonel and, on a higher level, of the Commanding General, First Army, the command arrangements in their entirety were not to the liking of the Air Corps. General Spaatz, chief of Air Corps Plans Division, argued that these arrangements would make it difficult to co-ordinate activities with those of the Royal Canadian Air Force, that they would hamper the control of transient plane movements, and complicate joint operations with the air units that might be sent to Greenland.32 They were an obvious setback to the Air Corps' drive for centralized control of its striking forces. According to General Spaatz, the solution would be to place all air units in Newfoundland under the Commanding General, First Air Force, and to leave only routine supply and administration to the Commanding General, First Army. Neither the War Plans Division nor G-3 concurred. Although they were agreeable to making the Air Corps responsible for technical supply and the supervision of training activities, both the War Plans Division and G-3 opposed any further change in the command arrangements. General Arnold's views were an exact reiteration of the position taken by General Spaatz. A new element, the question of air reinforcements, was injected into the problem when the War Plans Division suggested that in the event of an attack or the threat of one the base commander be authorized to call directly on the Commanding General, First Air Force, for air reinforcements. But this likewise failed to meet the approval of General Arnold, who in a memorandum to the Chief of Staff on 23 May proposed that in case of an attack all units, ground as

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well as air, become a task force commanded by the senior officer present and operating under the theater commander.33 Part of the problem was thus shunted over to the procedural level where more likelihood of reaching a compromise was to be expected.

When General Arnold advocated unity of command over combat operations, he was resting on a principle on which General Marshall himself placed the utmost reliance, but which had conventionally involved only Army or Navy command. Nevertheless, in view of the Chief of Staff's partiality toward a functional allocation, the Air Corps believed it could be fairly certain of obtaining command where operations were principally air.

During these last days of May 1941 there were signs that the North Atlantic area might soon take on greater significance. Plans for sending a garrison to Greenland were completed. There was the possibility of a move into the Azores. Then, at a conference on 4 June, General Marshall informed his staff that the President had resolved to send American forces to Iceland.

The Newfoundland problem was taken up during the same conference, and the decision was reached to organize the Newfoundland Base Command as a task force under the direct control of GHQ as soon as GHQ took on its normal command functions. A general officer of the Air Corps, it was decided, would be given command of the force.34 The steps to put the decision into effect were taken in July. On the first of the month, Brig. Gen. Henry W. Harms, who had been commandant of the Air Corps training center at Moffett Field, Calif., was designated Commanding General, Newfoundland Base Command. Two days later GHQ was given command of Army task forces and the control of military operations. On 8 July, the Newfoundland Base Command was designated a task force, to operate directly under GHQ, and The Adjutant General was directed to notify GHQ to assume command, relieving the Commanding General, First Army, as of 10 July. Similar instructions were also issued placing the Bermuda Base Command under GHQ.35

Neither the Air Corps nor GHQ was completely satisfied with the arrangement, and a number of changes were proposed. General McNair,

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chief of staff of GHQ recommended a North Atlantic Defense Command consisting of Newfoundland, Labrador, Greenland, and Iceland and with logistics as well as operations under the control of GHQ The Air Corps promoted a Northeastern Air Theater, with the Newfoundland air units placed directly under the Commanding General, Air Force Combat Command. As for Bermuda, the Supply Division of the General Staff (G-4) recommended that it be included in the Caribbean Defense Command. The War Plans Division favored leaving things as they were.36

No agreement was reached on any one of the proposed changes. Falling back instead on the War Plans Division suggestion of the previous May, General Marshall authorized the Newfoundland Base commander to bypass the normal channel, which ran through GHQ and to call directly on the First Air Force when, in an emergency, air reinforcements were urgently needed.37  Otherwise the command situation remained as it was when GHQ had first called attention to it. The War Plans Division, the Second Corps Area, Middletown Depot, the Chief of Engineers, and the Chief of Army Air Forces were all linked in some fashion to the chain of command and supply; and the United States-Canadian Permanent Joint Board on Defense had a measure of responsibility for the defense plan. What was left for GHQ General McNair pointed out, was merely "such inspection and coordination as is practicable under the circumstances." 38

A fouled chain of command was not, however, the major difficulty. Regardless of the palliatives that had been recommended, the fact remained that GHQ had been given a job to do without all the means it considered, necessary for accomplishing the task. The remedy was either to "streamline" the War Department and establish a "command post" within the General Staff or to enlarge the authority of GHQ but a difference of opinion involving the very nature of GHQ's mission brought on further complications. That GHQ had been called into being presupposed the existence of an

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emergency and more than suggested the imminence of combat operations. Proceeding on this basis, and recognizing the significance of the North Atlantic area, GHQ was attempting to have theaters of operations established well in advance of actual hostilities. Its efforts were thwarted, it believed, by procrastination and myopia in the General Staff. 39 An investigation of the basic problem was begun in the War Department, and in order to provide "a better understanding of the prospective development of command" the Caribbean Defense Command was placed under GHQ control, effective 1 December 1941.40 What actually developed thereafter was a drastic reorganization of the War Department.

In the meantime, during the summer and fall of 1941, garrisons were being sent out to British Guiana, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Jamaica, for construction had progressed to the point where some protection seemed to be required either against external attack or, as in the case of Jamaica, against strike and riot damage.

Early Administrative Problems

Many of the "housekeeping" chores and administrative problems that arose in the Atlantic bases had also plagued the commanders of all the new and rapidly mushrooming Army camps in the continental United States. Overcrowded, inadequate housing, dust and mud, isolated surroundings, and shortages of equipment slowed down activities, depressed the spirits of the men, and frayed the tempers of commanding officers in Massachusetts or New Jersey as well as in Trinidad or Bermuda, and in Georgia as in Newfoundland. But circumstances of geography and politics magnified the more familiar problems and gave rise to new ones that had no recent precedent in Army experience.

Throughout 1941 housing was an object of careful study in the War Department and a source of frequent communications with the base commanders, none of whom wished to keep his men in tents for any length of time. The War Department, which was keeping its eye on accommodations for the authorized garrisons, seems to have been particularly concerned over the reduction the President made in the permanent housing planned for

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Photo: FIRST TROOPS IN TRINIDAD. Tent camp at Fort Read.

FIRST TROOPS IN TRINIDAD. Tent camp at Fort Read (top). Machine gunners wearing mosquito nets during maneuvers (bottom).

Photo: FIRST TROOPS IN TRINIDAD. Machine gunners wearing mosquito nets during maneuvers.

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Photo: INSTALLATIONS IN NEWFOUNDLAND. Barracks at Fort Pepperrell.

INSTALLATIONS IN NEWFOUNDLAND. Barracks at Fort Pepperrell (top). U.S. Army supply dock, St. John's harbor (bottom).

Photo: INSTALLATIONS IN NEWFOUNDLAND. U.S. Army .supply dock, St. John's harbor.

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Bermuda. Tents were entirely unsuitable, reported Colonel Strong, the commanding officer, for severe hurricanes could be expected about once a year and there would be long periods of wet, windy weather which, if the men were in tents, would raise the rate of illness.41  Consequently, in July the district engineer was authorized to divert a part of the construction effort to erecting temporary barracks. In Trinidad, the construction of temporary barracks at Fort Read began a few weeks after the arrival of the troops. At the same time, General Talbot on his own initiative negotiated an arrangement with the, British governor which gave the base command a temporary cantonment area on the outskirts of Port of Spain. Early in June the garrison at St. John's, Newfoundland, was evicted from its quarters on board the Edmund B. Alexander and went into a tent camp outside the city. No temporary housing was authorized for the Newfoundland garrison, but its permanent quarters at Fort Pepperrell were expected to be ready before winter set in. In spite of reinforcements during the second half of the year, the housing situation was under fair control by December. Perhaps 150 men were still in tents at the temporary coast defense sites in Bermuda, while in Newfoundland about half the St. John's garrison had moved into permanent quarters. About 500 men were in temporary barracks that had apparently been taken over from the construction people. Housing for the remainder was promised during December. About half the Trinidad garrison were in barracks by 1 November, and each week saw sizable numbers transferred out of the tent camp. At the secondary bases temporary housing was available for two or three times the number of troops that were there. 42.

Uncertain port conditions in Newfoundland, inadequate rail communications with Gander airport, the lack of shipping for local transportation between Panama and Trinidad and between Trinidad and the outlying bases, and restrictions on the purchase of local commodities served to complicate the supply problem. The rehabilitation of the Newfoundland Railway, first taken under study by the Permanent Joint Board on Defense as early as January 1941, was of interest to several agencies, and some duplication of effort occurred when both the Newfoundland Base Command and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation made a survey of the physical needs

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of the railroad. New rolling stock, financed by the United States, began to ease the situation late in 1941. Harbor improvements at St. John's and Argentia were a much-needed and welcome supplement.43 In Trinidad, General Talbot was concerned from the start about the storage space provided for perishable supplies. It would have to be increased, he reported, unless a better shipping schedule could be worked out. In any event, the existing space would be inadequate, he continued, for any reinforcements that might be added to his command.44 As temporary remedies, the Office of The Quartermaster General considered obtaining a refrigerated ship to be used for storage and allocating funds for the purchase of local products, but apparently the cold storage plant under construction by the Engineers was completed before these measures were taken. All the same, the refrigeration problem was still unsolved, according to Talbot, at the end of August.45  In reporting the supply situation to The Quartermaster General in May, General Talbot pointed out with some understatement that the local gasoline supply was "adequate" and shipments from the United States should be immediately discontinued. It would have been no exaggeration had he said that shipping gasoline to Trinidad was a far more wasteful and senseless effort than carrying coals to Newcastle, which in fact had sometimes been a profitable venture. But the restrictive provisions of the "Buy American" Act of 3 March 1933 had been interpreted by the War Department as applying to products used in the leased bases. Although the Secretary of War could authorize the purchase, without regard to country of origin, of goods not produced in the United States of satisfactory quality or in sufficient and reasonably available quantities, nevertheless not many products had been certified as coming in this category.46  When the problem of supplying air bases in the Philippines, in Hawaii, in Alaska, in the West Indies, and in the North Atlantic began to assume tremendous proportions in the summer of 1941, both War Plans Division and the Air Corps. raised the question of lifting the provisions of the law as far as the overseas bases were concerned. This step was not taken until after the United States entered the war; but for the meantime a long

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list of commodities, including aviation gasoline and petroleum products in general, was exempted by authority of the Secretary of War on 30 July 1941.47

In October, General Andrews, the new commanding general of the Caribbean Defense Command, recommended a change in supply procedure. Consideration of the question whether the commanding officers of the various base commands should deal with the Second Corps Area directly or through the headquarters of the Caribbean Defense Command had resulted in GHQ's suggesting that the Caribbean Defense Command take over the responsibilities originally entrusted to the Second Corps Area and build up a supply depot at Panama for the entire area. Just as unwilling as his predecessor had been to make Panama the hub of a Caribbean theater, General Andrews disagreed with GHQ's suggestion and recommended instead that depots be established in Puerto Rico and Trinidad for supplying all bases in the respective sectors.48 His proposal circulated within the War Department for six weeks, receiving the concurrence of the interested staff divisions and also of GHQ and finally the official approval of the Chief of Staff. On 23 December 1941, GHQ was informed that the Second Corps Area would be relieved of the administration and supply of the Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia, Trinidad, and British Guiana Base Commands at a time to be designated later. St. Lucia and British Guiana were to be placed under the Trinidad Base Command, as Andrews had suggested; Antigua and Jamaica were to come under the Puerto Rican Department for supply. Six months later, in June 1942, the commanding general of the Caribbean Defense Command was authorized to establish general depots in Trinidad and Puerto Rico within the limits of existing or already authorized facilities.49

One of the burdens that fell hard on the staff officers of the base commands, and chiefly on the chaplains and medical officers, was the censoring of mail. By midsummer 1941, some 39,000 letters and nearly ,1,000 packages were passing through the post office of the Bermuda Base Command each month. In Trinidad the volume was only slightly less. The mail of the construction people as well as that of the military was examined by the

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base censors in Bermuda; but in Trinidad the civilian mail was censored by employees of the contractors under the immediate supervision of the district engineer. In the one case, mails were delayed as much as five days; and in the other, there were complaints among the contractors' people against the integrity of their fellow employees in the censorship office.50 During the fall of 1941 the base censors were authorized to employ civilian examiners. The Bermuda censorship office came to be staffed principally by the wives of men stationed there, which posed a special problem after the attack on Pearl Harbor when the evacuation of dependents was undertaken.51 Censorship caught the usual careless disclosure of restricted information and, perhaps more important, gave the commanding officer a steadier finger on the pulse of his men. On the other side of the picture, the historical officer of the Trinidad Sector has criticized censorship operations in his sector on grounds that they were inflexible and overly meticulous and gave rise to "considerable resentment" among the troops.52  But such is the lot of a censor.

No troops had ever had more thought devoted to their physical welfare than the American Army of 1940-41.53  So much importance was attached to it that comfortable housing, a plentiful supply of good food and equipment, recreation facilities, and the like, took on an intrinsic worth, in pursuit of which other factors were sometimes lost to sight. The Army made every effort to ease the physical hardships of service in the jungles of Trinidad and British Guiana or on the fog-swept coasts of Newfoundland; but its failure to provide for the emotional needs of men surrounded by a wholly strange environment was as dismal as the situations that often resulted. Too little cognizance was taken of the incapacity of Americans generally to adapt their ways to those of strangers or to take comfort and serious interest in unfamiliar surroundings. Too little attention was given to preparing the men for the antipathy of a local populace, however friendly, toward any foreign garrison, however well-intentioned. By any test of physical comfort, Bermuda should have had no "morale" problems, but as time went on complaints were made and incidents took place that paralleled those elsewhere. Wherever the men sought recreation among the townspeople, as they were accustomed to doing in the United States, brawls and similar unpleasantness

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were bound to occur. Off-post recreation facilities operated by local committees varied in the service they performed. In Jamaica, the local effort was received enthusiastically; in Bermuda, the local service club was charged with price-gouging and discrimination.

During the fall of 1941 the United Service Organizations (USO) extended its operations to the Atlantic bases.54  The USO recreation centers helped to allay the tediousness and boredom of the men's leisure time but had less effect on the attitude of townsfolk and garrison toward each other. For its solution, this, like most of the problems, required the closest co-operation between the commanding officers and the local authorities.

The conduct of official relations rested on the base agreement of 27 March 1941; but, not being a treaty, the base agreement was inferior to local legislation, and any laws that failed to conform to the agreement stood until repealed by act of the colonial authorities. The objections raised by representatives of the colonies during the negotiations foreshadowed, and the lack of enthusiasm with which the colonies received the agreement further indicated, that any conflict of law would not easily be corrected. Instead of enacting a general nullifying ordinance, the colonies preferred to deal with specific conflicts as they arose. The remission of customs duties and local taxes under Articles XIV and XVII of the base agreement was not enacted by the Bermuda legislature until 27 June, exactly three months after the agreement came into effect. Even then there was only a partial conformity. Bermuda continued to levy duties on bulk petroleum products not consigned direct to the Army and Navy and on household effects and personal belongings. Various wharfage charges were assessed on goods destined for the bases, and a stamp tax was levied on bank checks and steamship tickets. At the end of 1941 the State Department was still pressing for determination of a few of the matters.55  In Trinidad a similar stamp tax was one of a number of controversial questions still outstanding at the end of September. Among these, the failure of the Trinidad Government to grant the right of audience in local courts to United States counsel took on urgent importance when an American soldier was charged with the murder of a

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Trinidad civilian.56  But, as it turned out, the question of audience was submerged in that of jurisdiction.

This affair concerned a shooting that had taken place in the town of Arima, outside the leased area in Trinidad, and involved a jurisdictional issue that was not specifically covered by the base agreement. In a similar case that had arisen in Antigua a few weeks earlier, both the United States and the British Government recognized the right of the other to try the alleged offender, a U.S. marine. If the precedent established in that instance were to be followed, the representative of the State Department would ask the local authorities whether they objected to a trial by court-martial and would inform them at the same time that the United States had no objection to their making a public statement to the effect that in recognizing American jurisdiction they were not renouncing the concurrent jurisdiction of the local court.57 But the precedent was not closely followed. The Secretary of the colony, acting as Governor of Trinidad in the temporary absence of Sir Hubert Young, was reluctant to raise the question of jurisdiction, although he was pressed by the Legislative Council to do so. When he asked General Talbot for a letter that would quiet any public agitation, the general responded readily enough, but he too preferred to let the issue lie. Instead of acknowledging the fact of dual jurisdiction, General Talbot replied with assurances that the prisoner would be given a public trial, by a military court, to which representatives of the colonial government would be invited.58 Whether this would have had the effect the acting governor hoped was never put to test, for the letter had not been made public when Governor Young returned and immediately brought the jurisdictional issue before the American consul. The Governor suggested that he make a statement with the approval of the United States Government similar to the one issued by the Antigua authorities. The consul, having received no instructions, referred the matter to the State Department. Meanwhile, the preliminaries to the trial had already begun. Three or four days before the military court convened the Governor agreed that it was now too late to do anything except issue a formal press release waiving jurisdiction, which he would do provided the consul repeated General Talbot's announcement of the court-mar-

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tial, and this was done. Then, on 19 November, the War Department instructed Talbot to postpone the trial until the Governor issued a public statement such as he wished, to the effect that recognition of court-martial jurisdiction was not a renunciation of the concurrent jurisdiction of the local court. But the trial had started the day before.59

The result of the proceedings, which ended in the acquittal of the accused soldier, did nothing to appease the Governor's dissatisfaction. He urged, as he had in the beginning, that in future cases involving dual jurisdiction the Trinidad Government be informed in good time of the steps taken, that this be done through the American consulate, and that a definite procedure be settled upon by which requests for any waiver of jurisdiction could be given due consideration.60

A successful modus vivendi between the American authorities and the local government required a measure of co-operation and mutual understanding seldom achieved in Trinidad until after the United States entered the war. There was scarcely the best of teamwork between the American consulate and the headquarters of the base command. In transmitting to the War Department one of the consular dispatches relating to the shooting affair at Arima, the Secretary of State invited attention to the arrangement between the two departments under which "it was agreed that the American consul at Trinidad should be the intermediary in matters relating to the defense bases and that all communications to the Governor should be sent through him.61 This had been agreed upon early in June, and on at least five occasions thereafter General Talbot had been directed to comply with it.62 There was even less teamwork between the general and the Governor. Both were of the same cut of cloth, blunt and outspoken in their opinions; each was insistent that the prestige of his own government could best be upheld by not yielding to the other; neither believed in appeasement. When the Governor refused the right of audience to American military counsel, the general retaliated by refusing to permit the service of summonses on American military personnel.63

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At the other bases temporary agreements were worked out with the local authorities in a spirit of compromise. There was close co-operation between the American consulate general and Army headquarters in Bermuda, and the vigorous efforts of the consul general, ably seconded by Colonel Strong, were successful in bringing about a satisfactory disposition of the tax and customs questions. Although the Governor was not to be hurried into removing the legislative obstacles, a working compromise was agreed upon, the final decision being left to Washington and London. In Newfoundland, the consul general seems to have taken very little active part in matters relating to the bases. Until the arrival of the new consul general in July 1941, and afterwards to a lesser extent, both the district engineer and the commanding officer of the garrison dealt directly with the Newfoundland Commissioners on many questions. They took the same approach that had been followed in Bermuda, but the situation was clouded at times by the presence of Canadian forces, by the role of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, and by changes of command, of consular officers, and in the Newfoundland Commission of Government.64

In retrospect, the 1941 experience in establishing the defense outposts in the Atlantic leaves one with the distinct impression that the greatest flaws were in the sphere of social relations. Plans for the construction and defense of the bases were drawn up with due attention to needs and resources and rested on a solid basis of firsthand information competently assembled. The construction program was fairly prompt in getting under way. If its progress was not all that the most optimistic hoped, it was perhaps because the goal had been placed too far off. In the seeming emergency of April 1941 troops reached the bases in rather quick order, and when the real crisis broke in December the airfields were ready for their part in the Battle of the Atlantic. These technical problems of engineering and defense were no less complicated, no more important, than the social problem, which deserved far more attention than it received. No attempt seems to have been made to prepare the men in advance for the social and physical environment in which

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they were to live. In the selection of units the only deference to local sensibilities was the decision not to send Negro troops to the West Indian bases, a decision that was amended in April 1942 without undue disturbance. The attitude of white troops toward the colored citizens, an equally fertile source of trouble, was given little weight in choosing the original units for the Trinidad garrison. "The character of the men in command of the bases," Ambassador Winant wrote at the conclusion of the base negotiations, "is of tremendous importance especially in the beginning. If they are the right kind and ready to carry out our part of the agreement in a friendly and understanding spirit they can do much to inaugurate ninety-nine years of good neighborliness."65 Only professional competence, however, and what might be called the exigencies of the service guided the selection of commanding officers. Dexterity in the art of diplomacy, a certain skill in getting along with people who lived differently, and the ability to follow the established channels of intercourse between nations were not considered. In the personnel files of G-1 there were scarcely any measurement data or code numbers for qualities of this sort. It was a matter of chance and not of choosing when an officer with these qualities was placed in command.

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page created 30 May 2002


Endnotes

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