The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz Office Manager : Tamarra Jenkins Technology Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix 241 Pugh Hall PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 Phone 352 846 1983 Fax The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accoun ts of economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by res earch scholars, students, journalists, and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SPOH P recommends that researchers refer to both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interv iew transcripts available on the UF Digital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the original oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim document of it. The transcript is w ritten with careful attention to reflect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; subjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a later final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and f ormat I nterviewees can also provide their own spelling corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information about SPOHP, visit http://oral.history.ufl.edu or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. October 2013
PCM 002 Interviewee: Richard M organ Interviewer: Nicole Cox Date of Interview : June 16, 2010 C: This is Nicole Cox from the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program. I am here today, June 16, 2010 at the University of Florida with Mr. Richard Morgan who the time t o talk with me today. M: Thank you very much. C: Before we discuss your Panama Canal Zone experiences, maybe you could begin by telling me a little bit about your early life before the Panama Canal, from, that sort of thing. M: Sure. I was born in Minneapolis g rew up in the Midwe st and the New York area both. W e moved around quite a bit while I was a child. I graduated from high school in Scarsdale New York and went on to Northwestern University fo r my undergraduate de gree in business administration when they had an undergraduate business school. C: [laughter] When they had an undergraduate business school. M: And then joined the army for four years, served in U.S. A rmy C ounter intelligence and two of those years were in Germany. While I was in Germany, I stayed on as a civilian working for the U.S. government and met a gal who was a Panamanian
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 2 by coincidence. A few months later we were married in Germany and in Switzerland both, because of the sepa ration of church and state in Europe you have to have two separate ceremonies. C: Right. M: And that was how I came to learn about Panama. C: Okay, do you mind if I ask where you met? M: Where? In Frankfurt at a Foreign S ervice party. C: Okay. M: S he had come over from Panama as a tourist and was staying with her sister in Frankfurt and went to work for the U.S. A rmy to stay on for a year or two and I met her at a Foreign S ervice party in Frankfurt. C: Okay. In what year were you married, did you say? M: W e were married in 1963. I think we knew each other all of four months. [laughter] And that was a lot of years ago. C: So that s tarted, I guess, your education about Panama. M: That started my education about Panama. She had gone to college in the United St ates in Los Angeles so she was bilingual, but I hardly knew where Panama was in 1963. Like many Americans, I knew all about Europe and I knew about
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 3 the F began to learn with her. C: O you ended up in the Canal Zone and in Panama M: Okay. In 1965 we took what the U.S. government calls home leave from a foreign assignment. That is a trip to the United States, the two of us. At the time our first born child was about a year old or a little less, so we had a baby. We traveled to the United States to the Midwest to visit my parents and she said l side trip to Panama and had almost no money at all, but we could scrape together enough to fly to Panama and stay with her family who lived in Panama City, wh ich wa s the capital of Panama, and at the southern end of the Panama Canal So not knowing what to expect, we got on the red eye plane, and they were all red eyes then They left Miami at midnight and got into Panama at 3:30 in the morning and as soon as they open ed the door to the plane, the humidity and the temperature hit you Both of them were about ninety five degre es and before you got off the plane you wondered wh at in the world am I doing her? T his is a Turkish bath. And actually within a week I came to love it. We spent about a week and a half there and saw all of Panama, stayed with her mother, and she still has family in Panama and we still visit. I grew to really like the place and the people. So I knew things were gonna be closing down in Europe in the mid 60 s by that time, 65
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 4 and 66. The plans were on the drawing board to close down and pull ou t a lot of units. We lived in Verona, Italy at that time which wa s a beautiful place to live. After Germany we moved to Verona. I decided to look for a job with the government in Panama since I already had four years of army service and three years of c ivilian service in Europe by that time. So I introduced myself to the personnel director of the Panama Canal Company, it was called at the time H e interviewed me all one afternoon about the civilian personnel practices in Europe and where I would fit in t o the organization and at the end of the afternoon he said, well do you want to work for me? I said, I sure do. C: Do you remember how you answered those questions? M: Yes I do. It was an impressive thing. First of all, very few job applicants, U.S. or Pan amanian were interviewed by the personnel director. He just liked the fact that I worked for the army in Europe and he wanted to pick my brain about how civilian personnel things were handled in Europe hou r job interview; it was a three ho ur all aft ernoon, pick my brain interview. We never really talked about position title, grade, money, until the very end when he said, well do you want to work for me? And I said, I sure do. He hired me on the spot and my wife and baby stayed in Panama wi th her family and I flew back to Italy, put together what few household goods we had and got on the plane and came back to Panama. So the government handled it as an inter agency transfer. I officially transferred from the army in Europe to the Panama Can al Company in
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 5 Panama b oth of which were United States government agencies. That was in getting into except I knew that her family was there, which was a good thing, and I knew tha t I liked the lifestyle there and the people I had met. C: Do you remember your first impressions of the actual canal itself? M: Astounding. My first impression of the canal itself, not the canal going through the jungle as a waterway but the locks in part an engineer but I had some engine ering background, and I just was in awe. The more I learned about it, the more I worked there, the more in awe I was. I still transit the canal about three times a year as a lecturer on cruise ships, and every Canal, designed by a bunc h of geniuses in the early 1900 s and built in less than ten years. After the French had failed, after the Spanish had fail ed, after some of the greatest health and medical achievements in the world, to actually see and work at the canal was a wonderful thing. It was an honor actually. But I was an outsider. Here are where some of the differences were. I was coming from the o utside in my mid twenties. I was not born and raised there My major impression was not so much the canal, as life in the Canal Zone The Canal Zone was five hundred square miles of land and water set down right smack in the middle of the Isthmus of Panama It actually cut the country in half right down the middle. It was ten miles to each side of the canal, and fifty miles long, five hundred square
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 6 miles. And when you were in the Canal Zone you were under United States police jurisdiction, United States c ourts, United States schools, United States everything t o the complete exclusion of any Panam anian law or legalities at all, and s o were Panamanians when they passed through the Canal Zone If they broke the law in the Canal Zone they went to U.S. jail, Ca nal Zone jail, where they better know how to speak English because nobody else knew how to speak Spanish. They went before U.S. judges, magistrates, and if they went to penitentiary, they went to Canal Zone penitentiary. Nobody could have ever prepared me ide swath down the Mississippi R iver, from Canada to the Gulf. W on, you better speak French and a French driver s license and a French court system which is completely different than American, as is American from Panamanian Canal Zone was. E ven my wife could not have prepared me for that, although she tol d me stories about it. F or example, when had to actually pass tests in both nations, if you will, a Panamanian li cense and a Canal Zone lice nse. A few years before that, you had to have two license plates if you were Panamanian and you wanted to drive from Panama City up to the beaches and the interior of Panama on the way to Costa Rica, which actually is driving wes t from Panama City. You had to have a Canal Zone license plate on
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 7 your car or you would be arrested crossi ng the ten mile wide Canal Zone by police. I began to understand why there was animosity that had grown over the years. The Canal Zone had to ex ist in the early 1900 s because Panama itself was a backwater, a jungle, a pestilent place where there was no sanitation at all. There was no health, there was no hospital, there were no sewers, there were no potable water facilities. All of those were brought in by the Americans who not only constructed the canal, they constructed the two terminal cities in Panama, Panama City and Col n The Americans built the sewer system built the potable mother thanked the Americans in her prayers every day because they cleaned up that pestilent piece of jungle down there. But as the years went by and Panamanians became more self sufficient which they did by the 1940s and [ 19 ] 50 s, and economically well of f, a banking center, a financial center, they grew to resent the Canal Zone an d everything it stood for. T he fact that it still was under U.S. jurisdiction, flying the American flag, cutting their own country in half. T here began to be a series of serious problems, some of which resulted in killing and deaths in 1964. The flag incident C: So that would have happened before you got there? M: That happened just before I got there. My wife had lived there during some of tha t. It was building up to a high pre ssure situation. The students in Panama were the most active anti American. There was a very small Communist party,
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 8 which was always fomenting problems with America. But the existence of the Canal Zone and any leader of Panama would have done anything he coul d to get rid of the Canal Zone and tur n it into Panamanian property. T I landed in Panama. H ere I was trying to find my way around a new agency, a new organization, trying to find which jobs were th e right ones to get into to rise in the organization, l iving a hometown American existence. L et me just tell you about the Canal Zone that C: M: If you were born there, you were born in an American hospital, as was John McCain, as a matter of fact. You went to school in American grade school, middle school, high school, and junior college. If you wanted to go to co llege you had to go off in the S tates and many did and came back to work for the canal. If you went through the apprentice program, you worked for the company. It was the last company town on Earth, as I say, except for the Falkland Island s which still does things that way pretty much. You worked for the canal your entire career. If you died there you were buried in the company cemetery -serious with the American flag flying in perpetuity supposedly in perpetuity because that treaty between the United States and Panama was in perpetuity which meant forever, we thought. We found out how long perpetuity really was. Jimmy Carter had a different idea of perpetuity and that all changed. But the
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 9 attitude in 1965 was very much like a small state in the Midwest or the South of the United States. It was all American and it was more American than America was in the 60 s: more churches per capita than any small town in America, boy scouts girl scouts boys clubs, boys and girls clubs, a little league, just everything you could imagine. All of our kids d id all these things together, grew t even in another country. I t was like they were in Des Moines, Iowa in miniature. Even the number one American leader there was c alled the governor. He was the G overnor of the Can al Zone, as if the Canal Zone was anoth er state of the United States. In fact he went to the governor s conferences and was treated as a governor of a mini state. C: M: He was a major general in the U.S. Army Corp s of Engineers; tha t was always the governor since the construction of the canal, since Go ethals who had been a major general in the Corp s The Corp s kind of held on to that job for years and years. But he did not work in uniform ; he worked in a white suit and most days whe n I got there in a Panama hat and we called him governor. He had two positions: G overnor of the Canal Z one and P resident of the Panama Canal C ompany. But it was not part of Department of the Army; it just happened that he was a career army officer. It was a plush position Not only was he governor, he had a household staff of his own, he had a mansion that had bee n moved to its present location that was origi nally the home of George Goethals during canal
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 10 construction. I think the only thing holding it up we re the termites by the time I got there. He had a lifestyle, as we all did. I remember how surprised I was to learn that you could live like a millionaire without being one by being a Zonian, by living in the zone. Many of these third and fourth generatio n frien ds of mine are called Zonians. T that very much. I was thrown at them mainly by Panamanians and other Americans who did not live there. Zonians simply to me meant that you were born and raised in th e about you. I never was a Zonian because I had gone there from the outside, but my kids were. Two out of three were born there, went through the school system there, and consider themselve s Zonians and are proud of it. Two of the three are part of this mob of three and four thousand that is in the Panama Canal Society . C: Okay, I was going to ask you if they participated in the Society . M: et together with the kids t hey went to high school with. I or four days a year just relive this whole thing, which they do at the Panama Canal Society Reunion once a year in Orlando. C: Y ou kind of touched on what family life was like, and living like a millionaire, could you el aborate a little more on that a nd what it was like to raise a family in the zone?
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 11 M: Yea h you had a choice on where to live. You could live in the Canal Zone, and if you chose to do that you had to live in government provided housing. There was rent, it was not expensive, but the housing itself was barely adequate. It was government housing like you would find on any old army base that dates back large, square footage wise. By the time I got there it was air conditioned, thank goodness. C: You arrived at the right time. [laughter] M: Yea h air conditioned. So, there were very few nice houses. The way you got a better house was to be a senior in the service. A few executive positions in the canal got special housing by virtue of being in designated positions. I later rose to that living in a better house unless he had a lot more service t han you did and that was fair. T hat was the way things worked. Almost everybody had a servant or t wo, or three, a live in maid who was your cook, your babysitter, your house Zonians that had these. E very family that could affo rd it in the Republic of Panama had live in maids and United States, oth er than for super rich people. Here, these were people making median level government salaries in the area of thirty to forty, fifty thousand
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 12 dollars a year, was a hug e salary fifty was in the 1960 s. But most of these folks were making twenty five, thirty thousand a year with a live in maid twenty four hours a day that did their coo king, took care of their kids. T heir babysitting was built in. T hey had a yard boy or man that would come once or twice a week and take care of the grounds. The government agency itself mowed the grass, or a hammer in the house, which was a goo d thing because I was never very goo d with those. If there was any maintenance of a government house, it had to be done by government people in their employment as mechanics for the were just so many outstandi ng activ ities to participate in of every interest in the world. For example, our kids al l played in little league. Well, who were the coaches of little league? Primarily the police, the law enforcement people and the younger managers of the canal, who all knew eac h other. Everybody knew [laugh t er] You could tell exactly what time your neighbors had their argument last night and what they were arguing about. Of course, the place was a lways full of gossip and the word was spread as it would in any small town. But it was a great place to rai se kids. It was an outdoor life: they rode cayuco boats, they raced, they were in scouting It was a life that became unreal by the 1970 s. Nobody in the S ta tes lived like that in the 1970s, but the people in the Canal Z one thought they did because this Canal Zone life had been plucked out of time, almost like a
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 13 time capsule from Des Moines, Iowa, 1958. And here it was still going on just the same way i n 1978. When people would come from Washington on official They thought it was a time capsule, and in many ways it was. Many of the Zonians who were born and raised in that d id not realize what an anachronism that was, and why people in Washington resented that, because they no longer had it. Because I was an outsider and traveled a lot too, in my job, I was tr avelling back and forth to the S tates constantly. C: Okay, that w as one of the questions that I wondered . M: I was several different positions in the organization but for many years I was in charge of contracting and procurement, which meant I was the chief contracting officer for the agency and I had to travel to the S tates and other countries to do contracting. I could see coming and going see because t hey hardly ever left the zone b ut o nce every two years. T visit Aunt Mary in Iowa or in South Carolina, but they would we did. C: From your experience, if you had visitors say from, Washington D.C. coming and they saw this life, were they interested in seeing if maybe they could transfer to the Canal Zone? Did do you have a lot of transplants people who wanted to be part of that?
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 14 M: Yes. People loved t o see this because it was story book America. It was the American flag waving everywhere. It was churches and just everything th at life had once been in the States, we think, in small town Midwest and sma ll town think it was right for that to be going on, and were a little bit jealous of it. The t. I still ge t together with some of the old time Zonians like the once a year thing when I and into their eighties how a good a life they had in the Canal Zone. Some do, C: Well, I know that you had said when you arrived you were kind of in the middle of the rising tensions with native Pan amanians and things like that. Y ou sort of had a unique perspective wi th your wife being from Panama. W hat sort of interact ion did you have with people outside of the Canal Zone? M: and her family lived in Panama City and had th eir own book store well, librera and were a successful business family in Pa nama, we had that side of the street and the social l ife and the close family life. T he Panamanians have a very close family life, and t hey do things with their kids, even when their kids are grown up, all the time. We had that going. Our kids had that, an d their grandmother was a Panamanian and their cousins were Panamanian. My kids all grew up completely
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 15 bilingual, which was just a wonderful thing for them, with no accent at all. The really. We h ad the best of the Canal Zone life as time went by and I grew higher in the organization. Life got pretty good and I got better housing and the best of the Canal Zone life but I could get up and go across into Panama any time I wanted to, which is somethi uch like some military s tuck on American bases overseas, and locals. seven years of my care er there, in addition to those two pieces of the perspective, I was also assigned diplomatic immunity. I carried a diplomatic passport, so I had the protection that that carried, and so did my Panamanian wife. [laughter] Now she was a U.S. citizen by that time but also Panamanian citizen, so she was a U.S. diplomat in her own country, which meant we could do things like shop at the military commissaries and the military P X which were not all that great but it gave us access to things that some others did She still remember s it as the best of three lives; it was just a wonderful thing for us and for our kids to grow up that way. C: I was listening to the interview with Mr. Krziza which I had mentioned earlier and I thought it was really interest ing because he described his time in the Canal Zone as a thirty two year vacation with pay . M: Yes, he did to me too when I interviewed him, the same words. [l aughter]
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 16 C: ed how you would compare your ex perience with that? M: For me it was a twenty six year vacation. Not a vacation because I valued my work too much and I put a lot of effort and time into my work and into my jobs. It was a almost twenty six years for me, twenty five and a half, piece of p aradise. I could not imagine a better place to live, or raise my kids. I have been a lot of when things changed completely; it all became integrated into Panama. I agree with Leo Krziz a completely. I t was paradise. C: M: [laughter] Oh yeah! C: But maybe before we do that, were doing in Panama. I was reviewing your resume and I noticed that you held a number of different positions so maybe you could explain where you started in 1965 and then sort of . M: This is an area w here some of the older Zonians will differ from me and with me. I learned when I we nt there that the Panama Canal o rganization was a relatively small agency as U.S. government agenc ies go. It numbered about fifteen thousand e
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 17 administration that was forty thousand people at that time, or any of the large agencies in the United States. They were all bigger than the Panama Canal. But the Panama Canal did everything, from A to Z, from birth to deat h It ran all the same activities that any government agency in the United States runs, and in addition paid its own way. important point for many of us. It was the only government agency at the time th at paid one hundred percent of its own bill with the revenues that we brought in from the shipping and other things that we did. We were the water company and the electric company, in many cases for part of Panama too. We were required by United States law to pay our own way. So there was a pride there that we had to run it like a business, even though it was a government agency and we to pay our own way completely. Therefore, i n a small organization that had to pay was nowhere for me to move job wise. I saw that happen to a lot of people. They would get in to a particular professional type job o r engineering type job, whatever it was their career field was, beca use they liked that niche. T hen all of the sudden within three or four years there was nowhere for them to go. They e niche, and they were too high to go laterally into some other field. So I decided from the start that I would move around. From the first time I joined the organization I went up a couple grades and I moved to another job, and I went up a couple
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 18 gra des and I moved to another job, and so on, w hich is why I got to the very top, it really is. P lus I had so me good people along the way that helped and mentored me But I did not want to end up at the mid level in that organization and then not be able to go a ny higher because I had put blinders on myself. I kept moving around and fortunately with my education and I picked up a masters degree along the way from Florida State Universit y in public administration. I think the foresight of moving around within a sm all organization and not getting stuck somewhere going up the lin e got me to what they called a bureau d irector, General Services Director of the Panama Canal, which meant I reported to the agency head. M y last three and a half years I was the General Serv ices Director and Procurement Executive. I never would have gotten there resume I worked in different fields. [laughter] hold a job long in any field. W what it was. C: So, when you started, I know you were e xplaining to me about the three hour M: Well, I neve r know these things. Months later people said, you spent how long with Mr. Dyl an ? He never interviews people himself anyway. And he spent all afternoon with you? I began to realize that he had done that to pick my brain too, because of my background.
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 19 He l iked to hire an occasional outsider; ness of the Panama Canal Organization. He wanted outsiders coming in and new blood, and me, and to the third and fourth generation Z onians who were already in place, some of whom I would go you know it, real fast. I learn ed pretty fast that the only way around that or to deal head on with that was to mix them socially, do things with them, play baseball, myself off by the side to give the m a chance to pick me off, become almost one of them, but without what I consider the inborn prejudices of Zonians, which was an interesting change for me. C: intelligence i n the army prepare you for what you ended up doing in the Canal Zone, the many different positions that you had? M: I nvolvement in counter intelligence and the army, believe it or not, was a lot of psy chology: l earning how and why people do things, learnin g how they cover up for things, learning how to deal with people. I think that helped tremendously, no matter what field I would have gone in to eventually but particularly in the Canal Zone and in the Panama Canal. I had dreams at one time of staying in t he intelligence field as a career but my time in Germany and what was going on
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 20 during t he Cold War in the early 60 s, from 1960 to 65 changed my mind completely on that one. It was a pretty dirty busines s to be in, in the early 60 s. When the wal ad the history of that at all, w e almost went to war with the Russians at that moment. I was attached to the battle group that President Kennedy sent up the A utobahn, to keep the A utobahn through East Germany o pen. That battle group was strung out over about a ten mile period, with Russian tan ks sitting on each side of the A utobahn pointing at it. That was a hairy moment. It was really trick y It was interesting, and fun to look back on. It was one of the intere sting things in my short lived career in army counter intelligence. C: What year did you say you became the General Service Director? M: General Services Director was the highest job I held, it was a Bureau Director reporting to the age ncy head. And when did I get it? L hat I had been the deputy to that position for five years. So I was in the same office. C: You were well prepared for the transition. M: [laughter] Exactly. C: Well maybe w e could talk about the 1979 treaty and your involvement in that l right.
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 22 1 M: Okay. In those last years of my stay in Panama, 1987, 88, 89, up to 1990, was a growing period of serious tension between th e military dictatorship that was running Panama which originally was headed by Omar Torrijos T hen when he was killed in an airplane crash mysteriously, Manuel Noriega became the military dictator of Panama. Manuel Noriega was a fascinating guy, still is t o this [laughter] There was severe tension between Noriega and his thugs and the regime in Washington which was President Bush Senior. It was kind of He was on the Soviet payroll, the Cuban pay France. I used to think of him as an old fashioned tele phone switch board. I called him the switch board. He was switched into people in all these countries. What he did was he would pass information from one to the others, and then from one to the others, and d all he was doing was passing intelligence around among all these people. This was long before the drug thing became what it eventually was and he was noted for this and he became very wealthy doing this. He socked his money away in Spain and the Domini can Republic and got more and more independent and gutsy as time went by. He did not think he had to kowtow to anybody. He was a killer, a street killer. s proven. He scared the hell out of everybody. He simply ran the country. He took what he wanted and got rid of
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 2 2 who he wanted to get rid of and was pushing, pushing, pushing. We went through about a two year period there of severe pressure. For example, as it reflected on me, when I became the General Services Direc tor, I went immediately on his hit list, close to the top. I was number three on a list of thirty three and I was quite proud of that, as it turned out. People wonder how we knew where we were on the list he made sure we got the list. Psychologic ally that was part of the way . he C: But again, your counter intelligence experience probably came in handy with that [laughter] M: Well ye Panama too, befor e he became the self appointed g eneral. He made things harder and harder, particularly on the Panamanian civilians who worked for the Panama Canal. He to cash their checks. He just pushed, pushed, pushed to make life tough for them, which in turn made it harde r for the Americans to run the c anal. But he stayed away from putting pressure on Amer ican civilians working for the c anal, an interesting psychological ploy. Of course there were more Panamanians than there were U.S. By that time it dropped from fifteen thousand d own to about ten thousand when the Canal Zone functions disappeared in 1979. S o running t he Canal itself took about ten thousand people. By that time, nine thousand of
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 23 them were Panamanian and everyday he made it tough for them to come to work, tough for them to buy a house, tough for them to do anything, even drive their own cars around Panam a. He would sit back and laugh about it. He also going to come to a head, there was no doubt about it. There were a series of practice invasions, if you will, exerci ses on a s mall scale over a one year period. Noriega thought that every one would always be a practice, that th e real thing would never come. T he Americans never had the guts to invade Panama, he thou ght. H e said so publicly. Of course the big one came, the one that practi ce, on the night of December 19, 20, in 1989, early in the morning on the 20 th It actually, by mistake, started an hour too early, and that cost a few lives. That was a fascinating night in the history of Panama. It was one of those things w were doing when the planes flew into the buildings on 9/11, same thing in Panama. If you were there the night of the invasion you could picture it in your mind and know exactly wh at you were doing. My wife and I were home. My daughter was home from college and attending a Christmas party of o ther college young adults. F ortunately it was close to a U.S. military base in the former Canal Zone area. It was not off in Panama City some where, where it would have been difficult to know if she was al l right. Most of them were there that night. I think there were close to two hundred of the college people who were home, were at this same party. Which meant that the U.S. Army put a barricade
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 2 4 around that little town site and kept them safe for the next three days or four days, which was wonderful. Unfortunately the fell ow she went out there with that high school foo tball team and he picked her up to take her out to that party. I on; none of us did that night. W e bad feeling and I said, be careful tonight with your driving and don I have a bad feeling about tonight. Well, when he got out to this it was about ten miles from where we lived he started pretty heavy with the beer and he got loaded and when the invasion s tarted he turned into the macho hero. He jump ed in his Volkswagen Beetle and drove out to the main highway, which by that time had roadb locks set up on it by U.S. Army and he ran the first roadblock. They told him to stop, they were standing there with ma chine through that one. And his poor little Beetle Volkswagen was shot with fifty caliber machine gun bullets and so was he. He was one of the first casualties that night. had been held. She found out a few days later. She spent three days out at that location, safely, and we we re in our house. At about one in the morning came a soft knock at the front door. As I mentioned I had been number three on the hit list. Number three on the hit list in those days meant that one of his specially
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 2 5 trained hit squads w ho worked directly for Noriega and there were eight or nine of them. They were eight man hit squads trained by United States Special Forces to kidnap people in time of war. They were specially trained and given this hit list and said, this is the priority. They were assigned who to go get, should there ever be an invasion. Should anybody ever come in to try to get Noriega, their job was to go out and get us first and hold us against him. So I was pretty sure that I was high enough on the list that I was gonna get a hit squad t I got a squad from the 101 st United States Army Airborne Division, a squad of about twelve guys and one g al. It was never publicized going to go around understand there e want you and your wife to get down on the floor, get under the bed. W ly this far off the floor. P ut anything on yo u that you have for protection, like a bullet resistant vest and a safety helmet, anything really, and just stay down on the floor fight. And sure enough, about twenty minutes we were down on the floor and we were whispering through the windows to them. They were across my back porch which was about twenty yards long, overlooking the backyard which was about ten feet lower. And up through the backya rd came the eight man hit squad, with automatic weapons, dressed in U.S. uni forms, U.S. fatigues with U.S. weapons. Fortunately the good guys had night vision glasses and
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 2 6 turned off or shot out during the initial stages of the invasion. There was a fire fight in my backyard about 1: 40, 1:45 in the morning, automatic fire in both directions. Of course, bullets zinging off, all the windows in Panama had bars on them, and so the bullets were zinging off. That was the problem, ricochets. They se of the angle of attack from the lower lawn, but they were hitting the bars and you never knew where the ricochets would go Bullets were flying everywhere and we just stayed down on at it lasts you get them all? And he said, yes sir, they ny of y ou hurt? N ot at all, but the lady would like to come in and use your restroom C: M: watched them put all the bodies in the body bags. They were all in U.S. battl e uniforms. They made a serious mistake. When the U.S. goes to war, they sew the American flag on the right that from anybody going or coming from Iraq or Afghanistan right now, to this day, has an American flag here. Anybody w g is not going to a battle zone
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 2 7 U.S. uniforms, and all the good guys did have it. So you could tell the bad guys any idea who any of them were, and carted them away in trucks. That was my experience. Meanwhile our troops were out hunting for No riega for t hree days and nights in Panama. Finally found him and took him to the S tates. After the United States completely got rid of the Panamanian military force which had been the military dictatorship of Panama for years by that time, t here was compl ete anarchy in Pa because of that, I had planned to leave at that time anyway because in 1990 the administrator of the Pan ama Cana l who had been a United States g eneral, who was my boss for the last ten years that I was there, and a wonderful boss, he was leaving. He had to leave. He was gonna be replaced by a Panamanian. Administrator of a U.S. agency . Panam anian? Non U .S. citizen, for its last ten years. I decided by that time I had well over thirty y ears in government service and I decided it was a good time for me to leave too and turn my job over to the Panamanian who had been in training for a while. So I left in Ja nuary of 1991, just after the invasion C: Did you know other people that had similar experiences that might have been on
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 2 8 M: Yes, one was Joe Wood, who somebody in your organization will be interviewing C: correct. M: Joe is the president of the Panama Canal Museum has been for years. Joe was a compatriot of mine and a University of Florida graduate. My goodness, he ol. [laughter] W e kid each other a lot about that. Joe was high on the hit list too. As I recall, he was number four or number five, pretty high up. He had a protective squad come to his house, just like I did. I knew a of anybody else who had a fire fight actually in his backya rd. I know that the other hit squads were successful in capturing some of the people, but not Panama Canal people. Not everybody on the list was Panama Canal. There were some businessmen, or at least they said they were businessmen in downtown Panama, a nd there were some Smithsonian I nstitute peo ple, of all things, scientists. for what reason in the world they were on the hit list. But one of those was captured and one businessman was captured downtown. They lived in apartment buildings in Pana ma City. They had no protect ion. N obody came to protect them and they were taken. They were kidnapped. Some very interesting stories there. One of them was killed that night by the hit squad that took him because he was fighting them all the time and they finally got tired of it and shot him. Another one who
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 29 think would have this kind of street smarts, talked to the leader of the hit squad all night long in Spanish, almost like t he Oslo effect. Before the night was over he turned him around completely and when the sun rose the next morning he marched the hit squad that had captured him in and they turned themselves over to the U.S. Army u nit in the area. C: le. M: e smart guy, saved his own life. But I don of anybody else in the c anal who actually had a hit squad come for them. And I also did not know that we were going to be furnished protection by the United States Arm y. That was part of their invasion plan. C: though [laughter]. M: [laughter] I know that there was some involvement of people in Washington and some people leaked the word in advance that you oughta take care of these people that are on the hit squad. But it was all done be hind the scenes and backchannel So when they came knocking on my door I s here. Yeah. C: Well would you like to take a break for a minute? M: Yea h [B reak in interview ]
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 30 C: This is Nicole Cox. I am resuming my interview with Mr. Morgan. Okay Mr. skipped around some and I got you off topic on to the 1980s stuff, but I won dered if you could talk more about what was happening in 1979 and some of the transition issues that occurred after that. M: Sure. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter signed a treaty with the military dictator of Panama, General Omar Torrijos, self appointed. The treaty was just barely ratified by the United States Senate by one vote, and also ratified by the population of P anama, but not overwhelmingly, a nd was to take effect in 1979. No, t hat meant a lot of things had to happen in less than two years for that treaty to take effect in 79 because a lot of activities were going to disappear or be transferred to Panama or to the U.S. military in that short period. In fact, according to his treaty, the original transitio n period was one year but Senator De C onc C oncini, t how the one year period tur ned into a two year transition. He was absolutely right. It barely all got done in two years. One of the things that was gonna happen was that the Panama R ailroad which had run since 1855, was the first transcontinental railroad in North America or anywhe re in the Americas, was gonna transfer to Panama. A ll the port activities were gonna transfer to Panama.
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 31 They had previously been operated by the Panama Canal Company. This was a huge thing because they were the logistical backbone of the c anal. All the go ods that were brought in to Panama were brought into the ports and everything that crossed the Isthmus of Panama from one side to the other went on the railroad. These were to be turned over to Panama which meant in that two year period the Panamanian mana gement had to be trained in how to run them. Some of this training fell to the activity th at I was working in at the time: logistical training, supply system, how to run a railroad and how to supply it, how to run ports. They he training had to be done to novice Panamanian one hundred percent the spoils syste m. We starte d out training one National Ports D irector and his staff, which was primarily his in laws and his friends. We would get about three months into that and he would be fired and all of his in laws and friends would be fired. And in would come an entirely new National Ports Director, appointed by the dictator, and he would bring in all his relatives very long. And then we would re train the next group for six months, and then he would be fired because he would get crosswise with the g eneral and then somebody else would be appointed and all new people. With the ports, this change ove r personnel happened three ti me; with the railroad I think it happened
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 32 twice, maybe three times. We finally just shrugged our shoulders and gave up. It was impossible to train people to run a railroad and the national ports of a nation if they were not gonna be at the job more than tw o or three or four months and all their cronies would be fired along with them. This was a major problem in trying to carry out our mission of training Panamanians to take over what they were gonna take over. It was pretty much a disaster. It set a mental tone for people like myself about, oh my God I be when the Canal turns over? W h y is it gonna be any different? I that were turned over like garba ge collection, a lot of grounds keeping a l ot of buildings maintenance and buildings that turned over, just absolutely fell apart. something it will fall apart in no time at all, or turn to mold. This is what happened with activity after activity after activity that was turned over during that interim period right around 1979. When the Canal Zone ceased to exist, September 30, 1979, then all of the sudden there were no more Canal Zone police. There was a joint transition for ce where X Canal Zone police still had jobs, still wore uniforms, and were riding side by side with Panamanian soldiers who were learning how to called that a joint police act ivity. That lasted for, as I recall, eighteen months and then the U.S. was gone completely from the police force. After 1980 and 81 our neighborhood police force in what used to be the Canal Zone was Noriega s abo ut the time the hit list came out one of
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 33 the ir major missions was to survei l me and Joe Wood and other managers of the c anal on an almost daily basis. They would sit in front of my house in their car, smile at me and wave or give me another obscene sign, look at their watch to make sure that I knew that they were checking what time I was leaving for w ork, film me on a moving camera walking to my house, to the office, or drivin g from my house to the office i f I walked it was ten minutes to my office, if I d rove it was two minutes and then follow me to my o ffice and film me getting out. T hey you live, what time you go to work, what route you take and when you get there, and anytime we wanna grab you, we can grab you. It was all non verbal and they did this to several of th e high ranking managers of the c anal. Purposely, by us scared. I remember when the hit list did come out and Noriega made sure we got a copy, a couple of the managers of the Panama Canal whose names were on that list did exactly what he wanted. They quit. They retired early and got out of there. They said, I didn t the c anal for being a hostage of Noriega. So that was the kind of atmosphere we lived in. Meanwhile things began to get tougher on t he Panamanian employees of the c anal and we had to cope with that. In some cases we had to find bus transportation for th em. We had to provide food packages for them in some cases. When Panama actually went off, there was no cash in the country for a period of about six months except the cash brought in by the United States, the Panama Canal and the military.
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 34 cy is the dollar, so there had to be cash. The entire country, including much of what the c anal did and what the people who worked for the c anal did went on the barter system. You provide a service to me, I provide a service to you and we barter. It was ju st amazing how people coped with a no money available system. Life was very difficult during those years. It was difficult first because the Noriega regime made it difficult, but secondly because the Bush regime and response put sanctions on the Noriega re gime and made life tough for everybody down there. The things that did turn over early, in 1979 for the most part fell apart, just d id not operate well at all. T he people who operated them stole, in many cases, everything they could. By the end of the 198 0 s there was no Panama R and many of the cars had burned. They decided to burn the grass one day in the realize t hat when they burned the grass that would bu rn the boxcars and then the box cars would burn the c reosote in the ties. The entire railroad was out of business within nine years of being turned over to Panama. The ports were so decrepit and falling apart that they were dangerous and ships stopped stopping in Panama. Cruise ships and cargo ships that previously had stopped there for refueling and for taking on provisions and for delivering cargo would not stop in Panama, it was just too dangerous. Everything wa s just falling apart as a result of beg inning, is true in spades. Why are they ever gonna run the c anal any
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 35 differently when they get it on the last day of 1999 than t hey have thes e other activities? now many years later, I think it was primarily because of the military dictatorship and the fact that they were all a bunch of thugs and thieves and killers an d all they wanted to do was to rob as fast as they could as much as they could. Meanwhile, the United States mission and the thousand of us reducing by at least a hundred every year who were left there, who decided to stay on to make it work, our job was to keep the c anal operating through the midst of all this, and train Panamanian managers to replace us. That was our major mission for that period 1979 to 1999 in the middle of which came the invasion of Panama and the complete change in government. So i opinion, as there should have b een about how this whole thing it happened in almost ten year increments. In 79 t he Canal Zone ceased t o exist, i n 89 the invasion of Panama, in 99 the entire Canal transferred to Panama. I expected disaster and so did just about every Zonian you will ever talk to. Because the first few things were disaster, why would we expect any different? C: One of the questions that I had, and this is just kind of your perspective throughout the time that you were there, what role did the c anal agency play with the government of Panama? With the U.S. military? With the U.S. e mbassy? Those sorts of things.
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 36 M: It was the strangest relationship I have seen anywhere in the world. I hav e lived in Europe, and I have trave led pretty widely throughout the world. It was almost like a four headed group. Number one the United States ambassador and the embassy supposedly ar e in charge of all American interests in every country in e everywhere in the world. For example if general of the army unit in Germany, the ambassado r takes precedence. He is everywhere else. However, the G overnor of the Canal Zone, when there was a Canal Zone, was equal to the governor of a state. He treated the ambassador politely. They treated each other politely, but one of them did not tell the other one what to do. Because that Canal Zone situation was in place from 1903 until 1979 that attitude was very hard to change. So even after 79 when there was no more Canal Zone and no more governor, the Panama Canal people acted toward the embassy and the ambassado r the same way they always h ad: overnight he had the work well at all. Then the third entity was the United States military. From my perspective they acted one hundred percent independently and on their own. They did whatever they wanted. W hatever the four star general said, they did. It
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 37 ot, they followed their orders f rom their chain of command. M any of the years I was there the four star, whoever he happened to be, the general in charge, had no time to waste with the A mbassador of the United States. He and the administrator of the Panama Canal always go t along because they had a joint military background ; both of them came from a similar background. So they got along okay, generally speaking. Neither one of them got along very well with the United States ambassador some of the time. Then the fourth e ntity, of course, was the gove rnor of Panama, which for all of th ose years from the mid 70s on was a military dictator, who got along with everybody or nobody, whoever he cared to. When it was Noriega, I understand one of his pet peeves was he had to drive along that beautiful Aven id a Balboa by Panam a Bay to get to his office every morning. He had to look straight out the front of his car at a mountain standing out at the end of that Avenida Balboa about two miles out at the end of the Bay with the biggest American flag in the world flying from of the top of it, from Quarry Heights I t was a super large flag. That started his day every morning. You can imagine how he felt when he got to work. He was so anti American, constantly. He hated the U.S. military, the U.S. ambassador. He put up with the c softer with us than he was with the others and I never really figured out what the reason could be but he was never a pleasant fellow to begin with. So here a re four different entities, no two of whom are reall y friends with the others. I t made life more difficult during this particular pe riod of time, during the twenty year
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 38 transition when we were supposed to be t raining Panamanians to run the c anal. There were fewer and fewer U.S. managers there, because they wo uld leave C: Well when you decided to leave, was it in 1990? Is that right? M: Yea I decided to leave in 1989. I stayed on a couple of extra months until my boss left and then I wa s going to leave when he left, the same day, but we both got delayed because of the invasion on December 20. C: Okay. What was it like to leave? Did you have mixed feelings about it? How did you feel? M: For me pe rsonally, it was a huge relief because of t living through, especially the previous three years. I felt very strongly that if I other hand, was devastated by leaving. Living through these ba bother her at all. She was leaving her family and her country. We still differ on that to this day. I had some recovery to do afterwards, mental and physical, several years in other words to straighten things out, get the blood pressure down C: I can imagine.
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 39 M: I still feel another year there would have killed me. She wish Now that a lot of North Americans hav s exploring that idea with me from time to time. N ot aggressively because being a go od Panamanian m them are around us in Florida. C: I see. Well where did you go when you returned to the United States? M: W e did some research for a year before we left, a lot of research as a ma tter of fact on places to live in the United States. T here are books on that. We narrowed it down to three places and we visited the three places. The places were Austin, Texas, Tallahassee, Florida, and Sarasota, Florida. By coincidence all three college towns, two of them state capitals. Of the three, we liked Sarasota the best. It had the transportation, the health facilities, the social life, the plays and that kind of thing. It was a great location and a beautiful town. We selected Sarasota and moved there in January o f 1990. Once again we got lucky; downhill quite a bit actually. T C: How old were your children when you returned at that ti me? M: Oh [laughter]. Yea h I am. The two boys, th e older two were living in the S tates with families of their own by that time. Our daughter had just graduated from college
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 40 and so she was twenty one. S he was still living with us when we moved to Sarasota. C: What sort of work were you doing when you returned from Saraso ta? I noticed a few things on your resume there. M: I did not want to sit first I was the coun ty purchasing director for a year because they liked my background in purchasing and they needed somebody right away to be the purchasing director. That was kind of interesting. A huge difference from working at the federal level to working at a Florida co unty level: a lot more politics and a lot more local, who y ou know, type and watch the grass grow, like too many people in Florida do, I think. I notice in Sarasota a lot of retirees who sit and watch the grass grow and die. I mean the So I started to write a resume for the first time in how long was I with the government? thirty two years counting my military. Never had written a resume in thirty two years. C: You had a lot include. M: So I started to write a resume and I got a phone call, in the middle of the resume, and it was from a gentleman who runs a training company in the Washington D.C. area who had done a l ot of training at the Panama Canal of our contracting people, including myself. I had gotten to know him well but we had never spoken
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 41 about work while I was still working for the government. On the phone he said, how would you like to come u p here and teac h a class for me in government contracting? I in anything. He says l right. He says t it and you know the subject. T people who know the subject. Come on up and give it a t dropped in on me. He offered me a job after that one week up there, being a government contracts trainer in about ten different subject areas of govern ment contracting. Then I went off and got some training on how to be a trainer and that was then a secon d career. I never did that full time. I did it originally maybe fifteen weeks a year, then twelve weeks a year. I still do that now about nine to ten we eks a year, p retty much weeks of my choosing, subjects of my choosing, cities of my choosing of their s been twenty years now. I enjoy that immensely a wonderful company called Management Concepts Incorporated, one of the best known in the government training field, particularly in contracting. To this d a written contract with them; T o this day I have not finished my resume [laughter] I guess I never will. C: It must be getting pretty long at this point, pretty extensive. M: Then along the way in I think 1995, the Panama Canal Museum of which I was a member of the board of directors at the time, got a call looking for somebody who
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 42 might be interested in lecturing on a cruise ship going through the Panama Canal. So we passed it around among the board members. A nybody interested, anybody interested? I said, what ship is it? They told me and I said, yea h interested. So the museum passed my name to this particular shipping line, which was called Crystal Cruises at the time and said Dick Morgan would be interested in doing this an anal. They took a chance on me with no tape, no rehearsal, no nothing, just lo oking at my background and word from the museum. I sailed on the Crystal Harmony in 1993 or 94 for the first time through the Panama Canal as a lecturer. Now this is tough. You get like a twelve or fourteen day cruise from one coast to the other, thro ugh the Panama Canal and you have to give four lectu res. Can you imagine that? Four forty five minute l ectures five because they want you to leave ten minutes for questions and answers [lau ghter] on my favorite subje ct, the Panama Canal. C: A lot of information to convey too. M: Oh yea h still packed. People who go on canal cruises want to hear about the c anal. So I have now done twenty five has two ships, the Crystal Symphony and the Crystal Serenity They are six star ships, the best in the world. They have outst anding lecturers
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 43 our lectures per cruise and of course answer questions throughout the ship from anybody at any tim e, and talk about the c anal in general. fourth will be. C: You can get back to me on that. [laughter] I know we were talking earlier about some of the organized reunions for workers and families that lived in the Canal Zone. Do you participate in these or do you keep in touch with other people from the Canal Zone? M: Every year the Panama Canal Society, in the month of July, in Orlando, has a Panama Canal reunion It lasts about four days and is just chock a block full of social activities and things to do and get togethers and lots of class re unions. I awful lot of class reunion bonhomie ot a Zonian, like my kids are. T hey go more often than I do, as a matter of fa enjoy them immensely, when I do go, but I have to be selective about what They get between three and four thousand people at one of those reunions. C:
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 44 M: discussions or serious business that is done at those things. T C: Maybe my final question: how would you des management of the Canal after 2000? M: failures that I watched from 1979 on, after all of my expectations that they would fail miserably once it be came their responsibility, I am happy to say tha t that was Canal since they took it over on December 31, 1999. I think there are some important reasons for that. I do talk about this in my lectures on cruise ships because it is evident to just abo ut everybody going through the c anal today that they are doing a good job. Canal waters time is down -he metrics they use to measure ship accident rate is down, transit tim putting through more cargo and more ships t han ever in the history of the c anal. Which is much, much more than we ever did, even in the 1990s. Just about every m easurement metric there is shows an improvement since it was taken over one hundred percent by Panamanians. There are no U.S. left in the management of the c anal at all. There are a few senior U.S. pilots still working there on an individual contract basi s for the agency that runs the c
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 45 timers are gone. There are no other U.S. working for the c anal at all. Now there are so me reasons for that. The canal o rganization wh ich is called the Panama Canal A uthority, ACP, Autoridad de l Canal de Panama is set up as an autonomous agency of Panama with no oversight from the politicians. Neither the President nor the legislature can direct them what to do or interfere in their ope bsolutely critical to keep the c anal a success in Panama. things I learned i n Panama, an old saying was if you have four Panamanian politicians in th e room you have six parties represented at least [lau ghter]. They switch and move; they bait and switch all the time. Everything is politics in Panama. Well there are no politics at the Panama Canal. free as by organic law supported by the Constitution of Panama. Number two the managers today are the same ones that we trained in the 1980s and 1990 s on how to run the canal and we trained them well. They are very serious and committed to continue doing a good have explained it to me. Now, my retiring soon and I hope this spirit carries on with the next gener ation. But this s not gonna fail on our watch. W better than the gringos do. Not as good as, but better. I think number three, I place to work in the country of Panama. People are proud. If anything else struck me in
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 4 6 the old Canal Zone and eve n after it ceased to exist right between the eyes was how proud the people were to work for that organization. T hat same pride exists today e l. If they get it, they hold on some things working in its that feeling. C: ve taken up a lot of your time. M: Oh, this i s a pleasure. [laughter] C: For me too. Were there any things you think that M: I would just kind of end as I began, by reminding you o r other li steners of this that m some of the same observations from people who were born and raised there. who were born an d raised there, b ecause I came as an outsider and then I left. But i t was a wonderful almost twenty six year period of my li m privileged to have lived
PCM 002; Morgan; Page 47 and worked in Pa nama, and for the Panama Canal o rganization, all that time. Great people to work fo r and with, great experience. C: Thank you again for sharing your experiences. M: Thank you. [End of interview ] Audit edited by: Jessica Taylor January 7, 2014
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