Title: Panama Canal Museum Exhibit Materials : Military Display
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00098897/00001
 Material Information
Title: Panama Canal Museum Exhibit Materials : Military Display
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Panama Canal Museum
Publisher: Panama Canal Museum
Place of Publication: Seminole, FL
Subject: Canal Zone
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00098897
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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One of the last known photos of the Albrook Flight lne before the U S. was thrust into the war Dated 7August 1941,
there are at least 25 Curtnss P-40's visible, as well as six Curtiss P-36A s. Note the barracks under construction at the
top of the view (via G. M. Chevaler)

Early 1939 also saw the reconnaissance and
bomber squadrons in the Canal Zone trade in a num-
ber of their B-10's for new Douglas B- 18s, 10 of
these being exchanged by their crews at San Anto-
nio between January and March 30th. The B-18's
were welcomed with great enthusiasm as, although
the B-10's were well-liked, the crew accommoda-
tions (not to mention the luxury of a co-pilot and
navigator) were a vast improvement. The remain-
der of the B-10's departed the Canal Zone in May
1939 (four), and July-August 1939 (12) as they were
traded in, as fast as crews could be made available,
on B-18's. The B- 18 proved to be an invaluable as-
set to the defense of the Canal over the next five
years and, in the considered opinion of this writer,
has not received itsjust desserts for the part it played
in the Caribbean theater.
On 17 April 1939, at long last, the hard-sur-
face runways at Albrook Field were opened and, as
many Canal Zone veterans will vividly recall, was
only approachable from the south by a final ap-
proach "through the notch" between Quarry Heights
("The Gibraltar of the Pacific") on the right and
Ancon Hill on the left, a man-made mini-mountain
erected through the deposit of earth dug out when
the Canal was built Coincident with the opening of
the runway, came the use of radio control of air traf-
fic in and out of the field for the first time,
At this juncture, considering the world situa-
tion as it stood as of 31 August 1939, it may be use-
ful to the reader to examine a tabular listing of the
aircraft actually on hand at that time for the defense
of the Canal and the Puerto Rican Department:
Curtiss P-36A fighters 11
Boeing P-26A fighters = 24
Northrop A-17 attack aircraft = 14
Vultee YA-19 attack aircraft = 1
Douglas B-18 bombers = 33
Martin B-10B = 1 (awaiting survey)
Thomas-Morse ZO- 19C observation aircraft = 3
Grumman OA-9 amphibians = 4 (two at each
Air Base, one other was in Puerto Rico, the
only aircraft there at the time)
Sikorsky OA-8 amphibian = I
Douglas ZOA-4C amphibian = 1
Belanca C-27C transport = 1

Douglas C-29 amphibian transport = I
North American BC-1 basic combat trainers = 6
Douglas ZBT-2BI target drone = 1
In addition, a further P-26A and 19 Curtiss P-
36A's were due for delivery to the Canal Zone from
Selfridge Field. Clearly, things were getting better
for the tactical units The Air Corps was sending
them the best they had at the time
In fact, the War Department Adjutant General
had actually approved an even more significant boast
for the Canal Zone establishment In addition to the
aircraft noted above, actually in place by August,
authorization had been granted for deployment of
not fewer than 65 Seversky P-35's to the Canal Zone,
as well as 14 of the new North American O-47A
Corps and Division Observation aircraft, and 40
more B-18's! Needless to say, the 65 P-35's (of a
total of 76 procured) did not in fact reach the Canal
Zone, being redeployed elsewhere as events dic-
tated, but the 0-47's and most of the B- 18's eventu-
ally arrived.
It is of interest to note, in connection with the
P-26's, that they were clearly recognized as an "in-
ternm" type for use in the Canal Zone, and that this
is reflected in documents of the period Further,
they were armed entirely with 30 caliber weap-
ons Due to a Technical Order issued by the Chief
of the Air Corps in late 1938, no tactical aircraft
could be shipped outside the United States with
armament on-board and thus, when the Canal Zone
based P-26's were finally turned in, their 30 cali-
ber guns were retained for use on their replace-
While the Air Corps establishment was being
noticeably strengthened equipment-wise in the Ca-
nal Zone, a number of other, stnctly personnel prob-
lems, were starting to surface over which the lead-
ership of the Air Corps had little control. As of 5
September 1939, for instance, all but one of the six
tactical squadrons in the Canal Zone were com-
manded by First Lieutenants, while the single squad-
ron commanded by a Captain was due to leave on
completion of his tour of duty within the week! Of
the ILT's, two were Reserve Officers and, to top
things off, of all six tactical squadron on hand, they
had an average of only four officers assigned,

amongst the total of whom only six were Regular

Air Corps officer!
The term "present emergency" was used fre-
quently during this tense period, and the flying per-
sonnel situation was eased considerably that same
month when 26 officers arrived, followed by 25
more on the SS "Saint Mihiel" from the U.S. in
late September However, of these, more than half
were newly commissioned Second Lieutenants with
less than a year's service.
As a result of the obvious experience short-
fall, during this "emergency," orders were issued
that all officers, excepting only the Wing Com-
mander and the two Airfield Commanders, would
be available to complete combat crews and assign-
ments were made accordingly. The classified sta-
tus of Air Corps units in the Canal Zone at the
time reported, ruefully, that "not a single squad-
ron can perform tactical missions at more than half
strength without 'borrowing' pilots from other
Within the all-important Reconnaissance and
Bombardment Squadrons, there were a total of 15
first-pilots available to man the 33 B-l8's on hand
and, with projected transfers taken into account, it
was bleakly projected that "less than four aircraft
per squadron could be made available if all other
members of the combat crews were present." How-
ever, things then went from bad to worse, as the
report went on to record that "they are =fQ present,
as there is a shortage of trained bombardiers and
observers and no celestial navigators It was fer-
vently hoped that the arrival of the new officers
would alleviate this dangerous state of affairs
If the recon and bomb squadrons were in dire
straits, the Attack Squadron was even worse off.
Although it had a full compliment of 14 virtually
brand-new Northrop A-I 7's, the 74th Attack Squad-
ron had but three officers. In the two Pursuit Squad-
ron, the 24th and 29th, although they had 24 P-26's
dispersed equally between them (the P-36's could
not yet be seriously included, as they were await-
ing certain parts and transition training), one squad-
run had only four officers and the other five Clearly,
the Air Corps establishment in the Canal Zone
would have been in serious trouble had the Euro-
pean war threatened it at this juncture.

First Blackout
The specter of war carried by the news media
of the day was finally brought home forcefully to
the American enclave in the Canal Zone on 10 Oc-
tober 1939 when for the first time n its history, the
Canal Zone was in complete darkness for 15 min-
The blackout, publicized in Panama newspa-
pers extensively for more than a week in order that
cooperation from motorists could be obtained, was
effective from 2245 until 2300 hours that evening.
Major General David Stone, Panama Canal
Department Commander, and President Juan
Demostenes of the Republic, viewed the demon-
stration from atop Ancon Hill, which afforded an
unobstructed view of the effects of the blackout.
Four B- 18's of the 44th Reconnaissance Squadron
were launched to confirm the effectiveness of the
blackout from altitude, and included amongst the
crews none other than Brigadier General H. A
Dargue, the new 19th Wing Commander, who had
replaced General Brett Although the blackout was
reported in these terms in the news media and the
Air Corps Newsletter, the results were not. Unfor-
tunately, it was observed that "cooperation from
some areas of Panama City and Colon in the Re-
public was not all that it could have been." As the
Canal Zone authorities had little choice but to rely
on the cooperation and good will of the Panama-
man authorities, in actual point of fact, these au-




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Captions from Exhibit


A good part of Panama's original road system was built by the U.S. Army.

Among the most important highways in this category are the Boyd-
Roosevelt (Transisthmian), the portion of the Pan American Highway
between Arraijan and Rio Hato and between Pacora and Chepo. The
Miraflores swing-span bridge over the locks opposite Ft. Clayton and the
Thatcher Ferry Bridge (Bridge of the Americas) were also built by the U.S.

Numerous other secondary roads which led to Army anti-aircraft positions,
searchlights, radar stations and other installations, have for the most part
been swallowed up by vegetation and erosion. Others, however, have
acted as spearheads into inaccessible areas and have formed the basis for
many new centers of population within the Republic of Panama.


These binoculars were originally emplaced at one of the Ft. Amador shore
batteries during WW II. They were used on shore for spotters to scan the
coastal entrances to the Canal. They could also be wheeled out and bolted
to the deck of a ship. It is likely there was one at each shore battery and
one on most ships.

On loan from Jim Wilson


The first organized large-scale study made by the Chemical Warfare
Service to indicate whether or not, with modern gas training and
protection, military operations could be carried on under actual gas

Clad in full protective equipment for the test, a rifle company from the 150th
Infantry Regiment stationed in the Canal Zone entered a jungle area off the
coast of Panama which had been heavily contaminated by means of
mustard-filled bombs. Nothing was faked. Five tons of mustard was
dropped on the target area in concentrations sufficient to cause 100 per
cent casualties from severe blistering and systemic poisoning among
masked but otherwise unprotected troops. The fully protected troops
moved into the area, established their lines of security, and prepared to
stay. Meanwhile, an infantry combat patrol, also wearing complete
protective equipment, set out to attack the position running into tear gas
and phosgene agent concentrations on the way. Working their way
through the hot, humid jungle, the combat patrol approached the position
of the holding force and made a harassing attack on it. Then the patrol
withdrew. The occupying force remained at their positions for 24 hours,
when the exercise was concluded. Not one of the men had received a
mustard burn sufficient to render him a casualty.

The test by Canal Zone troops had demonstrated that terrain heavily
contaminated with a chemical agent could be held, and that our protective
clothing and equipment had proved effective under perhaps the most
rigorous and hazardous of conditions that might be encountered in gas

Circa 1914

Typical item a sailor transiting the Canal might purchase as a souvenir

Order of Commander

Awarded to Colonel Jim Wilson, USMC, by Panamanian President Endara
for promoting the Buy Panama program, a provision of the 1977 treaty
which endorsed local procurement of goods and services to support the
local economy.

During the Noriega regime, the U.S. government cut off a majority of
procurement contracts, boycotting Noriega and his cronies' interests. Col.
Wilson reestablished the contracts putting over $300 million back into the
local economy during the 1990-1993 time frame.

Since its inception, Colonel Wilson is the only Marine to receive this

On loan from Jim Wilson



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during the period of the war without mishap or delay to vessels using its facilities;
that no acts of injury or destruction were committed against the Canal or any of its
structures: that there have been no strikes or other significant labor troubles: and it
is gratifying to state that throughout the period of the war the Canal and Panama
Railroad employees in general maintained a highly patriotic attitude and showed by
every means w within their power their willingness and desire to give the best that
was in them in support of the war policies of the administration.

Chester Harding,

men of the Army.

Upon the eve of the declaration of war, the Governor being at that time in charge of
the protection of the Canal, authority was requested from the Secretary of War to
take the following measures of precaution:
Sequestration of all German subjects and their families.
Censorship of all mail regarded as suspicious, and all cable messages.
Closing of Canal ports at night and thorough patrol of harbors and entrances.
Extinguishment of harbor lights.
The detention of ships in suspicious cases for inspection of cargo before transit.

I am fortunate in being able to report that the Canal was operated and maintained
Due to the geographical location of the enemy and other conditions, the full strategic
value of the Canal w as not demonstrated in this war. There was no occasion for the
passage through it of large fleets of the navies of the United States or her allies.

Similarly, there was at no time the danger of attack upon the Canal by the enemy in
force, and the only cause of anxiety was the possibility of surreptitious damage to
the Canal channel and structures through the instrumentality of enemy agents.

The operating tunnels of the locks and spillways, the electrical generating stations at
Gatun and Nliraflores, the radio stations, dry docks and shops, bridges, piers,
dynamite magazines, water reservoirs, and, in general, essential Canal properties
liable to dama e. were Puarded by the Canal Zone police and details of the enlisted
The Canal and WW I

Excerpts of the Governor's report to the Secretary of War on the part played by the
Panama Canal in the war:

The Honorable,
The Secretary of War,
Washington, D.C.

Sir: I wish to submit, for purposes of record, the follow ing special report of the
work performed and services rendered by The Panama Canal contributory to the
prosecution of the war with the Central European Powers.



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The32ndPursutGroup stli had nneformer 16th PG Boetg P26A s klte as August 1941, one of hem beig 32P74 seen here shadnga group of 'busy wrenched" (Jum Duas)

rtually the entire arworthy amrraft rentory of the 37th Purt Group ed up at Ro to on naeuverscirca 141 The neup include s ix Boeng P 26A s. wo Curss P-36A
mad aruGmman OA-9 "Goose" amphlibman (Jim Dtas)

tvuTige pat a Curttss P-J3A ol the 32nd Prsuit Group (but still bearing the squadron insigma of the 29th Pursuit Squadron, a 16h Pursuit Group outfit ) atd a Douglas B-18
f the 44th Recon Squadron at Rio Halo ircta 1941 (Jim Dias)


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