The various activities of the Naval Station have been touched upon here and there in preceding chapters. It is now desirable to take up each activity and write a connected account about it. Each account is in the form of a résumé and will cover briefly the period from 1903 to 1940.

Ship's Repair

The Ship's Repair Department (today known as the Ships Department) of the Naval Station was first known as the Construction and Repair Department. It was organized at the inception of the Naval Station, reputedly on 10 December 1903.

The central office and all shops of the Construction and Repair Department were located on Hospital Cay and consisted of four sheds and a marine railway for boats. One of the thatch-roofed sheds covered the working area alongside the marine railway and one of the remaining sheds housed a blacksmith shop with a forge, anvil, and the usual hand tools found in blacksmith shops in that day. The carpenter shop shed housed two work benches and all woodwork was accomplished with hand tools, and the paint shop then as now was a "lean to" alongside the carpenter shop. In 1906 a target repair facility was established in connection with the carpenter shop. About this time a small machine shop was installed on South Toro Cay in connection with the construction of a fleet graving dock. The graving dock also brought railroad and crane tracks to Toro Cay with upkeep facilities added to the machine shop and a small foundry which were organized into a Machine Division under the cognizance of the Bureau of Steam Engineering. The capacity of the marine railway on Hospital Cay was approximately 100 tons based on the drydocking of a Holland type submarine in 1910 or 1911 and the fact that two haulout steam winches were installed on the Hospital Cay railway, one of which was removed to its present location where it still performs its duty 46 years later. It in said that the other winch was purloined by a ship's crew one dark night in 1912 during the move to the new location.

In 1910 it was decided to move the repair shops to their present location on what was to be known as the 'Main Station" and building number 1 was started in 1910 to house all metal working trades. With the move in 1912 came machine tools from the surplus stocks in Boston and Brooklyn, also Pensacola and New Orleans. The woodworking trades and the marine railway were moved in 1912 to their present location in building number 5.

The development of the present Ships Department facility was slow and seemingly like the proverbial step-child who receives his big brother's cast off toys to rehabilitate for his own use. Equipment received in the shops during the period prior to World War II carries the name of the shipyard from which it was transferred as more efficient equipment was received by the shipyards to replace their low production and obsolete gear.

Drydocking and marine railway facilities essential in the repair of floating equipment are often the controlling factors in the handling of repairs for forces afloat. When the original marine railway was moved from Hospital Cay to its present location in the rear of the carpenter shop (building number 5) it was found to be too light to handle the small craft which had grown past the 100 ton mark, and a new 500 ton wooden cradle railway was added in the rear of building number 12 with the machinery housed in a shed attached to the present Ships Department office. The 500 ton marine railway was used extensively through World War I and continued in service until 1936-37 when the tracks were rebuilt and a new steel cradle installed. In addition to the 500 ton railway and the railway originally installed on Hospital Cay, a small boat haulout railway was installed between the other two and has been in constant use since the original installation date.

Painting for preservation has been an important factor since the days of wooden ships and the history of the paint shop shows a record of accomplishing a lot of work while housed in various sheds and "lean-to's" alongside carpenter shops. Painting ships alongside the coaling piers at Hospital Cay presented a problem since the hulls were white and when the trade winds became contrary and deposited coal dust on fresh white hull paint the results produced a slate gray finish to bring forth howls of rage from salty commanding officers.

The Construction and Repair Department was manned by personnel under the cognizance of the old Naval Construction Corps which maintained control over hull construction and repairs until 1939 when the consolidation with the Bureau of Engineering was effected, which resulted in a Ship's Repair Department, for both hull and machinery, under the cognizance of the new Bureau of Ships.

Work Badge Civilian personnel from Cuba, Jamaica, India, China, Malta, and Spain manned the Construction and Repair Department from its beginning in 1903 to World War II. Many of the old timers from the early shops on Hospital and South Toro Cays were still on the job when World War II was touched off by the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the start of the build-up in 1940 there were 150 civilians on the job. Military personnel in varying numbers have always formed a part of the working force for the repair of ships. In 1940 when the first contingent of Naval Reserves arrived the muster rolls of the department showed it had 90 enlisted and 2 officers on board.


From the very start of the Naval Station, supply was of necessity a paramount factor in the fulfillment of the Station's mission. Logistic support during this period was limited to three main items: coal, water and provisions. The first coaling facility was on Fisherman's Point, and it was moved to Hospital Cay in 1906 and enlarged. The outside storage capacity of the coaling station on Hospital Cay was 25,000 tons. With the aid of a gantry crane, coaling could in time proceed from a three-hundred foot dock to ships having less than twenty-five foot draft at the rate of five hundred tons every eight hours. Ships drawing over twenty-five feet had to be coaled in the Bay from 250-ton and 500-ton lighters.

Several supply warehouses were established on South Toro Cay to fulfill the mission of the Supply Department which was to maintain supplies for the subsistence of the personnel of the Station. The Supply Department was staffed by three officers, thirteen men, and thirty-three civilians in the year 1913.

Due to the need of fueling facilities to accommodate ships converting from coal to oil, new installations had to be constructed. Coincident with the moving of the station from South Toro Cay to the vicinity of Corinaso Cove, seven oil tanks, having a total capacity of 210,000 barrels, and one gasoline storage tank, having a capacity of 90,000 gallons, were constructed on the new location. This was in 1913.Oil Storage Tank These tanks were connected to an oil fueling dock of wooden construction, 325 feet long, having a water depth of 23 feet. The tanks were filled by means of steam pumps and the discharge was by gravity. This dock was located in Corinaso Cove, at the site of the present main fuel dock. Six additional storage buildings, which included the Supply and Disbursing Office, were constructed and were sufficient to give covered storage to all material except refrigerated material which was stored in three boxes of fifty tons capacity. A galley and mess hall were constructed in 1917 on Corinaso Point across the Cove from the Industrial Area, which accommodated 250 men, more than the station personnel allowance. A Commissary Store was constructed in order to make foodstuffs available to those persons who were supporting their families on the Station.

The United States' entry into the first World War caused some increases in activity at the Base and the supply facilities were inadequate for the slight influx of material and personnel. To meet the demands of this increased activity, appropriations were granted to increase Fleet facilities for additional fuel oil, water storage and other buildings. Two new oil storage reservoirs, capacity 3,000,000 gallons each, were constructed on Oil Point and two additional storehouses were added. However, these facilities were not completed until 1918 and by that time World War I was virtually at an end. Therefore, these improvements and equipment contributed little to the war effort. A new power plant contained an ice plant of 10,000 pound capacity which supplied the Station activities. All requirements for ships could be filled up to 10,000 pounds daily from a contract the Supply Department maintained with a company in Guantanamo City. This ice was shipped to Caimanera and there picked up by ships' boats. The ships had to furnish their own working parties to transfer the ice from the dock to the boats and from the boats to the ships. After World War I the Fleet continued to use Guantanamo Bay for winter maneuvers and frequent visits to the area depended largely upon the supplies the ships brought down with them. The Naval Station was called upon to furnish only fuel, fresh water and fresh provisions.

During the period 1919 to 1939 the Supply Department functioned very much in the same way as it had during World War I. There was a slight decrease in the issue of coal and fuel oil due to the decrease in number of ships operating in the area. It was the custom of the Fleet to arrive on station shortly after New Year's for winter training and exercises. It remained in this vicinity until the latter part of April. It is interesting to note that less than 3,000 items were carried in stock by the Naval Station Supply Department and less than $10,000 worth of provisions were carried in stock. A contract was negotiated with one of the railroad companies to haul water in tank cars to certain designated landings whence it was delivered by barges to the various ships. During this period from World War t to 1939, the Supply organization was staffed by six officers, nineteen men and twenty-seven civilians. Records for the year 1920 disclose that 3,025 tons of cargo were unloaded at the Station. In 1928, authority was granted to build an aviation gasoline tank of 90,000 gallons capacity. Prior to the building of this tank, all aviation gasoline was stored in drums in the open next to the gasoline issue dock. This was not only dangerous but it was difficult to maintain sufficient quantity to meet the demands placed on the Supply Department when planes operated from the Station in connection with Fleet maneuvers. During this same year, a new oil dock, 325 feet long, was constructed. This new dock made it possible to fuel ships from both sides at the same time.

In a preceding chapter it has been related how beef and milk were procured for the Station. Perhaps as early as 1910 a Cuban by the name of Massip had a concession to run a canteen for Fleet personnel, and he is reputed to have sold beef and milk to station personnel. He lived on Massip Hill, now Chapel Hill. In 1920 he was succeeded by another Cuban Abelardo Marquez, who was given a grazing concession on the Station and beef and milk contracts. He moved into Massip's house and established "Marquez Ranch", along with some slaughtering facilities. There was an upheaval in 1930 over this situation, resulting largely from the complaints of Cubans who held that Marquez' living and doing business on the Base was in violation of the "no-private enterprise" terms of the lease agreement. Marquez left the station but executed a lease of his ranch and slaughtering facilities to the government and won the beef contract in competitive bidding, which contract he held for a number of years. The details of this are covered elsewhere. To complete the story, the arrangement with Marquez continued until 1940, and was on several occasions the subject of complaints from a local contractor, but the arrangement was deemed to be the most practical under the circumstances. In 1940 the lease with Marquez was terminated and an American by the name of John Randolph, a wealthy landowner in nearby Cuba, took" over the operation of the ranch, which became known as "Randolph Ranch". One of Mr. Randolph's trusted foremen ran the ranch. In 1942, as a result of expansion of the training facilities of the Base and the need for land, the contract was terminated and the ranch vacated by Mr. Randolph. Beef was thereafter obtained by contract with firms off the Base until the later build-up of refrigeration facilities for stateside products solved the problem. But this is getting ahead of our chronology.

One more item of supply interest was the termination, at long last, of the coaling facilities on Hospital Cay, marking the finish of coalburning ships in the Navy. This happened about 1937.


Soon after the Naval Station was placed in commission, work was started on construction of rifle ranges for use by the Fleet. This work was begun about 1905 under the second Commandant, CDR Rogers, and continued by LCDR Ackerman. During the period when LCDR Ackerman was Commandant, he supervised the construction of tunnels leading from the firing lines to the various ranges. These ranges included a 100-yard, a 300-yard, a 500-yard, and a 1000-yard rifle range which were located in the area now occupied by the Golf Course and Fleet Recreation Center. A pistol range was also built during this period, which extended from 1905 to 1907. An interesting note regarding the tunnels which are mentioned above, tells of an accident in 1934, when one of the tunnels collapsed on a group of men from the USS West Virginia, seriously injuring a turret captain. These men were engaged in rifle practice just prior to the fleet matches of 1934. It appears that the heavy rainfall of that week had undermined the concrete slab top of the tunnel. There are still vestiges of the tunnels near the present Golf Course Club Caddy House.

In 1912 a target and equipment repair shop was constructed. This building was surveyed in 1943. Its location was close to the present Teachers' Quarters.

The first magazine was constructed approximately 200 yards South of Corinaso Cove in 1913. This building, a concrete block Permanent structure and bearing the number 200, still stands. A similar building which was designated as "Shell House", was constructed at the same time, a short distance to the east. It is also still in use as building No. 201.

In 1915 a firing line shelter was constructed at the ranges. This building stood until 1943, when it was surveyed and torn down. World War I resulted in the construction of a mine storage building, completed in 1918. This building, like 200 and 201, was of permanent construction. It was used for mine storage from 1918 until 1944, when the mines were removed and the building converted into office space.

Although no authentic records are at hand to substantiate it, there appears to have been an anti-submarine net laid during World War I, as records of the 1940's speak of laying a five hundred foot section of World War I anti-submarine net as a practice event in the month of January 1941.

The present ordnance pier (Pier D) of concrete construction was built by station labor in 1929 at a cost of approximately $50,000, replacing an old wooden pier about 15 years old. Target repair work of the Ordnance Department, which comprised a large part of that department's work during the days before World War II, had a ways and repair building near the head of the present Pier D. Target repair is now a function of the Ships Department.

The build-up of the Naval Operating Base, starting in 1940, brought about the construction of many magazines and buildings and the establishment of the Naval Magazine, Guantanamo Bay, in 1941. This will be touched upon later.


The first Radio Station was established about 1904 at Wireless Point on North Toro Cay. This installation when completed included a small power plant, a building for radio equipment and operators, a frame quarters building for the radioman in charge, and three wooden towers. There was also a remote relay station located about a mile and a half to the eastward, across Granadillo Bay on the main part of the Reservation.
Radio Station
When the Naval Station was moved from Toro Cay to the "Main Station", the old Radio Station at Wireless Point was abandoned, and communication facilities were installed on Radio Point, the present center of radio transmission, marked by two high steel towers. The old Remote Relay Station, however, remained in operation until 1925 or 1926, when it was discontinued and replaced by two towers and accompanying equipment, located on the site of the Present Base Administration Building.

About 1938 or 1939 the present Radio Range was constructed on the road to Kittery Beach, becoming the principal radio receiving facility and serving as the remote relay station.


Upon the establishment of the Naval Station one of the first buildings on Toro Cay was a dispensary, locally referred to as the "hospital". The staff consisted of one medical officer and a few corpsmen. When the Naval Station was moved from South Toro in 1913, the dispensary was reestablished on "Upper Flats", now known as Hospital Point. All the dispensary facilities were located in one building. The staff was still one medical officer and a few corpsmen, but during the winter periods with the Fleet present additional medical officers and corpsmen were assigned from the Fleet. When the patient load became too large for one building, tents were set up to provide housing for the patients. During the ensuing years additional buildings were erected And the staff increased. In September 1939 the Dispensary consisted of six buildings.

About the year 1913 a permanent isolation camp was established on Caracoles Point for the care of contagious diseases, principally smallpox, occuring in the Fleet. The last time this was used was during the year 1920 and 1921 when there was a smallpox epidemic in Cuba. At one time Caracoles Point was referred to as "smallpox point".

There was also set up a Quarantine Cemetery on Caracoles Point. Four burials are recorded as having been made there from December 1913 to February 1914, probably all smallpox victims.

Mention has been made of the North Toro Cay Cemetery, established in 1906, which in all received about fifty bodies during the course of years, including the British Paymaster, E.N. Harrison.

There was also a Native Cemetery (also known as the "Water Hole Cemetery"), which was located on the south side of a hill near the north boundary line, south of Boqueron. This location is on the shore opposite North Toro Cay immediately across the northernmost inlet of Granadillo Bay. There are records of 12 interments there, but at least two were evidently disenterred.

The oldest cemetery, antedating United States occupation, was the "Old Spanish Cemetery" on Fisherman's Point. It was also called "Fisherman's Point Cemetery" and "Lighthouse Dock Cemetery". In addition to natives of unknown name and number, five servicemen were buried there from 1902 to 1905, but they were reinterred on North Toro in 1909. The last recorded burial on Fisherman's Point was in 1922.

On Leeward Point there in the grave of an old rancher who died and was buried in 1901.

The McCalla Hill Cemetery, near the site of the present Fleet Logistic Air Wing Terminal was apparently established about 1917, the time of the first recorded interment. This cemetery was transferred to the Cemetery near Cuzco Beach in 1940, at the time the present Naval Cemetery was established there.

There are three civilians buried in the Windward Point Cemetery to the left of the road leading to Cable Beach, the last burial apparently being in 1940.

The Naval Cemetery near Cuzco Beach was established in 1940 and is the current burial ground for all bodies to be interred on the Base. It received all the remains from McCalla Hill Cemetery in 1940. In November 1944, all bodies that remained in the North Toro and Caracoles Point Cemeteries were transferred to the Cuzco Beach Naval Cemetery, which at this time has 127 graves.

Records indicate that all human remains on the Base now rest in the Naval Cemetery at Cuzco Beach with the following exceptions: an undetermined number of bodies in the Native Cemetery near the north boundary, three bodies near Windward Point and one on Leeward Point. There may be some in the long abandoned Spanish cemetery on Fisherman's Point, but in all likelihood the Divine Providence alone knows this.

If occasion arises, detailed records of burials on the Naval Reservation may be consulted in the office of the Commanding Officer, Naval Hospital.

Public Works

The history of the physical development of the Naval Station is virtually a history of the Public Works Department, and this history has already been written in the preceding chapters. However, a brief review with emphasis on the stages in which public works were planned and executed, should not be amiss.

In the April 1903 issue of the Review of Reviews, is an article entitled "Our New Naval Stations", which contains the following passage: "A party of prominent officials, headed by the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Moody, and including members of Congress prominent in the Naval committees, was in Cuba last month, inspecting two sites agreed upon for United States Naval Stations. One of these is Guantanamo, on the south coast, and the other is Bahia Honda, which is not far from Havana, on the north coast. The more important of the two is the one first named. The harbor of Guantanamo is spacious, and the conditions are favorable for the creation there of a very important naval base ...." The visit of this party no doubt had a very important effect on the plans for Guantanamo Bay.

The original site of the Naval Station on South Toro Cay was selected by the Swift Board. This selection did not prove too happy a one, largely because the building of the drydock turned into a fiasco and its location was felt to be vulnerable to attack from the sea.

The Howard Board (Rear Admiral T. B. Howard) was appointed by the Secretary of the Navy to select a new site for a drydock. This board finally endorsed the idea of mooring a floating drydock at Corinaso Point, recommended by Civil Engineer Frank O. Maxon, USN, late in 1910, as a suitable location since the locality offered greater protection from enemy action. The idea of a floating drydock instead of a graving dock seemed to have gained favor. A floating drydock was available at New Orleans for transfer. Anyhow, the selection of the location was approved early in 1911, but the floating drydock did not materialize. Instead the area in Corinaso Cove in the vicinity of the present Wharf Baker became the station center. The work began of transferring, on barges, already constructed buildings from South Toro Cay to the new location; the new "Main Station" sprang up and started operations in October 1913.

World War I brought a small amount of public works construction, but the post-war reaction was depressing. In the lean years between wars only the annual visits of the Fleet brought enough support to keep the Station running on a modest basis, with some improvements now and then, minor in nature and usually associated with fueling or aviation. It was not until 1938, when war seemed inevitable in Europe, that the Hepburn Board visited the Station and made recommendations that spelled expansion. This expansion will be dealt with in succeeding chapters.

Go to Chapter Twelve