OTHER DEVELOPMENTS: POST-1962 CRISIS
Rear Admiral Murphy's history mentions the All-America Cable Company which had special authority and permission to do business on the Naval Base. During the October 1962 crisis when over 80 news media representatives converged on the base in one week, the Cable Company facilities were used to transmit the material for the reporters. However, its offices closed on May 23, 1963 ending a long and colorful existence. Some of the workers had been employed here since its opening and remained on the base seeking other employment. Others were transferred to locations elsewhere.
Normalcy to Hurricane Condition
During the first nine months of 1963, the base settled down to routine business as dependents took up their role as citizens of the base, schools re-opened and a community life was again evident. In October 1963 a hurricane was developing in the Caribbean area and it was heading toward the Guantanamo Bay area.
The following is a story written by Commander B. D. Varner, Public Information Officer for the Commander Naval Base as it appeared in the October 12, 1963 issue of the Gitmo Review, the base weekly publication:
"Guantanamo Bay residents will remember the name Flora with mixed emotions. Undoubtedly, the name will henceforth be associated with adjectives such as capricious, erratic, whimsical, unpredictable, inconsistent or several other descriptive words, none of which, when used singly, can adequately describe her. All will agree, however, that they're glad she is gone.
"Almost 50 hours in hurricane shelters has convinced them that Flora is not one to be trusted. Even being in the same hemisphere is too close for some ...
"When Hurricane Condition One was set the first time, shortly after midnight on Thursday, October 3rd, Admiral J. W. Davis and his staff moved his operational command post from Flag Plot to the bomb-proof Shelter, to direct disaster control operations. Here amid a maze of communications equipment and communicators, maps, charts and data boards, the long vigil was begun which was eventually to be repeated twice before Hurricane Flora decided to alter course for the final northeastward flight which brought clear skies to Gitmo once again.
"Other activity in Bomb-Proof included the Commander Fleet Training Group and his staff plotting positions of the ships they had ordered to sortie. These ships were maneuvering to safer waters to evade Flora. Among the smaller vessels that remained to ride out the storm in the bay were the MSO's ADROIT and STALWART, the latter of which held Flora's eye on radar and provided valuable weather data for plotting the storm.
"FTG's personnel were assigned to medical, personnel assistance and rescue teams, pitching in wherever needed to assist in whatever job needed accomplishing.
"Col. G. W. Killen, Commanding Officer Marine Barracks and his staff set up a Command post underground and carried on security functions in a manner befitting the finest tradition of the Corps. The base perimeter was guarded from special storm bunkers and the Northeast Gate was manned at all times.
"With Flora beginning to show her unladylike propensities in the vicinity of the base, the Naval Station made preparations to evacuate personnel into pre-designated shelter areas, including some 30 underground shelters. The Command Post was quickly manned when the signal was given to evacuate, Naval Station personnel assumed vehicular and pedestrian traffic control in the shelter areas.
"Due to the high winds and heavy rains, it soon became apparent that the underground shelters would be untenable for any length of time and immediate action was taken to determine what other shelter facilities could be made available. Women and children were moved first to other shelter locations and ammunition magazines were readied to receive the bulk of male personnel....
"Port Services continued in full operation to move ships from piers and wharves to more secure anchorages within the bay. A final inspection trip aboard the ABATAN revealed that some of the mooring wires had parted. An intrepid working party went on the ship and under the most adverse conditions of wind and weather were successful in securing the remaining lines.
"The crews of the YLT 753 and the LCM 8 also braved the rough seas to help in the search operations for personnel who had been swept into the flood waters of the Guantanamo River near Leeward Point.
"The Naval Air Station at both McCalla and Leeward were buttoned-down with all aircraft in hangars, and their men assigned to a variety of hurricane duties. Perhaps one of the most valuable and necessary jobs of all was provided by NAS Weather Service whose personnel were leaning on every trick of the meteorology trade to come up with accurate predictions and prompt weather data and the whimsical movements of the most unpredictable hurricane in history.... Their weather service to WGBY was highly professional and greatly appreciated by all those listeners waiting out the "lady" in their shelters.
"With almost 80% of their Cuban work force off the base, Public Works Center's job of keeping the base's utilities in operation became a desperate around-the-clock operation. . . . But, thanks to consecrated efforts of the remaining 20% and the welcomed assistance of the men of MCB-1, the difficult job of repairing continual power outages and disrupted telephone communications, making structural repairs, removing road hazards, securing loose gear and equipment and the thousand and one other chores were accomplished well enough to meet all emergency situations.
"PWC and the Seabees also dammed up an area on the golf course and at Lassiter Tank Farm for water reservoirs. In addition, they pumped water from the Cuzco wells (that were developed last fall) in an effort to provide precious water. Silting of the Yateras River earlier had stopped the flow of water from the regular source.
"Particularly noteworthy were the dangerous efforts of the men repairing power lines in howling winds and slashing rains. These men were high on the list of the "heroes of the hour."
"With the many local power failures a number of installations around the base had to shift from main generators to auxiliary system, which have a limited fuel capacity. Naval Supply Depot personnel were continuously engaged in filling fuel drums and making emergency deliveries to such remote areas as John Paul Jones Hill, where deliveries could not be made by tank trucks because of road conditions.
"NSD issued 10,000 emergency rations. They also sent 750 cots and 750 blankets for personnel in community shelters. A rarer commodity, helium, was issued to the NAS Weather Service . . . 6,000 pounds of it, for weather balloons.
"The hospital essentially carried on their regular mission while acting as shelter for women in the 9th month of pregnancy and women with babies under three months old. . . . In the underground hospital were mothers in 7th and 8th months of pregnancy, and mothers with children 8 to 6 months old. The hospital furnished a medical officer and assistants to form medical teams at all community shelters. "Business as usual" included four childbirths and a shipboard accident on the GLENNON. But the emergency that will be best remembered by those sheltered at Marblehead Hall was the paper shortage that required a run by the field ambulance into the teeth of a howling gale to deliver disposable diapers.
"When the base sirens alerted residents of evacuation to shelters, the base police went to all non-hurricane-proof housing areas to make sure no one was left in the area. They also assisted people in evacuation. When everyone was in shelters they remained on constant patrol to see that no unauthorized personnel were in the areas and to report all hazards such as wires or trees down, fires or other peril. Like the police force of any community, the Base Police was not without its share of "odd" calls, such as one woman who telephoned to request that a policeman come out and roll up her car windows because she didn't want to go outside and get wet.
"The Gitmo Fire Department had seven fire alarms, all caused by electrical shortages, three of which were at the height of the storm. . . . One fireman stopped to render aid to a man whose car was out of fuel, and who remained behind while the fireman went after gas. When he returned, he found the man taking advantage of the heavy downpour and time on his hands, busily washing his car in the middle of Sherman Avenue."
"With heavy swells from 16 to 20 feet at times, and rough seas during the entire hurricane threat, the Leeward Point Ferry could not run, thus leaving the residents almost completely on their own. All buildings being hurricane-proof solved the evacuation problem, although Leeward Point received the strongest winds all during Flora's rampage. Residents were kept busy with the bucket and mop."
Go to Chapter Twenty-one