MCB OPERATIONS AT GUANTAMANO BAY
Guantanamo Bay affords a valuable operating area for the Construction Battalions of the Atlantic Fleet to a degree rivaled by no other Naval installation in the world. Here, except for an occasional hurricane and a short season of rain, ideal weather permits a well-planned operating period - usually about six months in length - virtually uninterrupted.
As the political climate between the United States and Cuba deteriorated the Construction Battalions have assumed an ever greater role in the buildup of the base. This has been particularly true in the case of defensive fortifications. In addition, retaliation against the U. S. Government by revoking the passes of Cuban workers took place, and this work force had been augmented by Seabees where vitial utilities and services were involved.
With the outbreak of the Korean Conflict in 1950, the base was launched into its fourth period of expansion. The first three occured during the year 1903, when the base was formally established; the years 1911-14, when the base was relocated at Wharf Bravo; and the years 1940-44, during World War II.
During this latter period, Seabees figured most prominently in the construction of base housing. There was a move toward refinement of exisiting facilities - particuarly roads, recreations, and general habitability of the base. It should be noted, however, that Mobile Construction Battalions were not solely responsible for improvements in all these areas - the Base Public Works Center also played a major role.
As is always the case following war, the United States lanuched an austerity program on military spending following World War II and sufficient interest in the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base was not again generated until March 1953 when MCB-ONE launched an urban renewal program.
In early December 1952, the Public Works Department announced an initial allotment of $155,000 had been approved. The project was delayed for nearly four months awaiting the arrival of a concrete block machine which was located near Caravela Point. The first of the modern one, two and three bedoom replacement housing, to replace 300 of the quonset and frame dwellings in Bargo and Victory Hill, was built in Villamar.
Monday, August 10, 1953, RADM C. L. C. Atkeson, Base Commander, laid the cornerstone of the first of the new units in Villamar.
The first Villamar Replacement Unit was opened to the public Sunday April 4, 1954. The building, No. 275, located at the end of 5th St., was received by RADM Edmund B. Taylor, Base Commander.
Following the public inspection of Building 275 no time was lost in occupying it. In mid-April two familes from East Bargo were enjoying the residence. These families were J. M. Malmay, BM1, of the Naval Station and S/Sgt. R. C. Rausch of the Marine Barracks.
By May 8th a total of seven quonsets at the north end of East Bargo had been evacuated and removal of these structures were underway to make room for the replacement housing to be built later. At this time 14 families had moved into the new housing.
In late May 1954 the exodus from East Bargo was in full swing.
MCB-EIGHT began preliminary grading in preparation for the replacement units to be built in East Bargo during this same period.
By August 21, 1954, Second St., had been completed and 12 family units on Sixth St., were scheduled for completion, after which work on First St., would begin.
Work was not confined entirely to Villamar. Two areas adjacent to this first in Gitmo were also under construction. East of First St., off Sherman Ave., there were 48 units being built, and on Granadillo Point, 12 buildings were taking shape. After completion of these projects, construction in Central and West Bargo was also slated.
At this time four Seabee Battalions had participated in the work on Gitmo housing and in late August, a fifth Battalion, MCB-FOUR relieved MCB-EIGHT.
By mid-December 1954 ten families had been assigned to housing on Granadillo Point. Completion of these units brought to 136 the number of families living in replacement housing. By May 5, 1956, 86 units had been completed. With the completion of street paving by PWC the area was ready for occupancy.
Replacement housing in Villamar was completed July 25, 1955, climaxing this Seabee building program.
This, however, did not complete construction in Villamar for in Novemeber 1960 a contract was awarded to Juan M. Huerta of Santiago de Cuba for razing and removal of 38 units on Fifth and Sixth St., to make room for a 78-uniot project begun by MCB-SEVEN early in January 1961.
The following note was recorded in the November 13, 1954 issue of the base newspaper:
�By late 1955, it may be possible for personnel assigned to Guantanamo to being their families with them when reporting for duty. This fact may be made possible by the recent proposal for 100 additional new housing units; sixty for enlisted personnel and forty to constructed for junior officers.�
Naval Air Station Housing
A much-needed hosuing project was started at Leeward Point in early April 1956 when MCB-EIGHT started clearing an area for this purpose. Dedication of the first 26 units, which were built by the Frederick Snare Corp. of New York, of this project took place on Wednesday, August 7, when the Naval Air Station officially recieved them.
In addition to the NAS housing the project on Kittery Beach Road, completed in 1959-60, was accepted and utilized by NAS personnel until Octber 1961. This project consisted of 7 officer units and 76 enlisted units.
Go to Chapter Twenty-eight