Throughout the years, the mission of the depot has remained basically the same – to procure, receive, warehouse, distribute, control and account for designated types of material for support of assigned Fleet units and shore activities. Major emphasis in the early years was placed on coal and later fuel support to the Fleet. Initially, the range of stock was limited to fuel, general stores and commissary items which encompassed less than 3,000 items. At its peak, the depot carried approximately 115,000 line items.

Because of the political unrest in the Caribbean area and certain African states, Guantanamo has been used as a springboard to dispatch the Fleet to certain troubled areas. Accordingly, the depot’s functional responsibilties have been modified to provide limited supply support, with full support for provisions, fuel and lubricants, and fast-moving Fleet Issue Load List items, to transient Naval ships and Fleet operating units training in the area of the Naval Base; U. S. Coast Guard ships; and the U. S. Naval Mission at Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

Major Change in NSD

A major change occured during the mid-50s in shipments from the continetal United States. All cargo recieved at the base was shipped from East Coast ports primarily Norfolk and Bayonne. Scheduled shipments in the past were almost non-existent. In 1955 this situation improved considerably with the movement of materials on MSTS service bottoms. Firm schedules became more realistic, advance planning could be accomplished and congestion in the transit shed was minimized.

During this same period, supply and demand were completely out of phase. Provisions recieved from Miami were insufficent to meet requirements and provisions recieved from Nofolk were in many cases unsuitable for use. Fresh milk was 65 to 75 hours old when received and the limited quantities were rationed. Frozen milk from Norfolk was in most cases received in an undrinkable condition. Various attempts were made to improve the quality prior to shipment and also after it was recieved on the base, none of which really proved successful. It was not until October 1956 that a major and most welcome change occured. A contract was awarded the United Fruit Company to bring fresh and frozen provisions and fresh milk to the base twice each month. Their vessels are on a regular schedule and for the first time in the history of the base the supply and demand of these items area as near compatible as possible. In the fall of 1958 fresh milk was also contracted for and is a regularly received item.

In 1955, with the start of the Replacement Housing Project, the depot provided warehouses and open storage areas for building material. However, the depot did not physically become involved in this porject, since the Seabees performed storage and issue functions.

Refrigeration Plant

During the period 1950-59 several large financial grants recieved from the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, changed the depot’s “skyline” considerably. The most recent improvement was the construction of a permanent Refrigeration Plant on Wharf Bravo. This structure was designed and located to provide acessibiltiy and ease of operation in providing provisions to the depot’s best customer - the Fleet. This new reefer permitted the razing of a temporary WW II reefer and the conversion of another to general storage use. The Navy Exchange later assumed custody of this structure.

Cuban Revolution

Because of the large percentage of Cuban citizen workers employed at the depot, the Cuban Revolution made itself felt during the 1950s. Fortunately, there were no serious incidents which affected depot operations for prolonged periods, but there were periods during the latter part of 1958 when absenteeism almost caused a complete work stoppage. This absenteeism resulted mainly from a complete lack of transportation to and from the base, when a general strike throughout the eastern end of Cuba halted all trains, busses and boats. The Bureau of Supplies and Accounts was advised of conditions as they occurred and measures were formulated to provide outside military assistance if required.

A single instance occured in April 1958 when it became necessary to request the assistance of a Cargo Handling Battalion. CHB-ONE was requested to provide stevedoring services during a scheduled strike at a time when the arrival of several cargo ships was anticipated. The most recent strike occured October 26, 1959, when a one-day general strike was called throughout Cuba.

The depot suffered one major loss of equipment during the entire Cuban revolt; the theft of small arms and field artillery from the Transit Shed. Despite the efforts of a various agencies, this equipment has never been recovered.

The local situation became somewhat tense at the diplomatic level during 1960, but the Supply Depot enjoyed better than average relations with indigenous employees and operations were not seriously affected. There were a few isolated incidents of employees attempting to smuggle payroll data from the depot, and there was one incident of a Cuban National who was removed for using anti-American slogans. Tension among employees resulted in a rise in the sick leave rate during the year. It is noteworthy that all but a small percentage of the workforce remained loyal to the Command and effectively assisted the depot to carry on its business as usual.

In July 1960, USS SALAMONIE (AO-24) and USS WASP (CVS-18) were ordered from Guantanamo Bay to the Congo area. The depot loaded the two ships, under emergency conditions, with the extra material required by their sudden departure. The SALAMONIE recieved approximately 280,000 gallons of avaiation gasoline, 85 tons of provisons and 100 tons of general stores material. This included material especially airflifted from the United States. The WASP was loaded between 1:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. with 106 metric tons of provisions. She recieved all the provisions requested including 40 tons of assorted meat.

During January of 1961, the Rapid Data Transmission System for requisitioning material was installed with the Naval Supply Center, Norfolk, Virginia.

In the early Sping of 1961, following the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and the death of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, there occured a substantial upswing in depot business as a result of the signifcant increase in Fleet forces in the Caribbean area. The depot acted as the prime suppot activity during this period.

Concurrent with the early Spring build-up the mission of the Naval Supply Depot was changed to include “full support of fast-moving Fleet Issue Load List Items.” This was the culmination of the FILL program which began in the autumn of 1960 and was sucessfully perpetuated throughout the whole of 1961. A careful build-up of fast-moving FILL stocks without a detrimental increase in financial inventory value, faster stock turnover and improved net and gross effectiveness has resulted.

Bulk fuel issues during the spring of 1961 soared to the highest output experienced in the history of the Naval Supply Depot. At the same time, a study was commenced aimed at consolidating all bulk fuel operations on the Naval Base under the depot - an action completed in 1962.

In mid-autumn of 1961, Hurricanes Carla and Hattie showed the depot ready and capable of filling all requirements for disaster control items required by the FRANCIS MARION and other Navy ships that relieved the stricken areaa of Galveston, Texas and Belize, Honduras.

Reactivation and training of more ships incident to the Presidnt’s military build-up again had its impact on the depot. An average of 40 ships present instead of the normal 20 at any given time meant a big increase in demands for all items, but the depot’s improved stock position made possible by the FILL program helped to meet the challenge. Total personnel did not increase, but spirit, sacrifice and activity did. Military personnel met the mounting workload pressure without one instance of reduction in service.

In late 1961 there were unexpected permanent losses of long-time Cuban employees and temporary losses of practically the whole force. The hard core of remaining employees; military, American civilians and Cuban civilians who reside permanetly on the base; however, not only maintained operations, but continued to plan and implement programs as well. The base-wide ERPAL/SPEEL (Electronic Repair Parts Allowance List/Shore Plant Electronic Equipment List) perogram, the base defense support program, the inception of a Special Programs Branch for nursing “Hot Items”, and the conversion of outmoded customer-owned Ready Supply Stores to Depot-owned and managed Auxilairy Store, were among the many programs planned and partially or wholly implemented throughout the year.

Evacuation and Harassment

During 1962, the depot continued business as usual in spite of a dependent evacuation and Cold War harassment. Civilan employees who reside off the base persistently came to work despite their being stripped of their clothes on many occasions and searched and subjected to abusive language by militamen who guard the frontiers of the base. Throughout the depot there was a feeling of uncertainty of the Cold War, but morale remained high and production continued undiminished. Following the evacuation and the subsequent quarantine action, the base was placed on a condition of preparedness which increased the workload of the depot by 50 percent. Twenty-two of the U. S. civilan staff were dependents and thus were evacuated with their dependents, and three contract employees were on leave at the time in the States.

Initial confusion among local Cuban government officials upset boat and bus schedules, and, on the first day after the quarantine action started, little more than half of the depot’s Cuban employees were able to come to work. They straggled in all during the day by boat, on foot, and some by private automobile. By the endf the first day, 183 of the expected 281 depot workers had arrived. Never again during the entire crisis period was there another large absence of personnel. Some became permanent base residents. A number of English-speaking maids, who had some clerical talent, were hired by the depot to perform routine clerical functions.

The need for rapid movement of household goods in the event of an evacuation was realized prior to October and plans had already been formulated and approved by the Bureau of Supplies amd Accounts. Stateside packers were here almost immediately to augment the depot work force. The packing job was further increased because the Commander Ground Forces required that certain housing areas be completely emptied for tactical reasons. This requirement consitiuted more than 24 percent of the packing.

During the crisis many of the depot’s management programs and forward-planning projects had been suspended but with the lifting of the quarantine in late November, a return to normalacy was paramount. “Operation Snapback” was inaugurated to return the depot’s operations and reporting functions to pre-October 22, 1962, status.