In an early chapter the 1898 campaign of the Marines at Guantanamo Bay has been covered. Events leading up to this campaign and some of the side lights should be of interest. Prior to the U. S. declaration of war against Spain in 1898, the Congress had appropriated fifty million dollars for land and naval forces, some one hundred thousand of which was to go to the Marine Corps for supplies and equipment.McCalla Hill In addition Congress increased the authorized strength of the Corps from about 2900 to 4500 officers and men. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Colonel Heywood, was directed to ready two battalions for immediate service with the North Atlantic Squadron. Pursuant to this order, officers and men of the First Battalion began to assemble in New York on 17 April. Shortly thereafter it was decided to send only one reinforced battalion; the First was consequently increased from four to six companies. Totaling 647 officers and men, it included several destined for Marine fame. Among them were two future Commandants in Captain George F. Elliott and LT Wendell C. Neville; and also the fiery Smedley D. Butler, then a lieutenant, later to win the Congressional Medal of Honor twice. In the ranks was the only other two-time Medal of Honor winner the Corps would produce, Sergeant Dan Dailey.

As thousands cheered, the battalion under LTCOL Robert W. Huntington marched through the streets to their ship, the converted steamer Venezuela (the Navy designation was USS Panther). Two days after war had been declared the troops sailed for Key West. Following a brief stay there, the ship departed on 6 June to join Admiral Sampson's units in Cuban waters. Landing on 10 June at Guantanamo Bay the Marines occupied Fisherman's Point and set up the first Marine camp on Cuban soil. They united with approximately 50 Cubans under Colonel Enrique Thomas and spent the next three days skirmishing in the vicinity of McCalla Hill.

Decisive Battle

On 14 June the decisive battle was fought at Cuzco Well, located near Cuzco Beach. Companies C and D, led by Captain Elliott, assaulted the Spanish headquarters the vicinity of the well, and after heated fighting routed the Spanish and forced them back to Guantanamo City. This engagement has already been covered in detail. It was during this engagement that Sergeant John Quick earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. To direct the support fire of the USS Dolphin, Quick climbed to the top of a hill in full view of the enemy. Amidst a hail of hostile fire, he calmly semaphored instructions to the ship.

The action at Cuzco Well caught the imagination of the American public. The subject of many and detailed news dispatches, it was further chronicled in Stephen Crane's book "Wounds in the Rain". When the battalion returned home the following year it was reviewed by President McKinley on Pennsylvania Avenue. Its action is now commemorated by an elaborately engraved cannon located on McCalla Hill.

The next ten years saw the gradual development of a Marine Barracks at Guantanamo Bay, first on South Toro Cay and later on Fisherman's Point. Some indication of the future role of the barracks was noted in 1903. A battalion under Major L. C. Lucas spent about a month on the Station awaiting further transfer to Panama. The permanent detachment to be established later would find the training and staging of Caribbean combat units one of its main functions. A detachment of two officers and forty-seven men under Captain H. C. Reisinger was part of the Marine contribution to the Army of Pacification sent to Cuba in 1906 to quell internal disturbances. About 1908 the Marine Barracks was moved from South Toro Cay to Fisherman's Point taking over abandoned Army buildings. There it remained for over 30 years, during which time buildings and facilities of comfortable proportions were added.

Marines Active

The following decades saw a procession of Marine units en route to or returning from Caribbean actions. Units passed through on their way to Nicaragua, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The rosters of these outfits resemble a roll call of Marine notables.

From March to June of 1911, a provisional brigade under Colonel L. W. T. Waller of Boxer fame was detailed to special temporary foreign shore service at Guantanamo Bay. Formed at Philadelphia, the brigade consisted of two regiments. The first, consisting of 31 officers and 731 men, under Colonel George Barnett, embarked on the USS Prairie. Three years later Colonel Barnett would become the 12th Commandant of the Marine Corps. The second regiment of slightly smaller proportions was commanded by Colonel Franklin J. Moses. it was transported to Cuba aboard the USS Dixie. Only a small part of the brigade saw Guantanamo, the majority of troops going ashore at Camp Columbia near Havana. A third regiment was organized at Guantanamo Bay in March 1911 from the Marine detachments from the following ships of the Atlantic Fleet: Idaho, Connecticut, Michigan, North Dakota, Minnesota, Mississippi, Vermont, Georgia, Rhode Island, Nebraska and Virginia. LTCOL Ben H. Fuller was given command. All three regiments of the brigade were returned to their former stations in June of the same year.

Negro Rebellion

The Negro Rebellion of 1912 forced the United States to again intervene in Cuba, this time in Oriente province. To protect U. S. lives and property the First Provisional Brigade was organized under Colonel Lincoln Karmany and stationed at Guantanamo Bay. From its headquarters there small detachments were dispatched to occupy and defend strategic points in the interior. Beginning with the occupation of several towns near Santiago on 30 May, troops from the brigade were sent to Guantanamo City, Soledad, Los Canos, San Antonio, and other places. With the onus of occupation assumed by the Marines, the Cuban forces were freed to track down the rebels. By July the evacuation of Marines had begun. During this period and for some years thereafter, the Marines utilized Camp Meyer as a camp site. This camp was located on Deer Point.

From February to June of 1913, Colonel Karmany again had a large Marine unit at Guantanamo Bay. It was the Second Provisional Brigade of 72 officers and 2100 men. Two years hence this outfit under Colonel Joseph Pendleton would see service in Haiti.

The period 1915-1918 was a busy one for the Marines at Guantanamo Bay. In quick order came the actions in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the "Sugar Intervention" in Cuba. Many of the units that participated in the first two staged through the Bay. In addition, the 24th Company, a part of the permanent garrison, was ordered to Haiti arriving on 29 July 1915.

"Sugar Intervention"

The "Sugar Intervention" in Cuba began during March 1917, precipitated again by continuing dissension among the political parties. Oriente province became the focal point for Marine activities during the period. To protect the vital water supply for the station and to safeguard American property, detachments from the Naval Station and the 7th Marines were ordered first to Guantanamo City and later to other threatened points inland. The trouble spread to Camaguey province necessitating the landing of ships' detachments at various points in that province.

The station War Diaries (1917 and 1918) list the arrival and departure of many Marine units; the 9th Marines under Colonel James Mahoney, later redesignated the 3rd Brigade; the lst Marines of Colonel Thomas C. Treadwell and others. Of note is the persistent use of the Navy tug 0sceola for the transport of deetachments along the Cuban coast.

For the next twenty years the Marines at Guantanamo Bay performed normal garrison duties. The work of maintaining existing facilities and providing for the frequent arrival of training units was a never-ending process. In addition the barracks supported the units on duty in Haiti and the Dominican Republic until withdrawn. The obtaining of supplies must have been difficult if the Report of the Secretary of the Navy, Fiscal Year 1925, is correctly interpreted. It relates that certain portable buildings were removed from Santo Domingo and re-erected at Fisherman's Point to accommodate a battalion of 300 men.

Bay Used for Training

During the period the bay area was used extensively by the Marine Corps and the Navy for fleet training. Hicacal Beach was a frequent target of combined operations and early amphibious doctrine was tested, amended and retested.

In addition fleet personnel came ashore to fire small arms on the rifle range, first on the terrain now encompassed by the golf course and later at its present site. The old butts can still be seen among the greens and fairways. Corps-wide recognition was earned by the barracks in 1929-30 when its team won the Wirgman trophy at the Elliott match. The trophy was awarded to the barracks with an organization of less than 300 officers and men which attained the highest score in the match.

Marine aviation units used Guantanamo Bay for training but it was not until 1940 that the first Group arrived for duty. This was lst Marine Aviation Group attached to the lst Brigade of BrigGen Holland M. Smith. The commanding officer was LTCOL Field Harris, the operations officer Major L. H. M. Sanderson, both of whom would attain the rank of general officer during the war. LTCOL Harris' outfit conducted training on carriers of the fleet, at McCalla Field, and at Carter Field on Leeward Point.

A roster of units that did duty at Guantanamo Bay during this period contains the names of several who became famous in the second World War. Among these were LTCOL Thomas Holcomb, Commandant of the Marine Corps from 1936 to 1943; Colonel William Rupertus who would lead the famous First ashore at Pelillu; and BrigGen Holland M. (Howling Mad) Smith, architect of amphibious warfare, outstanding Marine commander during the war, and defender of the Corps against any and all who would malign it.

Go to Chapter Nine