Guantanamo Bay Association (for reunions)
Corky's Home Page & Gtmo Reunion Pix
Paul's Gtmo Memories Web Page
Phyllis' Gitmo Days Site
Remy's Alumni Page
"SEIZE THE BAY!" ...RADM William T. Sampson, USN, Marblehead Landing, Guantanamo Bay, 1895
TO MISSILE CRISIS EVACUEES
Catherine Wilson '68 plans to write a book about the Missile Crisis evacuation from Gtmo in 1962 and is gathering information. Please email, mail, or telephone her with your account of the events at...
19141 Beardsley Road
Los Gatos, CA 95033
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
NAVAL BASE GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Aug. 24, 2004 -- The eyes of the world are
focused on this remote Navy base as hearings begin in the first four military
commissions for detainees from the war on terrorism.
But the base's commander, Navy Capt. Les McCoy, wants people to know his end of
the island is "not a penal colony."
"This is a community that happens to have a maximum-security prison attached to
it," he said.
At 101 years old, Naval Base Guantanamo Bay is America's oldest active overseas
military base. The positioning of a prison for enemy combatants from the war on
terrorism has focused attention on, and led to the revitalization of, a base
that had been in a period of decline. The population of the base has tripled in
the past two and a half years, McCoy said.
Set up as a naval coaling station, "Gitmo," as the base is affectionately
known, evolved into a refueling station as technology advanced. The base was
leased in 1903 for $2,000 per year on a perpetual basis. In 1934, the lease was
renegotiated to $4,085 per year.
The U.S. State Department sends a check to the Cuban government every July,
but, McCoy said, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro has only cashed one -- in 1959,
the year he took power.
The relationship between the United States and its closest communist neighbor
has resulted in arrangements and agreements that are unique to this location.
For instance, the base plays host to three categories of Cubans.
At one time, the base permanently housed thousands of Cuban exiles who had
worked on the U.S. end of the island. Today there are 61, including 34
individuals who have been there since Castro took the country's reins in 1959.
Forty of the 61 are naturalized U.S. citizens.
McCoy explained that many of these people never wanted to leave their homeland
but also refused to live in a communist state. "We are obligated to care for
them," the captain said, adding that Guantanamo Bay may be the only U.S.
military installation with an assisted-living facility to care for elderly
A second category of Cubans on the naval base is referred to as "commuters." In
pre-communist Cuba, Cuban citizens entered the base each day to work for the
U.S. government. When the communists came to power, they allowed those already
employed here to continue that employment, but no others were allowed to accept
jobs here. Over time, an elaborate system evolved for these commuters to leave
communist Cuba each morning and return in the evening via the base's North East
In 1959 there were roughly 3,500 such commuters each day. Today there are
three, all between the ages of 75 and 83, McCoy said.
The commuters also have a unique responsibility to other commuters who have
retired and are due pensions from the U.S. government. Since the Cuban and
American governments have no diplomatic ties, monetary transfers are not
possible. The commuters are paid in cash and carry cash pension payments across
the border for the others who have retired, the captain explained.
The third category of Cubans on the U.S. base are migrants who are either
interdicted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard or asylum seekers who make it across
the border by land or by water. They live in migrant facilities on the base and
often take jobs while here. If officials find the interdictees or asylum
seekers have legitimate grounds to be granted asylum, they are eventually moved
to a third-party country, generally in Latin America.
The migrant facilities also house Haitian immigrants who are interdicted at
sea, McCoy said.
Despite the attention paid to the prison, McCoy said the detention facility has
been good for the base. "It's brought life back to the community," he said.
Today about 8,500 Americans call Gitmo home, including 3,000 U.S. military
servicemembers. Nine hundred to 1,000 family members, including about 500
children, accompany the military members.
"We're a small American town," McCoy said. "We think we're a throwback to the
Navy Capt. Leslie J.
McCoy, Commander, Naval Base Guantanamo, Cuba [http://www.nsgtmo.navy.mil/McCoy%20bio.doc]
Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba [http://www.nsgtmo.navy.mil/]