Diagram of German M19 5cm automatic mortar as sited in the Channel Islands and at points on the Atlantic Wall.
Rheinmettall-Borsig produced ten studies into developing a complete system for an automatic mortar before making a final choice which would become the M19 5cm Maschinengranatwerfer. The operational role of the system was to provide firepower to cover areas of ‘dead ground’ which could not otherwise be observed. This was usually an area on the coastline with steep cliffs, but that was not exclusive. Apart from firing the 5cm calibre mortar bomb, the weapon used in the M19 system was completely different to the standard GrW36 used by the infantry. Using standard dismountable mortars in such a defensive role would have only been a short-term solution and they would have needed to be removed periodically for service. Emplacing a weapon mounted in a specially-produced turret or cupola would provide a permanent position, ready to provide all-round 360-degree traverse and able to come into action at a moment’s notice to cover all points of approach to the defensive site. Initially, these automatic mortars were intended for installation in the Westwall and the Eastwall, a defensive system also known as the Oder-Warthe-Bogen Line. This was built between 1938 and 1940 on the border between Germany and Poland. It covered a length of around 20 miles and included around 100 main defensive emplacements. After the successful campaigns in 1939 and 1940, it was decided not to install the weapons in these locations and instead they would be sited at intervals along the Atlantic Wall, which included several being built on the Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney.
The M19 installation on the island of Jersey was built at Corbière Point at the western end of the island, which was turned into a strongpoint to defend the headland. From here its high rate of fire could be useful in engaging targets at close quarters and overlap with the firepower of machine guns and two 10.5cm field guns also sited at the point. The neighbouring island of Guernsey had four M19 automatic mortar installations, including one located at Hommet, overlooking Vazon Bay on the north-west coast, where its firepower could be integrated with that of machine guns, at least three pieces of artillery with 10.5cm calibre and a 4.7cm gun of Czechoslovakian origin. On Alderney there were two M19 strongpoints with other similar installations built along the much-vaunted Atlantic Wall, including three in Norway, nine in Holland, one in Belgium, twenty-two along the French coast and twenty along the Danish coastline, with four more planned but not built. For such a small weapon it absorbed a huge amount of resources in manpower to build the emplacement, with tons of concrete and steel in its construction. The sites of the M19 automatic mortars were out of all proportion compared to those built for heavier weaponry in defensive positions. The M19 mortar could fire HE bombs at a rate of between sixty and 120 rounds per minute, although the higher rate of fire was rarely used in order to minimise stresses and prevent the weapon from overheating. The crew could engage targets at ranges between 54 and 820 yards, which was closer than artillery could achieve, and together with support fire from other weapons such as machine gun, any infantry attack would have been met with fierce opposition. Indeed, one M19 position on the Eastwall held out for forty-eight hours when attacked by troops of the Red Army in early 1945.
The M19 weapons were mounted in steel cupolas which had an internal diameter of 6ft 6in to accommodate the three-man crew during firing. Initially, there were two main designs of cupola, the 34P8 and the 49P8, but it was a third type, the 424PO1, which became the most widely used with armour protection 250mm thick. The cupolas were mounted on specially-prepared bunkers designated ‘135’, with concrete protection up to 11.5ft thick, and the ‘633’, which was the most common design and the type used in the Channel Islands. The M19 bunkers were divided into several rooms including the firing room and had accommodation for up to sixteen men. Each bunker had its own independent generator to provide power to traverse the firing platform and cupola, but in the event of a power failure the weapon and cupola could be elevated and traversed by means of hand-operated wheels. The ammunition storage room had racks for thirty-four trays, each pre-loaded with six bombs, giving a total of 204 bombs ready to fire. Ammunition boxes containing ten bombs each to reload the spent trays were stored in this room, and it was the task of the crew members to reload these. In total an M19 bunker could have ammunition reserves of up to 3,944 bombs stored in readiness for use. These bunkers were equipped with field telephones and optical sight units such as the Panzer-Rundblick-Zielfernrohr, an armoured periscope with a magnification of × 5. Because it was an indirect fire weapon, the M19 had to be directed on to its targets and integrate its fire by overlapping with neighbouring weaponry.
The firing platform on which the mortar was mounted could be elevated when firing and lowered when not in use. The loaded ammunition trays were fed up to the platform by means of an elevator where the loader removed them and fed the trays into the left-hand side of the weapon’s breech. As it fired, a mechanism moved the tray along to feed the next bomb into the weapon, and the process continued until the empty tray emerged on the right-hand side of the weapon, where a handler removed them and placed them in the descending elevator section. These were removed by another member of the crew and taken to the ammunition room, where they were reloaded ready for reuse. The M19 could fire the standard types of Wurfgranate 36 bombs, which these were fitted with colour-coded graduated propellant charges to be used according to the range required. The red charge was for use at ranges from 22 to 220 yards and the green charge was for ranges from 220 to 680 yards. There were training bombs which had no filling and could not be fired, which were really for familiarising crews with handling procedures of the weapon. There were two training systems developed to teach crews how to operate the M19; the first was the Sonderanhangar 101 mounted on a trailer and the other was the Ubungsturm, which replicated the complete cupola layout.
Preparing the weapon to fire, the operator lifted the barrel clear of the breech by means of a cam and lever mechanism which allowed a bomb on the loading tray to be aligned with the chamber. As the barrel was lowered over the bomb, the firing pin in the breech was activated to initiate the propellant charge. The recoil forces on firing unlocked the barrel a fraction of a second later and the cam mechanism lifted the barrel clear of the breech, and another bomb was loaded ready to fire as the tray was fed through.
As the Allied campaign to liberate Europe continued in the second half of 1944, the Germans had to rethink their defensive strategy. From September 1944 they renewed construction work on the Westwall to improve defences and began to install M19 systems at certain locations. The actual numbers of M19 systems built and turrets installed varies according to sources. Some, for example, state that perhaps seventy-three such installations were built in the Atlantic Wall. These did not cause the Allies any unnecessary problems and those along the Westwall were largely ineffective, while those in the Channel Islands never fired a shot in anger. In summary, it was indeed a great deal of effort for such a small weapon which did not play a decisive role in stopping or even slowing down the Allied advance.
Powder soaked but ferocity unabated. Lee’s picked force of dismounted dragoons takes advantage of the garrison’s confusion to force the drawbridge at Paulus Hook with clubbed muskets and the bayonet. The British had previously sent out a foraging party of their own, for whom Lee’s advancing force was mistaken – with disastrous results.
The British grip on New York, won at a staggering cost to the Americans in a series of battles in late 1776, remained a hindrance and a threat to the Continental cause until the final British withdrawal in November of 1783. British vessels of war prowled up the Hudson as far as the great American bastion of West Point, while soldiers and supplies took advantage of Manhattan’s superb harbour and transportation system.
Neither Washington nor his subordinate commanders were willing to leave matters as they stood. The isolated British and Loyalist bastion across the Hudson allowed the British to control access to the river, but it also offered an inviting target. ‘Light Horse Harry’ Lee’s brilliantly successful raid on the outpost at Paulus Hook kept the British nervous and uncertain in the very heart of their strongest position in their former colonies.
The British in the American War of Independence sought to employ Alexander’s strategy in Afghanistan – immobile forces scattered in penny packets across the disputed territory. Such outposts certainly restricted the movement of American rebels in the northern colonies, but they also enabled a mobile force that had amassed temporary superiority to swoop in – with disastrous results at Paulus Hook. For any organization to take advantage of an opportunity or to respond to an onslaught, information is as vital a factor as mobility – and mobility allows the transmission of vital news and a prompt response to it. The role of horsemen in battle is as much to prevent intelligence of their side’s actions as it is to acquire knowledge of the position, strength and intentions of the enemy. Henry Lee (1756-1818) dismounted his dragoons at Paulus Hook for a sudden descent on his target garrison – while screening forces along the roads stood ready to limit British awareness of his raid.
Battle of Paulus Hook: 19 August 1779
George Washington appreciated the value of intelligence, and ran a sophisticated espionage network that kept him aware of British movements and vulnerabilities, much to the profit – and survival – of his cause. The advantages offered by mounted soldiers were too obvious to be ignored, and by the summer of 1779 there were enough rebels on horseback to become a considerable part of the strategic equation.
Two earlier incidents in the war show the versatility of the mounted combatant. Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre ‘Bloody Ban’ Tarleton (1754-1833) of the 1st Dragoon Guards was perhaps the finest British cavalry officer of the war: skilled, resourceful and legendarily ruthless. His favoured use of his troopers’ mobility was to spread terror and anxiety throughout the rebellious colonies. More than one incident prompted the phrase ‘Tarleton’s Quarter’, meaning that prisoners would not be spared. Luck enhanced his reputation: in a duel with George Washington’s distant cousin, Colonel William Washington (1752-1810), Tarleton escaped after Washington’s sword broke at the hilt; in the process, he wounded Washington and his horse with a pistol shot.
Tarleton also favoured what would now be called ‘decapitation strikes’. In March 1781, he launched a raid on Charlottesville, Virginia, in the hope of capturing Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), then governor of the state. As a Brigade Major in 1776, he diverted a scouting party under his command to capture Colonel Charles Lee (1732-1782) in a New Jersey tavern. Lee was one of the very few American officers who had ever served the British crown – in the very regiment that captured him! Tarleton may have, inadvertently, done the Americans a favour: Charles Lee was a dour and pessimistic officer and, after an exchange secured his release, he nearly lost the battle of Monmouth in 1778 out of his conviction that the Continentals could never prevail against British soldiers.
Another Lee was the far more capable Henry Lee, Light Horse Harry’ to his peers and his soldiers. Lee made his reputation from his own ability to appreciate and take advantage of an opportunity – a trait for which his considerably more famous son Robert E. (1807-1870) is legend.
In perhaps the strangest use of cavalry during the war, Lee and his Virginian Dragoons were instrumental in feeding the Continental Army during the terrible winter of 1777-78. Washington forbade the confiscation of forage from the friendly Pennsylvania farm country, and his men suffered greatly. An early and heavy run past Valley Forge of small, fatty fish called shad offered hope – more, certainly, than was offered by Washington’s desperate letters to Congress asking for food. Men plunged into the water with nets, buckets, pitchforks, anything to toss the shuddering fish on shore. Seeing that the shoal was about to move past the desperate Continentals, Lee ordered his dragoons to charge into the Schuylkill River. The churning of the horses’ legs in the water frightened the fish back into the nets and the clutches of the starving soldiers. There was even a surplus, which would help in the lean weeks that were to follow.
A String of Outposts
By 1779, the War of Independence had entered nearly its final phase. Washington’s army, including the infant cavalry arm, emerged from Valley Forge with a confidence and level of drill that enabled them to face the regulars of General Sir Henry Clinton (1730-1795) in pitched battle – as they demonstrated despite Charles Lee’s misgivings at Monmouth. Clinton accordingly held his army in the port and city of New York, the most economically and strategically valuable territory in the Colonies, with a chain of outposts to secure communications and movement throughout eastern New York and New Jersey. The British offensive effort in subsequent years would be concentrated in the southern colonies, with ‘Bloody Ban’ Tarleton leading British and Loyalist forces on raids throughout the South until Tarleton’s conclusive defeat at Cowpens in January of 1781.
Defended enclaves can pacify a considerable portion of surrounding territory if they can support each other – as the United States has recently demonstrated in the urban environments of Iraq. The difficulty lies in establishing how far apart such outposts can be placed, in order to maximize the area of territory while still leaving them capable of mutual support and rapid relief in the event of a major attack. In August 1779, Major Lee, then 23 years old, took advantage of the absence of Nathaniel Greene (1742-1786), Washington’s quartermaster at Valley Forge, to approach Washington and express his belief that Clinton had made a major mistake in the positioning of his outposts.
A Penny Packet
The modern site of the battle of Paulus Hook is a street corner in Jersey City, New Jersey. In 1778, it was a peninsula jutting out from the New Jersey shore, directly opposite New York City and the Hudson. That July, Clinton led out a powerful force from the peninsula towards the American bastion of West Point. General ‘Mad Anthony’ Wayne (1745-1796) had earlier captured the British outpost at Stony Point after Clinton retreated back down the Hudson. Lee suggested to Washington that a similar such sudden onset might take an additional bastion directly under Clinton’s nose.
The fort at Paulus Hook was essentially a fortified beachhead on the New Jersey shore, onto which the British could land and from which they could move out to exert their control over the nearer countryside. The fort’s garrison consisted of 200 men of the British 64th Regiment, under Major William Sutherland, plus 200 Loyalists, enclosed within tremendously strong fortifications. Traffic could ford the creek in front of the peninsula at only two points.
As a second line of defence, British engineers had cut a moat across the neck of the isthmus, the only access being through a barred drawbridge gate. In between the drawbridge and the actual stockade itself were the entanglements of the day, abatis – lopped trees felled and cut in a manner calculated to impede or halt an attacker’s movement under the garrison’s fire.
Behind that were three batteries of cannon, commanding the Hudson and the countryside, as well as a central bastion with barracks, plus the fort’s magazine and six cannon. At some distance, there were an additional infantry redoubt and a blockhouse. The British rear lay safe under the guns of the British fleet in the Hudson, and Clinton had established a set of lantern codes and signal guns to summon aid from New York.
Lee’s plans for a swift descent upon the fort were fleshed out by a diet of information provided by Captain Allen McLean, commander of a force of mounted rangers. These long-range scouts lurked in the salt-water marshes at the base of the peninsula and transmitted a fairly accurate ongoing report of the numbers and status of the fort’s garrison. Even today, a horse’s ability to traverse swamp, water and road compares favourably with mechanized transport.
An additional example of the efficacy of horses in difficult terrain is provided by the career of the legendary ‘Swamp Fox’ – General Francis Marion (1732-1795). He earned his sobriquet by lurking in the South Carolina swamps. With his troopers using and feeding their own horses in the course of their raids and forays, Marion made British control of the region uncertain even after the disastrous American capitulation at Charleston in May 1780. Eventually Lord Cornwallis (1738-1805) sent Tarleton himself to bring the ‘Swamp Fox’ to bay, but Marion’s intelligence network, and his use of the rivers to move and conceal his cavalry, proved more than Tarleton’s celebrated ferocity could overcome.
Washington approved of Lee’s raid, on certain conditions: there would be no effort to hold the post. Lee was to capture the garrison, disable the cannon, blow up the magazine and retreat to a fleet of pontoon boats in the nearby Hackensack River before the British could counter-attack. Lee accordingly dismounted his own dragoons and used McLean’s mounted rangers to control the roads leading into Paulus Hook. Colonial horsemen would prevent warning of Lee’s attack from reaching the bastion, or any messages for aid from reaching any British detachments on the Jersey shore.
Lee’s choice to put his troopers on foot was a difficult call, but one necessitated by his bargain with Washington. The circular route planned for the attack was a 22.5km (14-mile) march through the marshes into the post, then a shorter rush with the prisoners out to and across the river and safety. Ferrying horses under pursuit was too great a risk for Lee’s own command, and his mounted forces were relegated to screening and reconnaissance duties.
Captain McLean’s surveillance had been quite intensive, but the aftermath of the battle revealed that his scouts and one disguised spy had missed two vital elements in the situation. The first, which would hinder Lee, was the arrival of a force of 40 Hessians sent over from New York to bolster the garrison. The second determined the ultimate success of the onslaught, for on the night of Lee’s attack Major Sutherland sent 132 of the Loyalists in a foraging party out into the Jersey countryside. The British sentries, accordingly, were expecting a large number of men coming stealthily towards their post – friendlies.
By 1779, the Americans had captured considerable cavalry equipment from the British, which they used to equip their own units. A great many of the heavy sabres taken from British troopers in 1778 wound up in American hands. The British had provided their own forces with lighter carbines and musketoons, which meant that Lee and his men carried full-size British Brown Besses’ and French Modele 1763 Charleville muskets. Lee divided his force of approximately 400 men into three columns delineated by their origins: a force of McLean’s dismounted rangers, a company of the 16th Virginia and two Maryland companies. The three forces were to arrive simultaneously at the objective by three different routes, an early example of the traditional American preference for columns converging on a single objective. In the event, optimism and synchronicity failed.
The combined force set forth with a wagon train in the early evening of 18 August as a deception aimed at lurking British spies. The hope was that they would mistake the formation for a supply convoy. The three columns divided once they entered a woodland, and the Maryland force and the Virginians got utterly lost in the darkness, reducing Lee’s forces to the 200 men under his own direct command. Long experience of travel had its uses, for Lee’s horsemen continued on towards the distant garrison while avoiding the roads where detection would be the most likely. Instead they waded chest-high through creeks and canals until they reached the British moat, their cartridge belts and muskets utterly soaked. The time was now 3 a. m.
Lee broke his remaining men into a vanguard and reserve, and ordered his men to fix bayonets and ford the British ditch at a shallow spot located by one of his lieutenants. The initial force struggled through the water, up the slope, and into the abatis, through which they pried their way with their bayonets. As the British sentries began to realize that this was not their foraging party and began to fire, Lee’s reserve column rushed up through the area cleared by the vanguard and carried the gate into the fortification with a bayonet charge. About 12 of the British were killed before the bulk of the garrison surrendered.
Success and Withdrawal
Major Sutherland and 26 of the Hessians managed to barricade themselves into the smaller of the two infantry redoubts. From there, they peppered the Americans with largely inaccurate fire and sent alarm signals to the British in New York. These were answered by ships in the Hudson and cannon from Manhattan, and Lee knew that his time was running out. Lee found his men surrounding 156 surrendered British soldiers and three officers. Darkness, confusion and the need for haste kept Lee from disabling the post’s cannon, a procedure usually performed by thrusting a bayonet into the gun’s touch-hole, rendering the cannon briefly or permanently unable to fire.
Humanity frustrated two more of Lee’s objectives. As his men moved to burn the British barracks and fire the fort’s magazine, they found the families of some of the garrison and sick men cowering inside the buildings. Lee accordingly rounded up his captives and made for the main road out of the post, only to find that his plans continued to go relentlessly astray. Lee availed himself of a horse and rode ahead to the appointed rendezvous with the boats on the Hackensack. No boats waited there, the commander having assumed as the sun rose that the attack had been cancelled. Lee rode back to his men and their prisoners on the road, finding 50 of the missing Virginians on the way, their cartridges still dry.
Lee had no choice, accordingly, but to retrace the original route of the attack. This was exposed in the daylight to British observation and interdiction, potentially trapping Lee’s force: the Loyalists were returning from their foraging expedition and the Hessians and Major Sutherland were pursuing from the fort, while reinforcements were already on their way across the Hudson. The Loyalists, under the hated Colonel Van Buskirk, met the column at the ferry road and opened fire, drawing a return volley from the Virginians and from the 200 reinforcements providentially sent to Lee by the American commander in New Jersey, General William Alexander (1723-1786). Lee’s prisoners could march, and his own casualties were extremely light: two killed, three wounded.
McLean’s horsemen had done their work well in restricting information of the raid. (The descendants of one little girl would later record her memories of being detained by the rangers screening Lee’s movements as the assault force passed.) Coming down the road from the fort, Major Sutherland ran into Lee’s reinforced rearguard and retreated back to his empty bastion, concluding the raid in the Americans’ favour. The fort at Paulus Hook would be re-garrisoned and held until the final British retreat from North America, but from now on it was a beleaguered liability, not a useful foothold. ‘Light Horse Harry’ would receive a medal from the Continental Congress and further opportunities for daring exploits in the successful War of Independence.
By late December 1810 Marshal Jacques Macdonald had stabilised the situation in the north of Spain and was again able to support Louis-Gabriel Suchet’s attempts to capture Tortosa. Suchet therefore moved to begin the siege on 16 December, and for once the Spanish failed to defend a strong fortress well. In fact, by 2 January 1811 the place was entirely in French hands.
This success immediately released Macdonald to carry out the siege of Lerida, whilst Napoleon ordered Suchet to take Tarragona, arbitrarily transferring half of Macdonald’s corps to Suchet’s command. At this, Macdonald promptly retired to Barcelona and left Suchet to it.
On 9 April 1811 the French were shocked to hear that the fortress of Figueras had again fallen into Spanish hands, once more threatening the supply route from France. The local Spanish insurgents had worked with a few patriots within the fortress to obtain copies of the keys to the gates and surprised the garrison before any resistance could even be attempted.
Macdonald sent the news to Suchet, asking him to abandon all thoughts of besieging Tarragona and instead to march north with his entire army. Suchet rightly pointed out that it would take him a month to march northwards, and suggested that Macdonald should seek help from France instead, given that the French border lay only 20 miles from Figueras. Suchet then began his march to Tarragona on 28 April, believing that this operation would draw the Spanish south in an attempt to relieve the place.
Napoleon promptly scraped together a force of 14,000 men at Perpignan, whilst General Baraguay d’Hilliers, commanding at Gerona, managed to collect another 6,000 men. Between them, this force of 20,000 men would seek to recapture Figueras, a task made much easier when the Spanish General Campoverde reacted exactly as Suchet had predicted and moved his force of 4,000 men by sea to help save Tarragona. He abandoned the 2,000 men of the garrison of Figueras to their fate and Marshal Macdonald then moved north to take personal command of the siege of Figueras.
Suchet began the siege of Tarragona on 7 May and three days later General Campoverde arrived by sea and bolstered the defenders with his 4,000 troops. The French were obliged to work very close to the coastline, which rendered their works vulnerable to fire from British and Spanish ships. To remedy this, the first batteries constructed faced the sea and their guns forced the warships to move further away. The French now concentrated their efforts on capturing Fort Olivo, a detached redoubt protecting the lower town. This was successfully stormed on the 29th.
Two further battalions of Spanish troops arrived by sea from Valencia, but General Campoverde sailed to seek further support, leaving General Juan Contreras in command. By 17 June the French had captured all the external defences of Tarragona and the siege was reaching a critical point; Contreras, despite having 11,000 men, simply failed to disrupt the French besiegers at all. On the 21st the lower town was successfully stormed, meaning that command of the harbour also fell to the French. Things now looked bleak for Contreras, particularly with Campoverde accusing him of cowardice from a safe distance away.
On 26 June, however, things improved for the Spanish commander. A number of troop ships arrived with a few hundred Spanish troops on board; better still, some 1,200 British troops1 commanded by Colonel John Skerrett also arrived, having been sent by General Graham at Cadiz to aid the defence. Skerrett landed that evening and surveyed the defences with the Spanish; it was unanimously agreed that Tarragona was no longer tenable. As Graham had specifically ordered that the British troops were not to land unless Skerrett could guarantee that they could safely re-embark, he rightly decided to abandon the attempt and sailed with the intention of landing further along the coast and subsequently joining with Campoverde’s force. But this was a depressing sight for the Spanish defenders and undoubtedly damaged their already fragile morale. In fact, the very day that breaching batteries opened fire on the walls, a viable breach was formed by the afternoon and was promptly stormed. Within half an hour all the defences had given way and the French infantry swarmed into the town. A terrible orgy of rape and murder followed, and it is estimated that over 4,000 Spaniards lost their lives that night, over half of them civilian. At least 2,000 of the Spanish regulars defending the town had been killed during the siege and now some 8,000 more were captured.
The capture of Tarragona earned Suchet his marshal’s baton; it had destroyed the Spanish Army of Catalonia and severely hampered British naval operations along the coast. By contrast, Campoverde was soon replaced by General Lacy, who took the few remaining men into the hills to regroup.
Suchet marched northwards to Barcelona, ensuring that his lines of communication were secure. On discovering that Macdonald was progressing well with his siege at Figueras, he turned his attentions to capturing the sacred mountain stronghold of Montserrat, which fell on 25 July. The damage to Spanish morale proved more important than the physical retention of this monastic stronghold. On 19 August Figueras was finally starved into submission after a four-month siege, thus re-opening the French supply routes. Napoleon was delighted by the news but he promptly reminded Suchet that he was yet to capture Valencia.
The Spanish forces under General Lacy continued to make forays, even into France, and attempted to disrupt French communications with predatory raids by both land and sea. These operations restored somewhat the shattered morale of the Spanish guerrillas and the flame of insurrection, so nearly snuffed out, continued to flicker and occasionally flare up, giving the Spanish some hope. Macdonald was recalled to France, another Marshal of France finding eastern Spain a step too far.
Despite his own strong misgivings, Marshal Suchet again marched south for Valencia with a force of some 22,000 men. General Joaquin Blake, commanding some 30,000 men, was tasked with opposing him but simply allowed him to march there without resistance. Suchet’s force arrived at Murviedro on 23 September and, having signally failed in a foolish attempt to storm the fortress of Saguntum by direct escalade, the French army sat down before it and patiently awaited the arrival of the siege artillery, only opening fire on 17 October. Suchet attempted a second costly assault without success and looked nervously over his shoulder at the insurrections breaking out in his rear. However, at this point General Blake decided that he must advance to protect Saguntum; having collected no fewer than 40,000 men, he attacked Suchet on 25 October and was soundly beaten for his troubles, losing over 5,000 men. The garrison of Saguntum, acknowledging that there was now no hope, surrendered the following day. Blake had simply given Suchet’s troops hope, when in fact they had none.
Suchet now continued his march on towards Valencia. Arriving on the north bank of the Guadalquivir river, he found Blake facing him again, encamped on the southern bank with some 30,000 men. Having only 15,000 men with him, Suchet formed an encampment here and awaited reinforcements, with which he could advance to prosecute the siege of Valencia.
Napoleon, badly underestimating the British army under Wellington, but simultaneously recognising the importance of capturing Valencia, ordered King Joseph’s army to further supplement Suchet’s operations. Marshal Marmont’s army, facing Wellington, was also weakened when Napoleon ordered him to send Suchet 12,000 men. These developments would have a very significant effect on Wellington’s operations a few months later, in early 1812.
The promised reinforcements arrived with Suchet in late December and he immediately advanced to prosecute the siege of Valencia on the 26th, successfully completing the investment of the city by that evening. By 1 January work had begun on preparing siege batteries, which were armed and ready to proceed by the 4th.
Blake moved his troops from his fortified camp in the hills into the city, but the prospects for a successful defence appeared to be very poor. There was already a severe shortage of food and the morale of the Spanish troops was so low that they were deserting en masse. Suchet added significantly to their discomfort by bombarding the city with shells until the morale of the defenders finally collapsed. Blake was forced to agree to surrender on 9 January, with around 16,000 Spanish soldiers laying down their arms.
The almost impregnable fortress of Penissicola, garrisoned by some 1,000 Spanish veterans, was now besieged, the siege guns beginning a heavy bombardment on 28 January. Despite being well supplied with food and stores by the British navy, and his troops proclaiming their determination to fight on, General Garcia Navarro, the fortress commander, seems to have lost all hope after Valencia fell. A letter describing his fears was captured by the French and used to exert enormous pressure on a man obviously unable to cope; when a forceful summons was sent in on 2 February, the commandant surrendered without delay. Almost the entire east coast of Spain was now in French hands.
The prosperous and influential ancient city of Massilia stood against Julius Caesar during his Civil War with Pompey the Great. By way of a prolonged siege, Caesar’s forces reduced the town’s resistance and secured his complete control of Gaul (modern France).
The modern city of Marseilles on the coast of southern France began as the Greek colonial settlement of Massalia (referred to as Massilia in Roman texts) in the late seventh century BCE. Greek merchants had been sailing along that coast for generations and the colonists, sent out by the city-state of Phocaea in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), negotiated with the local Ligurian tribe (the Segobriges) to acquire the site, a promontory surrounded by water on three sides and approached, with difficulty, from the land on the fourth side. The location and situation provided natural protection to the colony from pirates and marauding Gallic warriors, while its proximity to the Rhone River valley opened up access to trade with the Gallic tribes further inland; in exchange for wine, olive oil, and pottery, the Massiliotes received tin, grain, and amber from the Gauls. The harbor of Massilia was ideal for maritime commerce and opened the way for stiff competition with the Carthaginian merchants who were expanding their markets northeast- ward from their bases in Spain; this led to military confrontations as early as the fifth century BCE, which saw the Massiliotes come out on top. As noted earlier in the entry on Gallia Comata, the continued commercial rivalry between Massilia and Carthage was one of the major causes of the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage, the Romans claiming to defend Massiliote interests in the Western Mediterranean. From then on, the city remained one of Rome’s firmest allies in southern France.
When Civil War began between Pompey and Caesar in 49 BCE, one of Pompey’s firmest allies and Caesar’s inveterate enemies, L. Domitius Ahenobarbus, intended to assume command of the provinces of Gaul; the senators in support of Pompey had agreed to this, while Caesar continued to consider himself the rightful governor. Domitius delayed his departure for Gaul until after his defeat (and despite his release) by Caesar at the Siege of Corfinium. In the meantime, young noblemen from the allied city of Massilia, who had visited with Pompey before his retreat from Rome, arrived home to encourage their fellow townspeople to support Pompey against Caesar. Having chased Pompey out of Italy and taken control of Rome, Caesar did not want to have a hostile Massilia, with great wealth and a powerful fleet, in his rear, perhaps working with Domitius; so, Caesar soon left Rome for southern Gaul, arriving in April 49 BCE.
When he arrived, Caesar discovered the gates of Massilia locked against him and intelligence reports indicated that the Massiliotes had collected large stores of grain and other necessary supplies, were beefing up their fortifications and ships, and had also arranged for the aid of local Gallic tribes- men against Caesar. Massilia possessed a strong oligarchic government, a council of 600 lifetime legislators presided over by a committee of fifteen executives chosen from among them. Caesar demanded a conference with the Fifteen, in which he warned them not to stand against him and instead to take the posture of the towns of Italy, most of which had quickly agreed to avoid hostilities by accepting Caesar’s authority. After conferring with the Council of 600, the Fifteen replied that their government could not decide between Caesar and Pompey; while they acknowledged that during his tenure as governor of Gaul, Caesar’s relations with them had been quite positive, they also insisted that from Pompey as well they had received equal benefits in the past (referring to Gallic territories that had been handed over to Massilia by Pompey). The city offered to remain neutral in the Civil War by cutting itself off from both belligerents.
The duplicity of such statements became clear when Domitius arrived and the Massiliotes admitted him into their city and gave him command of its defense against Caesar. Domitius ordered their ships to scour the area for stores of grain and to confiscate all civilian vessels they came across to bolster Massilia’s fleet and increase its material resources. In response to these actions and the now-hostile posture of the city, Caesar placed it under siege by three of his veteran legions. While Caesar himself proceeded to Spain against Pompey’s legates there, he left the siege operations under the command of Trebonius, with Decimus Brutus in charge of the blockading fleet of twelve warships.
The Massiliotes mustered their vessels under Domitius’s authority, who placed archers, Gallic warriors, and many poor (but desperate) Romans that he brought with him from Italy onboard as marines. Brutus commanded fewer ships but onboard were some of the very best soldiers from Caesar’s legions; they were prepared to fight hard with their weapons, but they also had all the apparatus necessary for seizing and boarding the enemy warships.
When the two fleets engaged, a bitter struggle commenced. The Massiliote ships made great speed and possessed clever helmsmen and skilled oarsmen, who attempted to make use of these advantages by ganging up on individual vessels of Brutus’s or slamming through their banks of oars or keeping their distance to encircle the Caesarians. The latter did not possess such advantages, since their ships were heavier and slower and their crews green, but they sought every chance to grapple the enemy ships and send their marines into hand-to-hand combat with the enemy crews. In the end, this proved good enough, as the Massiliote fleet gave up the fight after having lost nine vessels captured or destroyed.
The Massiliotes, who had not lost heart or courage, turned to repairing damaged ships and preparing further ones from all their supplies. Indeed, the entire population of the city had apparently come to believe that their next naval battle with the Caesarians would mean either decisive victory (and safety) for themselves or total destruction; as a result, every able-bodied man in Massilia had been called up to serve, and especially the members of the aristocracy had “volunteered” to man the fleet as marines. Domitius, meanwhile, received reinforcement warships under Nasidius, sent by Pompey himself all the way from Greece. Women, children, and the elderly prayed to the gods in their temples and watched hopefully and dreadfully from the walls of Massilia as their fleet and that of Nasidius joined up along the coast to the east of the city.
Decimus Brutus hurried his vessels to engage them. As in the first confrontation at sea, this one also was difficult and fierce. Indeed, Brutus’s flagship was almost smashed between two Massiliote vessels; like a scene in a modern movie, his crew managed to make speed just in time to get out of the way, the enemy ships collided with one another, causing severe damage, and other Roman vessels came in for the kill by surrounding and sinking the attackers. In the meantime, Nasidius’s crews proved unreliable; having no true personal or patriotic stake in saving Massilia from capture, they were unwilling to really risk their lives in the battle. They soon withdrew from action on various pretexts and sailed off to Spain. The Massiliotes having fought so bravely and skillfully, nonetheless, suffered sufficient losses to persuade them to retreat into port. The further defense of grief-stricken Massilia would have to rely on resisting the Roman siege.
All the while the naval battles had been in progress, Caesar’s land forces under Trebonius had been constructing their siege works. They had summoned workers and supplies, especially of timber, from all across the Roman province of Narbonensis (roughly Provence today) to accomplish the massive, and slow, task. A siege-ramp sixty feet wide and eighty feet high, made of earth shored up by a considerable amount of timber, was necessary to reach the top of Massilia’s walls on the landward side of the city. As the Romans erected this, the Massiliotes used artillery devices, like their massive tormenta (giant-size crossbows) and catapults, to bombard the workers and soldiers outside. According to Caesar’s own account, such devices hurled large missiles, twelve feet long, with such force that they penetrated the usual protective screens employed by the Caesarians. To counteract this, the latter designed covered passageways of thick timber and a large mobile hut (tortoise) of the same material to shield themselves as they built up the ramp. Of course, the Massiliotes did not let this stop them; they ordered their Gallic allies to rush out of the city from protected spots and regularly harass the Roman troops and disrupt their work with firebrands.
In response, Caesar’s men decided to build, about sixty feet from the ramparts of Massilia, a brick fort, thirty feet square with walls five feet thick, as a place of refuge and regrouping. Over time, they very ingeniously in- creased the height of this fort, turning it into a stationary siege tower, virtually impervious to artillery missiles and fire. From its base, they threw out a covered passageway in the direction of Massilia’s walls, not just made of thick timbers but also covered on top with brick, clay, animal hide, and wet quilts, to protect it from fire, as they had done with the roof of the siege-tower fort.
The defenders of Massilia dropped large chunks of stone and fiery barrels of pitch onto the siege passageway, to no effect, and were attacked themselves by volleys of javelins and other missiles from the Roman siege-tower fort. From inside the protection of the passageway, the Roman sappers had dug under the wall of Massilia and brought a portion of it to collapse. Crowds of civilians rushed out of the opening in the wall, begging for Roman mercy and asking for a cessation of hostilities until the return of Caesar from his victory in Spain. Trebonius agreed to this, knowing that Caesar did not at all wish his enraged troops to take the city by force.
The truce was uneasy. From both sides came raids against the other, especially a night raid in which the Romans were beaten back from their attempt to penetrate the city, and a midday raid by the Massiliotes, who successfully destroyed by fire almost all the siege works of the Romans, including their siege fort. Not surprisingly, Caesar, in his official account, placed all the blame for the violation of the truce on the Massiliotes, whom he accused of the basest treachery.
His men had few timber resources left to them to construct new siege works, so they attempted to build a ramp flanked by thick walls of brick, topped with what wood they had left, and covered over in clay to guard against fire. The Romans advanced this structure toward the walls of Massilia, again with the plan to undermine them and invade the city. The extraordinary efforts of the exhausted, but never-more-determined, forces of Caesar caused the Massiliotes now to pause and critically examine their position. After all, Caesar’s fleet had the city blocked off by sea and his ground troops had cut off any escape by land; they seemed resolute in doing over and over again anything needed to hold and take the city. On their side, the people of Massilia were suffering from illness and dwindling supplies of fresh food after nearly six months of siege. So, the Massiliote government requested another truce and offered to surrender in good faith.
Caesar arrived in late October to accept this surrender. He ordered the Massiliotes to hand over all their weapons and ships, as well as all the money in their treasury; to guarantee their continued cooperation, he stationed two Roman legions in the city. Otherwise, Caesar decided to take no further punitive action against the Massiliotes, out of respect, he said, for their ancient alliance with Rome. With Massilia secure, Caesar had no further need to worry over the Gallic territories for the remainder of the Civil War nor, indeed, for the rest of his lifetime.
Further Reading Carter, J. 1997. Caesar: The Civil War. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. De Angelis, F. 1994. The Archaeology of Greek Colonisation. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Committee for Archaeology. Rivet, A. L. F. 1988. Gallia Narbonensis. London: Batsford.
Hungary’s best-preserved fortress presumably was built before the mid-13th century since King Béla IV lived here for a while during the Mongolian invasion (1241-1242). It was extended several times during successive centuries.
Sümeg Castle is a Hungarian castle built on sümeg’s bald hill. The oldest part was constructed in around 1260. The castle of Sümeg was built from 1262 through different eras until the episcopate of Pál Széchenyi in the 17th century. In the 15th century, the castle was fortified, and the second of two towers was built.In 1552, in response to the capture of Veszprém by the Turks, the castles was rebuilt and fortified to serve as a frontier fortress. The Rákóczi’s troop occupied the castle in 1705. In 1709 the Austrians recaptured it, and burned it down a few years later.125 metres long and 80 metres wide, the castle is oriented north to south and has an irregular polygonal shape. After entering the outer castle gates, the walled path leads to the internal gatehouse that opens onto the courtyard.
Outside the gate of the keep is a wolf pit which once had a
drawbridge over it. Some of the buildings, such as the Köves Bastion in the
north (built by Bishop Köves in 1554) and the Old Tower, have been covered
over. Looking down towards Court Magistrate Square (Udvarbíró tér) from the
gatehouse, see the ruins of the strangely named Fort Haversack (Tarisznya-vár).
This was not a separate fortress but a tower that probably protected the
entrance to the town.
The conical shaped, limestone hill looked to have been created
by nature as a home for Sumeg castle. In truth the castle was built in the 13th
century following the Mongol destruction of a large majority of Hungary.
Hilltop castles would act as secure fortresses where the population would be
safe in the event of another invasion.
Sumeg Castle is one of the best examples of the many such castles that
once dotted Hungarian hilltops. Its position turned out to be formidable enough
that the Ottoman Turks never came close to conquering it. Only after the
Austrians occupied western Hungary in the wake of Ferenc Rákóczi’s failed War
of Independence at the start of the 18th century was the castle partially
destroyed by fire. The ruins were vast enough that much of it could be rebuilt.
The short history of Sümeg [Translation]
The history of the town can be traced to the prehistoric age. Archeological excavations prove that the area was inhabited at that time. While exploring a flint-stone mine on Mogyorósdomb south of Sümeg, archeologists found a lot of personal belongings, as well as tools and other findings dated back to the New Stone Age. The brightest period in the prehistory of Sümeg was the so-called Hallstatt culture int he late Bronze and early Iron Ages. Relics of the time indicate that bronze smithery flourished. Roman authority is marked by many fragments of brick as well as earthen vessel
The Castle has a dominant role in town development and
history. It was built by order of King Béla IV stimulating of construction of fortresses
after the Mongol invasion. Town and castle were interdependent at that time.
Events in the Castle had a great effect on the town of Sümeg at the foot of the
hill. The administrative and supervision centre of the bishopric had been Erek,
a nearby village, up to the early 14th century but then, with the increasing
significance of the Castle in defence, in the centre was being put over to
Sümeg. The castles of Sümeg and Veszrpém guarded over most of the estete.
After the death of the Hungarian king Mátyás, Sümeg as well
as Veszprém was put in the hands of the pretender Miksa von Habsburg. His rule,
however, could not last long as the intruders were pushed out from Transdanubia
very soon. The castles of Sümeg and Nagyvázsony were retaken by Pál Kinizsi who
put them under the control of King Ulászló II.
Due to the Turkish expansion, after the fall of
Székesfehérvár in 1543 Sümeg became a border fortress just like some other
castles int he Lake Balaton area. In the following decades town population significantly
decreased, and was unprotected against the Turks but the Castle remained
Hungarian hands. From the middle of 16th
century on, the emperor’s army was leading Sümeg into difficulties, and things
were made even worse by the Fifteen Years’ War and Bocskai’s War of
Independence. During those battles the Castle changed hands several times.
In 1656-58, bishop György Széchenyi enclosed the town within
strong walls provided with watchtowers so that Sümeg became the only safe and
well-protected town in the comitat of Zala for a long time. As a result, Sümeg
could grow into a busy town: trade was booming, markets become famous and the
products of its pottery were much in demand. As the episcopal seat in the
diocese of Veszprém, it was one of the most important centres of the
Transdanubian Counter-Reformation. In and around 1650 bishop Széchenyi settled
Franciscan monks there.
Turkish troops withdrawing from the battle of Szentgotthárd
in 1664 hindered the development of Sümeg for a long time. Unable to take the
Castle, while marching off, they set the town aflame. The fire caused great damages
in the Castle itself but it survived, the town recovered and began to grow
again. In 1700, however, there was another great fire and, in addition to the
Franciscan monastery and the Episcopal Palace, only four stone houses remained.
One of the most important fortresses in Transdanubia, the
Castle of Sümeg was seized by the army of Ferenc Rákóczi in 1705, but the
emperor’s troops led by general Heistler Sibert retook it in July, 1709. In the
summer of 1713, castle buildings was burnt down by the Austrians under colour
of a tactical exercise, actually to prevent the Hungarians from using it in
case of an other uprising.
Reconstruction of the town was destroyed in the bottle and
fire started thereafter, and a typical townscape developed in consequence of
the building acts passed. Houses in the walled inner town had to be built of
stone, so the central district was populated by the episcopal household,
manorial officials and local nobles. The less well-to-do farmers and craftsmen
with no privileges were forced to leave downtown and build their log and adobe
houses on the outskirts.
At the time of the bishop Márton Padányi Bíró (1745-1762)
the town continued to develop. The most important creation in work of art and
architecture is due to his activity. He made Sümeg a spiritual centre of Catholicism
counteracting the Protestantism of Pápa. With a wide-ranging religious,
political, social and sponsoring activity, he was a leading figure of the
Hungarian baroque period and a devout representative of Counter-Reformation. In
and around Sümeg he had a number of dwelling houses, farm buildings, a new
parish church and a baroque episcopal palace built.
With craftsmen and merchants growing in number, Sümeg became a market-town of the handicraft trade. There was a hospital as well as pharmacy, a stage-coach stopping place and salt-house. After the death of bishop Bíró the development of the town came to another halt, the more so as a decree of Maria Theresa on statue labour and fee estate made different between the bishop as landowner and the market-town more manifest.
In the last quarter of the century, life became more
difficult in Sümeg because of epidemics and fire. French occupation during the
Napoleon Wars an 1809 also serious difficulties.
The town was being relieved of its burden from the 1820s on,
so agriculture started to develop and craftsmen as well as merchants grew in
number. Middle classes were being born. Potters became famous throughout the
century, and craftsmen forming tanner, cobbler, button-maker as well as cooper
guilds were also well-known.
Social life in the noble central district was crucial for town development. From 1804 on, townsfolk as well as people from the neighbourhood were gathering around the poet Sándor Kisfaludy’s (1772-1844) group of intellectual and friends. This kind of association of the nobility was broken up the political fights of the so-called reform period in the 1840s, and citizens led by Vince Ramasetter came to its place. Having got rid of the authority of the landlords in 1848, the town achieved an aim of centuries long struggle. In the infamous are of Alexander Bach, Sümeg was made a residence of the comitat and district court, one of the centre of administration in the area, but executive power was in the hands of the Austrian army stationed in town. After the compromise of 1867, in contrast to the rapid industrial and agricultural development of the country, Sümeg started to decline. Its blue dying industry came to an end, the tannery burnt down, the reputation of local wine and its trade dropped, the citizens and the nobles grew poor. Its town title was lost in 1907, and regained on 1 January, 1984.
THE MONUMENTS OF SÜMEG
Town centre is at the south-western bottom of the Castle Hill. Townscape can be traced back to the 17th century. Division into parts still distinguishable began with the building of the town walls.The aspect of the noblemen’s former town centre are nominated by the Franciscan church an monastery as well as by the surviving mansions of the nobility. The winding streets and rural houses of the so-called Tokaj, east of the Castle Hill, were built by landless villeins in the second half of the 17th century. A third part of the town is formed by the streets between the centre and the parish church. From the 1800s, we can find here houses of traders and craftsmen as well as those noblemen and citizens int he late baroque style.
In the slope west of the Paris church, we can see a quarter called Thirteentown and environs, the poorest at one time. The strongest mark of the townscape has been left by 18th century baroque architecture. The Episcopal Palace, the Parish Church, the farm buildings and dwelling houses of the estate as well as many houses of nobility and citizens were built at that time. It was the time when the aspect of today’s town centre of one time nobility took shape. The classicist and eclectic buildings of the 19th century get on well with the baroque environment.
On 18 July 1410, Heinrich von Plauen arrived in haste at
Malbork Castle, located on a branch of the River Vistula, 25 miles from the
Baltic Sea. This was the principal base of the Order of Teutonic Knights, and
the administrative centre of the Baltic state these warrior monks had carved
out while pursuing the conversion of the pagan tribes of north-east Europe.
Word had reached von Plauen of a terrible battle in which the grand master of
the Order and other leading knights had been slain. Acting leader, he had
travelled as fast as he could, with the two thousand soldiers he had held back
at his own castle of Schwetz, upriver to the south-west. He put the interest of
the Order first, leaving Schwetz at the mercy of the invading Polish-Lithuanian
army in a desperate bid to secure Malbork. At around the same time, the
garrison at Malbork was further reinforced by nearly 1,500 survivors of the
battle; a small complement of the force which had suffered such losses. These
men were in a desperate state. All were weary and many displayed wounds
sustained in the fighting three days earlier. They relayed blood-curdling
accounts – which did nothing to cheer the already despondent garrison – of one
of the largest and most murderous battles fought anywhere in medieval Europe.
In fields near the village of Tannenberg, among the streams
of the Mazurian marshes, the Teutonic Knights had suffered a catastrophic
defeat at the hands of the Polish king. Some 8,000 of their soldiers had been
killed, another 14,000 taken captive, and hundreds of their most important
members did not rise from the battlefield. If spirits were not low enough at
Malbork, as news of the disaster travelled north with the bedraggled survivors,
a wagon arrived at the castle gates. In it were the bodies of the Order’s
highest-ranking officials, the men who had led the Teutonic Knights only days
earlier on the fateful march east to cover the movements of the vast enemy
army. Among them were Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen, Grand Marshal
Friedrich von Wallenrode, and Grand Treasurer Thomas von Merheim – wrapped in
clean white sheets and dressed in purple robes in preparation for a dignified
burial at Malbork.
The task now faced by von Plauen was a daunting one. For
some time it had been clear that the huge invading army of the
Polish-Lithuanian alliance was not interested in half measures. They sought
nothing less than a comprehensive victory over the Teutonic Order. To achieve
this, victory on the battlefield was only the first step. They knew they had to
capture and destroy the heavily fortified castle at Malbork, the aim being the
end of the state the Order had ruled for nearly two centuries along the shore
of the Baltic Sea.
Such was the scale of the allied triumph at Tannenberg that
their momentum seemed unstoppable. With Teutonic castles surrendering left and
right to the forces of King Władysław II of Poland and Grand-Duke Vytautas of
Lithuania – Olsztyn, Morag, Preussmarkt and Dzierzgoń among numerous others –
many among the garrison at Malbork were resigned to defeat and ready to give up
the castle without a fight. At this point, von Plauen took it upon himself to
turn things around, to motivate the substantial garrison he now commanded to
hold onto the great castle for the sake of the Teutonic Order he had vowed to
The year 1099 saw the success of the First Crusade by
European Christians to recover Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim control.
It established a precedent, and an ambition, which would persist for the next
two hundred years – and a militant approach to conquering and converting the
‘heathen’ which would last longer than that.
Shortly after this initial Crusade, two religious orders
formed which sought to protect the increasing number of pilgrims now flocking
to the Holy Land. Known as the ‘Knights Hospitaller’ and the ‘Knights Templar’,
they combined the aggressive fighting skills needed to provide military
protection, with a spiritual and ascetic life becoming to those in holy orders.
Then, at the point when they were losing their initial impetus, they were
joined by a third organisation. In 1190, the Order of Teutonic Knights was
created, not by clerics, but by the German merchants of Bremen and Lubeck.
Redirecting their focus from the Holy Land to the pagan
lands of the Baltic, the Knights launched a ‘northern Crusade’. This would
become an outlet for the zeal of Christian warriors now that the Levant – the
hinterland of the eastern Mediterranean shore – seemed lost. This campaign
received wide support in Christendom, and chimed with the ethos of the medieval
German Church, which encompassed a militant element. The Holy Roman Emperor
authorised the conquest of Prussia as part of the Empire’s policy against
heathen nations. And the Pope issued a bill granting the Order rights of
conquest over land won.
The Knights quickly overran the lower reaches of the River
Vistula, building their first castles during the 1230s, of timber and earth
banks. In a land of rivers, swamp and forest, a scanty supply of good building
stone meant it was used only for foundations. Over the following decades they
expanded their control along the Baltic coast. The Order’s close ties with
German merchants ensured a steady stream of colonists who were attracted by
privileges; the influx fostered an attitude to the non-German population which
was increasingly ruthless. Towns were established and castles built, or
rebuilt, from brick. The business of constant warfare and hospitality demanded
a regular source of income so that the Knights became deeply involved in the
economy of the lands they occupied, trading particularly in wheat, wool and
amber. In 1283, the Order established its own state, which became the dominant
political and economic force in the region.
Aggressive expansion motivated the Knights even when
religious conversion was not a justification. During the fourteenth century, at
their height, Pomerania to the west was targeted in a bid to link the Teutonic
state with the German lands. In 1308 the important Baltic port of Gdańsk was
captured. Then, to counter papal criticism by proving their crusading role was
paramount, the Knights turned eastwards to the vast state of Lithuania, which
covered much of present-day Russia from the Baltic to the Ukraine.
The harsh Baltic winters meant campaigns differed from those
elsewhere in Europe. Cavalry had to ride in single file, through trenches cut
deep in the snow. But in the dense forests of Lithuania, where most campaigning
took place during the fourteenth century, winter was often preferred for raids
because visibility was clearer after the deciduous leaves had fallen. Frozen
rivers became ‘winter roads’, facilitating deep penetration into the pagan
lands. Later in the year forest undergrowth hampered movement, while melt-water
swelled the rivers, turning their banks to mud and taking a heavy toll on
The Crusade lasted nearly a century, bringing bloodshed as
well as much valuable booty for the knights. They overwhelmed the lands of
pagan communities up to the River Dnieper and almost as far as Moscow,
launching campaign after campaign deep into the dense forests of Lithuania.
They were assisted by a steady flow of Crusaders from Western Europe. With
Christendom defeated in the Holy Land, knights from France, Spain and England
travelled east to support the work of the Teutonic Order. Henry Bolingbroke,
later Henry IV, was present with three hundred men at the siege of Vilnius in
1390, and numerous other Englishmen had joined this northern Crusade during the
fourteenth century. Visiting knights were entertained generously at a
rapidly-growing network of over 120 castles, of which Malbork, having moved to
the centre from the state’s western edge as its territory expanded, became the
principal. They were distinguished from most medieval castles in Europe by two
characteristics: they were as much monastic as military structures, and they
were largely built not of stone but of red brick.
For all the Order’s attempts to claim a divine purpose,
however, it was clear that evangelical objectives were no longer foremost.
Territorial domination and economic control of the Baltic lands took precedence
over the enforced conversion of pagans to Christianity – and, inevitably, the Knights’
policy of aggressive expansion had led to confrontation with Poland, their most
powerful neighbour; a country which longed for access to the Baltic Sea.
Polish rulers, based in their capital at Kraków, became
bitterly hostile to the expansionist Teutonic state, but their military
campaigns against it were intermittent and unsuccessful. In 1386, however, the
situation changed. The grand duke of Lithuania accepted the crown of Poland as
Władysław II, having converted to Christianity himself and married that
country’s queen. Together they united the two states of Poland and Lithuania
against the common enemy sandwiched in between. At the same time, divisions
grew within the Teutonic state between the monastic knights and the German
settlers, creating an opportunity for its enemies. In 1410, an attempt would be
made to halt the Order’s expansion once and for all.
Plan of middle and upper castle from the end of the
14th / beginning of the 15th century by A.Franaszak, K.Solak
THE CONSTRUCTION OF MALBORK CASTLE
For centuries conquest has been consolidated by military
construction, and this was certainly the case in Teutonic Prussia, where a
network of castles was created denser than anywhere else in Europe (each within
a day’s march of another to ensure that relief was at hand). In the late
thirteenth century – as Edward I built Conwy and other great castles to tighten
his grip on Wales – at Malbork, work began to assert the authority of the
Teutonic Knights over their expanding state.
Tracing its history, however, is difficult. Whereas there
are royal records detailing the construction of the castles at Conwy and
Harlech and the earlier English royal castle at Dover, no documents survive to
illuminate the building of Malbork. Historians are forced to rely on architectural
detailing in an effort to understand the construction phases of this vast
castle. Nevertheless, much can be deduced.
When the first part of Malbork to be built – the ‘Upper’
castle – was begun in 1276, the region lay on the western extremity of Teutonic
Prussia. Under the German commander Heinrich von Wilnowe, work began on a
fortified religious settlement which could consolidate the rule of the Order in
an area which had recently witnessed a failed uprising by the local population.
Unlike many earlier castles of the Order, which depended on locally-available
resources, this was not to be built from wood. Skilled craftsmen were brought
from Germany – brick-makers and layers, glaziers, carpenters, blacksmiths –
while basic labourers were commandeered locally. Brick walls were constructed
on foundations of hard rock that rendered mining very difficult. At Malbork –
on the banks of the River Nogat, flowing north-east from the Vistula into the
Vistula Lagoon – the first 4 to 7 feet of walling was built on massive boulders
taken from the bed of the adjacent river, in-filled with smaller stones.
The castle was finished by about 1300. Its first phase took
the form of four wings with three storeys, high pitched roofs – steeply angled
to cast off the snow – and built around a square cloistered courtyard. A
fortified quadrangle of this sort constituted a recurring design among Teutonic
castles. It encompassed a church, chapter house, dining hall, kitchen and
dormitories. This combination of elements was not found together in Western
Europe: a holy cloister within a formidable military enclosure, a monastery
within a castle. The style was austere, in keeping with the Order’s code which
eschewed frippery in favour of a hard life of prayer and military rigour. In their
hall the brothers ate communally: simple fare, consumed in silence or in
contemplation of a lesson read aloud, unless the presence of visiting Crusaders
justified an exemption. Hospitality as well as worship and defensibility was at
the core of the castle’s purpose.
An outer court accommodated support staff and services,
protected by a moat and a curtain wall. The ground floor rooms, massively
vaulted, were used for storage of food, drink, weapons and other materials, all
necessary for the lifestyle of the knights. A prison was built conveniently
adjacent to the guard room, perhaps intended for high-status prisoners. The
kitchen vault was supported on a line of circular columns, with the principal
hearth served by a flue that rose above the roofline of the castle. The serving
areas were placed on one side, with a dumb-waiter on the other to transfer food
to the second-floor dining hall with its seven windows and central columns
supporting painted vaulting.
Of the four wings, two had dormitories on the first floor
which slept some sixty people, while another twenty or so officials and
dignitaries slept in smaller rooms in a third wing. From the mid-fourteenth
century they were served by a detached lavatory tower, the dansk tower, linked
to the castle by a first-floor corridor. This was originally built of wood and
later rebuilt in brick on an arcaded support in the late nineteenth century. It
was probably also intended as a final resort during a siege; towers with this
dual function were a recurring feature in Teutonic castles. Another survives at
Toruń, while the communal lavatory tower at Kwidzyn, with its arcaded corridor
to the fortress, is another remarkable example.
On the fourth side of the courtyard lay the chapter house
and the great church – always the most important structure for this monastic
order, and especially so here, where it would become the Order’s primary church
in Prussia. Its entrance is striking, with a line of five recessing columns and
capitals and figured arches set in a vaulted bay. Richly painted, and decorated
with glazed clay tiles of animals, this lavish portal illustrates the Last
Judgement and has been known since at least the fourteenth century as the
‘Golden Gate’. The church is divided into two parts – the nave of the 1280s,
and an apse extension of the early 1330s. Vaulting runs over both nave and apse
(and also in the chapter house) dating from 1331–44: the earliest ribbed vault
in the Baltic coastal region, influenced perhaps by the recent development of
English chapter houses like York and Wells.
The remodelled church became the growing organisation’s
spiritual centre – surmounted now by a slender bell tower. Outside stood the
patroness of the Order: a 26-foot stucco relief of the Virgin Mary with the
child Jesus, richly-coloured and clad in elaborate Venetian mosaic work.
Marienburg, as Malbork was then known, means ‘the fortress of Mary’, and the
life of the warrior monks was organised around the festivals associated with
the Virgin. In the early fourteenth century the grand master commanded every
member to recite a Salve Regina or an Ave Maria every hour of the day, while
other Teutonic castles – Marienwerder, Frauenburg – also invoked her
protection. Below the apse is the ground floor chapel of St Anne which was set
aside for the tombs of the grand masters. Thirteen were buried here from 1341 –
including Ulrich von Jungingen, slain on the fields near Tannenberg.
The continued expansion of the Teutonic state meant that
what was initially an outpost relatively near the border had quickly moved
towards the heartland. In 1308, less than a decade after Malbork’s first
incarnation was completed, the Knights conquered the port city of Gdańsk and
the adjacent region of Pomerania. They massacred many of the local inhabitants
and imported large numbers of German settlers. Shortly after this, the
headquarters of the Teutonic Order was moved from Elblag (Elbing to
German-speakers) 15 miles south to the more secure town of Malbork. A year
later this shift was confirmed when the grand master of the Order also
transferred his base to Malbork from Venice – the latter location, convenient
when shipping men to the Holy Land had been the Knights’ primary purpose, was
less useful now that the Baltic was their principal theatre.
This move by the head of the Teutonic Order was accompanied
by a rise in the number of knights visiting Malbork en route to or from attacks
against the Order’s enemies. Further expansion was required if the castle was
to provide enough accommodation of suitable quality for these visitors. From
1310, the Upper Castle was extended by a Middle Castle, with an imposing
gatehouse and three wings surrounding a much larger courtyard. This was major
work that would continue into the second half of the fourteenth century. The
new building included a sequence of rooms for visiting knights and honoured
guests, and a great hall for their meals and entertainment. A new outer castle
was also developed to the east, with stables, barns, granaries, a bakery,
foundry and workshops, spread across a vast courtyard. This covered almost the
same area as the town of Malbork on the other side of the Upper Castle. At the
same time a permanent bridge, flanked by towers, was built across the river.
The new Knights’ Hall could hold some four hundred guests,
and was one of the great secular apartments of medieval Europe – its fine
painted walls lit by large windows and crowned by a complex vaulted roof.
Leading up a stair from the hall, as in any great medieval residence, were the
private apartments of the lord, in this case the grand master. Developed in
three stages as the Teutonic Order grew in importance during the fourteenth
century, from a relatively modest lodging it became one of medieval Europe’s
outstanding palaces – no less so for being set within a highly defensive
complex. This is particularly apparent from the riverside, where an elaborate
frontage rises through four storeys to a wall-walk crowned by a high pitched
roof. It is decorated with arcading, traceried windows, six-sided turrets and
panelled battlements in stone and brick, a stark contrast to the military
façades of the Upper Castle and the relative simplicity of the Knights’ Hall
nearby. Having the grand master’s private palace here in the Middle rather than
the Upper Castle, meant he could more easily entertain his guests and preserve,
in the Upper Castle, a serenity in keeping with its quasi-monastic function.
From the high end of the Knights’ Hall a stair opens into an
ante-chamber, leading onto the richly decorated reception room, the Master’s
private chapel, and then his bedchamber. Late in the fourteenth century, this
suite was enhanced by a lavish new wing, built facing the river to provide
further reception rooms and two additional dining rooms or refectories. Used in
summer and winter respectively, the latter were used primarily as audience
chambers for receiving envoys and honoured guests. The Summer Refectory used
expensive stone brought from Sweden, with a single pillar supporting the ribs
of a complex radiating vault that rests on corbels between the large windows.
The Winter Refectory had heating vents in the floor and a lower ceiling, but
was similarly vaulted from a central granite column. Its walls were painted
with wreaths of flowers, and figurative or heraldic motifs. This new building
was one of the architectural glories of medieval Europe, at odds with the
wholly military character of the earlier castle, and it marks the zenith of the
Order’s power and authority.
Beneath the grand master’s private residence additional
rooms were created in which the administrative functions of the Order were
carried out – a fundamental concern now that Malbork had become the Knights’
primary seat – and a chancellery responsible for the financial well-being of
the Order was located in offices below the two dining rooms.
By the early fifteenth century Malbork stood much as it is
seen today, with the walled and gated town adding further protection to the
castle. Developed over more than a century, Malbork was now among the largest
fortresses in the world – covering more than twice the area of the town that
protects its western flank. The various stages of building had produced not one
castle but three, within a single gigantic enclosure – a fitting seat of power
for the ambitious Teutonic state.
For all its emphasis on devotion and splendour, the builders
never lost sight of the fact that this was a castle for knights who were not
native to the region and who were always under threat from the surrounding
population and from external invasion. These men relied on networks of such
castles as bases from which to shelter, and mount sorties to quell unrest. From
the time that it became the Order’s primary seat of power, Malbork, in
particular, needed to be thoroughly secure.
Approached from outside it is obvious that this was a
defensive fortress as well as a palace. The entrance to the castle from the
town was joined by a second from across the river. This bridge has since gone,
but the two pyramid-capped gate-towers which commanded this approach from the
mid-fourteenth century still stand. All three castles – High, Middle and Outer
– were surrounded by moats. The entire fortress was ringed with concentric
walls capable of being isolated and defended independently. Most of the corners
were protected by square or rectangular towers, some high enough to serve as
watch-towers or defensive posts. All gates and passages were protected by
drawbridges, portcullises, iron-clad doors, shooting galleries and
machicolations (see Machicolations box). By the second half of the fourteenth
century the castle was among the most impregnable in Europe, and as such was
the obvious target for any army that wished to strike at the heart of the
Teutonic state. But it was not long before it would face the greatest threat in
In the mid-summer of 1410 the knights assembled a
substantial army in the Outer Castle, in readiness to defend the Order,
according to their oaths. The combined armies of Poland and Lithuania had
crossed its borders seeking a decisive confrontation. It was a daunting
prospect, but confidence remained high: the Knights had known few permanent
setbacks during the previous century and a half, and were instilled with the
conviction that – with God’s and the Virgin’s help – their righteous cause
The knights left Malbork on horseback, attired in their
traditional uniform – a white mantle, emblazoned with a black cross, over body
armour of iron or steel, with plates covering the front and back, which in turn
covered a chain-mail hauberk extending over the body, arms and legs. By their
sides they bore swords which, from the early fourteenth century, had been
enhanced with an extended grip and double-edged blade to help overcome the
increasing weight and robustness of armour. As they rode they unfurled banners
which they believed were God’s as well as their own. They went now to face a
man who, though born a pagan, had fervently embraced the same Christian God.
The strength that each side derived from their faith would only add to the
brutality of the confrontation.
The 14-inch M1920 railway gun was the last model railway gun to be deployed by the United States Army. It was an upgrade of the US Navy 14″/50 caliber railway gun. Only four were deployed; two in the Harbor Defenses of Los Angeles and two in the Panama Canal Zone, where they could be shifted between the harbor defenses of Cristobal (Atlantic) or Balboa (Pacific).
The Harbor Defenses of Cristobal, Panama
(Panama Canal Zone, Atlantic side)
FORT RANDOLPH /Margarita Island /1911 to
Panama, 1979; commercial development /KK
The SCR-270 (Signal Corps Radio, model 270)
was one of the first operational early warning radars. It was the U. S. Army’s
primary long-distance radar throughout World War II and was deployed around the
world. It is also known as the Pearl Harbor Radar, as it was a SCR-270 set that
saw the incoming raid about half an hour before the attack commenced.
Two versions were produced, the mobile
SCR-270, and the fixed SCR-271 which used the same electronics but replaced the
antenna with a model with somewhat greater resolution. An upgraded version, the
SCR-289, was also produced, but saw little use. All of the -270 versions were
later replaced by newer microwave units after the cavity magnetron was
introduced to the US during the Tizard Mission. The only early warning system
of the sort to see action was the AN/CPS-1, which was available in late 1944.
The non-portable version, the SCR-271-A,
s/n 1 was delivered to the Canal Zone and began operation in October of 1940 at
Fort Sherman on the Atlantic end of the Panama Canal. It picked up airliners at
117 miles in its initial test run. The second set was set up on Fort Grant’s
Tobaga Island on the Pacific end of the Canal by December of 1940, thus giving
radar coverage to the vitally important but vulnerable Panama Canal.
Westinghouse quickly ramped up production, and produced 100 by the end of 1941.
Local archivists and historians have
encountered their greatest challenge in researching the early fortifications of
the Panama Canal area installations. In
large part this is due to Army Regulation #348, issued locally on November 18,
1918, as Panama Canal Department General Order #48, “The taking of
photographs or other views of permanent works of defence [sic] will not be
permitted.” This stringent level of
secrecy was considered necessary by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and The
Panama Canal which were responsible for the construction and security of the fortifications.
In September of 1911, while the breakwater
was still under construction, fortification construction, which included
batteries, gun emplacements and magazines, was begun.
The defense sites were designed to protect
the Pacific entrance to the canal and the first set of locks at Miraflores
against an enemy naval attack. Also,
“as at any fortified place from which a fleet may have to issue in the
face of an enemy’s fleet,” the defense sites protected the clearly
vulnerable ships transiting the canal until they could reach deep water.
The railroad line, which had been installed
to aid in the construction of the breakwater, remained in place and was used to
transport ammunition to supply the guns located on the islands’ defensive
Of the eight batteries constructed at Fort
Grant, three were located on Naos Island.
Battery Burnside, named in honor of Major General Ambrose E. Burnside
(Third U. S. Artillery), was mounted with two 14-inch rifles on disappearing
carriages, and had a range of 18,400 yards.
Battery Buell, named in honor of Major General Don Carlos Buell
(Assistant Adjutant-General, U. S. A.), was mounted in the same manner as
Battery Burnside. Battery Parke, named in honor of Major General John G. Parke
(Corps of Engineers, U. S. A.), was equipped with two 6-inch rifles with a
range of 6,000 yards.
The guns, mounted on disappearing
carriages, were constructed “on an unsinkable and steady platform, and
they [could] be provided with unlimited protection and accurate range-finding
In addition to these fixed batteries, the
defense sites at Naos Island were equipped with 12-inch mortars “of a new
and powerful type.”
Battery Newton, located on Perico Island,
was named in honor of Major General John Newton (Chief of Engineers, U. S.
A.). Battery Newton was equipped with
one 14-inch rifle with a range of 18,400 yards, mounted on a disappearing
Flamenco Island, the most heavily fortified
of the islands, was equipped with four batteries. Battery Carr was named in honor of Brevet
Major General Joseph Bradford Carr (U. S. Volunteers)., Battery Merritt for
Major General Wesley Merritt (U. S. A.); Battery Prince in honor of Brigadier
General Harry Prince (U. S. Volunteers).- and Battery Warren for Major General
Gouverneur K. Warren (Corps of Engineers, U. S. A.).
Batteries Carr, Merritt and Prince were
manned with four 12-inch mortars each.
Construction of the batteries was begun in early 1912, and was completed
(with equipment installed) by 1917.
Battery Warren was equipped with two
14-inch rifles on disappearing carriages.
These rifles “commanded the entire area of seaward approach,”
with the exception of a small blind spot on Taboga Island’s southern side. The battery “included space for
ammunition storage, control and plotting rooms, and a communications
system. During construction of Battery
Warren, an elevator was installed in a vertical shaft which was sunk 200 feet
from the summit to connect with a horizontal tunnel which entered from the
mortar batteries on the north side of the island.”
As a side note, before the construction of
the batteries at Flamenco (or “Deadman’s”) Island could begin, two
cemeteries located there were moved in August of 1911 to Ancon Cemetery near
Ancon Hospital. Many of those buried
there were “soldiers who had died of tropical diseases while making the
hazardous crossing of Panama en route to posts in California.”
Although Fort Amador’s primary function was
to provide housing for the Coast Artillery units to manning the fortifications
at Fort Grant, two batteries were constructed on the southern tip of the
post. Batteries Birney and Smith, which
were identical, were mounted with two 6-inch rifles on disappearing carriages.
Although ineffective against a naval attack on the Canal, they were capable of
firing on small vessels, such as a screening force, minesweepers, submarines,
or landing craft.” Construction of Batteries Birney and Smith was begun in
1913 and completed in 1917. Battery
Birney was named in honor of Major General David B. Birney, U. S.
Volunteers. Battery Smith was named in
honor of Major General Charles F. Smith, Third U. S. Infantry. The defense of the Pacific entrance to the
Panama Canal was completed with the installation of fourteen searchlights
“to facilitate night firing” at Forts Amador and Grant.
On December 22, 1913, Fort Amador and Fort
Grant Coast Artillery Posts were initially manned. Among the first to arrive was the 81st
Company, Coast Artillery, followed by the 45th (107 men) and the 144th (105
men) Companies on September 18, 1914.
Additional troops arrived in 1915, including the 40th and 116th
Companies; in 1916, the 8th, 73rd and 87th Companies arrived for duty at Fort
Although the guns were fired on a regular
basis, between 1929 and 1939 “shortages of funds and personnel resulted in
many of the big seacoast guns being placed in caretaker status… In the years
immediately preceding the U. S. entry into World War II all guns were
rehabilitated, tested, and placed in service status.”
By 1939, “the growth of air power as a
weapon of war forced the Panama Canal Department to increase its air defenses,
thus necessitating more and bigger airdromes, and also compelled it to expand
its ground defenses to provide adequate anti-aircraft artillery coverage of
vital installations.” The battery
fortifications at Forts Grant and Amador, planned and constructed to defend
primarily against a naval attack, were deemed obsolete and plans were made for
them to be dismantled and salvaged.
Battery Warren at Flamenco Island was last
fired on December 8, 1944. Both guns
were removed and scrapped in 1948. It
was later “converted for use as a site for HAWK missiles which [were] part
of the Panama Canal defenses. Much of
the underground area [was] used in connection with the operation of the missile
The four guns of Batteries Birney and Smith
at Fort Amador were dismounted in 1943 and disposed of. “The concrete emplacements were
subsequently covered with earth and the area used for the erection of family
quarters. Quarters No. 85 and No. 86
stand on the site formerly occupied by Battery Birney, while Quarters No. 87,
No. 91 and No. 184 are in the general area of Battery Smith.”
Fort Amador construction falls into three
approximate eras: the Post Canal
Construction Era (1912 – 1937), the World War II Era
(1938 – 1946) and Contemporary Era (1946 to
POST CANAL CONSTRUCTION ERA (1912 -1937)
Buildings erected to accommodate the work
force during the construction of the canal were of a temporary nature.
Predominant building materials, intended to last only until the completion of
the Canal, included wood and sheet metal.
Following the completion of the canal,
permanent communities were planned.
Chief Engineer Goethals strongly believed that U. S. citizens living in
the Panama Canal Zone should live in beautiful communities – communities which
would contribute to the quality of life for their residents. To achieve that end, an architect was hired
to prepare both an overall plan for the permanent communities – civic and
military – and to design individual buildings.
Early architectural plans for Canal Zone
communities were prepared by Mr. Austin W. Lord of the New York firm of Lord,
Hewlett, and Tallent. Mr. Lord, who
preferred to work out of his office in New York, was assisted by several
on-site Isthmian Canal Commission (ICC) architects.
Mr. Lord chose Itallanate Renaissance as
the primary architectural style for the permanent buildings in the Canal Zone. Details of the Itallanate style include
interior courtyards, large, often arched windows and verandas – features which
capture breezes to cool the buildings’ interiors – as well as heavily bracketed
roofs. It was also a style popular in
the United States in the early Twentieth Century.
In addition to determining the overall
architectural style to be incorporated into the new structures, Mr. Lord
decided on building materials – reinforced concrete with hollow concrete block
stuccoed on the outside and red clay roofing tiles which would last for decades
in the harsh tropical climate.
After completing the architectural plans
for about a dozen individual buildings (including the Administration Building
in Balboa) for the ICC, Mr. Lord removed himself from the project. Unsatisfied
with the fact that Mr. Lord preferred to work out of his New York office, Chief
Engineer Goethals was not disappointed with this turn of events.
The early decision regarding style and
materials made by Austin Lord were continued by subsequent ICC architects.
The ICC architect, Samuel M. Hitt, was
responsible for the architectural aspects of the designs at Fort Amador and
other installations, while Mr. T. C. Morris, an assistant engineer, was charged
with the more technical aspects of “details and designs of foundations,
reinforced concrete, and analyses for size, dimensions of beams, columns,
Barracks designs – for Fort Amador as well
as for other installations – were also “made in accordance with types
furnished by the Quartermaster Corps, United States Army; and the types of
quarters were determined by a board of officers consisting of Col. William F. Blauverl, Lieut. Col. Charles F. Mason, Maj. B. T. Clayton, Maj. William E. Cole, and Capt. R. E. Wood.”26 The Board took into consideration the design
program already formalized and approved by the ICC.
Typical Facade with Architectural Elements
Copper screened louvers 2)
“Media Aguas” 3) Large
copper screened porches 4) Reinforced
concrete exterior 5) Living quarters
located above ground floor 6) Clay Tile
7) Maids Quarters, launder, and storage
areas on ground floor
The Isthinian Canal Commission also
employed several landscape architects, the first of whom was Mr. William L.
Phillips, who had “special charge of the details of townsites, streets,
The design elements and construction
methods at Forts Amador and Grant are typical of the excellent Post Canal
Construction Era ICC architecture.
Foundation and structural elements were cast in concrete due to concern
for building degradation from the tropical climate and termites. Living quarters were raised to the second
level with storage, maid quarters, and later, garages placed on the ground
level. The solid, reinforced concrete
walls also rendered the buildings ratproof – a Sanitation Department regulation
for the prevention of the spread of bubonic plague.
Sub-floors and interior partitions were
also of concrete, with wood reserved for doors and window frames, media aguas,
roof framing, and floors. Copper
screened windows and porches allowed for air circulation within the buildings,
while at the same time keeping out mosquitoes – the carriers of Yellow Fever
Due to the heavy rains that occur in the
region, intermediate roof projections, referred to locally as ‘media aguas,’
served the purpose of keeping water away from windows and blocking the harsh
mid-day sun from interiors.
Full-length porches allowed the off-shore
breezes to circulate through buildings.
Over the years, many of these buildings
have undergone alterations and additions in keeping with the times. With the advent of air conditioning, many
oversized screen porches were enclosed to provide additional living areas. Casement windows were reduced in size and
wood frames were replaced with aluminum. The result of many of these changes
was to further remove the building occupants from the surrounding
environment. While some of the alterations
to these structures reflect the original design theme, others have,
unfortunately, strayed from the original design intent of the Isthmian Canal
The first of the Post Canal Construction
Era buildings to be erected at Fort Amador were barracks, family quarters, the
headquarters building, a wagon shed and a wood stable.
Constructed in 1915, Building #1 was
Headquarters for the Coast Artillery Post.
The front and rear porches were originally enclosed with copper screen.
Construction of the two-story band barracks
building (Building #2) was begun in December of 1916, and was completed around
June 30, 1917. The building contained a
band practice room, an office, and three storage rooms for instruments and
music on the first floor. Sleeping
quarters for thirty men were located on the second floor.
The first set of company barracks completed
at Fort Amador
(Buildings #3 through #9) were turned over
to the Coast Artillery on September 28, 1914.
Construction of the two-story, raised
Bachelor Lieutenants’ Quarters (Building #30) was begun in March of 1917, and
was completed around June 30, 1918.
The first floor of the Six-set bachelor
officers’ quarters contained a public porch and two private porches, two
“Sitting Rooms,” a library with built-in bookcases, a “Billiard
Room,” two bedrooms, an “Alcove,” a service pantry, a kitchen,
and a dining room. The second floor
included four bedrooms, four “Sitting Rooms” and an “Inspector’s
Room” with a private porch.
Originally designed to accommodate six
single officers, Quarters #30 was converted sometime around 1959 into four
units of family housing.
Seven sets of four-family, two-bedroom
Non-commissioned Officers quarters were completed in 1915. In the photograph example, the original
porches have been infilled, and the original windows and doors have been
The first sets of four-family (three
bedroom) Lieutenants’ Quarters were begun in October of 1916, and were
completed by June 30, 1918. In this
photograph example also, the original porches have been infilled, and the
original windows and doors have been replaced.
The first sets of two-family (four bedroom)
Captains’ Quarters were begun in November 1916, and were nearly completed by
June 30, 1917.
Unlike the four-family quarters, these
two-family (three bedroom) quarters were divided horizontally, with one family
residing on each floor. The ground, or
basement, floors contained two “Chambers” and two “Trunk
The first sets of single-family four
bedroom Commanding Officers’ Quarters were begun in October of 1916, and were
completed by June 30, 1917.
Quarters #1 represents the most drastic
example of alterations to a single building at Fort Amador. At an unknown date, this building was
converted from a two-family Field Grade Officers’ Quarters into single-family
quarters, and became the official residence of the Commanding General, United
States Army South
Following the 1979 return of Building #1 to
the Republic of Panama, the Commanding General’s quarters was redesignated
Two sets of single-family, two-bedroom Non-commissioned Officers quarters, Building #’s 452 and 453, were completed at an unknown date, but most likely between 1917 and 1925. Unlike the other family housing units at Fort Amador, these one-story structures contain elements of the Tropical Caribbean French architectural style constructed during the Panama Canal Construction Era. The buildings are raised off of the ground by wooden piers, both the interior and exterior walls of the buildings are of wood frame siding, and the roof is of corrugated iron. Quarters #453 was demolished in 1978.
Administrators of the Panama Canal Zone and the military reservations located within the Zone recognized that “opportunity for diversion in the Canal Zone [was] limited. The community [was] not self-governing and lack[ed] political interests. There no industrial activity outside of the canal work, and initiative and ambition [found] little outlet but in the day’s work. The employees live[d] in houses owned and controlled by the Government and [could] not develop permanent and personally owned homes in the Canal Zone.”
Concern for quality of life issues prompted
both the Isthmian Canal Commission and The Panama Canal to construct clubhouses
and other recreational facilities which were open to all U. S. citizens
residing on the Isthmus. Military
personnel also had access to the Army and Navy Y. M. C. A. in Balboa.
Construction of the Band Stand at Fort
Amador was begun in May of 1917, and was completed by June 30, l9l8. Military bands gave concerts regularly at
installations and clubhouses throughout the Panama Canal Zone.
Service facilities at Fort Amador and Fort
Grant included a commissary, a post exchange, a gymnasium and a theater. Schools and medical clinics were available
within a few miles.
The Non-commissioned Officers’ Club,
constructed in 1934, was demolished after being turned over to the Republic of
Panama in 1979.
In 1936, Fort Amador’s 18-hole golf course
was laid out and a Club House was constructed.
Constructed in 1932, the Post Theater
included a stage and a projection booth on the second floor.
WORLD WAR II ERA CONSTRUCTION (1938 – 1946)
World War II Era construction was in
reaction to the anticipated increase in the number of troops required for Canal
defense. Typically constructed with wood framing, these structures were
intended to last only a few decades.
With a few exceptions, emphasis was placed on function rather than
Casa Caribe, the six-unit Distinguished
Visitors’ Quarters, was constructed in 1939.
Typical of the World War II Era, the two- story, raised structure is of
wood frame construction.
The present Fort Amador Officers’ Club was
constructed in 1941 as a bowling alley.
With an increasing emphasis on sports, a
baseball field was laid out on the Parade Ground at Fort Amador. The baseball field was named McCardell Field
in January of 1957, in honor of Major Norman C. McCardell, U. S. Army Caribbean
Special Services, who died on December 7, 1956, at Gorgas Hospital at the age
CONTEMPORARY CONSTRUCTION ERA (1946 TO THE
Contemporary Construction Era buildings
were designed by District architects and engineers of the Corps of
Engineers. The design of these generic
structures was intended to be international – that is, the buildings could be
constructed at any military facility in the United States or in the world. Little emphasis was placed on environment or
locale. The structure would protect the
user from the cold climate of Alaska or the torrid heat of the Philippines –
whichever were required. Purely
functional, little emphasis was placed on aesthetics.
Fifteen sets of two-family, three-bedroom
Capehart quarters were constructed in 1960.
The Capehart quarters display a drastic departure from the previous
Canal Zone architecture.
Ten sets of two-family, four-bedroom
quarters were constructed in 1960. Three
of these quarters are located at the beginning of the Causeway.
Four single-family, three-bedroom Field
Grade Officers quarters were constructed in the 1960’s. Unlike typical contemporary construction, the
design of these concrete family housing units managed to successfully recapture
the feeling of the Tropics. The ground floor provides space for a car and a
maid’s living area. The elevated living
area provides an openness to the surrounding landscape.
16-inch Navy Mk.II M1 gun on M1919 barbette mount in Panama.
Fortifying the Canal
The Hay-Pauceforte and Hay-Bunau-Varilla
treaties implied but did not specifically give the United States the right to
fortify the Canal Zone. Central to America’s decision to fortify was Article Three
of the Hay-Bunau-Varilla treaty, which gave the United States all powers,
rights, and authority in the Zone. Panama protested in 1904 when the United
States government used this sovereignty in establishing ports of entry,
customhouses, tariffs, and post offices in the Zone. An amendment giving some
concessions to Panama in those areas was made after Secretary of War Taft,
George Goethals, and other Army leaders visited the Isthmus in November 1904 to
determine questions relating to possible fortifications. The amendment was
supposed to be in effect only during the construction period, but it lasted
until 1924, and efforts for a new treaty were unsuccessful.
The debate over Canal fortification
continued until 1911, when Congress passed a $2 million appropriation for that
purpose. The following year, Congress added $1 million for gun and mortar
batteries and $200,000 for land defenses. Construction began on 7 August 1911
under Sydney Williamson, Goethals’ Chief of the Pacific Division, and on 1
January 1912, Goethals’ son, Lieutenant George R. Goethals, was put in charge
of fortification work. The construction towns of Empire and Culebra, no longer
needed, were used for the Army garrisons. There were large forts with gun
batteries built at each end of the Canal, with field work for 6,000 mobile
force troops (infantry, cavalry, engineer, signal, and field artillery). The
work of The Panama Canal staff increased significantly with the 1915 military
appropriation of $1,290,000 and subsequent assignment of Army barracks and
quarters construction. All design and construction work for Army post buildings
was assigned to The Panama Canal. Much of the early quarters construction
undertaken by The Panama Canal for the Army utilized existing “type
house” designs. By June 1915, almost $15 million had been spent on
fortifying the Canal, including the locks and dams. Military reservations were
officially designated on 18 September 1917 as Fort Grant, Fort Amador, Fort
Sherman, Fort Randolph, and Fort de Lesseps.19 That same year The Panama Canal
designers were asked “… to furnish preliminary plans and estimates for
cantonment construction for Army troops and for the proposed permanent posts
for mobile troops on the Canal Zone.”20
This request developed from the investigation
and findings of an Army Board of Officers convened to recommend post locations
for the troops in the Canal Zone, and to recommend the type and character of
buildings required. The Board members represented the Infantry, Engineer Corps,
Cavalry, Medical Corps, and Field Artillery. In their report, dated 28 August
1917, the Board recommended placing one brigade of infantry at Gatun, and all
other mobile force troops on the Pacific side. There, they supported the
location of one infantry brigade at Miraflores Dump, another adjacent to the
Curundu River, and one artillery brigade and one cavalry regiment south of the
Diablo Ridge. Corozal was the location recommended for the sanitary troops, the
Signal Corps troops, and the Engineer regiment, as well as for the main supply
depot site. Quarry Heights (created on the site of the former Ancon Quarry)
would serve as department and division headquarters.21
The placement of troops on the Isthmus did
not wait for the construction of military reservations. As early as 1903, there
was a Marine detachment present that kept the Panama Railroad open during the
revolution. This detachment remained until January 1914, and at the end
consisted of 12 officers and 375 enlisted men. The first permanent Army troops
(Tenth Infantry) arrived in October 1911 and were stationed at Camp E. S. Otis
in Empire. Three companies of the Coast Artillery Corps arrived on the Isthmus
September 1914 and were in temporary quarters at Fort Amador and Fort Sherman
by November. That same month the Fifth Infantry arrived with several members of
the Medical Corps and the Quartermaster Corps, and the regiment was quartered
at Empire. Continued arrivals placed the troop strength on the Canal Zone at
approximately 5,000 when the United States entered World War I. 22 Authority
over the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone was transferred from the Canal Zone
Governor to the commanding general of the U.S. Army forces in the Canal Zone by
President Woodrow Wilson in a 9 April 1917 Executive Order.23 An additional
Executive Order was used to proclaim the neutrality of the Canal on 23 May
A consolidated command called United States
Troops, Panama Canal Zone had been put into place on 6 January 1915 under Brig.
Gen. C. R. Edwards, as part of the Eastern Department. Initially located at
Ancon, the headquarters were moved to Quarry Heights in 1916. A separate
geographical department was created 1 July 1917 and named the Panama Canal
Department of the United States Army. Also headquartered at Quarry Heights, the
Department was first commanded by Brigadier General Cronkhite25. The war passed
quietly enough in the Canal Zone, and control of the Canal was returned to the
Governor at the war’s end.
For the Panama Canal Department, the
inter-war years provided an opportunity to increase defensive strength by
creating permanent posts and upgrading defenses against the growing threat of
When Canal defense requirements were first
considered, the threat to be countered was primarily a naval one. Armament and
fortifications were planned to repel a frontal naval assault and landing. As
aviation technology developed, aerial attacks were perceived as a growing
threat, and steps were taken to counteract them. The Army Air Force in the
Canal Zone was implemented to “gain and maintain sufficient air
superiority to secure the Canal and its accessories against an air attack, to
observe fire for the Coast and Field Artillery, to cooperate with the Infantry,
to attack any enemy land or naval forces and to cooperate with the Navy in the
execution of its mission.”26 By late 1920, the Army aviation base of
France Field, and the infantry bases of Fort Clayton (Pacific) and Fort Davis
(Atlantic) were in place and manned. By 1925 the Coast Artillery District was
abolished and Coast Defense units organized into regiments with separate
antiaircraft batteries. A Pacific-side air field (Albrook Field) was
constructed by 1932.27
In 1932, the Panama Canal Department was
divided into Atlantic and Pacific sectors. The Atlantic Sector contained France
Field and the Panama Air Depot, and Forts Sherman, Randolph, Davis, and de
Lesseps, while Forts Amador, Clayton, and Kobbe, Albrook Field, and the Post of
Corozal were located in the Pacific Sector.28 Headquarters remained at Quarry
Heights. In January 1934, the Department consisted of 419 officers and 8,884
enlisted men. This manpower level was considered too low, and by 1936 enlisted
strength had increased to 12,990.29
Diplomatic issues continued to be
negotiated between Panama and the United States. The Hull-Alfaro Treaty, signed
on 2 March 1936, helped settle differences over the devaluing Panama dollar and
the Canal annuity payments. It guaranteed joint action and consultation between
the countries in times of emergency. The United States also gave up the right
to intervene in Panama to maintain public order. After debate in the United
States over whether the treaty adequately protected American interests in the
area, the Senate ratified it three years later.30
As World War II broke out in Europe,
efforts were underway in the Canal Zone to heighten defenses. One of these
efforts had both defensive and economic justifications. The original Canal
designers were aware that transit capacity would need to be increased in the
future, both in terms of ship size and the number of ships able to transit at
any one time. After several years of military and civilian study, Congress
authorized the construction of an additional set of locks in 1939. Known as the
“third locks project,” new, larger locks would be constructed near
the existing ones at Gatun, Pedro Miguel, and Miraflores to increase capacity.
For defense purposes, they would be built some distance away (1,500 to 3,000
ft) and connected to the existing locks by approach channels. An initial appropriation
of $15 million was made through the War Department Civil Appropriations Act of
1941. The total cost of the expansion was estimated at $277,000,000. A Special
Engineering Division of the Department of Operation and Maintenance was created
to handle the work in close cooperation with existing Panama Canal
organizations. Canal employees had been producing plans for the design and
construction and selecting potential key employees in the United States since
the 1939 authorization. Among the first orders of business were three new
construction towns (Caecal, Diablo Heights, and Margarita) for the estimated
6,300 employees and dependents associated with the project.31
Excavation at the Pacific end of what would
be the approach channel to the new Miraflores lock was begun on 1 July 1940.
The new locks were designed to be used by the 58,000 ton Montana class
battleships on order for the Navy. As the threat of war heated up, defense
considerations soon outweighed those of commerce. However, upon the United
States’ entry into the war, continuation of the project grew uncertain. There
was strong Navy support for completing the project as soon as possible to
accommodate the warships due in late 1945. Through a series of meetings held in
January 1942, the War Department decided to accept the Navy position and to
press for rapid completion. Some military officers, however, felt the extra
locks only provided another target for air attack. Several months later
circumstances changed when the Navy indefinitely postponed its battleship
construction program. As a result of these factors, the War Department, the
Navy, and the President all concurred in a decision to halt almost all work on
the third locks, effectively canceling the project.32
As World War II approached, Canal Zone Army
installations were reinforced by increasing the troop strength in Panama from
13,451 in 1939 to 31,400 by the time of the United States’ entry in December
1941. Garrison strength was up to 66,619 by January 1943. Housing these reinforcements
constituted only part of a larger construction program. As some troops arrived
before construction had begun, however, housing was given the highest priority.
Congress appropriated $50 million on 10 June 1939 for improvement of Panama
Subsequent contract discussions delayed
calls for bids until March 1940. The first contractors arrived on the Isthmus
in July 1940. Troop labor was used in the meantime to clear construction sites
and put in footings. Housing needs were especially acute, and a Board of
Officers was appointed to study and report on “the locations and general
layout, plan for the new construction in the Pacific Sector contemplated in the
Panama Canal Department housing program, the Coast Artillery Expansion Program,
and the Air Corps Augmentation Program.34 Once begun, actual construction was
fairly swift, as it was essential to get men and materiel out of tents and into
buildings as quickly as possible. Even so, it was a huge job and every
available soldier was detailed to some aspect of construction. Little civilian
labor was available to assist with the military construction, as the Third
Locks project competed for workers.35 Due to the severe time constraints, much
of the new construction was of a temporary nature. It was common to use
existing building plans but substitute readily available, less expensive, and
less labor-intensive construction materials. Designs were stripped down to the
essentials, and all ornamental details were eliminated. Temporary structures
were less durable, and many were intended to be easily disassembled and
Emergency measures were initiated in the
last days of August 1939, and in addition to troop buildup, included
anti-sabotage measures and a change of Canal authority. The Army garrison was
given the mission of “protecting the Canal against sabotage and of
defending it from positions within the Canal Zone.”36 The Navy was tasked
to provide offshore defense, provide armed guards for ships transiting the Canal,
and maintain a harbor patrol at both ends of the Canal.37 As early as 5
September 1939, an Executive Order was issued transferring jurisdiction and
authority over the Canal and the Canal Zone to the Army’s Panama Canal
Department.38 Before long, photography of Canal installations was banned for
the duration of the war, mines were placed at both entrances to the Canal,
low-altitude barrage balloons were placed over the locks with anti-submarine
and torpedo nets placed in front of the locks, and chemical smoke pots were
positioned throughout a 60 square mile area. The massive guns and batteries on
military installations at either end of the Canal were prepared for use. The 6
to 16 inch (in.) guns were housed in 11 Atlantic and 12 Pacific batteries, and
had a range up to 25 miles. To protect against air attack, anti-aircraft
batteries were put in place across the Zone and two antiaircraft detachments
were sent in September 1939. Two long-range radar stations were also
established that autumn. The main runway at Albrook Field was improved to allow
deployment of the more modem bombers that had arrived in June 1939. Military
dependents were evacuated to the United States by October 1941.39
Also around 1939, the Panama Canal
Department commander began an effort to secure additional defense sites outside
the Canal Zone in the Republic of Panama, primarily for airfields. Dozens of
sites were eventually requested, but action on this request ran into diplomatic
trouble between the United States and Panama. The primary problems were leasing
versus buying the sites, and the limits of United States defense authority as
defined in the as yet unratified 1936 Hull-Alfaro Treaty. The Treaty was
finally ratified on 17 April 1939, and negotiations continued for the
additional defense sites even as funding was allocated to lease them from the
Panamanian government. An agreement was reached on 21 March 1941 to allow
United States forces to acquire sites and begin use before formal approval. On
18 May 1942, the two countries signed the Defense Sites Agreement, in which the
United States would utilize 134 sites leased from Panama until one year after
the end of the war.40
By the time the build-up was complete,
defenses consisted of “nine airbases and airdromes, 10 ground forces posts,
30 aircraft warning stations, and 634 searchlights, antiaircraft gun positions
and miscellaneous tactical and logistical installations.”41 Twelve
outlying airbases were also constructed in Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua,
and Costa Rica. An outer defense parameter of 960 nautical miles from the Canal
was established and patrolled by air and sea.42
In 1941, a major command reorganization was
precipitated when the United States took into protective custody the British
possessions (and prospective base sites) of Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia,
Trinidad, and British Guyana. To administer these new bases, and to quell
issues of command extent between the various Army and Navy forces in the area,
a theater command was established. The Caribbean Defense Command was officially
activated on 10 February 1941, under the command of General Daniel Van Voorhis,
then the commander of the Panama Canal Department. The Caribbean Defense
Command was initially set up as strictly Army, and coordination with Navy
operations was by “mutual cooperations” A separate command, the
Caribbean Air Force, was established for air defense about the same time.
General Frank M. Andrews succeeded General Van Voorhis in August 194l.43
The Army and Navy personnel in Panama had
been on full alert since midsummer 1941. The first immediate effects of the
United States’ December entry into the war were ones of command structure and
reinforcements. The first order of business was to create a unified command
through which Army and Navy could be coordinated. President Roosevelt put the
Army in charge of the Panama sector, and the Navy in charge of the more distant
Caribbean Coastal Frontier on 12 December 1941. General Andrews thus assumed
command of both Army and Navy forces in the area on 18 December 1941.44 Both
air and ground forces were heavily augmented over the next two months, with the
Panama garrison strength reaching 39,000 by the end of December, and growing to
47,600 by the end of January 1942.45
For those living and working in the Canal Zone,
World War II was “a time of perceived danger during which the movement of
materiel, troops and supplies through the waterway was a critical part of the
war effort.”46 While Panama and the Canal both escaped enemy attack, a
damaging U-boat campaign was carried out against shipping in the Caribbean.
From February through December 1942, some 270 ships in the area had been sunk
by U-boats. The peak of the German U-boat threat came in the summer of 1942. In
the month of June alone, 29 vessels were sunk in the Atlantic Sector of the
Panama Sea Frontier.47 Caribbean Defense Command peak strength of 119,000 was
reached in December 1942. Of these, over half were stationed in Panama to
protect the Canal from attack or sabotage.48 by mid-summer 1943, the U-boat threat
was receding due to increased effectiveness of the theater’s antisubmarine
forces, the effects of Allied victories in other waters, and the shift of
U-boats away from the Caribbean.49
With the threat of Canal attack
diminishing, the reduction of troop strength became feasible. Downsizing was
begun in January 1943, and continued until the end of the war. From a peak of
119,000, Army forces had dropped to 91,000 by the end of 1943. When the war in
Europe ended in May 1945, Caribbean Defense Command strength was down to
67,500.50 War-time defenses, including large artillery guns, landing fields,
and mine fields were removed as the military returned to a peace-time defensive
position. The Caribbean Defense Command was reorganized into the U.S. Army Caribbean
and the Caribbean Command (a unified authority over the Army, Navy, and Air
Force components)51 This command structure would last until 1963, was
redesignated as the United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), and the Army
component became the United States Army Forces Southern Command (USAFSO). The
major Army command would be inactivated in 1974, then re-activated as the
United States Army South (USARSO) in 1986.52
In October 1947, the United States tried to
negotiate an agreement for five more years occupation of 13 auxiliary World War
II sites and the military air base at Rio Hato, 70 miles west of Panama City,
for 10 to 20 years. In December, with pressure from the Communist Party in
Panama and student anti-American demonstrations, the Panamanian Assembly
unanimously rejected the agreement, and the United States agreed to evacuate
the remaining 14 sites immediately, while continuing to negotiate. With
national elections coming up in 1948, Assembly members wanted to reduce
American influence in Panama as much as possible to appease the voters.53
In the 1950s, the United States made
several concessions to the Panamanians: a single pay scale for American and
Panamanian workers was established; Spanish became an official language in the
Canal Zone along with English; Panama was given more money from Canal toll
collections. The United States was given 19,000 acres in the Rio Hato area for
military training. Panama, however, twice rejected requests by the U.S. to
deploy Nike missiles in 1956 and 1958. Two ground-to-air HAWK-AW missile
batteries were deployed in 1960 at Fort Sherman and Fort Amador. Growing
nationalistic sentiment expressed in student demonstrations in 1955, 1958,
1959, and 1964 helped to finally convince the United States to renegotiate the
In 1974, the United States, under chief
negotiator Ellsworth Bunker, agreed in principle to relinquish control of the
Panama Canal and the Canal Zone to Panama. At that time, there were about
46,000 people living in the Canal Zone. Most (30,000) were active duty
military, their dependents, and civilian employees. Roughly 10,000 Americans
(employees and dependents) were associated with the Panama Canal Company.
During the administrations of President Jimmy Carter and General Omar Torrijos,
two treaties were negotiated. The first, called the Panama Canal Treaty,
abolished the Canal Zone and returned the territory to Panama, with the United
States having the authority to manage, operate and defend the Canal with
increasing participation by the Republic of Panama. At noon on 31 December
1999, Panama will assume control of the area and responsibility for the Canal
as the United States’ presence ends. The second treaty gave the United States
the permanent right to defend, jointly with the Republic of Panama, the Canal’s
neutrality. The treaties were signed on 7 September 1977 by Presidents Carter
and Torrijos at the Organization of American States. After months of heated
debate, the United States Senate passed the two treaties in March and April
1978, each by a vote of 68 to 32, drastically changing American military and
political influence in Panama.55
Implemented on 1 October 1979, the Panama
Canal Treaty impacted U.S. armed forces in Panama through the immediate
turnover of some military facilities, the relocation of other facilities, and
the undertaking of some social responsibilities formerly run by the Panama
Canal Company. Some facilities at Fort Amador were turned over to the
Panamanian government immediately, necessitating the relocation of U.S. Army
headquarters to Fort Clayton. Facilities were also shifted from the Albrook
Army Airfield to Air Force installations in the former Canal Zone. The
Department of Defense became responsible for the education, health care, and
postal services previously run by the Panama Canal Company. Since 1979, the
turnover of military facilities has continued and will proceed until the
expiration of the Panama Canal Treaty at 12 noon on 31 December 1999.56
U.S. Military Aviation in Panama
World War I and France Field
The outbreak of World War I brought the
first pioneering aviation operations to the Canal Zone. As the efficiency of
combat aviation progressed during that conflict, it became clear that the U.S.
must provide some form of air force for the defense of the Canal. In March
1917, just prior to American entry into the War, the 7th Aero Squadron deployed
to Panama to provide aerial reconnaissance capabilities in cooperation with
Navy and Coast Artillery forces in the Canal Zone. This first aviation unit
consisted of just two officer pilots and 51 enlisted men, under the command of
Captain H. H. “Hap” Arnold. Its entire aircraft complement consisted
of two Curtiss R-4 observation planes. For the first few months after arrival
in Panama, the 7th shifted its operations between a number of Army bases while
its new flying field was under development. March found the 7th at Corozal, but
it immediately moved to Camp Empire, and then to Fort Sherman by August 1917.
In the meantime, development had begun on a new Army air field adjacent to the
Navy’s air station at Coco Solo. The first preliminary improvements centered
around providing an adequate landing surface, which was accomplished by laying
a base of crushed coral and covering it with hydraulic fill. Grass was planted
over this base by August 1918, at which time flying operations commenced on a
small scale. It was not until January 1919, however, that the 7th permanently
moved into its new quarters at France Field. After the war, a significant construction
program commenced in order to provide permanent facilities for the Air Corps’
growing commitment in Panama. Most of the original permanent construction at
France Field was completed between 1920 and 1922, including a new flight line
with six hangars. Nevertheless, significant problems plagued France Field
throughout its existence, centering around its inferior landing surface. Its
flying field could not be expanded due to its location. More importantly, the
coral foundation was prone to constant uneven settling, which required an
inordinate amount of costly new filling and leveling work. It was also rather
brittle and could not safely support the ever-increasing weights of new
aircraft. Already by the early 1930s, France Field was deemed unsafe for the
operation of the large bombers and commercial aircraft of the day. As soon as
other airfields were available in the Canal Zone, it became a secondary
operation. Eventually, the limitations of its landing surface prohibited France
Field’s efficient use as an Air Force Base. By late 1949, France Air Force Base
supported only a small caretaker detachment. In accordance with Canal Zone
Order Number 54, it ceased to be an Air Force. installation on 22 August 1960,
and its lands were assigned to the Department of the Army, Department of the
Navy, and The Panama Canal Company.57