The Role of Baltra in World War II

December 16, 2011 § 1 Comment

With the assistance of John H Peck, possibly the final member of the Ancient Order gang of the ancient Order of the Whiskered of Galapagos who was stationed in Baltra during WWII we decided to do a series of blogs on the role of Baltra during WWII.

Map showing strategic importance of Galapagos in protecting the Panama Canal

Map shows how a shield against attack from both the Atlantic and Pacific will be formed around the Panama Canal by the new US and proposed bases on Cocos and Galapagos Islands. Desirab

September 6, 1940

Costa Rica, Ecuador AID in defenses

But FDR Answers Query on Pacific Islands with “No Negotiations On”

By the Associated Press

Washington, September 6, – President Roosevelt said today that Costa Rica and Ecuador were co-operating completely with the United States in plans for the defense of the Americas, but he added no negotiated for acquisition of additional naval and air bases were now under way with any country.

Asked about reports that Costa Rica had offered this country Cocos Islands about 600 miles northwest of the Panama Canal in the Pacific for a base, the President replied that all he could say on that was that there was complete co-operation between Costa Rica and the United States in the defense of the Americas.

AVOIDS QUIZ ON GALAPAGOS

Another question at Mr Roosevelt’s press conference was whether the Galapagos Islands, about 1000 miles southwest of the canal were involved in talks with Ecuador.  He made the same reply, namely that Ecuador was working with this country on continental defense.

Mr. Roosevelt emphasized however that there were no negotiation on to acquire bases other than those granted by Great Britain on eight of its crown colonies from Newfoundland to British Guiana in exchange for 50 over-age destroyers.

Before the President’s meeting with the press it was learned that Canada was seeking several hundred obsolete World War tanks and large quantities of military supplies from the United States.

Seated in the well deck of USS Houston (CA-30), with a shark he caught in Sullivan Bay, Galapagos Islands, July 1938. A sailfish is being hoisted up in the left distance. Courtesy of Otto Schwartz, USS Houston Association, 1982.

Since the rumor mills in 1940’s were alive with both Cocos and Galapagos being sites of potential bases and records released after the war showed that materials were being stockpiled for these bases far before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It might seem more than a coincidence, during July of 1938, FDR took a fishing trip to the Cocos Islands and Galapagos.  While this was before the war had officially begun, Italy and Germany were already showing aggression in Europe.  Germany had sanctioned Austria and made claims on parts of Czechoslovakia.  While in the Pacific, Japan had invaded China the year before and the same month as this “fishing trip” Japan invaded both Russia and Mongolia.  It may be that as early as 1938 FDR and the US Government realized the strategic importance of the Galapagos Islands in the defense of the Panama Canal and the US interests.

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