Bibliography Texts

Study of the U. S. Air Forces'
Galapagos Islands Base

This page is transcribed from the original typescript, with minor punctuation and spelling changes for clarity. A bracketed number in the left margin indicates the original page number. Super-scripted numbers within the text are footnotes, most of which cite other documents. These footnotes have not yet been added to this document. At present (January, 2007), the Annexes have not yet been posted. The “Personnel” section provides details about the number of officers and men stationed on Isla Baltra during the war.

ANNEX #1Engineer Service Inventory
ANNEX #2Translation of Ecuadoran Commander's Letter of August 5, 1947
ANNEX #3American Ambassador's Dispatch No. 6037
ANNEX #4Report of Investigation of Relations Between Ecuadoran and American Forces in the Galapagos Islands


This study of the U. S. Air Forces' Galapagos Islands Bases was prepared at the suggestion of Colonel George E. Henry, Acting Chief of Air Staff, Caribbean Air Command – a suggestion which has proved to be very timely, in view of the recent developments concerning Galapagos.

Grateful acknowledgements are due Major John M. Baker, Historical Officer, Caribbean Defense Command, for use of his historical files and from whose completed studies most of the information contained herein was taken; and to Mrs. Frances Forney, Clerk-Stenographer in the Caribbean Air Command Historical Office, thanks are due for her patience and care in typing and re-typing this work.

Major, GSC, Historical Officer.

28 October 1947



A Brief Study of Their Occupation, Evacuation and
Present Occupation by United States Military Forces


The United States has considered the Galapagos as a possible danger spot since early in the 19th century.1 As early as 1899, the United States unsuccessfully negotiated with the Ecuadoran Government for purchase of a Naval Coaling Station.2 In November 1938, Major General David L. Stone, by authority of the War Department and the governments of Ecuador and Costa Rica[Isla Coco was also studied], made a reconnaissance of the islands and made recommendations for their purchase with a view to establishing Naval Stations and air bases thereon.3 Subsequently, many conferences between representatives of the two governments were held concerning cooperation in hemispheric defense.4

On 11 December 1941, Army Headquarters, Army Field Forces, advised Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, that Ecuador had made available to the United States the Galapagos Islands and the Ecuadoran Coast for “the establishment of such military bases as may be necessary.”5

[2] On 12 December 1941 the Comandant, 15th Naval District, issued orders directing that a temporary advance air base be established at Seymour Island of the Galapagos group.1

On 4 January 1942, the Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, directed that steps be initiated for the construction of auxiliary air bases in the Galapagos Islands.2

From May 1942 through the remainder of the year, there were many conferences and letters concerning proposed written agreements between the United States government and the Ecuadoran government for the use of the Galapagos Islands, but no formal written agreement was ever concluded.3


The Navy moved into Seymour Island in January 1942 and the Army began construction in February, 1942.

On 18 April 1942, orders were issued for the movement of troops to the Galapagos Base. The force consisted of one heavy bombardment squadron, one reinforced infantry company, one coast artillery battery with one sea coast searchlight platoon, and an air base detachment. The movement took place early in May.4

[3] Laundry facilities, fuel, and water facilities were to be provided for joint utilization and the same installations would be operated by both Army and Navy.1 The original laundry structure had to be increased due to arrival of additional personnel. An auxiliary plant was installed, giving the laundry a total capacity for servicing a maximum of 4,200 men.2

The various patrols of both the Army and Navy were coordinated by the Joint Command Post of the Panama Canal Department. The question of authority arose. The Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, asked Washington for clarification. The response was a radio message from the Commander in Chief, United States Navy, to the effect that “Under the principles of Unity of Command,” the Commanding General, PCD [Panama Canal Department], was responsible for the performance of Navy as well as Army tasks in the Panama Sea Frontier.3

Continued occupation of the Galapagos Island by the U. S. Military and Naval forces without formality of a written agreement between the two countries was a constant source of uneasiness, if not irritation, for the Commanding General, CDC [Caribbean Defense Command].4

[4] This uneasiness was further aggravated by questions of workmen's compensation for Ecuadoran laborers employed by the U. S. Army Engineers at Galapagos,1 and by the fact that the Ecuadoran Senate on 9 September 1943, in a secret session, adopted a project of decree to elevate the Colon Archipelago (Galapagos) to the category of Province.2 General Brett, Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, was of the opinion that if this measure were enacted into law it would be extremely difficult for the United States to obtain any sort of long term agreement for use of the Islands. He recommended that the War Departement again re-open the question of obtaining a written agreement with Ecuador for permanent operational control of the Galapagos group.3

All during 1944 and 1945, proposals and counter proposals for written agreements between the two governments were made, and though an agreement was actually reached,4 the State Department was optomistic about securing a long term agreement. Pending this condition, the Department Engineer carried out routine maintenance.5



The original request of the Commanding General, Caribbean Air Force, on 28 December 1941 for the construction of airdrome facilities on Seymour Island, Galapagos, presented a detailed list of construction which would be necessary.1 Requested construction included the following items;

housing and messing facilities for an estimated initial garrison of 76 officers and 674 enlisted men;
warehouses and administrative buildings;
runways and taxi strips;
ammunition storage;
communications facilities;
utilities, including necessary water storage facilities;
roads and docking facilities.

Following the report of the board of officers studying the Galapagos situation in which immediate construction of the Galapagos installation was recommended, the Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, on 8 January 1942 directed that the Chief Engineer, Caribbean Defense Command, proceed with the least possible delay with the selection of the best available site and the construction of an Army air base facilities.2

On 22 January 1942, General Andrews directed the establishment of such a base on Seymour Island in conjunction with a Navy air base at the same location and gave in detail the construction which would be required.3 Detailed instructions by General Andrews at this time included:


(1) The military garrison would consist of approximately the following officers and men: Coast Artillery, 350; Infantry, 150; overhead, 100; Air Corps, 750.

(2) The Commandant of the 15th Naval District, assisted by officials of the Panama Canal, would furnish the necessary water transportation, mooring facilities, and protection in getting the supplies and equipment to the base.

(3) The Panama District Engineer would construct the Army air base, the facilities for common use with the Navy, and elements of the Navy air base which were requested by the Navy.

(4) The construction for the Army air base would be substantially that outlined in the letter of the Commanding General, Caribbean Air Force, dated 28 December 1941, with the following limitations:

a. Runways — Initially a strip for temporary use by heavy bombers, 150' by 5,000'. This was to be increased to 300' by 8,000' as rapidly as possible.

b. Technical facilities — for one Pursuit Squadron and one Bomber Squadron (Heavy).

c. Water supply — Evaporators to supply 10 gallons per man per day, covered reservoirs for a 30-day supply, test wells to be drilled. Immediate supply to be hauled by barge from island or mainland sources.


d. Fuel supply — dispersed tanks for 1,000,000 gallon storage. For immediate use, floating or drum reserve would be maintained.

e. Building construction — of light tropical Theater of Operations portable types.

f. Utilities — in general, of permanent character.

g. Bathing and sanitary flushing facilities — salt water.

h. Emplacements — camouflaged and splinter proof emplacements for the Infantry weapons to be built by the troops manning them; Panama mounts for the 155-mm guns to be built by the District Engineer.

i. Laundry — minimum facilities.

j. Ice plant — capable for manufacturing a minimum of 2½ tons per day.

k. Warehousing and refrigeration — on the basis of a 30-day reserve.

(5) To facilitate construction, officers empowered to make local decisions would be stationed on the site by the Navy, Caribbean Air Force, Coast Artillery, Infantry, and Medical Corps.

(6) Special construction efforts were to be exerted to expedite the construction of the initial landing strip, water supply, wharf, and fuel supply.

[8] Considerable mention of construction at the Galapagos Islands, including General Andrews' letter of 22 January 1942 directing its initiation, placed the airfield on Seymour Island. Communications to the present time still often refer to this island as the location of the base, but construction was actually done on Baltra Island, immediately south of Seymour Island. Even an official engineer map, produced in 1943, labeled the airfield as Seymour Island. Later, however, when the mistake was realized, the word “Seymour” was crossed out and the island labeled “Baltra.” The initial designation of the location as Seymour Island was probably due to the lack of knowledge and accurate maps of the archipelago. The fact that the Galapagos base is still referred to as being on Seymour Island is often due to the desire to prevent confusion, since that is the name that the Army has used since the initiation of the project.§

§ The paragraph above illustrates the confusion that existed at the time over the actual names of the two Seymour Islands. Prior to World War II, most maps showed them as North and South Seymour. The 1943 Army map labeled them as North Seymour Island and Seymour Island, omitting “South” from the latter. Later on, the Army apparently consulted one of several National Geographic maps of the Pacific Ocean with an inset of the Galápagos Islands. The 1936 inset (duplicated in 1937 & 1942) was perhaps the first to label the islands as Seymour and Baltra. In studying this inset, the Army concluded in error that the Seymour name applied to the northern island only, and then made an unneccesary “correction” to the 1943 map.

  The replacement of the Seymour name with Baltra can be seen on the Army map.

[9] Water was unavailable and had to be hauled by barge. The island was located some 1,000 miles from the Canal Zone, its source of supply, and materials and equipment had to be shipped there by water. Construction personnel had to be imported and housing facilities suppled for them. This project amounted to beginning from nothing except the barren ground and constructing within an unbelievable short time an airfield to accommodate 2 squadrons of heavy bombers and all the personnel needed to man and protect such a position.

The first plane landed on the Galapagos air strip in early April 1942, only two months after the beginning of construction. The runway was used constantly from that date until its final completion, July 1943.1 Two important factors were ever present during the process of construction: shortage of water transportation to afford the needed supplies and equipment; furnishing the troops and construction forces with sufficient water. On 10 March 1942, Colonel (later Brigadier General) Young, then Panama District Engineer, stated: “The situation as regards the construction at base Beta2 is critical on account of the failure to provide water transportation.3 He reviewed General Andrews' original order that the Navy would furnish the shipping facilities and outlined the failure of that plan to afford enough materials. The Navy planned to handle the shipping by using the “Ferncliffe.” This ship arrived in the Canal Zone after some delay, loaded aboard all that

[10] was possible — approximately 1,000 tons of supplies — and finally unloaded at the Galapagos Islands on 20 February, about 5 weeks after General Andrews' orders were issued. Up to the date of Colonel Young's letter, 10 March, the “Ferncliffe” had not returned to the Canal Zone; and 2,700 tons of supplies and equipment were waiting on the docks for delivery to Galapagos. Stated Colonel Young: “I am not informed that she is to be taken away, and I have not heard of any replacement.....Nothing further can be built at Beta until we get transportation.1

One week later, 17 March 1942, in a report to A-4, Caribbean Air Force, all construction at Galapagos was reported to be dependent on the arrival of heavy construction equipment, material, and supplies.2 Materials for the runway, housing, water supply, and gasoline storage were all on order but had not arrived. The following statement was made: “Contractor reports, as of March 13th, that unless material supplies and equipment arrive within 10 days that he will have to cease work.”

Colonel Young again, on 23 April, reported on the critical shipping shortage for the Galapagos construction project. He reviewed the troubles with the “Ferncliffe” and reporte that it had been withdrawn. The shipping situation was reported as follows:


“I need about 17,000 tons of material at Beta.....PCD [Panama Canal Department] endeavored to obtain us some shipping, but likewise without success. Since then, this office and its constractors have rustled their own ships. What ships we can get, and how long we can keep them, it unforseeable.”1

The water shortage, although at times a critical factor, did not affect the actual construction as did the shipping situation. In the report to A-4, Caribbean Air Force, on 17 March 1942, storage facilities necessary for the construction forces were reported installed.2 Marerials for other storage tanks were on order but had not been received. Water at that time was being hauled by barge from Fresh Water Bay, 75 miles distant from Seymour Island. Attempts were being made to dig artesian wells at the site, but there were destined to prove futile. On 17 May, the Commanding Officer at Galapagos reported: “The fresh water situation at this air base in wholly unsatisfactory.....and at times becomes critical.”3 Fresh Water was still being hauled by barge from Fresh Water Bay; but the only barge availabe, capacity 200,000 gallons, had an antiquated, broken pump. No parts were available to repair it, and the troops at that time were short of water.

[12] The fresh water supply remained a critical problem. Subsequently, storage facilities were installed, and the fresh water was hauled by barge from Wreck Bay, same vicinity as Fresh Water Bay referred to above, 75 miles distant from the air base.

Despite the many obstacles encountered, the work progressed at an amazing speed. Laborers were imported, principally from the Ecuadoran mainland, and housed and messed at a labor camp adjacent to the runway. The quality, generally speaking, was poor; and there was a rapid and constant turnover in personnel.1 The following report on progress of construction was indicated in the 17 March 1942 report to A-4, Caribbean Air Force.2

(1) Airfield facilities — runway not predicted to be useable before 20 April. There would be no taxi Strips on that date, an additional 30 days being needed for this contsruction. Revetments would be started only after other construction was completed.

(2) Housing — four barracks for 160 men were complete. Mess halls for 750 men were completed. No water lines, no power, no kitchen equipment were installed. awaiting the arrival of additional materials.


(3) Utilities — power generator expected on next boat and would be immediately installed. Latrine and salt water shower facilities installed in each barracks.

(4) Miscellaneous — no gasoline supplies were available. No facilities for recreation were built.

The Chief Engineer, C. D. C. reported on 23 April 1942:1

(1) A usable field, 5,000 feet long, would be available on 5 May.

(2) House for 750 troops would be avaialable on the same date.

(3) Facilities for something less than 300,000 gallons of water would be available on 5 May. Rate of use at the time of the report was 2,500 gallons per day.

On 16 May 1942, General Andrews reported to the War Department:

“The air and seaplane base in the Galapagos Islands is now in operation and its great utility is the protection of the Panama Canal is being demonstrated daily.”2

Two runways, 38 hardstandings for B-24's, necessary parking aprons and taxiways were constructed at the Galapagos air base. Runway No. 1, 300' by 8,000', had a crushed rock base, compacted and sealed with hot asphalt and crushed rocks chips. Both ends of this runway were paved

[14] with a 200-foot wide and 300-foot long concrete slab. Because of unseasonable rains and the inadequate drainage, plus heavy normal usage, the runway had to be resealed in early 1945. The type of runway construction placed at Galapagos was largely determined by the critical shipping and material shortage existent at the time of construction. Runway No. 2, final dimensions 200' by 6,250', was constructed after the completion of No. 1; an asphalt stabilized aggregate surface was used. General Brett, after a visit to the Galapagos in April 1943, authorized a 2,000-foot extension for this runway in order that it could accommodate the heavy bombers using the airfield. Thus [sic, This] runway proved unsatisfactory and was little used. Maintenance of the strip was abandoned prior to March 1945.1 The parking aprons, taxiways, and hardstandings, completed in 1943, were of the same type construction as Runway No. 1.

Excellent pier facilities were constructed at Galapagos. The pier, 102 feet wide and 252 feet long, consisted of a single concrete slab with timber facing. Thirty-two miles of asphalt surfaced roads were built to connect the various areas of Seymour Island. Because of heavy traffic and light construction, these deteriorated and required repair. Storage facilities for 1,390,000 gallonrs of aviation gasoline, 150,000 gallons of motor gasoline, and 168,000 gallons of diesel oil were installed. Water storage facilities for 924,000 gallons size were included in the over-all project.

[15] The structures built at Galapagos were all of the Theater of Operations type with the exception of the enlisted men's club, which was completed in early 1945. This was of native rock and concrete constructios. Structures completed at the site included the necessary administrative and technical buildings and housing and messing facilities for 484 officers, 2,077 enlisted men, and 785 civilians. The construction forces of the Army contractor also built the housing facilities for the Navy. These were constructed to conform with regular Army Theater of Operations specifications.

The Army was not long in realizing the possibilities afforded by long-range aircraft protection based on the Galapagos Islands. Throughout the period of negotiations for a formal lease with Ecuador to cover the site, care was exerted to prevent the insertion of a clause stating that the United States would evacuate the installation at the end of hostilities or at a date shortly after this end. In June 1942, the Commanding General, 6th Air Force, stated that “..... the establishment in the Galapagos will of necessity become a permanent one as it is essential to the defense of the Canal.1 Recommendation was made that one or two outlying fields be developed for the protection of such a vital area. Comparison was made between Galapagos and the Island of Midway, both subjects guarding vital United States possessions.

[16] More airfields on Midway would have made it a much more formidable position, and additional fields on Galapagos would make it a “tremendously strong outpost.”1 General Andrews deferred such development until initial construction at Galapagos neared completion but requested that it later be brought to his attention.2 Decision was eventually made to concentrate United States strength on Seymour (Baltra) Island, and additional airfields on other islands were not built.§

§ However, it is known that landing strips on Islas Española and Isabela were in fact constructed. The former was abandoned before construction was completed.

General Andrews, Assistant Chief of Staff, United States Army visited Headquarters, Caribbean Defense Command, in March 1943. General Brett reviewed for him the general construction policies of the command. According to General Brett's own memorandum covering the meeting, the following facts were discussed:

“Gave General McNarney a complete review of my policy concerning construction, ..... To make all construction fit as near as possible the present tactical and strategical situations. To place more or less permanent construction on such bases as ..... Galapagos, and other leased bases which may be held for some period of time by the United States. He appeared to be in complete


accord with this policy..... He ..... indicated he thought Galapagos would become more or less a permanent base either under a 99-year lease, or as the permanent property of the United States.”1

Following inspection of the Galapagos outpost by the Joint Army-Navy Air Mission in April 1944, this group of inspectors made the following recommendations:

“It is recommend that, if action has not already been initiated, immediate steps be inaugurated to acquire the Galapagos Islands for the permanent use of the United States, either by lease or by purchase. (While this recommendation is not strictly within the functions of the Mission, it is one about which the members of the Mission feel strongly and it is a recommendation in which the Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, concurs).”2

General Brett, in early 1945, planned to convert the Galapagos air base into a station for B-29's. On 9 January of that year, he stated in a communication to Colonel Edwards, OPD:


“I am pushing the question of the runways at Galapagos and Rio Hato to the limit, as we are going to have to do something if they plan to put any heavy air force down here for station. In fact, right today we would have a hard time taking care of B-29 training in Panama.”

Such a development never passed the planning stage. This type of aircraft was never stationed in the Panama Area.

The area of the tract occupied by the Galapagos air base was 6,329.3847 acres of waste land. The land was furnished to the United States by the Government of Ecuador without cost.2 Total cost of the installation to the United States, as of 31 July 1945, was $9,723,000.3 The following construction was part of that accomplished at the site:4

  No. 1300' × 8,000' (Crushed stone base; asphalt surface).
  No. 2200' × 6,250' (Asphalt stabilized aggregate surface).
  Temporary (1)
4,838 sq. ft.
484 officers; 2,077 enlisted men; 785 civilians
[19]Warehouse facilities
26,600 sq. ft.
Cold Storage facilities
54,224 cu. ft.
Miscellaneous construction
      Enlisted mens's club
19,544 sq. ft.
25,704 sq. ft. (Concrete).
      Adm. & misc. bldgs.
64,000 sq. ft.
31 beds
32 miles (Asphalt)
3,600 sq. ft.
800 sq. ft
Bulk fuel storage
      AC gasoline
      Motor gasoline
      Diesel oil
24 tanks (1,390,000 gallons)
6 tanks (150,000 gallons
3 tanks (1,800 gallons
   Water SupplyHauled by barge. Emergency distillation system
   Storage934,000 gallons - elevated.
   Electric powerGenerated at installation

Five air warning stations and one water supply plant were constructed by the United States in the Galapagos Archipelago. One of the air warning stations, A.W.S. 201, was located on Seymour (Baltra) Island; and the structures located at this site were included in the list given for the main base. The other four air warning stations, A.W.S. 202, 203, 204, and 205, were located on different islands of the archipelago. Wreck Bay Water Plant, the source of the water supply for the air base, was located on one of the Galapagos Islands

[20] approximately 75 miles from the airfield. Necessary construction for all sites was accomplished by the construction forces of Tucker McClure, under supervision of the Panama District Engineer.

The total area occupied by the air warning stations and the water plant had not been surveyed at the time of the report made on Engineer Form 1256 on 31 July 1945. All of the tracts were waste land and were furnished the United States without cost. Total cost of the combined installations, not including A.W.S. 201, as of 31 March 1946, was $834,641.79.1 The following construction was most of that accomplished at the sites:2

40 officers; 200 enlisted men
Warehouse facilities
3,226 sq. ft.
Miscellaneous construction
      Adm. and misc. bldgs.
4,000 sq. ft.
21.7 miles (Unsurfaced)
Bulk fuel storage
      Diesel oil
12 tanks (36,000 gallons)
        Storage60,200 gallons - elevated
      Electric powerGenerated at installation

[21] The total number of structures completed by October 1943 was 408, as follows:1

Officers Quarters32
Latrines & Bath Houses129
Unit Adm & Supply7
Unit Day Rooms2
All other buildings82
Power Plants, pumping stations, gun positions, transformers & enclosures  33

The overall picture of construction in September 1943 showed the following facilities.2

1. The runways and a seaplane ramp
2. Water Supply system
3. Sewerage system
4. Power system
5. Harbor facilities
6. Tank farm for petroleum products
7. Improved roads
8. Barrack accomodation for over 3,000 men

Development of the base originally cost approximately $8,000,000,3 but by December 1943 the estimated cost was increased to $9,000,000 and the base was considered complete.4



[23] It was no easy matter for the Panama Canal Department to furnish personnel for outlying bases, as officers and men were assigned to the Department on a basis of fixed installations. To provide the outlying bases with personnel before construction was far enough advanced to classify them as fixed installations, officers and enlisted men had to be withdrawn from established Department stations.

Original tactical garrison plans for the Galapagos made by Lieutenant General Frank M. Andrews called for 1,350 officers and men apportioned as follows:1

350 Coast Artillery officers and men
150 Infantry, officers and enlisted men
100 Overhead officers and enlisted men
600 Air Corps enlisted men
150 Air Corps officers

A month later, the service needs were listed as follows:2

1 bomber squadron (h) (With attached medical)
1 pursuit flight (With attached medical)
1 platoon ordnance (AVN)
Special Air Corps detachments
Medical, 5 officers, 52 enlisted men
Engineer, 1 officer, 25 enlisted men
Finance, 3 enlisted men
Ordnance, 6 enlisted men
Quartermaster, 2 officers, 44 enlisted men
Signal Corps, 1 officer, 18 enlisted men

The first movement to the new base was covered by a troop movement order directing that the following troops and equipment be dispatched to Galapagos:

1 Infantry company w/ 1 platoon Cal. 30 MG (Heavy) attached—7 officers and 160 enlisted men.
[24] 1 Coast Artillery Company w/ 1 platoon, searchlight, seacoast, attached—6 officers and 180 enlisted men.
1 bombardment squadron—12 officers and 200 enlisted men.
Airbase detachments (including all services)—16 officers and 28 enlisted men.
Essential battalion and regimental equipment to permit Infantry and Coast Artillery to function as separate units.

The first contingent to reach Seymour Island arrived on 9 May 1942 and consisted of 45 officers and 381 Air Corps enlisted men. The senior officer, Colonel W. S. Gravely, Air Corps, then became the first Commanding Officer of the United States Air Base, Seymour Island, Galapagos Group.1 On 17 June, the 805th Engineer Battalion, Aviation (Separate), consisting of one officer and 64 enlisted men arrived at the Island and by December the Machine Record Unit reported the following as stationed at Seymour Island:2

Btry D, 1st Coast Artillery HD
Co. E and Co. M, 150th Infantry
Btry O, 2nd Battalion, 196 CAAA
3rd Bombardment Squadron, 6th Bombardment Group
16th Base Headquarters & Air Base Squadron, 15th Service Group
Det. Co. B, 805th Engineer Battalion (AVN) (Separate)
Quartermaster Laundry Detachment
Station complements, Medical Dept. & Quartermaster

By the last of January, the garrison was reported in MRU [Machine Record Unit] reports as follows:

Post Engineer Utilities Detachment
45th Bomb Squadron, 6th Bomb Command
51st Fighter Squadron, 32nd Fighter Group
687th Signal AW Co.
Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron and 18th Sv Squadron., 15th Sv. Group
16th Ordnance, AVN) Co.
[25] Quartermaster Laundry Detachment
Station complements, Medical Dept. & Quartermaster
Det Headquarters & Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 196th CA AA
Batteries G & H, 196th CA AA
Battery D, 1st CA HD
Companies E & M, 150th Infantry

During ensuing months, the garrison was augmented by the arrival of one platoon, Quartermaster Bakery Company, the 29th Bombardment Squadron of the 29th bombardment group and elements of the 932nd Antiaircraft (AW) Battalion. In September 1943 the MRU report listed the following as present at the Galapagos base:

The numbers in columns 2 & 3 were written by hand on the typescript, presumably shortly after the report was prepared. The significance of the two omissions in column 2 is unknown. Column 3 probably represents the actual complement.
Post Engineer Utilities Detachment7575
Hq & Hq Sq and 18th Sv Sq150150
QM Laundry Detachment7575
QM Bakery Co (1 platoon)7575
Station complements, Med. Dept & QMC150150
29th Bomb Sq, 6th Bomb Gp 150
687th Signal Aw Co300300
Hq & Hq Btry, 932nd AAA Automatic Weapons Bn150150
Btrys C and D, 932nd AAA AW Bn300300
Btry D 1st CA HD170170
Anti Tank Company, 65th Infantry50150
Co F, 65th Infantry200200
Co M, 150th Infantry200200
51st Fighter Sq, 32nd Fighter Gp          250

The September garrison was the largest of record for the base. Late in 1943, the War Department ordered a reduction in the Panama Canal Department troop ceiling that affected all Army installations in the theatre. Units were withdrawn from Galapagos during the first three months of 1944 leaving a garrison composed as follows in April:

The column of numbers does not appear on the original page, but was extrapolated based on data in the previous table. Written next to this list is the following:
Authorized 2245
Actual 2000
(illegible initials of the writer)
Post Engineer Utilities Detachment75
Station Complement, Med. Dept.75
538th Base Hq & Air Base Sq150
397th Bomb Sq150
687th Signal AW Co300
Btrys B & D, 932nd AAA AW Bn300
Btry B, 1st CA HD170
Antitank Co & Det Hq Co 1st Bn, 296th Inf150
Cos A & B, 296th Inf  400

[26]The size of the garrison remained fairly constant during the balance of the year although units were replaced by others in conformity with a rotation-of-troops policy. Seymour Island was barren, rocky, and small. Recreational opportunities were extremely limited because of these factors, and long periods of duty on the Island adversely affected the morale of individuals and units. Accordingly, it was a part of Department policy to leave troops there no longer than six months.

Again in 1945 the War Departement ordered a drastic reduction in the Department troop basis that resulted in a material reduction in the number of Galapagos units during the first six months of the year, and left the garrison as of July 1946 with the following components:

Composite Qm Co
29th Bomb Sq
687th Signal AW Co
538th Base Hq & Air Base Sq
Btry “C,” 902nd AAA AW Bn
Btry “C,” 4th CA HD
Cos “A” & “B,” 295th Inf

In August, September, and October the garrison remained virtually unchanged, but the November 1945 MRU report listed only five units remaining on the Island:

Composite QM Platoon
Med Detachment
687th Signal AW Co
2118th Service Unit (Avn)
Co “B” 295th Inf.

By February [1946], the Infantry was withdrawn, leaving as of March the following garrison:

687th Signal AW Co
2118th Service Unit (Avn)
Comp QM Platoon
Detachment, Med Dept

[27]The Quartermaster platoon was discontinued in April 1945 [sic, 1946?], and in April personnel assiened to the Seymour Island Air Base totalled 95 officers and enlisted men1 as compared with October 1943, when the garrison strength was 2,474 officers and men. In addition, in 1943, there were slightly over 750 civilian laborers quartered at the base, plus Naval personnel.

Some stress has been placed in this study upon the physical and geologic aspects of Seymour Island. It was an unpleasant station, especially during the period of construction, and for this reason the recreational and other morale building provisions had an important place in planning and administration.

The initial garrison, as noted above, was drawn from established Panama Canal Department stations. This fact in itself gave rise to an administrative problem frequently referred to in correspondence and inspection reports. Base commanders complained from time to time that the “Rock” was used as a dumping ground for untrained and undesireable personnel.2 In the first few months, several Quartermaster enlisted men were returned to the mainland because of their unfitness.3 It was not only some enlisted men who failed to measure up to the requirements for duty under rugged Seymour Islands conditions, but also certain officers. As early commanding officer of the base with the rank of colonel was criticized by General Brett after a visit to the “Rock” as lacking a full grasp of the situtation and the initiative necessary to get “something accomplished.”

[28] There were deficiencies, and lots of them, extending all the way from limited post exchange facilities to lack of operational readiness on the part of units untill well into 1943. The Commanding General and Department Inspectors were frequent visitors, and although their reports express satisfaction with general progress, they overlooked no shortcomings. Construction of a theatre and a properly equipped Post Exchange store and restaurant were in progress, but one inspector called attention to fruit juice cans discarded in the open, where at that time refreshements had to be consumed, A medical inspector insisted that latrine pits in the volcanic rock should be sunk to the regulation 10-foot depth instead of the prevailing 6-feet. This inspector said he personally pounded the rocky surface with a sledge hammer and found that the rock yielded without too much effort. The project engineer, on the other hand, reported that it took 50 sticks of dynamite to sink each latrine pit 10 feet into the rock.1

Illustrative of shortcomings are comments taken from a memorandum addressed to the Commanding General, 6th Air Force, by General Andrews in October 19422 General Andrews called attention to the fact that 60 Air Corps personnel, detailed to augment the Infantry ground defense against attack were almost completely untrained in Infantry minor tactics. Other salient points in his report were:

Arrangement should be made to make more transportation available for moving mobile reserves in case of attack.

The ground troops appeared to be well trained technically, but very poorly trained in carrying out their mission in case of attack. The need for more training and practice alerts was indicated.


The Coast Artillery battery was much too slow in getting into action

There was no Aircraft Warning Service.

Only one man per gun was detailed to operate the 14-50 calibre antiaircraft machine guns.

There was no plan to get the bombardment planes off the ground as quickly as possible in case of attack, and no drill had been conducted in performing this important mission.

There was no adequate arrangement for the collection of information from all sources at one information center.

The contractor complains that he no sooner gets started with one job, then he is shifted to another.

Installation and measures were rushed to completion to correct most of these deficiencies.

Everyone at the base had plenty to do during working hours, but idle time was especially at first a problem for the individual, local commanders, and the Department Headquarters. There were no social activities at the base other than those provided by the troops. Stress was laid on building such recreational facilities as a theatre and athletic field, and in assisting enlisted men in making use of the exceptionally good fishing grounds of the Archipelago.

To relieve the monotony, the importance of frequent rotation of personnel was emphasized. For most troops the tour of duty at the Rock was set at four months. Signal Corps personnel stayed as long as six months, and the situation was closely watched by Department Headquarters as an essential factor in maintaining morale at a high point. Even at that morale was described as not being “too high” in November 1943,1 a fact that was

[30]partially attributed to the inability of the base commander to provide transportation for all personnel entitled to furlough time. The situation was alleviated soon after the report was issued by the discharge and re-deployment plan which released scores of men from further duty at the base on the basis of high critical scores.

It was a definite policy that enlisted men would be given first attention. Their complaints, when justified, were heard with sympathy and understanding. A good illustration of action on their behalf is found in the schedule of deep sea fishing expeditions arranged for the troops.

Enlisted men complained that visiting officers, referred to in “Results of Inspection of United States Army Base, Galapagos Islands,” as “visiting firemen,” contrived to get the use of available fishing craft while enlisted men stationed on the Island stayed ashore.

The complaint was carefully investigated. The check revealed that the shortage of personnel following inauguration of the discharge plan resulted in an insufficient number of experienced boatmen. In the face of this situation, the base commander scheduled the available boat for enlisted men only, on certain days and specifically requested that “visiting firemen” refrain from applying pressure to get the use of the boat on that day. A hint, however, is conveyed in the inspection report referred to above, that the enlisted personnel were not always fully appreciative of the efforts made to ease the monotony of service on the Rock.

“Galapagos is a most critical audience with too many bums allowed to interfere with the show,” is the introductory sentence in a paragraph

[31]dealing with the reception to a USO show troupe that had been brought to the Island. The inspector added, “They could very well do without a show until they are more appreciative.” To correct this situation all Commanding Officers redistributed the PCD Letter of 21 July 1943 on the subject, “Discourtesies shown members of USO Camp Shows Within The Panama Canal Department.”



On 4 March 1946, the Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, was notified by the War Department that “for reasons of highest political considerations” the military base at Galapagos was likely to be returned to Ecuador.1 On 15 April, information came from the War Department stating that notes exchanged with Ecuador confirmed the fact that the Galapagos base would be reduced to minimum operational level by 1 May and that the U. S. forces would be completely out by 1 July 1946.2 General Crittenberger proceeded with evacuation plans which had been approved by the War Department. On 8 April 1946, Headquarters, Panama Canal Department issued a directive to the Commanding General, 6th Air Force, to proceed with the evacuation of the Galapagos base and directed that all action in connection therewith should be referred to as Operation “MANGO.”3

This directive provided in part;

(1) All action, including coordination with the Navy, in connection with Operation “MANGO” was to be delegated to the Commanding General, Sixth Air Force.

(2) Effective at once the Commanding General, Sixth Air Force would:

a. Place a qualified senior officer in command of the base.


b. Reduce all operations at the base to a minimum.

c. Remove all personnal not essential to reduces operations and not essential to the task of evacuation. (Temporary reenforcement by personnel essential to evacuation was authorized.)

d. Remove all supplies and equipment not essential to the operation of the base and turn in to appropriate supply services in Panama.

e. Take appropriate action to dispose, in place, of unserviceable property or property without any salvage value whatsoever, by placing on report of survey or by other prescribed means to clear property records. (Applied to buildings and structures as well as to other classes of property.)

(3) On or before April 15th, 1946, the Commanding General, Sixth Air Force would:

a. Submit plan, fully coordinated with the Naval Plan, for complete evacuation.

b. Submit requirements for lift necessary to accomplishment of his mission.

c. Request any additional funds or services required.

(4) The Commandant, 15th Naval District and Panama Sea Frontier would:

a. Plan direct with the Commanding General, Sixth Air Force, that a coordinated plan might be submitted as directed in paragraph 3a above.1


On April 9, 1946, Major General Harmon, Commanding General, Sixth Air Force, accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel R. J. Topping, A-4, Lieutenant Colonel [illegible], Air Communications Officer, Lieutenant Colonel James Caples, Air Engineer, and Captain James K. [illegible], Jr., Assistant A-4, flew to Galapagos Air Base for the purpose of viewing the sinuation personally, in order to better plan the evacuation.1

A conference was held in the base library, Galapagos, at which time plans were formulated2 for the evacuation: and on 16 April 1946, those plans were incorporated in a directive issued by the Commanding General, Sixth Air Force, for the execution of Project MANGO.3

The objectives of the project, to be accomplished by 30 June 1946, were stated as follows:

a. Complete evacuation of Galapagos Islands by U. S. Army and Navy forces.

b. Return to Canal Zone of all serviceable property and all unserviceable property having a salvage value sufficient to warrant return.

d. Leave as is all fixed installations after removal of items which warrant reclamation and return to the Canal Zone.


e. Evacuate to continental Ecuador, all Ecuadoran nationals employed in Galapagos by U. S. Army or Navy.

Detailed instructions were given to all personnel of all sections who were to take part in this operation and Lieutenant Colonel R. J. Topping, GSC, A-4, Sixth Air Force, was designated as Sixth Air Force coordinator.1 On 22 April 1946, Lieutenant Colonel Topping was replaced as coordinator by Colonel George McCoy, Jr., Air Corps.2

In order to expedite the evacuation, representatives of technical services from Headquarters, Sixth Air Force, and Headquarters, Panama Canal Department were sent to Galapagos to assist in supervising and executing the Project,3 and Lieutenant Colonel John W. Rockey was named on-the-spot Supervisor. Actual operations began in the latter part of April. The Base was divided into “Areas.” Each of the technical services collected, tagged and prepared for shipment the property belonging to its section.4


Numerous minor difficulties were encountered, but the work was carried on with speed and enthusiasm,1 and on 4 June 1946, Headquarters, Caribbean Defense Command reported that the Army evacuation was 80 per cent complete, and Navy evacuation totally complete.2

A great number of buildings and materials were left intact, it being considered impractical to move them. (See Annex # 1) But in light of the view that patrols from the Galapagos probably discouraged enemy attacks on the Panama Canal, this non-recovered property appears negligible.

On 6 June, the United States Ambassador in Ecuador, Mr. Scotten, notified the Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, that he had advised the State Department that instructions should be issued by the War Department ordering immediate suspension of evacuation proceedings at Galapagos.3 This move resulted from a conversation which Ambassador Scotten had on that date with the Ecuadoran Minister of Defense in which the Minister stated that he hoped to arrange some method whereby the United States could maintain the air base. The War Department two days later, 8 June, ordered suspension of the evacuation at Galapagos pending further instructions.4


On 14 June 1946, the State Department sent a cable to Ambassador Scotten in Quito, Ecuador, directing him to see the President of Ecuador and leave with him a memorandum arranging for operation of the Galapagos base after 1 July 1946,1 This message proposed that the two Governments exchange notes which would permit the following terms:

(1) The base would be Ecuadoran.

(2) Each nation would exercise immediate command and jurisdiction of its own personnel stationed at the base.

(3) The base would be jointly operated by the United States and Ecuador.

(4) A joint technical communication, composed of equal numbers of Ecuadoran and United States representatives, would determine the details of participation of each Government in the operation of the base. (Permission was given to Ambassador Scotten to informally assure the Ecuadoran President that the United States would be willing to assume the major share of the maintenance responsibility so long as United States troops were stationed there.)

(5) United States technical personnel stationed at Galapagos could be made available through the Army and Navy missions for the training of Ecuadoran air and naval personnel.

(6) United States service aircraft and naval vessels would be authorized freely to use the base.

(7) The above arrangement would remain in effect for a period of 10 years, beginning 1 July 1946, with provisions for renewal at the expiration of this period by mutual agreement. (The Ambassador was directed to try for a 10-year agreement, but should insist on no less than 5 years. Use of the base for an extended period was the only way that authorization for the necessary funds, personnel, and equipment could be justified.)2


Ambassador Scotten on 19 June 1946 notified the Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, that the Government of Ecuador desired that United States personnel remain at the Galapagos base after 1 July 1946, the date set for the turn-over to Ecuador, until a definite agreement was reached between the two Governments.1 This statement created a new problem for General Crittenberger. If the Government of Ecuador did not release this information, the result would be that on 1 July the United States Army would turn the base over to Ecuador, lower the American flag which would denote evacuation of all personnel, and then continue to retain a detachment at the base. The event, of great importance in the eyes of all Latin American nations and to be covered by various news agencies, would appear to be a fake move and would thereby place the United States Army in a bad position. Possible repercussions might destroy all the good which the Army had spent years accomplishing in the Latin American area.

General Crittenberger was notified a few days before the ceremony took place that the Ecuadoran Foreign Minister had promised to release to the press on 30 June the following information: (1) ceremonies would take place on 1 July at which date the United States would turn over the Galapagos base to Ecuador; (2) Ecuadoran forces would take charge of the base; and (3) some American technicians would remain on the base to train the Ecuadorans so that the


installation might be kept in serviceable condition against whatever contingency might arise and according to agreement with the Government of the United States.1 This promise was adhered to; and the notices appeared in the Ecuadoran newspapers on Sunday, 30 June, and Monday, 1 July.2

In formal ceremonies which took place at Galapagos 1 July 1946, the air base was turned over to the Government of Ecuador. The detachment of United States technicians remained at the site,2 and Lt. Col. Preston remained as Commanding Officer.


On 6 September, 1946, Lt. Col. Charles A. Polansky, Jr. flew to Galapagos, and on 9 September, he assumed command of the Base.4 Upon his arrival, he found seven officers, forty-five enlisted men, twelve Ecuadoran civilian employees, and thirteen Transportation Corps enlisted men present for duty. Neither he nor the members of his command had any idea of what their mission at “The Rock” was supposed to be. His instructions were to consolidate property records, etc., to house his organization, supplies, and utilities in as compact an area as possible,5 and to maintain cordial relations with the Ecuadorans.


During part of his tour of duty at Galapagos, the base was under direct command of Caribbean Air Command Headquarters, with Colonel George McCoy, MANGO coordinator, acting as Headquarters Representative. As long as this command set-up continued, flow of supplies to the base, and other related matters, went smoothly.

But the lack of a clear-cut directive defining the status and mission of his organization was a matter of concern to Col. Polansky and members of his command. So in the early part of February 1947, when Genkeral Harmon visited the base, Colonel Polansky brought this matter to his attention.1 As a result, on 28 May 1947 a directive was issued which contained a brief background of U. S. Military occupation of the Galapagos Base and outlined, as well as could be expected under existing informal agreements, the mission, methods, and purpose of the present force in the islands.2 This directive also established the “Rock” as an auxiliary base under the Commanding Officer of Howard Field [Panama].

This change in command set-up brought several problems in its wake. On 1 November 1946, Project Mango had been discontinued.3 To the casual observer, or to one not fully informed, this would indicate that the Project was complete and that the Galapagos base was no longer occupied by American troops. Apparenly several staff officers at Howard Field were, for a while, under just such an impression, for Col. Polansky was forced to repeatedly wire for supplies, personnel and other things before getting results. The situation finally became so bad that he made a trip to the


the Canal Zone with the result that the Howard Field Commanding Officer pointedly brought his staff's attention to the status of Galapagos. Thereafter, things moved more smoothly.1

Personnel, as is always true of outposts, constituted somewhat of a problem. On 28 January 1947, the 6th Base Complement squadron was activated, effective 1 February 1947, with station at Galapagos. The unit was authorized ten (10) officers and sixty (60) enlisted men, to be furnished by the Commanding Officer of Howard Field.2

Naturally, section and unit chiefs were loath to give up their better personnel, so in several instances, misfits were sent to Galapagos.2 This was especially noticeable when one individual had to perform many different duties with which he was not familiar. Obviously, such a situation called for personnel of above average intelligence, but they were not always available.

Relations with the Ecuadoran forces stationed at Galapagos were highly satisfactory. No difficulties of any significant proportion came to Col. Polansky's attention. Though no established procedure for technical training of the Ecuadorans was set-up, they were given some on-the-job training in maintenance of base facilities,4 but differences in language constituted a barrier to any really effective training program.


The Ecuadoran Naval garrison that came to Galapagos arrived with little or no supplies of their own. Housing and other facilities were to be provided them by the United States forces, and the Ecuadoran government agreed to reimburse1 the U. S. government for supplies and services furnished. On the basis of this agreement, Headquarters, Panama Canal Department, on 25 July 1946, issued a directive outlining the procedures by which these payments would be accomplished.2

This directive provided in part, that: a. All supplies and services provided on charge account basis would be reported to and cleared through the Base Sales Officer. b. The senior Ecuadoran Officer present would sign receipts for itemized supplies furnished to charge account of the Ecuadoran Government. c. The Base Sales Officer would prepare monthly verified statements with certificate of the senior Ecuadoran Officer ackknowledging receipt of such supplies. The original and two copies would be sent to Commanding General, 6th Air Force for forwarding to U. S. Military Attache, Ecuador, for transmittal to the Ecuadoran Minister of Defense.

During the first month or two after Colonel Polansky's arrival a few items of an emergency nature were furnished to the Ecuadorans apparently without charge, thus possibly giving rise to a vague idea in their minds that no charge was to be exacted of them for anything furnished them.3


In March 1947, Lt. Col. Polansky returned to the Canal Zone and on April 5, 1947 Major William F. Hopper, Jr. assumed command at Galapagos.1 The status of the base remained indefinite. In the meantime, facilities were deteriorating and needed constant repairs. The Commanding General of the Caribbean Air Command became concerned about the situation, particularly because of the indefinite status of the base and because no funds had ever been provided for its maintenance. He directed that a letter2 to Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, be prepared calling attention to the unsatisfactory condition of facilities at Galapagos and requesting that an agreement with Ecuador be completed, or that our troops be withdrawn. Such a letter3 was transmitted on 8 October 1947, and proved to be very timely.

On August 5, 1947, the Ecuadoran Commander at Galapagos had prepared a long list of alleged grievances suffered by him and his command because of the indifference of the American Commander. The American Ambassador to Ecuador was given a copy of this letter and on 17 September sent a copy and a translation of it to the U. S. Secretary of State.5 Then on 9 October 1947 the Plans6 and Operations Division, Department of the Army, Washington, D. C.,


in a message to Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, stated that the U. S. State Department “suggests your command informally notify Ecuadoran Galapagos Base Commander in advance of arrival and departure of ships and aircraft.” This was one of the grievances listed in the Ecuadoran Commander's letter of August 5, 1947.1 The message continued, “your comments requested. Also request your comments by air mail on contents of Ambassador's dispatch.”

The Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, replied to the message2 by stating that the suggestion of the State Department was being followed; that the matters referred to in the U. S. Ambassador's3 dispatch had already been discussed with him, he having just ended a week's visit in the Canal Zone, and that “detailed comments” would “be furnished by air mail upon completion of investigation.”

And again the Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, reiterated previous recommmendations of his Headquarters.



On 9 October 1947, Major Malcom K. Norton, 1GD, Deputy Air Inspector, Caribbean Air Command, was sent to Galapagos, pursuant to oral instructions of the Deputy Chief of Air Staff, to investigate the matters1 referred to in the Ecuadoran Commander's letter of August 5, 1947.

His investigation, in part, disclosed (1) that, “Cordial relations have existed at the Galapagos Air Base between the American and Ecuadoran Commanders from 1 July 1946 until the time of subject investigation,” (2) “that charges for services and supplies furnished the Ecuadoran garrison have been proper and applied in the manner prescribed by higher authority,” tho[ugh] here, it is interesting to note that only one payment for such supplies has been received and the check covering the amount ($2157.33) proved to be “non-negotiable” (See Par. 13, Annex 4). And finally, the investigation disclosed “that the facilities at the Galapagos Air Base are disintegrating and that unsatisfactory sanitary and operational conditions may soon develop of such nature as to necessitate the evacuation of the American garrison.”

The Report concluded with a recommendation “that some sort of working agreement concernign the future occupation of Galapagos by American Forces be finalized between Ecuador and the United States as soon as is justified by the diplomatic and political factors involved.”

By 1st indorsement [sic], the Commanding General, Caribbean Air Command, on 17 October 1947, approved and forwarded the report to Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command, and reiterated the recommendation quoted above.


The Story of Galapagos may well be considered a classic example of the attitude of South American countries, and, indeed, of the attitude of all “have not” countries, toward the United States. It is a case of “Wanting their cake and eating it, too.”

When the government of Ecuador realized that the United States actually meant to vacate the Galapagos Islands by 1 July 1946, its officials apparently awakened to the fact that a good source of income was leaving their country, and they set out to correct the situation. In effect, they said, “We want U. S. troops to remain on our soil. We are willing to provide a pretext by which they may remain without exciting embarrassing comments by other nations. However, we wish it to be a joint affair with the U. S. providing the major share of the cost, and our country maintaining its sovereignty over the area. At a later date, we will conclude a long-term agreement with the U. S. for use of the Islands.” To date, no such agreement has been concluded and the situation has been further complicated by recent Ecuadoran Political revolutions and counter revolutions. Judging from the course and results of previous negotiations, it is doubtful that any really satisfactory agreement can ever be reached until a President, Cabinet, and Legislature favorable to such a treaty is elected. In the meantime, the Ecuadorans want U. S. troops to remain on their soil.


It there is any doubt in anyone's mind about the benevolence of the foreign policy of the U. S. it should be easily dispelled by the Story of Galapagos, for this is a story of the most powerful nation in the world taking all possible precautions to respect the sovereignty and wishes of a much smaller and weaker nation; a story of patience and tolerance in the face of often times exasperating stalemates which could have been quickly broken by a more ruthless government than that of the U. S.: and finally, it is a story of a World Power exemplifying its belief in the “Good Neighbor Policy” in a very practical way.