American Forts: East


Fort Conde | Conde Bluff Res. | Cuzco Hill Res. | Guantanamo Marine Barracks
Guantanamo Bay Naval Station | Camp Lawton | Leeward Point Res. | Camp McCalla
Fort McCalla | Camp Meyer


Last Update: 02/AUGUST/2009
Compiled by Pete Payette - ©2009 American Forts Network

Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Station
The History of of Guantanamo Bay: 1494 - 1964 by M.E. Murphy, RADM, U.S. Navy, 1953, 1964
History of Guantanamo Bay from JTF-GTMO
(1898 - 1902, 1903 - present), Guantánamo Bay
During the 1898 Spanish-American War the Spanish had shore batteries and a blockhouse on the eastern side of the bay, but they were quickly abandoned when the U.S. Marines landed onshore on June 10, 1898. The Marines set up fortified Camp McCalla along the eastern headlands (Fisherman's Point) at the mouth of the bay, now known as McCalla Hill. The last Spanish resistance was at the "Well of Cuzco" located about two miles southeast of Fisherman's Point. The U.S. Army set up Camp Lawton in the area in July 1898 as a staging area for the invasion of Puerto Rico. The Marines left in August 1898. The Army remained in garrison until 1902. Cuba became a U.S. Protectorate from 1902 to 1934.

The present 43-square mile U.S. Naval Reservation was created by treaty in 1903 as an American naval and coaling station (the U.S. Navy also acquired Bahía Honda in the same deal, but that harbor was abandoned in 1911). A ten-foot high concrete wall was constructed in 1906 along the boundary on North Toro Cay from Wireless Point to Granadillo Bay. A drydock basin was constructed on South Toro Cay in 1904, but was abandoned uncomplete in 1906. A one million gallon water reservoir was built on North Toro Cay in 1904, but was never completed. A smaller 100,000 gallon reservoir was also built on North Toro Cay. The coaling station was located on Hospital Cay in 1906, in operation until 1937. The first Marine Barracks, Naval enlisted barracks and Officers' quarters were located on South Toro Cay in 1904. The first post hospital was on North Toro Cay. The Naval Station was relocated from South Toro Cay to the eastern shore of the mainland in 1913 ("Main Station"), the former site now abandoned. The first rifle range was built in 1906 near Evans Point on the mainland (now part of the present golf course). A commercial cable station was built in 1907 on Windward Point. A fuel oil tank farm was built at Happy Valley in 1913. There was little new construction after 1913 until 1940 when the base was greatly expanded to accommodate the Navy's war needs. Camp Meyer on Deer Point was a Marine encampment used during the 1912 civil disturbance in Cuba, and also as a staging area in 1915 for the Haiti and the Dominican Republic interventions.

The U.S. Army in 1906-07 built three gun batteries for coastal defense, but they were never armed. Located on the western shore at the Conde Bluff Reservation (aka Fort Conde), west of Hicacal Beach (due north of Fisherman's Point), was a battery for four 6-inch DC guns (carriages mounted); and on the Cuzco Hill Reservation (aka Fort McCalla) near Fisherman's Point were two batteries for two 3-inch guns each. The guns were held stateside, the 6-inch guns were eventually given to the Marine Corps as field weapons during WWI. Also built were two fire-control stations for the 6-inch guns; a power plant at Fort Conde; a concrete shelter for a portable 30-inch searchlight at Fort McCalla; a mine casemate, torpedo storehouse, cable tank, and loading room for the harbor mine defense; an ice plant; four sets of quarters; and a mess hall. The Army left in 1908 due to lack of funds, but still retained title to the parcels until 1928 and 1940 respectively. The Leeward Point Reservation (1906 - 1912) was never used. The Marine Barracks was relocated to Fisherman's Point after 1908. The harbor entrance may have been protected by an anti-submarine net in WWI. Also during WWI the Marines emplaced two 6-inch naval guns on new gunblocks atop the old Fort Conde.

The first naval aviation camp was established on Fisherman's Point in 1913. Seaplanes were present beginning in 1919, but a concrete ramp and hangar were not built until 1939 and 1940 respectively. An airship mooring mast was built on McCalla Hill in 1930 (removed before 1939). The Naval Air Station was established in 1941 with the extending of the old grass fields into 6000-foot paved runways; McCalla Hill Field (N-S) on Fisherman's Point, and Carter Field (E-W) on Leeward Point. The Marine Barracks on Fisherman's Point were then relocated to Casa Point (Marine Site 1) and Defense Point (Marine Site 2). Two auxiliary landing fields were located offbase at Los Canos (abandoned 1942) and La Verdad (abandoned 1943). An underground command bunker was built in 1942 near the Naval Station administration building. The harbor entrance and the north boundary channel were protected by anti-sub nets and booms in WWII. A Marine Defense Battalion was sent here in February 1941, with several 6-inch naval guns and 3-inch AA guns emplaced in the Cuzco Hills above the Naval Air Station complex; on Conde Bluff; and at Leeward Point. The Marines also emplaced an SCR-268 surface search radar and an SCR-270 early warning AA radar. The defenses were deactivated in 1945.

After 52 years of service, Guantanamo's largest tenant command, Fleet Training Group, relocated to Mayport, Florida, in July 1995. One month later, the naval base lost another major tenant command when the base's Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity disestablished after 92 years of service here.

The U.S. Navy and Marines still maintain a presence here, in perpetual lease from Cuba since 1903. Current tenant commands of the station include the U.S. Naval Hospital and Branch Dental Clinic, detachments of the Personnel Support Activity, Naval Atlantic Meteorology and Oceanography Command, Naval Media Center, Naval Communications Station, Department of Defense Dependent Schools, Navy Brig, and Fleet and Industrial Supply Center (FISC), Det. GTMO. The most recent addition to the base in 2002 is the Southern Command Joint Task Force-Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO). Since 1959 the base has been strictly off-limits to the general public - Cubans and Americans alike. Visits are by official business only and must be cleared by HQ U.S. Southern Command 30 days prior to arrival. Tourists within Cuba may "spy" on the base from a Cuban military command post located at Mirador Los Malones, about 15 miles east of Caimanera. The Hotel Caimanera in Caimanera also has a designated lookout (special permit required for travel beyond Guantánamo City).

Please see CUBA page for Spanish colonial forts throughout the rest of the country.

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Eastern Forts