Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

Coordinates: 19°54′N 75°9′W / 19.9°N 75.15°W / 19.9; -75.15

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba
Gitmo Aerial.jpg
Aerial view of Guantanamo Bay
Type Military base
Built 1898
In use 1898 - present
Controlled by United States Navy
Battles/wars Battle of Guantánamo Bay
Map of Cuba with location of Guantánamo Bay indicated
Map of Guantánamo Bay showing approximate U.S. Naval Boundaries

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (also called Gitmo or GTMO) is located on 45 square miles (120 km2) of land and water at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba which the United States leased for use as a coaling (fueling) station following the Cuban-American Treaty of 1903. The base is located on the shore of Guantánamo Bay at the southeastern end of Cuba. It is the oldest overseas U.S. Navy Base, and the only one in a country with which the United States does not have diplomatic relations.[1] The Cuban government opposes the presence of the naval base, claiming that the lease is invalid under international law. The U.S. government claims that the lease is valid.

Since 2002, the naval base has contained a military prison, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, for persons alleged to be unlawful combatants captured in Afghanistan and later in Iraq. The alleged mistreatment of all prisoners, the proven mistreatment of some prisoners,[2] and their denial of protection under the Geneva Conventions, has been a source of international controversy.



See also Timeline of Guantánamo Bay
See also List of commanders of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

Spanish Colonial Era

The bay is located in Cuba and was originally named Guantánamo by the Taíno. Christopher Columbus landed at the location known as Fisherman's Point in 1494, naming the bay Puerto Grande. The bay was briefly renamed Cumberland Bay when the British took it in the first part of the 18th century during the War of Jenkins' Ear. In 1790, the British garrison at Cumberland died of yellow fever as had a previous British force,[3] before they could attack Santiago by land.[4]

Spanish-American War

During the Spanish-American War, the U.S. fleet attacking Santiago retreated to Guantánamo's excellent harbor to ride out the summer hurricane season of 1898. The Marines landed with naval support, requiring Cuban scouts to push off Spanish resistance that increased as they moved inland. This area became the location of U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, which covers about 45 square miles (120 km2) and is sometimes abbreviated as "GTMO" or "Gitmo".

The base in 1916
US Fleet at anchor, 1927
An aerial view of the naval base with the Navy Exchange and McDonald's at left and an outdoor movie theater at bottom right, 1995
Victims from 2010 Haiti earthquake are unloaded at U.S. Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

By the war's end, the U.S. government had obtained control of all of Cuba from Spain. A perpetual lease for the area around Guantánamo Bay was offered February 23, 1903, from Tomás Estrada Palma, who became the first President of Cuba. The Cuban-American Treaty gave, among other things, the Republic of Cuba ultimate sovereignty over Guantánamo Bay while granting the United States "complete jurisdiction and control" of the area for coaling and naval stations. The base was an important intermediate distribution point for World War II merchant shipping convoys from New York City and Key West, Florida, to the Panama Canal and the islands of Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Trinidad.[5]

World War II

During the war the base was set up to use a non-descript number for postal operations. They used the Fleet Post Office, Atlantic located in New York, New York with the address: 115 FPO NY.[6]

Post-World War II

A 1934 treaty reaffirming the lease granted Cuba and her trading partners free access through the bay, modified the lease payment from $2,000 in U.S. gold coins per year, to the 1934 equivalent value of $4,085 in U.S. dollars, and made the lease permanent unless both governments agreed to break it or the U.S. abandoned the base property. Since the Cuban Revolution, the government under Fidel Castro has cashed only one of the rent checks from the US government. The Cuban government maintains this was only done because of "confusion" in the heady early days of the revolution, while the US government maintains that the cashing constitutes an official validation of the treaty. The remaining checks, made out to "Treasurer General of the Republic" (a position that ceased to exist after the revolution), were shown stuffed in a desk drawer in Castro's office during a television interview with the leader years ago.[7]

Until the 1953-59 revolution, thousands of Cubans commuted daily from outside the base to jobs within. In mid-1958, vehicular traffic was stopped; workers were required to walk through the base's several gates. Public Works Center buses were pressed into service almost overnight to carry the tides of workers to and from the gate.[8] By 2006, only two elderly Cubans still crossed the base's North East Gate daily to work on the base, because the Cuban government prohibits new recruitment.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the families of military personnel were evacuated from the base. Notified of the evacuation on October 22, evacuees were told to pack one suitcase per family member, to bring evacuation and immunization cards, to tie pets in the yard, to leave the keys to the house on the dining table, and to wait in front of the house for buses.[9] Dependents traveled to the airfield for flights to the United States, or to ports for passage aboard evacuation ships. After the crisis was resolved, family members were allowed to return to the base in December 1962.

Since 1939, the base's water had been supplied by pipelines that drew water from the Yateras River about 4.5 miles (7 km) northeast of the base. The U.S. government paid a fee for this; in 1964, it was about $14,000 a month for about 2,500,000 US gallons (9,000 m3) per day. In 1964, the Cuban government stopped the flow. The base had about 14,000,000 US gallons (50,000 m3) water in storage, and strict water conservation was put into effect immediately. The U.S. first imported water from Jamaica via barges, then relocated a desalination plant from San Diego, California (Point Loma).[10] When the Cuban government accused the United States of stealing water, base commander John D. Bulkeley ordered that the pipelines be cut and a section removed. A 38 inch (970 mm) length of the 14 inch (356 mm) diameter pipe and a 20 inch (510 mm) length of the 10 inch (254 mm) diameter pipe were lifted from the ground and the openings sealed.

With over 9,500 U.S. sailors and Marines,[11] Guantanamo Bay is the only U.S. base in operation in a Communist-led country.

Two of the wind turbines installed by the Navy in 2005

"Gitmo" has a U.S. amateur radio call sign series, KG4 followed by two letters.[12] This is completely distinct from Cuban radio callsigns, which typically begin with CL, CM, CO, or T4.[13] For "ham" purposes it is considered to be a separate "entity." This position is not recognized by Cuba's amateur radio society[citation needed].

Notable persons born at the naval base include actor Peter Bergman and American guitarist Isaac Guillory.

In 2005, the Navy completed a $12 million wind project erecting four wind turbines capable of supplying about a tenth of the base's peak power needs, reducing diesel fuel usage and pollution from the existing diesel generators.[14]

On January 22, 2009, President Obama signed executive orders directing the CIA to shut what remains of its network of "secret" prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantanamo detention camp within a year.[15] However he postponed for at least six months difficult decisions on the details.[dated info][16][dead link] As of November 2011, Obama has yet to close the detention camp. His advisors are reportedly preparing an Executive Order allowing for the indefinite detention of some detainees.[17]

Cactus Curtain

Minefield maintenance Marines stack mines for disposal, 1997

"Cactus Curtain" is a term describing the line separating the naval base from Cuban controlled territory. After the Cuban Revolution, some Cubans sought refuge on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. In the fall of 1961, Cuban troops planted an 8-mile (13 km) barrier of Opuntia cactus along the northeastern section of the 17-mile (27 km) fence surrounding the base to stop Cubans from escaping Cuba to take refuge in the United States.[18] This was dubbed the "Cactus Curtain", an allusion to Europe's Iron Curtain[19] and the Bamboo Curtain in East Asia.

U.S. and Cuban troops placed some 55,000 land mines across the "no man's land"around the perimeter of the naval base creating the second-largest minefield in the world, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. On May 16, 1996, U.S. President Bill Clinton ordered their removal. They have since been replaced with motion and sound sensors to detect intruders on the base. The Cuban government has not removed its corresponding minefield outside the perimeter.[20][21]

Detention camp

The entrance to Camp 1 in detention camp's Camp Delta.
One of the guard towers at Guantanamo Bay, 1991

In the last quarter of the 20th century, the base was used to house Cuban and Haitian refugees intercepted on the high seas. In the early 1990s, it held refugees who fled Haiti after military forces overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. These refugees were held in a detainment area called Camp Bulkeley until United States district court Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. declared the camp unconstitutional on June 8, 1993. This decision was later vacated. The last Haitian migrants departed Guantanamo on November 1, 1995.

The Migrant Operations Center on Guantanamo typically keeps fewer than 30 people interdicted at sea in the Caribbean region.

Beginning in 2002, a small portion of the base was used to imprison several hundred individuals — some of whom were captured by US forces in Afghanistan— at Camp Delta, Camp Echo, Camp Iguana, and the now-closed Camp X-Ray. The US military has asserted that some, but not all, of these detainees are linked to Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. In litigation regarding the availability of fundamental rights to those imprisoned at the base, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that the detainees "have been imprisoned in territory over which the United States exercises exclusive jurisdiction and control."[22] Therefore, the detainees have the fundamental right to due process of law under the Fifth Amendment. A district court has since held that the "Geneva Conventions applied to the Taliban detainees, but not to members of Al-Qaeda terrorist organization."[23]

On June 10, 2006, the Department of Defense reported that three Guantanamo Bay detainees committed suicide. The military reported the men hanged themselves with nooses made of sheets and clothes.[24] A study published by Seton Hall Law's Center for Policy and Research, while making no conclusions regarding what actually transpired, asserts that the military investigation failed to address significant issues detailed in that report.[25]

The closing-down of the Guantanamo Prison has been requested by Amnesty International (May 2005), the United Nations (February 2006) and the European Union (May 2006).

On September 6, 2006, President George W. Bush announced that enemy combatants held by the CIA will be transferred to the custody of Department of Defense, and held at Guantanamo Prison. Among approximately 500 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, only 10 have been tried by the Guantanamo military commission, but all cases have been stayed pending the adjustments being made to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.

President Barack Obama has stated that he intends to close down the detention camp and is planning on bringing detainees to the United States to stand trial by the end of his first term in office. On January 22, 2009, three executive orders were issued by President Obama, although only one of these orders explicitly deals with policy directed at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, most noticeably, the camp's closure within one year. All three could possibly impact the detention center, as well as how any detainee future or present will be held by the United States. While mandating the closure of the detention facility, the naval base as a whole was not subject to the order and will remain operational indefinitely. This plan was thwarted for the time being on May 20, 2009, when the United States Senate voted to keep the prison at Guantanamo Bay open for the foreseeable future and forbid the transfer of any detainees to facilities in the United States. Senator Daniel Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii and chairman of the appropriations committee, said he initially had favored keeping Guantanamo open until Obama produced a "coherent plan for closing the prison."[26] As of September 26, 2009, policy is currently being drafted with an aim toward compromise.

Represented businesses

Guantanamo's McDonald's

In 1986, Guantanamo became host to the first and only McDonald's restaurant within Cuba.[27][28]

A Subway sandwich shop was opened in November 2002.[29][29] Other fast food outlets have followed. These fast food restaurants are on base, and not accessible to Cubans. It has been reported that prisoners cooperating with interrogations have been rewarded with Happy Meals from the McDonald's located on the mainside of the base.[30]

In 2004, Guantanamo opened a combined KFC & A&W restaurant at the bowling alley and a Pizza Hut Express at the Windjammer Restaurant.[31] There is also a Taco Bell, and the Triple C shop that sells Starbucks coffee and Breyers ice cream . All the restaurants on the installation are franchises owned and operated by the Department of the Navy.[32] All proceeds from these restaurants are used to support morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) activities for service personnel and their families.[33]


There are two airfields within the base, Leeward Point Field and McCalla Field. The former is an active military airfield and the latter closed.

Leeward Point Field has a single active runway 10/28. Former runway 9/27 was 8,500 feet (2,591 m).

McCalla Field was an auxiliary landing field with 3 runways: 1/19 at 4,500 feet (1,372 m), 14/32 at 2,210 feet (674 m), and 10/28 at 1,850 feet (564 m). It was mainly used for blimp operations and ceased operations in 1976. Camp Justice is now located next to the former airfield.


W.T. Sampson Elementary/High School is located on Guantanamo Bay.[34]

See also



  1. ^ "U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay". U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Public Affairs Office. Retrieved June 11, 2007. 
  2. ^ "GTMO CTD Inspection Special Inquiry". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved January 26, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Guantanamo Bay Freeport". Globalisation Institute. 13 April 2005. Retrieved 2006-03-15. 
  4. ^ Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr., U.S.M.C. (February 1962). "How We Got GUANTANAMO". American Heritage Magazine 13 (2). 
  5. ^ Hague, Arnold The Allied Convoy System 1939-1945 Naval Institute Press 2000 ISBN 1-55750-019-3 p.111
  6. ^ "World War II Navy Post Office Numbers". 
  7. ^ Boadle, Anthony (17 August 2007). "Castro: Cuba not cashing U.S. Guantanamo rent checks". Reuters. Retrieved 2011-04-22. 
  8. ^ M. E. Murphy, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy. "The History of Guantanamo Bay 1494 -1964: Chapter 18, "Introduction of Part II, 1953 - 1964"". Retrieved 2006-03-15. 
  9. ^ M. E. Murphy. "The History of Guantánamo Bay 1494 -1964: Chapter 19, "Cuban Crisis, 1962"". Retrieved 2006-03-15. 
  10. ^ John Pomfret, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps. "The History of Guantanamo Bay, Vol. II 1964 - 1982: Chapter 1, After the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1968". Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  11. ^ Ralston, Jeannie (April 2005). "09360 No-Man's-Land". National Geographic. 
  12. ^ Federal Communications Commission. "Amateur Radio Call Sign Naming Convention". Retrieved 2008-12-02. 
  13. ^ International Telecommunication Union. "Table of Allocation of International Call Sign Series". Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  14. ^ United States Navy. The Department of Navy Debuts Largest Wind Energy Project To Date. April 25, 2005.
  15. ^ Shane, Scott (2009-01-23). "Obama Orders Secret Prisons and Detention Camps Closed". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  16. ^ Warren Richey (October 15, 2009). "Obama's Guantánamo, Counterterror Policies Similar to Bush's?". ABC News. .
  17. ^ Finn, Peter; Kornblut, Anne E. (December 21, 2010). "Obama administration readies indefinite detention orders for Guantanamo detainees". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  18. ^ "Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Ecological Crises". Trade and Environment Database. American University. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  19. ^ "Yankees Besieged". TIME. 1962-03-16.,9171,940656,00.html. 
  20. ^ Rosenberg, Carol (1999-06-29). "Guantanamo base free of land mines". The Miami Herald. Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  21. ^ "Destination Guantanamo Bay". BBC News. 2001-12-28. Retrieved 2006-03-15. 
  22. ^ Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466 (2004).
  23. ^ In re Guantanamo detainee Cases, 355 F.Supp.2d 443 (D.D.C. 2005).
  24. ^ DOD Identifies 3 Guantanamo Suicides, Washington Post, June 11, 2006
  25. ^ Death in Camp Delta, Seton Hall University School of Law. (18MB)
  26. ^ "Senate Nixes Obama's Guantanamo Plan". CBC News. 20 May 2009. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  27. ^ Warner, Margaret (October 14 2003). "INSIDE GUANTANAMO". Online NewsHour. Retrieved 2006-03-15. 
  28. ^ Joseph A. Morris (2002-11-15). "Profession of the Week: McDonald's workers". The Wire (JTF-GTMO). 
  29. ^ a b Frank N. Pellegrini (2002-11-22). "Monday Night Football at Subways: Open until it is over". The Wire (JTF-GTMO). 
  30. ^ Corera, Gordon (16 January 2006). "Guantanamo Bay's unhappy anniversary". The New Nation. Archived from the original on 2008-01-29. Retrieved 2006-03-15. 
  31. ^ "Dining". JTF Guantanamo. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  32. ^ Andrew Selsky (2008-11-27). "Not just a prison, the Navy sees many uses for Guantanamo". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2008-11-28. [dead link] mirror
  33. ^ Morale, Welfare and Recreation. "Branded Food & Beverage Concepts". Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  34. ^ "W.T. Sampson Elementary/High School." Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Retrieved on November 7, 2010.

External links

Official U.S. military website

White House Statement

Maps and photos

Human rights affairs

International law

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