Guantánamo Bay first came to the US naval strategists’ attention because of its location along the Windward Passage. Alfred Thayer Mahan, one of the greatest naval strategists of his day, envisioned the Caribbean as strategic for mainland defense and necessary for a one-ocean navy to serve in two oceans with the Panama Canal. One of Navy’s major goals was to ensure European powers, specifically Germany, did not establish a regional presence. Naval war games up until WWII pushed GTMO to the periphery, as it was only included as a coaling station. The concerns about German invasion limited GTMO’s strategic value as planners believed the only way to hold the installation was with ships in the bay.

The military intervened to stabilize the region as a way of keeping Europeans out and protecting US interests. Marines stationed at GTMO were sent to calm political unrest in Hispaniola, resulting in two occupations: Haiti (1915-1934) and the Dominican Republic (1916-1924). Cuba received the greatest attention from GTMO. In 1906, a Marine encampment was built outside Havana so the US could run a provisional government with the president and his opposition. Six years later, Marines were dispatched to protect US interests during the race war. Afro-Cubans specifically targeted American property in the Oriente Province to force US military invention to assert their rights in Havana. From 1916 to 1922, Marines stabilize the country after another fraudulent election. Inventions in Cuba and throughout the Caribbean confirmed GTMO’s strategic value to the US Navy before WWII.

- Andrea Field, Arizona State University