At the turn of the Century, the United States was ready to expand. It was a vigorous nation with a population full of optimism, strength and with a determination to become a world power. This strong expansionist sentiment motivated the U.S. government to develop a plan for annexation of Spain’s remaining overseas territories including the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. This plan led to the an armed military conflict between Spain and the United States that took place between April and August 1898 known as the Spanish-American War.
Expansionism required a strong and swift Navy with presence on both, the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Sailing around the tip of South America irritated American war theorists. But there was a way to overcome this obstacle—building a canal in Central America. The collapse of the French initiative gave the United States the golden opportunity to finish the canal and become the Master of the seas.
Theodore Roosevelt knew how to move his pawns and took advantage of the situation. In a show of political shrewdness, he took the Isthmus of Panama and built the Panama Canal. Roosevelt’s policies were characterized by his comment, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” But he would have to pay a price—the loss of thousands of American workers’ lives. This post is about remembering those Americans who gave their lives in an effort to fulfill the greatest accomplishment of the United States in modern history.
The structure of this post consists of two parts. The first part, is the written story of the American workers who died during the construction of the Panama Canal. The second part, consist of photographs to strengthen the message. I followed the storyboard format widely used by filmmakers, animators, comic book illustrators, screenplay writers and photomatics artists; just to name a few.
I. The American Battle Cemetery in Corozal – Panama
Thousands of Americans citizens rest in peace at a burial ground in Panama known as the Corozal American Cemetery and Memorial. This holy ground is operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission since 1982 following the guidelines of the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977.
This 16-acre memorial ground is the resting place of 5,364 American veterans and others. A paved walk leads from the Visitors Center to a small memorial that sits atop a knoll overlooking the grave’s area. The memorial consists of a paved plaza with a 12-foot rectangular granite obelisk flanked by two flagpoles on which fly the United States and Panamanian flags. Engraved on the obelisk in English and Spanish is the following inscription:
THIS MEMORIAL HAS BEEN ERECTED BY THE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
IN HUMBLE TRIBUTE TO ALL INTERRED HERE
WHO SERVED IN ITS ARMED FORCES OR
CONTRIBUTED TO THE CONSTRUCTION,
OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE OF
THE PANAMA CANAL
The cemetery is open daily to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (-5 GMT) except December 25th and January 1st. It is open on host country holidays. When the cemetery is open to the public, a staff member is on duty in the Visitor Building to answer questions and escort relatives to grave and memorial sites.
The Corozal American Cemetery is located approximately 3 miles north of Panama City, Panama, just off Avenue Omar Torrijos Herrera between the Panama Canal Railway Company train station and Ciudad Del Saber (formerly Fort Clayton).
To reach the cemetery, turn right on Calle Rufina Alfaro at the Crossroads Bible Church and proceed about ½ mile to the cemetery. Taxi and bus service to the cemetery are available from Panama City.
II. Photo Gallery of the Corozal American Cemetery and Memorial
A quote from a distinguished military leader that encapsulates the message of this post is, “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”—General of the Armies, John J. Pershing.
This will wrap up my foray into the cemeteries of the former Canal Zone and its immediate surroundings. It meant a lot to me to be able to share with the readers of Lingua Franca, the memories of those who died in this place while building the Panama Canal. My next series of pictures will be of the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal itself. Until then, Good Day.