Marines fade away, but base has more life than ever


Fifty years after the Marines swarmed Guantánamo in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Corps is represented here by truly just a few good men.

Fifty years ago this week as the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of war, thousands of U.S. Marines flooded this outpost on Cuba’s eastern tip.

A Marine historian, Beth Crumley, said from Quantico, Va., on Monday that between the insertion of a Battalion Landing Team and reinforcements, the number of Marines here swelled to perhaps 5,000 – not including “aviation assets who were flying in the area off carriers.”

Now, thanks to technology and détente, the Marines’ detachment guarding Guantánamo’s 17.4-mile perimeter are truly just a few good men.

They number about 120.

The unit is so small, in fact, that fewer Marines work for the major in charge of the fence line security unit than workers do at the base’s recreation department, a division of 179 contract workers, mostly foreigners, who tend bar, keep up the swimming pools, tennis courts, golf, bowling alleys and rental sailboats.

It didn’t happen all at one time. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the base reduced the number of Marines unit on guard across the Cubans’ minefield by adding bright lights and security cameras along the minefield.

Meantime, the Navy has poured in more and more resources to its “Morale, Welfare and Entertainment” division — run by a Pentagon contractor whose job is akin to a social director on a cruise ship — opening an Irish pub, expanding the nightly first-run Hollywood movies and airlifting in a stream of celebrities to shake the troops’ hands.

Now, alcohol here is both an emphasis and a concern. Jonathan Goldsmith, the actor who peddles Dos Equis beer as “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” arrives to sign autographs later this week, just weeks after the new Navy base commander upended tradition and banned booze at the downtown, walk-up open air cinema.

Read more Guantánamo stories from the Miami Herald

Accused USS Cole bomber Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, a Saudi, shown at left in a photo before his capture by the CIA in 2002 and by sketch artist Janet Hamlin during a 2011 arraignment at Guántanamo.


    Court: Poland violated human rights in CIA case

    Europe's top human rights court ruled Thursday that Poland violated the rights of two terror suspects by allowing the CIA to secretly imprison them on Polish soil from 2002-2003 and facilitating the conditions under which they were subject to torture.

Algerian Djamel Ameziane, a 42-year-old ethnic Berber, has been approved for release but wants to go to Canada, or another country, rather than the nation he fled in 1992. His lawyers have chosen Canada because he lived there for five years, and filed a failed application for political asylum. From Canada he went to Afghanistan, where he was captured in the U.S. invasion.


    Ex-Guantánamo detainee can’t get his money back

    Federal judge concludes a former Guantánamo detainee may no longer be a threat, but his money is.

The Kremlin.

    Russia bans congressman, 12 other Americans

    Russia has placed a U.S. lawmaker and 12 other people connected with the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq on its list of those banned from entering the country.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category