FROM: Volume 11, Issue 2 The Coast Defense Study Group Journal

The United States Coast Artillery Command on Aruba and Curaçao in World War II

By: William C. Gaines

In 1940, the islands of Aruba and Curaçao, located in the southern Caribbean Sea about sixty miles off Venezuela, formed a part of the Netherlands West Indies. These islands, about halfway between Panama and the British West Indies colony of Trinidad, were ceded to the Netherlands by Spain in 1634. During World War II, these islands were officially part of the Netherlands Antilles, but were often referred to by the geographic designation Netherlands West Indies. Of the two, Curaçao is the largest. Composed largely of volcanic rock, with an area of 175 square miles, it is 33 miles long and 6 miles wide at its broadest point. Aruba, a porous coral island, is somewhat smaller; only 16 miles long and less than 5 miles wide, it occupies some 75 square miles.(1)
Aruba and Curaçao underwent little change until oil was discovered in the Maracaibo Basin of Venezuela in the early 1920s. The major oil companies that developed the Lake Maracaibo deposits had little faith in the stability of the Venezuelan government and chose to build their refineries on Aruba and Curaçao rather than in Venezuela. A fleet of specially built tankers carried the crude oil out of Lake Maracaibo, across the Gulf of Venezuela, to the off-shore refineries.
Both islands had large oil refineries. On Aruba there were two: the Lago Oil and Transport Company, Ltd., a subsidiary of Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, was located at Sint Nicolaas, and had a capacity of 270,999 barrels a day in 1940, with plans in progress to increase this to 325,000 barrels a day. The refinery’s adjacent tank farm could hold 13,500,000 barrels of crude oil and refined petroleum products. The Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company’s Arend Petroleum Maatschappij, or Eagle Refinery, was located on the west edge of Oranjestad. It too had a high capacity.(2)
Curaçao had an only slightly smaller plant, operated by Curacacsche Petroleum Industires Maatschapp, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell. The Curaçao facility had a daily capacity of 140,000 barrels, and a ten square mile tank farm that could store some 18,000,000 barrels of crude and refined petroleum.(3)
With the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, the strategic importance of the refineries increased markedly; they provided a high percentage of the petroleum needs of Great Britain and Canada. The refinery on Aruba also provided substantial refined petroleum products to the United States.(4)
To bolster the small force of Netherlands troops, a detachment of 180 French marines from Martinique arrived at Oranjestad on May 10, 1940. The U.S. War Department considered Aruba and Curaçao to be primary candidates for defense by the Caribbean Defense Command in the event that the United States became involved in the war. One well placed shell from a surface raider or U-boat, or a bomb from an aircraft, could potentially do considerable damage to the refineries. Further, there was considerable risk of sabotage on both islands, although many of potential saboteurs had been interned on nearby Bonaire Island.
The uninterrupted flow of oil to Great Britain and Canada became increasingly important, and on July 6, 1940, after the fall of France to the German blitzkrieg, 120 British troops arrived on Aruba from Jamaica to relieve the French, who returned to Vichy controlled Martinique, and to reinforce the minuscule garrison of a few hundred regular Dutch troops and some 2,000 poorly trained and ill equipped native conscripts of the Aruba Volunteer Corps (VKA). The company of British troops was bolstered on September 3, 1940, by 520 men of a battalion of the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders from Jamaica. The Allies could ill afford to have the production of the refineries interrupted.(5)
The U.S. War Department noted that the islands had certain strategic aspects in addition to the production of petroleum products. The landlocked harbor of Willemstadt, Curaçao, reached by a narrow channel known as the Shottegat, was an important bunkering station on the routes of several commercial shipping companies between Europe and the Panama Canal.
The War Plans Division had prepared specific actions with regard to Aruba and Curaçao in the event the United States entered the war. Joint army-navy basic war plan Rainbow No. 5, as revised in 1941, called for U.S. ground forces to relieve the British forces on the two islands. This, as originally conceived, was to be some 3,000 troops. First, however, the acquiescence of the Netherlands government in exile in London would be required.(6)
On December 12, 1941, the War Department directed the Caribbean Defense Command to implement Rainbow No. 5, except for relieving the British troops on Aruba and Curaçao.
Negotiations were still underway, and no American troops could land until the United States was invited to assist in the islands’ defense. The negotiations between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom over the withdrawal of the British forces were finally completed by January 8, 1942, opening the door to the formal invitation by the Netherlands for American troops to replace the British.(7)
Meanwhile in the United States, composite forces to protect the petroleum refineries were being assembled. Two detachments were activated on December 23, 1941, at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Force 1280 was slated for Aruba; Force 1291 was to go to Curacao.(8)
The coast artillery elements of these detachments were from the 252nd Coast Artillery (Tractor Drawn) Regiment After the departure of the 2nd Bn., 252nd C.A., for Trinidad in April 1941, the skeletonized remainder of the regiment continued to train and rebuild its 1st and 3rd Bns. at Fort Screven, Georgia. Early in 1942, after the declaration of war on the Axis, Fort Screven became the headquarters and primary post for the Temporary Harbor Defenses of Savannah.(9)
In late December 1941, Batteries A and F, 252nd C.A.(TD), along with 2 officers and 35 men from Battery G, the regiment’s searchlight battery, were alerted for overseas duty. By January 1942, the detachment had departed for Camp Shelby. There they were attached to Force 1280 and Force 1291 and prepared for deployment to the Netherlands West Indies.(10)
In addition to Battery A, 252nd C.A., the Aruba Force (Force 1280) consisted of Force HQ and Service Company; Company C, 166th Infantry; the machine gun platoon of Company D, 166th Infantry; and part of the 213th C.A. (AA), consisting of the maintenance section of HQ Battery, 2nd Bn., a platoon of searchlights from Battery A, and Battery G with 37 mm automatic weapons. The force’s total strength was almost 40 officers and over 800 enlisted men.
The Curaçao Force (Force 1291) was substantially larger and was made up of Force HQ and Service Company; Battery F, and a searchlight platoon from Battery G, 252nd C.A.; HQ and HQ Company, Service Detachment, and Companies A, B, and D, 166th Infantry. Antiaircraft defenses were to be provided by Battery H, 213th C.A. (AA), armed with 37 mm automatic weapons; the 2nd Bn.’s maintenance section; and a searchlight platoon of Battery A. Attached to the force was Airways Detachment A, 4 officers and 35 enlisted men, to operate the airport where six A-20 light bombers of the 59th Bombardment Squadron (Light) had arrived from Panama on January 13, 1942. Force 1291 totaled 66 officers and over 1,400 enlisted personnel. Both forces were subordinate to the Trinidad Sector.(11)
Colonel Bullard and his staff arrived at Curaçao on January 28, 1942, to make final arrangements for the deployment of U.S. troops. The two forces were initially scheduled to depart New Orleans January 10, 1942, but were delayed because the diplomatic negotiations had not been fully completed. Not until February 6th did the forces finally sail, arriving on February 11. They at once disembarked and began setting up the installations for the defense of the oil facilities.(12) The American troops were generally given a warm welcome by the townspeople of Willemstadt, the colonial capital on Curaçao. Three days later the British troops boarded the three transports that had brought the Americans and departed.(13)
On January 26, 1942, a naval intelligence report reached Caribbean Defense Command headquarters at Quarry Heights in the Panama Canal Zone, that a large number of German submarines had entered the Caribbean Sea, destination unknown. The radioed report did warn that "attacks on tankers from Venezuela, Curaçao and [the] vicinity [of] Trinidad [are]possible."(14)
Force 1280 was still setting up and organizing its defenses when Kapitanleutnant Werner Hartenstein, commander of U-156, brought his IX-C Class Unterseeboot to the surface off Ceru Colorado, the southeastern point of Aruba, at dusk on the evening of January 13th. After establishing his position with bearings from the lighthouse, Hartenstein proceeded around the point to a position off the harbor of Sint Nicolaas. The U-boat commander was amazed at the sight of the brightly lit refinery operating at maximum effort. After noting four large tankers in the port and another three at anchor in the roadstead; Hartenstein continued his reconnaissance of the island and proceeded west along the coast to the island’s main city of Oranjestadt. There U-156 partially submerged and actually entered that city’s small harbor.
Hartenstein resurfaced and continued westward to the Eagle Refinery at the west end of Aruba, when he observed a lone tanker moored to the 777-foot long Eagle pier. As dawn approached, U-156 submerged and her commander planned his attack.(15)
The log of the U-156 notes that the submarine had departed from Lorient, France, on January 10th, and steered southwest into the Atlantic as part of the Neuland Gruppe of five German U-boats and two Italian submarines assigned to attack the refineries at Curacao and Aruba, and to interdict the tankers carrying crude oil from the Maracaibo fields to the refineries, and the tankers taking the refined petroleum products from Aruba and Curacao to the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. It was Hartenstein’s plan upon arrival at Aruba to torpedo any tankers in the Sint Nicolaas Roadstead and then bombard the Lago Refinery.(16)
After laying submerged all day on January 14, U-156 proceeded eastward toward Sint Nicholaas, and late on the evening of January 15, she surfaced off the reef that formed the outer limits of the Sint Nicolaas roadstead and prepared to attack. At this time there were two tankers anchored in the roadstead and one tanker moored to the Sint Nicolaas wharf. At 0101 on January 16, 1942, Hartenstein fired a torpedo that hit the anchored British tanker SS Pedernales amidships, ripping open the tanker’s hull and spewing crude oil into the harbor.
The burning crude soon had the waters of the harbor ablaze. Hartenstein then set up his attack on the other British tanker at anchor, SS Oranjestade, only a few hundred yards away from Pedernales. One or more torpedoes set that vessel ablaze.(17)
Amidst the carnage and confusion of exploding tankers and burning oil, the U-156 altered course to the northwest and moved along the shore line keeping about three quarters of a mile off the reef until opposite the Lago Refinery. There Hartenstein planned to take the oil tanks under fire with his 10.5 cm deck gun. Unfortunately, one of the gunners failed to remove the tompion from the gun’s muzzle, and the first round exploded in the barrel, bursting the tube and rendering the weapon useless, as well as mortally wounding one of the gun crew and wounding the U-boat’s gunnery officer. Furious and frustrated, Hartenstein then ordered the U-boat’s 3.7 cm antiaircraft gun to open fire on Aruba’s massive tank farm. Some sixteen rounds, some of them tracers, were fired at the tanks. Hartenstein was flustered to see the rounds that actually hit seem to glance off the steel walls of the large storage tanks, doing only negligible damage. The U-boat commander then reversed course and departed, setting course for the opposite end of the island and the Eagle Refinery.(18)
The American tanker SS Arkansas, moored to the Eagle wharf, was the next vessel to be struck by U-156’s torpedoes. Empty and degassed, it was waiting for its cargo of refined petroleum products. Hartenstein fired three torpedoes at the huge tanker, only one of which struck, slightly damaging Arkansas.(19)
The same could not be said for the waters off Sint Nicolaas. Pedernales keel was broken and the tanker was abandoned, the burning hulk of the critically damaged tanker drifting out to sea. Oranjestadt, however, sank with the loss of 15 of her crew. There were no losses aboard Arkansas.(20)
Corporal Bruce Sark of the 166th Infantry may have been the first bugler to sound a real call to arms in the Western Hemisphere during World War II. Although the 37 mm automatic weapons of Battery G, 213th C.A.(AA), had been set up at the Sint Nicholaas wharf and at nearby Camp Sabaneta, they were unable to open fire because of the thick smoke from the burning tankers and generally poor visibility. The 155 mm guns of Battery A, 252nd C.A., were still sitting on the docks where they had been unloaded. However, all troops were alerted, the guard was reinforced, and a complete blackout of the island was ordered.(21)
The fire from the burning and exploding tankers on Aruba could be seen on Curaçao, and a radar set picked up a target at some 38,000 yards. This information was relayed to the Curaçao airport and an A-20 was dispatched to that location. The light bomber dropped both flares and bombs, but U-156 had reached deep water and submerged. Hartenstein’s Uboat escaped unscathed. Although damage to ground installations was minor, it brought home the potential of enemy action to the newly arrived American troops. The threat of German submarine attacks on both Aruba and Curaçao was very real, and the men of the 252nd C.A. got their newly arrived guns in place without delay.(22)
Not all of Hartenstein’s torpedoes found their intended mark. One, fired at the Arkansas, was discovered on the beach near the Eagle Refinery the following dawn. A Dutch army guard detail took charge of it until it could be turned over to the navy for investigation. Before the naval experts could view the weapon, however, it exploded, killing four soldiers.(23)
Following the aborted attack on Aruba, Hartenstein set course for the Gulf of Paria and the island of Trinidad. Other U-boats of the Neuland Gruppe were active in the area the night of January 15. An hour after Hartenstein began his attacks at Aruba, U-67, captained by Gunther Muller Stockheim, fired four torpedoes at two tankers laying off Willemstad Harbor on Curaçao.All four failed to explode, although some managed to hit their targets. The German captain then turned around and emptied his stern tubes into the 3,100 ton tanker Rafaela, setting her afire before departing for deep water. While only eight miles offshore, it was attacked by an Army Air Corps A-20 light bomber. The attack must have been totally ineffectual, as it seems to have gone completely unnoticed by the Germans. U-502 under Jurgen Von Rosenstiel entered the Gulf of Venezuela and sank two Lago tankers, San Nicholas and Tia Juana, between Aruba and the Venezuelan mainland before dawn on February 16th. German submarine activity remained heavy for several days following the attack on Aruba. Air patrols were intensified as much as was possible with the limited number of aircraft available and a convoy system was instituted by the navy for the shallow draft Maracaibo tankers plying the waters between Venezuela, Aruba, and Curaçao.(24)
The German submarine attacks on Aruba and Curacao by Gruppe Neuland, while the first of many attacks on allied shipping in the Caribbean Sea, were not the only attempts by the German navy to put the refineries out of business. On April 19, 1942, at 0215, U-130 surfaced off the Bullen Baai tank farm on Curaçao and fired five 8.8 cm shells at the petroleum storage facility. It scored no hits on the oil tanks but did wake up the Dutch colonial artillery battery which managed to get off one 120 mm round before the U-boat submerged. On August 18, 1942, the Germans returned and again attacked. This time the target was a tanker entering the Shottegat. The 37 mm weapons of the 499th C.A. (AA) Bn. were now doing dual duty as both anti-motor torpedo boat and antiaircraft batteries. The 37 mm guns at Fort Amsterdam next to the entrance to the Shottegat fired a number of rounds at an unidentified submarine some 2,800 yards off shore. Both torpedoes that were fired missed the tanker and struck the reef. The damage done by the German submarine was slight, but the potential for disaster was very real. The U-boat attacks in the Southern Caribbean increased the urgency for establishing strong defenses for the two islands. Increasing the number of ground forces on Aruba and Curaçao was considered, but turned down, however, by the Trinidad Sector.(25)
Through the remainder of 1942 and into 1943, Admiral Hoover, commander of the Caribbean Sea Frontier, continued to express his concern to the commanding general, Caribbean Defense Command, over what he considered to be inadequate ground forces on Aruba and Curaçao. The commanding general of the Trinidad Sector noted that two battalions of infantry was called for, along with a coast artillery antiaircraft regiment less the two automatic weapons batteries that were already on the islands. Despite these recommendations, the forces on Aruba and Curacao remained stable until the early part of 1943.(26)
The harbor defenses of the two islands consisted of the battalion of the 252nd C.A., the pair of automatic weapons batteries of the 213th C.A., and their supporting elements. Willemstadt remained the headquarters of the two forces. The infantry were posted near the Hato Airfield on Curaçao’s north coast. One of the 155 mm GPF guns of Battery F, 252nd C.A., was here as well, initially in a field emplacement. The remainder of the battery, also in field positions, was located on the south shore of the island at Blauw Baai. The 37 mm weapons of Battery H, 213th C.A., were distributed by platoons around the Shottegat and the harbor of Willemstadt. One of the automatic weapons platoons was set up at Fort Nassau guarding the narrow Shottegat entrance to the harbor. This narrow channel into the harbor was also protected from surface raiders by a battery of three 3-inch/50 cal. naval guns and a single 75 mm field gun. A short distance to the east was a battery of three 7.5-inch guns. Both of these batteries were manned by the Dutch Coast Artillery. Another Dutch battery armed with two 120 mm guns was situated on Bullen Baai to protect the tank farm several miles to the west of Willemstadt. The various searchlight positions on Curaçao were near the seacoast and antiaircraft gun battery positions, and at the Hato Airfield.(27)
On Aruba, the American headquarters was at Camp Sabaneta, on the southwest coast a few miles up the coast from Sint Nicolaas. Two automatic weapons platoons of Battery G, 213th C.A., were at the Sint Nicolaas wharf area adjacent to the Lago Refinery. The antiaircraft machine gun platoon of Battery G was at Dakota Field, an alternate landing field on the east side of Oranjestadt, on the southwest coast. With the arrival of the U.S. Army Air Corps, the runways were extended with steel matting and additional camouflaged parking ramps and revetments were constructed. The 155 mm guns of Battery A, 252nd C.A., were emplaced in field positions on the island’s southeasternmost tip. The Netherlands colonial coast artillery manned a battery of three 7.5-inch guns on the island’s northeast coast at Juana Morto. This battery, established early in 1940, test fired its guns on May 17, 1940.(28) On April 1, 1942, the antiaircraft elements of the 213th C.A. assigned to the Aruba Force were inactivated and their personnel activated Batteries A and B (less two platoons) of the 498th C.A. AA) Bn. (Separate). On April 10, 1942, the elements of the 213th stationed on Curaçao were also inactivated and used to activate Batteries A and B (less two platoons) of the 499th C.A. (AA) Bn. (Sep).(29) The 498th and 499th C.A. (AA) Bns. provided the antiaircraft defense of the two islands until November 1943. During the initial months the American troops were stationed on the islands of Aruba and Curaçao, they were on full alert. For the most part, the troops were quartered in tents, and although located somewhat near some of the island towns, visits to them were very infrequent, and then usually only in the course of business.(30)
The somewhat confused and frequently inadequate responses to the U-boat attacks resulted in a number of actions to improve the command structure. Aruba and Curaçao were finally released from the direct command of Trinidad Sector and restructured under Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf, USN, commander, all forces, Aruba-Curaçao (CAFAC), under the Caribbean Sea Frontier.(31)
In addition to construction of Panama mounts and ammunition storage bunkers for the 155 mm guns, estimated in May 1942 to cost some $62,000 per battery site, the harbor and seacoast defenses, in the minds of the army and navy commands on Aruba and Curaçao, also required further augmentation.(32) The 155 mm guns of the 252nd C.A. had too slow a rate of fire to combat the illusive U-boats, and the 37 mm weapons were too few in number and had insufficient range to cover all the defensive positions required. "Additional quick firing guns [were] needed," in the view of Admiral Hoover, commander of the Caribbean Sea Frontier.(33) In December 1942 the commander of the army ground forces on Aruba and Curaçao recommended that an antiaircraft automatic weapon battalion be assigned to each island. This resulted in a restudy of the defenses by the Trinidad Sector which confirmed the earlier conclusions regarding the seacoast defenses. The report recommended that the 155 mm batteries be inactivated, but kept in operational status, and that the personnel man two batteries of 90 mm guns, allotted but not yet delivered. Major General Pratt, the commander of the Trinidad Sector, also recommended one additional battery of 90 mm guns for each island, which would provide three 90mm anti-motor torpedo boat (AMTB) batteries for each island. There were, however, no troops to man these additional guns even if they could be obtained; the troop basis for the Caribbean Defense Command had been reduced some 36,000 men during the latter part of 1942.(34)
In January 1943, General Pratt suggested that the additional troops required to man the two allocated 90 mm AMTB batteries could be obtained from two batteries of the 58th C.A.(TD), then training Venezuelan troops on the 155 mm guns. This transfer was finally approved February 8, 1943.(35)
The first four M1 90 mm guns on M1 mobile carriages and two 40 mm automatic weapons arrived by mid-March 1943, and were sent to Aruba to protect the Lago Refinery. One pair of guns was set up at Boca Grande, while the other pair was emplaced at Sand Spit on the southeastern end of the island near the 155 mm guns of Battery A, 252nd C.A., which provided the initial manning detail. When Battery D, 58th C.A., arrived on Aruba by mid-March 1943, they began familiarization with the new ordnance, and by April the men from Aruba’s 155 mm battery were again manning their GPFs. The AMTB guns for Curaçao arrived a few weeks later, and were taken over by the newly arrived Battery C, 58th C.A. This battery was located on the west side of the channel leading to the Shottegat. Like the battery on Aruba it consisted of four M1 90mm guns on M1 mobile carriages and a pair of mobile 40mm guns.(36)
The two batteries of the 58th C.A. continued on their assigned duties at Aruba and Curaçao until the latter part of May 1943, when both batteries were inactivated. The personnel of Battery C were reassigned to the 815th C.A. Battery (AMTB) (Separate) that was activated at Curaçao, and the personnel of Battery D activated the 814th C.A. Battery (AMTB) (Sepa rate) at Aruba. The 814th Battery continued to man the AMTB battery at Aruba until December 17, 1944.(37) In November 1943, the 499th C.A. Bn. was inactivated and its personnel reassigned as Battery D of the 589th AAA (AW) Bn. The continued requests for additional infantry for Aruba and Curaçao, prompted in part by continued concerns regarding espionage and sabotage, were finally responded to in 1943. In mid-February sufficient troops from Trinidad arrived to form the basic complement for the newly activated Company B, 166th Infantry. This company was split between Aruba and Curaçao. Two days later, the 1st Bn., 33rd Infantry, arrived at Aruba. On June 1, 1943, the 1st Bn., 166th Infantry, was redesignated the 3rd Bn., 33rd Infantry, but continued on their same duties and stations. This placed the 1st Bn., 33rd Infantry, on Aruba and the 3rd Bn. on Curaçao.(38)
In September 1943, the 3rd Bn., 33rd Infantry, was reorganized and redesignated the 207th Infantry Bn. (Separate). The 207th continued to serve as supports for the coast artillery on Curaçao until November 1943, when the Puerto Rican troops of the 2nd Bn, 295th Infantry, arrived to relieve the continental troops of the 207th on Curaçao. The 207th then departed for Trinidad on October 6, 1943. On November 1, 1943, the 3rd Bn., 295th Infantry, arrived at Aruba aboard the USAT State of Maryland and relieved the 1st Bn., 33rd Infantry. The continental troops of the 33rd departed the next day aboard the State of Maryland.(39)
The 2nd and 3rd Bns., 295th Infantry, lasted only until the middle of 1944, when the battalions were redesignated the 295th and 209th Infantry Bns.(40)
As the U-boat threat diminished in the latter part of 1943, the morale of the American troops on Aruba and Curaçao began to decline as well, and as the ". . .Allies recaptured North Africa, took Sicily, and invaded Italy, the 252nd could see themselves being located in a back water area. The novelty of the Caribbean Islands soon wore off; living in tents, fighting mosquitoes and other pests, the. . .[252nd] considered themselves a highly professional outfit left on the sidelines."(41)
Prior to the war the 253rd C.A. (TD) was a semimobile 155 mm gun regiment of the Puerto Rico National Guard. The regimental HQ and HQ Battery, the HQ and HQ Battery of the 1st Bn., and Batteries A and B had been federalized in October 1940, but had remained in the Puerto Rican Sector as a semimobile seacoast unit. In June 1944, the regiment had been reorganized at Camp O’Reilly in anticipation of being sent to replace those elements of the 252nd C.A. on Aruba and Curaçao. With arrival of the 253rd in the Netherlands West Indies in November 1944, the departure of the continental coast artillery troops began in earnest. Battery A of the 253rd was posted on Curaçao and took over the 90 mm AMTB battery manned by the 815th Battery and the 155 mm guns formerly manned by Battery F, 252nd C.A.; while Battery B of the 253rd took over the 155 mm guns manned by Battery A of the 252nd on Aruba. On November 24, 1943, the 12th Bombardment Squadron, on the island since 1942, departed. The two batteries of the 252nd C.A. and the searchlight platoon of Battery G, 29th C.A. Bn. (formerly Battery G, 252nd C.A.), departed for Trinidad on December 4. On January 22, 1944, the 2nd Platoon, Battery G, 253rd C.A., was activated at Camp Savaneta, Aruba, to man the seacoast searchlights on that island.(42)
On December 17, the 814th and 815th C.A. (AMTB) Batteries, each with about 2 officers and 107 enlisted men, departed for the Canal Zone. Although General Brett, commanding the Caribbean Defense Command, recommended that the forces on Aruba and Curacao be increased, not reduced, his "request was not favorably considered" by Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, and the reductions continued. The reduction of the continental troops in Aruba and Curaçao began in the latter part of 1943 and increased in 1944. The 32nd Fighter Squadron received its movement orders on February 23, 1944, and on July 19th, the 209th Infantry Bn. returned to Puerto Rico. In April 1944, the commander, Caribbean Sea Frontier, and the commanding general of the Antilles Department concurred that the AMTB batteries on Aruba and Curaçao were capable of providing any necessary antiaircraft defense, and the inactivation of the automatic weapons units was authorized. Battery D, 589th AAA (AW) Bn. and the 2nd Platoon of Battery C, 342nd AAA (SL) Bn. were transferred to Trinidad. (The platoon from Battery C, 342nd AAA (SL) Bn. had been placed on detached duty from Panama and had absorbed the personnel of the searchlight platoon of Battery B, 499th C.A. Bn.)(43)
In May 1945, all remaining coast artillery elements on Aruba and Curaçao were relieved of their tactical missions, and on June 27, 1945, all categories of defense were lifted. The army’s presence on the islands was rapidly reduced during the summer of 1945, and by mid-August the navy was preparing for a total withdrawal. By December 1945, the mission on Aruba and Curaçao was declared complete. The remaining army elements on the islands mainly operated the Hato Airport on Curacao and Dakota Field on Aruba.(44)
By early 1946, all U.S. military holdings on Aruba except for Dakota Field were declared excess to the needs of the War Department, and later in the year even that now minor installation was termed surplus property as far as the Antilles Department of the Caribbean Defense Command was concerned. By June 1946, the American withdrawal from Aruba and Curaçao was generally complete.(45)
End Notes
1. Third World Guide 93/94, Bogota, Columbia, 1993, pp. 143, 445- 446. U.S. Army, Caribbean Defense Command, History of the Trinidad Sector and Base Command, Vol. I, "Historical Narrative," (hereafter "Historical Narrative" [Vol. No.])Port of Spain, Trinidad, 1945-47, Pt. 1, pp. 158-159.
2. U.S. Army, Caribbean Defense Command, Historical Section, Special Study, "Occupation and Use of Bases in the Netherlands Colonies-Aruba and Curacao" (hereafter "Occupation and Use of Bases"), pp. 4-5. Johann Hartog, Aruba, Past and Present, Oranjestad, Aruba, 1961, pp. 315-316.
3. Hartog, Aruba, Past and Present, pp. 315-316.
4. "Historical Narrative," Vol. I, pt. 1, pp. 156, 158.
5. Occupation and Use of Bases, pp. 7-8. "Historical Narrative," Vol. I, pt. 1, pp. 161, 162. Hartog, Aruba, Past and Present, p. 359. Gaylord T.M. Kellshall,The U-Boat War in the Caribbean, Annapolis, 1994, p. 23.
6. "Occupation and Use of Bases," p. 8.
7. Ibid., p. 16.
8. Ibid., pp. 12, 14-18, 21, 47-48. "Historical Narrative," Vol. I, pt. 1, pp. 166-168.
9. "History of the Eastern Defense Command and the Defense of the Atlantic Coast of the United States in the Second World War," pp. 25, 27. Charles H. Bogart, 252nd Coast Artillery, North Carolina National Guard, Frankfort, KY, n.d., pp. 6, 7.
10. "Historical Narrative," Vol. I, pt. 1, pp. 166-168.
11. "Occupation and Use of Bases," pp. 18, 21. "Historical Narrative," Vol. I, pt. 1, pp. 166-169.
12. "Historical Narrative," Vol. I, pt. 1, pp. 166-168. "Occupation and Use of Bases," pp. 12, 14-18, 21, 47-48.
13. "Occupation and Use of Bases," pp. 21-22.
14. Ibid., p. 23.
15. Lee A. Dew, "The day Hitler Lost the War," American Legion Magazine, February 1978, pp. 6-7.
16. Ibid.
17. Michael Gannon, Operation Drumbeat: The Dramatic True Story of German’s First U-Boat Attacks Along the American Coast in World War II, pp. 308.
18. Lee A. Dew, "The day Hitler Lost the War," p. 54.
19. Ibid., p. 54. "Occupation and Use of Bases," p. 24.
20. Lee A. Dew, "The Day Hitler Lost the War," p. 54.
21. "Occupation and Use of Bases," pp. 23-24. "Historical Narrative," Vol. I, pt. 1, p. 175.
22. There is some uncertainty with regard to the sinking of the tankers off Willemstad. Some accounts indicate the torpedoed tanker was the Gulf Oil Company Monagas, while other accounts suggest that the vessel was the Rafaela. Lee A. Dew, "The day Hitler Lost the War," p. 55. "Occupation and Use of Bases," pp. 23-24. "Historical Narrative," Vol. I, pt. 1, p. 175.
23. Lee A. Dew, "The day Hitler Lost the War" p. 54. "Occupation and Use of Bases," p. 26.
24. "Occupation and Use of Bases," p. 27. History of the Trinidad Sector and Base Command, "Operations, Plans and Training," Vol. III (hereafter Operations, Plans and Training), p. 170.
25. "Occupation and Use of Bases," pp. 26, 59.
26. Ibid., p. 58.
27. "Operations, Plans and Training," Location of combat troops on Curacao, May 31, 1942.
28. Ibid. "Occupation and Use of Bases," Location Maps. Hartog, Aruba, Past and Present, p. 359.
29. Stanton, Order of Battle U.S. Army, World War II, Novato, CA, pp. 469, 501. "Operations Plans and Training," pp. 83-84.
30. Bogart, 252nd Coast Artillery, p. 13.
31. "Occupation and Use of Bases," pp. 39-41.
32. Ibid., p. 60.
33. Ibid., pp. 60-63, 81.
35. Ibid., p. 71. "Operations, Plans and Training," Map of Curacao showing U.S. Ground Forces.
36. "Operations, Plans and Training," Map of Curacao showing U.S. Ground Forces. Historical Section, Caribbean Defense Command, "Military Collaboration Caribbean Defense Command—Venezuela During World War II," pp. 64, 77-78.
37. "Occupation and Use of Bases," p. 107. Historical Notes and Station List, 58th C.A. Regiment, Organizational Records Section, Military Personnel Records Unit, National Personnel Records Center.
38. "Occupation and Use of Bases," pp. 49-50. Hartog, Aruba, Past and Present, p. 366.
39. Hartog, Aruba, Past and Present, p. 366. Stanton, Order of Battle, p. 271. "Historical Narrative," Vol. II, p. 83.
40. "Occupation and Use of Bases," p. 107. "Historical Narrative," Vol. II, Appendix H. Stanton, Order of Battle, pp. 239, 271.
41. Bogart, 252nd Coast Artillery, p. 13.
42. "Occupation and Use of Bases," p. 107. Stanton, Order of Battle, p. 272. Historical Data Sheet and Station List, 253rd C.A. Regiment, Organizational Records Section, Military Personnel Records Unit, National Personnel Records Center.
43. "Occupation and Use of Bases," p. 108.
44. Ibid., pp. 110-112, 121.
45. Ibid., pp. 123-125.