Northeast Gate, Guantanamo Bay

Today is the day to visit the Northeast Gate of Guantanamo Naval Base. This gate separates the base from the rest of Cuba. The area is strictly prohibited to non-personnel. So in order to reach the gate you have to go join the tour. The tour is conducted by the Marine Corps so you have to show up at the Marine Hill at 11:00am. The school /tour buses are parked in front the Marine’s White House across the parade grounds. But in order to joined this fun, and educational tour you have to make a reservation. The reservation office is on the West side of the White house. To make it a lot easier its beside the mini Exchange. Its open from Monday to Thursday 12:00pm to 1:00pm. Once you enter the building turn left on the first room an you will see  log book by the table. Just sign yourself and your group (if there are any.) The tours are once a month and third Friday of the month.

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Gate to Cuba

Back to the tour day, just climb any of the buses waiting and then your tour guide will come up and the bus will start rolling. Upon reaching the tour guide will start the history of the base relating to the gate and Cuba. According to The Joint Task Force Guantanamo

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Northeast Gate

“The North East Gate is the northern entry point separating Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (NAVSTA GTMO) from the rest of Cuba. Closely guarded by the Marine Corps Security Forces Company (MCSFCO) with a heavily fortified fence line and strategically placed observation towers, the gate has seen its fair share of history which makes NAVSTA GTMO what it is today.”

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Cubans leaving the base.

When the United States leased the land that is NAVSTA GTMO from the Cuban government in 1903, the North East Gate was established as the checkpoint for up to 3,000 Cuban commuters who would move in and out of the base on a daily basis. In 1958, when vehicle traffic was prohibited, the number of commuters dropped to 300. Of those 300, only two continue the trek today.

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In 1964, Commander in Chief of Cuba’s military and Prime Minister, Fidel Castro cut off the fresh water supply to the base to protest the U.S. arresting 17 Cuban fishermen for violating territorial waters off the Florida coast.

 

When Castro accused the Americans of stealing water, then-Base Commander Rear Adm. John D. Bulkeley invited media to watch as the cast iron water pipe was cut at the North East Gate as proof to the contrary. The cut pipe is prominently displayed today by the gate’s main observation tower.

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“On 17 Feb 1964 Rear Admiral John D. Bulkeley, Commander Naval Base ordered the water lines be cut and section removed to disprove the assumption that the United States was steaing from Cuba.”

The competition of national pride between the Cubans and American Marines grew at the North East Gate after Castro took control over Cuba.

At the barracks on top of the hill where Marines would sleep during off hours, Cuban personnel would throw rocks on the tin roofs to keep them awake. So the Marines built a 40-foot high fence to prevent the rocks from making it over.

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The Marine Corps barracks

Then the Cubans used to climb the fence and hang metal objects from hangers to make noise in the wind. So the Marines fortified the fence line with barbed wire.

Cubans used a spotlight on the barracks to keep the Marines awake at night for a month. Bulkeley erected a tent on the hill where the barracks was located and had laborers work on a “secret project.”

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Marine Corps Seal

 

At the end of the month, when the Cubans used the spotlight on the barracks once more, the tent came down and the spotlight would hit a hill-sized globe, eagle and anchor, the insignia of the United States Marine Corps. The spotlighting stopped immediately.”

That pretty much conclude everything from the tour. Most of the information written above can be found at:

http://www.jtfgtmo.southcom.mil/xwebsite/print/stories/2012/04April/28_Gate.html

After you left the gate  you will feel more knowledgeable about the area and the brewing tensions between the United States and Cuba during that time period.After the tour the bus will take you back to the Marine Corps White House where you can learn more about the Marine Corps’ history on base.

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Say Cheez!
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