Galapagos Islands strategic importance
1850-1940 - Galapagos' Strategic Importance
The strategic location of the islands became very important as the time drew near for the opening of the Panama Canal. Various European and North American powers looked for any way to buy or rent some or all the islands, to be used as a fueling station for Navy ships, or more importantly, for the defense of the Canal on the Pacific side. They even tried to declare the islands "res nullius" (no man’s lands). Ecuador resisted this pressure, but ceded some of the islands to be used for defense during World War II.
1936 - The First Airplanes
William Robinson lived on his yacht in Tagus Cove, studying the flora and fauna of the islands, when he suffered a serious attack of appendicitis and his situation quickly became desperate. Luckily, the tuna clipper the "Santa Cruz" was nearby and contacted the Marines based in the Panama Canal by radio. Once permission was granted, two hydroplanes took off for the islands, followed by the destroyer "Hale". They arrived on time to save his life, and flights to the islands were installed. The first airplane flight, which carried mail from the Canal Zone to the Galapagos, took place on February 6, 1936. A commemorative stamp was created. The first commercial flights arrived on January 3, 1959, with the LIA airlines and later with TAME Ecuador’s airline (June 6, 1963), and once again, booklets of commemorative stamps were created. TAME still has flights to the Galapagos.
1942-1949 - Galapagos in WW II
The United States considered the Galapagos essential to the vigilance of the Canal. Since 1928, the US having studied all of the alternatives in case of a war in the Pacific, chose the island of Baltra as the principal base, and accumulated everything necessary in the Canal Zone ("the Galapagos Units"). Aerial vigilance began Five days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. March of 1942, operations at the base began: the U.S. built 3 airstrips (the first airplane, a B24 landed in May) the marines had their center in the adjacent "Eolian Cove" and constructed a dock (which is still being used), hydroplane ramps, etc. In total, the Beta Base, as it was called, could house six thousand men. Even though the Beta Base never had to face an emergency, the Union recognized that the Galapagos had played an important role, and for that reason they tried to buy or retain the base after the war. The official turnover took place in 1946, but the last contingents didn’t leave until the beginning of 1949.