War, Cooperation, and Conflict: The European Possessions in the Caribbean, 1939-1945

By Fitzroy André Baptiste | Go to book overview

3
The Defeat of the Netherlands and Caribbean Repercussions

The crisis that blazed in Europe in the first half of 1940 finally brought United States public opinion and Congress into line with President Roosevelt in recognizing the interdependence between the security of the United States and the Western European democracies. Lying between the New World and a Europe virtually dominated by Germany was the British Fleet. In the strategy that then unfolded, the islands of the Atlantic and the Caribbean held a central place. Some of the Caribbean islands belonged to the Netherlands and to France which by then had been subjugated to Germany. While the Netherlands threw in its lot with Britain and its allies, France joined Germany in an embrace that reduced it to the status of client state for the next four years. As noted earlier, the European crisis led to the occupation of the Dutch islands of Aruba and Curacao by British and French forces in May 1940, after the Germans invaded the Netherlands (Table 2).

The plan for an Allied military occupation of Aruba and Curacao in the event of a German invasion of the Netherlands first came before the Allied Military Committee, a subunit of the Anglo-French COS, at a meeting in London in late April 1940. The proposal was apparently the brainchild of the British Admiralty. The plan was partly a reaction to the German invasion of Denmark and Norway in April 1940. Britain feared that Belgium and the Netherlands would be the next targets. This concern extended to Dutch overseas colonies such as Aruba and Curacao in the Caribbean, which by 1939 had some of the world's largest oil refineries.

The refineries of Aruba and Curacao were founded on the crude of nearby Venezuela, which was the world's biggest exporter by 1939. (For a delineation of the oil zone, see Map 2.) The combined producing and refining industry of Aruba, Curacao, and Venezuela figured importantly in Great Britain's oil plans for war. With an estimated crude capacity of 480,000 barrels a day, Aruba and Curacao outranked Abadan in Iran with 250,000 barrels; the Baku complex in the USSR with about 230,000 barrels; and the largest plants in the United States at Baytown, Port Arthur,

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