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

By Fitzroy André Baptiste | Go to book overview

11
The United States and the Defense of Aruba and Curacao

United States forces had hardly arrived in Surinam when the United States government again approached the Netherlands with another request for its forces to enter Aruba and Curacao to take over the defense of the important oil refineries there from British troops that had moved in during May/July 1940. The United States also requested that Venezuela be associated with the new defense arrangement for Aruba and Curacao.

During World War II Aruba and Curacao were among the world's largest oil refining centers. A large share of Britain's supply originated there. The real source of the crude for the Aruba-Curacao refineries was Venezuela, principally the northwestern sector of Lake Maracaibo, Las Piedras, Cumarebo-Tucupito, and Chichiriviche located less than 200 miles away. Only a small amount of Venezuelan crude was refined in that country, the bulk being transported to the Aruba-Curacao refineries by a fleet of specially built tankers. The vulnerability of this supply line to enemy surface or submarine warfare, as well as the possibility of internal sabotage by Axis sympathizers living in the two Dutch islands, were among the factors that led an Anglo-French force to occupy Aruba and Curacao during May 1940 when Germany invaded the Netherlands. Thereafter, the British assumed full defense responsibility for the Dutch islands following the rift with Vichy France and the failure of efforts to get Canada to send troops to replace the French troops in Aruba.1

By June 1941 the United States began preparing to take over Great Britain's defense responsibility for Aruba and Curacao. The Western Atlantic component of ABC-1 had provided for such an eventuality subject to the approval of the Netherlands government. Moreover, RAINBOW 5 stipulated that on "M-Day" some 6,000 United States troops were to be moved to Aruba and Curacao from Galveston.2

By early December 1941 an alternative decision had been made to dispatch some 65 officers and 1,337 other ranks to Curacao, and 37 officers and 832 men to Aruba. The proposed Force Aruba and

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