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

By Fitzroy André Baptiste | Go to book overview

10
The Entry of the United States Forces into Surinam

With war's prosecution increasingly dependent on aircraft, and aircraft dependent on aluminium, the bauxite from the Guianas has become the strategic raw material par excellence. Its only competitor, petroleum, can be obtained elsewhere, bauxite in needed quantity and quality, cannot.1

In those words, Lieutenant-Colonel G. A. Chester, G-2, United States Army Intelligence, summed up the strategic importance of the bauxite of British Guiana and of Surinam to the Allies' war effort during World War II. The date was February 18, 1942. Two days before, German submarines had launched a campaign on Allied oil and bauxite shipping movements in Caribbean/Western Atlantic waters. In anticipation of these attacks, United States forces had entered Aruba, Curacao, and Surinam between November 1941 and February 11, 1942, to defend their important strategic industries.

By September 1939 British Guiana and Surinam ranked with France and the United States among the world's largest producers of bauxite, used in the manufacture of aircraft. The annual production of the Guiana mines was 1.5 million tons. One-third of this total came from the Mackenzie plant in British Guiana, located some 60 miles up the Demerara River from the capital, Georgetown. The ore was shipped primarily to Canada and Britain. The remaining 1 million tons came from the Moengo and Paranam plants in Surinam, located on the Cottica and Surinam rivers, respectively, up-river from the capital at Paramaribo. The United States alone imported 50 percent of this ore in 1939. A United States multinational company, the Aluminium Company of Canada (Alcan), had a virtual monopoly interest in the Guiana mines by 1939 via two local subsidiaries. They were the Demerara Bauxite Company in British Guiana and the Surinamsche Bauxite Company in Surinam.2

Probably because of a short-haul supply of bauxite from

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