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

By Fitzroy André Baptiste | Go to book overview

Epilog

The ralliement of Guadeloupe and Martinique to the Allied cause in June/July 1943 coincided with the last major U-boat offensive in Caribbean waters. The institution of convoy within the Caribbean and along the northeast coast of Brazil from the second half of 1942, as well as the increased amount of air cover in the area, had led to a sharp reduction in the high rate of merchant ship losses by U-boats in the Trinidad Sector particularly by the start of 1943. With the exception of March 1943, when two U-boats penetrated the Guantanamo Sector and another two raided in the Trinidad Sector, the entire area was virtually free of U-boat activity. The main theaters for the U-boats were the North Atlantic supply route and the route to North Africa.1

There was a corresponding reduction of stations and activities within the Caribbean Sea Frontier up to and including V-E Day. From a total of 111,000 in June 1943, the forces of the Caribbean Defense Command dropped to 91,000 in December 1943and to 67,500 by V-E Day. Of these, Puerto Rican troops made up a significant portion in replacement of Continental United States troops.2 Similarly, naval stations and activities were reduced. By late 1944 San Juan, Guantanamo, and Trinidad were the only naval stations of the Caribbean Sea Frontier with some significant operational status. These operations and facilities were progressively run down between January and May 28, 1945, when the Caribbean Sea Frontier was formally declared a noncombat zone, along with the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.3

By that time, the main Anglo-American preoccupation in the Caribbean was with the postwar settlement. In this regard, the Caribbean Commission established in June 19424 was being developed as a regional instrument to preside over Western-type "economic democracy" in the Caribbean dependencies of Great Britain and the United States.5 The commission was also being viewed as the "model" for other regional commissions under consideration for areas such as Asia.6 During 1943 an important recommendation with regard to the Caribbean Commission was for the institution of a standing "Caribbean Conference" system. It was initially to comprise British and American representatives. However, the door was left open for the inclusion of representatives of the

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