One day, our dispatch-boat found the shores of Guantánamo Bay flowing past on either side. It was at nightfall, and on the eastward point a small village was burning, and it happened that a fiery light was thrown upon some palm-trees so that it made them into enormous crimson feathers. The water was the colour of blue steel; the Cuban woods were sombre; high shivered the gory feathers. The last boatloads of the marine battalion were pulling for the beach. —Stephen Crane, “War Memories”
Twenty years ago, I went to Santiago de Cuba to gather material for a magazine article on the centennial of the Spanish–American War. Over the course of several days, I visited Daiquirí, Siboney, Las Guásimas, El Caney, and of course San Juan Hill—all the main sites associated with that war. All, that is, except one: Guantánamo Bay. But visiting Guantánamo was practically impossible, even then, five years before it became a detention camp for prisoners of the “War on Terror.” The sites related to the Spanish–American War were located inside the perimeter of the US Naval Base—“Gitmo,” to use the military’s shorthand designation—and there was no access to the base from Cuba proper. The only way to enter Gitmo was to fly in on a Navy transport airplane from Virginia Beach, Virginia. And to do that, I would have to obtain permission—rarely granted—from naval authorities. So, much as I would have liked to visit the scene of the war’s first clash between Spanish and American troops, I had to accept the impracticality of such a visit.
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“Overlooking Guantanamo” appears in NER 39.4.