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The Panama Canal is a man made feature located in Panama (Republic of Panama) that connects the the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. In Spanish known as Canal de Panamá. Since the day the Panama Canal opened to the present day it is a key part of global infrastructure. The Atlantic entrance in the Caribbean Sea is located to the west of Colón in Colón Province with the Atlantic Locks then across Gatun Lake across the Gailard Cut the the Pacific Locks between Panamá Province and Panamá Oeste Province before entering into the Gulf of Panama and beyond the Pacific Ocean.
Between 1904–1914 the United States constructed and completed the Panama Canal. On May 4, 1904 the United States officially took control of the canal property and inherited the the existing infrastructure from the French effort and was given control of the Panama Canal Zone (CZ). Immediately, the United States government established the Isthmian Canal Commission (ICC) that reported directly to Secretary of War William Howard Taft.
On May 6, 1904 U. S. President Theodore Roosevelt appointed John Findley Wallace as chief engineer. Also appointed was Colonel William C. Gorgas as chief sanitation officer who worked to minimize mosquito-borne diseases including malaria and yellow fever that debilitated the prior efforts and labor force. Facing difficulties, bureaucracy and poor equipment and infrastructure inherited from the French, Wallace resigned during June 1905.
Next, John Frank Stevens was appointed as chief engineer who bypassed the ICC and sent request direct to President Roosevelt. He began by improving the support infrastructure including housing, water systems, repair shops for the workers plus rail infrastructure to remove soil as the canal was cut. During 1905 a U. S. engineering commission worked to review the canal design which was not yet finalized. With his first hand experience, Stevens advocated for a canal with locks to raise and lower ships and would require the creation of Gatun Dam and Gatun Lake, that would become the largest dam and man-made lake in the world.
In 1907, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Major George W. Goethals was appointed as chief engineer and worked until the completion in 1914. He divided the project into the Atlantic Division, Central Division and Pacific Division. Under his leadership, the Panama Canal was completed two years ahead of the scheduled June 10, 1916 target date. On October 10, 1913, U. S. President Woodrow Wilson sent a telegram from the White House to Panama which triggered the demolition charges destroyed the Gamboa Dike thus flooding the Culebra Cut and completing the project that joined the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
World War I
On October 14, 1914 USS Jupiter AC-3 was the first vessel to transit the Panama Canal from west to east. During World War I, the Panama Canal was an important logistical and military asset for the United States and Allies.
During the inter war years November 11, 1918 – September 11, 1939, the U. S. defense of the Canal Zone (C.Z.) was the largest deployment of American troops whose mission was to protect and defend the Panama Canal as a commercial and military asset plus American interests in the region. Until the start of the Pacific War, the American deployment in Panama was the largest overseas contingent of troops. The U. S. developed layers of defenses to protect the Panama Canal from surface or aerial attack including airfields and seaplane bases for reconnaissance, bomber and fighter aircraft, coastal guns in fortifications , anti-aircraft guns and bases for Navy patrol vessels.
World War II History
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and the simultaneous attacks on the Philippines on December 8, 1941 the newly established Caribbean Defense Command carried out its mission of Canal defense through a widespread net of naval and air reconnaissance, with the greatest threat coming from German U-boats.
On May 18, 1942 the United States and Panama sign an agreement concerning the use of Panama defense areas by U. S. forces. By April 1943, the threat to the Canal was diminishing and the defense status was downgraded, and a reduction in troop strength began.
In May 1945 after the defeat of Germany, the Panama Canal was became even more important as all Allied warships and transports worldwide began to move into the Pacific. In a desperate attempt to delay these movements, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) planned a daring operation to use M6A1 Seiran floatplanes from I-400 class submarines to bomb the Panama Canal to disable the locks to prevent or delay shipping from crossing into the Pacific Ocean. In June 1945 the operation was switched to attack the U. S. Navy (USN) anchorage at Ulithi Atoll. The Pacific War ended without any Japanese attack against the Panama Canal.
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