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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Gitmo Anniversary

On February 23, 1903, the infant government of newly independent Cuba signed a document that permitted the United States to station troops at Guantanamo Bay indefinitely. Today our military base there is in the news almost daily, as the detention center for prisoners captured in anti-terrorist campaigns around the world. The events that led to this arrangement, commonly called the Spanish-American War, is often dismissed in textbooks and classrooms as a “minor” war. But in the 1890s it was anything but minor: it seized the country’s imagination and fueled our military might almost as powerfully as today’s war on terror does. American policy makers and media moguls loudly touted our obligation to bring freedom and democracy to oppressed peoples struggling for their rights in Cuba and the Phillipines, and our obligation to oppose the theocratic government of imperial Spain. For a very short history of the war, see Houghton Mifflin’s Reader's Companion to Military History . For Wisconsin residents' experiences in the Spanish-American War, see our collection of Local History & Biography Articles. For example, Milwaukee doctor Harry Danforth was the personal physician to Cuba’s president at the time, and you can see his picture and read a newspaper interview about his narrow escape when war broke out. On page 3 of this article you'll also discover a letter from a young Milwaukee soldier describing the doctor’s death on the front lines.
:: Posted in Curiosities on February 23, 2005
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