During the depths of the Great Depression, the US found a way to fatten dozens of military contractors, at the expense of every US taxpayer.
They did it in Puerto Rico.
It cost $112,570,000. In current dollars, that becomes $1.93 billion. It was a crime…a massive theft of nearly 2 billion dollars, organized and overseen by the man sent to ensure “law and order” in Puerto Rico…US General Blanton Winship.
Immediately after his arrival, Winship convinced Pres. Roosevelt that a naval air base was needed in Puerto Rico. The green light from FDR was all that Winship needed…to explode the “naval air base” project into 177 projects all over the island, with a final cost of $112,570,000 “exclusive of fees and excess materials.”
Gov. Winship reviews naval troops at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station
Nearly every management job was given to US expatriates and contractors. 90 percent of the workers were North Americans. The officer in charge of overall construction, Commander H.W. Johnson, openly wrote that: “Employees have been transported from the US to fill positions as supervisors, machine operators, and mechanics in certain skilled trades.”
Johnson also described Puerto Ricans as “native labor” who were “inefficient but appropriate for menial tasks, after a period of US-sponsored training.”
Even Félix Benítez Rexach, the architect and engineer who designed and built the famed Normandie Hotel, was dumped in favor of the Standard Dredges Corporation from Baltimore.
For many years, from San Juan to Vieques to Ensenada Honda, the U.S. conducted a de facto WPA construction project in the Caribbean, where millions of dollars disappeared on a daily basis.
Map of military installations and construction projects in Puerto Rico
In the end, these hidden WPA projects created massive wealth for U.S. military insiders and stateside corporations. While these gained enormous profits, property and power (at the expense of US taxpayers), the people of Puerto Rico continued working for slave wages in the sugar cane fields…or starving when they couldn’t find any work at all.
*For more information and sourcing on these military projects throughout Puerto Rico in the late 1930s and early 1940s, see:
Officer-in-Charge, Contract NOy-3680, NAS, San Juan to Chief of BuDocks, Report of Progress and Procedures, May 17, 1940, BuDocks, Contract NOy-3680, RG 71, Box 548, Vol. II.
USN-SMA, Final Report and Factual Survey, Vol. I, General Report, Contract NOy-3680, Magan-Hyland Co., March 22, 1943, general forward and introduction.
For a history of the War Against All Puerto Ricans, read the book…
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