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Gitmo Secrets - Guantanamo Bay Setting

Updated on August 21, 2016
Austinstar profile image

Lela earned a B.A. degree in Journalism from Sam Houston University in Huntsville, TX. She has been writing for the online world for years.

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

A markerGuantanamo Bay -
Bahia de Guantanamo, Cuba
get directions

Setting for Gitmo Secrets, a novel

Gitmo - Section map


Description of U.S. Held Base at Gitmo

GTMO - Guantanamo Bay's official name is Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Its nickname is 'Gitmo'. It has been an American outlying island base since 1898. (Spanish American War) The entire base is located on the Southeast side of Cuba. 19°54′N 75°9′W

Located in the Caribbean and surrounded by the island nation of Cuba (Independent). Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and the 16th largest island in the world. Its highest point is Pico Turquino at 9,578 feet.

The United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is an 116-120 square kilometer (45-72 sq. miles) territory. Cuba is 747 miles long and 50 miles in vertical width. It is the only U.S. Military base operated in a Communist country.

Cuba tends to ignore the lease and land holdings of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Cuba has not cashed any of the rent checks for the base since the Cuban Revolution (1953-59). They contend that Gitmo is an illegal operation on sovereign Cuban soil in spite of the lease agreement. As of 2012, no Cubans are allowed to work at GTMO.

To the north of Granadillo Bay and Medico Cay lies Boquarón Cuba. To the north and west is a swampy area drained by the Guantanamo River. This river flows from its headwaters near Mata Abajo, Cuba.

Along the northern side of GTMO is a Cuban built "Cactus Curtain". It is an 8 mile (13km) barrier of cactus planted by Cuban troops to stop Cubans from fleeing the revolution. This was built in 1961. The Cactus Curtain was once mined by Cubans and Americans, but has since been cleared of mines by the U.S. and replaced with motion and sound sensors. The Cubans, however, have left their mines in place.

McCalla Field is located at the East entrance and Windward Point to Guantanamo Bay, but is currently closed. Camp Justice is now located at the old airfield. Most of the major road development at Gitmo is located on this windward point. There are nine beaches on this side in use by base personnel.

On the inside of Windward Point are many coves and peninsulas along Guantanamo Bay itself. These make excellent protected areas for mooring ships.

The highest point at GTMO is John Paul Jones hill. It has an elevation of 495 feet.

Fisherman's Point flows into Hospital Cay. Between these two points is the approximate center of the U.S. held lease. North Toro Cay and South Toro Cay are also located in the waters of the bay.

There is a ferry that connects Fisherman point to the Leeward Point Field, the active airfield. This is where the Guantanamo River empties out into the Caribbean Sea and the mouth of Guantanamo Bay.

Leeward Point Field airport has one active runway (10/28). It is 8,000 feet long. Several aircraft and helicopters use this runway and base.

Located on the westernmost section, and just east of the river is Mahomilla Bay. South of Mahomilla Bay and slightly west of it is the area where most of the housing and working areas are. There are three beaches available for base residents, although one of them has been closed (Hicacal Beach).

This is an isolated area that is practically inaccessible to anyone other than U.S. Naval personnel and the scientists working there.

The points of isolation being the Caribbean Sea, Mahomilla Bay, the N.W. swamplands and the undeveloped land to the west. The border fencing in Gitmo is heavily guarded and protected from an outside entrance.

Fresh water used to be supplied by Cuba, but is now produced by a desalination plant owned by the U.S.

In 2001, Guantanamo Naval Base erected a military prison and detainment camp. It is used to detain alleged militant combatants. These prisoners are mainly P.O.W.'s from Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle East countries.

These approximately 293 prisoners were denied their Geneva Convention rights up until July 11, 2006. About 9,500 employees live and work at GTMO. They are a mixture of Naval and Marine units.

Gitmo maintains a military hospital, security force, naval supply outpost, prison and security task force, and a computer and telecommunications master station. The telecommunications station runs a public radio station. Internet use is severely restricted, however. There are seven churches on the base.

Power is supplied by a $12 million wind power project which produces about 1/4 of the power needs. Diesel generators provide the rest of the power needed

Overview of Guantanamo Bay - Map


Camp Delta JTF Guantanamo


The Prison Camps at Gitmo

In 2002, the U.S. operated several documented or classified detainment units. They are called:

  1. Camp Delta - 612 units
  2. Camp Echo
  3. Camp Iguana
  4. Camp X-Ray - currently closed.
  5. Camp 7 - high security, classified unit for CIA prisoners?
  6. Penny Lane - Spy recruitment, eight units?

The detainees are generally considered to be alleged conflict combatants. Some of the suspected combatants have not been formally charged. These prisoners are linked to organizations such as 'al-Qaeda' or the Taliban. Court battles are ongoing as to the status of these prisoners.

Speculative reports have included notes that most of the prisoners at GITMO are low-level prisoners captured by Pakistanis and Afghans for 'bounty' money.

In 2006, G.W. Bush announced that 14 of the prisoners were "high-value" detainees that had previously been housed in CIA "black sites". Khalid Sheik Mohammed being one of the more well known prisoners in this group. These detainees are believed to be associated with the attacks of 9/11 in NYC.

Amnesty International, the United Nations and the European Union have all requested the closure of the prisons at Gitmo. George W. Bush and Barak Obama have both been involved with executive orders regarding the operations at Guantanamo. Court cases are scheduled with the Supreme Court and other courts. Incidents of illegal and inhumane torture have been charged against the U.S. by prisoners at Gitmo.

As of 2008, the Supreme Court has ruled that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay do indeed have the right of Habeas Corpus and many have filed petitions and won their release. Some have been cleared for release, but no country will accept them for relocation.

Currently, the base is still under Military Command and no real efforts have been made to close the detainment centers. Congress has no plans to enact closure of the base for the foreseeable future.

Watercraft at Gitmo

Watercraft in use at Guantanamo Bay include:

  • a Leeward Ferry Boat
  • a Windward Ferry Boat
  • a Fuel Oil Barge
  • a Large Harbor Tugboat
  • LCU 1671 and Mk-8 landing craft for transportation to areas inaccessible to the ferry. These are also used for hazardous cargo.
  • Three 50ft. utility boats used for personnel transportation
  • Specially outfitted dive boats? (for the purpose of this novel)

Fast Food Comes to Guantanamo

In 1986, McDonald's opened the first and only fast food restaurant in Cuba. Subway sandwich shops followed suit. These shops are completely located on the inside of GTMO's boundaries and Cubans are not allowed access to them.

Other stores located at Gitmo:

  • Kentucky Fried Chicken
  • A&W Root Beer
  • Pizza Hut
  • the Windjammer Restaurant
  • Taco Bell
  • Starbucks
  • Breyers ice cream
  • Baskin-Robbins

These franchises are owned and operated by the Department of the Navy.

There are rumors that meals from these restaurants are used as rewards for prisoner good behavior.

GTMO - What it's like to live and work here.

Windward side of GITMO looking NE


© 2014 Lela


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    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Interesting article. I had no idea that Cuba hasn’t cashed the lease checks for many years. And prisoners are rewarded with fast food for good behavior. I would like to see the place closed for several reasons, but as you stated in your article, no other country wants to take those prisoners that have been cleared for release. It’s a conundrum that continues to haunt us. Voted up.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 3 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      You are a salty old dog, Will! I totally believed you.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I'm kidding, Lela!


    • ahorseback profile image

      ahorseback 3 years ago

      I too hope that Cuba again becomes a friendly neighbor , I have met and love the passion that Cubans have , this war will go on forever and as such Gitmo will remain . There or somewhere else , that's for sure !

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 3 years ago from south Florida

      Gitmo has always been an anomaly but now, thanks to you, m'dear, it is much less a mystery for me. Thanks for your layered research.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 3 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Hi May, No one seems to know what to do with Gitmo. It's one of a kind as far as military bases go. I predict that Cuba will eventually become a friend of the U.S. like the Dominican Republic. There really is no reason not to get along with such a close neighbor.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      So interesting. We here about GITMO but never all the facts. Of course I'm sure there are still things there we don't know about. You, however, have educated us on much of GITMO.

      As for the prisoners that is surely a Catch 22 and I wouldn't hazard a guess on what should be done.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 3 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Zackary - I was reading about the force feeding and watched the video about how the guards said they would rather force feed than let these detainees die even though they were suing to be allowed to die.

      WillStarr - I had no idea it was even possible to retire there!

      ahorseback - That is the basic problem. Some detainees have even been cleared for release, but no country wants to take them!

    • ahorseback profile image

      ahorseback 3 years ago

      Great hub ! now what we must do is decide exactly what we are to do with terrorist detainee's in this eternal war that many in this world , have against this free world ! Try as I may , I will never understand those who would close the base , and what , release them ? Great info hub ...........Ed

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      Thanks Austinstar, I've finally got a clue about what GITMO is about. Up and sharing.

    • srsddn profile image

      srsddn 3 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      Quite interesting information, austinstar. Thanks for sharing.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      We're think of retiring to GITMO.

    • Zackary Lynch profile image

      Zack lynch 3 years ago from Southern Oregon

      I once had a co-worker who was stationed at Guantanamo. His sole job (he was a medic) was to feed inmates who were on a hunger strike the nutrition drink "Ensure" through a nasogastric tube. Been curious about the place ever since. Good hub.