The US Army Air Force base at Baltra (South Seymour) island was officially established in 1942 (although movements started in 1941), after a long period of geopolitical struggle regarding Galapagos and its strategical position in the eastern Pacific Ocean, near the Panama Canal.
During the World War II, the crew stationed in the island patrolled the area protecting the Canal and searching for enemy submarines. There were about 200 buildings, housing 2,400 people, including one heavy bombardment squadron, one reinforced infantry company, one coastal artillery battery, a seacoast searchlight platoon, and an airbase detachment. They baptized the place "The Rock": a barren, hot, dry landscape, full of stones everywhere.
The base included a church, a movie theatre, a beer garden, and a bowling alley. Outposts were set up in Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Bartolomé and other islands, where nowadays remnants can be seen (anti-aircraft cannons, supply barges, abandoned bombs). Local legend said that the iconic Pinaccle Rock, in Bartolomé, was shaped by American air force, when it was taken as a practice target.
In 1946, Baltra was officially turn over to Ecuador.
At least two series of slides in the audiovisual collection of the CDF’s Archive are related to the daily life in the Baltra base. All of them belonged to Dr. Alfred Croneis and were taken in 1943.
One of them is the only group of slides in the collection having a metal frame, which represents a curious feature. They document a number of moments inside the military compound. The other is perhaps the most interesting and intriguing in the entire audiovisual collection. On the one hand, because the slides’ frames do not include any kind of information about the people, the places, or the dates. On the other, because of the moments they represent. Even if a part of them present aerial pictures of some islands, most of them are images of some American characters interacting with the local environment and population, in ways that may produce doubts or astonishment.
Croneis, Alfred. [Baltra's slides]. [Slide]. Baltra : Alfred Croneis, 1943. [N.d.] : col. ill. : 3 x 5 cm. DDC 986. Well preserved.
Text & picture: Edgardo Civallero (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Publication date: 1 May 2022
Last update: 1 May 2022