The strategic position of Chaguaramas came into prominence when the area became one of the famed “destroyer bases” in 1941. The British government in exchange for fifty over age destroyers, surrendered eight bases to the united states government. Chaguaramas then became a United States naval base and came into full operation in 1943. The importance of Chaguaramas to the world war II effort was even greater increased with the construction in 1966 of one of the eight Omega navigation systems in the world.
The United States arrived in Trinidad on the 10th October, 1940 on the USS St. Louis. They had arrived in relation to the agreement of 2nd September, 1940, concerning naval and air bases. Instantly on their arrival Admiral Greenslade and General Deevers, who were the American heads of the military side of the mission met with Governor Hubert Young and his Colonial Secretary.
The Governor specified to the Americans that he had previously received an outline of the facility which was anticipated to be asked for in Trinidad. It became reasonably clear from very early that the Americans did not consider the object of the assignment as the pursuit of a naval and air base for the United States in a fraction of the British Empire for the security of the British Empire but supplementary so as that of a naval military and air base in an outlying island, the South American continent for the protection of which the United States government would presume responsibility and which was to serve, if essential, as a jumping off ground for operations by the United States army . One of the undertakings subsequently said that the United States considered Trinidad alone as valued comparable to 40 of the 50 destroyers that had been handed over by the United Stated government in deliberation of the bases and facility given to them by the agreement of the 2nd September.
The admiral admitted that Trinidad is not essential for the protection of the Panama Canal but as an advanced base in the direction of South America.
Groundwork of the site for the naval base and air station commenced on March 1st, 1941, and ceremonial possession took place by 31st March. Installations were recognized in about 3 months time. The base was commissioned on Friday, 1st June, 1941.
The right to evict people off the peninsula was given to the Americans by the Lease Land Agreement, the Defense Regulations, and by the Trinidad Base Agreement. Governor Young disagreed with the Americans quite a lot of times, not only on the concern of the villagers having to depart from Chaguaramas, but on the subject of the bathing beaches being put out of limits to holiday seekers and common villages. He did not like the idea of the Americans having Chaguaramas and wanted them to develop the Caroni Swamp instead and establish a base there He was overridden and ultimately sent home to England.
On February 23rd, 1941, the government set up a resettlement group to facilitate the villagers. On March 14th, 1941, the last 25 families in the district called Nicholas were given three months to find other homes. By the beginning of December 1941, Stubles Bay was sealed off and later the same month Tetron Bay. Notices to Quit were handed to Tetron residents in mid-December. Some of the residents of Nicholas and Tetron Bay were resettled in Carenage. Others moved to Diego Martin and Port-of-Spain, and especially to St. James.
The year 1942 began with Chaguaramas in the role of a military base. Native homes had all been demolished, beach clubs and holiday homes were closed down. In 1943 and 1944 Chaguaramas base was a full military area with the North/West peninsula strictly prohibited to the public.
During the second World War, United States bases were place in strategic positions in an arc stretching from Argentina, New Foundland in the North to Trinidad in the South. Trinidad commanded a exposed approach to Panama Canal and South American trade routes. By 1942, Trinidad became a naval in service base, outfitted with a section base, net, supply and fuel depots, a hospital, a degaussing range (pelican island) and ship restore facilities. Chaguaramas, north west Trinidad, was a branch of this base. Nevertheless, in the agreement between the United Kingdom (for Trinidad) and the United States, precise mention is made that “the area Known as La Retraite shall be excluded”. La Retraite is also acknowledged as Stauble’s bay and was the location of the Marine Police from about 1929 – 1230.