This film is part of Free

Gateways to Panama

Windswept palm trees on Devil’s Island and warships in Guantanamo Bay: this evocative issue vividly captures the fear and uncertainty spreading through the Caribbean in 1940.

1940 20 mins


The most compelling scenes in this issue are surely those filmed inside the penal colony on French Guiana. From the guillotine - terrifying even in demonstration mode - to the sobbing prisoner shackled in solitary confinement, the vivid images captured by the March of Time cameras provide something of a distraction from the film’s main subject: the danger posed to the security of the Panama Canal by the vulnerability of the Dutch and French colonies in the region.

This issue uses number of familiar March of Time techniques to summarise the complex situation in the Caribbean in 1940. Maps, diagrams and re-enactments, together with footage from a variety of Caribbean Islands, from the Bahamas to Puerto Rico, along with film of prominent personalities, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Nassau, combine to present a convincing case for US naval protection of the region. At the Havana Conference, held in Puerto Rico in 1940, it was agreed that the USA would apply the spirit of the Monroe Doctrine to protect the French and Dutch colonies in the Caribbean, and also begin negotiating for naval bases in the UK’s possessions, including Jamaica and Trinidad.