Ch 2: Cuba's Part in the War

The completion of the Panama Canal has greatly increased the strategic importance of Cuba. In the elaborate plans made to further German aims in the West, the sheltered and isolated cayos on the Cuban coast were to play an important part in providing" supply bases for raiders, submarines, and enemy warships in the Western Atlantic. Fast neutral steamers plying between Spain and Cuba could provide the most prompt and secure communication for Germany with the West free from general interference. But from the outset President Menocal, a member of the family of the famous engineer who projected the Nicaragua Canal, enforced a code of friendly neutrality which nonplussed enemy agents who were enjoying practical immunity in other neutral countries. When raiders were playing their greatest havoc with British shipping, cavalry patrols were used to sweep across remote cayos at low tide, and to guard the shore of promising bays and inlets where supplies could be cached. It is a noteworthy fact that two important raiders loaded with crews and spoil from Allied ships decided to risk the final run for shelter in the Delaware, rather than face the rigid neutrality of more convenient Cuban ports. These ships were promptly interned, however, when they reached American waters. The work of the Cuban Secret Service was admirable throughout. By its agency many far-reaching plots in the United States, Central and South America were foiled. When our increased naval vigilance in the North Sea had negated the utility of Dutch and Scandinavian steamers, the flood of German agents in Spain found that their direct line westward was also short-circuited and useless.

Cuba Joins the Allies
When the Lusitania was sunk, popular feeling in Cuba had risen to boiling point. There were angry demonstrations in many cities. Prominent Germans were ostracised. In both Houses eminent leaders had demanded war, echoing the popular voice. For diplomatic reasons, however, action was deferred until the United States made its decision. Directly the news was flashed to Havana, the President penned his message, and a few hours after Washington had decided, both Houses in Cuba voted unanimously for war amid frenzied scenes of enthusiasm among the people whose impatience had been curbed for many months.
   Thus, Cuba entered the war on April 7th, 1917. The German ships in her ports were seized and turned over to the Allies, oblivious to self interest which was already suffering from lack of shipping. The immense commercial organizations of the enemy were wound up promptly, and all German subjects were interned. The splendid ports of the Island were opened to Allied warships and the small Cuban Navy took over effective areas for patrol. Profitable sugar sales to neutrals were cancelled, and the Government enforced measures to send the entire crops to the Allies at a fixed and moderate price, also stimulating the production of alcohol and other by-products used in making explosives. With the cost of every factor in production rising by leaps and bounds, the moderate price fixed for centrifugal sugar to the Allies is the most notable act of non-profiteering recorded during the war. Cuba refused neutral offers for cargoes at ten times the price fixed for the Allied countries.
   The Regular Army of 20,000 men, the most effective military force in Latin America, armed and trained on American lines, was already on a war footing. A bill was passed for compulsory military service, and arrangements were made to send a division of picked Regulars to France. A large number of officers and men went to the United States for a final course of trench warfare at training camps under European instructors.
   The activity of thousands of German reservists in neutral Latin countries was stimulated by the entry of the United States, and threats were made against the Panama Canal and the Texas border. There were also plans made to equip privateers to raid the coasts of the British West Indies. The advantage of Cuba as an effective outpost for the Allies with forces ready for emergencies, was obvious, and the despatch of Cuban troops to the front was deferred at the request of the United States.
   The activity of thousands of German reservists in neutral Latin countries was stimulated by the entry of the United States, and threats were made against the Panama Canal and the Texas border. There were also plans made to equip privateers to raid the coasts of the British West Indies. The advantage of Cuba as an effective outpost for the Allies with forces ready for emergencies, was obvious, and the despatch of Cuban troops to the front was deferred at the request of the United States.
   The work of the Cuban Secret Service, a desire to hamper sugar production, and also to embarrass the United States, stirred enemy agents to foment diplomatic trouble for Cuba with her mainland neighbours. But conscription had now enrolled all males between 20 and 30, an emphatic answer to German bluster, and enemy intrigues gradually overreached themselves. A general reaction was setting in. Brazil joined the Allies on October 26th, 1917, enemy influence waned rapidly elsewhere, and fresh efforts could be made to send Cuban troops abroad. But transport difficulties now could not be rapidly overcome, France could no longer arrange the tonnage, our aid was impossible and Cuba had turned over her own share of seized ships.
   The Army was reviewed by General Sir Charles Barter, K.C.B., in the presence of Sir Maurice de Bunsen and other members of the British War Mission. Inspector Generals from the United States also made eulogistic reports, and had arranged final details of transportation when the armistice intervened. Cuba was bitterly disappointed that these forces did not reach the front. But in the far-flung strategy of the war the Island filled an important role nevertheless, especially to the United States. In other ways also invaluable contributions to the general cause of the Allies have been rendered.

The Cuban Red Cross
The Red Cross Society which had worked enthusiastically from the outset redoubled its efforts after the Republic declared war. President Menocal extended a deep measure of official support to facilitate the work of the organization which was under the personal direction of his wife. Large consignments of supplies and clothing were continued for the destitute families of Flanders, with weekly shipments (generally exceeding a hundred cases) of hospital dressings, medical comforts, pyjamas, and supplies for the wounded, and knit articles, conserves, tobacco, and cigarettes for the troops.
   A large number of well-known Cuban ladies were trained as nurses, and served in France. Among those cited for special service with the French wounded were the Countess Beaumont, the Marquise de Manry, Miss Castillo Duany, Countess DuCros, Mrs. Bonetard, Miss Ponce de Leon, Miss Tejedor, Miss Garcia, and the Countess Montangon who died from exposure after arduous work in advanced casualty clearing stations and whose husband was killed in the French service. Prominent Cubans maintained one section of a famous military hospital in Paris through the entire war, and another large hospital was equipped and sustained at Cambo, with a volunteer staff of Cuban doctors and nurses, by Sr. Abreu who lost a son at the front. The work of Dr. de Torres in the special hospital for soldiers with contagious diseases in Luchon and his research are well known in England. Two ladies who assisted this famous Cuban doctor, Mrs. de la Torre and Mrs. Mendiola, and voluntarily exposed themselves to some terrible scourges, must be mentioned. Several Cuban surgeons lost their lives from various causes.
   Senor Conill established and equipped an ordnance factory which was operated at exact cost for the French Government, and he has now provided some large workshops for the manual training of maimed soldiers. A home for treatment and training of blind war veterans has been maintained in Paris by a Cuban fund managed by the Consul General, Senor Vallin, and Senor Cartaya established a free dispensary for soldiers' wives and children, with a staff of his countrywomen as nurses and helpers for refugees.
   Cuba has also donated large sums regularly to the Red Cross of all the Allies, including special grants to Serbia and Montenegro, and for disabled soldiers in the British Isles, Australia, and Canada. A fund has been established to assist in restoring certain French towns. The Government is now founding an international league for the care of destitute orphans of soldiers, an organization which will include representatives of each Ally for co-operation in carrying out the work. An orphanage has already been established in Paris by the Cuban Government as a nucleus for this work.

Cuban Propaganda in Latin America
Cuba has attained a position of importance in the more recent phases of the Pan-American movement, because of her intimate relations with the United States. Long before our belated efforts were started to stem the tide of German propaganda in the West, the public men of Cuba were carrying out a wide campaign to counteract its effects in Latin America, and from 1914 this influence made steady progress. France cordially recognised this from its inception, and decorated Senor Mora, the editor of "El Mundo," for his preliminary efforts, and Senator Torriente and others who could afterwards carry on the work officially.
   During his four years on the Western front, Albert Insua, the Cuban novelist, who is widely read in Spain and Spanish speaking countries, reached a large and difficult public with his trenchant articles. The appeals to the South American Republics by Senator Torriente, and his fearless denunciation of certain policies dictated there by German influence, deserve a place in history. The convincing book "Ladrones de Tierras," by Vicente Suarez, also should be mentioned. By subsidy it had a wide circulation m places where propaganda was necessary. Packed with effective illustrations, the Sinking of the Lusitania, London children killed by Zeppelins, the executions of Nurse Cavell and Captain Fryatt, scenes from devastated France, and the achievements of the British Army, it epitomised our cause more emphatically than any of our sporadic and crude propaganda in the New World, before Mr. Mair and Mr. Phillips Oppenheim organised the work, and Sir Eric Hambro took charge of Latin America.
   Professor de Fuentes, of the National University, was one of many leaders of Cuban thought and culture who strengthened the sentiments of fellow intellectuals in adjoining countries, the vast majority of whom were pro Ally. "The Boletin de Informacion," directed by Senor Collantes of the Cuban Commission of Propaganda, and issued monthly, contained an effective summary of news, speeches and war efforts from London, Paris, and Rome. Senator Perez, Senor Cancio, Dr. Capote, Justice Ferrer, and Sr. Bello, of this Commission, General Nunez, Dr. Montoro, Sr. Desvernine, Dr. Vazquez, Dr. Ortiz, and Senator Dolz are representative of a long list of men who have espoused our cause. This influence played an important part in the revulsion of feeling which swept across Latin America during 1917, before which Cuba was our only universal friend. Brazil declared war in October, 1917. Bolivia, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, subsequently followed by Peru, Uruguay, and Ecuador, severed diplomatic relations with Germany. Costa Rica, Haiti, and Honduras entered the war a few months later. Panama had loyally joined the Allies with the United States.
   In all Cuba's efforts, animated by the general ideals of the Entente, influenced by deep intellectual ties with France, the dominant note has been an appreciation and tribute for British sacrifice and achievement. The average American today has no adequate comprehension of the casualties of the British army, of the millions of men who voluntarily enlisted, or of what the world owes to the Silent Navy. By one small country only have these facts been spread broadcast, with an effective array of statistics and ratio in concise and impressive form to silence the far-flung parrot-cry that England would fight to the last Frenchman and American.
   There are men of all classes at home who disregard foreign opinion. During the first two years of war the fixed policy of the military authorities was to discourage the activity of visiting journalists and to drive them to the enemy side, where they enjoyed every facility. Established far too late, the Ministry of Information was the first department to be closed after the armistice, just as a small army of apostles for the United States was deploying over the world. Anyone who has travelled widely must realise how much ground we have lost by a fatuous tendency to ignore the popular amenities which today are far more important than diplomatists in maintaining friendly relations.
   The work of Mr. Louis Raemakers has been as potent as an extra division to the Allies. In like manner scores of other names come to mind of men to whom we owe a debt of gratitude, especially in Latin America, though their efforts were generally overlooked. For this reason I have referred to a few of the spokesmen in the unanimous voice of Cuba for our cause and ideals. France understands that international ties must be based on something more human than commerce, and her strong bonds with the Western nations today have been strengthened by Mr. Clemenceau's sympathetic and personal knowledge of those growing countries, and his intimacy with their culture and aspirations. "The moment that we have a true view of the universe we possess it."

Anglo-Cuban Relations
In his report to the Foreign Office regarding the reception of the British Mission, Mr. Stephen Leech, our Minister in Havana, wrote:
"During my long residence in Cuba I have witnessed the arrival and welcome of a variety of missions and prominent persons from different countries, and I can record none who received so genuinely cordial a reception as did Sir Maurice de Bunsen and those who accompanied him. There have always existed here strong feelings of friendship for Great Britain and this visit provided a special opportunity of demonstrating Cuban sympathy."
   Writing subsequently to Mr. Balfour, Sir Maurice de Bunsen, after referring to the warmth of Allied feeling in Cuba, added: "The President has carried through the Legislature a measure of conscription for the army. The troops turn out well, as we had an opportunity of remarking at a review held by President Menocal in honour of the Mission, Lieut. General Sir Charles Barter taking the salute at the request of the President. Assisted throughout by Mr. Leech, His Majesty's Minister, we spent four interesting days receiving the hospitable attentions of an active reception committee in the form of banquets and other entertainments. Mr. Leech is on excellent terms with the Government and with the British community."
   The progress of Cuba vindicates the friendly sympathy expressed by the British people when the intervention of the United States struck the final blow in the Island's long struggle for independence. This sympathy laid the first foundation of Anglo-American friendship and unity. Neither the Americans nor Cubans forget the attitude of the English Admiral when the German ships attempted to hamper the United States in Manila Bay. Great Britain stood solidly for American policy because it was based on unselfish idealism, in support of human rights.

Some Condensed History
After the capture of Havana in 1762 Cuba remained in British hands for nearly a year, but was given up in adventitious exchange for West Florida by Lord Bute. From one ship monthly, eleven hundred entered Havana during this occupation when it was a free port. British policy henceforth became permanently impressed on the colonial mind of Cuba. Clauses in President Monroe's message in 1823 warning the Holy Alliance, were formulated into the famous American Doctrine twenty years later from the fear that England might acquire Cuba for incorporation with the West Indian colonies according to the desire of many dissatisfied islanders groaning under a retrogressive administration. Tentative Suggestions of the purchase, however, were finally abandoned after the Ostend manifesto when Spain sternly rejected the projected offer for the sale of the Island to the United States for $120,000,000.
   Henceforth the Cubans planned and fought persistently for their freedom from intolerable conditions, and in the final struggle they had so nearly succeeded that when the United States intervened in their favour the issue was decided by the moderate engagements near Santiago and the Naval battle. In the large Eastern provinces the Federal troops then held only two inland towns, the Cubans maintaining their own government over 25,000 square miles as an interesting communal republic rigorously blockaded. The West was a desert of ashes with large garrisons holding the larger cities and the Cuban forces marching at will in the interior. Had the United States recognised the belligerency of the army which had checkmated and deadlocked 240,000 Federal troops for nearly three years, the Cubans could have secured more artillery and ammunition and achieved their end. Spain had expended money and blood like water without the glimmer of a chance for victory. The destruction of the USS "Maine" and American intervention hastened the inevitable and enabled the baffled Imperial army to withdraw with honour after purely local engagements on outposts by one city garrison with an advance corps of the American army.
   With magnificent altruism the United States aided in the reconstruction of Cuba and withdrew, leaving the Islanders to work out their own destiny. There have been hectic political troubles unavoidable in a new country, but the march of triumphant progress has never halted. Even South Africa provides no finer example of magnanimity than that shown by the Cubans towards their late enemies. The interests and rights of the Spanish residents were safeguarded. An enlightened civil code ensured them broad constitutional rights, and today Cuba is the Mecca for thousands of ambitious and progressive Peninsulars who seek wider opportunities.
   Our share in Cuba's trade has been inadequate. Subsequent chapters will give other criteria beside commerce as gauges of Cuban advancement. Yet it is a universal standard. How few were the years before the war when our total exports to Germany were one-third less than Cuba's foreign purchases of manufactured goods in 1918, and included raw materials necessary for home industries! Yet we were lulled with the plea of tolerance that we must show for our best customer! In 1899 our exports to the United States were under £35,000,000. Ten markets like Cuba's today would equal the entire volume of our present exports. But what does the general public know or care about it? The publication of such facts might encroach a few paragraphs of space from more popular topics, so commercial statistics become buried with official archives, and in time the government will be blamed as the merry whirl goes on with the slogan of less work and more pay, while a small minority with brains and imagination carries out the policies which save the day. In 1913, 73,000 free lectures of one type were delivered in the United States. The topics related almost entirely to foreign countries and the audiences were chiefly of the artisan class. When the British public is educated to a wider view of the world we shall see great changes in our standing. But let us consider some aspects of the problem of British trade with Cuba.

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