I found out that Panama City had an American cemetary when I was looking through the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). It’s the best way to find out about cemeteries abroad. The Corozal Cemetery was dedicated in 1914 and holds 5,490 Americans, not all of whom are military.
From the ABMC website: Buried at the Corozal American Cemetery are American servicemen who served during the Mexican – American War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and all other major conflicts.
I hired a driver to drive me around Panama City for the day and when we drove up to the gate the groundskeeper was very surprised that I was coming to visit the cemetery, even though I didn’t have any relatives here. I just told him that I wished to walk around the grounds and he told me that it wasn’t a problem and let us through.
Luckily, my driver had an umbrella in the car and he let me borrow it to walk around the grounds and keep my camera drive.
He didn’t speak any English, and my Spanish is just awful, so it was fun trying to communicate throughout the day, but it did work out in the end.
This is a recollection of a fire onboard the USS Bass (SS-164) told by BMC (SS) Jack Stevenson who served onboard from 1940-1943. He is known by friends and shipmates as “Panama Jack”, and resides in Colorado.
The Bass (SS-164) was the first fleet type submarine built and was commissioned in 1925. There were 50 crew members and 6 officers stationed onboard. She had an unusual design as the engine rooms were split forward and aft. The forward engine room was used for power and drove the ships generators, while the aft engine room was directly coupled to the shafts for propulsion.
In the summer of 1942, the USS Bass (SS-164) was deployed for her 4th war patrol from her base in Coco Solo, Panama. On the morning of 17 August 1942, with batteries fully charged, she made a trim drive. A fire started in the after battery.
There were about 16 men sleeping in crew’s quarters directly above the after battery and other crewmembers tired to wake them to evacuate. The sub started to blow fuel overboard and blew the ballast tanks to surface the boat. At the surface smoke filled the ship and crewmembers donned breathing apparatus known as RBAs.
A total of 27 men were evacuated and placed on artificial respiration and oxygen for several hours, but only 2 men were revived. 11 of the 26 young men who lost their lives aboard the USS Bass (SS-164) are buried at the Corozal American cemetery.
There has been U.S. military presence in Panama since 1903, and there is personnel buried in the Corozal cemetery from around the world. For example, Samuel Maitland, a marine who was killed during the marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, is buried at Corozal.
Walking around the cemetery in the early morning was peaceful. Except for the patter of the rain and a few birds in the trees I had the place to myself as I walk around. From the gatekeepers comments, I don’t think people come often to visit the cemetery.
This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.