1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Goethals, George Washington
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Goethals, George Washington
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GOETHALS, GEORGE WASHINGTON (1858- ), American army engineer, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., June 29 1858. He entered the College of the City of New York in 1876, but at the end of three years went to West Point, where he graduated in 1880, receiving a commission as second lieutenant of engineers. In 1882 he became first lieutenant and was stationed at Cincinnati, where he was engaged in improving the channel of the Ohio river. Later he taught engineering at West Point for several years, but returned to Cincinnati in 1889. Afterwards he was in charge of the construction of the Muscle Shoals Canal on the Tennessee river and of another canal near Chattanooga, Tenn. In 1891 he was made captain. On the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898 he was commissioned lieutenant-colonel of volunteers and appointed chief engineer of the First Army Corps. In 1900 he was commissioned major in the regular army and three years later was engaged in planning fortifications in the neighbourhood of Newport, R.I. He was then made a member of the General Staff in Washington, and in 1905 graduated from the Army War College. In 1907 he was appointed by President Roosevelt a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and soon afterwards was made its chairman and chief engineer. Two years later he was promoted colonel. His arrival in Panama marked a new era in the construction of the canal. Hitherto the work had been in charge of high-salaried civilian engineers who dwelt at a distance. The work, as reorganized, was directed by army engineers subject to the control of the President of the United States. Several changes of plan, such as widening the canal, were now inaugurated. Col. Goethals favoured the lock form of canal, chosen by Congress in 1906, instead of the sea-level type. There was considerable opposition to his view but a special commission after inspection gave him support. He took up his abode on the spot, came into close contact with the labourers, won their admiration and confidence, and after seven years' labour brought his task to a successful issue. On May 15 1914 the canal was officially opened to barges, and on Aug. 15 following was declared open to world commerce. Col. Goethals was appointed the first civil governor of the Canal Zone by President Wilson in 1914 and the following year was made major-general. He favoured complete sovereignty of the United States over the Canal Zone. He resigned the governorship in 1916 and was appointed chairman of the board constituted to report on the Adamson Eight-Hour law. In 1917 he was appointed state engineer of New Jersey, but after America's entrance into the World War he was released to serve as manager of the Emergency Fleet Corporation. He had little faith in the plan for a wooden fleet and after three months resigned. Toward the close of 1917 he was appointed acting quartermaster-general, U.S. Army, and his “especially meritorious and conspicuous service” brought him the D.S.M. the following year. In 1918 he was appointed chief of the division of purchase, storage and traffic, and he was also a member of the War Industries Board. At his request he was relieved from active service in March 1919. He subsequently became the head of a business organization engaged in engineering and construction work.