The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Goethals, George Washington

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The Cyclopædia of American Biography  (1918) 
James E. Homans, editor
Goethals, George Washington

GOETHALS, George Washington, military engineer, b. in Brooklyn, N. Y., 29 June, 1858, son of John Louis and Marie (Le Baron) Goethals. His mother and father both were of sturdy Holland stock, and for centuries the Goethals family has been noted in the Netherlands for producing alike great soldiers and distinguished scholars. Several of them fought so valiantly against the Paynim in the Crusades that their names are still reverently preserved in the historical records of old Flanders. Always the Goethals men have been known for their capacity and readiness to do big things. Col. George Washington Goethals, the builder of the Panama Canal, is essentially a self-made man. At eleven years of age he was an errand boy in a broker's office, in New York City, and at fourteen became cashier and bookkeeper. He also entered the College of the City of New York, and soon made his mark as an earnest and indefatigable student. His early ambition was to be a physician, and it was not long before he matriculated in Columbia University, intending to take the medical course. The confinement, together with the close application, always characteristic of him in whatever he has undertaken, caused his health to fail, and he was obliged to abandon his studies. But he was by no means beaten. The fighting blood of his Crusader ancestors asserted itself, and he resolved to go into the navy. Lacking influential friends, however, he could not obtain an appointment. Then he turned to the army, and through the interest of “Sunset” Cox, at that time a powerful political leader in New York State, he obtained an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point on 21 April, 1876. He was graduated 12 June, 1880, standing second in a class of fifty-four, and was one of the two members of his class to be commissioned as second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers, a selection accorded to the graduates who rank highest at that time. After a short period as instructor in astronomy at the academy, he was stationed with the engineers' battalion at Willet's Point, N. Y., in 1881-82, attending Engineer School of Applications. He became first lieutenant 15 June, 1882, and for two years was attached to the Department of the Columbia under General Miles. He was then transferred to Cincinnati, Ohio, as assistant to Lieut.-Col. W. E. Merrill, whose work involved the improvement of the Ohio River for navigation. It was here that Colonel Goethals claims that he obtained his real start as an engineer. He told Colonel Merrill that he was there to learn, and his superior officer took him at his word by putting him to work as a rodman. By sheer ability and steady application, he worked his way up to the position of foreman. Young Goethals had founded his life upon a few broad, solid, simple principles, and at their root was the quality of loyalty. From 1885 to 1889 he served as instructor and assistant professor in civil and military engineering at West Point, and in 1889 he was again assigned to the work of improving along the Ohio River, but a month later was transferred to Florence, Ala., to do similar work on the Tennessee River. He remained there until 1894, when he was called to Washington as assistant to the chief of engineers, U. S. A., Brig.-Gen. Thomas Lincoln Casey. Subsequently, he served under Brig.-Gen. William P. Craighill and John M. Wilson until 1898. He became a captain 14 Dec, 1891, and when the Spanish War broke out was made lieutenant-colonel of volunteers. On 9 May he was chosen as chief engineer of the First Army Corps, and at the close of the war was honorably discharged from the volunteer service. Again he entered at West Point, being assigned to duty there in November, 1898, as instructor of practical military engineering and in command of Company E, Battalion of Engineers. He continued there until August, 1900. On 7 Feb., 1900, he received his commission as major, and on his relief from duty at West Point was sent to Newport, R. I., to take charge of the fortifications of Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts, and the river and harbor improvements in that locality. On the organization of the general staff in 1903 he was assigned to duty in Washington, and while serving on the general staff was graduated at the Army War College, and afterward served as secretary of the Taft Board of Fortifications. He was made lieutenant-colonel on 4 March, 1907, and on the same date was assigned to membership of the Isthmian Canal Commission, of which he became chairman and chief engineer on 1 April, 1907. It was at a critical time that Colonel Goethals assumed charge of the gigantic work of building a waterway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Isthmus of Panama. As early as 1875 a project for such a canal was set on foot in France at the suggestion of Count Ferdinand de Lesseps. In that year, after the subject had been discussed at length by the Congrès des Sciences Géographiques at Paris, a provisional company was formed by General Turr and other individuals for the purpose of securing a concession from the Republic of Colombia. This syndicate was composed of speculators whose sole motives were of a commercial nature. The spirit that moved them in the promotion was exhibited by their successors in the conduct of the enterprise — at least until it fell into the hands of the American government — for the management of it has been declared to have been “characterized by a degree of extravagance and corruption that have had few, if any, equals in the history of the world.” The Colombian government signed a contract giving to the promoters the exclusive privilege of constructing and operating a canal through the territory of the Republic without any restrictive conditions, excepting that if the route adopted traversed any portion of the land embraced in the concession to the Panama Railroad, the promoters should arrive at an amicable understanding with that corporation before proceeding. The concession was transferred to La Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interocéanique de Panama, generally known as the “Panama Canal Company,” and on 15 May, 1879, the International Conference met to determine the route. The conference determined that the canal should be built from the Gulf of Limon (Colon) to the Bay of Panama — a route which has been followed in a general way through all the enterprise from that day to 1 April, 1907, when Colonel Goethals took supreme command and in due course brought it to a successful issue. It was at the meeting of the conference in 1875 that Ferdinand de Lesseps made his first public appearance in connection with the Panama project. Coming with the prestige of his great work of building a waterway through the Isthmus of Suez, as well as the part he had taken in the construction of the Corinth Canal, it was logical that he should be chosen to assume the direction of the Panama venture. He asserted confidently that “the Panama Canal will be more easily begun, finished and maintained than the Suez Canal.” But De Lesseps seems to have overestimated his own powers, for the work under his régime was a deplorable failure. He was not an engineer and had but a limited knowledge of the science of engineering, yet he undertook to lay out the work himself, acting upon data which a professional engineer would have deemed insufficient or unreliable. Almost to the last he believed that he enjoyed the unbounded confidence of the French people, and that their purses never would be closed to his demands. The company collapsed, bringing complete ruin to many stockholders and serious loss to a much larger number. The Paris Congress had estimated the cost of constructing the canal at $214,000,000, and the time necessary for its completion at twelve years. The technical commission expressed the opin- ion that the entire operation might be finished in eight years at a cost of $168,600,000. De Lesseps altered the sum fixed by the commission to $131,600,000, which he insisted would cover the entire cost of building the canal. He made a tour of the United States, Eng- land, Belgium, Holland, and France, telling in public speeches of the enormous profits which would accrue to the fortunate investors in the Panama Canal project. Following this campaign $60,000,000 in shares of $100.00 denomination were quickly taken up by the public. Extravagance and mismanagement characterized the operations of this company, and it went into the hands of a receiver on 4 Feb., 1889, the civil court of the Seine appointing Joseph Brunet to take charge of its affairs. It was a grave situation, and it affected not less than 200,000 persons who had invested in good faith, and who were stunned by the catastrophe. Some $90,000,000 had been expended, none of which would be saved unless the canal were built. It was estimated that a lock canal might be completed in eight years, at a further cost of $100,000,000. A new agreement was signed 10 Dec., 1890, with the Colombian government, which granted an extension of ten years for the completion of the work. Joseph Brunet died, and he was succeeded by Achille Monchicourt. The latter procured a further concession by which Colombia granted an extension until 31 Oct., 1894, for the organization of a new company, and ten years from that date for the completion of a canal. The capital of the hew Panama Canal Company consisted of 650,000 shares of $20.00 each, 60,000 of which were to be subscribed for, while 50,000, absolutely unencumbered, were to go to the Colombian government in consideration of the contracts granting extension. Thus, five years after the appointment of a receiver for the Interoceanic Canal Company, what was generally known as the “New Panama Canal Company” was definitely established. Long before Colonel Goethals became a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission, there had been much argument in the United States Congress — and out of it — as to the relative values of the Nicaragua and Panama Canal routes. Men whose judgment admittedly demanded serious consideration were on either side. The question was still unsettled in the public mind when the commission, in November, 1901, presented a report of its finding to the President. It declared, briefly, that the “total amount for which the Panama Company offers to sell and transfer its canal property to the United States” is $109,141,500. The value set upon it by the commission was $40,000,000. This notwithstanding that the receivers of the old company valued the assets that passed into his hands at about $90,000,000 while several million dollars had been expended by the new company. When this finding became known in Paris, the directors of the New Panama Canal Company immediately resigned, and at a general meeting of stockholders it was decided to offer to sell out to the commission all assets, rights, and interests for the sum of $40,000,000. The importance of a waterway through the Isthmus of Panama, both strategically and commercially, had long been recognized by the U. S. government, and it first entered into a treaty with New Granada, the then possessor of the isthmus in 1846. In course of time New Granada government split up and the Republic of Colombia took its place. There were many changes of rule. At one time Panama was a sovereign state, at another a mere department of the consecutive confederations known as Colombia and New Granada. During fifty-seven years fifty-three revolutions and kindred outbreaks took place in the isthmus. One civil war lasted three years and another nearly twelve months. Twice Panama attempted to secede from the confederations in which she had practically no voice, and six times United States warships were forced to land marines and sailors to protect property and to see that transit across the isthmus was kept clear. The United States already possessed and exercised on the isthmus certain proprietary rights and sovereign powers that no other nation had. On four different occasions the government of Colombia requested the landing of troops to protect its troops and to maintain order — the order which it was itself incompetent to maintain, and more than once it was only the firm attitude of the United States which prevented European powers from interfering on the isthmus. President Theodore Roosevelt, in 1903, decided that the situation had become intolerable and that it was the duty of the American people to themselves, as well as to the world, to take up the building of the canal forthwith. The people of Panama were anxious for the United States to do the work, but there was a general feeling that first of all they must shake off the yoke of Colombia. Already dozens of leaders on the isthmus were doing their best to excite revolution. Colombia had failed to ratify with the United States a treaty under the provisions of which the canal would be built, and the Panamanians were understood to be ready to rise in rebellion as soon as the Colombian Congress should adjourn. President Roosevelt at once sent several naval vessels to Panama, the orders to the officers being to maintain free and uninterrupted transit across the isthmus, and to prevent the landing of armed forces at any point within fifty miles of Panama. These orders were precisely such as had been issued in 1900, 1901, and 1902. A body of Colombian troops landed at Colon and threatened to kill all Americans there. Captain Hubbard, of the United States gunboat “Nashville,” acted promptly, and the Colombians were glad to give up their murderous project. The Republic of Panama attained its independence without bloodshed. Having come to be recognized by the United States, the Hay-Bunau-Varilla treaty was made in the autumn of 1903 and fully ratified 26 Feb., 1906. This treaty not only guaranteed the independence of the Republic of Panama, but provided for the payment to Panama of $10,000,000 in gold coin, and an annual payment beginning nine years from above date, of $250,000, to continue so long as the convention lasted. It granted to the United States all rights in the New Panama Canal Company and the Panama Railroad Company, and provided also that the United States shall have in perpetuity the “use, occupation, and control of a zone of land, and land under water, for the construction, maintenance, operation, sanitation, and protection of said canal, of the width of ten miles, together with all its lands within the limits of the zone above described, and, in addition thereto, the group of small islands in the Bay of Panama, named Perrico, Naos, Culebra, and Flamenco. The zone was to be known as the Canal Zone, and all the military, civil, and judicial powers essential to its temporary government were to be exercised as the President of the United States should direct. When the United States Canal Commission arrived at the isthmus in April, 1904, the only work in progress was the excavation of the Culebra Cut, where a few French machines were employed with a force of about 700 men. Owing to the long lapse of time since the New Panama Canal Company had ceased operations, a chaotic condition prevailed along the entire line of the canal, and the plant and equipment was in such a deteriorated and scattered state as to require months for its collection and repair. The commission valiantly attacked the work with John F. Wallace as engineer-in-chief and Surg.-Col. W. C. Gorgas in charge of the sanitation department. William H. Taft, then Secretary of War, assumed general supervision. The work of the commission proved unsatisfactory, and in 1905 President Roosevelt obtained the resignation of the entire body and placed the control of affairs definitely in the hands of an executive committee with Engineer Wallace in full control of the construction. Before sixty days had expired Mr. Wallace retired and his place was filled by the selection of John F. Stevens, who assumed charge in August, 1905. For nearly two years Mr. Stevens supervised the work, and in April, 1907, resigned. It was then that President Roosevelt, with the hearty concurrence of Secretary Taft, decided to install a military organization. A new commission was created, with Colonel Goethals as chairman and chief engineer. The other members were Lieut.-Col. H. F. Hodges, assistant chief engineer; H. H. Rousseau, assistant to the chief engineer; Lieut.-Col. W. L. Sibert, division engineer of the Atlantic division; Lieut.-Col. D. D. Gaillard, division engineer of the central division; Col. W. C. Gorgas, chief of the department of sanitation, and J. C. Blackburn, in charge of the department of civil administration. It was stipulated that the members of the reorganized commission were to dwell on the isthmus and personally supervise the work under their charge. Among the disadvantages against which Colonel Goethals had to fight was the prejudice among the men against a military administration. The former chief engineer, Mr. Stevens, had been very popular and there was a feeling of interrogation with regard to the new chief engineer which easily might have become downright antagonism. All this made Colonel Goethals somewhat indignant, and he took occasion to say that the army was not in charge in a military sense; that there was to be no militarism, no salutes, that he had left behind him all his military duties, and would command the army of Panama, fighting nature for the accomplishment of the end that had brought them all down there. The men's cause was his, he reminded them, they had common enemies, Culebra Cut and the climate, and the completing of the canal would be their victory. Colonel Goethals said he intended to be the commanding officer, but the chiefs of divisions would be the colonels, the foremen, the captains, and no one who did his duty had aught to fear from militarism. In the army the commanding officer was the father of his men. When he (Colonel Goethals) commanded a company he knew his men, their trials and troubles, and so would he treat the men there on the canal; giving a ready ear to their complaints and grievances. Anyone could come to him at any time, or detain him as he went about the work, to explain their particular trials or to make suggestions as to the work, and they could be assured of an audience. Colonel Goethals made his word good by setting aside Sunday mornings as the time for his hearing complaints and grievances of all kinds and descriptions. In a very short time the men found that working under an experienced, thoroughly human army officer meant a smooth running labor machine such as the Panama Canal never had had from the beginning until Colonel Goethals took charge. With characteristic military promptitude, Colonel Goethals went vigorously to work at once. Certain alterations in the plans of his predecessors appeared to him to be necessary, and he showed no hesitation in making them. For example, the dams and locks which were to have been placed at La Boca were located four miles further inland, at Miraflores, thus placing them beyond effective gunfire from a hostile fleet. Both the canal and the locks were widened, and the Panama Railroad was relocated. In his annual report of 1909 Colonel Goethals estimated the probable cost of the completed canal at $375,000,000. The number of workmen employed on the canal in July, 1911, was 47,740; on the Panama Railroad 6,881, and the rate of excavation was more than two and one-half million cubic yards per month. There were also 100 steam shovels of various capacities, and eighteen, dredges, the latter being classified as seven ladder, three dipper, six pipe-line suction, and two sea-going suction dredges. So rapidly did the work proceed, and so skillfully and successfully were all obstacles surmounted, that although, originally, Colonel Goethals did not anticipate completion of the canal before 1915, the first vessel passed in August, 1914. The steam shovels finished their work on Culebra Cut on 10 Sept., 1913, and water was admitted into the cut in October, 1913. Colonel Goethals was eminently fitted to cope with the many engineering problems which were involved in the digging of the Panama Canal. He had had the benefit of theoretical training both as teacher and student, and his practical experiences in canal construction had been varied and wide. He was especially familiar with the lock type of construction. His experience in building canals along various western rivers had included the supervision of the Mussel Shoals Canal, on the Tennessee River; a canal near Chattanooga, 14 miles long, 70 to 100 feet wide, and 6 feet deep, with 11 locks and an aqueduct 900 feet long and 60 feet wide; and the Colbert Shoals Canal. In all of these undertakings, he showed extraordinary ability in handling large forces of men, and which, while doubtless due in part to his training as an army officer, must be credited largely to some personal quality in himself that closely approached genius. When, on becoming chief engineer of the Panama Canal, he had under him 30,000 workmen of half a dozen nationalities, exhibiting a diversity of that difficult quality called “temperament,” which it was impossible to ignore, his tact, coupled with a firmness of discipline which never relaxed, and yet which never became irksome to any man doing his ordinary everyday duty, enabled him to manage his army of civilian laborers as easily as he had directed the soldiers of his regiment in other days. As soon as Colonel Goethals took charge, he made a thorough study of the conditions before him. As a result he became a strong advocate of the lock canal, as against the sea level type. The reported sinking, 25 Nov., 1908, of a portion of the Gatun dam — the key to the lock level canal — construction of which had begun, aroused criticism from opponents of this plan, although it had been definitely and officially approved by act of Congress. President Roosevelt also, in 1906, had favored a lock canal. Nevertheless he now appointed an advisory committee of engineers, consisting of Arthur P. Davis, John R. Freeman, Allen Hazen, Isham Randolph, James Dix Schuyler, and Frederick P. Stearns, to decide whether the Gatun dam was feasible and safe, and once more to pass upon the type of canal to be built. Colonel Goethals caused borings to be made on the site of the Gatun dam under his personal supervision, and the result was that the board were convinced the lock type of canal as projected was entirely feasible and safe. They so reported to the President, while Colonel Goethals fearlessly asserted that the Gatun dam, in resisting the pressure of the lake, could and would be made as safe as the adjoining hills. In his annual report, submitted in 1909, he fixed the cost of the completed canal at $375,000,000. The number of employees on the canal at that time was 26,835, and on the Panama Railroad, 6,864. From the beginning of the work under Colonel Goethals, he was everywhere along the line of the canal. His yellow motor car, running on rails, carried him rapidly from one part of the work to another, and he always grasped the details of any work he inspected, on the instant. He had no false notions about his position as chief engineer of the greatest engineering work the world had ever seen. He realized full well that a single blunder on his part might bring down upon his head the criticism of the people of the United States. But he was a soldier, as well as a capable engineer, and he drove straight ahead, taking risks as they came, with his eye always on the object of the battle — to complete the Panama Canal in as short a time and at as low a cost as would be consistent with perfect accomplishment. When Colonel Goethals had completed his great work he saw before him a waterway that had been made in the face of almost unbelievable difficulties. He, with his predecessors and associates, had removed mountains, built an inland sea, and made the waters of the canal a connecting link uniting two oceans. The amount of material handled in the construction of the Panama Canal was about 260,000,000 cubic yards. The completion of Culebra Cut was delayed two years by slides of earth and stone which in the total reached 32,000,000 cubic yards. There is a great deal more in the Panama Canal than a mere forty-mile waterway, wide and deep enough for the passage of the largest ocean-going vessels. Breakwaters, fortifications, Gatun Lake — the largest artificial lake in the world — where the ships of the world might congregate and ride in safety; three sets of locks, also the largest in the world; coal storage basins, where hundreds of thousands of tons of coal is stored; mammoth machine shops, bakeries, ice-plants, docks and piers, all on a scale of magnitude corresponding with the size and importance of the canal itself. There were slides perpetually, and only constant vigilance and hard labor enabled man to con- quer these freaks of nature at last. In one slide with which Colonel Goethals had to contend seventy-five acres of the town of Culebra broke loose and moved foot by foot into the canal, carrying with it large hotels and club houses, besides many smaller structures. It was a continual fight against the slides, now with dynamite, again with hydraulic excavators, and at other times with dredges. More than 19,000,000 pounds of explosives were used altogether. It was estimated that slides put the work back more than two years. There was criticism in some quarters, but it was the one-man power of Colonel Goethals that built the Panama Canal. There were about 5,000 Americans employed on the construction of the canal, and it was mainly through the influence of Colonel Goethals that they enjoyed the benefit of the eight-hour law, making eight hours a recognized day's work. When strikes were threatened he controlled the situation with a firm hand. He told the men that it was their privilege to quit work if they wanted to do so, but if they did so they would under no circumstances be re-employed. How effectively his policy worked out was shown in 1910, when some of the boilermakers struck because their wages were not advanced from $5.20 to $6.00 a day. Their jobs were taken by other men, and there never was another strike among Americans on the canal. What a real interest the colonel took in his men was often shown. A memorable evidence of it was in Culebra Cut when steam shovel work began to fall off because of lack of elbow-room. Colonel Goethals ordered that the work be changed to a two-shift basis. This enabled the men who would have been dismissed to continue work for many months, with no disadvantage to the government. While yellow fever had been pretty well driven out of the Canal Zone, under the supervision of Dr. William Crawford Gorgas, there was still a great deal to be done to keep the rone in a perfect sanitary condition when Colonel Goethals became chief engineer in 1907. Mosquitoes, which science has shown to be responsible for both yellow fever and malaria in the tropics, had to be fought, and it was not long before they were practically exterminated. This was done by spreading oil on the surface of waters used by the insect as breeding places. A strict quarantine was established, with stations at either end of the canal. Those quarantine stations are still there under the permanent organization of the zone. Every ship is carefully inspected and passengers and crew examined. During the building of the canal the government furnished all employees with free medicines, free medical attendance, and free hospital and burial services. It dispensed about a ton of quinine a year, provided camps where laborers who were not ill enough to go to the hospital could rest and be treated, and ran one or two hospital cars on every passenger train that crossed the isthmus. The value and importance of the medical care given under Colonel Goethals' supervision can be estimated from the fact that in 1913 there were 48,000 patients in hospitals, camps, and quarters. The matter of feeding the army of workers was, for various reasons — principally to protect the men from the rapacity of certain food dealers in Panama — placed in the hands of the commissary organization of the Panama Railroad. During the construction period on the canal, the commissary did a business of $7,000,000 a year. The commissary bakery baked more than 6,000,000 loaves of bread a year, and about 200,000 pounds of cake; its ice-cream freezer made more than 100,000 pounds of ice cream a year, and its egg-testers passed more than 30,000 eggs a day. One of the first reforms Colonel Goethals made when he became supreme in authority was with regard to amusement for the canal worker and his dependents. He knew that the most efficacious panacea against the homesickness which tormented so many of the Americans was to provide rational and wholesome recreation for them after working hours. Several Y. M. C. A. buildings had been erected which were intended to serve as clubhouses for the men. But the plan had not been developed. So Colonel Goethals caused new buildings to be added at several places and a liberal policy adopted that brought the Y. M. C. A. largely into the everyday lives of both men and women in the Canal Zone. The clubhouses were the rendezvous of nearly all the organizations of Americans. Their spacious rooms were given over to a meeting of the woman's club, or devoted to a dance or a concert, or became the scene of amateur, or even professional, theatricals. The people liked the liberalized Y. M. C. A. idea, and one of the first evidences of its usefulness was the falling off of liquor sales. Baseball made its usual strong appeal to the Americans at Panama. Colonel Goethals — an ardent lover of the “national game” — with the commission, encouraged ball-playing in every way, furnishing grounds, special trains, and opportunities for practice, and many big games between isthmian ball teams were hotly contested and largely attended. Like the average American officers, in either the army or navy, he enjoys rational amusement, especially with music, and is as much at his ease in a ballroom as on a reviewing ground or battlefield. An important element in the Panama Canal, and in which Colonel Goethals as an engineer took the greatest interest, are the three great sets of locks by which ships are lifted up from the sea to Gatun Lake and back down to the sea again after a thirty-seven-mile sail through fresh water. The total cost of the Panama Canal locks approximates $60,000,000. With their approach walls, their aggregate length is nearly two miles. There are three steps on each side of the isthmus, by which ships are lifted up 85 feet on the one side and let down 85 feet on the other. Each of these steps has two lock chambers, making parallel shipways through the locks. The side walls vary from 45 to 50 feet wide at the floor of the locks, and at a point 24 1-3 feet above the floor they begin to step in six-foot steps until they are eight feet wide at the top. The total width of the locks between the two side walls is 280 feet. In the middle of the locks and running parallel with the side walls, is a center wall, which divides the locks into two chambers. This wall is 60 feet wide all the way up. At a point 42½ feet above the floor of the lock the solid construction ceases, and a U-shaped opening runs the entire length of the wall. This serves to provide three long tunnels the full length of the center wall, one above the other. The lowest of these tunnels is used for drainage, the middle one for the electric cable conduits, and the upper one as a passageway from one piece of operating machinery to another. Three large culverts, 18 feet in diameter, carry the water from the lake into the several locks. The passage of water is controlled by a large number of valves. The steel gates operating the several chambers of a flight of locks are 7 feet thick, and range in height from 47 to 82 feet. There are two leaves to each gate, each leaf 65 feet wide. The weight of the leaves varies from 390 to 730 tons. The lock gate hinges weigh 36,752 pounds each, and are made to stand a strain of 40,000 pounds before stretching, or 70,000 pounds before breaking. Under an actual test they did not break until a strain of 3,300,000 pounds had been put upon them. Colonel Goethals' extensive experience with locks had taught him that, notwithstanding their enormous strength, they are vulnerable at certain points unless the engineers are almost abnormally vigilant. The Panama Canal locks are safe so far as human foresight and ingenuity can make them so. There are more safeguards around them than is the case with any other locks in the world. Twenty-four ponderous fender chains are swung across the locks before each gate. Each chain has links of three-inch iron, and will stop within 70 feet a 10,000-ton ship moving at the rate of five knots an hour. Another precaution is that no ship is allowed to pass through the locks under its own power. It has been demonstrated that the majority of accidents in the operation of locks are caused in this way. All vessels in the Panama Canal locks are taken through by electric towing engines on shore. Safety gates set seventy feet from the operating gates do their part in protecting the locks. Should a ship approaching the locks by any chance break the big fender chain, it would ram the safety gates, instead of coming into collision with, and perhaps seriously injuring, the operating gates. In building the locks, spillways, and dams of the Panama Canal upward of five million barrels of concrete was used — enough to build a row of houses from Chicago to St. Louis. The importance of military protection for the canal was recognized as soon as Colonel Goethals had brought the great work within even a distant view of completion. There are extensive fortifications at both the Atlantic and Pacific outlets of the canal. At the Atlantic side two great breakwaters have narrowed the entrance to the canal, and any hostile ship which might try to enter would be under the guns of Margarita Island on one side and those of Toro Point on the other. No ship could live under the terrific fire of the powerful land batteries and immense mortars which now guard the entrance. At the Pacific end all the defenses are on the east side of the channel. Several islands in Panama Bay rise precipitously out of the sea, affording excellent sites for heavy armament. They have been connected with the mainland by a breakwater from Balboa to Naos Island, which in its turn is connected with the islands of Perico and Flamenco by stone causeways. The heaviest armament at each end of the canal consists of a sixteen-inch gun. These are the largest weapons in possession of the United States if not the largest in the world. Each gun is 50 feet long and weighs 284,000 pounds. It hurls a projectile 6 feet long, which weighs 2,400 pounds and contains 140 pounds of high explosive. The secondary defenses at each end of the canal consist of six 14-inch guns, six 6-inch guns, sixteen 12-inch mortars, and eight 4 7-10-inch howitzers. The mortars have a range of more than eleven miles. Surprise attacks are guarded against by fourteen searchlights, each with a sixty-inch reflector, capable of sweeping the entire horizon. They are operated from electric plants independent of the main plants at Gatun and Miraflores. A supply of more than $2,000,000 worth of ammunition is kept on the isthmus at all times. In carrying out the law providing for the permanent government of the Panama Canal, President Wilson, on 24 Jan., 1914, nominated Colonel Goethals governor of the Canal Zone. He was confirmed 1 Feb., 1914, and the new government went into operation 1 April. Colonel Goethals had urged that the change from the construction government to the operative government should be made in such a way as to cause the least possible friction. That is to say, that the change should be an evolution, and that persons who had “made good” during the construction work should be preferred in filling positions under the new régime. He carried out this policy conscientiously. In supreme control, subject only to the supervision of the Secretary of War, Colonel Goethals worked hard on the task of reorganization. In accordance with his recommendations, a department of operation and maintenance, having charge of the completion of the canal and its operation, was appointed. Other departments were provided for, including the important health department, which succeeded the department of sanitation. It took over the operation of the quarantine service, the sanitary control of the zone, the sanitary relations between the United States and the cities of Panama and Colon under the treaty, and the operation of hospitals and charitable institutions. Later executive orders from President Wilson established a Washington office, laid down the plan for the organization of the new judiciary, provided rules for the collection of tolls, and the operation of terminal facilities, etc. By 1 Jan., 1915, affairs had been placed on a permanent basis; the new judiciary system was in operation, and Colonel Goethals had begun the tactful and able administration which up to the time the canal was finished and afterward won the admiration of the world. On 4 March, 1915, Colonel Goethals was nominated by the President a major-general. His aides, Brigadier-General Gorgas, Col. Henry F. Hodges, Lieut.-Col. William L. Sibert, and Civil Engineer Harvey H. Rousseau, were all promoted at the same time. The nominations were all confirmed by the Senate the day they were received, an unusual honor. Colonel Goethals resigned the governorship of the Canal Zone in January, 1917. In building this canal he had accomplished the greatest construction and engineering feat in the history of the world. Both in that and in the operation of the canal after it was opened, as well as in the administration of the government of the zone, he showed an executive genius that alone enabled him to carry to a successful outcome the tremendously responsible task entrusted to him — a task more onerous and many-sided than ever before was placed on the shoulders of one man since records have been kept of human achievement. Colonel Goethals married in 1884 Effie Rodman, and they have two sons, George R., a second lieutenant of engineers, and Thomas R. Goethals.


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