Artist's depiction of the first U.S. troop landing on Cuban soil during the Spanish-American War, at Guantanamo Bay.
Artist's depiction of the first U.S. troop landing on Cuban soil during the Spanish-American War, at Guantanamo Bay. Bettmann/CORBIS
The U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, on the southern coast of Cuba, may seem an odd location to house "war on terror" detainees. Follow the history of "Gitmo," as the base is known to the U.S. soldiers, sailors and Marines who serve there:
June 10, 1898: A U.S. Marine Corps battalion — the first U.S. troops to land on Cuba during the Spanish-American War — camps at Guantanamo Bay.
Feb. 23, 1903: U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt signs a deal with the new government of Cuba to lease 45 square miles at the mouth of Guantanamo Bay for 2,000 gold coins a year — now valued at $4,085. The U.S. government continues to pay the lease every year, but Fidel Castro's government refuses to cash the checks.
1934: The United States and Cuba renegotiate the Guantanamo Bay lease, agreeing that the land would revert to Cuban control only if abandoned or by mutual consent.
Jan. 1, 1959: Communist revolutionaries led by Castro overthrow the Cuban government. The United States bans its servicemen from entering Cuban territory.
Jan. 4, 1961: Cuba and the United States formally break off their once-friendly relations, but President Eisenhower declares this "has no effect on the status of our Naval Station at Guantanamo."
Oct. 21-22, 1962: Civilians are evacuated from the base at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, with the island blockaded by U.S. warships to force the withdrawal of Soviet nuclear missiles. Reinforcements arrive to man the base's front lines, facing inwards toward the island.
November 1991: The Pentagon builds housing for the flood of refugees arriving at the base from Haiti. In 1994, thousands of Cubans join them. Eventually, more than 45,000 Cubans and Haitians are held in tent cities covering much of the base. Most Cubans are admitted into the United States, but most Haitians are sent back home. The last of the Cubans depart in 1996.
April 1999: President Clinton considers plans to house thousands of Kosovo refugees in Guantanamo Bay, but abandons the idea.
Jan. 11, 2002: A U.S. military plane from Afghanistan touches down at Guantanamo Bay carrying 20 prisoners, marking the start of the current detention operation.
Sources: Official history of U.S. Navy base, AP archives.