Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Kenneth Lipartito

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Victor Uribe

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

April Merleaux

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Eduardo Gamarra

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


United States Caribbean Defense Command, U.S., Southern Command, Combatant Command, SOUTHCOM, Caribbean Command, CARIBCOM, World War II, Submarines, CDC, Latin America, Panama Canal Zone, South America, Central America, Ecuador, Galapagos, Peru, Colombia, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Crittenberger, George Brett, Coastal Defense

Date of Defense



The United States Military is currently organized along the lines of regional combatant commands (COCOMs). Each COCOM is responsible for all U.S. military activity in their designated area of responsibility (AOR). They also deal with diplomatic issues of a wide variety with the countries within their respective AORs. Among these COCOMs, Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), whose AOR encompasses all of Central and South America (less Mexico) and the Caribbean, is one of the smallest in terms of size and budget, but has the longest history of activity among the COCOMs as it is the successor to the first joint command, the United States Caribbean Defense Command (CDC 1941-1947).

Existing from 1941 to 1947, the CDC was tasked with protecting the Panama Canal, the Canal Zone, and all its access points as well as defending the region from Axis aggression and setting up a series of U.S. bases throughout the Caribbean from which to project U.S. military power after World War II. Throughout its short history, however, the CDC was plagued with the same types of resource scarcity that its successor commands would later experience. Early successes, as well as the progress of the war saw to it that the original mission of the Command was quickly rendered moot. Ironically, it was partially the success of the U.S. war effort that kept the CDC from ever reaching its full potential. Nevertheless, the CDC evolved into something different than had originally been envisioned. In the end, it became the model that other COCOMs would follow after November 1947 when the system of regional combatant commands was formally established. Although some research has been conducted into the history of these commands, this dissertation is the first academic attempt to chronicle the history of the United States Caribbean Defense Command.

Research into this topic involved combing through the Archives of the United States Southern Command in its offices in Miami, Florida (SOUTHCOM Archives), as well as the CDC archives in Record Group 548 in the U.S. National Archives II in Suitland, Maryland. Secondary sources as well as references regarding treaties and international agreements were also consulted as necessary.





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