Two newspaper columns by Mrs. Roosevelt describing her visit to Galápagos, March 31 - April 2, 1944.—JW.
Guatemala City, Guatemala, March 27.—It took only a little over four hours to fly from Panama to Salinas. Here we were met by the wife of the president of Ecuador, Senora Arroyo del Rio, and several Ecuadorian ladies, as well as our army and navy commanders, Colonel Cunningham and Commander Hummer.
We visited both the army and navy hospitals, and I'm glad to report that they had very few patients. There is practiclly no malaria here; the climate is very dry and the one real difficulty is lack of water.
Salinas itself is used as a summer resort by people from Quito and by British and American people working here, which is pleasant for our men.
Next we went to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Toes, where Senora Arroyo del Rio gave a reception. The Ecuadorian troops stood on guard near the house and their band played “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Our flying officers are instructing a group of Ecuadorian cadets whose training planes are kept near our base. The best of feeling exists, and co-operation is very good here as everywhere else.
By 1:30 o'clock we took off for the Galapagos islands, where we arrived in time to get an idea of the amount of work which had been done to create the army and navy installations. Much building is still going on. We had supper with enlisted men. We went over to the officers' club at 7. This must be a very pleasant place to come to after the day's work is done. We spent an hour talking with various officers.
Some of the boys feel the monotony and the loneliness of this particular post and would like very much to be nearer to what they feel is active service. Yet the job here is essential and must be done, as so many other jobs depend upon it.
Saturday morning we went to our enlisted men's mess at 6:30 o'clock. Saturday was one long succession of visits to day rooms, service clubs, post exchanges, gun positions, the chapel, the cemetery and the army and navy hospitals.
Washington, April 3.—When I look back on my visit to Galapagos I know why every man there calls it “the rock.” To a geologist, I'm sure it would furnish several years of absorbing work, but to men establishing gun positions and defenses, building airfields and trying to find level space for a recreation field, it must be one of the most discouraging spots in the world. It is as though the earth had spewed forth rocks of every size and shape and, as one man said, “You remove one rock, only to find two more underneath.”
In between the rocks there is deep-red dust, which permeates everything. A few cactus plants grow and also a few trees, which are easily blown over because they have no earth to root in.
All the water is either distilled from salt water or is brought in on a tank ship from another island. On the whole island there are just two places with running water.
Galapagos is one of those places where “going native” would be very easy. For that reason, during the day, men at work may wear as few clothes as they choose but, for evening inspection, every man must be in uniform. The navy bars “whites” because they cannot be kept clean.
One of the most attractive places on the island is the Blue-jackets club, which the men have created themselves. Every bit of furniture and every decoration is their own handiwork. On the door of the club hangs a sign which reads, “Bluejackets Club—Women Invited.” The joke is that there are no women here!
Commander Huffman has some pets—two goats, Blackie and Ruth, each with a painted green and red horn. And, in a little enclosure outside are two prehistoric-looking iguanas. He was disappointed because I found these native pets interesting but not attractive!
The American man's sense of humor was evident everywhere. They had held a competition at the navy base for the naming and the general appearance of the various quarters. The doctors' quarters were labeled “Rock's Docs.” That won the prize.
You have to be deeply convinced that your job is an essential one in order to keep your balance and cheerfulness in these surroundings. Perhaps it takes more fortitude and character to stand the loneliness and hardship of this kind of service without much excitement than the more active kind of service, though many women at home are probably happier with the knowledge that their men are not being sniped at by the enemy.