Index of Images

Panama Canal Early Days
Portrait of the Towns
Fort Clayton

Photos and Picture Post Cards from the collection of George Chevalier to compliment his memoirs.


Miraflores Fill Dump 1
Miraflores Fill Dump 2
Aerial View
Birds Eye View 1
Birds Eye View 2

Post Buildings

Post Headquarters
Post Theater
Post Service Club
Officers Quarters


Track Meet 1
Track Meet 2
Boxing Champs
Baseball Team
Wedding Parade


Machine Gun Training
Gas Mask Instruction 
Close Order Drill
Firing Range
Commander's Inspection
Field Inspection
Troop Inspection
33rd. Inf. Review
Retirement Review
FDR  Parade
11th Engineers Review


Chiva-Chiva Trail
Camp Gaillard

Camp Gaillard

Pacora Battle
30 Cal. Machine Gun


33rd Inf. Band
Uniform of the Day
Whippet Tank
B3A Bomber

Aerial and Panoramic photos from the collection of Vicente Pascual.

Panoramic View
Panoramic Tent Camp
Aerial View Looking West

Aerial View Looking North
Aerial View Looking NE
Aerial View Miller Field
View from Miraflores Locks

4th Field Artillery Camp 1927 

The following photos are from the collection of Bob Karrer.  There is a mixture of different units and eras in Fort Clayton's early years.  I have tried to be as accurate as possible with the descriptions.

More of the 33rd Infantry

3rd Bat Barracks
Maj. Brown Parade

Maj. Brown and Staff

33rd Infantry Band
Covered Wagon Transport
"M" Company Barracks
General Inspection
Regimental Parade

Mixture of 33rd Infantry, 2nd Field Artillery, 11th Combat Engineers and Coastal Artillery units.

Division Review
Division Review
BG Graves Inspection
Mechanized Pass/Review
Knox Trophy Winner Parade
"A" Co in Parade
Marching in Parade
Post Review

Pack Mules

Pack Mules
Flag Detail
More Mechanized
More Mechanized


Field Inspection


Feed Train

Fly Over

Gen. Fiske Retirement

Coast Artillery


11th Engineers

Administration Building
New Barracks

Post Office and Barracks

Barracks, PX and Rec Ctr

Army Display Day

Search Light Display
2nd F.A. Display
11th Engineer Display
11th Engineer Display
Carpentry Tools

More Buildings

Guard House
Post Exchange
Swimming Pool
Officer's Quarters

Officer's Quarters
NCO Quarters
NCO Quarters
Golf Course area


45th Cavalry

Organization Day

Judge Lappin Retirement

Horse Laugh Ride
Waving from Mule

The Judge


Wedding Ride

USARSO Closing.  The end of Fort Clayton as a American possession.  From a Canal spoil dump to the occupation of the 33rd in 1920, we now close this wonderful part of our United States Military History with the official closing of Fort Clayton's last command.

Program cover.
Photo of the last to serve.




Another Chapter of U.S. Military history in the Canal Zone.

Official Insignia of the 33rd Infantry.

Beneath the bayonet, on the shield they state 
"RIDENTES VENIMUS" - "Smiling We Come"
Click the image for a larger image.

Prior to 1922 United States Army units did not have regimental crest pins authorized and the pins started to come on the scene between 1922 to about 1928.  As an example the 33rd was formed and later moved into Clayton in 1920 with just crossed rifles bearing a 33. In June 1924 their first crest pin was approved and was very similar to the final version (above) but there was dissatisfaction and the final type as we know today was approved in February 8, 1928 and is the one we knew growing up in the Canal Zone.

Memories of the early years of Fort Clayton, Panama Canal Zone
by George Chevalier 

Fort Clayton was created in it's main section from fill from the main Canal line which was still being dumped in 1911 and by 1919 it was finished and we see vegetation now growing where the Fort itself is to be built. In 1920 the 33rd.Inf. was moved out of Empire and into their new home at Clayton. The main road to Pedro Miguel entered the Post and ran along the back of the west barracks in the quadrangle. 

A large open expanse existed north of that main section and was named Miller Field and was utilized by aircraft from France Field. Slightly northwest of that were the rifle pits of the range. My first memory of that range was of my Dad complaining of the misfire rate of the old WWI ammo the Army was then using up. The western end of Miller Field was marked off for polo matches and as a wee boy Dad took me to see the games.

In adulthood I've wondered where the officers acquired their polo ponies and speculate as follows. In 1916 the 1st Sq. of the 12th Cavalry arrived to be stationed at Corozal and the returned to the States in 1921. Getting horses acclimated to the tropics was I believe a dicey thing and I suspect that when they left most of the mounts remained on the Zone. I would then assume that the polo playing officers were able to buy their mounts from the government. The 11th Combat Engineer Regiment came to Corozal also in 1920 so they were competitors of the 33rd.Inf. in this fast game.

In the early 1930's the 2nd. Field Artillery (FA) arrived at Fort Clayton and their huge all in one barracks was built for them just inside the main gate we know today. This building held the Exchange and other concessions in final days. The 2nd FA was equipped with pack 75mm Mountain Howitzers with the components all carried by mules. This of course involved a lot of mules
so a large series of stables was built where basically the motor pool went in WWII. Flying had been drastically reduced at Miller Field and the polo field was gone.

The "mule skinners" would mount up their guns and wend their way up into the hills to the north towards Pedro Miguel where they would have live fire. In modern times I believe all such firing was done in the Empire Area on the west bank of the Canal.

In the summer school vacation of 1941 while working as electrical apprentices on the new row of barracks going up to the SCN building we paused to hang out a window and smart mouth a battery or two of 2nd FA types going by on the road right outside those barracks. The 1st Sgt. leading the column was a huge fat man who was nearly as big as the mount he was riding on. So we called down to ask him to give the mule a break and let the mule ride awhile. Bad Move!! He raised his arm and halted that column and in a flash a squad was into the building after us. In panic we raced up to the attic and out on the rafters around to the other side where we hid in fear.

When we came out they had of course gone and we never did that again for we realized we were dealing with some very tough troops. I believe they ended up in the mountains of Italy during WWII and I'm sure did well. In those peace time years Pacific Side Revues were all held at Fort Clayton and were a thrill for us kids to watch particularly if they were wearing the old steel helmet. The more seldom full Department. Revues were held at Albrook since there was room for all the men and rolling stock.

I seem to still smell the fresh baked bread when I recall driving through Corozal and Fort Clayton and salivate over thoughts of those cinnamon buns only the Army could bake.

I was asked about the origin of that Porte Cochere that ran through the middle of Building 95 the old 2nd FA Barracks. Someone said it must have been for the cavalry to pass through going to formations. No the 12th Cavalry had departed at least 10 years before the building and the 2nd FA. 

I forgot to tell that the 2nd FA was totally housed in that building the
troops, supply, mess and the HQ's with their Brass and so to keep the
brass from getting wet they could arrive or depart by staff car. I believe it was the only edifice so constructed on the Zone with an internal Porte Cochere. 

The NCO Qtrs. along the west side of that main drag had their walk ways decorated with burned out 30 caliber machine gun barrels and I innocently asked an old sergeant how come and was treated to a shockingly explicit and profane explanation about idiots with lead fingers and no brains. 

I recall how the MP's loved it when one or the other of those two units was out in the field there for only one unit would be drinking in the Post Beer Garden. 

 It was a lonely tour for a young man during those prewar depression years for while the officers were able to mix in with the civilian community the enlisted man was not welcomed in the Zone civilian towns. Most feminine contact took place in Panama Cities brothels and only rarely did our young trooper get accepted into a respectable Panamanian home. It took the build up and arrival of WWII to change all this for the better.

In the days before the WWII build up, recruits went only briefly to indoctrination centers and then were passed on to their assigned units which really administered the recruits basic training as so many of the Clayton photos attest to. Formal large recruit training centers came about with massive manpower buildup during the WWII Era.

The 5th Inf. came down to the Zone in November 1914 and was stationed on the west bank in one of the old construction towns until it left in the summer of 1918. But in 1916 it gave up 514 men to form the birth of the 33rd Inf. From it's birth on July 6,1916 until it moved to Ft. Clayton in November 1920 it also was over on the west bank.

The 5th Infantry left after WWI and returned to stay in Camp Paraiso from 1939
to 1943. The 2nd FA is the only other major US Army unit to be stationed at
Clayton in those Pre WWII years. But we can claim the 33rd as our Canal
Zone Reg. since it was born in the Zone.

The 33rd Infantry stayed in Clayton until December 7,1941 when virtually within hours they shipped out to Trinidad to set up the protection for the newly acquired Lend Lease Bases in Trinidad. 

With German occupation of Holland the Dutch Queen had fled to Dutch Guiana and soon units of the 33rd Inf. came over to render protection for the queen and to thwart any attempt by Germany to move in more than was
already happening. For secret Nazi bases had been set up in the jungles to supply U-Boats that would come up the river for provisions. 

The troops of the 33rd Inf. battled hostile indians, the German camps and waylaid the U-Boats in ambush on the river. They were also there to insure the safe passage out of Bauxite ore which was so vital to our aircraft industry. These activities were kept a secret during the war and the 33rd Inf. returned home to Ft. Clayton in Feb.1946.

When the 33rd Inf. departed for war in 1941 they had at 25 years the
longest record of continuous CZ service for any unit of the U.S. Army and were rightly considered the premier jungle trained unit in the Army. They were truly Zonians for no other unit like that had been born on the Zone.

Additional Comments

When the 33rd went to Trinidad it was Head Quartered at Fort Read and units were sent out to other locations as needed. In 1943 volunteers were sought to be part of a secret combat unit then being formed and basically the men of the 2nd. Battalion and their Col McGee volunteered. Shipped back to the US and shot over to the west coast and over to the South Pacific were they became part of Merrills Marauders which I believe operated in Burma.

In March 1944 the decimated balance of the 33rd were shipped out of the Caribbean back to the US and at Camp Claiborne in May 1944 the colors were furled as the 33rd Inf. Reg. was inactivated and the remaining men dispersed.
It was reactivated in 1946 and assigned to Fort Clayton.

The 33rd Infantry was the  longest serving US Army Unit on the Isthmus of
Panama until the 79th Army Band.  The 79th Army Band beat the 33rd's record and now has that honor The band has served in Panama from after WWII to 1999.

When Col. McGee and his 2nd Bat. of the 33rd Inf. volunteered to go to the secret combat unit that became Merrill's Marauders they did not go as 33rd Infantry men. They were then part of a new unit under a different designation. As I have heard there was a bit of bitching for after hitting the US they were shunted across the States in closed troop trains with the windows all covered over to supposedly maintain secrecy. But they were mollified with the thought that at last they were going to the combat big league. Historian Wayne Worthington saw records that said the 33rd Inf. was the only US Army Regiment to be activated overseas and never really served within the continental US.  

A Brief History of the 33rd Infantry Regiment by Andrew Demes - This history brief written and submitted by Andrew J. Demes.  Click here to open the .pdf document. 

You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this document.  For a free down load of Acrobat Reader, (Click Here)

Reference Sources:

  • Resources, Research and Narration by George Chevalier.
  • Photos and Post Cards submitted and owned by George Chevaliar.
  • Additional Photos provided by Vicente Pascual and Bob Karrer.
  • Brief History by Andrew J. Demes

I have only touched the tip of a very big iceberg here.  I hope to add to this historical presentation as I get the material.  If anyone reading here and is interested in providing more historical data, please contact me.  

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