Photo of the Week
March 25, 2018

I am going to skip the old camps that I mentioned last week but will post them next week.  While surfing through a bunch of photos this week, I came across this one above.  Back in the uneasy days after WWI and leading up and during WWII, the locks had precautionary measures to hide the locks with smoke so that precise bombing of the critical parts of the locks .... like the gates couldn't happen.  The solution was smudge pots that created lots of smoke.  The photo above shows a locks worker with an igniter torch that was charged with the duty of firing these smudge pots up.  When I came across this photo, I immediately thought of some aerial photos of Pedro Miguel Locks that I recently saw at the National Archives website.  Below are two aerial photos showing the first lighting of smudge pots up to all of them.  The effect is just right for what is intended to accomplish.

The photo above I captured from the UF - Panama Canal Museum Collection blog.  Two Zonian comments from the blog are below:

"Have not seen that scene for many years. For sure the man is a “lighter” With his can to his right. Interesting though – he is not a military man – and when I was there during those times, this was a military unit that did this." John Schmidt

"I remember the military lighting off all the smudge pots during the air raid smoke screen alerts. The intent of these alerts was not only to make it difficult to bomb Canal Zone Locks, but also to hide certain naval vessels transiting the Canal.

These WWII exercises were common in the the 1940 war years. All the locks had smudge pots as did my home town of Pedro Miguel. The Army even had dozens of barges, (each equipped with one or two smudge pots) on Miraflores lake between Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks. Each barge was manned by one or two GI’s who lit it off the smoke pots during an alert. There was a shack affair on each barge with bunks chairs and table. The Army had motor launches to deliver meals and rotate the crews. Sometimes a few of the Pedro Miguel kids would paddle out from Pedro Miguel boat club and visit the GI’s. We’d bug em for the popular hard rubber hard rubber airplane models they had on-board for identification purposes. Sometimes we’d get to share a meal with them if the motor launch happened by.

It was an exciting time for Pedro Miguel kids during WW II, what with the smoke screen alerts, barrage balloons, and all.. Ray Crucet

More great photos from the Nation Archives in the next few weeks.



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