Photo of the Week
June 8, 2008 more searchlight photo. I couldn't resist this one as the photo caption is very interesting.  This is an official newspaper article photograph.  The caption on the back of the photo reads:

"Panama Canal Zone....Anti-Air Defenses are being rushed to completion at the Atlantic Side of the Panama Canal Zone under supervision Brigadier General Sanderford Jarman, Commanding Panama Anti Aircraft & Coast Artillery defenses.  General Jarman is shown here inspecting 800-million candle power searchlight."

There is / was a large sports field in Fort Clayton where we used to hold our annual DCA Fairs.  The name of this sports field was Jarman Field.  I will bet that the field was named after the man in this photo.  I love it!!

800-million candle that is a lot of candles!!  No wonder the light beams in last week's photo were so bright.

CZ Contributor and member comments:

Bill, with regards to your photos of the week on the search lights.  During the war there was an anti-aircraft battery stationed behind the Cristobal High School gym in New Cristobal.  It consisted as I remember of four single barrel 40mm AA guns, and at least 2 mounts of quad-mount 50cal machine guns.  There was also two of the 800 candle power search lights similar to the one shown in this weeks photo.  I remember many times during this period being out on the reef fishing or collecting coconuts from the local trees or playing tag football, baseball etc. on the playground when they would start cranking up to practice their anti-aircraft skills.
The way the search lights got their 800 candlepower, was there was two one-inch diameter carbon rods that were mounted 90 degrees to each other and one would feed to the other and the electrical power would jump the gap between them to create an arc.  Think arc-welding.  As I remember, they would often have problems getting the arc to start and maintain for any period of time but when they did, it was bright.  They usually started at dusk.  We used to collect the tag ends of the rods if they would give them to us and we would use them as black chark to mark on concrete.
The impressive thing of their practices was when they would crank up the quad-mount fifties.  Often the Navy would fly a PBM seaplane that was stationed at Coco Solo over the bay and drop out a rubber raft which the Army would then use as a target.  They often had trouble keeping all four fifties on a particular mount firing together but it was impressive to watch the tracers sail out over the bay and when the volley would hit the water, it would send up quite a splash.  My boyhood collection of stuff that I kept in the bottom dreawer of my Quartermaster issued mahogany chest of drawers, included a couple of the spent shells from the fifties which they sometimes let us pick up.  They wouldn't let us have the 40mm shells.
Them were the days.  Growing up in Panama during that period was an unmatched childhood experience.

Andrew Fraser



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