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It was at nightfall, and on the eastward point a small village was burning, and it happened that a fiery light was thrown upon some palm-trees so that it made them into enormous crimson feathers.
The water was the colour of blue steel; the Cuban woods were sombre; high shivered the gory feathers. The last boatloads of the marine battalion were pulling for the beach. T wenty years ago, I went to Santiago de Cuba to gather material for a magazine article on the centennial of the Spanish—American War. The only way to enter Gitmo was to fly in on a Navy transport airplane from Virginia Beach, Virginia.
And to do that, I would have to obtain permission—rarely granted—from naval authorities. He wrote several accounts of the event, a couple of which are counted among his best work. The time he spent on the island—a little over five months all told—holds outsized significance in his biography and his oeuvre. It was in Cuba that Crane—already famous for writing a war novel—finally witnessed warfare firsthand and up close.
Shortly after hostilities ended, Crane came down with a severe bout of either yellow fever or malaria and had to be evacuated in a state of delirium. As it turned out, though I had all but given up on the possibility of visiting Gitmo, while I was in Santiago I fortuitously learned of an opportunity to see the base—or at least to see into it.
I was told that a Cuban travel agency, Gaviota, offered tours to a Cuban military facility, an observation post called Mirador de Malones, located on a hillside just outside the American-occupied site. From there, one could look through a telescope and spy on the naval base. It sounded too bizarre to be true—as so many things in Cuba do; but when I inquired at the Gaviota office in Santiago, the bizarre turned out to be true—as it so often does in Cuba.