Home Intro People Events Equipment Places Maps Books Photos Videos Other Reference FAQ About

World War II Database

Panama Canal Zone

Alliance Allies - Minor Member Nation or Possession
Possessing Power United States
Entry into WW2 7 Dec 1941
Population in 1939 51,000


ww2dbaseIn 1903, the United States supported the separatist movement in Colombia; when the separatists achieved in breaking the province of Panama from Colombia, the United States was awarded with what was to become the Panama Canal Zone to construct a canal linking the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) and the Pacific Ocean. The canal zone had an area of 553 square-mile, or 1,430 square-kilometers. It was categorized as a unorganized US Territory. The head of government of the territory was the head of the Panama Canal Company, and the law was upheld by the United States District Court for the Canal Zone. The capital of the canal zone was Balboa, a city where about half of the territory's population resided. Just prior to the US entry into WW2, the Panama Canal Zone was assigned under the Caribbean Defense Command, and a major effort to improve the poor communication systems (and other less-than-ideal infrastructure) began mid-year. When the tension with Japan mounted, all Japanese ships were forced out of the canal zone by 22 Jul 1941. The canal zone was well-defended due to its strategic importance. Protecting the nearby waters were anti-torpedo nets and naval mines. On the ground, the defenses included chemical smoke generators, anti-aircraft gun positions, two long range radar (one on each coast), 634 search lights, 30 aircraft warning stations, 11 16-inch coastal gun batteries, and finally troops stationed at ColĂłn, Margarita Island, and Toro Point (Fort Sherman). Although hostile submarines did venture near the canal, it was never in serious harm. The Panama Canal Zone was returned to the Republic of Panama on 1 Oct 1979 as agreed two years prior with the Torrijos-Carter Treaties.

John Geoghegan, Operation Storm
United States Army Center for Military History

Last Major Update: Mar 2012

Panama CanalOther


WW2-Era Weather Data for Panama Canal Zone


US submarines C-1, C-2, C-3, C-4, and C-5 in the Gatun Locks of Panama Canal, circa 1914Panama Canal Zone Administration Building, Balboa, Panama, 1917
See all 53 photographs of Panama Canal Zone in World War II


Map of the Panama Canal Zone published in 1947 by the US Navy in “Building the Navy

Panama Canal Zone in World War II Interactive Map

Did you enjoy this article or find this article helpful? If so, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.

Share this article with your friends:


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
2 Feb 2013 03:32:04 PM

i really like this topic its very interesting to learn about .. i somehow enjoy learning history about Wars, esp for a girl like me its very unique!

2. jerry walls says:
23 Aug 2015 08:52:23 PM

my dad was posted there before pearl harbor .capturing german coast watchers .him and another soldier on a out post were left behind .when pear harbor was hit.after relief did not show up at out post and out off food.they returned to base to find it deserted
3. Anonymous says:
9 Feb 2016 05:59:41 PM

my great-grandfather was stationed there in wwii. he got his "war wound" there: malaria. i have to say, it's been hard finding information about this.
4. Jaime Ortiz says:
29 Mar 2016 12:21:21 PM

Hello, I know I am off topic here, but as wide as the internet is, I don´t seem to be able to find help on any place else. Is there a place where I can find out if a certain poerson came to Panama during Worl War I? the thing is, my greatgrandfather was in Panama two or three years around 1919-1921 and was never heard from again, we are trying to find him through several web sites but his name was sort of common back then and we lack information, knowing that he served and was in Panama those years would shorten the list.
5. Alice says:
9 Apr 2016 12:53:10 PM

to Jaime Ortiz, what was your Great Grandfather's name? Mine was there too, at that time. He was Paul Harold Zimmermann. He was married to Grace Bliss. She returned to NY to have their 1st son, PHZimmermann, Jr.
PHZ Sr. did not return to NY as expected. His wife thought he may have been killed there and buried as a "John Doe". HOWEVER that was not the case! He fled to the north country, married my Grandmother(he was not legally divorced) and had a family of four with her. His 1st son with her was also named PHZ, Jr.... [a second one]. These 2 Jrs. were born 2 years apart and died 2 years apart and never knew that either of them existed ! This may or may not be your family but someone out there is connected to the Paul Harold Zimmermann that was born in Waukesha, WI around 1898 or later.
Please contact me alicevickers@flash.net
6. Joanne Nelson says:
3 Sep 2016 10:33:24 AM

I have pictures of my aunt who I believe was a civilian employee in Panama prior to 1946, The are of soldiers and other civilian employees, a few planes, pin up girls. I only know my aunt in the pictures. They are mostly pictures of folks having fun. I'd love to find an appropriate place to share them. My Aunt's name was Leona Spencer.
7. Bill Ritter says:
23 Nov 2016 09:48:14 AM

My father was stationed in Fort Clayton in 1945. He passed away 2 years ago and when going through his paper work I found some photos and also that he was assigned to the Troop B 45th mechanized Calvary Reconnaissance Squadron. I the photos we found pictures of him at various bases in panama. I have searched on line and have found no information about his unit and was reaching out to anyone who could provide any information?
8. Anonymous says:
15 Dec 2016 03:10:12 PM

Hi, i am helping my 73 years old Dad finds his Dad, his name was or is : LLoyd Clark in 1943 he was probably between the ages of 18-21 years old. we believe he was stationed in Fort Davis in 1943. any information will be greatly appreciated. dick_watler@yahoo.com
9. Joy Stevens says:
23 Dec 2016 01:42:26 PM

I am trying to research my grandfathers' military time. I don't know much. I do know he was stationed in Panama during WWII. His name was Herbert Baker from Wichita, KS. I am looking for anyone who may have served with him.
10. Anonymous says:
2 Jan 2017 05:01:35 AM

my father was stationed on the panama canal during ww2, nov1942-nov1945. he was with battery 906th aa bn., I believe on the pacific side. there was an aircraft crash with soldiers on the plane, he helped remove the bodies, any info on this appreciated
11. Commenter identity confirmed David Stubblebine says:
2 Jan 2017 10:57:27 AM

To Anonymous (above):
I think your question was about the airplane crash your father told you about. According to the database of Army air accidents at www.aviationarchaeology.com, there were 448 accidents involving Army aircraft in Panama between Nov 1942 and Nov 1945. Of these, 46 involved aircraft types that could be “with soldiers” (bombers or transports). Of these, 15 resulted in the aircraft being totally destroyed (5 bombers, 10 transports). The database does not list the number killed so to narrow this down any further, more information would be needed as to date and/or location.
12. carol Johnston hoffman says:
17 Feb 2017 06:26:48 PM

My father, Hugh Johnston, served in panama during WWII. He was in communications. Does anyone know what post he served at? His military records were destroyed in a fire.
13. carol Johnston hoffman says:
17 Feb 2017 06:27:58 PM

My father, Hugh Johnston, served in panama during WWII. He was in communications. Does anyone know what post he served at? His military records were destroyed in a fire.
14. Lisa Barrett Mann says:
30 May 2017 09:41:20 PM

My dad, Howard Wesley Barrett Jr. ("Wes" or "Bud") was stationed at Ft Sherman during WWII. I just came across an envelope w hundreds of photos from his time there. Unfortunately they're not labeled, so I don't know who his buddies are. Wondering whether I should publish them online somewhere?
15. Garrabrant says:
12 Jun 2017 07:23:24 PM

Lisa, YES!

Please scan your images and post them online, you can set up a free wordpress blog or something similiar.

Many of us are searching for family members who served in WWII and images are tough to find.
16. sam hoynes says:
28 Jul 2017 04:29:46 PM

I recently came into possession of a photo album from a soldier stationed in Panama in WWII. It was left at Habitat for Humanity as a donation or as junk. It is a photo album with a lot of photos, many of them labeled with the identity of the person in the photo. He was a maintenance man on P-39 and P-51 aircraft in the 51st Fighter Squadron. What should I do with these photos?
17. David O'Sullivan says:
13 Aug 2017 05:21:45 PM

sam hoynes: Contact a VFW or Legion Post near you, they may take them or refer you to an organization that would preserved them. My father served in Panama in 41&42, he was later KIA in Europe, doubt that he would be in any of those, but others may be looking for this kind of info. Thank you for trying to preserve this history.
18. Anonymous says:
15 Nov 2017 05:34:40 PM

My father was a veterinarian stationed in Panama during WW2. His position was to go to south America and purchase cattle, bring them back to Panama and oversee their slaughter and prepare the meat to go to Europe for the soldiers there. I have a lot of pictures from this time there and his letters written home during the time here. Does anyone else have information or a relative who was there then and involved with this? Thanks
19. Dave Nebbia says:
4 Feb 2018 04:11:36 PM

My father Pete D Nebbia was with the us armys panama mobile force and 150th infantry. Also went to pacific theatre with adhoc intel scout unit. Records lost in 1973 fire.
20. Roger Schaller says:
12 Dec 2018 08:08:51 AM

Looking for information on the Panama Canal Fire Dept at end of ww2. After war in Europe ended, my father was sent to PCZ fire department and became Chief.
Any info appreciated.
21. Anonymous says:
1 Feb 2019 11:54:56 AM

My father Thomas f Walker was stationed at the Panama Canal in naval intelligence during ww2 and was monitoring a trans Atlantic cable which was concerned with the movement of troops and supplies
22. Anonymous says:
24 Apr 2019 08:10:41 AM

Looking for anyone who would know if they served with my grandfather- Louis Paloma - was enlisted June 16 - Panama Canal - any info would be appreciated
23. Shanna says:
5 Feb 2020 07:34:09 PM

My grandfather was stationed at Panama Canal during WWII. Don’t have a lot of information, he passed when I was eight and from my older relatives he wouldn’t talk much about his time. His name was Orville Partin. Always was told that his main duties were chef/cook and basic guard duty. Any other info would be awesome to find!!
24. Commenter identity confirmed David Stubblebine says:
5 Feb 2020 09:09:03 PM

Shanna (above):
The very best source of information on a veteran’s service is his/her service record. Copies are available from the National Archives See: https://ww2db.com/faq/#3.
25. Barb says:
10 Jun 2020 12:08:59 PM

As my father was assigned to the 4th battalion, 10th Infantry in the Panama Canal from 1935 - 1939. I am interested in learning more about what the army did there during that time.
26. Michael Goldsby, PhD says:
7 Jan 2021 01:08:49 PM

I am researching a WW2 vessel the SS WEST TEXAS. It passed through the Panama Canal in October 1943 headed to Bora Bora. Where can I find the Panama Canal record of the names of ships that passed through the canal in October 1943?
27. George T. Miller says:
31 May 2021 06:44:01 PM

I was born 2O Oct 1946 at Ft Clayton and was father then MSgt Thomas O. Miller was a mechanic on the P-38 aircraft. We (Dad, Mom, me) left Ft. Clayton eighteen months later for the States. I have never seen my birthplace although I served twenty-one and one-half years in the USAF. My Dad retired from the USAF in June 1964.
28. Richard Boyatzis says:
13 Nov 2022 04:33:38 AM

My Father, Kyriakos Boyatzis, was with the 1762 Labor Super Company in the Canal Zone Dec 1941 to Dec 1943. Although he was naturalized at Fort Randolph, I wonder where he was based within the Canal Zone. His photographs show a jungle encampment.
29. Anonymous says:
11 Feb 2023 12:52:29 PM

My grandfather, James T House, Sr was a draftsman on the panama canal, and my father James T House Jr and his mother and two brothers all lived there for a number of years till the US ordered Americans back to the States because of WWII enemy threats. My Dad who was the oldest son (about 10 years old at the time) and his dad were taken out on Naval ships. His mother and brothers taken back by a cruise ship. My dad was sent on a different ship than his father. And was assigned to a sailor who was to always be with and protect my father. He returned to the states and had a few days wait before being reunited with his family. I would love to know info around this historical event.
30. James Frank says:
7 Mar 2023 12:48:36 PM

My father, also James Frank, served in the Canal Zone during WW2 with the Army Signal Corps. I never knew which base he was stationed. One of his photos mentioned Latimer’s Barracks. Would appreciate any information. Thanks.

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Comment Type
Your Comments


1. We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

2. For inquiries about military records for members of the World War II armed forces, please see our FAQ.

Change View
Desktop View

Search WW2DB
Panama Canal Zone in World War II Photo Gallery
US submarines C-1, C-2, C-3, C-4, and C-5 in the Gatun Locks of Panama Canal, circa 1914Panama Canal Zone Administration Building, Balboa, Panama, 1917
See all 53 photographs of Panama Canal Zone in World War II

Famous WW2 Quote
"All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us... they can't get away this time."

Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, at Guadalcanal

Support Us

Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 a month will go a long way. Thank you!

Or, please support us by purchasing some WW2DB merchandise at TeeSpring, Thank you!