When I was kid, Pleasantville was a place for girl guide meetings, bingo nights and Janeway visits. But in 1943, it was a place for jeeps, guns and ammunition – the home of thousands of fighting Yankees!
Early in the Second World War, the United States struck a deal with Great Britain whereby it would lease land for bases in Newfoundland and the Carribean in exchange for American destroyers.
The US Army subsequently built facility after facility on the island: “harbour defense fortifications” on Signal Hill, a “radio intelligence station” at Snelgrove, “seacoast defense facilities, infantry sites, and searchlight batteries” along the coastline, and radar warning sites at Cape Bonavista, Allan’s Island, Cape Spear, St. Brides, and Fogo Island.
Tying it all together was Fort Pepperrell – completed in 1943, garrisoned with 5,000 troops, and designated the Newfoundland Base Command.
But in 1961, long before the 99-year lease had run out, the U.S. showed its generosity by handing Fort Pepperrell (now to become Pleasantville) back to Newfoundland.
And like a final souvenir from Uncle Sam, it’s said that the streets around the old barracks – including Roosevelt and Churchill Avenue – outline the shape of a cowboy hat.
– Lesley Thompson and Ben “Jaws” Jackson