UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Operation Hawkeye

The U.S. Virgin Islands are located in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and are about 50 miles east of Puerto Rico. There are 3 main islands in the territory, St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John, as well as Water Island and several dozen additional small islands. The islands cover a land area of 352 square kilometers, approximately twice the size of Washington. D.C. The territory capital is located in Charlotte Amalie, on the island of St. Thomas.

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are a British overseas territory, part of the British West Indies, lying about 60 miles east of Puerto Rico. There are about 50 islands in the BVI, many of them uninhabited. Tortola is the main island; other islands include Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada. Tourist facilities are widely available.

Denmark chartered the Danish West Indian Company and began colonizing St. Thomas in 1671 and St. John in 1684. Denmark later purchased St. Croix from France in 1733. Except for a brief period of English occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, the Virgin Islands remained under Danish control until 1917. Denmark then sold all three islands to the United States for $25 million by Treaty. Water Island was transferred to the Virgin Islands by the Department of the Interior on December 12, 1996. The islands were under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy until they were transferred to the Department of the Interior in 1931.

The U.S. Virgin Islands, an unincorporated territory of the United States, was placed under the administration of the Secretary of the Interior pursuant to Executive Order 5566 in 1931. These islands are under the sovereignty of the United States. The Organic Act of 1936 established local government under the control of the Secretary of Interior. The Revised Organic Act of 1954 is the Virgin Islands analogue of a state constitution, replacing the makeshift Organic Act of 1936. Under the territory's 1954 Revised Organic Act, the Governor of the Virgin Islands was appointed by the President of the United States and reported to the Secretary of the Interior.

Hurricane Hugo in September 1989, was the strongest storm to srike the US since Camille hit the Louisiana and Texas coast in 1969. Hugo was a category 5 storm at its strongest and was still a category 4 when it affected the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and South Carolina.

The origin of Hugo was detected on satellite imagery on the 9th of September when a cluster of thunderstorms moved off the coast of Africa. It developed into a tropical depression to the southeast of the Cape Verde Islands the following day, then moved westward near 20 mph across the tropical Atlantic Ocean, becoming a tropical storm on the 11th and a hurricane on the 13th, while located 1100 nm east of the Leeward Islands. The storm turned west-northwest and slowed its forward motion in response to low pressure to the north of Puerto Rico which weakened the subtropical ridge to its north. Hugo struck Guadeloupe just past midnight on the 17th. Continuing to decelerate, the eye moved over St. Croix very early on the morning of the 18th. It then accelerated, moving over Vieques, Puerto Rico mid-morning and then over the extreme northeast tip of mainland Puerto Rico an hour later.

On 17 September 1989, Hurricane Hugo, one of the most destructive weather systems ever recorded by the National Weather Service, struck the island of St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands. Windspeeds were maintained at approximately 140 mph as it crossed the islands. The hurricane destroyed nearly all of the life support systems for a population of over 50,000; including the fresh water supply, the island's electrical generation capability, and the fuel supply. Food was limited to that in stores and warehouses, and much of that was either damaged or destroyed. Telephone lines were down, and over ninety percent of all buildings destroyed or damaged. Every hospital and medical clinic was either severely damaged or completely destroyed. Every structure of wood or metal, including the homes of the island's poor, was destroyed. Fuel spills created hazardous environmental conditions.

The ensuing chaos and total breakdown of law and order resulted in widespread looting and general lawlessness throughout the island. The police department was incomplete disarray. Additionally, from 200 to 600 prisoners had escaped from the island's only territorial prison. Initially, beginning on 16 September 1989, Governor Alexander Farrelly called up troops under a Territorial mobilization. On 20 September 1989 via EO 12690, President Bush invoked the Insurrection Act to federalize the National Guard to impose order following violence and looting in the wake of Hurricane Hugo. Virgin Islands reported 954 ARNG and 29 ANG personnel mobilized for the year.

President George Bush ordered federal forces to St. Croix to suppress the violence, protect property, and restore law and order. Elements of the Army, Navy and the Coast Guard, along with a contingent from the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) formed Joint Task Force (JTF) 40 for Operation Hawkeye.

The Army element of JTF-40 was a Military Police brigade with medical, engineer and other support personnel. Immediately upon arrival in St. Croix, the 503d deployed three-man teams into the island's two major cities. Looting and other disturbances ceased immediately. Within 24 hours, the MPs were enforcing a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Law and order had been restored. Military police patrolled the island for two months. They provided security for key installations, worked with the FBI and the U.S. Marshals to apprehend all escaped prisoners and to intercept air-dropped bundles of cocaine valued at over $50 million; and carried out extensive training for the Virgin Island National Guard conducted and joint patrols with the St. Croix Police Department.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 05-07-2011 14:05:25 ZULU