Engineers
Memories
Atlantic Division mapCentral Division mapPacific Division map

President Roosevelt entrusted the Panama Canal with Army engineers primarily because of their expertise in the types of projects the canal plan demanded - locks, dams, inland navigation, dredging, excavation, and breakwater construction. None of the projects alone were unprecedented. What made them uniquely challenging was their scale, location, and close proximity to one another. Construction of the world's largest dam at Gatun had to be coordinated with the largest locks ever built, all upon the same site. Erstwhile, millions of cubic yards of rock from the Culebra Cut moved along the entire canal line to dump sites near and far. All this in a humid tropical environment with deadly diseases, invasive jungle, and catastrophic mudslides.

To accomplish the task, Chief Engineer George Goethals of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reorganzied the construction effort into three geographic regions. Each was headed by a Division Engineer who was responsible for all activities within that region. For the Atlantic and Central Divisions, he placed Army Engineer colleagues - Lt. Cols. William Sibert and David Gaillard respectively. For the Pacific Division, he appointed an Army civilian engineer, Sydney Williamson. Through coordination but also friendly competition, the Division Engineers completed the individual projects of the Panama Canal.