The Panama Canal Review - 1960

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Photos generously provided by El Senor Jim
Above and beyond the call of duty!!

The Gaillard Memorial Plaque is back in place on the rocky face of Contractors Hill after the most recent of two trips which it has made up and down the hill since being installed there in 1928.

The new location of the plaque, which weighs almost a ton, is 105 feet above the normal surface of the Canal. This is just two feet higher than the position which the 9-by-11 foot plaque first occupied. The bronze tablet is dedicated to the memory of Lt. Col. David DuBose Gaillard, head engineer of the Central Division, which carried out excavation of the Cut from July 1908 to July 1913.

The bas-relief scene on the face of the plaque is symbolic of the removal of the last shovelful of earth from the Cut. Two steam shovels are shown in the background, while two heroic-size figures in the foreground of the scene remove the last shovelful of dirt from the bottom of the Cut.

The tablet was provided by the family and friends of Colonel Gaillard, including his wife and the Memorial Association of the Third United States Volunteer Regiment of Engineers, the unit which the colonel commanded during the Spanish-American War.

When first installed by the Dredging Division in 1928, the plaque was mounted directly on the rock of Contractors Hill. In August 1954 the plaque was removed from its rocky display place in preparation for cutting back the face of the hill. Rigging was attached to the plaque and connected by cable over the brow of the hill to a winch truck which controlled its movement. The plaque was taken loose, then lowered by crane to the base of the hill, where it was crated and removed to storage until a new location was ready.

In April 1956, the plaque, newly fastened to a free-standing concrete backing wall, was hauled back up the rock face to a location on the third shelf, from where it was clearly visible from passing ships.  Early in 1959, as a new assault on Contractors Hill was started in connection with the current Cut-widening project, the plaque again was removed from the hill.

With current work on the hill now complete, the plaque has been reinstalled on the hill in a location not far different from that selected by Mrs. Gaillard 32 years ago. Today, however, it overlooks a Canal that has been increased in width by almost one-third.

[December 1998, Editor's Note:  The Gaillard Plaque has again been taken down from the hill because of another widening project.  It has been restored and now resides at the bottom of the Administration Building steps in Balboa -- in close proximity to the Goethals Memorial.  We can now all see it, up close and personal]

Presented by CZBrats
December 24, 1998
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