National Geographic: Adventures - Panama Canal: The Mountain and the Mosquito (1999)

The Panama Canal is completed.
The Atlantic and the Pacific are joined.
The most ambitious construction project
since the great pyramids of Egypt.
The work has spanned nearly
half a century,
and claimed the lives of
Now it is finished and the world
is suddenly smaller.
But behind this epic tale,
there is another story
of two unsung heroes.
One is an engineer from the Rockies
with the vision to move mountains.
The other, a soft-spoken
Alabama physician
whose enemies are ignorance,
disease and death.
Together, they take on a wilderness
that had defeated the best engineers in the world.
Without either one,
the Panama Canal could not be built.
And yet, one of these visionaries
will suddenly and mysteriously
walk away
before the canal is finished.
And take the secret of his departure
to his grave.
The Republic of Panama,
Central America.
A barricade between two oceans.
With a blanket of jungle.
And a spine of mountains.
Today, 14,000 ships sail through
these peaks and forests each year.
Their miracle highway
is the Panama Canal.
One of the wonders of the modern world.
A miracle that,
on a rain-soaked day in July, 1905,
no one in Panama would
have believed possible.
At the port of Colon,
a new American field boss has
arrived to take control
of a dying dream.
At age 52, John Stevens has built
more miles of railroad than
any other engineer in the world.
The Rocky Mountains
have been his home.
And spanning them his
greatest challenge... until now.
In Panama, yellow fever has killed
hundreds of workers,
most of them from the West Indies,
and terrified the rest.
The men call it The Great Scare.
But his orders come directly
from the President of the United States.
In his first address to Congress
Roosevelt vows to chop
the Isthmus of Panama in half
and complete The Big Ditch.
"We must build the Isthmian Canal...
No single great material work
which remains to be undertaken
on this continent
is of such consequence
to the American people."
Roosevelt's motives are patriotic,
economic and military.
A canal would trim nearly a month
from the travel time
between New York and San Francisco.
Making the shortest path
between the oceans a superhighway
of American commerce
and the lifeline of
the nation's burgeoning two-ocean Navy.
Roosevelt inspires thousands of
young American laborers
to set off for Panama.
But they disembark in
a steaming hell.
Soaring heat...
punishing rains...
ancient jungles.
Temperatures top 130 and it can
rain daily for eight months.
In the unbroken forests,
lethal predators await the
innocent arrivals.
But the most mortal dangers
are too small to see
Confused, chaotic, and deadly.
Teddy Roosevelt's Big Ditch Project
is a quagmire
sucking up millions of dollars,
and hundreds of lives.
To slice through the
bureaucratic nightmare,
Roosevelt authorizes John Stevens
to ignore any orders
that do not come directly
from the White House.
Stevens agrees.
And he advises the
much younger president
to keep his promise.
I'm to have a free hand.
I'm not to be hampered
or handicapped by anyone high or low.
And I'm to stay on the Isthmus
only until success is assured.
It is no accident that
Stevens has been recruited.
For the Canal to succeed,
it must find a way
through the mountains
of the Continental Divide,
the backbone connecting
North and South America.
Roosevelt hopes America's
greatest railway man
can save his Canal
- and ensure his political future.
Stevens is a railroad man,
not a Washington insider.
Day after day he tramps
through the construction zone,
focused on every detail of the job.
His cigars are so enormous
that the men call him "The Big Smoke."
But they respect him immediately.
Finally, they have a boss
who will listen.
"Mr. Stevens did not talk much
but asked questions
and could that man ask questions!
He found out everything I knew.
He turned me inside out and shook out
the last drop of information."
Frank Maltby, Division Head
After decades of back-breaking labor,
workers have slashed a route
through the jungle
that the canal is to follow.
By 1905, excavation is concentrated
in a mountainous area
of the Continental Divide.
Stevens is appalled at what he finds.
Trains lie rusting off their tracks.
Steam shovels lay idle.
Workers have no blueprints,
no guidance, no hope.
"I believe I faced about
as discouraging a proposition
as was ever presented
to a construction engineer.
I found no organization...
no answerable heads...
Nobody was working
but the ants and the typists."
In Panama, it has been this way
for more than 30 years.
For the Americans now;
for the French in the 1880s.
Having succeeded at linking Europe
and the Orient by building
the great Suez canal in Egypt,
the French try to repeat their success
in Central America.
They believe that slender Panama
should be an easy target.
It is a fatal miscalculation.
Disease, accidents, and exhaustion
take the lives of 22,000 laborers.
One man must succeed
where the world's best have failed.
Workers tell The Big Smoke
that their greatest worry
is the treacherous Culebra Cut,
the mountain pass where the French
lost the most men.
At Culebra, they must dig out
a man-made Grand Canyon.
A twisting, nine mile,
water-filled chasm as deep as a
Like the French, the Americans
don't know what to do
with the staggering amount of dirt
that is being dug out of Culebra.
It is simply dumped
wherever space can be found.
Creating unstable mountains of debris
that crumble in the continual rains.
At Culebra,
the Spanish word for snake,
John Stevens,
the great American engineer is stymied.
Here, the French finally surrendered.
Here, John Stevens must
find a way through.
Topography is only half the problem.
In the work camps,
where three quarters of the work force
are impoverished West Indians,
the human toll is appalling.
Even Roosevelt's eager
American volunteers,
in their segregated barracks,
are barely surviving on rations of
crackers and sardines.
Crammed into hovels
with no toilets or running water.
Tormented by dysentery,
parasites and fear of yellow fever
- The Great Scare.
Desperate to defeat The Great Scare -
to restore the spirits of
his frightened workers -
Stevens visits Dr. William Gorgas,
chief medical officer of the canal.
In the yellow fever ward of the
Ancon hospital,
Dr. Gorgas introduces the victims
of this horrible plague.
Like Stevens, Gorgas has been
hand-picked by the President.
At 49 years-old,
he is a light-hearted Southerner
plunged into a nightmare
of tropical sickness.
In Cuba, newly freed from Spanish rule
by Roosevelt and his Rough Riders,
Gorgas has succeeded in virtually
eliminating yellow fever.
Panama has proved to be a far
more difficult assignment.
"When the United States
took possession in 1904
the Isthmus was generally looked on as
...the most unhealthy spot in the world
Probably it would not be extreme to say
that there is no other place
that has as bad a reputation."
He has been in Panama for
more than 13 months
when John Stevens joins him.
For Dr. William Crawford Gorgas,
it has been a year of anguish.
At Ancon, he relates the toll -
in the past few months.
Hundreds of other lives claimed by
malaria, pneumonia, chronic dysentery,
and, even, Bubonic plague.
John Stevens knows that his canal
cannot be built without human labor.
Stevens has to act quickly.
He has come to build a canal
but must fix a disaster.
In Panama less than a week,
he knows what he must do.
It is a decision
that will shock everyone.
With undiminished energy
despite the heat and rain,
John Stevens spends seven grueling days
inspecting every inch of
the biggest excavation in human history.
The men expect Stevens to order them
to speed up their work
on the President's Big Ditch.
Instead, he commands them
to lay down their tools.
Hundreds of workers and technicians
are shipped home to America.
John Stevens tells them
that the Panama Canal is unfit
for further labor.
In Washington, the new President
waits anxiously for progress reports
from his new chief engineer.
But the news from Panama is stunning.
The project has been shut down!
"Regardless of the clamor
of criticism...
as long as I am in charge of
the work...
and I am confident that
if this policy is adhered to,
the future will
show its absolute wisdom."
Stevens understands that the canal's
fatal problem
is not the mountains, but the men.
Disease and fear sap their souls
before they raise a shovel.
Stevens turns to Dr. William Gorgas
for help.
Like the French before them,
the Americans live in morbid terror
of catching the disease
they call Yellow Eyes, Yellow Jack,
or The Great Scare.
A horrifying disease.
Delirium and death can follow within
eight hours of infection.
Yellow fever patients first complain
of crippling muscle pain.
As the aches intensify,
body temperature rises steeply.
The skin and eyes turn yellow,
thirst becomes unquenchable
and patients lose consciousness.
Spasms of black vomit
signal the final crisis.
Fewer than 50 percent of
patients survive.
Gorgas believes in a new theory
that explains the cause of
yellow fever - mosquitoes.
In 1901, scientists have discovered
that the Stegomyia mosquito carries
the yellow fever virus
from person to person.
In Panama, only Gorgas understands
the mosquito's deadly secret.
Dr. Gorgas finds that yellow fever
mosquitoes live in towns, not jungles.
To destroy them,
he will need to fumigate every puddle
and rain barrel on the Isthmus.
He envisions the largest, most costly
public sanitation campaign
the world has ever seen.
It is not a vision shared
by the canal bureaucracy.
For eighteen months,
officials scoff at the mosquito theory
and turn down all of Dr. Gorgas's
requests for funds and supplies.
But John Stevens listens.
Only a healthy work force can rescue
Teddy Roosevelt's dream.
He will withdraw his men
from the mountains,
and send them to war
against the mosquito.
But Stevens does not
ignore the other war he faces.
The battle against Panama's
impassable geography.
Somehow, he must find
a route beyond Culebra.
Through the jagged jungles
to the sea.
He studies the French plans
and realizes that
the millions of tons of dirt
and rock
must be not only excavated,
but removed entirely.
Simply piling the spoil
at the side of the cut
is an invitation to landslides
and disaster.
"Efficient transportation
is nearly always the key to success
in construction.
If dirt is to fly,
there must be a smooth and
uninterrupted movement of trains."
Stevens conceives a radical new plan
for disposing of the dirt.
He draws on his experience with
railways in the Rockies.
Instead of hauling men, in Panama,
the trains will be used
to cart the dirt away.
But to do it, the entire rail system
must be revamped to handle
such a heavy load -
exactly the kind of thing
Stevens does best.
"There is no element of
mystery involved.
The most important stage in any great
undertaking is the preparatory stage.
The digging is the least thing
of all."
While Stevens attacks
the Continental Divide,
Dr. Gorgas sends out
his own battalions.
Fumigation brigades burn sulfur,
clean up sewage, and seal windows.
"It would be impossible to fumigate
more extensively than we did... in 1905.
We had about 400 men
engaged in this work,
and they went over the whole town
three times,
fumigating every house in the town,
besides fumigating every block
each time a case of yellow fever
occurred in that block."
Screens are installed and water
barrels are covered.
Ditches where mosquitoes breed
are drained.
Quarantined clinics treat
and keep them in mandatory isolation.
Stylish, sleepless and impervious
to the heat,
Gorgas works around the clock.
He stretches Roosevelt's promise
of an unlimited budget
to the breaking point, importing
America's entire output for a year.
He orders $90,000 dollars
worth of copper screening
in a single shipment.
Nearly double his previous
yearly budget.
It is the largest
and most expensive - war
ever waged against
tropical disease.
Meanwhile, John Stevens
fights his own battle.
He dismisses the existing
rail line as
"two streaks of rust
and a right of way."
Using his legendary status
as a drawing card,
Stevens lures the best railroad men
in America to the Isthmus.
Within six months of his arrival,
he triples the work force to 24,000.
Stevens constructs the most durable
railway in history.
Double-sided tracks of the heaviest
rails on earth
allow the world's heaviest freight
cars to travel in both directions,
Track-shifting machinery moves huge
sections of rail line faster and easier.
A telegraph system, new bridges and
massive locomotive sheds take shape.
Stevens thinks big, and buys big.
He has decided that the French suffered
because their machinery was too small.
He will not repeat their mistake.
Every weapon in his arsenal
is enormous.
His coal-burning steam shovels weigh
Mechanical dinosaurs.
Three times larger than anything
used by the Parisians.
"Now I would like that
[French] plant
to a modern one as baby
carriages to automobiles.
This is no reflection of the French,
but I cannot conceive
how they did the work they did
with the plant they had."
But Stevens has learned another
lesson on the railroads.
That morale is more valuable
than machines.
And the best way to restore morale
is to keep workers clean and dry.
There are three diseases in Panama.
They are yellow fever, malaria,
and cold feet;
and the greatest of these
is cold feet.
The labor camps built
during the French regime
have tumbled into misery.
Unpaved streets are ankle-deep in mud.
Waste is emptied onto passerby
from second story windows.
Stevens wades in like
a Wild West sheriff.
Closing brothels,
demolishing decrepit barracks,
building a new city of paved streets
and sanitary dwellings.
The Canal line begins to look like
a continuous city
under construction from one end
of the zone to the other.
As 1906 begins,
five months after being in Panama,
he feels he has made Panama livable.
He is ready to begin digging
at Culebra again.
A few months later,
Dr. William Gorgas declares victory
over The Great Scare.
"Take a good look at this man, boys.
For it's the last case of yellow fever
you will ever see.
There will never be any more deaths
from this cause in Panama."
Panama is busy again
- healthy... and fearless.
Along the entire length
of the Canal corridor,
the racket of hammers and saws
and the roar of engines can be heard.
President Roosevelt's dream
of splitting a continent
is being brought to life again.
As a new railway is pushed through the
jungles of Panama,
John Stevens rarely rests.
It is the summer of 1906,
Stevens drives himself to exhaustion-
and expects his men to do the same.
"I gauge everybody by myself.
I work from 14 to 18 hours.
You may make mistakes
but there is only one mistake you can
make that will be fatal with me,
and that is to do nothing."
Stevens believes his workers are safe
from the Great Scare.
But yellow fever has been
relatively easy to eradicate.
Now a far more formidable enemy
must be confronted... malaria.
"If we can control malaria,
I feel very little anxiety
about other diseases.
If we do not control malaria
our mortality is going to be heavy."
The Anopheles mosquito
that transmits malaria
is not the same insect
that carries yellow fever.
It is an entirely different species
and far more difficult to control.
She lives longer, flies further,
and thrives in the stagnant waters
of the Panamanian forests.
Right where John Stevens's
new railway is being built.
The latest arrivals from North America
and the West Indies are in gravest
danger from being bitten.
Most Panamanians, as Gorgas knows,
develop a natural immunity
to malaria in childhood.
But nearly every new comer-including
Dr. Gorgas and his entire medical staff-
become infected within months-
enduring recurring episodes of
fever, chills, depression,
and intense pain.
Gorgas warns Stevens that
the new settlements
he is building along his railway
are placing thousands of
American workers at risk.
"I suppose it is no exaggeration
to say that any man
who spends a night in one of
these villages will contract malaria."
John Stevens knows the danger
of malaria.
But also knows that work must continue
if the canal is to be built.
All along the line, the pace of
construction intensifies.
Laborers from North America, Europe,
the Orient and the West Indies arrive.
Many bring their families,
building a new life in a new country.
Feeding the masses is an enormous job.
Bakeries turn out 40,000 loaves
of bread a day.
Stevens builds laundries,
and recreation halls for the men
and their families.
An amazing ice house brings
the loudest cheers.
The very idea of ice-cream
in the jungle delights the crews.
Music fills the air.
They begin to call Culebra
"Stevens City."
But the deadly plague of malaria
is never far away.
Dr. Gorgas and his fumigation brigades
keep ahead of the track gangs.
Cleansing the new villages.
Pushing deep into the wilderness.
They drain swamps and spray oil
on cesspools
to prevent eggs from hatching.
Stagnant water is routinely tested
for the presence of larvae.
A modern running-water system
as good as in an American city
is installed and acres
of brush are burned.
Daily doses of quinine-
made from the bark of a tropical tree -
are part of each man's diet.
They call the bitter-tasting
drink a "Panama cocktail."
As Dr. Gorgas battles the mosquito,
John Stevens battles the mountain.
This is the ultimate roadblock-
the Continental Divide.
Stevens calculates that he must
dig a channel nine miles long
and 272 feet deep through
solid volcanic rock.
It will require that man
and machines move enough dirt
to build the Great Pyramids
of Cheops 63 times.
John Stevens has been given command
of the grandest construction project
in four thousand years.
"Even with the finances of the most
powerful nation on earth,
we are contending with
Nature's forces.
When we speak of a hundred
million yards
of a single cut not to exceed
nine miles in length,
we are facing a proposition
greater than
was ever undertaken in the engineering
history of the world."
Making a sea-level canal
from the Atlantic to the Pacific
means cutting deep into
the mountain range.
The French spent nine years trying,
and failed.
Now Stevens wonders
how he will conquer Culebra.
The problem is water.
The tropical rainy season
arrives in April.
Massive flooding, daily down pours
and the constant risk
of deadly landslides.
Stevens has never faced anything like
this in the Rocky Mountains.
He realizes that to build a sea-level
canal here will be a deadly undertaking
that could take twice
as long as anticipated.
And there is another enemy.
When the rain comes, the placid
Chagres River swells with anger,
rising 20 feet in just one day.
The floods will inundate any canal
Stevens tries to dig through it.
Even if he moves the mountains,
he cannot stop the rains.
"The one great problem in the
construction of [the] canal
is the control of the Chagres River.
That overshadows everything else."
Stevens now realizes that a sea-level
canal is not possible.
The mountain is too big.
To dig it all the way down
to sea-level
and transport it away is beyond their
current technological capabilities.
There is, however, another way,
one that will use the geography
of Panama rather than conquer it.
It is a plan that will change
the course of history.
But first he needs to
convince the President.
To sell his revolutionary new plan
to the President of the United States,
John Stevens must sail to Washington.
For a man who is chronically sea-sick,
the voyage is as forbidding
as the destination.
At the White House, Stevens unveils
his amazing new blueprint.
He intends to lift the world's
largest ships
up one side of the Continental Divide,
then down the other.
He will dam the Chagres River to
create a huge artificial lake.
And build a series of mammoth locks
to conquer the steep spine of Panama.
In essence, the mountain won't be
cut down to sea-level.
The ships will be floated up
to the mountain
and sailed across a bridge of water.
It is an audacious plan.
A clear statement that Stevens
believes that
the French struggled for nine years
and lost the lives of 16,000 men
to a doomed dream.
But in 1906 no-one knows if Stevens's
plan will work either.
Theodore Roosevelt has promised
Stevens his unconditional support.
Now he proves it.
In February of 1906, Roosevelt signs
a Presidential sanction
authorizing the construction of
Stevens' new high-lake lock plan.
Fifteen months after taking charge
of Panama,
Stevens is finally ready to build
the President his dream.
Roosevelt must convince Americans
that John Stevens and William Gorgas
can conquer nature and geography.
Convince skeptics that
a canal can be built.
To prove his faith,
the President decides to stage one of
the 20th century's first media events.
He and the First Lady will visit
the Big Ditch themselves.
It is a decision that
captivates the nation.
No American president has ever visited
foreign soil while in office.
To grasp first-hand the difficulties
of the project,
Roosevelt insists on being in Panama
during the rainy season.
On the second day of his visit,
three inches of rain fall in two hours.
One inch falling in 15 minutes.
It is the worst downpour in Panama
in fifteen years.
With photographers never far away,
the young President strolls
through construction camps,
dines in a mess hall with the men
and shares meals with John Stevens.
He visits the Culebra Cut,
and delivers stirring prep talks
in the jungle,
telling workers that they are soldiers
fighting a glorious war
for America's destiny.
The laborers are impressed
and honored.
Their applause rivals the thunder
in the tropical skies.
"You, here, who do your work well
in bringing to completion
this great enterprise,
will stand exactly as the soldiers
of a few, and only a few,
of the most famous armies of all the
nations stand in history."
With his signature showmanship,
the President,
in his famous white suit
and Panama hat,
leaps aboard one of the mighty 95-
ton Bucyrus shovels.
The men cheer this icon of American
know-how, a reminder that,
for Americans, there is no obstacle
too formidable.
But another war is being won,
far from the spotlight.
On the second day of his tour,
Roosevelt quietly slips
away from the cameras
and the secret service
to pay Dr. Gorgas an unannounced
The two men walk through an
almost deserted ward.
It is a quiet moment of proud victory.
Stunning evidence that
the Alabama doctor
has brought health and sanitation
to deadly Panama.
The Great Scare is over.
Roosevelt reciprocates with
the public praise Gorgas
has hungered for since
he first arrived in Panama.
When Roosevelt praises
the miracle in Panama
and cites Stevens and Gorgas by name,
they become celebrities
across America.
"They are doing something
which will redound immeasurable
to the credit of America,
which will benefit all the world,
and which will last for ages to come.
Under Mr. Stevens and Dr. Gorgas
this work
has started with every omen of
good fortune."
While the President boasts
and bellows,
the mountains of Panama
remain unconquered.
Stevens has devised an ambitious plan,
but it remains no more than a blueprint.
To make the plan a reality,
Stevens will begin with the
damming of the Chagres River,
creating the largest man-made lake
in the world.
Dozens of villages must be evacuated,
their residents relocated
to higher ground.
A new city, called Gatun,
must be built from scratch.
Surveying parties outline the contours
of a body of water
that will cover 164 square miles.
The entire region must be
clear-cut by hand.
This job alone will take almost
five years to complete.
And with this new plan will come
massive concrete and electrical work-
unlike anything the world
has ever seen.
Things that John Stevens has little
experience working with.
Such a massive construction project
will also invite bureaucratic red-tape,
and increased
political interference from Washington.
The very things that John Stevens
has fought against all his life.
Meanwhile dynamite crews risk their
lives and begin blasting into Culebra
to loosen the mountain
from its ancient domain.
Stevens continues his daily routine
of surveying the work
in Culebra for himself.
will be moved by train,
along hundreds of miles of new track.
Enough dirt to fill enough hopper cars
to circle the globe four times.
The work force healthy and excavation
well under way,
Gorgas and Stevens have finally
set in motion a plan
to bring down the mountain.
It is a plan that
will prove Stevens right -
and finally get the Canal built.
But there is one more surprise.
One of these men will walk away.
Less than three months
after President Roosevelt's
confidence-boosting visit,
John Stevens quits the project
and leaves Panama.
It is a mysterious gesture.
He offers no reason to his workers,
to Dr. Gorgas, or his own family.
Not even the President.
Theodore Roosevelt is deeply angered.
Publicly, he conceals his anger,
telling friends that Stevens
is unable to withstand the
punishing Panamanian climate -
that he has become ill and sleepless.
But privately the president
feels betrayed.
Others believe that
the solitary mountain man
could not endure the massive
bureaucracy of the canal commission
or the contract system
that was forced upon him.
It is a secret he takes to his grave.
"The reasons for the resignation
were purely personal.
I have never declared these reasons
and probably never will,
as they are private."
Nearly a century later,
no one knows why the greatest
civil engineer of his era
abandoned the most important project
of his lifetime.
Suddenly and without warning.
Perhaps he sensed that the
hardest work was already behind him.
That history had anointed him
to plan the canal,
then move on while others built it.
In eighteen months,
John Stevens succeeded
where others had labored in vain
for generations.
He provided decent housing and food
for his loyal workers.
And pushed through
a jungle railroad network
to move huge quantities of earth.
Perhaps most important of all,
he cast the weight of his prestige
behind Dr. Gorgas.
Understanding that fear,
not mountains,
blocked the path between the seas.
In 1914, seven years after
Stevens's departure,
Dr. Gorgas silently paddles
a small wooden canoe
through the freshly-cut canal.
He is the first to travel voyage
through the Canal.
The official opening of the canal
won't happen for three more months.
All around him is evidence
of John Stevens' vision.
A magnificent bridge of water
that lifts ships out of the ocean
and sails them smoothly
across the Isthmus of Panama.
After 30 years and the loss of
thousands of lives,
the dream of Columbus,
has been achieved.
The union of the oceans.
And the shrinking of the world.
It has taken seven years
to complete the Canal.
The President asks the Army
to finish the job.
And though it would be
wider and deeper,
it would resemble almost perfectly
the lock system
that John Stevens had convinced
Teddy Roosevelt
to build across the Isthmus.
And it is a spectacular vision.
The locks at both ends are
the largest in the world.
Over 80 feet high,
they are five blocks long
and stand as tall as
a six story building.
Monstrous T-shaped cantilever cranes
that can be seen from miles away float
plates of steel through the air.
More concrete-
four and a half million barrels-
than has ever been used in history
is poured into the locks.
Six million rivets are needed
to build the lock gates.
Gatun Lake, at 164 square miles,
would be the largest man-made lake
in the world.
And Gatun dam, made from the spoil
of the Culebra Cut,
is the largest in the world
to be made of earth.
It is a mile and a half long
and half a mile wide at its base.
The Canal is the work of more than
from 97 different countries.
Most would not live
to sail through it.
The final bill.
Over $600 million dollars.
In an age when a worker was fortunate
to earn a dollar a day.
The single greatest engineering
undertaking in American history.
Teddy Roosevelt never returns
to the Big Ditch
to see his dream brought to life.
He leaves office in 1909
and dies in 1919,
seven months before
America's Pacific Fleet
first passes through the Canal.
John Stevens finds another mountain
and another railway.
In 1917 he is sent to Russia by
President Woodrow Wilson
to reorganize the
Trans-Siberian Railway.
Not until 1937, at age 83,
does he return to Panama
to gaze upon his masterpiece.
He dies in North Carolina
six years later at age 90.
Only Dr. William Crawford Gorgas
sees America's work in Panama through
from start to end.
By the time he returns
to the United States,
he has completely eradicated
Yellow Fever
from the Canal Zone
and reduced malarial infection
to rates lower than most
American cities at the time.
The physician's work in Panama
brings him great public acclaim.
He is appointed Surgeon General,
a supreme honor for a country doctor
from Alabama.
He leads the American Medical
Services Corps to Europe
during the First World War.
In 1920 he dies a hero
and is given a state funeral.
One man battled mountains.
The other, the tiny bearers of death.
This is their monument.
The bridging of a continent.
The union of the seas.