The Panama Canal Zone was acquired by the U.S. for ten million dollars on FEBRUARY 23, 1904.
It was proposed by Spain as early as 1534 so as to not have to sail around the Strait of Magellan.
France began building a sea-level canal in 1880, led by Ferdinand de Lesseps, builder of the Suez Canal, but landslides from tropical rains and tropical diseases of malaria and yellow fever caused the effort to be abandoned.
Dr. Walter Reed of the U.S. Army had researched in Cuba in 1899 after the Spanish-American War, and confirmed the discovery of Dr. Carlos Finlay that mosquitoes were the carriers of malaria and yellow fever, resulting in improved public sanitation measures which allowed construction in Panama to be feasible.
In 1903, the United States helped Panama gain its independence from Columbia.
Planned by President William McKinley, construction on the Panama Canal began under President Theodore Roosevelt, who decided on a canal system using a lake with three tiers of locks instead of a sea-level canal.
Inventions such as railroads, steam shovels, steam-powered cranes, hydraulic rock crushers, cement mixers, dredges, pneumatic power drills and electric motors, technology largely developed and built in the United States, were used to create the largest dam and the largest man-made lake in the world at that time, Gatun Lake.
On December 6, 1912, President William Taft addressed Congress:
"Our defense of the Panama Canal, together with our enormous world trade and our missionary outposts on the frontiers of civilization, require us to recognize our position as one of the foremost in the family of nations,
and to clothe ourselves with sufficient naval power to give force to our reasonable demands, and to give weight to our influence in those directions of progress that a powerful Christian nation should advocate."
On October 23, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson stated in his Thanksgiving Proclamation:
"We have seen the practical completion of a great work at the Isthmus of Panama which not only exemplifies the nation's abundant capacity of its public servants but also promises the beginning of a new age of co-operation and peace.
'Righteousness exalteth a nation' and 'peace on earth, good will towards men' furnish the only foundation upon which can be built the lasting achievements of the human spirit."
The Panama Canal was opened August 15, 1914, the same year World War I began.
The largest American engineering project to that date, it had cost the United States $375,000,000 (roughly $10 billion today) and 5,600 American lives.
On March 31, 1976, California Governor Ronald Reagan stated:
"Well, the Canal Zone is not a colonial possession. It is not a long-term lease. It is sovereign United States Territory every bit the same as Alaska and all the states that were carved from the Louisiana Purchase...
We bought it, we paid for it, we built it, and we intend to keep it."
President Jimmy Carter gave away the Panama Canal in 1977.
Today passage through the ports at either end of the Panama Canal (Balboa and Cristobal) is effectively controlled by the Chinese company, Huchinson Port Holding.
The world's largest seaport operator, China's Hutchison Port Holding runs strategic seaports in:
Argentina, Bahamas, Mexico, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, and UAE.
American Minute with Bill Federer FEBRUARY 23. Taft, William H.. Dec. 6, 1912, Annual Message to Congress, part II. A Compilation of the Messages & Papers of the Presidents 20 vols. (NY: Bureau of National Literature, Inc., prepared under the direction of the Joint Committee on Printing, of the House & Senate, pursuant to an Act of the 52nd Congress of the United States, 1893, 1923), Vol. XVI, p. 7808.