PANAMA: Buried Treasure

Buccaneer Henry Morgan, ravishing Panama of 400,000 pieces of eight in 1671, was a halfhearted shoplifter compared to the modern-day looters who went to work there after World War II. When the U.S. turned its 134 defense sites on the isthmus over to Panama in 1946-48, piratical countrymen ransacked barracks and hangars, worth millions, for lumber and pipe. But the richest treasure turned out to be miles of buried phone and teleprinter cable.

Sheathed in lead worth up to 17¢ a pound, the cable could be had merely by loosening 6 to 18 inches of red earth and pulling up...

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