Evacuation Day: June 11
Evacuation Day is a public holiday in Libya.
Libya is a country in north Africa, and its land has been inhabited since pre-historic times. Its coast, which borders on the Mediterranean Sea, made it a strategic lookout post for naval expeditions. This geographical positioning was also the source of an increase of trade as most of the ships that sailed throughout the Mediterranean Sea would stop at this port.
This also had many other disadvantages as its proximity and importance caused many countries to want to control the port, and hence many invasions were made by countries like Greece, Italy, and Britain. The country also had strategic elements that the United States took advantage of starting in 1943. American Evacuation Day is the celebration of the removal of the U.S. from Libya in 1970.
History of American Evacuation Day in Libya
The country has a vast history which abounds with turbulent invasions and intermittent peace periods. Italy invaded and made the country a colony, giving Italy a position to expand its empire over the continent of Africa and the Mediterranean. Italy lost control of Mellaha Air Base in 1943 to Britain the base was soon turned over to the United States, and it was renamed to Wheelus Air Base. In 1947, after losing the Second World War, Italy relinquished all the claims it had on Libya in a peace treaty that was signed to signify the end of the War.
A constitutional hereditary monarchy was instituted, and soon, oil reserves were discovered in Libya, slowly leading to the improvement of the country’s economy. With the improved economy came dissidence among citizens that saw the poor only getting poorer and the rich getting richer.
Students began demonstrating against the monarchy which caused the police to resort to firing at and causing the death of students. These incidents sent shock waves throughout the country, causing an increase in demonstrations. A coup was organized by Moammer Al-Ghadaffi who overthrew the king and took power in September 1969.
The U.S. and U.K. troops occupying military bases, including Wheelus, were asked to leave the country. Due to the strategic importance of the military bases, both the U.K. and the U.S. resisted the demand. However, after long and arduous negotiations, an agreement was made to remove the troops and dismantle the bases in Almalla and Tobruk. On June 11, 1970, the United States turned Wheelus Air Base over to Libya and left.
Libya’s American Evacuation Day Traditions, Customs and Activities
Libya chose the closing of Wheelus to commemorate the exit of the United States from the country. Celebrations include a speech by the president and politicians, and general merriment from the people.