Inter-American Geodetic Survey

The Inter-American Geodetic Survey (IAGS) was one of those extremely successful, yet little known, US Army (and later, Dept. of Defense) programs established after WWII.

The IAGS was created specifically to assist Latin American countries in surveying and mapping their vast internal regions that were either poorly mapped or entirely unmapped. The IAGS was established in 1946 as part of the Army Map Service and was headquartered at Fort Clayton in the Panama Canal Zone. The Army Map Service set up a complete survey, cartographic and map reproduction school at Fort Clayton and over the next 30 years trained thousands of military and civilian personnel from most Latin American and Caribbean countries. Attendance at the IAGS school at Fort Clayton was seen as right of passage for many up and coming officers in Latin American militaries, and it was common to run across senior officers – colonels and generals – from South American countries who talked fondly of their time spent at Fort Clayton, taking surveying or cartographic classes (one infamous graduate of the IAGS schools just happens to be Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who attended the cartographic school in the 1960s).

The IAGS didn’t just provide training.  It also provided the equipment and personnel to assist the participating countries in establishing their own self-sufficient mapping and surveying programs.  The goal was to provide the training, equipment and technical support but have the individual countries take over their own mapping efforts.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that the IAGS was all altruistic good-will on America’s part.  We learned the hard way during WWII that many Latin American countries were at best reluctant allies, at worst active sympathizers with the Nazi regime.  At the end of WWII the political systems in these countries ranged from shaky democracies to hard line dictatorships.  The US Government became concerned about the effects of political unrest and Communist influence in the region, and instituted a number of programs designed to bring Latin America firmly under American influence and to foster democratic principles and improve economic conditions.  The IAGS was just one of many programs created as part of this effort.  One extremely important benefit the IAGS provided back to the US was that we were able to get American personnel on the ground in these countries to make detailed evaluations of local conditions (after all, that’s what surveyors and cartographers do, right?) and we got maps that were created to US standards for vast areas of Central and South America.

According to all the accounts I’ve read and my own direct experience with the IAGS in Central and South America, the program was a great success. The goals of the IAGS were warmly embraced by most countries, who realized they utterly lacked the resources and training needed to map their own territories. IAGS liasion personnel were permanently assigned to each country, working out of the US embassies, and developed deep and lasting ties with government, military and business leaders.  IAGS personnel were very highly regarded in most countries, and I’ve heard more than one old-timer talk about how whenever they flew into a country to work and the local customs agents saw the distinctive IAGS logo on their luggage they were swiftly and courteously passed through customs without inspection or interrogation.

My introduction to the IAGS came when I attended the Defense Mapping School’s Mapping, Charting & Geodesy Officer’s Course at Fort Belvior, Virginia back in 1982.  By then the IAGS had been, or was in the process of transforming into, the Defense Mapping Agency International Division (I’m running on memory here, so please forgive any errors). However, the IAGS logo was visible throughout the building, and we received a short orientation brief on IAGS operations.  My next contact came in 1990 while working in Honduras as part of an airfield construction task force.  My team’s job was to conduct route reconnaissance and terrain evaluation of large sections of southern Honduras.  We made contact with the Honduran IAGS liaison officer, Emory Phlegar.  Emory was a long time IAGS hand who had ‘gone native’ – he married into Honduran society and seemed to know everyone and everything that was going on in that small, poor country.  He provided us a wealth of information and with a simple phone call opened a number of doors for us with the Honduran Instituto Goegrafico Nacional (National Geographic Institute).

Three years later I was stationed at Fort Clayton, Panama, and headed up the geographic analysis team supporting US Army South and US Southern Command.  This job put me in close and frequent contact with the last remnant of the IAGS in the old Canal Zone. Southern Command and the Defense Mapping Agency (DMA) ran a joint map warehouse on Albrook Air Force Station.  The Air Force took care of ordering, stocking and issuing standard US maps to all US military operating in Central and South America.  In the same building the Defense Mapping Agency ran a small but very interesting and critical ‘local products’ warehouse that received and stocked maps printed by the different countries who had been part of the IAGS.  By agreement, DMA received 100 copies of every map printed by the participating countries. Quite often these maps were the only representation of Central and South American land areas available to the US military, and we relied heavily on this map supply. In fact my unit acquired an early large format Xerox copier specifically to make copies of these maps for Army use so as not to draw down the limited stock kept by DMA.

Additionally, DMA continued to operate a topographic and survey instrument repair shop out of the building.  This was a one man show, employing an instrument repairman who fixed or calibrated any equipment that had been loaned to countries participating in the IAGS.  Much of the loaned equipment was simply too big to pack up and send back to Albrook to be worked on, so this lone repairman spent a lot of time on the road traveling from country to country repairing equipment.  Most of what he worked on was obsolete by US standards, but was still perfectly serviceable and suitable to the Latin American countries that couldn’t afford anything more modern. As such, his workshop at Albrook was a fascinating mix of spare parts bins and machine tools.  Since he dealt with a lot of obsolete equipment I’m sure he had the skills and equipment needed to fabricate any broken or worn part.

Unfortunately there is very little information about the IAGS on the web.  Not even Wikipedia has a dedicated page, and only catalogs indirect references to the agency. This is a shame, because the IAGS was a landmark cooperative effort that yielded enormous benefit for all countries involved, and its story needs to be out there for everyone to read. Somebody at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (the successor to the Defense Mapping Agency) or the Corps of Engineers needs to write up a short history of the IAGS and its accomplishments while the participants are still around to tell their stories.

But for now it is You Tube to the rescue!  I found this film, part of the Army’s ‘Big Picture’ series, covering IAGS operations:



64 thoughts on “Inter-American Geodetic Survey

  1. Hello Everyone,
    While I am not an IAGS alum or family member of one, I am a senior undergrad at Haverford College working on a Senior Thesis project about the IAGS. It’s incredible to see this blog as a place where so many of you have reconnected, and I’m hoping to continue the process of better telling this story.

    If anyone is willing, I would love to chat with some folks who have firsthand or familial experiences with the IAGS. Please don’t hesitate to reach out –

    -Frankie Silvers

  2. Brian, Hello. My name is Xavier Saldaña. I worked for DMA-IAGS when it was located at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio Texas. As I write this it is January 2021. I know these are some old post. Not sure if you are still monitoring any posts on this subject but I thought I would add my 2 cents. In the article it is mentioned that an Instrument Repair Shop was located at Albrook. The shop was as you say “a one man show”. The technician’s name was “Pete” for short. He was a very knowledgeable and skilled technician who taught me a lot. I cannot remember his full name but I believe he was of German/Austrian background. My job at the time was to report to him and assist him in his maintenance travel throughout Central and South America. It was a wonderful adventure and Pete and I became good friends. My boss at the time was a gentleman named Chuck Guiswite and our group commander was Colonel Hoffman. When DMA was shuttered at Fort Sam Houston in the 1990’s I was reassigned to Kelly AFB in San Antonio. If anyone has knowledge of whatever became of “Pete” please share. It was great reading this article. Thanks for sharing.

    “Additionally, DMA continued to operate a topographic and survey instrument repair shop out of the building. This was a one man show, employing an instrument repairman who fixed or calibrated any equipment that had been loaned to countries participating in the IAGS. Much of the loaned equipment was simply too big to pack up and send back to Albrook to be worked on, so this lone repairman spent a lot of time on the road traveling from country to country repairing equipment. Most of what he worked on was obsolete by US standards, but was still perfectly serviceable and suitable to the Latin American countries that couldn’t afford anything more modern. As such, his workshop at Albrook was a fascinating mix of spare parts bins and machine tools. Since he dealt with a lot of obsolete equipment I’m sure he had the skills and equipment needed to fabricate any broken or worn part.”

    • Xavier, thank you so much for your input! Although I have not updated this website for several years, I do still monitor it and keep up with the the stories provided by contributors like yourself. Hopefully someone can update us on whatever happened to ‘Pete’.

    • Xavier… My father worked for IAGS from 1953-1967 in the logistics branch repairing theodolites, tide gauges and chronometers. There was a young man in the early 1960’s that started working with him. His name was Peter Podest and he was of Austrian decent. My brother took accordion lessons from Nellie Hoffman of German Chilean ancestry. She had formed an accordion band with her students and Peter, my brother and mother played in the band. Peter was in his early 20’s I believe. I hope this information will help you locate him. — Bill Singleton.

  3. Hello Mario! What a surprise! I received an email with your post early this morning! I worked with your father-in-law, Bob Simms, in Cuba in the 1950s. He was working on the first map of Havana, using the multiplex. In 1958 we had to evacuate due to Castro. Before I left I took Bob’s original Havana map sheet with me. It is signed by all the employees who were working there at the time. I have been trying to find his son Robby so that I could send it to him. So I was so surprised to find that you had submitted a post about Bob Simms. We had a wonderful time in Havana. We both worked out in the field. It was a beautiful country. I was in charge of leveling and Bob collected data for the map. Our project chief was Dikes Grandberry, who was a character! Every day after work we had to get in our Jeep’s and drive to Ramon’s and roll the dice to see who would buy the next round of Cuba Libres. We also had to work on Saturdays until noon and again would be required to accompany Grandberry to Ramon’s. Needless to say, my wife Millie and Bob’s wife Miriam were not too happy about that, but Grandberry’s wife did not allow any alcohol in the home.
    Anyway, many fond memories of Cuba. I’ve had this map of Havana with me all this time, and I have wanted to send it to Bob’s children, because I thought they should have it, but I couldn’t find them. I would love to talk you, my phone number is 541-735-1190 or reach me by email at

    Happy holidays with your mask on,
    Vern Perdue

  4. I am Mario LaMaestra Jr and am married to Myriam Anabella Simms. Her father, Robert Simms who was born and raised in the CZ, worked for IAGS after serving in WWII. His father came from the US to help build the Canal and stayed, building a home in Arraiján. My father-in-law died in 1982 still working for IAGS after the agency moved to Fort Sam Houston as it was being absorbed by DMA. I have been cataloging all of his photos from his many mapping trips throughout Latin America. Both my wife and I are graduates of Balboa High School. Me in 1972 and her in 1973. IAGS and its people were an important part of the Canal Zone and Latin America and few people realize the role they played in the development of relations with Latin America. Having lived in the CZ because I was an Army Brat who lived in the CZ in the mid 50s and then in the early 70s in Curundu, home to many IAGS personnel and their families. I joined the Army in 1972 at Fort Amador and was eventually stationed there at Fort Clayton 10 years later.

  5. I was a SP-4 at APO NY 09676 in Rio, late 1968-1970. We were out in the log compound / PX / APO in Sao Cristovao. I ended up interacting a bit with the aerial survey team, AST-10 long-term “TDY” out of Forbes AFB Kansas and operating out of the Airport at Brasilia doing all the photo work for IAGS, Brazil. I think they had three C-135s, four C-130s and a few Ch-3 helicopters to move ground station guys around.

    Does anyone else have memories of this AST? I’d like to hear from them. I went back to Brazil in 1972 as a civilian for a half-year and I came through Brasilia, but I think AST-10 was gone by then.

  6. Hello, my name is Harry Dale Pry, While in the US Army I spent 2 years (1964-1966) with HQ IAGS in Ft Clayton. Our barracks housed the 937 Eng company, 551 Aviation Company as well as HQ Company. I worked at ACI radio station which operated out of Albrook. We had a 30 minute schedule with the countries IAGS was present in.

      • ACI was the call letters for the control station. The other countries call letters were ACI followed by a number, ACI-23, ACI-24 and etc. Messages were received by voice communication and re-transmitted to the receiving destination country. Messages for any office in the Canal Zone were relayed via teletype. After the messages business ended the remaining time was used for running phone patches between countries and IAGS offices. We did have the capability to contact aircraft but was seldom ask to do so.

      • Sorry I thought I replied. We were the net control station which we had a 30 minute schedule with each IAGS country. Messages were copied and relaid to the destination country or sent by teletype to Canal Zone offices. If there were extra time phone patches were run for anyone that wanted to talk to another IAGS person. ACI was the call letters for net control station and other call letters were assigned to other countries. My barracks was on Ft Clayton and was shared with the 937 Engr Co as well as the 551 Survey Co. The radio station was on Albrook AFB.

  7. My father, Richard Conn, worked for IAGS from 1966 to 1970 as a geodetic tech and meteorologist out of Fort Clayton. He is now 88 and living in Florida.

  8. Hi everyone,

    I’ve posted a couple of times before about my late father and his connection to IAGS in Guatemala. I notice there are quite a few people that have posted indicating they have photographs and documents from their work in different parts of the Americas. If a depository of those documents has not been set up, I’d like to gage interest in that endeavor. Something relatively painless could be set up just to get it going.

    I propose that both photographs and other documents could be scanned, catalogued and placed in a Dropbox folder while a proper way to present these is set up. Brian, is this something that you have the ability or inclination to do? Are there any website designers in this mailing list? If not, then I’d like to volunteer. For those who perhaps don’t have the ability or desire to scan the documents I can also do that, email me and we can discuss.

    Best regards,

    Carlos Ovalle
    (310) 989-0917

    • I have a lot of 35mm slides that I digitally moved to the computer several years ago of my father-in-law Robert Simms on various missions. I would be willing to share them to the depository. I cannot identify the individuals in these photographs other than the military members who have name tags on from IAGS other than Bob. My wife, Anabella knows some of them but not all.

      V/r, Mario LaMaestra


  9. Hi, my name is Vernon Perdue, and I worked for IAGS from 1951 – 1960 and 1964 – 1992, and later took care of a GPS station in Quito Ecuador after I retired. I know many the men named in these posts, and have many fond memories. I am so sorry to hear about Jack Rosholt’s passing. We met in college at the university of Oregon and became good friends while we were in Ecuador. I started in Panama and was in charge of vertical control in Cuba,Jamaica, and Columbia. Then I went to Jordan for three years for Aero Service Corporation, where we completed the map of Jordan and city plans for Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I returned to IAGS in 1964 and worked in Peru as vertical control supervisor. In 1969 we moved to Ecuador where I was project engineer. In 1985 the military was removed from managing the IAGS program, and I was promoted to project chief, and remained in the position until I retired in 1992. Throughout this amazing adventure, me and wife Millie had six kids, and have been married for 72 years! We left for South America in 1951 and stayed until 2014, when we finally returned to the US! Over the years I have collected many photos and maps of the projects, but had to give away most of the maps when we left… My email address is


    Vern Perdue

  10. Brian –
    Thank you for kind remembrances of the fine men and women of IAGS. My father, Frank G. Keith, Jr. passed away on 12/12/15. He was a cartographer and geodetic survey technician who served as the station manager for a satellite tracking station in Ecuador, amongst other adventures, and retired in 1981(?). I was born in Fort Clayton and at the age of 5 moved with my parents to Quito, Ecuador were we lived for 9 years. Mom and Dad enjoyed great lifelong friendships with many of my IAGS ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ who would visit the house on their way to here and there during my childhood. Though it was at times very challenging for my parents, I am eternally grateful for my experience growing up and living in Ecuador as part of the unique IAGS family. Although Dad wasn’t a fan of going ‘out in the bush’, he planned accordingly and went anyway – and always came back with stories to tell. To this day I enjoy a healthy sense of wanderlust thanks to him. I’m grateful he taught me how to read a map, and like him, I can’t pass one without stopping to look at it. Cheers to all of the IAGS family and their relatives. Our parents and their IAGS colleagues helped make the world a better place and expanded the horizon line for generations around the globe. The next time you plan a trip buy a paper map, put your big index finger somewhere on it, plot your adventure out using that map – and go there! Repeat as needed. Pack half as many ‘things’ and bring twice as much money. GPS is for knowing where you are when you get lost; a paper map is for planning, investigating, navigating and adventuring – and it never needs or runs out of batteries. Here’s wishing you all fair winds and following seas wherever your adventures take you.
    Hugh C. Keith

    • Dear Hugh, we are so sorry to hear about your father’s passing. He was dear friend, and we have such fond memories of working together in Ecuador. He was a fantastic photographer especially of the Galapagos. We really enjoyed our family gatherings. It was great reading your post. I hope all is well…

      Warm regards,

      Vern Perdue and family

  11. Ken Booher here. My father, Charlie, trapped my mother Olivia, sister Stella and I, into the life of IAGS gypsies. We started in Canal Zone then went on to Havana, Cuba in, mas o menos, ’53, Recife, Brasil, Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic, Bogota, Colombia, Quito, Ecuador and back to Canal Zone, Panama. I would not have traded it for anything in the world and I know that he wouldn’t have either. He would have enjoyed this site! Thank you for keeping it up.

    • Ken I may have met you in the CZ My name is Frank Todd, I worked for your Dad at the motor pool on Albrook AFB your Dad was one of the greatest men I have ever had the pleasure to work with and for. at the time I was a SP/5 in the Army.

      • Hi Frank! I’m sorry but your name did not ring a bell. What time period did you work with him? I was thrilled to hear from you and I’m happy you found this site. Reading it stirs many memories and it appears that many, if not the majority of the readers start out: My dad… or my father was …
        I am glad you met Charlie. I think about him daily. He was a terrific father, friend and adventurer. He taught me so much! I miss all his stories of his work and where and what he did. I can only imagine what it must have been like to work with him! Thanks for reaching out if you are ever in Tampa, FL lets get a cerveza, Charlie will buy!

  12. My grandfather, Major Armand Ablanedo, was the Officer in Charge of Nicaragua IAGS from August 1960 to 1963. I have some pictures and several documents related to the work they did during that time. I’d be happy to share. Please contact me at if you’d like to trade docs, pics and collaborate on compiling and preserving info.


  13. Good morning, my father worked on the IAGS project from 1963 to 1972 in Brazil – Rio de Janeiro – São Cristóvão (PX)

    • Celso: I must have known your dad. I was in the JBUSMC military aid group from late 1968 into 1970. I worked at the APO in the basement of the PX. Our loading entrance was from the compound, directly ahead when you came down the curved entrance from Capitao Felix and past the motor pool hoist and wash rack. The IAGS log section was way down to the right, past the entrance to the warehouse section run by DA Civilian W.T. Suple.

      IAGS ran some of the very early Ford Broncos, the compact ones before they grew into the monsters like the white one driven by O.J. Simpson.

      I remember once that one of the Broncos was up in, I think, the interior of Bahia or even Alagoas or Sergipe. Someone smashed the front window and two IAGS guys drove it back to Rio wearing goggles. No AC of course and the windstream at 60 mph up in the sertao was like a blow torch.

      I can see the face of the DA civilian who ran IAGS supply and maintenance, but I am having a senior moment in remembering his name. He was a U.S. born Hispanic, first name perhaps Raul? I think I still have my copy of a hand receipt I gave him when I signed out a sleeping bag to go camping near Petropolis with the husband of Marcia, the ex-PX Corps volunteer who ran the tiny little H. Stern jewelry store right where customers came in the PX. She married a Brazilian and is still there.

      You probably remember that when you turned left off of the northbound street past the docks onto the cross street and then immediately another half-left onto Capitao Felix, there was the Sabao Portuguese soap factory. It was the old style soap, animal fat and lye and it smelled like hell. But there was also a coffee roasting place in there that did not smell half as bad, so it depended on which way the wind was blowing.

      I assume that your dad would sometimes eat at the little botequim, “A Bodega,” just down the hill to the left from the gate. I was owned by a Portuguese immigrant like a lot of botewuim’s were. I learned to love the “Mixto Quente” hot ham and cheese sandwich on that Brazilian pao. I still make them.

      Somewhere I still have the phone books for both the JBUSMC military people and the one for Embassy/USAID. I’ll try to look your dad up.

      I was last back in Rio in 2006, visiting old friends, by then in Rio, Suzano, the stinking cellulose plant town near SP and in Brasilia. I started with the friend who lived up in Meier, a retired Brazilian navy Captain. I was going to Sao Paulo by bus and he dropped me at the Rodoviario, still on the same place across from what had been the old Gasometro. But the bus staion was much bigger. The gas plant was gone. I think the old Leopoldina train station was still there. The Canal do Mangue down the middle of Avenida Vargas still stank the same.

      I drove past the PX / log compound in 2006. It is all derelict now. The old royal palace back at Campo Sao Cristovao burned down about five years ago. The metro is wonderful but street crime is much, much worse.

  14. Don’t know if you are still reading comments here, but thought I’d leave one in appreciation. My brother just found this and passed it on. Our Dad worked at the IAGS as a geophysicist/geodesist/cartographer from approx 1960 until his death in 1985. He mostly worked at the school (CZ), but did a 5 year stint in the Dominican Republic and took lots of TDY trips to Colombia and Venezuela. Maybe other countries too, but those are the ones I remember. Both my brother and I were born and raised in Panama/DR. Of the names in the comments below, I only recognize (Norm?) Fasset, I believe he and Dad worked closely, and I think Eric (another son?) and I went to BHS together.

    Dad talked a fair bit about what he did (I’m a geologist now and was always a geek daughter, helping him color in map symbols) and it jives well with what you’ve written (your background on US motivations down there was new and interesting). In addition to my Dad, my aunt (his sister) was a receptionist at IAGS for several years, and my uncle (maternal) also worked there for several years before he didn’t survive a big ‘riff’ (sp?) sometime in the 70’s. I also had a summer job at HQ in Ft Clayton for one summer, copying and collating teaching materials and transcribing tapes. So it was a family affair. I may have an old report Dad wrote for the DR, but would have to look.

    Thanks for writing this.

    • Diane, thank you for your comments. While this blog has gone somewhat dormant I still keep it running because it has become something of a gathering place for IAGS alumni and their family members.


  15. Just found this website late at night since I couldn’t sleep. My father was Emory Phlegar, mentioned in your article. He retired from Honduras in 1994 and in 2000, both he and his wife, my mother, passed from cancer. I still have many of his work related pictures, clippings, books, etc., but haven’t organized them yet.

    • Edward, thank you for the update on your father. I remember very well meeting with him in his office in Tegucigalpa to discuss a wide range of issues related to our mapping mission. It seems he knew everybody of importance in the Honduran government!


    • My name is Ron Tharp. I taught photogrammetry in Panama from 1980 to 1982. Emory was in the Cartographic school at the time. I was in the Photogrammetry department under Dr Maholtra. Please let me know if you have any old photographs during that time. Thanks.

  16. My dad was Jack D. Rosholt passed away Saturday August 26.2017. He worked for IAGS from 1952 to sometime in the 1970s. He transitioned to USAID specializing in Land Titling and Decentralizing Property Registries. Then went on to be Chief of Party of Alternative Development Projects in Peru and Ecuador.

    He was as I recall an instructir in the cartographic school and held many positions within IAGS. I was a small kid when all this was going on so I know bits and pieces. He started in IAGS in Bolivia where he married my mom Soledad Chavez for 60 years until she passed away. My dad focused on Latin America having travelled and lived in Bolivia, Panama Canal Zone, Guatemala, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador and he mentioned many other countries where he was an advisor or consultabt in Nicaragua, El Salvador, other countries.

    Now that he is gone I am interested in informing all IAGS collegues that he died and also contact anyone whom knew him, have stories about him and what they were doing. Any pictures would be greatly cherrished.


    Stan Rosholt
    59176382272 Cell Bolivia

    • Hello Stan,
      My deepest condolences. My father was very close with your father and with Tom Gadberry when they were stationed in Guatemala. We might have been able to connect on a few recent trips to South America including one to Bolivia. If you ever want to write please do so, my email is
      By the way, I’m bilingual English – Spanish but I’m writing this in English for the benefit of the majority English speaking readers and contributors.
      One last thing, my wife and I are considering a trip to northeastern Brazil sometime in November of next year. It’s a long way from Bolivia but perhaps we can work something out.
      Best regards,

  17. Herbert “Herb” Fendley was there March 1968- Sept 1969 at Fort Clayton IAGS. Does anyone know him or have information of people that would have known him? He mentioned a Robert Takacs from New York, Jerry Smith from Arkansas. He always wanted to keep in touch and didn’t get the chance.


  19. My father. Clyde Deiwert has told me stories of his time in the US Army, working to help map the country of Panama. I think he was in the Army from 1958 to 1962 but now that I have found this site, I will talk to him to get more information. I know he has pictures and has had some reunions with some of his Army buddies. I’ll see what he has to share that may be of interest to others using this web site post.

  20. My father Ralph ‘Ted’ Stewart (1925-1975) was a cartographer/geodesist with IAGS (later DMA/Army Topo Command, Corp of Engineers, State Dept) in Panama (I was born in Panama in 1952). I’m gathering information on his career to explain why we lived in Panama, England (Thor Missile Program), Florida (Cape Canaveral/Pan American Missile Program), Afghanistan (missile tracking stations), and Iran (missile tracking stations) in the 50’s and 60’s. The information I have concludes he was part of the U.S.Cold War Missile Program. I wish he could have shared his stories!

  21. Hello Everyone,

    My dad is Jack Rosholt and he worked in IAGS starting in 1952 though 1957 and returned in 1962 through 1979. He eventually migrated to work for USAID specialized in Land Titling and Property Registries, in addition to becoming Chief of Party to many development projects. His email is . He is 86 years old and still going strong. He reminisces about his IAGS days ever so often when we urge him to tell some stories. Please feel free to contact him and hopefully he can contribute.

  22. My Father worked for the IAGS from 1946 to 1950. In Central America and Colombia, Chile & Brazil. I have quite a few of his photos from that era. Feel free to contact me.

  23. In the late 1960’s my U.S. Navy squadron flew mapping photography of Central America for IAGS.
    We mostly looked for “holidays” that had been left out of previous photography. The aircraft we flew was the Douglas RA-3B which had 13 cameras in it and could shoot cartographic images from gyro stabilized mounts. We flew out of Howard AFB. I also worked at Albrook AFB piecing together aerial prints to identify holidays when I was on ground crew.
    ISC Larry Wittmayer, USN Ret.

  24. My father, John Ankunding, worked for IAGS in the late 60's. He was a civilian engineer working for the Chilean government to survey sites like Easter Island, and they were based in the Panama Canal Zone…I appreciate this information on the IAGS, as I knew nothing of this organization until my mother told me about my dad's adventures! Thank you for writing on the IAGS, since there are no other informational sites online regarding these surveyors.

  25. My father, Charles Licha, was assigned to IAGS in Lima from late 1956 through 1958. He was an Army aviator, and flew cartographers around the Andes, to map such sites as Machu Pichu and Lake Titicaca. He died at the age of 48 in 1976. I remember of Peru only as I experienced it as a young child. Thanks for helping me learn as an adult what my dad was no longer able to tell me.

  26. I was employed by IAGS in the Canal Zone as a young US Army Lt . I was the assistant adjutant working for Maj Vivian Young at IAGS HQ at Ft Clayton from 1970- 1972.

    Col Hans Ruthe was the Director .

    I helped organize the IAGS 25th anniversary event in 1971.

    I was on touch with George Depoy the IAGS Sergeant Major for many years after we both left the Canal Zone, until he passed away a couple of years ago.

    I have a wealth of information on IAGS, including staffing charts that I kept to eventually write a complete history of the organization, but have never gotten around to it.

    • My name is Frank Todd I have a picture of myself and Col Ruthe. I also knew SGM.Depoy very well. I served there from 1969-1971

  27. It was a pleasure to find and read your article about IAGS, and to watch again the “Big Picture” film. Three assignments with IAGS were the high points of my military career (Peru 1964-1966, Venezuela 1968-69 and Bolivia 1972-1975). Service with that organization was a source of pride at the time and remains so. IAGS was an excellent example of a cooperative effort which benefited both the US and the host country, and provided excellent return for limited investment.

    It is good to see familiar names in the film and in the blogs. There are hundreds of adventures and human interest stories which are being lost as the participants leave us. Dave Phillips, Sr., for example, at one time won a crossword contest in Peru – in Spanish.
    There are a few of the old cadre still around, and I hope they will share some stories in this platform

    A related story is that of the 937th Engr. Co. (Avn.), which supported IAGS activities.

  28. I am the daughter of an IAGS DOD employee…..Herbert W Reckendorf. I am Gail Reckendorf Beavers. I spent many years in the Canal Zone….1954-1987. I graduated from Balboa High in 1972. My Dad and Mom were in Colombia in 1954 and I was adopted in Bogota. I now live in Seattle Wa. My 1st husband was a machinist at Miraflores Locks. I'll always remember Panama, Honduras, and Nicaragua….altho most years were in the Zone. M y Dad passed in 2003 at 88 in Cape Cod, Mass. To this day, I'm in touch with a few of the IAGS “children”….such as Lupe Ponce. Please feel free to communicate thru my email or cell phone…

  29. Carlos, our deepest sympathy at the passing of your father. It sounds like he was a wonderful and honorable man, and I am sure he is missed. If you do make his photos available via an on-line web album I'd love to provide a link to them from this blog. Thanks for being an important part of the discussion on the IAGS!


    • Hi Carlos,

      My dad Jack Rosholt worked with your dad in Guatemala. We are sorry to hear about his passing away. I copied my dad on this email so you can be in contact directly and hopefully share some stories.

      Best Wishes,


  30. I'm sorry to inform this group that my father, Carlos Ovalle-Samayoa, passed away two months ago. His bucket list included meeting with Tom Gadberry but that never came to be, although they did speak on the phone a few times.

    In my possession are quite a few photographs of my father's adventures in the jungles of northern Guatemala and Belize while mapping with his crew. When I have some time I'll upload them to my Flickr album and will post a link.

    Tom, I haven't located your phone number among my dad's things, he was very proud of his nearly photographic memory when it came to names and phone numbers so I'm sure he took it with him. If you happen to see this post, please email me at or call me at 310-989-0917



  31. I stumbled onto this site this morning after not being able to sleep. I am Tom Gadberry an was vert glad Carlos Jr. located me. I remember when he was a small boy when my friend Carlos Sr. invited me th his home for a very fine meal that his beautiful wife had prepared.
    In the film I saw a few people I knew in Peru David Philips, Larry Goldstein and Ye Yip.
    Iwas in the Geodimeter team from 1962 to 1965. I worked with Billy G Cox and we measured first order base lines in the colaborating countries. Therefore; I traveled to many latin American coountries.

  32. What an unbelievable and wonderful surprise! I found this film Mapping Adventures sort of by chance today, in which I unexpectedly saw my father David S. Phillips in several scenes in Peru. He appears at the beginning, in the great little poker scene where he is laughing heartily, and in Machu Picchu where he is surveying. The film also shows several other engineers my parents knew well. I watched it with my mother today on her birthday, and needless to say she is absolutely in bliss seeing my dad almost 30 years after Dave passed away. I think of the IAGS crew as some of the last of the explorers in Latin America, and I hope some are left to tell the wonderful stories of their important and difficult work. I'd appreciate any other source or contact with the men who mapped the earth with IAGS.

    David R. Phillips

  33. Ittlecas,

    This past November (2011) while waiting for my plane in Managua, Nicaragua, I happened to glance at some of the books in a little kiosk in the waiting area. To my great surprise there was a book about the IAGS, a paperback with lots of grainy photos and wonderful stories that match, word for word, the stories my father told me about his time mapping the jungles of northern Guatemala and Belize (then British Honduras).

    The book is not centered about Guatemala, rather it addresses all of Latin America. If someone knows the title of the book it'd be great to know. Otherwise I will look for that kiosk again in April.
    By the way, an update to my comment in December: My father is now in touch with Mr. Gadberry and a reunion between the two is in the works.

    Also, my next search is for another friend of my father, Mr. Jack Rasholt, who later went on to work, possibly in a high level position, for US AID in Guatemala and later in Bolivia I'm told.

    Last but not least, I received an email from a gentleman looking for anyone that knew Mr. Owen Nickels, “chief of the cartographic section of the operations division in the Canal Zone” in the late 50s through the early 60s.

    Carlos Ovalle, AIA, LEED AP
    Long Beach, California, USA
    (310) 989-0917

  34. True to your words, there isn't much out there on the internet about the IAGS program. I currently live in Guatemala and bought on of the maps that the Guatemala mapping services provides (IGN – Instituto Geografico Nacional) which still bears the credits to IAGS. I was curious about the history of IAGS and your article is the only thing out there. Encyclopedia Britannica has a small blurb about it but its nothing really. I'd almost be willing to write up an article for wikipedia just to have the documentation for a project that was successful and needed a record for history but I'm not what you might call an authorative source, just a curious newcomer. But at the very least, I wanted to thank you for posting your memoirs here and for calling attention to a project now mostly forgotten!

  35. Dear Brian,

    My father, a Guatemalan surveyor, worked for Cartografia, a dependency of the Guatemalan government that in turn worked directly with IAGS. He was there for 16 years from the early 50s to the late 60s after which he moved the family to the U.S.

    During his time as a surveyor my father became a very close friend of his American liaison, Mr. Thomas Gadberry, a civil engineer from Little Rock, Arkansas working in Guatemala for IAGS. Now in his late 70s my father would like nothing more than to find his old friend Thomas. I'm wondering if there are any records somewhere that could help me find Mr. Gadberry. Any help wold be appreciated.

    By the way, my father's name is Carlos Ovalle-Samayoa.

    Thanks in advance,

    Carlos Ovalle, AIA, LEED AP
    Long Beach, California, USA
    (310) 989-0917

  36. Hi:

    In December of 1948 I left New Jersey with my bicycle and $180 and headed for South America. By the time I got to Panama I had no bicycle (sold in Guatemala due to lack of parts and roads fit for oxen only) and only about 35 dollars left. Somehow (that's another story) I got a job with the IAGS. I worked in the field in Panama in 1949 and in Guatemala in 1950. I have my diary of those months with the IAGS all written up and ready to post to my autobiographical web site ( and also have scores of photographs ready to post. Now, at age 81, I have lots to do to catch up on my memoirs but the trouble is I am still very active in projects in four countries and stuffing stuff into the web site has not been my top priority of late.

    Now that I have found this site I will pursue the goal of getting the diary and the photos as well as some stories of my days with the IAGS in 1949 and 1950 posted.

    Meanwhile here is a copy of a letter sent to me by Robert R. McIlwaine, one of the great men of the organization back in those early days.


    George F. Drake

  37. Marc,

    Thanks for the question. If any information existed in the US for that control point or station it would most likely be in the archives for the IAGS, and I'm sure they are not available anywhere I can access them.

    However that control point, or mark, is probably still in the survey control database for the country in which you found it. I recommend you contact the national survey agency for that country. They probably still maintain the information for that particular control point or station.


  38. Hello

    A question about IAGS markers.
    I found a mark on the top of one montain, and i would like to know informations related to this (position, altidude…).
    Is there a database on web that would anable to get it?

    Indication on mark is “IAGS 1953 – PELEE NO 2


  39. I WORKED FOR IAGS FROM 1953 TO 1956



      pob magazine tales from the carribean sea

      IAGS 1953-1956

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