November 04, 2022

Why Were You Born in Bermuda?

Marc J. Homer, MD, FACR

Were you really born in Bermuda? Why were you born there? After reading my CV, many interviewers often asked me these two questions. The answer to the first question is: Yes. The answer to the second question is explained below.

Most people are unaware of the role that Bermuda played throughout World War ll. During the war, German U-boats (submarines) cruised up and down the east and west coasts of the United States. Bermuda is surrounded by reefs, and scuba divers reading this essay may be aware that many old ships sank because they sailed too close to those reefs. Nowadays, these shipwrecks provide Bermuda with great scuba diving sites.

Since Bermuda can't be attacked from the sea and U-boats could not get close to Bermuda, the War Department decided that Bermuda would be a safe location to place intelligence units from the United States, Canada and England. All mail going between Europe and America was opened and examined in Bermuda. Soldiers going to and from Europe could safely stop in Bermuda, if necessary, prior to going to their final destinations.

The War Department wanted someone in civilian status to handle any potential problems that might arise between the military and the Bermudian population. That person was my father, Jay Bentley Homer. Due to his diverse professional background, they felt my father was well-suited for the job. He was an attorney, a pharmacist and director of an interracial, interdenominational camp.

He also worked with J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI to create a program in New York City called Scared Straight. This program introduced inner city teenagers who were heading toward a life of crime to the reality of prison life by visiting prisons and meeting prisoners. The hope was that when these youths saw the terrible future that awaited them if they continued on a path of crime, it would convince them to change their ways.

My father, a Mason, was also civic-minded. With his Jewish education, he had the ability to serve the needs of Jews who happened to be in Bermuda. He also led religious services and arranged for the delivery of certain types of food that were traditional for religious celebrations. The Jewish Welfare Board called him the unofficial Chaplain of Bermuda, and even gave him permission to perform a Jewish wedding while stationed in Bermuda. He was one of the heads of the USO in Bermuda.

My mother and father were married before the outbreak of the war and spent the duration of the war in Bermuda (not a bad place to be during a war!). I was born in 1946 when the war had ended. But instead of being born on the Navy base, I was born in the King Edward Vll Memorial Hospital. This conferred upon me Bermudian status (citizenship). Since I was born abroad with American parents who were stationed in Bermuda at the request of the War Department, I was also entitled to U.S. citizenship after declaring an oath to this country (the contents of which I do not recall).

Bermudian citizenship is sometimes a source of envy, but it does have drawbacks. Most importantly, whenever I apply for something from our government, such as when I tried to enroll for Social Security on my computer, I am usually initially denied by virtue of my birthplace. I am then required to appear in person at some federal building with official papers documenting my U.S. citizenship. An easy task for most of you is often a hassle for me.

What are the benefits to Bermudian citizenship? Perhaps I will answer that in the future.