Notes from Joe Baude
Served at both P-Mountain and J-Site
FROM: Joe Baude (age 68, retired), A Frigid Brother of the Knights of the Blue Nose and a Life Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc. (IEEE).
I served in Greenland twice, first when in the U.S. Air Force and later as a North Electric Company (Galion, Ohio) employee. These are May 30 through June 6, 1998, memory recollections while reviewing photographs taken (with an Argus C3 camera) in 1953 and 1954 in Greenland on P Mountain, the site of the 931st AC&W squadron, and at Site 2, on the Greenland Ice Cap. Additional reflections were made from pictures taken while working with the RCA Service Company at the BMEWS site in Greenland in 1959 and 1960.
AT P MOUNTAIN (1953):
The rides up and down the long road between P Mountain and Thule Air Base, in the summer and in the winter, provided memorable experiences and sights. We were often above the clouds.
Large cement blocks were laid on the tops and along the sides of each large trailer hut like building to hold them down against hurricane like (Phase 3) winds.
Heat was generated and pumped from a main furnace building through large insulated pipes to each building on the site. A smaller scale of what was being used at Thule Air Base.
We operated Collins 99A transmitters maintained by M/Sgt Wysong. The antenna towers, guy wires and elements would ice up with two or three inches of snow. The antenna elements and towers would often bend or break off because of the weight of the iced snow on them and the strong winds experienced on the top of P Mountain.
We operated a microwave link to Thule and later also operated a voice and teletype carrier system over a buried cable running between Thule and P Mountain.
The communication group Airmen, rigged a system so a P Mountain radar operator, upon detecting an unidentified aircraft, could flip a switch to signal the event to key people. That switch started a slow pulsing relay that applied flashes of 12 volts to a number of cable pairs at P Mountain. They were wired to bus taillights mounted on the walls at the officers, Airmen and NCO clubs and the mess hall. That same 12-volt signal was tied in to a teletype microwave carrier circuit and extended to the Thule Air Base central office. At that location, a similar pulsing relay and wire cable arrangement was set up to control the same type of flashing red lamps at key locations on the Air Base. It served as an instant alert to key people on and of duty.
Pfc. Fox, a cigar smoker, worked in the communications group. Tommy Sharp was in the communications group. He was a student in communication classes taught by T/Sgt Joe Baude in Cheyenne, Wyoming. S/Sgt Bobby Steel was in the communications group. He was an instructor in the training command with T/Sgt Joe Baude in Cheyenne, Wyoming before the both went to Greenland.
The radar antenna systems were FPS-3 and MOPS-4 systems.
The NCO club corner bar was padded on the front side and had a black top. We had an upright refrigerator for our American and Swedish beer.
There were a few guys with musical talent that made up a jazz band that played in the Airmens and NCO clubs. Melcher played trumpet, Francis played drums, Bradley played an upright bass, Spinola played a trombone, Red played a guitar and Baude played a clarinet. I don't recall who played the accordion; his name may have been Mel or Bud. Vitale was the comedian of the show. His straight man was Papa Bear Andy. They put on some terrific skits.
While at P Mountain. Most people went down to the Air Base at Thule and visited the Eskimo Sea Village a few miles from the base. Camera bugs had a ball taking pictures of the men, women, girls, boys and dogs of the village.
From the May 15, 1954 P Mt Register, it was noted that P Mt celebrated the 931st AC&W squadrons' first anniversary on May 8, 1954. Major Donald L. Graff (squadron commander), Col. Charles Downer (Deputy Commander of the 64th Air Division), Col. Bertil Hanson (Deputy Commander - Thule AFB), Lt. Col. Charles Gibson (Deputy Commander 64th Air Division, Maj. James Belton (Commander of the 318th Fighter Interceptor Squadron), Major William Dyes (Base supply officer) and Capt. Travis M. Greenwood (Senior Pilot from the 318th Fighter Squadron) were guests at the Mess Hall complete turkey dinner celebration.
AT SITE 2 (1954) (Called Survey #2 and later called site B) on the ice cap, with 931st AC&W guys:
We worked and lived with North Atlantic Construction (NAC) civilians. We all lived in atwell shelters serving as mess hall, latrine, barracks and constructing offices while the permanent site was being constructed.
The AN/GRC 26 radio system was called an "ANGRY 6". We operated it from an atwell and later moved it in to the permanent site.
The construction site was also called "Streamer Flats" referring to the many collapsed parachutes experienced during the airdrop of many large construction vehicles (D6, D8 cats, weasels and trucks) and supplies. Failed air drops of vehicles left smashed and buried in the ice cap later served as sources of spare parts. Digging in the snow and working on cold metal parts at 60 below zero took its' toll. Sgt. Landrum (former Army now Air Force) was our vehicle mechanic. He would get frost bite so bad he would be unaware of or ignored the fact that his hands were sticking to the metal parts and his skin was being ripped off as he worked to get parts he needed to keep equipment working.
Captain Thompson, at P Mountain, was our remote site commander. His officer in charge representative at the site was Lt. Einekel. As a recent activated ROTC officer he learned a lot about human relations, command authority and leadership skills. A better than you and I am the boss attitude required the Airmen to embark on a number of modification behavior strategies. They pretty much all worked.
R. J. Smith and Hausfeld were our radio operators. Chuck Droll was our weatherman.
Kegley and Roy were our PE-215B power generator systems operators.
Parker was on of our two regular cooks. Other guys took a day off from outside duties and did a cooking tour for R&R.
A remote vehicle building to house the tractors and weasels. It had to later be abandoned when it was buried by drifting snow.
A daily duty, weather permitting, was filling and running the snow melter system for our water supply. The system was a simple marvel of special engineering. It has an oil burner that melted some snow on the bottom of the snow tank then it pumped and sprayed some of that hot water on to the top of the snow in the tank. It supplied all our washing, drinking and other water needs. We had a single washing machine and dryer for the twenty troops at the finished buried site. We did experience arctic fox crap fouling the water until we learned ways to keep them more occupied with our garbage dump. We did have to kill one polar bear that was bothering us. We slung him over an oil barrel and let him freeze in a position that allowed us to set him up in a chair, which we set up in the unheated entryway to our mess hall. We didn't tell first time visitors he was there. When visitors landed, we directed them to the mess hall for a cup of coffee while we unloaded the plane.
Dragging runways (with weasel drawn I beams) and setting out flare pots (with a weasel drawn sleds loaded with oil tanks, flares and hand operated fuel pumps) along the sides of the runway and filling oil barrel halves at the touch down end of the runway in preparation for ski equipped C-47 landing and take off and unloading air craft in 50 to 80 degree below 0 blowing snow weather was an experience to remember.
We had the flare pots burning when a C-47 pilot tried to land before we had the touch down fires burning. He thought the weasel head lights were the touch down lights and tried to land and touch down on top of us in the weasel. We had to pull out from under the aircraft. We then started to use a phone line from outside where we could see what was happening and advise our radio operator in the tunnel site to keep the pilots advised when the runway was ready and clear for landing.
Our experiences maintaining separate furnaces in each room under the snow connected by unheated hallways of steel corrugated tubes was a chore. We often had to climb out of our holes in the snow (we were called snow worms) up through towers (like a submarine) open a hatch and go outside to knock off the ice build up on the air intakes and fumes exhaust stacks of each furnace.
A few of us became trial and error barbers. We quickly learned that cutting hair on people with bumpy heads required special skill. It was not long before a few guys became preferred barbers.
The night shift cook made raisin bread. The day cook had planned on spaghetti and meatballs. He had no choice other than make the meatballs with the bread available for the day and cook them in the sauce. It made for a special tasting Italian meal.
The raisins were also used by one of our vehicle mechanic, Sgt. Sam Landrum, to make raisin jack, southern style. The fermenting process used the heat in the power generators exhaust ducts. We knew when a batch was ready when Sgt Sam could be seen staggering. He had to be sure it was really ready before he would walk into the mess hall to announce the event. By then a good portion of a batch was consumed.
We worked on two twelve hour shifts each day, 7 days a week. As we lived under the snow and when we did go out it was mostly without sunlight all day or with sunlight all day, we had an A and a B shift rather than a night and a day shift.
There were many times when lack of supplies or parts prompted ingenuity. I recall our using number ten tin cans to make parts for a electromechanical relay in the radio transmitter unit.
Our 20 men (from 931st AC&W) site 2 detachment had one medic. When he sent a radio message to P Mountain requesting 20 straight jackets, they figured he was ready to rotate (be replaced).
AT THE BMEWS SITE (1959-1960)
My year plus experiences at Thule and the Greenland, and later a week assignment, at the Clear, Alaska BMEWS sites were as a civilian on contract to the RCA Service Company of Riverton, New Jersey. They hired a group of experienced telephone systems people away from the New Jersey Bell telephone company and sent them to Galion, Ohio to a 12 week school on the special crossbar switching system RCA had the North Electric Company custom build for them. I was the North Electric instructor for that customized course and later went to Greenland, on contract to RCA, to work with the experts I was challenged to teach. We worked at the BMEWS site while it was under construction. We were bused up and down the mountain every day, 7 days a week, unless the weather forced us to stay at the site overnight. Our group, working 10 hours a day, installed, operated and maintained the radio, sound powered (patch panel configured) phone, dial telephone (crossbar switching) and telephone paging systems through out the BMEWS site. The living and working conditions and the pay were quite a bit different from my earlier duty with the 931st AC&W squadron on P Mountain and Site 2 on the ice cap.
Three of the group, Lee Hancock, Ed Dansey (both now deceased) and Rus Running, went to work with the North Electric Company after their RCA Service Company BMEWS employment. I lost contact with Bill Fetterman, Truman Smith, Jack Calclough, Bill Garrett and the rest of the group.
Notes from Joe Baude