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 (see photo numbers) 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.
You can click on any of the highlighted numbers (1) below for a full-size photo.
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 (22) . We all lived in atwell shelters (23) 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 (24) and later moved it in to the permanent site.
The construction site was also called "Streamer Flats" (25) referring to the many collapsed parachutes experienced during the airdrop of many large construction vehicles (26) (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 (27) and Hausfeld (28) were our radio operators. Chuck Droll was our weatherman.
Kegley, a PE-215B power generator systems operator/mechanic, and Roy, our medic, were truly a sight at the site (29).
Parker (30) was on of our two regular cooks. Other guys took a day off from outside duties and did a cooking tour for R&R (31).
A remote vehicle storage building (32) housed 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 (33). It supplied all our washing, drinking and other water needs. We had a single washing machine and dryer (34) 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 (35). We didnít 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) (36) 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 (38) 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 (39) 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 (40) 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 (41) 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 (42). 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 PE-215 power generators (43) 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).