In July 1956 eight or nine radar operators (including myself) were transferred from the radar site at Portland International AFB to Mt. Hebo. We were sent up to calibrate the radar sets. About two months later the rest of the Squardon transferred to the mountain. Squardon had about 300(?) personnel. Call sign was "CREATURE". In addition to radar search responsiblities, the squardon was also responsible for fighter control out of Portland International AFB. Fighter call sign was "DOO DAD" later changed to "SABERTOOTH". Fighter types were F-86's and F-102's. Major Brown was the Commanding Officer.
Mt. Hebo plotted all military and civilian air traffic in and out of Portland International AFB (shared jointly by AF and Commercial carriers), McChord AFB, Paine AFB, Seatac International Airport and overseas commercial flights. Also, air traffic was called in and plotted at Mt. Hebo from AC&W sub-station located at Coos Bay, OR, call sign "GOODBOOK", AEW, picket ships and civilian ground observation stations.
The radar site was located on top of Mt. Hebo which is about 5,000 feet above sea level. The town of Hebo (restaurant, general store and post office) was located at the base of the mountain on Hwy 101. Hebo is 30 miles south of Tillamook, Oregon. A very steep gravel road, approximately 12 miles long, ran from the town of Hebo to the radar site. Dangerous road. During the 18 months I was stationed at Mt. Hebo, six or seven airmen were killed when their cars ran off this road. Hard to know where they went off because of the steep cliffs and dense brush. Took quite awhile to find some of them.
All of the buildings at Mt. Hebo were quonset huts except for the chow hall, radar tower, operations and motor pool. All buildings were cabled down due to frequent high winds. We had a enlisted mans club in one of the quonset huts, but that was about it. I never heard anyone complain about lack of facilities. If someone needed minor medical attention or dental care he would usually catch a ride in one of the AF trucks making a run to Portland International. No big deal. Our Squardon basketball and baseball teams used the gym and baseball field at the Navy Blimp station near Tillamook. The Navy also let us use their PX.
Each operation crew consisted of about 30 enlisted personnel and 3 or 4 officers (controllers). Each crew lived together in one-half of a quonset hut which were open bays double bunked. No one had a seperate room. Since each ops crew spent nearly all their time on the site together, we also went to town together. Going to Tillamook for a haircut or even down to Hebo for a hamburger and coke ( back then coke was a soft drink not something a person sniffed) was a good experience. Once in awhile we'd hit Portland but that was a pretty long haul. I think life was a lot simpler then.
Few points of interest: Got snowed in several times because vehicles could not get up or down the mountain. Experienced some very high winds. Lots of rain in the Fall and Spring. Heavy snow in the winter. First year at Mt. Hebo our Squardon won the Tillamook County league basketball championship. Basketball was a very important activity for the locals. Seems as though each small town had it own team. Whichever town won the championship had bragging rights for the next year. They really didn't appreciate an Air Force team coming in and beating the hell out of everybody. Gyms were always packed with fans when we played, all rooting against the Air Force. It was fun.
Seems like there was always a poker or pinochle game going on at Mt. Hebo. First the crews would play each other in the barracks (quonset huts) for pay day stakes. Pay day the barracks winners would play the big game at the enlisted mans club. Sometimes the power would go off during the big game and six or seven troops would light up the poker table with flashlights. Only could see a players hands and money. Interesting way to play poker. If I remember correctly, even though we were back in the mountains quite a ways, not many of the guys were interested in hiking, fishing or hunting. We were close to the ocean so we'd go down to the beaches once in awhile, but not often. Not much to do on a beach but lay around.
Everything considered, I think the personnel stationed at Mt. Hebo did a pretty good job of making do with what they had.
Terry Cook Seattle, Washington