Texas Towers

"[Texas Tower number 4,] anchored in 30 fathoms of water, [about 180 feet,] rocked ominously in even moderate seas. Navy underwater survey teams identified and corrected some of the problems found with the supports, but nothing could offset the continual damage below the surface. [Hurricane Donna] battered the tower with 132-mile-an-hour winds and waves in excess of 50 feet, doing enough damage to force the Air Force and its construction contractor to specify February 1, 1961 as the date to begin completely renovating TT-4. A caretaker crew of 14 contractor maintenance workers and 14 Air Force personnel stayed aboard the tower. On January 15, 1961, a fierce winter gale bore in on the hapless station and ripped off all 3 of its legs in succession. Its 28 occupants sank with the platform into the sea; none survived.

Excerpt from "The Emerging Shield"

This page is dedicated to those men.

Plaque in the USAF Museum Memorial Park

Click here for proposed Vice-Presidential citation for those lost on all Texas Towers

Note: We've received email from troops who were aboard TT-4 at the time disputing the statement that the Tower was evacuated ahead of Hurricane Donna...

"When the coast Guard arrived to evacuate us the wind was already 70 knots, and a transfer of personnel was impossible. The entire crew rode out the hurricane, and it was evacuated later, with only the repair crew left."

USS Lloyd Thomas - DD 764

From an email we received:
God Bless our lost one. God Bless America. Three cheers: To Don Abbott, Chuck Zimmaro, John Sgrignioli, Col.Robert Cutler, and the people and crew that went out to Tower 4.

Note: The planned location for TT-5 was later moved to a site south of Nova Scotia (east of TT-1's planned location). Neither TT-1 or TT-5 were built.

Texas Tower
locations Texas Towers, so-called because of their resemblance to oil drilling platforms in the Gulf Of Mexico, were huge manned platforms to serve as radar sites. Five Texas Towers were were originally planned to be built off the Atlantic coast, extending radar coverage seaward. Three were eventually built, TT-1 and TT-5 were never built. Besides TT-4, lost in the tragedy, the towers never lived up to Air Force expectations.

The Air Force originally planned for the towers to be continuously manned by twenty-two men. This number proved to be grossly inadequate; by 1957, a crew, normally consisting of six officers and forty-eight airmen staffed each tower. Not only radar men, but also personnel for plumbing, refrigeration, medical and cooking chores manned the stations.

The Air Force occupied TT-2, 110 miles off Cape Cod, in December, 1955. Tower and crew alike suffered the effects of constant vibration from the rotation of the radar antenna and the diesel generators. The surrounding water, and footings driven into the ocean floor even transmitted distant sounds up the steel legs to be amplified through the whole structure.

The Texas Towers were originally equipped with one AN/FPS-3 search radars and two AN/FPS-6 height finder.

TSgt. Frederick R. Aschert of the 4604th Support Sqdn. built the model of TT-2 pictured at right while stationed at the 4604th. TSgt. Aschert spent almost all of his off-duty time aboard the radar installation. The completed model was comprised 4,100 pieces, and weighed approximately 50 pounds. It took him more than 600 hours to complete, working during his off-duty time on the 28-day rotations. TSgt Aschert measured every possible inch he could of the tower with a tape measure, and used a scale of one-eighth inch to one foot.

TSgt Aschert was NCOIC of radar maintenance.

Texas Tower 2 model at U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH

Another model by TSgt. Frederick R. Aschert of the 4604th Support Sqdn.

Fred wrote:

... I built another model of the tower that took 7 years to complete. It was built in 7 different countries. It has over 10000 parts in it. It is now in the museum at Peterson AFB. I'm sure that most people that look at it do not know what it is. Can't say that I blame them.

If you get out to Colorado Springs you may want to stop and take a look at it. The mess trays have food in them, The pool table has balls on the table. Of course only I know that. As you put it, Memories get hazy with time and I would have to find the pictures.

Texas Tower 2 model at Peterson Air & Space Museum, Colorado Springs, CO.
This model has transparent radomes so that the antennas can be seen.

02 Sep 04 photo by Ernie Newman of Fred Aschert, the builder of the Peterson Museum & USAF Museum Texas Tower Displays

Texas Tower 2

Texas Tower 3

Texas Tower 4

4604th Support Group (Texas Towers) Insignia


Texas Tower Site Pages:

Texas Tower Movies:
RealPlayer G2 Required

Other Texas Tower Links: