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A Closed Mouth gathers no
(Once Upon-a-Time on Kwajalein)
|When I was twenty four, I worked as a civilian electronics
technician at the Nike Zeus anti-ballistic missile test facility, run by
the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal, located at the western end of the Pacific
Missile Range (PMR), on Kwajalein, Island, in the Marshal Islands.
On a return trip to the island, after vacation, I had
just sat down in the connecting bus to our charter flight from Oakland
to Honolulu, when a middle-aged man wearing a flowered shirt sat down beside
On the trip to the airport we chatted amiably, and the
conversation got around to the Army's Nike-Zeus anti-missile system. Having
just finished a tour with the U.S. Air Force, I felt compelled to contrast
the Army's Nike-Zeus with the Air Force's anti-missile approach. I raved
on about how the Air Force's boost-phase intercept was superior to the
Army's terminal-phase interception.
He listened very patiently, never disagreeing. When the
bus reached its destination, we parted company.
About a week after having returned to the island, my boss,
myself and several of my co-workers were entering the Officer's Club for
lunch, when I was greeted by the outstretched hand of a U.S. Army, Four
Star General with his entourage of assorted bird colonels and majors in
I did a double-take. It was the guy on the bus!
With his entourage patiently waiting, we chatted like
long lost buddies for a few minutes, never once alluding to our previous
conversation--he was magnanimous.
After taking our leave of one another, my boss--who was
suitably impressed, turned to me and asked how in Hell was it that I knew
the Head of the U.S. Army Missile Command...
The Guard Shack
|On Kwajalein, every morning after breakfast we would
all pile into buses for the short trip up the Island to the "Technical
Area," where the missile launch facilities, and various RADARs were.
As the bus would near the Technical Area, it was filled
to capacity with a bunch of "zombies," nobody was talking to anybody. We
were all setting there as if we had had a really bad night, the night before--as
On the bus ride, we were required to stop at the "guard
shack" where the civilian security guard would board the bus and check
everyone's I.D. badge.
There was this particular guard, who when he came on board--taking
his time, would speak to everybody--individually; making small talk and
cracking jokes--just a happy guy.
When he would leave the bus, he would make some parting
remark that seemed to always be original, and very funny--breaking everyone
As the bus started to move out, everybody--I mean everybody,
would be in animated conversion with someone else. It was as if a bunch
of robots had just had their switches thrown! It was one of the most amazing
things I have ever seen, or more correctly, been a part of.
His enthusiasm was truly infectious!
The sad ending to this story was that after about six
or eight months on the island, he was fired. The story was that he had
been keeping Beer in his water cooler; which just happen to be located
in an un-air conditioned wooden shack the size of a phone booth, in the
hot equatorial sun just 8 degrees above of the Equator.
Most believed that he must have pissed off someone in
Security, and they used something many in that group practiced themselves,
to nail him with...
W.R.G. Duane, Jr.
|While on Kwajalein it was my good fortune to have crossed
with some remarkable individuals, among them was one by the name of Dick
Duane, A.K.A., W.R.G. Duane, Jr., A.K.A., William Richard Galt Duane, Jr.
(1928 - 1996)
He was born in New York City, and grew up in relative
luxury on the island of Mallorca, Spain. He served in the U. S. Army in
World War II and the Army of Occupation in Germany as a communications
In the early '50s he worked for Bell Laboratories at White
Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, testing components of Nike and Nike
Zeus defensive weapon systems.
Dick came to the Nike Zeus Project by way of Project Mercury
at Cape Canaveral. There he picked up the nickname "Space," while on Kwaj
we lengthened it to "Space Ace." When America sent Alan B. Shepard on his
sub-orbital flight in 1961, Dick was the Bermuda flight controller. There
he was the defense projects communication engineer assigned to Bermuda
and responsible for the intercommunication philosophy in operation at the
various Project Mercury locations.
Dick once confided that his formal education only went
as far as the tenth grade. Yet he was a self educated, outstanding working
electrical engineer, and the acting launch director for the Nike Zeus ABM
system there on Kwajalein. He was granted a patent on a method of simultaneously
transmitting two messages over the same radio frequency, "Multiplex System
Employing Polar Modulation."
Any evening you stopped by his room, there he would be,
sitting in bed, a martini in one hand and a dime novel in the other. He
loved to read dime novels, he would finish one, toss it in a pile (over
two feet high) and go on to the next one…
Dick was also an avid Ham radio operator. He operated
a Heath kit portable SSB rig ~35Watts, from his room in the Reef BOQ. Several
of us on that and other islands, would spend hours talking on 20 meters,
his rig would eventually drift up and out of the band, and we would tell
him to move back down the band when he drifted too far.
Among his other accomplishments he invented "dual monitoring"
and the hierarchy of communications concept now used universally by missile
He also owned one of the first Accutron watches, it was
so accurate that, instead of using WWVH, the National Bureau of Standards
out of Hawaii, just before a launch, the Launch Director would call Dick
for a "time hack."
The Nike Zeus Launch Director found the pressure of the
job so daunting that he gave the task to Dick, who did a flawless
I was to find out that after Dick left the island, he
met the love of his life, and they were married soon after.
A year or two later they came to Kwajalein for yet another
tour. There he was a planning engineer on the Safeguard ABM System, and
test director for the first intercontinental ballistic missile track from
I found this out in 1998 while attempting to find out,
"whatever happened to him." Sadly, I was to contact his widow in
my efforts. He had passed away in 1996, at the age of 68.
In writing this, I regret that my limitations as a writer
prevents my doing him justice. He was a remarkable person, and those of
us who were fortunate enough to have him as a friend, won't soon forget
1928 - 1996
|In 1962 I was on Kwajalein Island in the Marshall Islands.
I used several of the government ham stations on the island. Most every
night I would operate the Navy ham station, KX6BU (Brown Underwear). I
would spend my time running phone patches for the people on the island,
or for myself, or I would just chew the fat with stations back in the states,
other countries--depending on conditions. A good deal of the time band
conditions were optimum for other Pacific islands.
One night I was talking to someone on an island in the
Marianas. He was about my age and he also worked as a civilian employee,
but for the US government. He ask me where I was from, I said I'm from
a little town in Virginia I'm sure you never heard of--Danville, Virginia.
He came back saying did you go to GW High? I said yes! He said, did you
have Lefty Wilson? I said, Damn right! I said, what the Hell is your last
name? He told me (sadly I can't recall it today). I said mine's Williamson,
I knew the guy, we were class mates in George Washington
High School. What are the odds? We spent the next several hours reminiscing,
until the band went out.
When I got back state side to Danville, I looked him up.
I would love to know the odds of that happening...
|During my eighteen months on Kwajalein, there were times
things got pretty Damn boring.
I remember one such time.
One of my jobs, among others, was to calibrate and repair
the test equipment used on the island. One day I was unusually bored and
looking for a diversion. I happened to be working on a signal generator
(miniature transmitter), and I needed to test it out. So I got the bright
idea to connect it to the 120 volt A.C. wall receptacle and broadcast through
the power mains to the AM radio in the lab that was tuned to the island's
only radio station, AFRS.
I hooked up a microphone to the signal generator and
started to broadcast as if I were running my Link Trainer from my old Air
Force days. Since I had been stationed near Albany Georgia, I used the
same voice procedure I had used there: "Air Force 123 this is Albany Approach.
I understand you are declaring an emergency, is that correct?" "Roger,
understand you are declaring an emergency. You are cleared for a straight-in
approach on runway 27, contact Albany GCI on 125.2 at outer marker..."
The broadcast came out loud and clear on the lab's radio--I
was surprised at how it drowned out AFRS, and how loud my broadcast was.
I looked around to see the response of the other guys in the lab, they
were listening intently, completely unaware of my connection. I chimed
in with them while trying to keep up the radio chatter, all the time trying
desperately to keep my secret.
My supervisor went out into the
hallway to see if others were hearing this and to findout where it was
coming from. After a couple of minutes he came back reporting it was all
over the building.
It had came out loud and clear on
every radio in the whole Damn building--the U.S. Army's Joint Technical
Operations (JTO) Building! __Oops!
One of the secretaries whose husband just happened to
work in the island's control tower, called her husband who also was the
Chief Petty Officer in charge of the ATC section. She told him of the "plane
that had an emergency at the Albany, New York airport." So he alerted God
Meanwhile, finding out the hornet's nest I had just stirred
up, I'm looking under my workbench for a place to hide!
My response to the news of the aircraft's plight, was,
"gosh, I wonder how that radio signal got all the way out here--must be
one Hell of a Skip."
Fortunately I had not revealed that I was the source of
that broadcast. And, I Never Did!
Class warfare, is there
any Other Kind
|While on Kwajalein I worked as an Electronics Technician.
Most Engineers on the island got along with the technicians, treating us,
for the most part, as peers. Occasionally you would run across some knothead
who acted as if we were beneath them. The newer the engineers were the
worst about that. The older engineers realized the technician were valuable
to have around, and could be the one to pull them out bad situations. It
was akin to the 'old salt' Sergeant looking out for the FNG Lieutenant
in the movies.
One of the engineers was a good friend and we use to pal
around and drink together One day he got a new room mate who he had known
in the states. We had a few meals together and he seem like an alright
guy. One day at lunch he realized that I was a technician, not an engineer
like he thought. Well, from then on he was cold, almost rude to me. He
would avoid me, and even pretend that he didn't even see me at times.
That really pissed me off, and even hurt a little. I asked
my buddy, Kelly, what was up with his room mate, he said that he had a
history of being a bit of a snob.
During some of our meals we talked about he and I both
serving in the Air Force, and having the same rank, Airman Second (E2).
So wanting to fix this snob’s "little red wagon," and
have some fun--at his expense of course! I got this idea, I would con him
into believing that I was, in fact, an officer in the Air Force Reserves,
which beat his rank of an enlisted E2. I wanted to see how he treated me
then. I felt I knew, if I brought this off. I let my buddy know what I
was up to and I also enlisted his help.
First I let it drop that I had misunderstood the snob
when he told me he was an Airman Second, and I said that was my rank also
when I served. But in fact I had been a Second Lieutenant Air Crewman at
the time we were talking about.
His attitude changed toward me somewhat, but I could tell
he wasn't completely convinced
I was in the Air Force reserves, but at the rank of Airman
Second (E2), and I happened to receive the monthly reserve magazine. The
magazine was received by officers and enlisted alike, the only difference
would be the address label.
I asked an Army Captain friend of mine what would be
the difference in an officer's serial number and an enlisted serial number.
He said where my number started with, AF, an officer's would start with
an M. He also said that was true for both Air Force and Army, when I asked.
So I proceeded to craft a fake mailing label for my magazine by first typing
four or five carbon copies of the label, I took the second or third copy
and cut it out the same as the original, including the two little notches
that were cut out at the top and bottom. Once I had swapped them, you couldn't
tell the difference. I was as proud as any counterfeiter who had just turned
out a shinny new twenty.
Now came the hard part, since I wanted the "mark" to see
the magazine, or more precisely, the label, I got my buddy, Kelly, to casually
stop by my room with hin on the way to lunch. Before they showed up I planted
the magizine, face, and label, down on my bed.
They walked in and we chatted a few minutes, I then pretended
that I needed to show Kelly something about my tape recorder. As we were
talking, I watch the mark in the mirror. He looked to see if I was watching,
and quickly picked up the magizine, took a long glance at the label, then
put it down, face down on my bed.
I could hardly contain myself. Nothing I had ever planned
and/or tried had ever worked anywhere as well, I almost needed a change
This guy fell hook line and "Stinker!" His attitude toward
me changed as abruptly as when he first found out that I was a lowly tech.
In point of fact, it was almost embarrassing to see him fawn. For the next
several weeks I played with him, extracting as much satisfaction as possible,
without setting him wise (;-)). About once a week I would give him the
news that I had been notified that I was up for promotion from Captain
to Major. The next week, the promotion had finally come through, that it
was official __Blah, Blah, Blah...
The theme was a constant, "I'm a Major in the U.S. Air
Force Reserve, and you are Not!"
Several weeks later my tour there was up, and I was headed
back to the States; with all that money, and by the way, several pounds
of fresh, Flesh!
So the day I left, I was finishing my lunch in the officer's
mess with my buddies and coworkers, I said my Good Byes. On the way out
I stopped by the snob's table, I shook his hand and looking him in the
eye, I said, "be careful how you judge people in the future, a mere job
title doesn't make the man." I called him by name (I wish I could remember
it), "you're a God Damn arrogant little snob! I'm no officer, I was an
airman second just like you. And I'm a technician, and a Damn good one,
if I say so myself--and I do say so!
I looked at everyone at the table, and doing my best Phil
Silvers imitation, I said--with a big grin, "Glad to See Yea!"
With that, I turned and left on that "Big Bird in the
Boy was I glad to be Finally Leaving!!
That job was like my military service, I wouldn't take
a million dollars for the experience, but I wouldn't do it again for a
million dollars. __Well, maybe for a million...
|ABM and EMP
The reason for an Anti Ballistic Missile
(ABM) system deployment is to protect against nuclear bombs delivered by
ICBMs. The threat falls into two categories, city killing delivery, one
bomb--one city; and nation killing delivery, one EMP
bomb detonated at altitude over our country--one nation.
Just one thermonuclear bomb of sufficient
size, can take this nation back to the stone age. EMP (Electro-Magnetic
Pulse) can destroy or render useless, every unprotected electronic device
in the continental US and Canada. The only weapons in our arsenal that
are immune to this effect are deeply submerged submarines.
EMP is a devastating effect, that has been
recognized since the late forties, and is little known to the public. One
nuclear weapon of sufficient size, detonating 300 miles above our country,
could bring down our entire power grid, cripple all telephone service,
most computers would be made inoperable, automobiles would stop running,
aircraft would fall from the sky, killing thousands--everything that uses
semiconductors would fail, utterly.
One of the reasons that today's ABM uses
hit-to-kill instead of a low yield nuclear warhead, is the fear of blinding
the ABM's radars and sensors.
One scenario that could defeat an ABM system;
any nation wanting to attack us, would first orbit a "weather satellite,"
and just prior to the attack would detonate the nuclear weapon on board
that satellite. The detonation would take place over the central U.S.,
blinding all ABM radars/sensors, rendering any defensive systems in the
country totally useless.
EMP is created because 5% of the energy released
by a nuclear or thermonuclear detonation is electromagnetic. A weapon detonated
at altitude, the electromagnetic energy propagates into the ionosphere
allowing that energy to spread along the magnetic lines of the ionospheric
layer, affecting the majority of the country.
The failure mechanism that makes EMP so devastating,
lies with semiconductors and their vulnerability to excessive voltages
and reverse polarities of those voltages. Both will create excessive currents
which will permanently destroy such devices. With the proliferation of
the personal computer and the effort to make them energy efficient, the
problem has become greatly exacerbated. Most of today's semiconductors
can be destroyed by merely touching them, just the static electricity that
normally accumulates on a person's body is enough to do the job.
In one test a 1.4 megaton weapon detonates
at 200 miles altitude, the induced fields at ground level were measured
at > 50,000 volts in a one linear foot conductor. See
also Russian test
Vacuum tubes, unlike transistors, are considered
to be immune to EMP's destructive energy, i.e., they may fail while the
pulse is active, but will probably survive and function afterward.
It was noticed that the Soviets favored vacuum
tube technology over solid state, especially in certain of their aircraft,
and it was thought that it was a case of “being behind.” However, there
were those who saw it as protection against EMP...
There is a huge
elephant in the room that everybody is ignoring. It's called EMP, the devastation
it could cause makes the mere physical destruction caused by the bomb that
triggers it, to pale by comparison.
Not to diminish
human life, but if we lost a city, as awful as that is, we would survive
as a nation. If the nation were reduced to the stone age, we would cease
as this nation. The unforeseen consequences would be many and disastrous.
One consequence would be that nations, friend and foe, would be emboldened
to do as they please with our people, our assets, and our sovereignty.
Target Track Radar
The TTR was a very high power radar for tracking
the ICBM RV and/or Tankage (Bus).
1. They had trouble holding a lock--the beam
was too narrow, they even had to resort to manual tracking. This was solved
by de-focusing the Cassagrain feed, by adding hydraulics to the secondary
2. The radar was so powerful that there was
a published notice to airmen (NOTAMs) that direct exposure within fifteen
miles of the radar was dangerous to personnel.
3. The TTR had a connection to the ZAR receiver
by way of a ~ 4" waveguide that had a requirement for great precision,
which implies interferometry.
(2)_ Russian jamming
and a Deuce and a Half
There was interference in the ZAR receiver,
Russian jamming was suspected. At some point we were asked to take a wide-band
RF radiation detector and measure for any stray RF emanating from the ZAR
transmitter building when the transmitter was not transmitting. I remember
walking around the building which was within the 90 foot high stainless
steel fence that completely encircled the building. All the time we were
out there I was worried that the antenna would somehow start up transmitting--all
30 Megawatts of it.
Some local ham operators suggested the RFI
was caused by Ford made, 'deuce and a half' trucks that were quite prevalent.
After the laughter died down, they checked the trucks, and sure enough,
they were the culprit. It was believed that the RFI got into the I.F. strips
of the receivers, even through the receiver building's heavy shielding.
Almost everybody--hams knew that Ford vehicles
were notorious for noisy ignitions. Before coming to Kwaj I had worked
with two way FM radios on police cars, taxis, etc., and the Ford and Mercury
vehicles were bad, the military deuce and a half being the absolute worst
(3)_ Mt. Olympus
and the QC Guy
Because the island was only a few feet above
sea level, the launch tubes were inside a large mound of dirt at the far
end of the island, called Mt. Olympus. Since the booster was capable of
nearly a half million pounds of thrust, it was said that, within a hundred
yards the sound level from the blast was so intense as to be lethal.
Before every launch two people from Douglass
Aircraft would go down inside the loaded tube and arm the missile. I knew
both of these guys, I had lunch with them every day. They were as different
from one another as any two people could be. The guy that did the actual
arming was a "nut," a hippy; the other guy who was normal, was a QC inspector
whose job it was to check behind the armorer making sure he made no mistakes.
He was married with children and hated his job, especially the part where
he had to work with the hippy.
What made their job even worst, normally
when arming is going on, all radars and telemetry are turned off, and resumed
when finished. At some point the people who didn't have to crawl down among
tons of volatile propellant, made the decision, in order to make the launch
run more smoothly, to not turn off anything. These guys fearing for their
went along with this insanity!
Once there was a salvo launch, where two
anti missiles were to be fired in quick succession. Unfortunately, only
one made it out, the other became a "live" dud. Guess who had to climb
down in the launch tube and disarm same. If it had been me I would have
gotten the Hell off that island, and never looked back...
(4)_ The Fallout
When I knew that I was going to Kwajalein
I started construction on a fallout shelter in the basement of my family
home. That was a time when the fear of Russian ICBMs was pretty intense.
I used 30 pound solid concrete blocks meant
for that very purpose. The inside dimensions were ten by twelve feet, with
a six feet ceiling. The walls were sixteen inches thick and the roof which
was made of sand backed by plywood and reinforced by bolted two by fours.
The reason for the sand was for radiation attenuation (less than ideal)
and for safety in the event of blast damage--sand beats concrete falling
on one's head. It had a reinforced steel door at the end of a narrow corridor,
and the door was at right angles to the corridor, making forced entry difficult.
Aside from food and water, there was a Micronite air filter with a manual
The weight of the entire shelter was estimated
at eight tons.
Some thought the idea of a "fallout shelter"
a joke, that is until the Cuban Missile crisis. While I was at the only
location on earth that had any possibility of defending against ballistic
missiles, my mother made preparations to take up residence in her shelter
about that time. Thought she never had to use it, she told me that it gave
her a feeling of reassurance--but a mother would say that wouldn't she...
Watching the HBO movie, Temple
Grandin, reminded me of someone I ran across on Kwajalein.
I was taking a taxi to the Technical Area on the island,
and I was sharing it with two older gentlemen--one dressed casual, in a
leisure suit, and the other was overdressed in a dark suit and tie, and
sunglasses, both were in their forties. They did stand out...
I said something to the casual guy who looked straight
ahead, not acknowledging me at all.
The other guy--who I had figured by then was his "keeper,"
said, "he doesn't speak."
We finished the ride in silence.
Later I found out that he was a brilliant scientist sent
from Bell Labs Whippany, to solve a knotty problem they were having with
the, just finished, Discrimination Radar.
And, that he was also responsible for single-handedly
designing and causing to be built, an automated production line for making
0.01% resistors--on the fly--an unheard of feat then.
The guy in black, was an (armed) FBI agent.
__What else! (;-))
The Vacation on Kwaj
One day Island Security was called to the enlisted barracks
about a man who was on the island without authorization. It was a case
of a retired veteran with mental issues who had somehow flown in on a chartered
aircraft meant for authorized personnel only. He passed security after
getting off the plane, and had gone to the enlisted barracks and secured
a bunk--no questions asked. Apparently he was able to do all these things
on the strength of his retired military credentials alone. He was a retired
Army Chief Master Sergeant.
Not only did this guy land on the island, but he lived
there for two weeks before being discovered. To add insult to injury, he
was only discovered when he tried to pay rent on his bunk.
The island was supposed to be a very secure place and
the Island Security really came off looking bad.
Keys to the Kingdom
There were Filipino workers on the island, who had mainly
menial service jobs. There was one guy who was a supervisor of about ten
custodians that cleaned the JTO building--a secure office building. He
and he alone was entrusted with the key to the front entrance, which he
lost. Each subsequent key met the same fate. Security was suspicious, but
kept giving him keys with progressively larger fobs, hoping the more conspicuous
the fob the less likely he would lose it. They were wrong, he kept losing
Finally they had enough, they put the key on a quarter
inch brass welding rod, bent in a one foot circle and welded it together,
that he wore around his neck.
That lasted two weeks until he lost it--again.
The final version that I heard about was another brass
ring but with a six inch bright red bull's eye made of sheet metal, drilled
in the center with the brass rod running thru the hole.
I think that story speaks volumes about the quality of
Security on that island!
Check Point Surprise
One day Island Security pulled a surprise check on our
bus, taking us to the Technical Area. After we passed the initial Guard
Shack check point, the driver normally proceeds to the various radars,
etc., letting people off at each location. This day we were surprised at
the ZAR power plant. The Head of Security and several of his lieutenants
were in front of a parked patrol car that was blocking our way. He was
directing a guard who was practicing an apparently new procedure that he
seemed confused as how to carry out. The guard initially told everyone
on the buss to get off. As we started to get out of our seats, the Head
of Security raised his arms and gesturing to the hapless guard to stop,
"not to get off the bus!" "Stay on the bus."
It was funny to watch, and several people said aloud,
The last I'd heard they had given up on surprise check
Filming of the ZAR
During several missile shots there had been rumors of
Russian trawlers lying off the island. There was also talk of possible
jamming of our radars, in fact I spent most of one night on the roof of
the JTO building with a spectrum analyzer and antenna looking for it and
a rumored submarine. Neither showed up.
With all this and the recent fire in the ZAR Transmitter
antenna, everybody was paranoid and on alert for the next shoe to drop.
And it did.
Dispite signs forbidding cameras in the Techinal Area,
there was a man with a 16mm movie camera filming the ZAR Transmitter, antenna
and fence. He was approached by two gentlemen dressed in black business
suits and dark glasses--I kid you not!
Anyway, they hauled him off in an island taxi, never to
be heard of or seen again, nor the two guys in black...
The ZAR Transmitter manager's Daughter
In the early days of ZEUS on Kwajalein there were few
dependents there and the only women were the wives of a select few manager
types. Several did have their adult children.
Human nature being just that, some of the women couldn't
hide their competitiveness when it came to being the most popular in "paradise."
Middle age women wearing skimpy outfits--they were several pounds, and
as many years out of place, it was embarrassing. Most didn't have a clue,
the more men stared--out of astonishment, not lust, the more they were
The few young women there--usually someones daughter,
were hated by most of these older women. The gossip and back stabbing rumors
flew. I remember a most beautiful young woman who was the target of this
treatment. One attribute that you couldn't miss was that she was flat chested.
Yet she had a presents that was stunning. She carried herself with dignity
and grace--to be clear; she carried herself like she was sporting double
"Ds." I had always been a "chest man," but she was the exception that proved
I first saw her at a bus stop with some older women, whose
body language was 'screaming' their disdain for her. She was not showing
any recognition of the vibes directed at her. I wish I had photos, because
The Shark Pit
At the approach end of the island's runway is the infamous
Shark pit. The number of sharks there is said to be on a par with the Great
Barrier Reef in Australia. In fact, several movies that needed large shark
populations, came to Kwajalein, Island.
The shark pit has been used as the island's garbage disposal
as long as anyone can recall, it's said the Japanese used it during WWII.
When ever the native labor goes there to dump their garbage, as sport and
for food, they shoot the shark.
There is a story I heard the day I arrived. It seems that
after the battle of Kwajalein, a C-54 transport carrying 35 nurses with
a blood bank, plus wounded, left on their way home. As the plane took off
it faulted and fell into the ocean right over the shark pit. By the time
the crash boat got to them, they were all dead...
The Doctors are In
There had been three different doctors on the island in
the eighteen months I was there.
(1). The first doctor was from Boston. On his way
to the island, it's said that he stopped off in San Francisco and met and
married a gorgeous hooker. For the next eight months, he practiced his
art and she hers. She was not a street walker, but she could be seen every
night walking her dog. She was a hit at every "do" on the island. There
was one rather short Army, Catholic Chaplain that could be seen at every
cocktail party, standing on tip toe trying to see down her plunging neck
line. Eight months after they arrived Island Security accused them breaking
his contract and were sent off the island. The story is that the people
"protecting" them had a dispute over money. The last I heard, the happy
couple ended up in Boston, living together as husband and wife. The word
was that, in only eight months, they had accumulated a very nice nest egg...
How I got to Kwajalein
I have been asked how in the world did I end up on Kwajalein,
It was a dark and stormy night...
Around the end of 1960, I was in the Air Force and stationed
at Turner AFB, GA. I remember my first real exposure to Kwajalein came
from a large 15 page spread in a weekly technical magazine that I subscribed
to, Missiles and Rockets. It was a well done article laying out the whole
system with explanations easily understood.
I also remember what I told a friend of mine, I held up
the magazine and told him, "I'm going there, I'm going to Kwajalein, in
the Marshall Islands. I'm going to work on the Nike Zeus ABM!"
I finished my tour with the Air Force and went back home
to Danville, VA. My first job application was in Burlington, NC, at the
Western Electric manufacturing facility making Nike Zeus components. There
I was interviewed by an Ex-Air Force guy, who told me that I was thin on
education and that to get a job there I needed two years of tech school.
As I started to leave, we started to talk about our Air Force days and
that we both had experience with K System airborne radar on B-52s. We talked--told
each other lies, for the next three hours. I left there with no prospects.
Soon after I found a job at GE in Lynchburg, VA, in the
QC section of the Communication Products Dept. I was there for two or three
months when one night I got a call from the head of personnel at Western
Electric in Winston Salem, NC. He said, "we've got a job that might interest
you, it's on a little island I'm sure you never heard of..." I cut him
off, I said, "Kwajalein!" There was silence. I said, "Nike Zeus!" He said,
"yes that's right. Are you interested?" I said, "Hell yes!"
He explained the particulars including the very large
salary and benefits--which I never really heard.
I gave my two week notice to GE, and with their blessing,
I then went to Winston Salem and spent the next week processing in, becoming
a WECo employee. I asked for a two week delay to take care of things on
the home front. One of those things was finishing the fallout shelter I
had started when I first knew I was going. See
shelter. After completing the 8 ton shelter and stocking it, I soon
left for the island.
It turns out that the head of WECo personnel was an old
Danville boy who was a popular radio personality there, we both knew some
of the same people. And, apparently, the Ex-Air Force guy at WECo's Burlington
plant, didn't toss my application after all, but passed it on to WECo Winston
So I arrived on Kwajalein Island in late November of 1961,
and left there May of 1963; I was there eighteen months.
I've often thought about that my only overt act toward
going to Kwajalein was the failed interview with WECo Burlington, and that
was more about getting a job than going to Kwajalein. Everything else was
happenstance--I think. __Spooky!
Editing my Words before I Speak
A lesson I learned during my first of two jobs at GE in
Lynchburg. This job was in the Quality Control (QC) Department writing
test procedures for incoming inspection of components. I also designed
and supervised the construction of the different test setups used for the
In this job I worked for two different engineers which
was a lesson in itself. I found myself getting conflicting direction from
these guys, which I suffered in silence for about two weeks. One day I
had had enough, so I recalled something I had heard as a kid, that the
quickest way to sink a ship was to have a committee for the Captain. So
I made it a point to tell each one in private my dilemma and share my quotation,
except instead of committee I substituted "two Captains." That worked,
from then on out, I only got direction from one of them.
Another thing I learned from this was, be careful what
you wish for (;-)).
The engineer that was to be my boss--Peter Wickie, made
me justify my designs and sometime my written procedures--which was the
right thing to do, but at the time I resented it. He also had this maddening
habit of glomping onto a single word that I would use and go off on a tangent,
the more I tried to clarify my position, the more he would go back to that
single word, making it almost impossible to get anything resolved.
So to try to avoid this blind spot, I would think over
exactly what I was going to say, trying to edit out any words that might
set him off. After a few weeks of failed attempts, I got pretty good at
selling my arguments. It really took the pressure off this FNG.
Since that time I have found that the lessons learned
from that experience has helped in just about every job I've had since.
___More snippets to follow...
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