Since Oct 29, 2001
Enlisted in the Army in Aug. 1960, basic training in Ft. Ord, Calif. (it's a long story, I enlisted in Taiwan, had been there for 2 years, just bumming around), and went to Ft. Monmouth, NJ for meteorological observation school.
After training, I was assigned to Evans Laboratory, near Ft. Monmouth. There were 7 single guys living in the barracks that summer (1961) and the First Sergeant showed up one fateful day and said " I need 7 volunteers, 4 to go to Alaska (18 month tour), and 3 to go to Greenland (2 six month Temporary Duty (TDY) tours). Having good math skills (the Army tested me on that), I quickly added up 12 months vs. 18 months, and said "GREENLAND". If I had only known!!!!!
In Aug. 61, 2 buddies and me were headed to Arizona (believe this or not)for "ARCTIC TRAINING". ARIZONA! Only the Army could come up with this!!!! It turned out to be a refresher course in Meteorology, but 30 days only 60 miles from Nogales, Mexico (a border town with all the normal border town thrills) was a benefit. Having sowed my wild oats for 30 days, I found myself on a plane to Thule AFB.
Oct. 61, we got off the plane in Thule, and they put us in the back of a 2-½ ton truck and drove us to Camp Tuto. Three very frozen GI's got out of the truck (we had not received Arctic gear yet) and reported for 6 months of hell, cold hell, but hell never the less.
They asked us where we wanted to go, Tuto East, West, Camp Tuto, or Camp Century. Having made all the stupid decisions I could possibly make (I thought), I said "CENTURY" with great pride. (Remember, I was young then)
I was put on a Caribou (an airplane made in Canada) so fast that my head spun. This plane had skis instead of wheels. "What the hell?" I remember thinking planes need wheels!!! What have I done?
We landed in the middle of the Greenland Icecap. Nothing visible objects for a hundred miles in either direction. And I mean nothing (except for a small shack)(6' by 6')(orange in color).
We walked down this long sloping gash in the snow, mouth agape, for there were lights, 14' wide, with a frost-covered roof over our head. This main trench (as they called it) was (I'm guessing) 1000 to 1100 feet long. Off each side of the main trench were other trenches, all covered with corrugated steel.
Inside each of these trenches were up to three prefabricated buildings. What a culture shock.
This SP-4 (Richard Charles, I think) ran up to me, drooling, wanting to carry my bag, and shaking my hand, thrilled to death that I was there. Little did I know but I WAS HIS REPLACEMENT! He was to train me, and then he could leave. This was at 1500 hrs.
At 1800 hrs, after supper, he said that we would go to the office. He took me through a maze of tunnels, then started to climb a 30' ladder, expecting me to follow. Yes, I followed!
We opened this metal hatch, slogged through some knee-deep snow and got to the weather station. It was dark, pitch black, (OCT. in Greenland, remember) and Richard relieved another drooling, absolutely insane GI. I took 2 surface observations (1 per hour) and Richard declared me fully trained, went down to the barracks and started to pack.
The phone rings about 2200 hrs, and I answer it. It is Sgt. Frost (I'm not kidding, Jack Frost was his name) wanting me to clean the thermocouples. I asked where they were, and he said on the tower 75' north of the office. I went outside, not having any idea which way was north and walked in a 75' circle around the office. When I stumbled onto the tower, I cleaned the thermocouples and went back in.(later I learned that all I had to do was kick the tower, and the snow fell right off) By the way, I never met Sgt. Frost, he never came up to the surface, he stayed in the micro met room, and left 2 months after I got there.
The next morning at 0630, the same disheveled, drooling GI from the previous night shows up and replaces me. I never did find out his name, he was known as " THE DAY GUY".
Down the ladder, I wandered around till I found the Mess Hall. Here is a positive statement about Camp Century. They fed us good!!!! I'm serious!!!! All the food we wanted, double rations, excellent cooks, and excellent food. Had steak and eggs before going to bed. Found out that they had a mid-night chow too. Good thing I found that out too, I was on night shift for the entire tour.
CAMP CENTURY: A lot went on there. There was the Nuclear reactor. Lights, heat, and a warm, green glow all winter. We had to wear lead jockey shorts if we didn't want kids with 3 eyes.
For water, they pumped live steam down in the ice, melting it, and pumped the water up to use. I had the opportunity to go down in a parachute harness hooked to a winch into the wells, as we called it. They lowered me through a small hole into a Cavern about 70' round. They continued to lower me, through another hole into another cavern, and into a third cavern. This was the one we were getting water from. They, the water Guys told me that we were drinking water that fell as snow 2000 years ago. I had no reason to disbelieve them. This was an exciting moment in my tour (REMEMBER, Greenland icecap).(GIs are easily amused!!!!)
We got our last mail in November and the next mail in March! No kidding, the weather was so terrible that not even a plane could get through. "THE DAY GUY" and Sgt. Frost left on the last plane out and we got some new replacements, but I don't remember their names. I found out that they referred to me as "THE NIGHT GUY". I was drooling by now.
For Christmas, we went out into the Greenland forest and cut a tree. Kidding, there were no trees.
This isn't funny, I think it was that Christmas that the Army sent a helicopter up with a Chaplain on board, and it crashed somewhere on the ice cap. All 8 on board killed. That is probably why we didn't get any airlift support until March.
The month of Dec. we never saw the sun (not that "THE NIGHT GUY" could ever see the sun. Not even a lightning of the sky at noon. But the Aurora was fantastic. It was impossible to describe. And the start of one of the best practical jokes I ever pulled off.
I started the rumor that if you hollered at the aurora, it would intensify. It seemed that way because it was a dynamic situation, always changing, brightening and dimming quickly, just streaming across the sky. I started hearing people outside, screaming "hey, hey, hey" at night. Even one guy yodeling!
This was so great I had to take it one step further. My buddy and I organized a mass scream out at midnight sometime in Jan. Picture this, 100 GIs, standing on the ice cap at midnight, -50 deg F., screaming at the sky. What a hoot! They fell for it. That's why my buddy and I called them "doafats".
What is a "doafat"? One of the expressions very common in Century was somebody asking a question like, "are you going to the club tonight?" and the answer was "DO A FAT woman sweat?" or "DO A FAT dog eat a bone?" or "DO A FAT whatever". The operative phrase was always "DO A FAT".
Outside of each building was a 55-gallon drum with the top cut off, buried at an angle in the snow. This was our urinal. Since we only had 1 latrine and it could be a quarter of a mile away, and knowing GI's, rather than messing up the trenches, they installed these barrels. I thought my job was bad, but can you imagine the guy who was assigned to exchange these barrels. Did he brag about his Greenland saga?
On one very cold night in Jan., I was walking out to the shelter that had the thermometers in it (Yuma Shelter) and noticed that I could not see my feet below the ankles. There was a very shallow fog about 6" deep. I could kick my foot, and the fog would rise up and then settle back down, rippling out about 18", like a rock thrown into a calm lake. It was cold -50 or so, and not a breath of wind stirring. I later found out that there was a temperature inversion that night of over 120 deg f. between the ½ meter level and the 4-meter level.
I also saw a level of clouds come in at about 30' above my head. I know it was 30' because I could see the 25' anemometer on the tower, but not the 50' one. But, here was what was strange, we had 7 miles visibility at the time, it was like a tunnel through the fog. Didn't last long, but Greenland weather is a strange place.
About the middle of Jan., the steam generator broke, and they announced that there would be no more clean clothes until they could get parts. Early Feb. no more clean sheets till they could get parts for the steam generator. What's next? Mid Feb. navy showers, get wet, turn it off, soap down, rinse for 1 minute. Get the hell out! That lasted for a week, then no more showers. They had finally stripped me of all dignity I ever had, tired, dirty, smelling, and now, no showers. Actually, we weren't really dirty. We were 6000' from dirt, and that was straight down through the ice.
We were running out of food, but the cooks did the best they could. By mid Feb. we had hamburger, chicken and powdered eggs left. We would have eggs for breakfast, hamburger for lunch, and chicken for dinner, followed by eggs at midnight, chicken for breakfast, hamburger for lunch
15 cents bought everything. A beer was 15 cents, pack of cigarettes, 15 cents, bar of soap, 15 cents. But now we were running out of everything. The only beer was San Miguel, whiskey, Old Overholt (over coat). Even for free, nobody wanted Old Over Coat or San Miguel.
Read this in the readers digest "Humor In Uniform" section. In Mar. the relief plane was in flight. The pilot radioed to Camp Century "How deep is the snow on the runway?" The radio operator said, "6000 feet deep, but come in anyway" That radio operator was Sp4 Radminsky, my buddy.
Speaking of Razz, another story. I was on the surface and Razz was operating the radio downstairs. I picked up the radio and said "XPN2, this is XPN2 Charlie, stand by for a spot announcement, ARF, ARF, thank you spot". Thought it was funny! I thought that the only one that could hear me was Razz, everybody else sleeping. The next voice I heard was the Camp Commander asking me to repeat my transmission. I gulped, and asked hi if Razz was there? He said that Razz was out shoveling snow, where I soon was going to be. I hide from him for 3 days, but he found me and gave me another nickname, "SPOT".
The first relief plane was in the air when the Camp Commander asked the pilot what he had on board. The pilot radioed back that he had parts for the steam generator and other repair parts. The Century Camp Commander radioed back to the pilot that he was to turn around and go back to Thule. The first plane to land a Camp Century that day had better have mail for his troops and some chow. The plane circled while the second plane with the mail flew up. The Camp Commander was my hero that day.
My turn to leave! My replacement was in, fully trained (2 observations), my bags were packed and the Caribou was waiting. This was the only time I had seen sunlight in 5 months. I walked out to the plane, found a seat, and looked back on the place I had called home for the last 6 months. I then noticed that building, (6' by 6'), (orange in color) (the only one on the surface), and realized that it was the WEATHER STATION.
I left Greenland in the spring and went back to Ft. Monmouth. I was a total stranger there, having been gone all winter. I remember the CO asking the First Sergeant who I was. Out of sight, out of mind.
My 2 other friends who went up to Greenland had returned near Christmas, and had shipped back to Greenland even before I got there.
short leave, a few weeks back to Ft. Monmouth and I was back on the plane to Greenland. I remember crying as the plane set down in Thule. They didn't ask me this time where I wanted to go, just put me on a Caribou back to guess where CENTURY.
This was mid summer. The sun was up 24-hours a day. How did they dig those large tunnels? I watched one being dug. I was walking to the weather station when all of a sudden the visibility dropped to zip, zero, nothing. Snow falling all around me, when 2 seconds earlier it was clear and sunny. I could hear this loud noise of machinery running.
I had on my sunglasses, which was probably lucky for me, and followed the sound. About 50' I stopped short of a 30' deep hole that had been dug in just a few hours.
It was a new trench! Down in the trench was a wonder. This machine (A Peter Snow miller) was a railroad engine, mounted on tracks (not railroad tracks, tracks like on a bull dozer), with the largest snow blower you can imagine on the front end. This thing was monstrous! It was throwing snow 100' into the air.
That was my loss of visibility. Somebody told me that it was designed to keep the railroad high in the mountains of Switzerland free of snow. I don't know that to be true, but hey, I don't argue.
Within a day, they had covered the weather station with snow (Remember the orange building?) And the troops (me) were outside shoveling.
In civilian life, it takes you 4 years of college before they call you an engineer, in the Army, they hand you a shovel and call you one. We now had to climb down through the roof to get into the weather station.
There was a rope (lifeline) strung between the emergency exit we used to get to the surface, and the weather station. One day I left the mess hall to go to the surface during a white out. I climbe