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Weather Iqaluit

Me, Bob Weitzel, at 18 years years of age.

It was taken when I was in tech school at F.E. Warren AFB in Wyo. (Teletype School of Communication - 1953) - Teletype Operator AFSC 29150, Communications Center Specialist

The thing I remember about the weather there is the wind. The wind was always blowing and we would get dust storms.

USO Show on the tarmac - Lower base - Baffin Island

Memories of Frobisher Bay

Bob Weitzel

Gosh - where do I start?

I was an A/3C at Selfridge AFB in Michigan back in 1953 - when all of a sudden, I was assigned to serve with the 926th AC&W Squadron which was located at Frobisher Bay in the Northwest Territories of Canada. I worked in communications which more or less included teleype operator and crypto operator intelligence.

As I recall, we departed from Westover AFB in Massachusetts by USAF military transport for Goose Air Base in Labrador, and then onwards to Frobisher Bay. The flight brought us to Goose Bay on 5th January 1954 and I eventually arrived at Frobisher Bay on 15 January 1954.

All of the buildings at the 926th AC&W Squadron radar station were interconnected with long corridors. This design allowed personnel to move from one location to another without ever having to go outdoors, unless you specifically wanted to do so. This feature was a great asset, especially during the long winter months. It would start to snow in mid August and it tended to get very windy at times. The temperatures would drop and on average, the wind chill factor would be in the area of -32 degrees. Things would not be much better during the summer months when the temperatures would reach a little above freezing. At least there wasn't a great deal of wind during the short summer period. Privacy was never a problem. We all had our own rooms with doors and some people had their own radios. I remember that I used to pick up WBAL from Baltimore Maryland at about midnight during the week.

The Squadron had become operational in December 1953 and I had arrived in mid January 1954. As can be expected, there were quite a few shortages in personnel and the staffing situation made it quite difficult to maintain an effective operational status. As previously mentioned, I was assigned to the Communications section at the 926th AC&W Squadron and we supported the overall radar opartions group working in 12 hour shifts and we would get a day off every third day. As a best guess, there were probably about 100 USAF military personnel at the radar station, along with about 20 civilians. The civilians were mostly from Montreal and they were employed by Marconi. Life in the world of communications varied a great deal. Atmospheric conditions pretty well dictated the amount of comm traffic that we would process - as would the military exercises which were created by Strategic Air Command (SAC). We relayed all of the air traffic to Goose Air Base via radio teletype communications. Some days would be busier than others - but that was to be expected.

We had our own Medic on site and he could take care of small things, but anything serious like a broken bone would result in an airlift to Goose Air Base. We were paid once a month in American currency - and as an A/3C I made the grand sum of $125.00 a month. We had our own washers and dryers and there was no need for dry cleaning per se. The airman who oversaw the PX also acted as our station barber. The PX providing all of those little necessities such as shaving cream, soap, toothpaste, cigaretts, junk food, film for your camera and the basic essentials needed for day to day living.

We had an Airman's Lounge, some reading material, and a pool table but we did not have a gymnasium. I remember that we tried to build a volleyball court outdoors, between the barracks, but the mosquitos were so bad that we had to give this up. We spent some time watching movies during the winter months - but only when the planes with supplies could land at Frobisher Bay and the road connecting the lower base (location of the airfield) to the upper base (location of the radar station) was not closed. I was somewhat fortunate in managing to get out of Frobisher Bay during my assignment. Northeast Air Command (NEAC) created a softball tournament and as a result, I was able to travel to St. John's in Newfoundland. The Squadron really didn't have a baseball team per se - I mean - where were we expected to play? The Station baseball team was put together soley for the purpose of getting a TDY trip to St. John's. While our team was not that good - at least there were women in St. John's.

Overall, the food in Frobisher Bay was excellent. There were set times for regular meals but there was an allowance for the fact that we were staffed and working a 24 hour day. For the most part, the milk was powdered, unless fresh milk happened to be brought in by plane. I would not say that the consumption of alcohol was a great problem but we certainly spent a great deal of our off duty hours in the Airman's Lounge. We had beer (when the planes could get it in) and we seemed to have lots of soda drinks. We were not allowed to have any hard liquor but the Marconi people would make trips to Montreal for R&R and they would occasionally bring back bottles of hard liquor. I don't recall the exact cost of a "beer" but come to think of it, nobody ever bought just a beer. The standard approach was to buy a case of beer, put it on a table, and everyone helped themselves. As can be expected, the clubs also sold "junk food" but again, only if the planes managed to get some in to Frobisher Bay. I recall that there was a USO Show that came to Frobisher Bay. It was presented in a hangar at the lower base. Don't ask me why, but I recall that the girls were from Beaumont Texas. I was lucky enough to see one of the shows but I had to return to the radar station for duty and could not attend a second showing. Another form of entertainment was "fishing". We would get as much as 18 hours of sunlight on occasions. It was not unusual to get off duty at midnight, walk to the lower base, and fish in a very large river that emptied into Frobisher Bay. Mail call was always an important part of the day. Mail would be delivered when the planes could get in and the road to the mountain top was not snowed in.

Frobisher Bay was quite unique. On the lower base (airfield area) you had "tent city" which were the Army engineers. There was a village of local natives, and the 926th AC&W Squadron was located on a mountain top about three miles from the lower base. The native village was controlled by the RCMP and nobody was allowed to go near them - with the exception of medical personnel in the case of emergencies. I do not recall anyone from the 926th ever going anywhere close to the native village. As far as getting around the radar station, you could pretty well go anywhere you wanted - but you were advised to stay close to the site because of bears and other wild animals.

I was extended at Frobished Bay - waiting for my replacement to arrive and I eventually departed on 25 February 1955. I had arrived as an A/3C and was promoted to A/2C during my tour in the north. I departed Frobisher Bay by air for Goose Bay, and back to the States - where I was now assigned to Griffiths AFB. All in all, and reflecting back on the 14 months that I spent in Frobisher Bay, it was not all that bad.

(Further recall - 2008 ) We were short of everything and we had to transmit the plotting of aircraft from Ops to Goose Bay. Well we were off the air more than we were on. The only time when we were busy and the weather condition was good is when SAC was going to Thule AFB or when they were coming back to Neb. Before I left, they built two large disks for radio transmission, and that was great. It was like using a land line telephone.

Discharged USAF 1961 as a S/Sgt AFSC 29170 Commumnications Center Supervisor

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