Winters at NASGI

I remember the winter of 1962-63 at NASGI. It was the coldest winter that I have ever experienced. The temp dropped below –200 F. There was a thick coating of frost on the inside walls of the barracks, and the plumbing in the barracks froze. I was mess cooking at the time and after a thirteen-hour stint, I was in need of a shower. I left and spent the night in town.

Earlier in the year, there was an officer who had recently come from Alaska. I think the officer’s name was Gundersen. He had an easy way with the enlisted men and was chiding a couple of them for drawing fowl weather gear, proclaiming it was a lot colder up in Alaska. When I was in boot camp at Great Lakes a couple of prairie boys could not believe how cold it was at twenty-five above. They said that they just wore light coats when it was forty below on the prairie. Gundersen had yet to experience the bone chilling effect of high humidity in cold weather. Later I would see him wearing his foul weather jacket throughout the winter.

I can't say that I miss those February ramp watches when the winds came blowing off Lake Eire.

The omni navigation transmitter went down one night when I had the duty at Ground Electronics. For that night ET1 Ray Sawicki was on call in case of a major failure. I called up Ray at about eleven and asked him to come in. Two men were required to go to the site for safety reason, plus I did not know where the site was located, and did not have a clew about repairing the transmitter. It was in the middle of nowhere and could only be identified by a power pole on a desolate dirt road. The two of us trucked out to the Point Mouilee Game Reserve where the beacon was situated and determined that we had lost power at the pole. We then drove somewhere and made a phone call to Detroit Edison, giving them directions to the site. About a half hour later a fuse puncher from Edison arrived and changed a fuse in the breaker box that was located on the power pole.  He was nice enough and left a couple of extra fuses in case we blew another. It was a cold night and all that we had to keep us warm in the transmitter shed was a 200-watt light bulb. I am still amazed to this day how much heat the bulb provided.

The transmitter was older than the chief and the keying actuator had been replaced with a homemade wooden wheel with wood screws that actuated a micro switch for the beacon Morse code identification. Sawicki was fuming because the first thing that we had to do was to clean out spider webs from the transmitter. Sawicki flipped a couple switches to put the transmitter on low power and determined that the finals were most likely blown. Fortunately, there were a couple of spares and Ray got the transmitter powered up and working by changing the output tubes. My contribution to the repair was cleaning out the spider webs.  Sawicki kept ranting about what the chief would say the next morning about the condition of the shed and transmitter. Sawicki dropped me off at about five in the morning and told me to tell the chief that he would be late getting in. Chief Hall was not very happy about Sawicki not being there at eight in the morning. He did not seem to care much about the transmitter failure, but rather more about Sawicki not reporting for duty on time. Sawick eventually came in after lunch, but nothing was said to him about being four hours late. Eventually, Sawicki pulled the second-class aside and reamed him out about the condition of the shed and the transmitter.

A strange coincidence – a couple of years later after I was discharged from the navy and was working at Detroit Edison - a bunch of the old time fuse punchers were telling Edison war stories. One began telling a story of having to go out in the middle of nowhere at one in the morning where two sailors.....

Rodney Martin ETN3
NAS Grosse Ile 1962-64, NAS New York 1964-65

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Revised: June 30, 2010