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 recondition 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...