Clifford "Glenn" Brown's Arctic Adventure


On April 5, 2009 I received a message with the following interesting bit of Thule history from Clifford "Glenn" Brown:

I was an aircraft crew chief on the F102As that we ferried from George AFB, California to Thule during 1958. I arrived in Thule with 25 of the airplanes, as well as 2 dual-seat F102s, called TF102A, and 2 T-33's about June 1958.

Our F102's replaced F89 Scorpions and our 327 F.I.S. was the first squadron to get F102's ( 1956) and the first to take them overseas. I have some pictures of Thule and our planes while there. Other planes on the base were usually KC-97 tankers and at least 2 Grumman Albatross amphibious planes. Our squadron put on a supersonic airshow one day for the Thule "residents".

I was there when a fuel tanker truck had caught fire at the fuel dump, and I remember seeing a fire up at the Army Nike rocket base on South Mountain that I think destroyed an Army barracks. I remember the first day that light reappeared over the North Mountain for a few minutes. I did get to take a group trip out once to see a glacier calving into the bay.

Our ferry crew started from our base at George AFB, Victorville, CA. Our first stop was at Kelley AFB, San Antonio, TX, a second stop at Warner Robbins AFB, GA, a third stop at Ethan Allen AFB, Burlington, VT, a fourth stop at Goose Bay, Labrador, a fifth stop at Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island. Our ground crew flew along these stops in a C-124 Globemaster, with our mechanics tools, replacement parts, and our ground support equipment. There were about 25 of us, including our NCOs. I was a Staff Sergeant and very privileged to represent a part of our ~ 350-person squadron for the ferry mission. Our stop at Frobisher bay was a thing to remember for the rest of my life, but only because of the solitary nature of the place. We did not have any problems anywhere along our trip, which I can remember. We did put on a supersonic airshow for them at Frobisher Bay.

I am always surprised that the coldest day I know about was only -28F while I was there. We never did experience any Phase III wind conditions that I can recall, but we did have some days when we were not allowed out of our barracks.

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We usually kept our planes in the hangers at night, and we always had at least 4 of them in the alert hanger at the end of the runway, for a 5-minute launch. We took turns manning this area, 24 hours on-duty, 48 hours off duty. Several times, we had alert exercises, when all of our planes went in the air for 24 hours, or so, with each plane making several flights during the exercise. Usually, this exercise started, without warning, during the night. Then we would all run down and get the planes ready for takeoff while the pilots prepared for the missions. Most of our aircraft minor maintenance was outside. Always, they were refueled outside. The hanger doors opened across the entire front of the hangers. We had to call the remote steam heating plants at least 10 minutes before we opened the hanger doors so they could create extra reserves of steam. There were steam pipes all over the base for heating.

They built the BMEWS site while I was there, but I never got to see it. I flew out of Thule, on a C-118 to McGuire AFB for discharge. I served altogether about 4 years, 5 months. The amazing thing is that several of us volunteered for extra time over the usual 4 years, so that we could stay with the group when it transferred to Thule from the Mojave Desert in California, about 100 miles NE of L.A.

I left Thule and was discharged from the Air Force in May 1959. After that, I went to college and became a mechanical engineer.

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