Winter Was Long and Dark


Day Was Like Night

I can't say that I enjoyed the winter season much. Here is a noon time snapshot of our Christmas "tree" in front of the base headquarters.

Our pipe christmas tree

Since the tallest tree in this area is about knee high, this "tree" was made from welded iron pipes. It officially marked the beginning of our dark season from November 22 to February 10. Our tree stayed lit all during that period and provided a bright spot on the base and some emotional warmth.

We still operated on a daytime 8 to 5 schedule, but it didn't make much difference. It always looked like midnight -- and I was always sleepy during the winter.

Afternoon in the dark When the replacement personnel plane landed each week, the people arriving were shocked to find out that they had not landed at 2 a.m. in the morning. It was really 2 p.m., the temperature periodically was -30 F (-34 C.)., and both the temperature and the sun would not be coming up for months!

Our dining hall was excellent Once a week a C130 aircraft came from the U.S. with fresh vegetables and salad greens, the latest movies, and magazines. Even in the dark of winter, we had a big and beautiful salad bar in the dining hall every day. The Danish cooks were excellent and took pride in their work. Good meals were one of the biggest morale boosters we had, as we lived and worked in the gloom of total darkness and sub-zero temperatures. It really was a very comfortable life.

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On the base, there were approximately 60 U.S. military officers, 300 enlisted men, and 2000 Danish civilian workers. There was plenty of routine work that had to be done. After the routine duties had been completed, there were many interesting things to do indoors. We had well-equipped hobby shops, clubs, a gym, and a general merchandise store. It was easy to keep busy indoors until the sun started coming up in February!

My private roomMy room was private, warm, and quiet. However, I spent very little time in it because there were so many exciting and interesting things to do other places. The buildings were built to withstand extremely high winds and sub zero temperatures, so I could never estimate what the weather was like outside. But that wasn't really important because it was always cold and we always dressed for the worst --which was often what we experienced.

There were even college courses conducted on the base. The University of Maryland sent instructors to Thule Air Base for several months at a time. I wonder if that was used as a "threat" to keep the instructors motivated on the main campus down in Maryland?

Below is what it looked like shortly before noontime on January 11, 1968.

Shortly before noon January 11, 1968

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© Copyright 1999, revised 2014 by Lawrence Rodrigues
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