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Only at Thule . . .
Here is a sign in both Danish
and English near a barracks telling everyone to "Keep Off the Grass". Grass was rather scarce and this patch was prized as much as a park.
If someone had a job in which he was assigned a vehicle
to perform the job, then that vehicle was used for all personal transportation, too.
If a person was not assigned a vehicle he was required to call a
taxi for transportation when going more than 1 block. There were Danish drivers in crew cap
pickup trucks at various places around the base waiting for a radio call to transport people,
often only for two blocks. This was for safety reasons because of the sever cold and
sudden wind. So unlike any other military base, it was strange to see all types of
government vehicles used for personal transportation as well as very excellent taxi service to
take anyone to the movie, club, dining hall or anywhere desired --of course for free in a
Vehicles were extremely important and had to be constantly protected from
freezing. If they were parked and turned off they had to be plugged into a 110 volt electrical outlet that operated
heaters on the engine oil, transmission, and battery. These vehicles in this snapshot
are plugged in outside my barracks. If it was necessary to park somewhere without an
electrical plug, then the engine had to remain running.
The brown chevrolet sedan on this end of the row was a topic of military humor. Here is the story:
On most USAF bases there is an Office of Special Investigation (OSI). The people assigned
wear civilian clothes and drive a civilian car so they are not noticed as they blend in
with the many other civilian cars on the base. What is funny here, is that this brown
OSI car stood out immediately everywhere it went because nearly every other vehicle at Thule was
The winds could roar down off the ice cap at any time
--and often did. There was very little real snow fall at Thule but the winds off the ice
cap generally brought ice crystals that stacked up on vertical objects. This is a road side
marker with ice crystals on it from a pounding wind.
This bridge had a sign (blue, right side)that once was
obviously on a much larger and better known bridge. The sign read: "Delaware Memorial Bridge".
On the other end of the bridge was a sign: "No Fishing Crabbing from Bridge".
This photo was taken at the top of Mt. Dundas. There are many pictures of Mt Dundas taken from the air base side of the Thule harbor. Although Mt. Dundas was officially "off limits" to base personel, some of us with vehicles drove over North Mountain road to Dundas Village during the spring or summer months when it was light and no one was watching us around midnight. It was a steep climb up Mt. Dundas but someone had thoughfully installed a cable at the most steep part at the top. The trail was well worn and it was evident many people had been there before us.
This picture below was taken inside a hangar on Armed Forces Day. I'm proud of this "get a lemon, make a lemonade" story. As is routinely done in the military, some "wheel at the Pentagon" mentions he or she would like to see something happen, then some staff member writes a directive to the lower level commanders in the field saying, "Do it." At every level down, each commander (some staff member really) adds an attachment to the letter with an endorsement saying they want to see it happen, too. In this case, my squadron commander handed me a stack of pages with the orginal letter from the Pentagon and every commander down the line adding a page saying what a great idea it was to have an Armed Forces Day. The purpose was to show all the civilians around the base what a good job the base people were doing. Now this makes sense in the U.S., but not at Thule! Anyway, the Thule Base Commander had endorsed the letter, with the "great idea", down to the 1983rd Commander who handed it to me and said, "Do it!"
Being creative (and obedient), I "mustered the troops" and we put together this display with each squadron section showing pictures and equipment for what they did to support the base. For the display backboards, I borrowed from base supply enough 4x8 sheets of plywood. I had to promise not to make any nail holes in the plywood, so I had to invent some clever ways to support everything from the ends.
Amazingly both the military guys and the civilian workers on the base found our display very enlightening about what we really did at Thule. Most of our facilities were normally secured areas behind fences and locked doors. We received many supportive and admirable comments from our surprising number of visitors that day! And afterward, all the plywood was returned to base supply with no nail holes.
Federal Electric display.
Some Squadron sections.
This picture was taken from South mountain in the sunshine above the fog
that covers Thule Air Base in the valley. The top of Mt. Dundas is peaking above the fog.
Notice the C130 aircraft flying over the
base. It was our mail plane and regrettably it could not see the runway enough to land.
After repeated tries to dip down in the fog, with the help of GCA
(Ground Control Approach radar), it finally had to leave and return back home in the U.S. with our
mail and fresh supplies.
That was disappointing.
This picture was a surprise when I developed the film, as I did not see the animal when I was out in the bright sun taking pictures. I guess it was an arctic hare that mutated from the high powered BEMEWS radar up on the top rim of this fjord. (Wink!)
This poem was picked up at Thule by Bernard Reiner who spent four months at Thule AFB from May to Sept 1953 as a member of the U.S. Army Transportation Arctic Group (TRARG). Here is what Bernard passed on to me in 2003: "A poem some unknown author wrote about that experience remains fresh in my mind 50 years later."
Let us worry not unduly,
nor dread the time you spend in Thule.
Be contented as you should,
you've never had it quite so good.
© 2007 Larry Rodrigues. All rights reserved.