Don Belliveau's Adak Story

I have been stumbling around for several days looking for years past in Alaska, especially those in Adak. Your picture of "the old radar installation" was absolutely correct. I emailed some one about some of my time there, but can't remember who.

The main buildings (actually, building) was originally an Army Hospital built before W.W.II. In mid 1950 the Army decided that it no longer needed it and a group of about 100 AF members out of Anchorage, commanded by a second Lt. moved in as they (the Army) were leaving. We were charged with setting up an early warning radio and radar site. The Doctors and nurses were still there as we began moving in, setting up, and taking over some of the hospital wings for barracks and a communications center. Several other buildings were also available adjacent to the main building which we used for barracks and maintenance shops, etc.

Actually, quite a few of the Army dependents (located in housing in the upper part of that picture) were still there and had begun packing up to leave. We assisted the Army helping them get things together and transporting the doctors, nurses, and dependents to the ship and to the airfield that was there at the time. As we only had three or four old W.W.II vehicles that we were able to revive from a deserted salvage yard that was there, it was slow going.

It was indeed "rough" living there, more for the dependents, but tough for the military also. Heat, was very hard to come by. Replacement clothes for the dependents were almost non existence, so clothes that shrank, or in other ways reached conditions normally thrown away were worn, almost continually without concern.

The old hospital building had central heat that was operated by oil furnaces with electric blowers and backed up with huge oil generator if the power went out, which it did often.

In the outlying buildings and dependent housing, it was one oil stove per building. When you ran out of oil, which also happened, you had to move fast. Fortunately, we were able to get an old W.W.II oil supply truck out of the salvage yard, work on it to get it operational again and that helped our oil supplies.

A lot of various kind of furniture and personal items were left on the island, including dogs and cats and these critters had rough times also. We helped as many as we could to survive, but many got into trouble.Huge rats were a daily problem, getting into supplies, eating holes through walls, even getting into bed with someone on occasion. We managed to reduce them somewhat, but not completely.

The rain and snow blew mostly sides ways and the wind which always seemed to be fierce, made travel difficult, sometimes impossible. The wind blowing through cracks that kept appearing in the old wooden buildings diluted the heat. The roofs continued to leak even after many patching sessions.

The Navy were super people who brought in supplies, fed us  by setting aside food for us to pick up daily and treating us in their hospital/dispensary. In the times that that we were unable to get out because of mounds of driffting snow and terrific wind storms , it was necessary to rely on the canned military stuff that was set aside for those kind of times.

We had a young guy from Wisconsin, who showed us that it was possible to catch monsterous sized trout with a section of string, a bent nail and bacon or other bits. At first we thought he was spreading it when he said that there were fish in these places that were maybe six to twelve inches wide and kind of covered over by blades of grass or tundra . You could put your hand in these kind of earth crevices and bring out super clean, very cold water, but laying flat on your stomach, you could not touch the bottom. Sometimes my string had gone between six to eight feet before touching bottom.

A USO tour was put on in a huge old supply warhouse just off the road to the land fill. "Bob Hope with Les Brown and his orchestra and Margaret Whitting". About two hours after they vacated the building, it was seen to be on fire and it burned to the ground.

Lots of memories of that island. I have often wanted to find someone from the Navy or AF fire station to yak with over old times. I expect most of those stationed there in the fifty's and maybe the early sixty's are gone now. Maybe some day- -  

Don Belliveau
Manor, TX 78653