By Robert Koch

(Click to enlarge photos)

Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 14:27:57 -0800
From: Robert Koch
Subject: Adak

I have some photos taken about 1949 on Adak. My father was a USAF radio technician. He maintained Radio equiptment during the Korean war on Adak.  Attached are a couple of them.

Graduation from Radio School.

When Dad went through Basic training The Air Force had just been formed. Prior it was known as the Army Air Corps. They had not developed a basic training so Basic training was copied from other branches of the service. Dad received Marine Corps basic training. Later the Air Force used portions of all the different service basic training to develop their basic training program.

After Basic training Dad attended Radio Mechanics school where he learned Basic Troubleshooting skills and the Theory of Electronics. Prior to entering the Air Force, Dad worked in a radio repair shop in Lincoln Heights. With the knowledge he received working after school he was ahead of his class in the Air Force and graduated top of his class.

After graduation, Dad was sent to Adak Island, located about central to the Aleutian Island chain. The chain of islands is volcanic and is located on the southeast side of the Bering Sea. Dad's assignment was to maintain HF radio relay equipment. In those days before satellite communications all overseas communications was performed using HF (3-30 MHz) radio communications. Most of the time teletype was sent using FSK (Frequency Shift Keying). The HF signals would bounce between the outer atmosphere (Ionosphere) and the earth and carry many thousands of miles before requiring the signal be rebroadcast. Adak was one of the relay stations for communications between the US and Korea. This assignment earned Dad Korean War veteran status. This also allowed him to use the Calvet Loan system and attend College on the GI Bill.

The trip to Adak:

After Dad graduated from radio school he was sent to Adak Island in the Aleutian Island chain. He was sent on a troop ship. Seas were rough and most everyone became seasick. He stated that several days out of port he finally became ill due to the smell of all the others being sick. He stated that the decks were slick with vomit and that it was necessary to hold on in order to prevent slipping in the vomit and falling.

One evening the ship was traveling quite slowly. They were in a fog bank. Every minute they would blow the foghorn. This was to signal surrounding ships. The loud foghorn was quite annoying to him as he wished to go up on deck and get some fresh air. Below smelled terrible, as most all were seasick. The foghorn sounded just like someone blowing across the top of a soda bottle however much louder. One time after they blew the horn Dad responded by blowing across the top of a soda bottle. All of a sudden they blew the horn three times. So he blew across the soda bottle three times. They started blowing the horn repeatedly and sounded alarms all over the place. The ship came to a sudden stop. Over the public address system all hands were instructed to go to their battle stations and put on life vest. For the balance of the trip talk was all over the ship about the near miss collision at sea and how they had almost struck another ship. Dad never told of the soda bottle until after he received his honorable discharge from the Air Force.

Mount Moffett

Since Dad arrived on Adak in the summer one of the first things he did is hike to the top of the highest peak on the island. This photo was taken in the winter months. Adak has a large population of Eagles. Dad enjoyed taking hikes and watching the eagles.

This was an odd looking fish caught in the harbor.

One afternoon several of Dads friends and him decided to go crab fishing. They brought up an Alaskan King Crab that was over 8' across. It was too large to put in their biggest pot to cook. So the cook filled the largest pot with boiling water and chopped off the legs with a fire ax and tossed them in the kettle. About a dozen of them ate all they could hold from the one crab.

The Case of the Missing tractor?

One spring afternoon one of the technicians decided to go service the remote radio station. Since all the roads were mud it was common practice to use a tractor to travel to this location. Since the tractor traveled so slowly he decided to take a short cut across this open field of Tundra. Well all winter they had crossed the frozen tundra without a problem. However this time the temperature had raised and the ground was not frozen. The tractor became stuck in the mud. He walked back and several of them attempted to retrieve the tractor with another tractor. They even got a crane in on the act. By nightfall they were not even close to getting it out. The next morning when they returned to try again guess what! The tractor had disappeared into the tundra. To this day it is buried some where in the tundra on Adak. (Michael Gordon comment: Possibly the shotgun antenna facility at the southwestern tip of Adak, also known as Yakutat Peninsula. Anyone else want to guess where it was?)

Flying around in a C-47

There were several pilots stationed on Adak. In order to maintain flight pay they were required to log a required number of hours each month flying. So often they would make up a reason to go fly. If one of the support staff sitting around wanted to go along they would just climb aboard for the ride. Well they were flying along one afternoon over the Bering Sea and this private who had just arrived ask if he could fly the plane. The Pilot stated no problem. And the Co-Pilot wanted to get up and walk around get some Coffee. The private got into the Co-Pilot seat and took the controls. The pilot explained what to do to keep the plain level and straight. After about 15 minutes the private was doing well keeping the plane on the correct heading. The pilot decided he to would like a cup of coffee. So he got up and went to the rear of the C-47. After a few minutes the pilot returned. As he walked up to the front he told the private he was going to take over and return to Adak as they had been up long enough. Dad was standing in the passage between the navigator and cockpit of the Aircraft. Before the pilot had a chance to sit down the private turned loose of the controls and stood up.

Immediately the plain went into a dive. The pilot fell to the floor Grandpa was holding on to the passage frame and could see the ocean approaching fast. The Pilot reached the back of the seat with one hand and the controls with the other. Everything in the plane was falling and crashing to the front. The pilot pulled the controls back using the seat as leverage. The plane pulled out of the dive about 50' above the water. Then started to climb. Once the plane had leveled out the pilot returned to the seat. Had the pilot not regained control of the plane I would not be writing this story today. Someone would be writing about another of the Military planes abducted by space men over the ocean.


Radio Control tower

One afternoon dad was in the radio control tower. As a radio mechanic he was also responsible for maintaining radios in the control tower. A C-47 was preparing for take off. Dad was observing with the field glasses. The tower cleared the aircraft for departure and they started to move. Just then dad noticed a red object at the rear of the Aircraft. He asks the control tower operator what this red thing at the back of the plane was. The operator took the field glasses and looked at the plane. Immediately the operator grabbed the microphone and told the aircraft to abort the take off.

The pilot shut down the engines and applied the breaks. He stopped just short of the end of the runway which ended at the water edge. Someone from the plane jumped out and went to the rear of the plane. He removed the block that was in place locking the vertical and horizontal stabilizer surfaces. This was a block that was put in place when the plane was parked to keep the wind from bouncing the surfaces around. With the block in place the plane could have never rotated and gained elevation. They would have simply gone into the water and crashed. I am sure that the Flight crew would do a better pre flight inspection in the future!


Sparky the Cat

One of the companions on the base were the cats that lived in and around the Quonset huts. One cat in particular was named Sparky the cat. This cat had long hair and was good at creating static electricity. Static would build up due to the low humidity inside. When the air was heated it would become very dry.

Well they would pet the cat a few times then point a finger at his nose. When the cat would sniff the finger a large static spark would strike the cat on the nose. After a short time the cat would run and hide when someone would point a finger at the cat.

One thing that Dad talked about was eggs. The eggs would arrive once a month after a long trip by sea. At first they were mostly fresh. As time went on toward the end of the month they would start to spoil. The solution to this problem was to take the eggs outside. Break them in a bowl and smell them. If they were fresh enough take them inside and cook them. This prevented stinking up the place when one of them was badly spoiled.

Email: Robert Koch

Page created by Robert Koch. Converted to HTML 2/2000.

Back to Adak Site