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Rita Arruda Carollo and John Carollo

Aunt Rita and Uncle John's story continues with the history of the Radar stations in the Frozen North of Goose Bay, Labrador

To man these Radar stations, Air National Guard units were called up in August 1951. These were the Headquarters 152nd ACW Group, and the 105th, 106th, 107th, 108th and the 920th ACW Squadrons. After a period of training in the U.S., they moved to NEAC in the spring of 1952. (18) By the summer of 1952, temporary stations were in operation. In Goose Bay, Labrador the 107th was redesignated to the on 1 August 1953 they operated the following radars: AN/CPS-6B, AN/FPS-502, AN/TPS-502.

 

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Goose Bay Radar station

SPRING 1953

The permanent stations gradually began operations starting in the spring of 1953. By June of the next year, all permanent stations were operating save one - - N-30 out on Resolution Island. N-30 began operating in November 1954. To man these new stations, a number of new squadrons were assigned. The ANG squadrons were returned to state control. At the same time that the new or permanent stations began operating, the old or temporary stations were phased out. Of the ACW sites in NEAC, many of which were in rugged areas, probably the most interesting and the ones where life was the hardest were those in Greenland. Station N-32 was on Pingarssuak Mountain near Thule, N-33 at Etah, and N-34 on the ice cap about 125 miles northeast of Thule. These stations were first manned in September 1953. Both N-33 and N-34 were out on the ice cap itself. Putting a relatively permanent installation on the ice cap was something never before attempted.

The constantly churning ice would not support any structure for long. Knowing that any installation would sink into the ice, the structures for N-33 and N-34 were designed to sink at a predetermined rate. Heavily insulated single-story structures (boxes) were placed inside galvanized steel tubes 18 feet in diameter. Each tube was connected with the others and the outside by escape hatches. Extensions to the hatches could be added as the tubes sank. It was believed that in about ten years, the tubes would sink to a depth where the pressures would make them uninhabitable.

Chart showing different Soviet Aircraft

Life at these sites and at Thule as well was made more difficult by what a flight surgeon in 1953 called the "Thule Effect". Among the difficulties he listed in explaining this was "ennui occasioned by a combination of weather, darkness and lack of diversions of a type to be found in a civilized community".

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Supplies arrive via air transport

Constant darkness for long periods and constant light for long periods both act as depressants. There is a period of expectancy for a change which wears thin quickly when change does not occur. This disturbs the normal sleep, hunger, and other bodily habits that have been ingrained for years. It occasions a feeling of confusion that transmits itself in a desire not to get up in the morning, the appearance of hunger at unusual hours, and actual changes in bowel habits. The combined effect is one of lassitude. During the relatively short periods when light begins to appear, we find people excited, and frequently running outdoors just to look. When light appears constantly, boredom soon sets in again and the opposite occurs, confusing all the previously established habits.

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Sunset in the Bitter north

Uncle John would also tell of the extreme weather that was at Goose Bay "the temp that we recorded was a minus fity eight degrees BELOW zero. -58. winds in excess of 70 kts. I had to use snow shoes to walk to work with a flash light attached to my coat. Herds of red fox would follow me from afar waiting for me to lose my way and perhaps never return!" Duty near the Artic Circle was extremely remote and adverse. Days and nights filled with boredom and inactivity, but also extremely important. for this was America's first line of defense in the early days of the cold war, this picket line of radar stations and listening posts were the only early warning system the United States had against the threat of nuclear attack from the Soviet Union.


F-89's of the 59th Fighter squadron in formation over Goose Bay Labrador.

FIGHTER-INTERCEPTORS FORCE

NEAC's first fighter-interceptor unit arrived in September 1952. This was Detachment 1 of the 59th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron which went to Thule with four F-94B's. It began limited operations on 11 September and on the seventeenth began standing alerts with two aircraft on five minute readiness from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. When the shorter hours of daylight came, the alert period was changed to 0800 to 1700. The 59th Squadron itself arrived at Goose Bay in October with its eight F-94B's. It became operational on 20 December 1952 when it started standing a 24 hour alert. The F-94b's were not an ideal aircraft and were eventually converted to F-89D's.

F-89

The F-89 was a twin-engine, all-weather fighter-interceptor designed to locate, intercept, and destroy enemy aircraft by day or night under all types of weather conditions. It carried a pilot in the forward cockpit and a radar operator in the rear who guided the pilot into proper attack position. The first F-89 made its initial flight in August 1948 and deliveries to the Air Force began in July 1950. Northrop produced 1,050 F-89s. The F-89D was flown from 1954 onward by the 18th, 61st, 64th, 66th, 318th, 337th and 449th Fighter Interceptor Squadrons based in Alaska, as well as by the 497th Squadron. They were also flown from 1955 onward by the 11th, 58th, and 59th Fighter Interceptor Squadrons based in Labrador.

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B-36 Peacemaker

B-36 Peacemaker

Uncle John would tell me about the B-36's that would land and take off every day from Goose Bay. The B-36 started development in 1941 and first flew on August 8, 1946. It was initailly designed as an intercontinental bomber. The first operational models were delivered to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) in 1948, but due to early problems the B-36 units were not fully operational until 1951. The B-36 cost approximately $3.6 million each in 1948 dollars. It had a 3,740-nm combat radius with a 10,000-pound payload, or a 1,757-nm radius with a maximum bomb load of 86,000 pounds. The airplane made its maiden flight Aug. 8, 1946, and, on June 26, 1948, the Strategic Air Command received its first B-36 for operational use. By the time production ended in August 1954, more than 380 B-36s had been built for the U.S. Air Force.In 1958-59, the B-36 was replaced by the more modern B-52. During the years it was in service, the airplane was one of America's major deterrents to aggression by a potential enemy. The fact that the B-36 was never used in combat was indicative of its value in "keeping the peace."

Uncle John told me of the B-36's that would land at Goose Bay. They were attached to SAC and would stop over for refueling and maitainance. The B-36's had a Nuclear bomb onboard and maintained a vigilant watch along with the others on patrol in the artic. Everymoring at 0430 at B-36 would fly off on patrol and another would land for the crew to get some fuel, food, and rest. This was Americas deterrant to nuclear war before the advent of Nuclear Balistic Submarines.

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XC-99

Uncle John would tell me of these bohemoth XC-99 transports. Convair would only make three of them one would crash, one was used for parts and the third was the only one flying. The XC-99 was a version of the Convair's B-36 bomber, the double-decked XC-99 was able to carry 400 troops, or 335 litter patients, or 100,000 pounds of cargo. Like the B-36, it was powered by six 3,000-hp pusher-type engines turning 19-foot reversible-pitch propellers. The huge transport had a maximum range with a reduced load of more than 8,000 miles. Design gross weight of the XC-99 was 265,000 pounds. Its wingspan is 230 feet and its length, 182.5 feet. it was first delivered to the Air Force on November 23, 1949,and was retired in 1957. Uncle John would tell me of the huge XC-99 delivering fresh fruit and vegetables to the base. It's stops there always welcome with the troops. Uncle John would transfer from Goose bay to the 32nd Air Division in Syracuse NY in 1956.

 

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Uncle John at Goose Bay Labrador 1956

SYRACUSE AFB, Syracuse NY: 32nd AIR DIVISION

Uncle John and Aunt Rita were both assigned to the 32nd Air division. Rita was assigned as a administrative assistant to Colonel Fenn at Headquarters. She was a highly respected office worker, made Airman of the Month, and was promoted to Airman First Class. Uncle John worked as a radio operator maintaining contact with all the communications posts and other secret radar installations thoughout the North Eastern Air Command. He would use morse code to maintain communications with them each and every hour. Each station in turn would have to check in back with him as he was "Net Control" and if a contact was missing, he would report it to his communications officer, because this meant something serious had happened. This Radio shack was located at the very end of the base with a 10ft high fence all around the site. Thsi what he said about this time there: "The nights were long but the missions were real and everyone took it upon themselves to do a good job and stay alert. I learned alot and had a great deal of respect for all of the people in communications. It was our job to protect the welfare of our nation to the very best of our ablity. We did so gladly."

Aunt Rita told me that she liked the Air Force. At first she couldn't wait to get away from home, but now that she was out of her parents home she missed them terribly, and even wrote her mother many letters on how she missed home. Every chance she could she would hop a train or whatever and go back to Bethel, Connecticut to visit her folks. Rita was good at her job but she found it hard to make ends meet so she took a job waitressing at the NCO Club.

The 32 Air Division came into existence as a result of the reorganization of the USAF that occurred in the latter part of 1948. The purpose of the reorganization was to strengthen United States Air Power. Which numbers of personnel had declined from a total of 2,411,294 in March of 1944 to one of 303,614 in May of 1947. The situation in the world necessitated the establishment of the USAF as a separate force from the U.S. Army. In an attempt to provide air defense in case of attack from the Soviet Union, the USAF established the Continental Air Command. Less than a year after ConAC was activated the 32nd Air division came into being. On 8 December 1949 the 32 Air Division (defense) was activated at Stewart Air Force Base, New York. The New division was assigned to the First Air Force then later to the Eastern Air Defense Force. Itís initial components consisted of the 540th Aircraft Control and Warning Group, Headquarters and the Headquarters Squadron.

By the early spring of 1950 the addition of three AC&W Squadrons filled the compliment of the 32nd Air Division. Those squadrons were the 653rd, 654th,and the 655th. The 653rd was stationed at Stewart AFB; the 654th was stationed at Grenier AFB in New Hampshire while the 655th was stationed at Pine Camp, New York. By the end of June 1950 the division expanded to the 656th ACW at Romulus Air Base, and the 657th at Fort Williamís with jurisdiction over Dow AFB in Maine. The mission of the ACW units was to detect and track any aircraft or missile entering their respective airspace. Also, to coordinate intercept aircraft to the location of any contacts. Each squadron and subsequent detachments operated a radar station for detecting and tracking aircraft and a communications system for alerting and controlling the fighter interceptors.

Early in the 32nd Air divisionís history there were many start up problems one would expect with a new division. Lack of personnel, equipment, and spare parts just to name a few. This left many squadrons with low morale and arduous working conditions. After the initial problems were overcome the build up would continue and the 32 Air Division would acquire more squadrons throughout the Northeast. In 1952 the division would expand to 20 Aircraft and Control Squadrons. Further new expansions included fighter-intercept squadrons. The fighters of these squadrons were obsolete F-47 and F-51 propeller driven aircraft manned by Air Force active and reserve personnel. Over the next few years these squadrons would eventually acquire jet aircraft.

In August of 1955 a project to boost unit morale took place. Project Arrow, which had been in the works for sometime was finally approved. Project Arrow bestowed the names and lineage of famous and prestigious units deactivated since World War II. For some time the Air forceís squadronís had been burdened with designations that were neither glorious nor romantic. Project Arrow would resolve this. Several of the 32nd Air Divisionís fighter squadrons the 75th, 76th, 337th,and the 465th fighter intercept squadrons were renamed and bestowed their famous predecessors lineage.

By 1957 the 32nd air division consisted of headquarters, 49th fighter interceptor squadron, 642USAF Dispensary, 654,655,672,764,765,766, 907,and 911th AC&W squadrons. It also included the 14th fighter group, 37th fighter intercept squadron, 23rd fighter group, 75th and 76th fighter intercept squadrons, 4726th air defense group, 27th and 465th fighter interceptor squadron, 4626th air base, and the Syracuse Air Defense Sector at Syracuse NY. This was the height of the 32 Air divisionís expansion. In 1958, all of the squadrons would be reassigned during a major restructuring of the air defense command and 32nd Air Division was inactivated.

Rita was working part time at the Non-Commissioned Officers club. John would see her working there. The base was small, with only 6 barracks and few buildings. The small confined base would allow everyone in the command become acquainted. John in his off time would go hunting both on and off the base. The area was surrounded by cornfields and was excellent for bird hunting. John met Rita at a base basketball game. Rita played for the base team and she traveled throughout the region to other air bases to compete.Uncle John had a new 1956 buick and loved to drive it. He liked the Air Force but was eager to try something else, after all the Air Force didn't pay that well. Rita and John got married and before you knew Rita got pregnant with their first child. The Air Force did not tolerate women in the service who were pregnant and discharged her in 1956. John stayed on for another two years then he separated. because of his background in Radar he was able to get a job with the government as an Air Traffic Controller. They moved to Enfield Connecticut and stayed there for 30 years until their retirement. Rita and John had four children John, Joey, Jaime, and Frances.(and of course a favorite Nephew!)

 

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