This page updated 2012 October 14


Kodiak Alaska Military History

White Alice Communications System

The URL of this page is http://www.kadiak.org/wacs/wacs.html


Kal Creek, Kodiak, Aniak, Bear Creek and Cape Lisbourne photos at the bottom of the page.

Introduction

The White Alice Communications System or WACS was a tropospheric communications system throughout Alaska from about 1956 until 1979. The Kodiak station, PMY, was on Pillar Mountain. It was dismantled during the summer of 1997. Right up to the end, one of the big fifty-foot dishes was in use by KWVV-FM to feed their translator in Kodiak. All that remains is one set of dish foundations with a new FAA communications facility mounted on it. The foundation that remains is one that was a link from Pillar Mt. to Sitkinak Dome. The pictures from 1957 below show an antenna on this foundation. The system to Sitkinak does not show up on later documents. The Sitkinak antennas at PMY were removed in 1957. There was construction on Sitkinak Island.

There were 25 WACS tropo stations built originally at a total cost of $140 million. The system was designed by AT&T and built by the Western Electric Company taking 3,500 people three years to complete. Ultimately there were 49 tropo sites.

The Air Force Communications Service, a separate Air Force major command took over the system on January 1, 1962. On July 1, 1962 it absorbed the Alaska Communications System which had been run by the Army for 60 years. On January 10, 1971 the system was transferred to RCA. The last tropo system was from Boswell Bay (BSW) to Cape Yakataga (CYT). It lasted until the mid eighties. By 1981 all the other tropo sites had been replaced with satellite terminals.

A nice story of the White Alice system starts on page 171 of Top Cover for America, the Air Force in Alaska 1920-1983.

A related system is the DEW Line.

Technical Details

from RCA Alascom Carrier Booklet July 1977, my head, John O'Larey, and other sources

The mode of propagation between stations was tropospheric scatter. Frequencies near 900 MHz were employed with transmitters made by Radio Engineering Laboratories using maximum power levels of either 1, 10, or 50 Kilowatts. The two Kodiak antennas, fed with really big waveguide, were roughly fifty foot diameter spherical or parabolic(?) dishes using space and frequency diversity over a path of 134.5 miles to another WACS site at Diamond Ridge near Homer, WACS path number T3152. This was an over-the-horizon path with the mountains of lower Kenai Penninsula blocking. The tropo radio was a REL GS-1808i (Is this the right model? My copy is blurred.) with a maximum channel capacity of 132 channels. There were two types of multiplex employed on the Diamond Ridge path: five groups of Western Electric type L carrier terminating at Diamond Ridge (DRJ), one group of L carrier terminating at Neklasson Lake (KNV), and three groups of compatible Collins MX106 carrier terminating in Anchorage (ANC). This was a total of 108 channels.

Another path from Pillar Mountain went 17.7 miles to Port Lions on 97.4 MHz with a return on 89.4 MHz. This circuit lasted several years after the tropo system was turned off. This path used four channels of Lenkurt 45 carrier labeled system 1CX over a Farinon PT-80 radio. There wasn't any toll switching in Kodiak so these four circuits went all the way to Anchorage. The two corner reflectors, horizontally polarized, were still in place on Pillar Mt. when the site was dismantled in 1997.

One more VHF link from Pillar Mt. was WACS path number H3178 4.6 miles to Woody Island (WDY) where the FAA still has a VORTAC and a NDB. This was 12 channels of Lenkurt 45 carrier, system 1BX on a Farinon PT-150 radio.

There were two Lenkurt 74B radios on the 6GHz band. One was path M3179 running 15.1 miles to Chiniak (CYK). This had two 8-channel banks, 1BX and 2BX, to PMY. The other Lenkurt 74B was path M3200 running 7.7 miles to an active USCG owned repeater at Holiday Beach (HLB) where it connected to path M3201 running 4.7 miles to Kodiak USCG (NHB). This system had 5 groups of 12-channels each (one supergroup) of Lenkurt 46A multiplex.

The last route from Pillar Mt. WACS was a 100-pair cable to Kodiak city. An earlier 100 pair armored cable, called the GOLF cable, to the Navy base (NHB) building 576 had already been abandoned in 1977. The Kodiak city cable is still in place and is being used by several other communications sites on Pillar Mt. in 2005. While the old cable to the navy base is still visible in several places, it is abandoned. There is about a 100 foot piece of it missing in the middle but the rest appears to be intact from the old WACS site to Swampy Acres.

Pillar Mt. had Western Electric 43 telegraph carier for a good many TELEX circuits and some FAA. There was an array of test boards with jack access to every test point.

As of this report, July 1977, other Kodiak communities of Old Harbor, Akhiok, Karluk, and Larsen Bay had their first telephone service and it was satellite using CMI SCPC multiplex. Port Lions was mentioned above. Ouzinkie had one village phone from a site on the Kodiak Municipal airport. It was via a General Electric Progress Line VHF radio on the 150 MHz band. The Ouzinkie phone number was 486-5800. The tower was left over from an old CAA link to Shuyak. Portions of this tower are now in use at the Harbormasters and the Pier 3 cargo dock to hold tsnaumi sirens. The concrete building that housed this link is still visible at the intersection of Von Scheele Way and Selief Lane although it is very overgrown. As of 2012 Ouzinkie and Port Lions have a new microwave link to the Kodiak fiber cable terminal.

This carrier booklet also shows one page of open wire facilities using Western Electric O carrier, J carrier, C carrier, and Lenkurt 45A. The open wire ran from Fairbanks (FBK) 296.9 miles to the AlCan border (BDR) via Tok (TKJ). A separate open wire route from Anchorage to Eagle River (EAG3) was still in use with 48 channels.

This 44 page booklet also shows details of the microwave path down through Canada.

Personnel

This is a list of MEN AND WOMEN OF WHITE ALICE. A total of 821 Bell System people came to the Project from 17 companies. Their names, company affiliations, occupations and home addresses are listed here courtesy of Will Fletcher.
Page 1,     Page 2,     Page 3,     Page 4,     Page 5,     Page 6,     Page 7,     Page 8,     Page 9,     Page 10,     Page 11,     Page 12.

The Pillar Mountain White Alice site had a number of employees. John O'Larey KL7HBK, Lynn Saupe, Jim Duros, Marty Woods, Bill Ishimoto, Ray Mackie, Chris Billings, Bob Thompson, Gary Ennis and Rob Elmore. The last time I talked to John he was living in Deadhorse and still working for Alascom. John was a technician from the summer of 1977 until summer 1978. Jim still lives in Kodiak and is retired. Jim published a book on Benny Benson in 2004. Jim was the maintenance man who kept the road up the mountain in good condition and kept it open in the winter. Marty now lives in Eldorado Springs, MO. Ray Mackie started Macks Sport Shop in Kodiak and still lives in Kodiak in 2006. Bill Ishimoto worked at Pillar Mountain during the early 60's. Pat Crittenden.

Stories

John O'Larey watched Marty Woods turn the tropo transmitter off in the summer of 1978 when the system was shut down. He said Marty threw the switch OFF and in a few seconds it switched itself back on. It didn't want to die! Actually it had an automatic reset they had forgotten about. It was spooky for a minute though...

Construction in 1957

Will Fletcher photos 65 images.
This is a list of MEN AND WOMEN OF WHITE ALICE. A total of 821 Bell System people came to the Project from 17 companies. Their names, company affiliations, occupations and home addresses are listed here.
Page 1,     Page 2,     Page 3,     Page 4,     Page 5,     Page 6,     Page 7,     Page 8,     Page 9,     Page 10,     Page 11,     Page 12.


Click on thumbnail for bigger picture

Photos taken March 1957 by Will, jessie (at) NetHaven.com
In the first photo is George Kost from Michigan Bell. The antenna just behind George was the one never placed into service. It's foundation is the only thing that remains of Pillar Mt. WACS. You can get an idea of the size of the antennas if you look for the electric power pole with the three transformers between them.

Final Days of Pillar Mt. WACS

Click on thumbnail for bigger picture
Jim Duros on left, Lynn Saupe on right, standing 
in the spot where the main building had been a day before. June 1999.

Timeline

12 Nov 1956: The first link in the White Alice Communications System was completed.

26 Mar 1958: AAC dedicated the White Alice Communications System, under construction since 1955.

25 Jun 1970: President Nixon approved the sale of the Alaska Communication System to RCA, ending an era when the military provided all long distance communications in Alaska.

1 Jul 1976: The Air Force leased the White Alice Communications System to RCA Alascom ending the last vestiges of government owned long line communications in Alaska.

Summer 1978: Kodiak WACS turned off. Facility still in use for a few years for other radios.

Summer 1997: Kodiak WACS demolished leaving only one antenna foundation.

Summer 2004: FAA builds new radio facility upon old Sitkinak antenna foundation on PMY.

July 1977 network sites

Adak DTE (USN dial exchange) ADK3  CA to ADK1, CA to ADK8
Adak E.S.  ADK8  CA to ADK3, SAT to BTL
Adak WACS  ADK1  TR2 to SYA, CA to ADK3
Anchorage ANC  TD2 to R1N, 78A to R1N, TD2 to RCC, KTR3A to BTL, 78A to WDY, T to ATU
Aniak  ANI  TR1 to SVW, TR1 to BET1
Anna  AAP  SS2 to NKA, UHF1 to ABP
Anvil Mountain  AVM  TR1 to GMT, 228 to OYJ, CA to OME
Aurora  ARA  TD2 to GLO, TD2 to PAX, 74A to GLO, 74A to PAX
Baker  MGS  SS2 to NKA, UHF1 to ADP
Barrow E.S.
Barter Island  BAR  TR2 to FYU
Bartlett E.S. BTL
Bear Creek  BCC  TR1 to PJD, TR1 to KKK, VHF6 to TAL, TR1 to UTO  (Station abandoned but existing in 1998)
Beaver Creek  BVC  TD2 to MDV, VHF8 to MDV, TD2 to TKJ, VHF8 to TKJ
Bethel WACS  BET1  TR1 to ANI (NE 95.7 Mi), TR1 to CZF (W 152.4 Mi), TR1 to EHM (S 148 Mi), CA to BET8
Bethel E.S.  BET8  CA to BET1, SAT to BTL, SCPC to various
Bettles  BTT  VHF6 to UTO
Big Mountain  BMX  TR1 to DRJ, TR1 to SVW, TR1 to AKN, VHF6 to ILI
Bird Creek  BRC  SS2 to BRP
Bird Point  BRP  78A to WDY, 78A to GWY, 78A to TNL, SS2 to BRC
Black Rapids  BLR  TD2 to MLM, TD2 to DLZ, 74A to MLM, 74A to DLZ, G6004 to OAJ
Boswell Bay  BSW  TR1 to MDO, TR2 to KNV, TR2 to CYT, VHF1 to COR, VHF1 to CDV, VHF2 to JPT
Bruce  ABP  UHF1 to AAP
Calgary
Campion  CMN  501 to GAL, 74B to KKK
Canyon Creek  CAN  TD2 TO GKC, VHF8 to GKC, TD2 to DEJ, VHF8 to DEJ
Cape Newenham  EHM  TR1 to BET1
Cape Romanzof  CZF  TR1 to BET1
Cape Sarichef  CSH  TR1 to CDB, TR1 to DFB
Cathederal  CYR  TD2 to KRG, TD2 to TKJ, VHF8 to KRG, VHF8 to TKJ
Chiniak  CYK  74B to PMY
Clear  CLC  TD2 to MYD, TD2 to GKC, VHF8 to MYD, VHF8 to GKC
Clear BMEWS  CLR  74B to MYD
Cold Bay  CDB  TR1 to PML, TR1 to CSH
Cooper Landing  JLA  FM2 to TNL
Cordova City  COR  VHF1 to BSW, CA to CDV(E.S.)
Cordova Airport  CDV  VHF2 to HBK, VHF1 to BSW
Cordova E.S.  CDV  CA to COR, SAT to BTL
Craig
Deadhorse
Delta Junction  DEJ  TD2 to SMU, TD2 to TOS, 74A to SMU, 74A to TOS, TD2 to GXR, VHF8 to GXR
Diamond Ridge  DRJ  TD2 to SOY, VHF7 to SOY, TR1 to PMY, TR1 to BMX
Dillingham  DLG  VHF1 to AKN, SAT to BTL
Dillon  ADP  UHF1 to MGS
Dolly Varden  DVP  UHF1 to WFP
Donnelly Dome  DLZ  TD2 to BLR, TD2 to HDG, 109 to DEJ, 78F2 to DEJ, 74A to BLR, 74A to HDG
Driftwood Bay  DFB  TR1 to CSH, TR1 to IKO, VHF1 to UKA
Duncan Canal
Demonton
Eilson AFB  EAF  MW1 to PJD
Fairbanks  FBK
Fort Wainwright  FTW  78F2 to MYA, 78F2 to FBK
Fort Yukon  FYU  TR2 to BAR, TR1 to PJD
Frontier
Galena  GAL  SS2 to KKK, 501 to CMN
Gerstle River GXR  TD2 to DEJ, TD2 to KRG, VHF8 to DEJ, VHF8 to KRG
Gilmore Creek  GMX  74A/B to FBK, satellite to Goddard
Girdwood  GWY  78A to BRP, 78A to POT
Glennallen  GLO  TD2 to TOS, TD2 to ARA, 74A to TOS, 74A to ARA
Goldking Creek  GKC  TD2 to CLC, TD2 to CAN, VHF8 to CLC, VHF8 to CAN
Grand Prarie
Granite Mountain  GMT  TR1 to KNR, TR1 to OTZ1, TR1 to AVM
Grayling  GYP  SS2 to WFP, SS2 to TBP
Harding Lake  HDG  TD2 to PJD, 74A to PJD, 74A to DLZ, TD2 to DLZ
Hill 3870  OYJ  228 to AVM, 228 to KPC
Holiday Beach (USCG)  HLB  74B to PMY, 74B to NHB
Hoonah
Iliamna  ILI  VHF6 to BMX
Indian Mountain  UTO  TR1 to BCC, VHF6 to BTT
Juneau
Kalakaket Creek  KKK  TR1 to TLI, TR1 to BCC, SS2 to GAL, 74B to CMN, TR1 to KNR
Kenai Airport  ENA  E185 to NKA
Ketchikan
King  NMR  SS2 to NKA, SS2 to ASP
King Salmon  AKN8  CA to AKN, UHF1 to EKK
King Salmon WACS  AKN  TR1 to BMX, TR1 to PTH, VHF1 to DLG, CA to AKN8
Knob Ridge  KRG  TD2 to GXR, TD2 to CYR, VHF8 to GXR, VHF8 to CYR
Kodiak USCG  NHB  74B to HLB
Kotzebue E.S.  OTZ8  CA to OTZ1, SAT to BTL
Kotzebue WACS  OTZ1  TR1 to GMT, TR1 to LUR, CA to OTZ8
Legend
Lena Point
Lethbridge
Lisburne  LUR  TR1 to OTZ1, ET86 to PHP, ? to Point Lay Dew Line
McCallum  MLM  TD2 to BLR, TD2 to PAX, 74A to BLR, 74A to PAX
Mono Pod  TBP  SS2 to GYP
Moose Pass  MOP  78A to TNL, 78A to SRD
Mount Dave, Canada  MDV  RCA9104(TD2) to BVC, VHF8 to BVC, MM to XYO
Murphy Dome  MYD  TD2 to PJD, VHF8 to PJD, TD2 to CLC, VHF8 to CLC, 74B to CLR (only concrete building foundations remain in 1998)
Naptowne  WNE  TD2 to RCC, TD2 to SXO, VHF7 to RCC, VHF7 to SXO
Neklasson Lake  KNV  TD2 to R1N, TD2 to SML, TR1 to SXO, TR2 to BSW, 74A to R1N, 74A to SML, 78A to R1N
Nikishka  NKA  SS4 to SXO, SS2 to WFP, SS2 to MGS, SS2 to AAP, SS2 to MGC, SS2 to NMR, UHF1 to TYE, E185 to ENA
Nikolski  IKO  TR1 to DFB
Nome  OME  CA to AVM, SAT to BTL, SCPC to various
North River  KNR  TR1 to KKK, TR1 to GMT, 74B to UNK
Northway  ORT  VHF4 to TKJ
Paxson  PAX  TD2 to ARA, TD2 to MLM, 74A to ARA, 74A to MLM, G6004 to IBC, UHF1 to Paxson Highway Maint. Bldg.
Pedro Dome  PJD  TR1 to FYU, TR1 to BCC, TD2 to FBK, VHF7 to FBK, VHF8 to MYD, TD2 to MYD, TD2 to HDG, 74A to HDG, MW1 to EAF (WACS all gone 1998)
Pillar Mountain  PMY  TR1 to DRJ, VHF1 to PLN, 74B to CYK, VHF2 to WDY, 74B to HLB
Point Hope  PHP  ET86 to LUR
Point Reyes E.S.  REY
Port Clarence  KPC  228 to OYJ, 228 to TNC, 6004 to KTS
Port Heiden  PTH  TR1 to AKN, TR1 to PML
Port Lions  PLN  VHF1 to PMY
Port Moller  PML  TR1 to PTH, TR1 to CDB, CA to PML3
Port Moller  PML3  VHF1 to SDP, CA to PML
Portage  POT  78A to GWY
PS10  OAJ  G6004 to BLR
Putt River E.S.
R1 North  R1N  74B to KNV, 74B to EDF, 78A to KNV, 78A to ANC, TD2 to ANC, VHF7 to RCC
Rabbit Creek  RCC  TD2 to ANC, VHF7 to R1N, VHF7 to WNE, TD2 to WNE
Sand Point  SDP  VHF1 to PML3
Sawmill  SML  TD2 to KNV, TD2 to SMU, 74A to KNV, 74A to SMU
Scotty Lake-Hill 1688  SCL - OYI  10 hops of microwave
Seward  SRD  78A to MOP
Sheep Mountain  SMU  TD2 to SML, TD2 to HNE, 74A to SML, 74A to HNE
Shell A  MGA  UHF1 to MGC
Shell C  MGC  SS2 to NKA, UHF1 to MGA
Shemya  SYA  TR2 to ADK1
Sitka
Skagway
Smugglers Cove
Soldotna  SXO  TD2 to WNE, TD2 to CYG, VHF7 to WNE, VHF7 to CYG, TR1 to KNV, SS4 to NKA
Sparks  ASP  SS2 to NMR
Sparrevohn  SVW  TR1 to BMX, TR1 to TLI, TR1 to ANI
Starisky Creek  SOY  TD2 to CYG, TD2 to DRJ, VHF7 to CYG, VHF7 to DRJ
Tahneta Pass  HNE  TD2 to SMU, TD2 to TOS, 74A to SMU, 74A to TOS
Tanana  TAL  VHF6 to BCC
Tatalina
Teller  KTS  6004 to KPC
Tern Lake  TNL  78A to BRP, 78A to MOP, FM2 to JLA
Tin City  TNC  228 to KPC
Tok Junction  TKJ  TD2 to BVC, TD2 to CYR, VHF8 to BVC, VHF8 to CYR, VHF4 to ORT
Tolsona  TOS  TD2 to HNE, TD2 to GLO, 74A to HNE, 74A to GLO
Tyonek  TYE  UHF1 to NKA
Unalaska  UKA  VHF1 to DFB, SAT to BTL
Valdez
Vernon Valley
West Forelands  WFP  SS2 to NKA, SS2 to GYP, UHF1 to DVP
Whitehorse  XYO  MM to MDV, MM to QHO, OW to CAR, OW to BDR
Windy Point  WDY  78A to ANC, 78A to BRP
Woody Island  WDY  VHF2 to PMY
Seward  SRD  78A to MOP
Yakataga  CYT  TR2 to BSW, VHF1 to S.A.M. Ship, G6004 to Ocean Ranger
Yakutat E.S.  YAK  SAT to BTL

 

From: Albert LaFrance   alafrance (at) compuserve.com
Mailing-List: list coldwarcomms@egroups.com
Date: Sat, 6 May 2000 23:06:42 -0400
Subject: [coldwarcomms] Plan ICEFOOT

Here's a tidbit from the National Archives which may be of interest,
especially to the Alaska Communications System/White Alice community.

Recently-declassified records of the U.S. Army Office of the Chief Signal
Officer contain at least one memo (9 Dec. 1952) concerning "Plan ICEFOOT" -
a proposal for monitoring ACS voice traffic during emergency situations, as
part of a censorship program.  The monitoring would be done at Seattle and
Anchorage; the Seattle activity would be housed in a Bell System office.

Source:

Record group 111: Office of the Chief Signal Officer
Series: Army Communications Services Division Decimal Files, 1923-1959
Box: 23 (1951-1952)
Folder: "676 Censorship 1951-1952"

Albert

 



From: "R (Sven) Engblom"     sven (at) epix.net
To: Joe Stevens    WL7AML (at) arrl.net
Date: Sat, 24 Jun 2000 00:26:15 -0400
Subject: What's in a Name



Here is a little story of my existance on the White Alice.

Sven

				What's in a Name?


Well...... So your name is Sven...... How did you manage to get that moniker 
hung on you?  Where did you come up with such an aberration?  

Hmmm..... (sigh)..... This takes time.  It's not something you can just pass 
off with some smart reply.  After all, think about it.  How can you derive Sven 
from Richard?  

Well, yes, but you could say the same for Dick.  How do you derive Dick 
from Richard? 

That's easy enough.  Richard, Rick, Dick.  But then again it could have been 
just as easy to come up with Richard, Retched, Retch, Vomit.  Vomit 
Engblom.  Now that has a certain upchuckling ring to it.  But, I'm getting off 
the point here.  Sven does not relate.  

As we pass through our mortal existence, we all experience things; some of 
them really good, some of them not so good.  The good ones we reinforce by 
thinking and savoring them from time to time.  So they are a part of our past 
that we like to think about.  The bad ones?  Well we try not to think about 
those.  With practice, we forget about them.  Good thing too.  But there are 
some memories that we are not so proud of that you can't forget.  They 
stand out in your mind regardless of how you perceive their goodness, or 
badness.  And so it is with Sven.  Each time someone calls me "Sven" the 
memory is there; boldly asserting itself should I choose to think about it.  Its 
just there, hanging in the wind; and it never goes away.  

I arrived in Alaska wet behind the ears.  I was part of a group of guys that 
was to take part in some cursory equipment training and then be sent out to 
man and operate the "White Alice" communications system.  This was a 
system to link all the Aircraft Control and Warning stations sprinkled about 
Alaska with each other.  It also served as an interface point for the DEW line 
at Cape Lisburne on the Arctic coast which would alert the AC&W stations 
of any intruder.  We worked for Federal Electric Corp. who had a contract 
with the Air Force to provide the O&M for the system.  Good money for the 
time as all sites were from somewhat remote to all by itself on a mountain 
top.  After 3 months in training at Anchorage, I spent some time at Kodiak 
and then was sent to a site on a mountain top called Kalakaket Creek.  (A 
mountain called Kalakaket Creek?  Naaaaa.  Kal Creek just happens to be 
near by.)  You can find it on a good map just 20 or so miles southeast of 
Galena in the center of Alaska.  

Galena is a very small native village on the banks of the Yukon River.  Its 
main claim to fame at the time was that it was home to a squadron of fighter 
planes ready to scramble at a moments notice.  They would also scramble if 
something screwed up in the communications link.  They got lots of practice 
scrambling as we managed to screw it up enough!  But I'm getting off the 
point here.  

The station was in the final stages of construction when we arrived.  There 
were maybe 40 or 50 construction men of different crafts there plus the 
support staff, (cooks, bakers, waiters, etc.).  We had to live in Quonset huts 
down by the airstrip for awhile while the living quarters were finished up.  But, 
the combined mess/rec room was in good shape - enough so we could have 
a party each Friday and Saturday night after the movie.  A plane would come 
in Friday afternoon with a case of whiskey and several cases of beer - just 
the right ingredients for a good hangover.  It was also the start of the all 
weekend poker game.  It started Friday after supper and didn't stop until 
Sunday after supper.  And those guys knew how to build a pot.  Thousand 
bucks on a turn of a card was not uncommon.  But, this is beside the point.  

I am somewhat musically inclined - I play the accordion..... yech..... but I 
can strum a guitar a few licks also.  The mix was good at the time and I was 
welcomed by the crew.....live music with plenty of booze!   How good can it 
get?  I have a middling voice and knew all the western music of the early 
50s.  And I knew all the good singalong songs of the time.  Bob Crutcher, 
our station manager, thought it was just great.  He could really sing around 
midnight!  As you might expect, I was well known quickly as the guy who 
played the accordion - no name - just the guy that played the accordion.  

Bob Crutcher had been a Captain in the Air Force and owned a plane which 
was kept down at the air strip.  He always took it for a ride when the weather 
was good.  One day he asked me to go along with him to a place called 
"Ruby".  There was a trading post there and they had the distinction of 
having the only bar along the Yukon, or at least the Alaska portion of it.  So, 
a couple of us guys piled into his plane along with my accordion and away 
we went.  

At Ruby, we buzzed the town indicating we were going to land at the air strip 
a mile or so away.  Soon as we set down a jeep came up the road to take us 
into the village.  The village of Ruby at that time was very small consisting of 
one unpaved road running along the bank of the Yukon River.  Obviously we 
made straightaway to the Northern Commercial Trading Post to take 
advantage of the local oasis.  Sure enough, after entering the store, (pretty 
much like a general country store), to the right was the bar - a plank across 
a couple of wooden barrels with a couple of stools.  It was a cozy place as 
they had a pot bellied stove stoked up with the necessary dog curled  
nearby.  (I suppose I could say there was a grizzly miner there, northern 
lights out, and temperature at 50 below.  But it wouldn't be true.)  There was 
also an open area with a couple tables where a few people were having some 
coffee.  Behind the bar there was a bottle of whiskey - that's all - just one 
bottle of whiskey.  And you had your choice of drinks - straight whiskey, 
whiskey and water, whiskey and coke, or whiskey and 7.  (I guess there 
were some wimps that would opt for just coke or 7 up - I was not a wimp!)  
Just as a side note, although we drank and sang throughout the evening, I 
never saw more than one bottle of whiskey behind the bar.  Nor did I see the 
proprietor seek another.  (The obvious answer is that I couldn't see!)  

After a good evening meal and several rounds of drinks, I broke out the 
accordion and started things going.  It didn't take too long before the whole 
village was there dancing up a storm!  We were really in fine shape and 
everyone was really enjoying themselves.  I  handled every request that 
came my way and added a few of my own.  Just as things were really getting 
good with everyone participating, a young Indian princess asked me if I could 
do something special for her.  Sure thing.  Elvis Presley?  Huh???  

Elvis and rock and roll were just taking off in the music world - definitely not 
something geared for the accordion.  I stalled her off and kept up with other 
requests.  But she was persistent.  Finally I gave in and said OK.

I had a real good glow on - really into the music - and there was someone's 
guitar handy.  I grabbed it, banged a couple chords, and then launched into 
"Blue Swede Shoes".  The only thing is I put a little twist on it.  I sang it with 
a very heavy Swedish accent!  I had listened to my Dad talk with a Swedish 
accent all my life and could imitate him down to a tee.   

     Vun for da money - two for da show - tree to get ready - now go cat go!
     And don't you (heavy accent on you) - step on my blue (heavy accent       
     here) svede shoes.

Well, needless to say, this brought the house down!  Everyone was laughing 
so hard.  And Bob Crutcher was laughing the hardest.  And it didn't stop 
there.  There were several songs I sang in the heavy swede accent.  One 
about the waitress and her logger lover - Ders none like him today, if you'd 
pour viskey on it, he'd eat a bale of hay.   They loved it.  And Crutcher just 
howled.  

But after a bit it was time to get back to regular jitterbug with "In the Mood" 
and things like that.  I went on until midnight or so reverting back to a few 
Swedish tunes just to keep the humor going.  We put up in the local cabin 
that passed as an inn and slept soundly under a pile of blankets.  

The next morning we arose to a fresh blanket of snow; maybe six inches or 
so.  We had a good breakfast which helped put out some of the fire in the 
belly.  We were a little concerned about taking off in the snow but we had to 
get back.  They couldn't clear the runway in time for us to leave so Crutcher 
decided to make a path with the plane.  

We loaded up and started making passes down the strip going a little faster 
each time.  I thought Bob was going to lift off the sixth pass but he cut the 
engine right at the point of no return.  The seventh pass we made it and flew 
on back to Kal Creek.  They had cleared the strip for us so there was no 
problem with our landing.  

It didn't take long for Crutcher to relate the festivities to the others and put 
great emphasis on the Swedish accent bit.  And, that night it was command 
performance time.  I obliged.  Bob called me Sven, the mad Svede.  It stuck 
with everyone as that was something they could remember.  Now I wasn't 
the guy that played the accordion - I was Sven!  

Each station was connected to the other with a party line orderwire which 
was used to troubleshoot circuit problems between stations.  Mostly it was 
used as a community BS line.  Although it was set up as a dial up system, 
most stations just set up a speaker on the line.  That way you could listen to 
anyone who was on the line and put your two cents in when you felt like it.  
Well, it didn't take long for the story to be related to the buddies I went 
through training with - and everyone else who was listening on line.  Problem 
with a circuit on the eve shift?  Call Sven!  Maybe you can pull his leg a little -
get a little swede talk out of him!  

I was transferred from Kal Creek to Cape Lisburne on the Arctic coast.  I had 
to go via Fairbanks, Nome, and Kotzebue.  Naturally the flights were such 
that I had to overnight at each place.  I had a good buddy at the Nome site 
who met me at the plane.  He and his wife were living in Nome and I spent 
the night at his place.  Of course we had to go into the village for a little bar 
hopping.  We were doing just great at the Polar Bar when he said he had to 
go home but would be right back.  True to his word he was - with my 
accordion!  I played and they danced.  A couple hours later a comely young 
Eskimo girl came up to me and shyly asked me if I could play something 
special for her.  She even called me Sven!  I knew what was coming.  And I 
knew those guys had put her up to it!  Once again it had the effect of a lot of 
laughter and general good feeling.  I departed the next day for a six month 
stay 200 miles north of the Arctic circle.  

I was transferred to a large, relatively empty station near Fairbanks called 
Pedro Dome.  And it had a road into Fairbanks 25 miles away.   The name 
Sven proceeded me and it just stuck with me.  





OK, Sven.   That explains how you picked up the nick name.  But that 
doesn't explain why you still have it.  Lots of guys pick up nick names in the 
military for various reasons.  And when they get out of the service the name 
disappears.  Why do you still use it?  

Hmmmm...... Well........ That's another story.  You have a little more time?


A very unlikely event changed my life even further at Pedro Dome - the 
station manager, Ralph Johnson, had a heart attack!  And I had just agreed 
to be his assistant manager the day before.  I was attending classes at the 
University of Alaska at the time, but that came to a screeching halt as I had 
to run the station in his absence.  It was just a little site, 4 culinary people, 5 
mechanics, (we generated our own power), half a dozen technicians,  - and 
me.  I was only 26 at the time and had to do some very serious maturing.  
No more entertainer - this was serious business here.  I was just supposed 
to hold the place together until Ralph came back.  Weeks ran into months 
and he finally retired under doctor's orders.  Bill Miller, who was the Northern 
Alaska Sector Manager, felt I had done a good job but he could not keep me 
on as site manager as it would not be fair to others in the bush waiting for a 
good assignment.  So I went to Kotzebue for a year as site manager.  

The contract changed hands while I was in Kotzebue.  RCA Service 
Company won the contract and I hired over.  Andy Cowen, the new 
Operations Manager, asked me to go back to Pedro Dome as site manager.  
I agreed.  By this time, the BMEWS station was being built at Clear, Alaska 
and, as a result, Pedro Dome was being filled with equipment and made into 
the biggest communications hub in the system.   The site grew to about 25 
people and I really had to knuckle down.  I ran the site for 6 years.  The site 
grew bigger and I took on more adjacent sites - even one down at Clear.  The 
site, being adjacent to Eilson AFB, became a showcase for visiting military.  
Hobnobbed with high military brass and all that goes with it.  But people still 
called me Sven.  They didn't know why.  I was just Sven.  Besides, it was a 
lot easier to say than "Engblom".  

There was a ski area just off the hill from Pedro Dome -  Cleary Summit Ski 
area - where I learned to ski.  The owner, Bob McCann, and I were on good 
talking terms as we were, in effect, neighbors.  And when his sister came to 
visit him he introduced me to her.  Jane - meet Sven.  So started a courtship. 
 It wasn't until after we were engaged that Jane found out my name was 
really Richard.  She almost had a fit.  "I will not go through life being part of 
Dick and Jane!"  She figured we would be the butt of unimaginable jokes that 
would plague us from then on.  So, Sven it was.  Kinda hard to explain to my 
parents why Jane kept calling me "Sven" when they called me "Dicky"!  
Quite obvious why I stuck with Sven.  We stayed in Fairbanks for 5 years 
where Jane presented me with three wonderful children - Lisa, Maija, and 
Thor.  (They haven't themselves heard the full story of how my name came 
into being.)  In the fall of 66, I took on the job of SW Alaska Sector Manager 
and found it was a mistake.  I did not like being away from the "hands on" 
site activity.  So, just as the winter snows were starting to fall, we packed up 
the car and headed down the Alcan Highway - with two of three kids in 
diapers!  

The use of the name Sven followed me throughout my life.  But the story of 
how it came into being died in Alaska.  I know, I know...... I could be just 
spinning some yarn.....   taking some long ago events and really 
exaggerating on them.  But, (as the humorist Dave Berry would say), I'm not 
making this up.  Its all true!  I couldn't make up anything so goofy.  

And now you know............  I can still play the accordion but haven't for 
several years now.  I keep promising myself to get it out and practice a little.  
I can put on the Swedish accent anytime, but never do.  Too conservative 
now.  And no one would dare laugh at an old geezer talking funny.  They 
would shake their heads knowingly saying "tsk, tsk, tsk".  I even thought of 
legally changing my name to Sven.  Too much trouble dealing with the 
government.  Besides, I wouldn't have anything to talk about when someone 
asks, "How in the world did you ever get the name Sven?"  



------- End of forwarded message -------
Sven [See more in the Guestbook]

When you smile you brighten someone's day.


Donald F. Dorsey guestbook, Bethel and Sparrevohn WACS, Wed, 4 Apr 2007.


Pictures by Sven.

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Aniak and Bear Creek


Cape Lisbourne
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Kal Creek
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Click for larger version
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Harry Tabor, Sven Engblom, & Al Martin
  Click for larger version
Click for larger version
Click for larger version
Gene Porter, Lynn Saupe, Sven Engblom
Click for larger version


Kodiak
Click for larger version Click for larger version
removal of Sitkinak antenna

Nome
Click for larger version

Kotzebue
Click for larger version

Pedro Dome
Click for larger version Click for larger version
Helmut Troutman (sitting), and Jim Waters

This pic is of the Gold King Creek repeater site south of Fairbanks. It was the first repeater out of Clear BMEWS site.
Click for larger version
Sparrevohn SVW

Links

Main index

My personal home page

Wikipedia WACS page

Wikipedia list of sites

The Wikipedia site does not know where the Neklasson Lake station is located. Google Earth coordinates are 61 37 12 N, 149 15 22 W.

The White Alice Communications System by Bill Everly, with MAP. Be sure not to miss Bill's HISTORY page. He has a picture of the NEK Lake site.

Granite Mt. WACS site still in situ in 2006. 138 miles 060 from Nome. 6525'42"N 16113'56"W. Runway at 6524'08"N 16116'53"W. (Cut and paste those coordinates into Google Earth.) GMT (Granite Mountain) had direct paths to AVM (Anvil Mountain), OTZ1 (Kotzebue)and KNR (North River). YouTube video of airstrip and flight to Nome (uploaded 2009). There is a good tour of the WACS site on YouTube but the people who filmed it had no clue what they were looking at so the title is not relevant and I can't find it again. If you run acorss it please let me know. ...j0e)

Anvil Mt. WACS by the Alaska Dept of Fish & Game and another on Flikr and another.

Ft. Yukon White Alice Communications Site by Dale Powell in Fairbanks has a very good collection of pictures. This site was demolished the summer of 1999.

The Early Warning Connection has a marvelous set of links.

Air Defense Radar Museum

Official AF history of AC&W.

The Air Force originally built the WACS. A chronology of some Air Force events surrounding WACS shows that construction started in 1955.

Later WACS was sold to Alascom.

History of Alaska Communications from the Alaska Public Utilities Commission.

Some Youtube videos of WACS sites, links added Sept 2013
Shemya, SYA super 8 movie from Bob Johnson, 1968. Shows WACS living quarters, Bob Oates, Doug Brown, Jon Peterson, Pete, 120 foot WACS antennas, 16th Surveillance Facility.

Sparrevohn, SVW super 8 movie from Bob Johnson, 1968. Larry Clasen, Jerry Karim.

Bethel

REMEMBER that some of these stories are dated. Consider when they were written.

The Alascom Story written 1992. The reference to HF radio should include MF as the majority of the radios were MF not HF.

Today more communications is moving to fiber-optic cable. For a look at submarine cables and some insight into how they are repaired, check out http://www.teleport.com/~samc/seas/deep3.html

The Washington - Alaska submarine cable was retired in 1977, built in 1956 ( 21 Years of Service) and ran from Port Angeles, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska - 2,776 km at 144 + 144 KHz - WSTCS Ref#: 27. Maintenance Authority: AT&T

Lest you think that tropo systems were unique to Alaska, see this page about Florida City which had links to Cuba and Bahamas.

The North Atlantic Radio System (NARS) ran tropo up into the 1990's between North America and England.

Lynn Saupe WACS photos (78 images from various sites) (Lynn Saupe obituary.)

DEW Line

White Alice by Bill Everly, partial site

White Alice by Bill Everly, more complete site

WACS Guest Book by Bill Everly WACS Newsletters internet

WACS Wikipedia where you can edit and add content.

White Alice by Dale Powell, AL7Y

WACS Newsletters CD ROM

Kodiak Military History main index

My personal home page