THE LONG VOYAGE
On 16 July 1962 we boarded a different LST, the 529 who had now been assigned to support the project. The LST 1168 the Wexford County had returned to its home port. This LST was very old and almost a bucket of bolts. In fact I had seen this ship as it made milk runs in the northern Marianas Islands when we where working on that project in 1961. The LST stopped at Truk Island to make a re-supply drop for the Air Force team there, then again at Ruo Island, Murillo Atoll for the same purpose. The LST 529 then made a rendezvous with the FS-216 at Oroluk Island on 21 July 1962. Besides making a re-supply drop at the island, all the astro equipment was transferred from the FS ship to the LST. I had mail that I had carried from Tokyo for all the astro team. However, unknown to me one of our electronic repairman (Fiebech) had been given permission to return to Tokyo and remained on the FS ship to return to Guam. It would be another month before I could forward his mail back to Tokyo.
This was the beginning of what was to become a long 30-day round trip on the old LST. During the resupply at Oroluk, Island, mechanical problems developed with the Navy helicopter again. The ship made a stop at Ponape Island for repairs, then on to Ngatik Island for a re-supply drop. It was at Ponape where all hands where granted 2 hours ashore. However later after dark my electronic repairman (Hughes) and a Sodano team member actually leaped from the ship and made a rendezvous with someone on an outrigger canoe they had met that day. In the early morning hours they approached the LST on another hired outrigger and it overturned. They managed to swim, then actually climb up the ships anchor chain through the anchor chain slot and onto the ship. In the process the Sodano man lost his wallet. Then on 26 July the LST spent all day searching for Satawan Island but could not find it. Finally some time the next day they managed to spot it and we made a re-supply drop there. The ship then continued south, making supply drops at Nukuro Island and at Kapingimaringi Island just north of the equator. On 30 July the LST crossed the equator and everyone on board went through the Navy's initiation ceremony. The next stop was Manus Island. Here, several of the Air Force HIRAN personnel left the LST. The Air Force personnel where only deployed TDY for a six month period and where then replaced. The Army personnel where there for the duration, or as long as required. It was at this time that I had received a message that my Topographic computer (Leonel Noyola) could return to Tokyo. I had been also sending messages to Oji Camp requested that the electronic repairman (Hughes) also return. I had gotten no reply, but decided to allow both of them to leave the ship here and return. The LST then sailed over to Mussau Island. We where supposed to be taken off the LST here and make astronomic observations, however apparently the Air Force reconnaissance team had just arrived at the site. They where being supported by a small leased fishing vessel and had no air support down here in the higher jungle islands. Therefore the site was not prepared for occupation, so the astro team remained on board the LST. The LST then sailed to Tabar Island to off load an Air Force HIRAN and Army Sodano azimuth team. Before the off loading could begin, a sailor aboard the LST became ill, so the ship proceeded to Kavieng, New Ireland. On 5 August 1962 the LST returned to Tabar Island and a portion of the Air Force HIRAN and Army Sodano azimuth teams and equipment where put ashore by helicopter. Then the helicopter experienced mechanical problems again, and the LST returned to Kavieng, New Ireland for parts/repairs. A third trip was then made back to Tabar Island and the off loading off the teams completed there on 6 August. On 7 August 1962 the ship was again off the island of Mussau. We where biting our teeth in order to get off the LST and back on dry land. Then as luck would have it, the helicopter went out for good on the first flight onto the island. The helicopter mechanics spent two days attempting to repair it, but finally had to give up. There apparently was no choice but for the ship to return to Guam. As the ship sailed back north it made re-supply stops again at Kapingimaringi Island, Nukuoro Island, and Truk Island and arrived back in Guam on 15 July 1962. So we made a very long 30 day round trip voyage, where our primary duties where either sweating down in the tank deck loading supplies/equipment into the cargo nets, or on deck doing the same thing onto the helicopter. Very disappointed, we returned back to Anderson Air Force base. The astro teams original party chief/NCOIC (SFC Daniel Jackson) returned from his emergency leave and arrived back at Anderson on 17 August. His return coincided with an after the voyage party the astronomic team was having at the barracks, though it was about over and the rum drank when he arrived early in the morning.
The LST 1168 made a port call at Ponape Island, then we proceeded back to Guam in the Marianas Islands, arriving there on 27 February 1962. Our astro team was sent back to Anderson Air Force base where we remained through 9 March. We took some time off, drank beer, made the final astronomic computations for our data on Ruo Island, and prepared a star list for our next survey site. Once the final astronomic azimuth computations where complete, it was discovered that the difference between the two nights observations was just over one arc second. The Army Map Service specifications called for one arc second or less. On 10 March 1962, we once again departed Guam on the LST 1168. The ship arrived off Ruo Island, Murillo Atoll in the Caroline Islands on 13 March 1962. The next day the Navy helicopter landed the astro team and azimuth equipment back on Ruo Island for the purpose of re-observing the astronomic azimuth. The plan was to also disembark the Air Force HIRAN team at the site. However, just after landing our team and equipment on the island, the helicopter experienced mechanical problems on the beach. A landing craft was sent in with helicopter parts, but the surf was too rough to cross the reef and they returned to the ship. Except for our theodolite, etc, we had no food, bedding, or shelter. For the azimuth observations, we set up a watch system in order to know if/when Polaris was visible. I had to dig a hole in the sand next to the concrete astro pier in order to keep warm an attempt to keep the blowing wind/sand down to a minimum. Then on one of the early morning two hour watch shifts, our electronic repairman (Baby Hughy) fell asleep on his watch, so we never knew if Polaris became visible or not. Someone the next morning found an unopened can of C-ration bacon among our equipment, so as a last resort, we opened it and ate it raw. By late afternoon the next day, a landing craft from the ship managed to get into the island and pull us off. They brought some helicopter parts, with which they made some temporary repairs, and where able to fly it back to the LST. The ship then sailed to Truk Island where some additional repairs where made on the helicopter. Though I heard it mentioned from time to time, I don't believe anyone ever returned to Ruo Island to complete the azimuth observations.
OROLUK ISLAND, OROLUK ATOLL, CAROLINE ISLANDS
On 17 March 1962 the LST 1168 departed Truk Island and arrived at Oroluk Island, Oroluk Atoll, Caroline Islands the next day. The astronomic team (6 personnel) and equipment where taken onto the island by helicopter. A normal deployment of just the astro team and equipment would normally take several hours. Besides the normal astronomic observing equipment, we had tents, food, gasoline, generator, radios, pioneer tools, and ten to twenty 55-gallon drum of drinking water. Upon landing, we normally had no idea when the ship would return to either re-supply us or pick us up. We where to remain on Oroluk Island until 25 April 1962. Once we had established our camp, constructed the astro pier, and got the equipment/tent set up, we had completed all the astronomic observations over the first week. We also observed a 24 hour tide gage and connected the HIRAN/astro pier by level line and measured the distance to the azimuth mark. As our stay here was quite prolonged, the Party Chief (SFC Daniel Jackson) set up a daily rotation of duties. These included a cook, a dishwasher, and a cleanup person for each day. During our stay, we constructed a small thatch building for our generator shed and one for our out-house away from the camp site. Once our observations where complete, the Topographic computer (Noyola) and myself reduced, calculated, then checked and rechecked all the data. Of course, even with the duties, observations, and computations, we had plenty of free time, especially during the later part of our stay. Oroluk Island was quite small and sat at one end of a large coral atoll. At one side of the island stood a grove of coconut trees along a small sand beach. Here there lived the only inhabitants of the island. At this time this included about ten people. They where supposedly on the island to harvest copra for a company on Truk. These included two older couples, one of whom had two or three children, two younger men, and a young woman. When we arrived, their supply boat was over due by a month or two, so they where using the sea and the few island resources for subsistence. During our stay, we did provide some staples from our rations, and the younger men visited our camp quite often.
RABAUL, NEW BRITAIN
The LST 529 remained docked at the port in Rabaul, New Britian through 17 November 1962. The ship's Captain allowed a liberal shore pass policy during this period. Our topographic computer (Noyola) had been re-deployed back from Tokyo and had re-boarded the ship at Manus.
When the Captain of the LST authorized shore time for the crew members, there was usually assigned a Navy individual as shore patrol. The Captain had decided that because of the number of Army and Air Force personnel on board the ship, they also should provide a person to assist in these shore patrol duties. On 11 November 1962 in Rabaul, I was assigned to assist the navy shore patrol on his duties. As it turned out, it was a very busy and confusing night. All hands where due back aboard the ship by 0100 hours. With little time to celebrate, almost everyone attempted to squeeze a good time into a few hours.
THE HELICOPTER CRASH
From then until our departure on 30 October, we cleaned all the equipment, took inventory, and packed all we could. On that day, the LST 529 arrived, and the astro team and equipment was taken off by helicopter. The next day the ship docked at Manus Island. We where able to go ashore and up to the British Club. We had 1.5 hours, but where able to down quite a few. The ship then sailed to New Hanover Island and made a re-supply drop, and then over to Tabar Island for the same purpose. On 3 November 1962 we put an Air Force HIRAN team ashore on Buka Island. From there the ship proceeded to a point off the Northwest coast of the large Island of New Britian. The site here was at an elevation of over 6000 feet. The Air Force HIRAN team had been put on the site while we where on Mussau Island and where set up there and operating. On 6 November 1962 the helicopter began to ferry up our astro equipment and personnel. One load of equipment had been taken up, and the party chief/NCOIC wanted myself to go up on the second trip to make sure the equipment was secure. I had by personnel baggage ready on the flight deck, when the helicopter pilot told me he only wanted to take equipment at this point. He said there where enough people at the site to assist in unloading. About 15 to 20 minutes later, I was standing next to the Air Force liaison officer, when we heard on his hand radio that the helicopter had crashed and was returning. Once it got sorted out, they had actually said the helicopter had crashed and was burning. Rescue teams from the ship consisting of Air Force and Navy personnel left the ship and began the long climb to meet the injured coming down. An Air Force rescue aircraft was dispatched from Guam, but upon arrival, they could not drop anyone due to clouds and fog. Late on 7 November, the rescue team arrived back at the LST with the injured and the ship proceeded immediately to Rabaul, New Britain. Later the injured where transferred back to Guam, where unfortunately the pilot died of his injuries.
Around 15 November, the LST 529 was still at the dock in Rabaul, New Britian. Word was received that a very strong typhoon had devastated Guam. The ship was ordered to take on a load of lumber as soon as possible and proceed to Guam. We had to assist in rearranging all the equipment in the tank deck to make room for the lumber. It took two days to fill the tank deck with lumber, then the LST departed Rabaul on 17 November 1962. The LST arrived at Guam on Thanksgiving Day 22 November 1962. Because of the situation, all hands where restricted to the ship. Our Thanksgiving dinner consisted of hot dogs and potatoes. The next day, our army personnel where allowed to proceed up to Anderson Air Force Base. We then learned that most of us would not be able to return to Tokyo for Christmas. The party chief then informed me that I could make a quick trip back to Tokyo, but had to be back in Guam to sail with the LST when it departed. I had to borrow the Topographic computers uniform, but I made a MATS flight out and landed in Tachikawa Air Force Base in Japan on 24 November 1962. On the 29 November I left Tachikawa Air Force base and returned to Guam on a MATS flight.
We departed Guam on the LST 529 on 1 December 1962. The ship made a re-supply stop at Kapingimaringi Island and arrived at Rabaul, New Britain on 9 December 1962. The next day the ship moved back around to the northwest coast of New Britain. The Navy now had a new helicopter and crew, and on 11 December shuttled all the astro personnel and equipment to a native village (Komgi) approximately a thousand feet below the survey site. The Navy had decided that they would not attempt to fly the helicopters any higher than this location. The liaison personnel had arranged for the hiring of 30 to 40 packers to move the equipment to the site. I went up with the second load of equipment. The climb was very steep, and in some locations it was necessary to climb up ropes hand over hand. It was very wet and muddy with rain showers from time to time. Once on top, I slept in the Air Force HIRAN tent until our shelter had arrived. We immediately found out that even at this latitude, the weather was very chilly because of the elevation of the site. The continual rain, mist, and fog made this even worse. We had very little in the way of warm weather clothing. It was not until 14 December that the last of our equipment and personnel arrived on the site. Our first request was for some type of warm weather gear to be brought down. Since the only drinking water we had was what was carried in our canteens, the Air Force decided to drop the site some 55 gallon drums of water along with some warm weather gear. They dispatched the C-47 aircraft to the site. As they flew over, they proceeded to push out two or three of the drums of water. These came down like bombs, and when they hit the ground/jungle, they crushed like egg shells. One just narrowly missed the camp-site. If they had hit anyone, it would have killed them. They then decided that parachutes would have to be used. The C-47 returned later, and parachuted several drums of water. However, this time, they simply floated off into the jungle somewhere. Only one or two landed anywhere near the camp. Between 15 and 30 December we set up the camp, equipment, and performed all the astronomic observations. Once again it was necessary to observe on east and west star sets for the astronomic azimuth. I observed the latitude, longitude, and azimuth data at the site, completing the last of the observations on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. One of the new surveyors (Wheeler) on the astro team was selected to be an observer. It was apparent, that this would be my last site prior to my rotation. The party chief/NCOIC (SFC Daniel Jackson) wanted to ensure that my replacement did have some on-the-job training before I departed. We spent three or four of the clear nights on his training and he observed astronomic latitude and longitude. He was able to observe several sets of each, and we reduced/computed the observations. NOTE: My replacement Dave Wheeler, I was to meet again in October 1966 in Teheran, Iran. He was then working on an Army Map Service contract for a company called Geotronics.
NUKUORO ISLAND, CAROLINE ISLANDS
The LST arrived at Ponape Island on 26 April 1962. The ship departed the next morning and proceeded to Ngatik Island. Here we assisted in putting one of the Oji Camp Sodano azimuth teams and equipment ashore. The next day the ship sailed south to Kapingimaringi Island to re-supply the HIRAN/Sodano/Navy Astro Team already on the island. From Kapinginmaringi Island the LST proceeded back north to Nukuoro Island, and on 30 April 1962 both the Oji Camp astro team and an Air Force Hiran team where put ashore by helicopter with all the equipment. Because of the large amount of HIRAN equipment required by the HIRAN teams, our team assisted in the setting up of their HIRAN antenna and other equipment. We where to remain on Nukuoro Island until 21 May 1962. Once we had established and set up the camp, the astronomic observations did take some time to complete. This was due to cloud cover, rain, and for the azimuth, the low elevation of the north star "Polaris". However, over the period we did complete the observations and perform all the data reductions and computations. I was able to observe 12 positions of astronomic position on Polaris on one of the clear nights. This was the minimum to meet the specifications. All 12 of the positions met the criteria. It began to appear as if we would not be able to secure a second night of observations. I set myself up on a two-hour sky check schedule, just in case the sky would clear. Then several nights later, the sky cleared about an hour before dawn and I could recognize Polaris. We set up very rapidly, and I had completed 12 positions just as the sun came out and the star faded. Again we had met the minimum. Of course we immediately sat down and made the computations. We had luck this time. All 12 positions again met the criteria and both nights met the 1 arc second specification.
On 12 May 1962, our party chief/NCOIC (SFC Daniel Jackson) received word through the Air Force radio that his brother had been electrocuted on the job in Louisiana. A pontoon Air rescue plane was sent down from Guam and he departed Nukuoro Island. Upon his departure, I was then made the party chief/NCOIC of the astronomic observing team.
Ever since our first experience with the delays of transporting us via the Navy LST, we had expressed our idea that the Army Map Service FS ships be used to transport the Astronomic team. Apparently someone had decided that it was a good idea, and on 20 May 1962 the FS-216 arrived off the shore of Nukuoro Island. We had no communications with the ship. However the ship began to send a series of messages by flashing mirror via Morse code. Here our electronic repairman (Hughes) came in handy. He was able to read the code and understood the ship was there to take us off the island. Between the small island that the survey site was on and the next small island was a deep channel that led into the lagoon. Between the outgoing and incoming tides, we used this channel as a swimming hole. It was very clear and contained hundreds of tropical multicolored fish. However the current became very strong with the incoming/outgoing tides. At first Skipper King of the 216 was going to attempt to bring the ship into the channel. But once we had given him the size of the channel, the current problem and lagoon depth, he indicated he could not. Once we had the ship's radio frequency, we could contact them over the Air Force radio. The skipper indicated he would lay off the north shore of the atoll, and if we could transfer our equipment to an island at that end, he would have an assault boat ferry it to the ship. I quickly contacted the village chief and arranged for him to help us out. He agreed to provide several large outriggers to transport all our astronomic equipment and other gear to one of the north islands the next day. Early on the morning of 21 May, we very carefully loaded the equipment onto the outriggers and made several trips to and from the North Island. Once there, we had to transfer everything into the FS ships assault boat for the trip out to the FS ship. The seas where very rough that day. Several times we almost lost a load of equipment, and the water here was quite deep. Almost everything was soaked with seawater before we got it hoisted onto the FS ship and into the cargo hold. As party chief/NCOIC, I made every trip back and forth until all the equipment and personnel where on board the FS ship. Then as the assault boat was being hoisted up to the deck of the ship, the high seas caused it to slip and it was almost lost. The ships crew managed to get it tied off and winched back up to the deck. At this time, there was a US Army Captain on board the FS-216. He was apparently assigned to the Army Map Service and was filling in one of the Army officer liaison positions for the project. Once we where on board the FS ship, he approached me and indicated that he wanted all our equipment out on deck to be cleaned and dried. I attempted to explain to him that we could not bring all that equipment back up on deck by hand, especially in rough seas. He was quite adamant about the equipment, so I agreed that we would try and dry everything out as best as possible in the cargo hold. The FS-216 cargo hold was quite small, but our equipment was on the top of many other items. With one of our surveyors, we managed to partly organize everything and get it dried out as best we could. The officer finally agreed it was satisfactory. After our return to Guam, I never saw this officer again.
The FS-216 docked at the US Coast Guard Station in Guam on 24 May 1962. Upon arrival there, a message was waiting from Oji Camp that indicated I had to return to Tokyo for some type of paperwork. The project manager did not want me to leave the project at this particular time. Apparently there was a requirement for some astronomic positions on the island of Kwajelin. I went up to Anderson Air Force Base on the 29th, as the FS ship departed on 30 May for the island of Oroluk. At Oroluk Island, the ship picked up the Sodano team chief there (Pendergast). He had been one of the original personnel that had attended the astronomic training in Oji Camp in 1960. They then proceeded to Kwajelin Island to make the astronomic observations there. I remained at Anderson Air Force Base until 14 June 1962 awaiting some type of orders/confirmation on my return to Oji Camp. Finally a final message came through that indicated I had to return to Tokyo. In the meantime, I assisted the project liaison NCO on numerous things and then helped the project computers with the reading and reduction of the Sodano azimuth film observations. On 14 June I departed Guam via US Air Force MATS aircraft and arrived at Tachikawa Air Force base in Japan at 0100 hours the next day. The paperwork I had to complete did not seem to be all that pressing, though I did have to sign some paperwork, etc for an extension before 19 June and have it approved. Except for this, I was given some training in the reduction of tide gage observations, apparently in conjunction with the observations we had been making at the low atoll islands. However, once I returned to the project, the remainder of the sites where located on high jungle islands and no tide gage observations where involved.
On 28 June 1962 I departed Oji Camp at 1000 hours and flew from Tachikawa Air Force Base to the Guam Naval Air Station. I once again went to Anderson Air Force Base and reported in to the survey project. I remained here and again spent time assisting the Army liaison NCO, and working on the Sodano film reductions. I did have some free time to do some swimming and of course having a few cool ones here and there. A few days after I arrived, three new Topographic surveyors ( (Wild Man) Fields, Kummer, and Wheeler) arrived from Oji Camp for On-the-job training and as replacements on the astronomic team. As I was still party chief/NCOIC of the team, I provided them with an outline and orientation of the project. The FS-216 was still at Kwajelin Island with the remainder of the team and equipment.
Myself at the astro pier Oroluk, Island
During the Berlin Crisis between the United States and the USSR, I was deployed on the Marianas Islands survey project. At that time President Kennedy had called up many reserves and National Guard troops. In addition, he had extended the tours of duty of all active duty service members. As with most of the projects, we received little news of world happenings, or for that matter much mail. It was several weeks before we even knew our tours had been extended. Once the crisis faded away in July 1962, these extensions where reduced depending on a persons status. In mid October 1962 we received word over the Air Force HIRAN radio that my astro recorder's (Farwig) discharge date was imminent He was unaware that dates had been changed at headquarters. There was no way the project could provide him with transportation off the island. They passed on the information that the project C-47 aircraft would be on Manus Island on a certain date if he could find a way there. The astro team party chief/NCOIC contacted the Air Force weather team located down on the beach on Mussau Island. They did some research and discovered that a supply boat was due on Mussau in a few days and my recorder could probably get a ride to Manus Island. Due to the short notice, we couldn't delay any departure to await any guides. One of the several local natives that often visited the site indicated there was a clear trail all the way to the beach. On the early morning of 18 October, six of us Army personnel departed the site carrying the recorder's personnel baggage. I was also carrying all of the observed data and computations that the recorder was going to carry back to Oji Camp with him. It wasn't until late afternoon that we realized that our path was wrong and we had taken a wrong turn somewhere. We found ourselves down in thick jungle and were having to cut our way through. We contemplated turning around, but decided against it. In this part of the world, it becomes dark very fast after sunset, especially in the jungle. We had no choice but to stop and spend the night along side a small stream. Believe it or not, it became very chilly and damp and we had no cover at all. We even emptied out the recorder's duffle bag and I attempted to sleep in it. At sunrise, we headed downhill again, but by noon where still in a swamp. We decided that two of us should continue on without the baggage while the rest came behind with the baggage moving slower. Wild man Fields and myself headed out toward the ocean. We had exhausted our drinking water the first day, and of course had no food except a chocolate bar we had shared. Eventually we had to resort to drinking the water out of the slow moving brown swamp water. We just skimmed the worm looking creature's aside. Wild man even tried eating a small crab/crustacean, but there was not much there. Just before dusk, I spotted a type of tree that I knew had edible buds that also grew near the shore. Wild man shimmied up the tree through the thorn brush and cut his neck with the sharp thorns. Just a few minutes before the sun went down, we broke out of the jungle and where immediately on an identifiable trail close to the ocean. Of course we didn't know if we should proceed left or right. Then we spotted a type of fishing boat that appeared to be anchored across a bay and near an offshore island. Just below us on the beach lay a small rowboat overturned on the sand. We made a decision to borrow the boat and row out to the fishing boat. All went well until we where about half way across. Waves began washing into the boat and it filled with water. The c-ration box that had all our observations and computations floated out of the boat. As I struggled to retrieve it, wild man began bailing water as fast as he could. I finally was able to grab a hold of the data box and assist in the bailing. It was just a miracle that the boat did not sink. We managed to row up along side the fishing boat. We called many times for someone, but never received any answer. We assumed that they where either somewhere on shore the small island, or we had their boat and they where on Mussau. It was now dark, so we beached the boat and tied it off. We had landed among a small grove of coconut trees. No one was anywhere around, but we found a copra shed where we spent the night. We where completely soaked and chilly, but we had plenty of coconuts/milk. Very early the next morning, we could see from the small island beach a village on Mussau to our right. We again launched the boat and rowed back to Mussau. This trip back went well until we reached the island. It was low tide, and the boat hit the bottom 100 or so yards from the beach. We had no option but to carry the boat to the beach. However once we had lifted the boat, we only had enough strength to go a few yards. Finally we decided that we would have to flip the boat end over end all the way to the beach, and this we did. We left the boat where we had found it plus maybe a few small scraps and proceeded toward the village we had seen. About noon, we arrived at the village and learned from a local that the rest of the team had arrived that morning and was at the local Australian Mission. We went there, and were invited to stay for dinner which the Missionaries wife had prepared. It was one of the best meals I had had, including the peas, which I never liked, but do to this day. As it turned out, there was an Australian crocodile hunter with his small boat the "Huron" at the island. He agreed to let us stay on his boat that evening and would drop us off at the Air Force Hiran weather team site the next day. He did shoot a large salt water crocodile just off the boat that evening. His workers dove into the water, but could not find it. On 21 October, we arrived at the Air Force weather station. I had to make radio contact with both the party chief and the project manager/supervisor to explain what had happened. I understood all where quite concerned, and from then on we where known as the pathfinders and took a lot of flak. A few weeks later we learned that the US Navy Hydrographic team on Manus Island had also left their site there for the beach. They too had gotten mired down and where apparently missing for two or three days. After that we didn't feel so bad. After some rest and swimming at the beach, we made the long climb back up the mountain to the site on 23 October 1962. This time we had guides to lead the way.
"Bluff #2" on Saipan
Hughes working on our Tellurometer Ruo Island
The T4 Theodolite on station at New Britain.
On New Years eve 1962, I had gone to bed early in anticipation of leaving the site the next morning.
On New Years Day, 1 January 1963 I departed the survey camp at 0700 hours. The native hire, two other locals that he had brought up, and one of the Air Force HIRAN team members accompanied myself. We reached the village (Komgi) at 1500 hours. Both the Air Force man and myself slept on the floor of a thatched building that served as a school room and doctors office. The next morning we departed the village at 0600 hours. It was a long up and down and hot walk, but we arrived at the New Missaua Cocoa Plantation at 1430. The plantation was owned/managed by an Australian and his wife. Here I learned that there was no ground route through the jungle from the plantation to Rabaul. He did say that his wife had a scheduled trip to Rabaul on 4 January using their boat. They welcomed us to stay there at the plantation until then. They served us excellent meals, and provided us with nice quarters for the two nights we where there. The owner/manager gave us a great tour of his plantation. On 4 January 1962, an Air Force HIRAN team member and the local guides departed for the survey camp. I boarded the plantations small boat with the owner's wife, and we cruised across the bay to a docking area on the north side. Here the plantation kept a Land Rover locked in a garage. We then proceeded by vehicle over a small track road across the peninsula into Rabaul. I had no definite instructions of what to do at this point. All I was told was that someone would contact me in Rabaul for further transportation. The plantation owner's wife said she would drop me off at one of the few hotels in town that had the best rates. I checked into the hotel (bungalow) and waited. Between 5 January and 10 January, I was in complete limbo. I had no communication from anyone at all. I had just enough money to carry me through 12 January, then I had the only option of moving down and camping on the beach. I was beginning to get quite concerned, and on 10 January had decided to attend the single movie theater that was in town. As I was standing in line to purchase a ticket, I happened to notice a person who appeared to be wearing a US Air Force uniform. I approached him and asked where he was from. He indicated he had just flown in on a C-47 from Guam on the way to Port Morsbey. He said they where supposed to pick up someone here in Rabaul. I told him it was probably myself, and asked when the plane was leaving. He said the plane was departing early the next morning. I immediately rushed back to the hotel to gather my few belongings together. Just as I arrived back, the phone rang. It was the Army liaison officer who was on the C-47. He had tracked me down, and said they would pick me up the following morning. I was ready early the next morning, and was able to ride out to the airport with the flight crew. On 11 January, I departed Rabaul on the C-47, and we landed in Port Morseby, New Guinea on the same day. The project was in the process at that time of relocating the operations to Port Morseby, and many of the functions/personnel where already in place there.
The project had arranged for a block of rooms at a local hotel near the Port Morseby Airport. I was able to check into one of these rooms. The hotel had a nice dining hall and bar. The liaison Army officer had carried some back pay down for the Army field troops, so I was able to have a few dollars to tide me over. Over the three years I had been working on the field survey projects, it was both mail and pay that where hard to come by. The delivery of both was sporadic at best, and it would sometimes by one or two months before we got either or both. I was told that the C-47 would be returning to Guam sometime in the next few days, but no schedule had been set. On the morning of 12 January 1963 I was having breakfast in the dining hall. The Army liaison officer approached me and inquired if I wanted a free trip down to Sydney, Australia. I said yes, and he instructed me to collect a bag and proceed out to the airport with the flight crew. We landed in Sydney, Australia later that day. I began to get worried about not having a passport/visa, however apparently since we where in a US Air Force aircraft, we required nothing. I accompanied the flight crew out and we caught a local taxi to a large hotel in downtown Sydney.
On checking into the hotel, I was wearing the best clothes (pretty shabby) that I had. As the bellhop approached our room with the bags, the strap on my bag fell completely off. Over the year it had rotted and deteriorated badly. The bellhop didn't know what to do, so I just took the bag and proceeded into the room. I was sharing a room with one of the Air Force C-47 flight crew. The next morning, I definitely didn't want to remain in the room all day, so I inquired at the front desk when clothing stores opened nearby. I counted my money and decided on an amount I could afford to buy some clothes with. Finally around 1000 hours I was located a couple of clothing stores. I was able to purchase a pair of pants and a couple of shirts that was within my budget. I spent the rest of the day touring the town of Sydney and taking photographs. The C-47 was scheduled to fly back to Port Morseby on the morning of 14 January.
We departed Sydney and arrived in Port Morseby on the same day. I spent the next two days in Port Morseby before the C-47 returned to Guam. I was able to tour Port Morseby, and help one of the project computers move into an apartment overlooking the city. I arrived on Guam on 16 January at 1600 hours. After two more days on Guam awaiting transportation, I departed on a MATS flight and landed in Tachikawa Air Force Base, Japan at 0100 hours on 19 January 1963.
EDITOR'S NOTES: The following information was written, compiled and submitted by PAUL (NICK) HALL.
The LST 529 was going to remain in port until the helicopter had been repaired. Based on this information, the project manager/supervisor requested that the astro team observe a second order astronomic position there on Guam. This was in support of project Betty, an Army Map Service project. The site was actually on Anderson Air Force base, and we could drive to the location. Between 19 August and 28 August we made both the latitude and longitude observations and reduced/computed the data. Even though it was only a one or two night project, clouds and rain hampered the completion. We usually went to the site, then waited there for a weather break each night. After several nights, we took along a case of beer and enjoyed the evening while we waited.
Finally on 30 August 1962 we departed Guam on the LST 529. The next two weeks where a repeat of the last trip. The astro team was again assigned with the task of assisting on the loading/unloading of the HIRAN/Sodano teams equipment and re-supply items. The LST made re-supply stops at Truk Island, Satawan Island, and at Ngatik Island, Nukuoro Island, and Kapingimaringi Island for re-supply and to remove the Army Sodano teams. On 8 September the LST returned to Kavieng, New Ireland for helicopter repairs. Here we where allowed to go ashore for the day/evening. The astro team spent the time at the Kavieng Hotel bar, and made it back to the ship just before curfew somehow. On 12 September we departed Kavieng and proceeded to Tabar Island and unloaded one of the Sodano azimuth teams. From there the LST sailed to New Hanover where we unloaded an Air Force HIRAN team. Then on 16 September 1962 the LST again arrived off Mussau Island. By the end of the day the Air Force HIRAN team, an Army Sodano azimuth team, and believe it or not our astronomic observing team where put ashore with all equipment at the site.
Between 17 September and 30 September the camps and equipment where set up at the site by all three teams. Our astro team completed the latitude, longitude, and azimuth observations. At this site, it was necessary to make the astronomic azimuth observations on separate sets of East and West stars. We where now below the equator, and "Polaris" was not visible. The south star "Sigma Octanis" was very difficult to identify and see. Once again, a roster was set up for cooking and KP duties on our team. We had finally convinced our liaison people to provide us with the same supplemental food rations that the Air Force teams had been receiving. This helped spice up the day to day five-in-one rations we had been provided. With these each cook was able to come up with some interesting meals. To bake our cakes/biscuits, I constructed an oven with a rack out of an empty five-gallon can. To conserve our drinking water, we fabricated eaves on the large tent to catch rain water for bathing and cleaning. By 30 September, we had completed and checked all of the astronomic observation data.
On 5 September we again boarded the FS 216 with equipment and vehicle and departed for Guam, arriving on 6 September.
The Pathfinders (L- R Myself, Tracy, "Wild-Man" Fields, Kummer, Street)
Our quarters at the survey site on New Britain
Once the astronomic observations and other allied work were completed on Saipan, four personnel, including myself, where assigned to one of the traverse/triangulation teams.
We attempted, but where unable to recover an existing control monument on Mount Tagpochau. However the survey party chief, SFC Daniel (Stonewall) Jackson recovered a trig station that was located in deep tanga-tanga brush below the summit. We then had to cut a line of sight through the very heavy jungle growth in an attempt to tie this survey monument to Station Summit. This required over a week of cutting with only machetes and hand axes. After all the work, the line proved to be off directly to station Summit, but we where able to traverse/triangulate up to the station.
Our survey monument (Summit) was located at the north end of the island within the US Navy secure area. The monument was set at the top of a high bluff located above the Pacific Ocean/rocks on Mount Marpi at Marpi Point. It had been a Japanese defense bunker during WWII and the point where many civilians had apparently leaped to their death as the US Marines approached. The nearby jungle areas contained many relics of that WWII battle. These included Japanese gas masks, shoes, helmets, and the occasional skull/skeleton. Some of these soldiers had obviously died as a result of some type of flame-thrower activity. During our stay and nearby, we discovered a complete Japanese machine gun set up and ready and the entrance of a small cave. The bunker had been built up using local coral rock, and on 11 August 1961 we set up our tent/camp here.
Centipede Haven: During our first few days/nights at the point, I had noticed many of the normal small size centipedes in the area. At that point in time, I thought nothing of it. Even though we could actually see the two northern islands (Anatahan and Bird) during the day at times, at night, the ocean fog/mist/haze would obscure our lines of sight. It happened that after a few nights on the site, I was asleep on my canvas cot very early in the morning hours. I awoke suddenly, not by any movement or sound, but strangely enough by an unusual odor. At that instant, I did feel something large moving at the top of my head. I instinctively grabbed it. It felt large and it began twisting and squirming in my hand. Then before I could throw the creature, it bit me on top of the head. I tossed whatever it was (we never found it) and grabbed a flashlight. Very quickly a very sharp pain began around the bite area. I awoke my assistant (Paul Smith) and explained to him what had happened. Not knowing if I had been poisoned or not, we decided to walk down to the area security gate. (Our team was not supposed to leave the site unescorted). Upon our arrival at the gate, the guard called for some type of vehicle and we where transported to the small US Navy medical clinic on their base. Here the doctor was not sure how to handle the situation. He cleaned the bite area, gave me an anti-biotic injection and put me on a 24 hour observation. By the next afternoon, the pain had stopped and I felt fine. After a visit from the survey team NCOIC (SFC Daniel Jackson), the doctor released me and I returned to the survey site.
Approximately a week after the first problem, and again very early one morning, I heard my assistant (Smith) call my name once. He then repeated my name again several times. Our cots where just a few feet apart inside the small hex tent. He asked me to find a light. I picked up the nearest flashlight and turned it on. My assistant was sitting on the edge of his cot, and his right hand was gripped around the top of his T-shirt. There to our shock was a very large 3 to 5 inch squirming centipede. He asked me to get something to grab it with. Not really knowing how we would do it, I reached for a nearby pair of pliers. As I moved, my assistant suddenly screamed "It's slipping, it's slipping". He then leaped up ripping his T-shirt into shreds, and we both jumped onto the top of our cots as the flashlight hit the ground and went out. After some quite tense moments, I fumbled around and found the flashlight and got it turned back on. My assistant was still standing on the top of his cot, his T-shirt hanging in shreds and his face white as a sheet. We never found/saw where the centipede went.
Then, believe it or not, I had a repeat of my first encounter with a centipede. Once again early in the morning, I was awakened not by any movement, but a strange odor. I knew immediately what it was, and then felt the movement at the side of my face. As I grabbed it, it bit the top of my ear. This time I had to actually yank it off, as it had its pinchers in my ear. It took out a small piece of the top of my ear which began to bleed. Once again there was immediate pain at the bite, but this time seemed much worse than the first episode. I again tossed the centipede, but was able to spot it before it slithered into the rocks. It was somewhere around 3 to 5 inches long and about ½ to 1 inch wide. It was colored with red/yellow-orange and perhaps black alternating bands, and had many legs. Since I had no side effects (other than the pain) from the first bite, I decided to stay on the site and let the pain subside. However, this was the last straw; I immediately moved my cot outside of the tent. I set all six legs into empty C-ration cans filled with water and slept out in the rain covered with my pancho until we completed the job there.
Not long before we where able to complete the island to island angle/direction ties on Saipan, one additional episode occurred with the island insect population. Due primarily to boredom, the two of us on the site decided to explore a nearby area looking for souvenirs (not supposed to leave the site). We proceeded to cut a path through a large area of very tall and thick saw grass. This saw grass grew over large areas and was very sharp. A few yards into the thicket, we where set upon by a swarm of wasps. Before I could even react, I was stung several times on my left wrist area. Fortunately I was wearing a full set of shirt/pants and hat. We left the area immediately and that ended our souvenir hunt. However, the sting area on my left wrist became very painful and had suddenly swollen quite large. It was several days before the swelling, redness, and tenderness had subsided and it was back to normal.
Because of the distance involved between Saipan, Anatahan Island and Bird Island making the required horizontal direction/zenith distance observations where very difficult. Fog or haze and rain continually obstructed one or more lines-of sight between the islands. As I recall, our tellurometers (MRA1) failed to operate during the long period we where on the site. Our communications where made between the islands and the FS 216 ship (when possible) using the old ANG9 radios, hand crank generators, and PRC10 radios. On 31 August, the last day that we where scheduled to be on the site, the sky/horizon cleared just at sunset. We set up the Wild T3 theodolite and our five-inch survey lights and all three stations where able to complete the required observations. At first our computer thought that the triangle had busted, but once he applied the spherical excess, it closed very well.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The introduction history was taken from several sources including George Jacob's later history of the unit.
ARMY MAP SERVICE FAR EAST
29th ENGINEER BATTALION (Base Topographic)
29th ENGINEER COMPANY (Base Survey)
I began the tour of duty with the 29th Engineer Company (Base Survey) in January 1960 when I traveled aboard the USS Daniel I. Sultan troopship from Oakland, California to Yokohama, Japan. The unit had been involved in the surveying and mapping on the Philippine Islands mapping project between 1945 and 1954. This included 1st, 2nd, and 3rd order geodetic control surveys, photogrammetric surveys, collection of maps produced by foreign mapping agencies, and the collection of geodetic data and engineer intelligence data for the Army Map Service. Once that project had been completed, the surveying mapping contingents where transferred to a small camp (Oji Camp) located in Tokyo, Japan in 1954. The Army Map Service Far East was an arm of the Army Map Service located in Washington, D.C. and was located at Oji Camp. The 29th Engineer Battalion consisted of four companies (Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 34th Cartographic Company, 95th Reproduction Company, and the 29th Survey Company).
At Oji Camp in Tokyo, the 29th Engineer Battalion assumed the responsibility for Korea and Okinawa under the Army Map Service Far East. Once there, the Battalion absorbed the 64th Engineer Topographic Battalion and continued the mission of providing topographic support to US and Allied forces in the Pacific area.
Upon my arrival with the 29th Engineer Company, the unit was tasked with supporting DOD and US Army field survey requirements throughout the Far East including Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, SE Asia, and many other locations. Throughout my three plus years with the unit, I was involved on several major surveying projects and several smaller projects, as well as an extended period of specialized training on astronomic observations and computations.
This narrative includes two of the major/extended survey projects that I was involved on during my tour of duty with the 29th Engineer Survey Company
THE MARIANA ISLAND CHAIN TRAVERSE/TRIANGULATION SURVEY
In July 1961 I was assigned to an astronomic survey team that was deployed to the Island of Guam located in the Marianas Islands. This was the beginning of a major geodetic survey project to connect several of the islands in the Marianas chain. These islands included Guam, Rota, Tinian, Saipan, Anatahan, Sarigan, and Farallon De Medinilla. At this time, two US Army FS ships where assigned to the Army Map Service Far East to support any ongoing operations. For this particular project the FS 216 was assigned to transport the survey teams to and between the several islands in the chain.
This survey project consisted of observing triangulation/traverse survey ties between Guam and the above islands in the Northern Marianas Island chain. Some of this work had possibly been accomplished in the past using only triangulation procedures. Now that the new tellurometer distance measuring equipment (MRA1 microwave) had come on line, it was apparently decided to now strengthen the ties with angle/distances as well as additional LaPlace azimuths and astronomic positions.
NOTE: Years later, I learned that this project was continued north to the most northern island in the Marianas chain (Farallon De Pajaros) after I departed Oji Camp. It's possible that portions of this project were re-observed, I expect to fill in gaps that we did not observe (ex: Tinian-Saipan tie) but perhaps to upgrade the distance measurements with newer tellurometers. The original tellurometers (MRA1) we had at that time where not that reliable, and I am not sure exactly how many distances on the project we where able to measure.
Due to the scope of the project and the logistics involved, the personnel where originally divided into an astronomic team and several angle/distance teams. Later into the project the astronomic team was integrated into the angle/distance teams. I was selected to be the observer on the astronomic team. The project began on Guam, in the Marianas Islands. Three personnel (Watson, Smith, and Farwig) and myself where flown to Anderson AFB on Guam from Tachikawa AFB in Japan on 7 July 1961. The FS 392 survey ship arrived at the US Coast Guard Station on Guam on 10 July 1961 and we unloaded our astronomic survey equipment and a three-quarter ton truck. Our first task was to observe an astronomic position and astronomic azimuth on the survey monument that served as Guam's datum point (Togcha Lee). I made these observations with the Wild T4 theodolite, the allied electronic equipment and a Wild T3 theodolite. These observations where much delayed by the weather in the form of rain and heavy clouds. We camped at the site, and after a reconnaissance for the azimuth mark on 12 July, we worked on the observations and computations for latitude, longitude and azimuth between 13 July and 25 July. The FS-216 survey ship arrived on 16 July and docked at the US Coast Guard station on Guam. The ship had brought the remainder of the survey personnel and equipment.
NOTE: After we had returned to Tokyo, Japan we saw/heard on the news, the story of the last Japanese soldier's surrender. Apparently he had been living/hiding on Guam in a cave. His location put him very near the survey station Togcha-Lee, which we had occupied for the astronomic observations. This station was in heavy jungle at that time, so he could have been very close.
This project was very involved and very time consuming. This was primarily due to the logistics involved and inclement weather in that area. With only one ship (FS 216) to transport and move personnel and equipment and extended periods of bad weather including heavy rain, heavy seas, and even two typhoons, the project extended much past its expected completion date. The project survey team's task was a first order traverse from Guam to Rota Island, then to Tinian Island. We then where to make triangulation/distance observations from Saipan Island north to Anatahan Island, Bird Island (Farallon De Medinilla), and then to Sarigon Island.
Once we had completed the astronomic position on Guam (through rain/bugs/mosquito swarms) we transferred to the FS 216 on 26 July 1961 and where taken to Saipan. At that time Saipan had no airfield and was under the jurisdiction of the US Navy. The US Navy had a small compound on the Island just outside the small village where they administered the island affairs. Once we had offloaded our equipment and ¾ ton truck from the FS ship, they provided us with quarters and an equipment storage area. The north section of the Island was a secure area under the US Navy control. Of course, this was the area that we required access in order to make the survey ties north. At the US Navy's request, we had to be cleared and escorted in and out of the area at their discretion. We installed a survey monument in this area (Station Troy) and I observed an astronomic position with the Wild T4 theodolite and a first order astronomic azimuth with the Wild T3 theodolite. The azimuth observations where made at an existing station nearby (Bluff #2) to another existing monument (Summit) located on Mount Marpi above Marpi Point. We completed the astronomic observations and computations between 28 July and 5 August 1961.
On 9 September 1961, due to a major typhoon approaching Guam Skipper King of the FS 216 decided to leave the US Coast Guard dock and sail out into open water. The FS ship made it through the very heavy seas and wind and returned to dock unscathed on 11 September.
Throughout the project, I also assisted on short level lines at various locations for elevation ties on both Guam, Saipan, and Tinian. As the survey teams where moved/transported, I was involved and assisted in the loading and unloading of personnel and equipment from the FS-216 survey ship. At some locations we had to land the teams and equipment by assault boats, rubber raft, and help pack their equipment to certain areas. The nature of the project required the survey personnel to remain on board the FS ship for long periods of time. Some of these periods where involved with survey computations and equipment cleaning/repair. So it did not take long for the majority of the personnel to find their sea legs, even through the typhoons. Therefore the brief periods we had in a particular port and when we where not engaged in survey activities became times to enjoy.
On 19 September the FS 216 departed Guam again and sailed to Rota Island where I assisted on the dropping off of the traverse/triangulation survey team there. From Rota Island, the ship sailed back north first to Sarigan Island and then Bird Island. However Skipper King judged the seas to be too rough to make any type of landing at either Island using assault boat or rubber raft. Neither Island had any type of available port/dock that the FS ship could approach. By 21 September, the FS ship returned to the US Coast Guard station on Guam.
ROTA: The FS-216 dropped anchor off the shore of Rota Island on 19 September. During the stay, we where to place a traverse/triangulation survey team on the south end of the island. Several of us assisted in loading/unloading their equipment onto the assault boat and taking it onto the island. As the FS Ship was remaining at anchor until the next day, we managed to have some time at the local island general store/bar. Later that afternoon, after several beers we had to return back to the ship. Both our electronic repairmen decided that they wanted to take a swim off the ship. The skipper had warned them not to take a swim in these waters, but they went ahead and jumped in anyway. Within a few minutes, we heard both of them screaming and rapidly climbing up the side ships ladder. They both rushed into the shower and began washing off. What had happened is that they had jumped into a large area of stinging jellyfish. Even after washing, they where in extreme pain and developed very large red welts all over their bodies. It was a few days before they where back to normal.
To make the Guam to Rota Island tie, SP4 Paul Smith myself and where assigned to make the survey observations. We where to make astronomic azimuth observations and direction ties north to Rota Island. The survey control monument was located on Anderson Air Force Base, and on 22 September we used our ¾ ton truck and traveled to the point. Even though our survey monument was on Anderson AFB, it was off the runway in a heavy jungle area. Here again, we had to be escorted into the site, so we remained there living in a tent until we could complete the observations. The azimuth mark was quite a distance away, so we had to set up a permanent battery connection since we where not supposed to leave the site. Fortunately this worked well until we completed the astronomic azimuth observations. Not many nights after setting up the camp, I was wakened very early in the morning hours with an unusual weight on my chest. I slowly picked up my nearby flashlight and switched it on. There staring me right in the face was a very large (huge) rat. I sat straight up and it hit the ground and scurried off. Upon checking, we discovered the area was crawling with the rodents. From then on we attempted to leave some type of light on in the tent during the night. Then, after approximately a week on the site, early one afternoon we heard voices nearby. Out of the jungle approached two US Air Force Air Police. They both had canine dogs on leashes. Apparently the word of our being in the area had faded away. They where themselves quite concerned, as they indicated they had almost decided to release the dogs on us before they saw the tent. We completed the required horizontal direction and zenith distance observations to Rota Island, two nights of astronomic azimuth and performed the azimuth computations between 23 September and 4 October. On 5 October we returned to the US Coast Guard station just as another typhoon was heading for Guam. The FS ship had already departed the dock for open seas, so we had to remain inside the US Coast Guard facilities through 7 October until the storm had passed.
After the typhoon had passed, the FS 216 returned to Guam. On 15 October, one of the surveyors and myself where then assigned a survey elevation tie at a small US Air Force communications site. The project had a US Army ¾ ton truck to support the land requirements. The truck was transported on the FS- Ship and had been off-loaded here for our use. After leaving the dock at the US Coast Guard station, we where proceeding toward Agana where we planned to drop off several personnel including some ship's crew members and surveyors. Not far from the US Coast Guard Station/dock, on a short straight stretch of road, we noticed a semi-truck approaching. I was in the passenger seat and the rest of the personnel in the open back of the truck. As the semi neared, it began to drift into our lane. Our driver started to move toward the right shoulder, until at the last second our truck was actually on the road shoulder above a small bank. The semi then scrapped along our truck's driver side tipping our truck up onto two wheels. I could see the ground out the passenger's side window as we tipped up. Then, apparently as the semi caught our spare tire located on the drivers door and the back fender, it spun our truck completely around and we bounced and landed back on the four tires and stopped. It was a miracle that not one of the personnel in the back of the truck was ejected. After the dust had settled and authorities had arrived, the semi-truck driver admitted he might have fallen asleep.
TINIAN: On 18 October, we once again boarded the FS 216 and the ship sailed first to Rota Island, then on 19 October on to Tinian Island. At Tinian, the FS ship could dock and tie up at the badly deteriorated island dock/pier, which had apparently been badly neglected over the years. I was assigned to observe an astronomic azimuth on the south end of the island. This was the island from which the two B-29 bombers left to drop the A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. A small monument to that occasion was in place near the old airfield, which was at that time badly deteriorated and overgrown with brush. During the stay on Tinian, I observed the first order astronomic azimuth with the Wild T3 theodolite on the 19th and 20th of October. Over the next couple of days we performed the astronomic azimuth computations to ensure it met the project specifications. The monument we occupied was the one that was utilized to make the triangulation/traverse tie across to Rota Island.
Special Insert Concerning the USS Wexford County (LST 1168)
From: Troy D Carpenter
Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2012 15:49:30 -0700
Subject: Re: LST 1168
> 31 May 2012
> My name is Troy D. Carpenter, and while in my local Drs.
> office today I picked up a copy of the Latest Sea Classics
> magazine. There I noticed in the reunion section a mention
> of the USS Wexford County (LST 1168).
> While I was not a crew member on the vessel, or even in the
> US Navy, I do remember my time on the vessel in 1962.
> I was a member of a US Army survey team performing astronomic
> surveys in the SW Pacific area. Our team as well as US Air Force
> teams and a US Navy civilian team boarded the vessel in Guam on
> 31 January 1962. Between then and 31 May 1962, the LST transported
> the teams south to the Islands of Truk, Ruo, Ponape, Oroluk,
> Nukuroro, and Kapingimaringi. The teams where dropped off at their
> respective sites to complete their observations, then taken on to
> the next location.
> Hope you all have a great reunion. Perhaps someone there will
> remember this period.
On Fri, 1 Jun 2012 17:54:51 +0000 pbmiller@************:
> Hi Troy:
> Thanks for your email.
> I know of one shipmate who remembers the cruise you mentioned. His
> name is Bill Goldman. He served on the Wexford County from 1961 -
> 1965. He was a BMSN at the time of your deployment and left our ship
> as a BM2.
> There may be others of your vintage who attend the reunion. With
> your permission I will read out your email at the time we read
> greetings for those who can not attend.
> I am pleased you took the time to write.
> Paul B. Miller
1 June 2012
Thanks for the feedback. Good to hear that there is
a crew member who remembers that cruise.
No problem in passing on the message.
Again, hope you all have a great reunion.
The Recon Boat "Jason" in the Solomons
FS 216 at the Dock Tinian Island, Marianas
US Navy LST 1168
OTHER HAPPENINGS ON OROLUK ISLAND:
As we arrived at Oroluk Island and where dropped onto the beach by the helicopter, most of the inhabitants where there. These people where of Polynesian origin, as where others on the Islands that extended south to the Equator. They had dressed up for the occasion, and the young woman had put on her best bra to be presentable to us. Of course in those days, seeing a woman in a bra was not normal, and we where a little taken back. Very soon we learned that the actual dress of the area was no bra at all.
One humorous incident occurred that involved our party chief/NCOIC and the young lady. We had built a small out house away from our camp site. Most of the island was covered with small trees and scrub brush, so a location had been chosen in this area. Here we where able to excavate to an adequate depth, and constructed a one-seater with a thatched roof and open sides. Unknown to us, this location was on a direct line between the small village and our camp. Very early one morning, the party chief went to the out-house for his morning visit. Then suddenly the young lady appeared as she was walking to our camp. Since there was nothing neither one could do, the party chief just said "good morning", she replied "good morning" and continued on her way.
The two younger men visited our camp frequently, and one evening brought over a large quantity of their local home brew. This was Tuba, which was made from coconut juice that had been fermented in the sun for about a month. They placed the juice into a large Japanese glass ball floats. They then let it sit in the sun. Of course we had quite a party there in our computing tent. The first few drinks tasted just like "piss" ants, but after that it made no difference. Due to US Navy regulations, they would not deliver any type of alcohol to any of our sites. Therefore in most cases we had to fall back on local brews or the homemade types. It was rumored that drinking enough Tuba would make you go blind, but we saw no evidence of that.
Of course we did do a lot of swimming during our stay. Most of it was inside the lagoon in shallow water. However, several times we accompanied the two younger island men on their outrigger to the deep water outside the reef. The Polynesians where great swimmers and could remain under water for a long period of time. Our party chief/NCOIC (SFC Daniel Jackson) was from Louisiana and had grown up by/in the water. A bet was made that he could remain under holding onto the reef longer than the Polynesians. As it turned out, the three went down, and sure enough, he was the last to break the surface and won the bet. On one day, the younger men had decided to go shark fishing. All the surveyors where aboard their outrigger canoe, and we where just beyond the reef. Then the outrigger was swamped by a large wave. Our computer (Noyola) could not swim, and unknown to us we didn't know that the canoe would not sink completely. We all went into the water except our computer who had frantically climbed out onto the outrigger extension and was holding on for dear life. The canoe did fill completely with water, but floated just below the surface. As I looked back to the island, I realized that we where rapidly being pulled out to sea. Fortunately the Polynesians didn't panic, and knew what to do. Between all of us, they showed us how to rock the canoe back and forth and eventually float it back on the surface again. We then paddled back to the edge of the reef where the reef dropped down into a black nothing. Here the Polynesians hooked a couple of sharks, brought them up and killed them. They then dove down with the dead sharks and tied them onto the sloping reef. Very quickly from out of nowhere, a large swarm of sharks of all sizes (some quite large) appeared. The two Polynesians stayed there among them, even when one shark chased them into a small crevice. I watched all this while hanging off the outrigger until my better judgement told me to get into the canoe as the sharks began to approach the surface.
The word was that sharks would/could not enter the lagoon. One day I was snorkeling just off the rocky beach near our site. I was in a shallow area of the lagoon where coral outcrops provided small separated areas. I happened to glance over to the adjacent area, and there just a few meters away was a large shark. I am sure that in the shallow waters it appeared larger than it was. Regardless I made a quick retreat back to the beach and informed everyone.
One of our sea excursions almost ended in disaster. Our electronics repairman wanted to do a little spear fishing. One of the islanders had constructed him up a spear gun made with discarded items. It was low tide when we basically walked/waded along the reef and lagoon, We actually went further than we had realized, as he messed around attempting to spear fish, etc. It was then late afternoon when we decided we had better return to the island. By this time, the tide had risen and there was a very strong current running against us. The exposed reef was now under water and we had to begin swimming. It became very difficult, and it appeared we where not getting any closer to the island. We where both in danger of being swept out across the reef into the ocean. I became almost exhausted, but realized I had to keep going or drown. Then, what was probably just minutes before I might have a major problem, we reached an area of the lagoon where there where numerous large brain coral outcrops. Even with the current we where able to stand on some of these with our heads just above the water. This gave us enough time to gain strength and to swim over to the next one. We eventually reached the beach and kept this incident to ourselves.
Near the end of our stay on Oroluk Island, we talked the Polynesian men into sailing us out to an old Japanese fishing boat stuck onto the reef. Apparently it had been blown onto the reef years before by a storm. It took us a few hours by tacking back and forth to reach the wreck. Not much but the frame was left of the ship. It had probably been stripped years before. Then as we began the sail back, the wind was with us. We had a very exciting ride and made the trip back to the island in less than hour.
We had received word through our sporadic radio connection that the LST was due in to pick us up. We did not know of the exact date. The people in the small village decided to give us a going away feast and had set up a time and place. As it turned out, the LST 1168 arrived on the very day that the feast was planned for. Our party chief/NCOIC talked to the ships Captain and explained the situation. He allowed us to go ahead and attend the meal while they unloaded a HIRAN team and equipment. It was a real Polynesian luau with most of the food taken from the island itself. We had fish, coconut in various forms, and the large sea turtle. The sea turtle was excellent, tasting just like chicken. The entire meal was set upon a large woven mat on the ground and included a coconut/banana drink, and of course was eaten with our hands. The only non-island food was rice. The island peoples supply ship had just arrived at the island about three days before. It had picked up the few bags of copra they had managed to harvest and dropped off their re-supply of food and departed. This was primarily a few bags of rice and a few other staples. They did not know when the ship would return when we left.
After the feast was over, the astro team and equipment was transferred to the LST by helicopter and we departed Oroluk Island at 1700 hours on 25 April 1962. One last incident related to Oroluk Island occurred before the ship departed. A couple of nights before we had tore down our camp on the island, the younger of the two Polynesian men had came to our camp. He indicated he wanted to stay there in one of our tents. He had apparently been in some type of confrontation with the other man. Our party chief denied his request, not wanting to be involved in any local problems. As we departed Oroluk, we learned that one of the men was on the ship. As we discovered, the two men had apparently gotten into a knife fight over the one young girl that was on the island. The one man had made his way to the ship and requested basically asylum and transport away from the island. The Captain apparently believing that there was imminent danger to the man, allowed him to be placed into the ships brig and transported to Ponape Island. Some of our surveyors did see the man one more time on Ponape Island when the LST stopped there later.
RUO ISLAND, MURILLO ATOLL, CAROLINE ISLANDS
On 31 January 1962 we where transported with our equipment to the port and boarded the US Navy LST 1168. The LST departed Guam on 1 February 1962. The ship proceeded to the Island of Truk where we assisted in the unloading of the US Navy Hydrographic Office astronomic team and an US Air Force HIRAN team and equipment. The ship departed Truk Island on 5 February and arrived off Ruo Island on 6 February 1962. The US Air Force recon team had not visited this site at that time. Once our personnel and equipment had been put ashore on the US Navy helicopter, we where tasked to assist them in clearing the line of site for their distance ranging/Sodano azimuth. Between 8 February and 20 February, we constructed the concrete astro pier, made the astronomic latitude/longitude observations, the astronomic azimuth observations, observed a 24 hour tide gage with short level line, and made some field computations. This site was right on the beach on the windward side of the island. It seemed like the wind/sand never stopped blowing, and we always had gritty food. On 21 February, the Navy helicopter had mechanical problems (the first of many), so the LST sent in rafts to take the personnel and equipment back to the LST.
The Sodano Camp on Mussau, Island
Astro Station "TROY"
Lallamand and Myself in Port of Rabaul, New Britian
SFC Daniel (Stonewall) Jackson with Doc, Watson and Farwig.
Leon Noyola at our mess tent Oroluk, Island
On 24 October I once again traveled on the FS 216 back to Guam, and after working on some local survey ties on the island between 27 and 30 October, I was on the FS 216 and we departed Guam on 31 October. The ship arrived at Saipan on 1 November, then on to Tinian on 2 November, continuing on to Rota Island. We where in the process of picking up survey teams, collecting survey equipment and other activities. The FS 216 arrived back at the US Coast Guard station on Guam on 3 November 1961.
On 7 November the FS 216 again departed Guam, and after a short stop at Saipan, arrived off of Bird Island on 8 November. The visit was an attempt to retrieve the survey equipment that was still stored on the island. However, again the seas where too rough to attempt a landing with the assault boat/rubber raft. The only location on the island to land personnel/equipment was a finger of coral outcrop that extended from a ridgeline that connected to the top of the mesa type mountain. The survey team had originally used this route to occupy the survey control monument. Skipper King decided to continue on to Anatahan Island to pick up the survey team and equipment there. However once there on 9 November, he deemed the seas there to rough for a landing, so we returned to Guam on 10 November awaiting better weather. On 10 November the FS 216 once again departed Guam and headed north, arriving off Bird island where the seas where too rough for a safe landing. The ship continued on to Anatahan Island and once there we encountered the same situation. We continued on north to Sarigan Island, and Skipper King made the decision to allow an attempt at making a landing there. On 14 November, I accompanied the landing team, and we successfully managed to make the landing in the rubber raft and collect the survey equipment and pick up the two man survey team personnel.
Once all was aboard, the FS 216 sailed back to Anatahan Island, and then because of the rough seas on to Bird Island on 15 November. Once off shore, the FS 216 circled Bird Island for the next two days, until Skipper King decided to return to Anatahan Island on 17 November. At last the seas had calmed, so we where able to land at the very narrow and small dock at the base of the trail leading down from the ridgeline. The survey team with the equipment where anxiously awaiting our arrival. We loaded all the equipment and personnel into the rubber raft and rowed out to the J-boat waiting offshore, which towed us back to the FS ship. On 19 November the FS 216 was back offshore at Bird Island, and as the seas had moderated somewhat, Skipper King again decided to allow us to attempt a landing. (NOTE: When the traverse/triangulation team had departed Bird Island after the Sarigan Island connection, because of high seas, they had left the survey equipment stored on the Island.)
I went in with SFC Daniel Jackson and two other survey personnel in the rubber raft. The J-boat towed us to within several hundred yards of the coral outcrop ridge that was the only location to drop off personnel. Even with the moderate seas, it was very difficult for SFC Jackson and another surveyor to transfer from the raft up onto the coral outcrop ridge. The large swells rose and dropped the raft several feet, and we had a difficult time keeping the raft off the coral outcrop. With luck, we managed to land the two personnel, but knew it was probably impossible to take them and equipment back off from that location. After some discussion, a decision was made on an alternate plan. On one side of the island, at the base of a high (approximately 50 foot) vertical cliff, existed a very small stretch of sandy beach. This small beach was not accessible from any location except from the sea. SFC Jackson decided that himself and the other surveyor could lower the survey equipment by rope down to the beach, and then they could climb down the rope to the sand beach. Once again the J-boat towed the rubber raft off this beach area and I along with two other surveyors rowed the rubber raft onto the beach. It took us two or three round trips to get all the survey equipment and other gear out to the J-boat as the team lowered the equipment down to the beach by rope. Then SFC Jackson shimmied down the rope to the beach and motioned for the other man to come down. However apparently due to the height, he froze and indicated that he could not do it. After a lot of urging and assuring, he finally decided to try, and made it down with no problem.
On 20 November 1961, after all personnel and equipment was back on board the FS-216, and we began the trip north back to Yokohama, Japan. Just after departure, we received a message that the ship was being diverted to Marcus Island to complete an astronomic position project there. Once again, I was selected to make the astronomic latitude and longitude observations. Marcus Island was one of the few islands that the US had not invaded in WWII. There still existed many Japanese bunkers complete with the weaponry inside. Also along the beach, near where the FS ship dropped anchor, where row upon row of US heavy equipment that had been slated for the invasion of the island. Most of it was construction type equipment that had been brought in and parked after the end of the war. The equipment was then apparently abandoned. Once we had completed the astronomic position observations and the computers had completed the computations, we re-boarded the FS Ship and continued on to Yokohama, Japan, arriving there on 29 November 1961.
SOUTHWEST PACIFIC HIRAN/SODANO AZIMUTH PROJECT
Once again my stay in Oji Camp in Tokyo was somewhat short. By the time we had organized/cleaned our equipment, we had some time off for the holidays. Just after the New Year of 1962, I was informed that several of the unit surveyors where to be deployed on a new large scale survey project in the Southwest Pacific area. This major project was to extend for several years after I departed the unit. On the evening of 25 January 1962 we departed by vehicle from Oji Camp to Tachikawa Air Force base and where flown to Guam, landing at the Anderson Air Force Base on 26 January 1962.
The Southwest Pacific Survey Project and its counterpart the Northwest Pacific Survey Project where assigned, administered, and controlled by the Army Map Service in Washington D.C. Only years later did I learn some of the actual purposes behind the projects. Even though geodetic positioning and mapping information was a by-product of the collected data, one of the primary purposes/use of the data was for the development of a worldwide geodetic datum. With the advent of ballistic missile and space systems, it was mandatory that a worldwide geodetic datum be developed and implemented. This data was incorporated into the Army Map Service World Geodetic System (WGS) datum. These have now evolved into the WGS84 datum used for the US Department of Defense Global Positioning System (GPS).
The project consisted of US Air Force personnel that where involved in the long range distances measurements using the HIRAN system. Air Force teams also performed the selection and reconnaissance of the survey sites. Our Oji Camp surveyors where assigned to accomplish the long range azimuth ties (Soda no), the astronomic position/astronomic azimuth determinations, and any site control survey ties. The US Navy was assigned the tasks for transporting all the ground teams to the site locations via US Navy LST ships and US Navy helicopters. In addition, a US Navy Hydrographic Office astronomic position team was deployed to assist on this task. The complete project was controlled and managed by Army Map Service civilians, and there was several Army Map Service civilian geodesists/computers involved in collecting gravity data and reducing the long range Sodano azimuths. In addition, there was US Army Officers/NCO's assigned to the operations office to coordinate the Army field teams, etc. One or two US Army Topographic Computers from Oji Camp where also assigned to this office to assist in the Sodano azimuth reductions.
On 26 January 1962 we landed at the US Naval Air Station on Guam and proceeded to Anderson Air Force Base. The project Operations Center was located here, and on the morning of 27 January 1962 we where giving a briefing on the project by the project manager/Supervisor (William Doxey). I was assigned to the astronomic observing team as an observer. At that time the astronomic team consisted of six personnel including two electronic repairmen. The astronomic survey team included SFC Daniel Jackson as NCOIC, Farwig, and Noyola. All these personnel except the two electronic repairmen (Hughes and Fiebech) had been involved with the original six-month astronomic training at Oji Camp. However, from this point forward, instead of receiving prior formal training on astronomic observations, the policy became to incorporate one to three personnel into the team for on-the-job training. This policy was to remain the norm for the rest of my Army career while I was involved on astronomic field projects. The Sodano long range azimuth teams where made up from eight personnel from Oji Camp. One Army NCO (SSG Rawlings) from Oji Camp was also assigned to the Guam operations as an Army field team liaison. From 28 through 30 January 1962 we worked on the development of our star observing list for the first site located on Ruo Island, Murrillo Atoll in the Caroline Islands.