Het verhaal achter een medaille maakt het een stuk geschiedenis in plaats van een voorwerp. Hier is het verhaal achter een Nieuw Guinea Herinneringskruis met gesp 1962. Dit kruis werd verleend aan allen die tenminste 3 maanden dienst deden in Nieuw Guinea tussen eind 1949 en 1962. Er is echter maar één type gesp, die met het jaartal 1962. Die gesp werd aan het kruis toegevoegd voor degenen die opgetreden hadden tegen “kwaadwilligen” in 1962. Het gaat dan om Indonesische infiltranten.
Vanaf 1961 voerde Indonesië actief actie om Nieuw Guinea, toen nog een Nederlandse kolonie die onderdeel was geweest van Nederlands Indië, aan de Indonesische Republiek toe te voegen. Nederland probeerde dit met behulp van meer militaire inzet te voorkomen. In 1962 waren er op het hoogtepunt ongeveer 1685 Nederlandse mariniers in Nieuw Guinea.
Omdat de Nederlandse militaire inzet internationaal politiek gevoelig lag moesten de militairen die in 1962 met burgervliegtuigen als versterking naar Nieuw Guinea vlogen ook als burger vliegen zonder zichtbare militaire zaken. Die moesten in de ruimbagage opgeborgen worden. Met name vanwege de tussenstop in Japan.
Rutten die als marinier is opgeleid tijdens zijn dienstplicht vliegt op 2 januari 1962 met een groepje versterkingen naar Nieuw Guinea. In zijn brieven is te lezen dat de aanvullingen en de oudgedienden niet direct goed met elkaar overweg kunnen maar die stonden vlak voor hun terugkeer naar Nederland.
Tijdens zijn verblijf op Nieuw Guinea (vooral Biak) schrijft hij veelvuldig brieven aan zijn moeder die bij de groep bewaard gebleven zijn. Daaruit blijkt ook dat hij in de loop van zijn tijd daar een fototoestel overneemt van een andere militair die naar Nederland terugkeert. Zo zijn er zowel foto’s als beschrijvingen van zijn activiteiten aldaar. Een paar foto’s en fragmenten op het kampement en “onderweg”:
Wat fragmenten uit zijn brieven die een indruk geven van de situatie:
17-1-’62 Dat geval met die torpedoboot moet je ook maar niet zo ernstig nemen want hier is niks loos mam, wel hebben we gisteren 8 infiltranten gevangen genomen…
22-2-’62 Op het ogenblik heb ik de wacht op de “Oregon-trail” mam, dat is ‘n post zo’n 20km de boes in, er komt hier bijna geen sterveling. Hier moeten we ‘n paar kust batterijen bewaken die hier het vliegveld beschermen tegen aanvallen vanuit zee, ook staat er een luchtdoelgeschut.
16-3-’62 Ik ga direct weg naar Kaimana waarschijnlijk. Het is wel plotseling en zo is het op het ogenblik een paniekzooitje…
20-3-’62 Mam we zijn hier in bivak gelegd om eventuele infiltranten op te vangen en stellingen te bouwen.
2-4-’62 We zijn vorige week met spoed vertrokken naar kampong pronLo (?), dat ligt tussen Kaimana en Merauke omdat hier een infiltratie heeft plaatsgehad. Toen zijn we hier geland en hebben het strand over een lengte van 70km afgezocht. Nou mama dat valt tegen want ieder ogenblik kun je beschoten worden…bij de kampong aangekomen hebben we twee complete rubberboten gevonden en 3 automatische machinepistolen met munitie. We hebben toen een patrouilletocht gemaakt de kali op maar alleen sporen gevonden. Het aantal wordt geschat op dertig.
17-4-’62 Verders mam hebben wij in Tronga 10 infiltranten gepakt, ze waren helemaal uitgehongerd en de meeste wapens die ze hadden waren zo verroest dat ze het niet meer deden.
De laatste brieven in de groep zijn van mei dus mogelijk is hij in juni weer naar Nederland gekomen? In ieder geval gaat zijn groot verlof pas in november van dat jaar in.
During worldwar two the Dutch naval airwing was still using mainly embroidered (bullion) wings for its men in Europe. This was different for the tropics where due to the amount of washing needed metal wings were used that could be easily detached from the uniform.
According to a source on internet (could not confirm this myself yet) the commander of the colonial naval forces ordered a batch of metal wings from the Toye firm in England for use in the tropics (order BDO.12.GHJ/345944) probably in 1943. A total of five wings were authorized for the navy at that moment: aviator / navigator / aviator+navigator / gunner / signaller. The first three, shown in the picture below, are full wings the other two and the later additions are half wings.
When they were actually produced and delivered is unclear. So far I have seen only pictures of these wings being worn in the Dutch East Indies post 1945 and of course into the 1950s and 60s in the Netherlands.
The wings are all marked TOYE SILVER but the silver content is unknown and they do not have an actual silver hallmark. The combined wing for Aviator and Navigator is the rarest and was constructed of a regular Aviator wing plus the specific addition of the wreathed W for Waarnemer (=navigator). The amount made was not large enough to make a specific die for this wing as a whole it seems, only for the wreathed W that was manually added!
Some original but unused surplus examples have come to the market in recent years.
This interesting photo links the Dutch East Indies with Germany and World War 1 and has a quite unknown theme for most so a great addition to my collection.
Sabang was an important freeharbour in the colonial Dutch East Indies. It was used to load coal for the international steamships that came on this route.
The Netherlands were neutral during WW1 which meant that ships entering the neutral harbour but were part of the countries in the war were not allowed to leave. This impacted mainly German ships as the English had their own presence in the region and did not need the Dutch harbour were the Germans did.
The German ships and their crews were interned for the duration of the war. Some ships escaped and also some German crews were able to escape on sailing boats out the harbour.
These two ships appear to be, for the time, modern steam freighters. The text on the photo mentions they are interned German steamships and it is dated 1915.
This leaves open quite a few possibilities I found out again with the help of the people on the Feldgrau forum. Ships from at least 3 German commercial shipping companies were interned in this harbour, Hansa, Hapa and the Norddeutsche Lloyd.
Will try to find out if I can determine the names of the ships. If you have more input this will be more than welcome also.
This group is now for sale as it is to far out of my collecting focus. If interested please contact me.
In a local auction I saw to my surprise some German pre WW1 and WW1 related items that came directly from the family that lived locally in the Netherlands in more recent years it seems.
As it happens in an auction most items were spread over different lots and with many bidders (unexpected) it was impossible to get everything but I chose to buy some items that at least keep the history and name of the original owner together with these items.
With some help on a German WW1 forum I was able to get a good overview of the career of this German officer from a noble family with an Italian background.
The 137th Infantry Regiment was located in the Alsace which has a history linked both to Germany and France (to which country it belongs currently). The small silver badge was given to then Captain Brentano by the officers of the 137th IR upon his leave to another regiment.
The group has two set of shoulder board for a 2nd lieutenant of this unit where he started his career in 1883 and he was promoted to 1st lt in 1892 so these would come from exactly that timeframe. He would leave the unit in 1899 which dates the silver plaque.
I was also able to buy a group of photo’s that belonged to him which helped to put a face to the name Karl Brentano.
This photo made it possible to put a face to the name which I then again found on some of the other photo’s in the items I bought!
His rank at the beginning of WW1 would be major and he would be commander of a part of Infanterie Regiment 75 (II/IR75 ) where he remaind for most of the war. In 1918 he wat promoted to colonel and received command of the 172nd Infantry Brigade and finishing his career as the commander of IR 75 in 1919 until the unit was dissolved. He would retire as General Major.
Some private items like these silver serviette rings also came in one of the lots. With the initials of Karl Brentano and his wife Paula.
The group has several pre-war photo’s but of the wartime nothing came to me and very little was in the auction at all.
So another surprise grouping out of my focus area but interesting and researchable!
The military history of the 20th centrury and smoking seem to go hand in hand in all conflicts and all countries. Due to that lighers make up part of the small pieces of history connected to units, conflicts and locations.
Especially the Zippo and its lookalikes have become the brand connected with the (US) military. It had a lot of options for customization offered to customers. I do not mean the (often fake) crude engravings made in Vietnam but the acid etched, often coloured variations that were officially made by Zippo for the customers. From the 50s until the 80s loads of these were made in all sorts of variations. Here follows a selection from my collection ordered by date/period
This submarine saw extensive service in WW2 and ended its operational period in Japan after which it was decommissioned in 1946. But due to the Korean war it was recommissioned in 1952 for that war and afterward again decommissioned in 1955 after which it again was put back in use in 1958 but this time under somewhat different name, as the AGSS311. Exact date inclear but likely 1950s.
Two well used examples from the same year:
US Army, Signal Corps, Zippo 1960
(Hollands) Signaal, Dutch manufacturer in the Weapons Industry, Zippo 1960
The item below is a small commercial pocket knife and not a lighter but it was produced by Zippo as well. Due to the two military subjects it can be dated to 1962 or 1963. The years the Commando vehicle and the Stoner MG were introduced, both were produced by Cadillac Gage.
UNEF United Nations Emergency Force, Middle East, Canadian participation, Zippo 1978, double sided
Some more Navy Zippo’s, several countries, dates and ships
And to help you dating your own Zippo this overview will help!
Next to Zippo there were all sort of makers offering similar lighters and services and also very different types of lighters were made for the military like the WW2 Service Lighter by Dunhill that was aimed at the US forces as a relatively cheap but high quality lighter.
It is fun to look for lighters with unexpected and special engravings and although it is not a focus within my collection I tend to pick up nice examples when I find them (only locally in the Netherlands though). I will add more lighters as they come in.
Photo albums can be a great source of historic information but sadly often the context of the photo’s has been lost over time. This blog is in regard to such an album that has been in my collection for a long time. Recently I dove into it again and now with the modern digital sources I found an interesting background.
The photos seem to be of an NCO in a Hungarian military unit that is involved in railway repairs. There is family crest with name in the beginning of the album and next to the military photos there also some pictures of the man with his family but I have not been able to establish anything beyond the family name.
Two groups of photo’s help to establish the exact timeframe and specific context of a part of the album. They show two heavily bombed railway stations in Debrecen and Szolnok and their damaged surroundings, railways and trains.
Both cities were bombed as part of American shuttle raids which were executed during Operation Frantic that took place between June and September of 1944. This was one of the few direct operational cooperations between the Russian and American forces. Bombers of the 8th and 15th US Army Air Force would undertake bombing flights on the way between bases in the UK and Italy to locations in Ukraine where they would reload with bombs and fuel and on the return flight again would bomb targets that were agreed upon between the Russian and US forces. That is why these were called shuttle raids, the planes would shuttle between the bases in Western and Eastern Europe and bomb targets on the way in between.
On the first and the last flight of Operation Frantic there would be also Hungarian targets. On the first flight on June 2nd Debrecen would be one of the targets. On the last flight on September 22nd Szolnok would be one to the targets. In both cases the railway station and the related area would be the main targets as these were of importance to the German military logistics, movement of soldiers and material like tanks to the Eastern front.
The photo’s show people of the Railway repair crew but also labour units working hard to repair the damages. IMostly trains and wreckage of railways and buildings but also some casualties, of which there were many due to the fact that not only railway related buildings were hit in the raids. Please be advised that photo’s of casualties are at the end of the blog.
A total of 130 planes would hit Debrecen with more than 1000 bombs between 8.46 hrs and 9.00 hrs. The damage would be great but the loss of life was also enormous. Whole streets in the proximity of the railway areas would also be destroyed. Almost 1200 death and close to 700 seriously wounded would be the direct human impact of the bombing with hundreds of buildings (including many regular houses) completely destroyed.
Due to the nature of the album the photo’s are mainly of the railway related impact and not the civilian impact.
The last few pictures show casulaties of the bombings and the location were they were found. Probably most casulaties would have been removed before the repair crews started working but I assume these were uncovered during the repair works.
I cannot express the sadness I felt seeing that little shoe sticking out between the big boots of the men under the cover of tent halves…
You can read more about the bombing in Hungarian here that is also the source for the numbers used in my blog.
The next blog will be about Szolnok where the repair crew went next (based on the photo’s in the album at least) which was the last action of Operation Frantic.
There are many more photo’s in the album, this is a selection.
This watch is now for sale. If interested please contact me.
A longer time ago I actively collected military wristwatches. Now all of these beautifull watches by classic brands like the IWC (Mark X), Longines (6B/159), Zenith (US Signal Corps) and Omega (airplane clock WW1) have been gone for years.
One of the RAF wristwatches by Jaeger LeCoultre had been on the wish list for quite some time but never materialized when I actively collected. By accident I came across an interesting version recently so I picked it up. It was not in working order. Research by the watchmaker made clear that the balance had to be replaced in the splendid 470 caliber. Expensive but possible and now completed!
The Wrist Watch Mark 7a was a navigational watch used by the RAF and had the designation 6B/159 on the case. This model first existed in the “Weems” variation (around 1940) with a turnable bezel. Later (around 1942) the model came without the bezel but with a non hacking central seconds hand. This was relatively rare at that moment in time when subsidiary seconds at the 6 position were still the standard. This was a relatively complicated watch that needed to be of high qaulity for its purpose, navigation. The watch was also needed in high quantities therefore it was sourced from many of the leading Swiss makers but most seem to be from 3 big name brands of that period Omega/Longines/ Jaeger LeCoultre.
The (Jaeger) Lecoultre 6B/159 had very typical leaf hands in blued steel as did the earlier Weems bezel model. It is thought about 5000 of these were produced in total (according to Knirim). Most seem to have been from one large batch produced in 1943 with the Broad Arrow marking above the 6B/159 designation (earlier models made in 1942 had the AM marking ipo the Broad Arrow). All the models with the cal. 470 were delivered in 1943/44, from 1945 onwards the 479 calibre was used.
All LeCoultre watches show the brands stamped serial number next to the engraved markings of the RAF. Of this series the serial numbers on the cases are mainly in the 158xxx up to 163xxx numbers which would correspond with the number of 5000 that is mentioned in the Knirim book. The military numbers do not match directly with the watch serial numbers I found out. They were not engraved in the same order as the case serial numbers but the range seems to be mainly in the A23xxx up to A26xxx numbers. All other brands used the same type of military numbering starting with Axxx up to A 30xxx so it seems more than 30.000 examples of the 6B/159 were made for the RAF in 1943/44 and maybe even 1945.
All original dials for this variation were signed LeCoultre. The story is that there were many of these dials (wit the naming for the US market without Jaeger) in stock and could not be used otherwise so these were used exclusively for the military contract. There are several original dial variations but all have a white background. The case was a chromed brass alloy with a diameter of 32mm diameter with a snap on case back.
The Ministery of Defense often replaced/repainted dials during the war. The case was not waterproof the dial and also the movement were often damaged by condensation and dirt. They did not do this with new dials but they re-painted the dials themselves using different fonts and many variations exist. Of course this was done manually. The MoD repainted dial also exists in black and with the full Jaeger LCoultre name on it on a white and on a black background.
This dial is one of the MoD repainted dials with the original dial as basis. The font used seems similar to the one seen on the Longines pictured here (photo from the Knirim book) but with the standard LeCoultre hands (which can be distinguished from other brands as seen in the Longines example).
The dial has some typical features that makes it easy to distinguish a repainted dial from a replaced dial. To the right a dial with the original finish as deliverd by the factory. Left and middle show the front and back of my version (pictures made by the watchmaker Tijdloos in Leiden). General opinion on the dial with numbers in italics is that it is a rarer MoD variation repainted dial.
As the original case was not designed for military use, the chrome case materials (a kind of brass with chrome plating) suffered from corrosion. A stainless steel case of a larger size (36mm) was introduced in 1956. All models of the 6B/159 still in service were recased with the new case but these are relatively rare.
The A2 Flight Jacket was the iconic jacket of the US Army Air Force during WW2 with many fans including General Douglas McArthur who also wore the Ray Ban aviators, a man of style.
The jacket also was often embellished with the same paintings as the airmen used on their planes, the so called nose art. Both pictures from internet.
Afther WW2 they were still worn into early 1950s but the jacket was retired after the Korean war as more modern materials (like nylon) were introduced for flight clothing.
In 1987 the jacket was re-introduced to commemorate the 40th birthday of the US Air Force. According to the modern regulation: ‘the jackets will be issued only to officers or enlisted personnel who are in mission-ready, emergency-mission-ready, mission capable, or mission-support billets assigned at or below wing level who met the criteria on or after September 18, 1987, the Air Force’s fortieth birthday. Once a member is issued the jacket,‘ according to the regulation, “he or she may continue to wear it after being reassigned from the duties [that] originally qualified him or her for the issue. It can be worn with the flight suit, service uniform, or pullover sweater but not with civilian clothes. After he or she retires, the wearer may keep the jacket.’
This is an overview of the variations made between 1988-2007 as found on the USMilitariaForum as compiled by Cowboy4.
The use of Nose Art is longer allowed in regular use and is rarely seen as it can only be used off duty or after leaving the air force. These issued jackets are a modern collectable and still can be found but the early ones are getting harder to find especially in the larger sizes.
There are also a lot of commerical variations which can be nice but are not really collectables with a historical background as these issued piecesare. So you have to check if these military contract numbers are on the label:
Cooper Sportswear Mfg. Co., Inc. (under the Saddlery label) with numbers 1988 DLA 100 88 C0420 / 1992 DLA 100 92-M-0061 / 1995 SPO 100-95-C-4030 / 1996 SPO 100-96-D-4020 Branded Garments Inc. Orchard M/C Inc. with number 1992 DLA 100-92-C-0346A Avirex Ltd. with numbers 1998 SPO 100-98-C-5018 and 1999 SPO 100-99-D-4009-xxxx and the last supplier Cockpit USA, Inc. with number 2007 SPM1C1-07-D-1540 xxxx
Here two issued examples next to each other a 1988 Saddlery (the earliest version made) and a 1999 Avirex version. With differences in colour and detailing but also in cut. Most collectors especially favor the early Saddlery versions.
The Avirex also has been painted on the back and also has a custom made badge of the Air National Guard. The painting was done at Pop’s leather (Incirlik Air Base Turkey) in 2005. At that moment the 132nd Air Refueling Squadron was deployed as part of the operations of Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
Below the Air National Guard custom badge, the signature on the artwork and an example of the patch (not my collection) on which the artwork is based. The concept of this patch stems from WW2 when the sqn was still a bombing unit. The winged skeleton has a bomb in its hands…
Below a picture from internet of the 132nd Air Refueling Sqn in action with an F22 fighter being fueled up.
Here a badge as shown on www.ericusafpatches.nl of the 132nd (nicknamed MAINEIacs as Maine is their home state) from when they were deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and located at Incirlik Air Base where Pop’s is located.
Great collectables for daily wear by US aviators, former US presidents or just regular guys 🙂 like my son Tibor (Saddlery) and myself (Avirex).
Nametags with wings are a standard item in both Navy and Air Force clothing, so also on the A2, here some examples:
Left top and bottom belonged to the same person Staff Sergeant Sisco. In the top version he is a Aircrew Member (wing) and below his occupational badge – maintenance in the Air National Guard and below only with the aircrew wing and as part of the Air Force. He was a Boom Operator from 1993 to 2000 so by coincidence sort of matches with the A2.
Below the Aircrew Combat badge of the Marine Corps to K. Hagerman, a navy corpsman 3. With that also came the metal badge with one gold star. This probably could not be worn on an A2 jacket but the others could.
Gerrit spent the first half of the ’60s in Greenland working at the BMEWS base, one of the coldest parts of the world. You can read more about him in part 1, the earlier blog about him. The second half of the ’60s he spent in tropical Vietnam working official US (Army) related contracts. Probably 5 years in total between 1965 and 1970 but exact starting and ending dates are unknown. Only one passport survives has his 1969 Vietnam dates in it and some other paperwork from around 1969 survives but not much. All earlier paperwork has been lost over time.
As he passed away I am not sure I will ever know what he did there exactly. He worked in some capacity for RMK-BRJ the largest building conglomerate active in Vietnam during the war. You can read more about their history here: RMK-BRJ wiki
He had some form of medical education in the US and he worked in some medical capacity it seems, probably in the line of Health and Food safety for RMK-BRJ.
Below a photo of his kit-bag (his original Dutch one, not a US version!): GHM Medical Department / Facilities & Operations RMK BRJ / 6th Division Vietnam
His late war MACV ID Card (Military Assistance Command Vietnam)
As he spent a long period in Vietnam he witnessed most of the war and not always from a safe distance! On several occasions he risked his life in the line of duty. As can be read on the Wiki regarding RMK-BRJ more than 52 employees were killed in those years.
I’ll share here some of my favourite pictures from his collection (these are mainly prints I took from the slides he made) there are many more!
Some local forces:
As a civilian who drove military vehicles (in this case a navy truck) he needed a local drivers license:
Including a Vietnam roadsign test!
It seems as a civilian he needed to organize his own private health care!
Driving a river boat, he went with the river forces (riverines) on patrols on several occassions, just for fun and he spoke French fluently so he could help out in communications too.
After a request on the US Militaria forum I learned the ship must have been part of River Patrol Section 532 based on the patch visible on one of the pictures!
Above shooting a M-79 grenade launcher (for fun?) and below driving the boat himself.
With the Marines he had a Dutch friend there too, recently emigrated to the US unfortunately no names of these people are known.
And some random photo’s. A forget me not club, location unknown and with a Tiger Stripe boonie hat.
It also seems he became a freemason during his time in Vietnam!
Some of the items he collected during this period:
The Marbles pilots survival knife he already got in Greenland and brought to VN.
The Rolex Datejust he bought for his Birthday during R&R in Bangkok in 1967! It can be seen on the stairs of a friends house in Saigon. He is guarding the house with his M1 with double (taped together) banana magazines.
A relatively rare item among his military gear are these: Military Survival Kit – Hot Wet environment. Mainly issued to Special Forces in Vietnam. For more info see this page
You cannot hide your heritage, reading a newspaper from Deventer, the Netherlands, in Vietnam!
Missiles in Greenland, war in Vietnam, problems in Persia…..
During my teens in the early ’80’sof last century I got to know Gerrit. He was an acquaintance of my parents. He had stories and photo’s of countries and places where nobody else I knew had ever been. He was a bit of an adventurer so there was much to tell. Being only a kid much of this information was lost over time.
In this small series of blogs I will share some of these photo’s and items from his travels in the 60s, mainly his life in Greenland and Vietnam. In both locations he was working as a civilian contractor for the US military.
Gerrit was born in 1929 in Deventer, Holland. In the early 50s he studied Hotel Management in Switzerland and soon after emigrated to the US where he became a citizen, after his retirement he returned to Deventer in the Netherlands our mutual home town. During his period in the US he studied medicine but if he ever practised is unclear.
To be honest much of his life remained unknown which probably added to the “mystique” around his travel and activities abroad. He always seemed to work in troubled locations. After Vietnam came Persia and after that Congo just before the local revolutions happened that ended in changing the names of these countries.
The Cold War
In the ’50s and ’60s of last century the tension between the western world and the east, especially the Soviets was building up. The war in Korea, the Cuba crisis and later the Vietnam war were al very visible examples of this. The cold war was also one of fear for a Nuclear war with Ballistic Missiles flying over the oceans. If you could stop the enemies missiles you could win this potential war….
BMEWS – Ballistic Missile Early Warning System
In order to find and after shoot down enemy missiles the US started the BMEWS project in 1959 which was completed in 1964. The main contractor for the entire project was RCA, short for Radio Corporation of America. The contract was close to 500 million USD initially. They were building enormous radar sites with linked computer systems. There was a total of 12 radars at several sites, Thule being the biggest with 5 of these radars the location was known as the J-Site. Next to the Radars there were jets for interception and NIKE missiles but I will get back to that later.
Gerrit in front of the BMEWS Radars in Thule
In the years that Gerrit worked in Thule (63/64/65) everything was aimed at completing the project as soon as possible in order to guarantee the USA a higher level of safety against the Soviet threat….
As mentioned he worked for RCA in the field service, probably in the role of facility manager (he later had several more of these type of roles in other locations).
Here his address at the time as stated in the postcard also seen at the top of this blog.
And here a folder for new RCA arrivals at the Thule BMEWS project. On the inside he describes the location of his sleeping quarters in spring so this is probably from 1963. The location of the dot on the inside corresponds with the map on the outside.
Thule Air Base – 4683rd Air Defense Wing
Obviously Thule was an Air Base next to the BMEWS radar station. In the period Gerrit lived here (’63/’65) the 4683rd Air Defense Wing was stationed there. This unit was formed in 1960 and discontinued in 1965 so Gerrit witnessed most of its lifetime.
Thule Times of 1964 with the Wing Commander and the Base commander
They flew with the Convair F-102, Delta Dagger as pictured below in Thule.
NIKE Missile base
I am not sure how secret these things were back in that period but Gerrit was always proud of his Security Clearance (he said the highest a civilian could get). I did not see any of the NIKE missile pictures until after he passed away and I received his box of Greenland pictures….
Several pictures of the NIKE Hercules missiles, ready for action…
Next to the Jets and Missiles there were other planes….
People had to be brought, supplies had to be brought so plenty of other planes on the Air Base like these:
DC3 and it’s big brother, a C137 Stratoliner
Or Danish visitors:
And of course the Fire Brigade in case of problems….
And there were helicopters too!
A HH43 – Huskie Helicopter
Prized possessions of an Arctic Traveller
Gerrit lived as a civilian on the Air Base. It seems that in his role he had acces to military supplies and also to the military shop, the so called Base Exchange (BX). A place it seems were also luxury items like Omega watches could be bought or ordered.
Next to the photo’s I have some of his most prized possession of that time, his parka, knife and watch. I will discuss them here as they are quite unique…at least to me!
In most photo’s he can be seen wearing his N3B US Air Force cold weather parka. Next to the Parka I have the matching trousers and a pair of aviators fur lined boots…
He also had a Marbles Jet Pilot survival knife that he kept on using in the Vietnam war. Marbles designed the knife but they did not get the Defense Contract. So probably this is a private purchase from the Base Exchange. In any case it is a rare knife by now.
And here is Gerrit wearing and using the knife! First in his dormitory with the parka on the chair, the knife on the table, used to open a can? And plenty of Kodak films in the drawer…
And here worn on the belt during his trip to Dundas
And my personal favorite, as it can still be used, his Gold Omega Seamaster. Bought January 1963 on the Base Exchange!
Gerrit somehow got the opportunity to make a trip with the local inhabitants, the Inuit or as they often were called in that time Eskimo’s. Today there are companies offering dog sled tours in that area but looking at these photo’s it was not a commercial business yet in the 60s. Dundas mountain is quite near to the Thule site so it appears on many pictures. As the picture below show the trip started from BMEWS itself, four of the five radars can be seen here and of course the dog led sled!
As I have no details on the trip itself from Gerrit it was good te see that on some pictures he made captions of what we can see!
The caption reads: An Eskimo from Dundas with gun and screen for the seal hunt
He mentions one of the dogs by name and says he often took it into his truck
Two photo’s of “locals”, really love these, they could be in a period National Geographic…
Also during his time in Vietnam Gerrit always had good relations with local people. Not being in the military himself probably gave him some more possibilities for this.
The family that took him on the trip?
Dundas from the seaside…
This wildlife booklet must have helped, he studied it well. He brought even some items with him that are no longer here like a Narwal tooth, from the unicorm of the seas…
Life on the base
In the years Gerrit was in Thule the base was still quite new and still being built. It was not a place of luxury but of a very simple life, work, eat, sleep, repeat….
Here some pictures of that simple life in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.
Construction still ongoing!
As on any base there was also a Chapel for the churchgoing part of the staff. And of course Xmas specials on the menu.
Dormitories were quite simple with small rooms. Not sure if private rooms were available to all personnel?
Outside of the dormitory and inside.
Just enough place for a bed, a small table and some personal belongings…
Weather conditions were very harsh, even in spring and summer
Describing weather conditions and leaving his Jeep near the other Barracks for better protection against the snow.
And of course US Mail!
Later after the 1968 accident with a B-52 there was radiation but no idea what the radiation could have been before 1965?
And the ubiquitous sign post found on every base far from the States!