Saturday, May 5, 2018

I Hate to Break It to You...

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But this is Andrew's last guest post.

I went ahead and left the keys in it.

Yup, poor fool actually accepted the King's shilling and is officially  signed up to The Chant. He's now entitled to all of the pay and benefits enjoyed by Tuna, Juvat, and LUSH. Yup, the sky's the limit for our boy. (Actually, you guys don't tell him that the pay sucks, the hours are miserable, and that LUSH, as the boss' daughter seems to be on a permanent vacation.)

So say goodbye to Andrew the Guest Blogger and say hello to Andrew, the FNG.

But first you all will need a...


So, at the tender age of 7, my father, wait, so when I was at the tender age of 7, that’s much better, my father was assigned as the Air Force Liaison Officer to the Army Base at Kwajalein, in the Marshall Islands (just in case nobody here knew that.) So, in the middle of 1970 we (the family) flew to Honolulu, Hawaii and then boarded a beautiful military charter Boeing 707 for the wonderfully loooong flight to said Kwajalein, MI.

Oh, on the way we stopped off at a secret squirrel location, also known as Johnston (sorry, yesterday I wrote Johnson, but there’s a “t” in it) Atoll and the island of the same name. So, things being secret squirrel on Johnston Atoll, we weren’t allowed to look out the windows of the plane, we were transferred under cover to a bus with covered windows to a building with no windows and we waited and then went back under cover to a covered window plane and then flew away from there. Much fun was not had by not being able to see the one and only location that has been accidentally nuked by the USA.

Well, actually, we didn’t nuke the place after all. We, the USA, just managed to ‘dirty bomb’ the location three separate times. “Starfish” in 1962 was an air-distributed ‘db’ due to the Thor missile launching a 1.45Mt warhead up to high altitude didn’t want to work right, and the Range Safety Officer blew up the whole shebang, thus distributing contamination all over the atoll and surrounding ocean. “Bluegill Prime” later in 1962 was supposed to do the same high altitude explosion, but the Thor also misfired and was blown up, along with its W50 warhead, just off the pad, really screwing things up, blowing up stuff and burning stuff for a long time and scattering plutonium all over. Then in October 1962, “Bluegill Double Prime” carrying a W50 set at 400kt (supposedly) malfunctioned 90 seconds into that test and was Range Safety Officered into oblivion, radiating the poor place yet again. Fortunately, the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty was ratified and spared the island another glow-in-the-dark shellacing.

Instead, we (the USA) used it for Biological and Chemical Warfare Testing, Anti-Ballistic Missile testing, Satellite Recovery (photo pods dropped from space and stuff,) Chemical Weapons storage and finally Chemical Weapons demilitarization. Whew, only thing worse would be to make it a resort for the Kennedy clan or something equally heinous.

Now it is a supposedly clean location inhabited by lots and lots of birds and is a wildlife sanctuary

By the way, Johnston Island is basically a coral carrier with a flight deck long enough to handle a Boeing 707 with launch pads for ICBMs and ABMs and buildings and quarters and bunkers and lots of birds and other buildings and stuff off to the side of the runway. A totally scenic trip into the hell of modern warfare, now covered by bird crap.

So, back to the actual meat and bones of the story. Finally.

So, the whole family, heck, the whole plane carrying the family and lots of other people (including the cabin crew and stewardesses (yes, Stews, not Flight Attendants, this was 1970 after all) finally, after a long long flight, land on the southern island of Kwajalein Atoll, known by the completely shocking name of Kwajalein (Kwa-ja-lane) being roughly 1.2 square miles overall, with a big chunk of it being runway, and radar sites (regular golf ball covered ones, a phased-array pyramid and the elephant pen radar (hey, the Army guys called it the elephant pen because it was big enough to house, well, elephants. It was also the driving range for golfers when the unit wasn’t on.) and a desalination plant, and fuel depot, and basically a whole base on an island, including housing and several restaurants (including one ‘fine dining’ that at the time was located on the ocean side on a pier that went over the reef to almost to the reef end. Really neat to walk out at low tide and look doooown past the end of the reef into the deep ocean.)

Story Break: Atolls. Okay, several times I’ve said the word Atoll. What the heck? So, an Atoll is basically the top of a sea mountain, usually volcanic, that is covered in coral and has some portions of the coral structure (or actual mountain structure) poking above the ocean, making islands, and other portions that are usually submerged, making reef or reefs. Usually it is in the form of ring or closed squiggly loop (maybe from the cauldera of the volcano) formed by the reef (or reefs). So, the inside of the ring or loopy shape is a shallow to deep(ish) lagoon, while the ocean side of the reef drops down and down and down and… really down to the side of the sea mount. Deep. Big Deep. Hopefully there is a natural (or artificial) break in the reef big and deep enough for ships to use, which then makes the atoll a reasonably safe place to harbor in with an island or islands to use as a base. Some dredging and wharf building may be needed to finish the base structure of the naval side, kinda like what the ChiComms are doing in the West Pacific in their not-so-subtle territorial grab that is now going on.

Examples: Makin Atoll has a funky loopy lagoon with only one main island, Tarawa (Bloody Tarawa) has a few islands, and Kwajalein Atoll has a scoop full of islands (97 islands and islets making up a whopping smidge over 6 square miles of landmas, whoooooo!) along with some major sea cuts, and is acknowledged as one of the largest atolls in the world.

Story Unbreak: (Come on, Andrew, get to the friggin point! Stay on target, STAY ON TARGET!)

…we step off of the 707 into the hot summer tropical sun (no covered jetways, we’re talking stairs, baby) at Bucholz Army Airfield on beautiful Kwajalein island and immediately saw the tops of waves breaking on the outer reef. (Last post was Vandenberg AFB in California, between LA and SanFran, on the cliffy coasts, so being almost at water level (9 feet above sea level) for living was a totally new thing) and headed into the Base Operations and Terminal building for our ‘Welcome’ and initiation to three years of lovely island life.

In a nice room in the building, we future Kwajers prepared for our introduction to our new home. Which immediately turned into what seemed like a 30 minute slide filled SAFETY BRIEFING complete with “See this fish? (picture of what looked like a rock but is a stone fish) Step on it and you die. See this fish? (picture of a lion fish) Don’t touch it, it will make you wish you were dead. And so forth down the list of dangerous fish (Sharks were on the bottom. You had to be stupid dumb to get bit by a shark.) See this pretty shell? (Pictures of various cone shells over and over, all starting with the same statement) It will kill/hurt/maim/ruin your life, don’t touch it. See this X? (show slide of jellyfish, coral, other misc marine life) It will kill/hurt/maim/ruin your life, don’t touch it. See this (insert name of unexploded ordinance) (show slides of various instruments of death of WWII origin) It will kill/hurt/maim/ruin your life, don’t touch it, call an adult, back up, back way the heck up, run away, run run run away.” And so forth. And then the final straw was a base medical Officer saying basically, “This island is coral sand, if you get it under the skin it will fester and rot off any portion of the body it is left in, come to the Hospital immediately and we’ll clean it out (ominous chuckle) and make sure you don’t die/stay hurt/be maimed for life.”

By the time it was over, all the parents’ eyes were the size of dinner plates from the knowledge that they just brought their precious children into HELL ITSELF, THE VACATION VERSION. Us kids, we were salivating like Dobermans staring at a burglar, thinking about what horrors of Hell Itself, The Vacation Version, we could first encounter.

Game ON!!!

(My final score from July 1970 to July 1973 was: several stonefish seen(none touched, they will kill you!), several moray eels caught by hand (they are kinda tuporish when it’s really low tide, lots and lots of pretty and dangerous sea shells collected alive, one case of burns from fire coral from getting away from the full case of Japanese hand grenades I discovered one day while snorkeling, and one trip to HELL, The Hospital, to get a serious wound cleansed by demons of the Medical variety. No permanent wounds or scars, all 20 digits still firmly attached. Me for the WIN!)

This is gonna be fun!


  1. Welcome aboard.
    Of course there is no hazing, but I do need you to get the keys to the steam chest.

    I read a book written by one of the soldiers stationed in the Pacific during the open air test days. He makes it clear that there were way more oops than ever mentioned in the media.

    Looking forward to your posts.

    1. Well, consider the John Wayne movie "Conqueror." Which was filmed in the fallout area, supposedly a 'safe' area. The list of deaths due to cancer from those on the set is, well, stupendous. Including the Duke himself.

      Some of the things we did after we knew what was not safe just astounds me, in a horror-filled HP Lovecraftian way.

  2. Ah, the many joys of growing up a military junior. Always being the new kid on the block because you moved every two or three years. The awkwardness of having to answer the question "where are you from?" The joys of military medicine (which was actually pretty good, but I still have a huge scar from Army doctors at Tripler going on a safari looking for my appendix at age 11.) Welcome to our motley crew.

    1. Oh yeah, military medicine.

      Ever wonder what happens to ex-football rejects in the Army? Special Forces? Lifting tanks one handed? No. They become medical orderlies at Kwajalein and are assigned to hold down small children while the nurse or doctor scrubs the coral sand wound with a friggin fingernail brush to get all the chunky coral goodness out so there won't be a life-threatening attack of gangrene in 2-3 days (yes, seen that green pussy ooziness in another kid, what a horror story) all done not under any anesthetic at all (I guess they figured pain is education.) They know they are done debriding when they strike bone or get to the other side.

      I think they used 3 or 4 mongo orderlies on the adults, but the adults usually got some sort of local or general, or were boozed up (which I guess qualifies as a general.)

      Thus, HELL - The Hospital as mentioned in the above article.

  3. Sounds like a place to have a younger brother, to double dog dare. Umm, fun.

    1. Unfortunately, I was the younger brother and was a meat puppet for my older siblings. Island life was different. No TV at all (VCRs just getting sold in 1973 when we left.) Lots of restricted places.

      And the one time I did something bad and went to run away (like the stories and tv always show you) I packed some sandwiches, got two blocks down the road and went, "Darned, I'm on an ISLAND." Went home and accepted punishment. You can tell that I was still young, because otherwise I would have said something on the lines of, "GAWSHDARNEDIT, I'm on a mothaf$%#er ISLAND!" as the curse gene was latent in me until around 13yoa, way too late to use appropriately to situations on my beloved Kwaj.

  4. Oooooh. The FNG! I'll have a pint of Strength and a tumbler of Courage. Leave your credit card with the bartender. No, no. Not the one that's maxed out. The one you save for emergencies that has nothing on it and no limit. We'll let you know when you can have it back.

    Now, about your time in Kwaj. My next door neighbors went out there about the same time. The father worked for a defense contractor and was sent to work on a radar installation, and the family went with him. Last name was Sandholm.

    1. It was a great time (70 to 73) to be there. The height of the ABM testing. Don't know the Sandholms, but contactors were definitely there. Next duplex NE of our quarters was one of the head Raytheon contractors (I think Raytheon.) The ones who made the phased array radar units (which Kwaj atoll had two, one on Kwaj itself and the other one on Meck, where the ABMs were launched from.

      Coincidentally, the head contractor and his wife were my foster grand-parents for my confirmation (a Catholic rite of passage) and introduced me to God's own perfect food - LASAGNA!

  5. See what you've gotten yourself into Andrew? You're no longer one of the crew, hurling insults at the staff, baying at the moon and running amok in the berthing spaces.

    Now you're with the rest of us aft, enticing targets for the sharpshooters in the enemy's fighting tops and, and...

    Yes, I get carried away. But another excellent post, made me laugh, made me never want to visit Kwajalein, which I'm sure has its charms.

    1. Oh, yeah, staff puke all the way! Yay!

      Hey, it was actually great. Beautiful place to fish, sail, motorboat, snorkel or scuba, fly kites (constant sea breezes). Lots of history for the history buff. Lots of neat things to get involved in. You just have to be careful. I'm sure the risk of waterlogged explosives has gone down in the 40+ years since I've been there.

      Lots of sunken ships to dive on and such. Really pretty fish and coral. (Watch the BBC shows "Planet Earth" with David Attenborough, especially the ones dealing with oceans, to see how beautiful it could be.) On a good day the visibility in the lagoon could easily be over 100'

      But to visit, like do the tourist thing, you have to get tons of permissions from various governments. Not totally impossible, but just inconveniently improbable.

      But there are lots of tourist charters to Truk Lagoon. Even prettier volcanic islands (think miniature Hawaii, except without all the annoying Hawaiians.) And lots more wrecks, and gun positions, and less off-limit areas. Just don't do like Jacques Cousteau did and move Japanese bones without Japanese permission as the Japanese are very touchy about their war dead.

    2. Oh, and Truk has less radioactive ships than Kwajalein Atoll has, by one. One very interesting ship. Very Interesting...

  6. So, I got to the first clip and, 20 minutes and five clips later, I read on only to discover that you are trying out as a Monty Python writer ( in case they ever make a come-back ).

    Really, it's just envy because I never got to go to such neat places. Only Alaska during the Korean War and Italy during the cold war ( 50 miles NORTH of the MLR, in case the Russians and their friends ever decided to take their tanks on a drive to Rome ). I didn't get to play with such interesting and fun critters.

    Anyway, welcome to the club of Chant writers.

    OAFS, you are going the have to change the header again ( unless you are going to continue to have Andrew post under your byline.) ( Bet you thought you snuck that one by, huh. )

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    1. I'm on it Paul.

      (Damn! You don't miss a thing do you?)

    2. Thanks, Paul. But I don't need my place in the header, as I am just a dependant, not an actual veteran.

      So far all the A/V work has been from our host, the noble OldAFSarge (I keep on wanting to abbreviate it as OAFS, but that just doesn't seem right, not knowing whether he is clumsy or not.) Now that Blogger finally recognizes me (Blogger does not like Outlook, I will have to try my hand at powerpointing my own presentations.

      Kwajalein was my one overseas experience. Was born at Holloman AFB, I think I was at Kirkland AFB, then Vandenberg AFB, then Kwaj. I would have loved to have my father based in Alaska or Germany. That would have been really great (snow and ice and no tropical plants - Alaska, great food and german stuff - Germany.) One of my friends grew up in Japan, Korea, Iceland, Germany, Spain, and then finally Florida, so I'm really jealous of their experience.

      And once was enough to convince me that for all the evils of this country of mine, we stand head and shoulders above everyone else for just about everything, freedom, size of living spaces, size of vehicles, availability of foods (seriously, 6 different brands of milk, each in at least 3 different varieties, all in one store. I love America!) Kwaj (the island) was totally 1st world, with a touch of colonial outpost, while the 'native' island, Ebeye, was definitely upscale 3rd world (no offense to the Marshallese, and they have cleaned things up, but anytime lots of people living in poverty are crowded into a small location, well, that's 3rd worldish. Not having any sort of industry or business prospects definitely restricts their ability to raise their worldness, unfortunately.)

    3. So OAFS has to change the header to reflect a non-veteran. As I understand it, LUSH didn't actually retire, so the header isn't strictly accurate anyway. Who cares? Certainly not I ( or is it me? ). The more the merrier, says I. After all, you write well ( if not entirely grammatically correct [ the editor in me, dontchaknow ]) and always have interesting things to say. To my mind, that is far more important than whether or not you were in uniform.


    4. Ok OAFS, the header doesn't specifically say that LUSH is retired. But it can be read that way as easily as the other way. Again, I say, who cares? It's your blog and any way you want it to read is ok with me and likely not a problem with anyone else.


    5. She served. Good enough for me.

    6. Dependants serve, they just don't get paid for it. And sometimes they are not in the line of fire. Sometimes they are. Yet again, good enough for me.

      Paul L. Quandt

    7. Well, I feel we enjoyed the experience more than served the experience. But I get your point. Military spouses, especially, serve, or don't, and that can make or break a military career, whether Officer, Warrant or Enlisted.

      Kids follow the parents in saneness and behavior (for the most part.) Good parents raise good kids. Broken parent, not so much. And with TDY or other away assignments, the spouse especially needs to be a sane and stable adult. Unfortunately, too often the home adult isn't.

      The best explanation of military wives, at least the good ones, is in John Ringo's book "Claws that Catch." He explains the whole 'wife's club' thingy in ways I never understood.

  7. Well, welcome aboard. As Sarge has already brought up wages and benefits, I, as your financial consultant will explain the pay rate around here. That will be Naught, divided by the amount of effort the post required ,times (1-square root of 1). As your financial adviser, I'd advise you to invest in....."Plastics"'ve got that going for you. Gunga...La gungala.

    Seriously, I've enjoyed your commentary and am looking forward to future posts.

    1. Thank you, sir. I feel kinda like a piker because you all and the missing LUSH have all served this country. I am just a slightly crazed observer to military fun.

      Plastics, yeah, plastics. If they would just pump the damned oil and nat gas off of my 1/3rd of 1/5th of 1/64th of an acre of land in Louisiana, well, I'd be set for LIFE! Darned it! (Hey, in the 40s and 50s, that 1/5th of 1/64th paid like $10,000 a year in royalties. Now? It pays for the taxes. Darned it.

      I am glad you've enjoyed my commentary. I know my weird perspective can be off-putting (especially in person where I can't edit myself quick enough) so the fact that people seem to like me here is nice.

      Next post from me is going to be different...

  8. Welcome!

    I mostly lurk, but comment once in a while.

    I've known many people who worked and lived on Kwaj, but have never heard about it from somebody who spent time there as a kid.

    Really looking forward to reading more.

    1. Thanks. I enjoy your site and your escape from socialism. Still wished your wife had let you get the SpeedQueens, but you can't get everything. Glad your car is doing well in Colorado, too.

      It was probably the most formative 3 years of my life. Something about living on an island where over 4,300 people died in just three days.

      Not to mention the total friggin awesomeness of watching working Anti-Ballistic Missiles hit inert but actual re-entry warheads. What a rush!

  9. Hey Sarge, this FNG is pretty good.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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