MEMORIES OF BLUIE EAST 2 - (IKATEQ, GREENLAND) by Bob Baxter
IKATEK TREE. We used a small boat to collect ice for our ice cream freezer. The purpose of inverted triangles atop poles is not remembered. Jury-rig for multiple power lines?
Horace Greeley didn't say it first but, "go West, young man," was prophetic advise. Certainly, he didn't know about Bluie East 2 (BE-2) but I realized the wisdom of counsel attributed to him upon viewing Ikateq, Greenland, in April 1946. A drab cluster of wooden buildings, close by a 4,000 ft gravel landing strip bordering a narrow fjord surrounded by mountains was the destination of my flight to seemingly nowhere. "How," I mused, "does the Army Airways Communications System garner such bleak outposts?" The answer evolved slowly during the next twelve months, hundreds of miles distant from luckier AACS-men at major Bluie airfields.
Shortly after arriving to perform radio operator duties I was appointed custodian of cryptographic items at our remote corner of Earth. Fair enough, but the necessity for an automatic pistol and submachine gun to safeguard classified material escapes me to this day. Somewhere under the snow, or in a dump, archeologists will find mute testimony that hundreds of beer can and dozens of 55-gal fuel drums were kept from purloining military secrets.
A interesting collection of artifacts indicated Ikateq was once thought to be important in the scheme of Arctic warfare. (NOTE: Link to Christian Hansen's history site from the Site Index if you care to learn BE-2 WWII details.) New trucks and trailers were stored in a hangar alongside 90-mm anti-aircraft cannons and a Nordyn Norseman bush plane. There was enough ordnance for the twenty, or so, men on station to make a stand at a cold place in a Cold War. A rickety structure with a DANGER-EXPLOSIVES-KEEP OUT sign contained approximately 800 cases of unstable dynamite that led to an interesting event.
Upon seeing the dynamite cases leaking nitroglycerin an Army expert sent in to eliminate the hazard declared his task to be too dangerous and departed. Our CO (a former oil field worker) and the NCOIC of Engineers (a former coal miner), believed their knowledge was on par with the dicey job. Furthermore, July 4, 1946, being just around the corner, could be celebrated with a massive firecracker. One hundred cases were moved away from camp and detonated on Independence Day. The fearsome blast rattled everything and everyone at BE-2, some believed it might have shaken AACS Headquarters at BW-1. Apparently not, the 700 remaining cases were still in storage when I left in 1947. I don't remember why our "explosives experts" didn't finish the job.
Our primary assignment was to provide communications services around-the-clock for Air Weather Service observers. Additionally, a 3.000 watt non-directional radio beacon was kept on-line to assist aircraft transiting Sondrestrom (BW-8), or needing an alternate landing place in otherwise inhospitable territory. Before my time the 90-ft beacon tower was twice destroyed by avalanches. I don't have equipment photos but BE-2 emulated BW-3 if you do not include the radio range and direction finders shown on site pages.
An aircraft from BW-1 was scheduled monthly to deliver mail and items depleted from supplies brought annually by Coast Guard Cutters such as EASTWIND. Bad weather prevented delivering Christmas mail in 1946. A faulty mid-January air drop from about 100 ft caused precious gifts to be scattered and destroyed in the runway area. Disappointment and outrage engendered belligerent thoughts centered on the 90 mm guns in storage.
I found radio operator duties considerably alleviated isolation because dusk-to-dawn propagation (skip) enabled hearing many North Atlantic stations where others also maintained lonely vigils. We weren't above breaking network discipline rules to frequently exchange bits of news and nonsense. In turn, a security monitoring station at Presque Isle, ME cited violations monthly but without direction finding there was no way to identify me and naughty (Tsk! Tsk!) transgressors at Crystal 1 and 2, Keflavik, BW-1 and BW-8.
Present-day tourist activities throughout Greenland were preceded by upscale outdoor recreation at Bluie East 2. Ingenious, bored GI's built the first ski tow in that desolate land. Discarded Jeep parts - engine, drive and wheels - were jury-rigged at the foot of Brenner's Peak to tug ardent sportsmen up a steep slope. When the tow became unusable "skijorring" on the runway behind anything that would pull us came to be. In summer salmon (Arctic Char?) traveled from the fjord to a glacial lake northwest of the base. Fed up with a diet of corned beef hash and without fishing gear we collected 12 to 20 tasty fish at a time upon throwing a concussion grenade into the feeder stream.
Here ends my story about BE-2. For reasons not fully comprehended my wish is to spend a day just wandering around the base area. Might I yearn for crisp, cool air unlike present desert surroundings?
BLUIE EAST 2 - (IKATEQ, GREENLAND) PHOTOS
Bob Baxter, Bisbee AZ, July 2000
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