Crusty old Joe's

Kodiak Alaska Military History

The official web site of the Kodiak Military History Museum

Reuben Burton

Adapted from information provided by Reuben Burton, Jr. WA4RRK
rb4rrk2 (at) email updated 27 April 2014

Original article May 1999

The 43rd NCB was commissioned during Nov.'42 at Davisville, R.I. facility after 3 weeks of boot camp. During the first week of Dec. we rode a troop train to Port Hueneme north of Los Angeles. The day after Christmas we boarded a train for Seattle and in two days we settled down on the USS Wharton [P-7], formerly known as the Southern Cross. Adm. Byrd used her on trips to the Antartic. We twiddled our thumbs for 9 days waiting for another battery and clearance. In a few days we sailed out of Puget Sound and into the meanest storm you would write home about. That mountain at the harbor was white from top to bottom. That was hardly a welcome sign for a group from generally Va. to Fla. and Texas. The next day our company was ordered to Sand Pt. in the Shumagin group. We remained there thru June. Built a good size pier and set poles of 110' for an antenna, a dipole. We were told the station would transmit a signal for aerial navagation. On our return to Kodiak we settled in Miller's Pt. in Quonset huts. Let's assume the bunker runs in an east west line. There was a road running down hill inland from the west end for something like a hundred or so yards. This was the area of the huts. Also in this area was the concrete mixer lying on the side of a slope. The cement, sand and gravel was dumped into the mixer from the high side of the slope, mixed in the revolving barrel, a large one, and eventually dumped into the trucks to be hauled to site of the bunker from the low side of the slope.

The concrete foundations for the artillery had been poured prior to moving to Miller's Pt. I assume by Siems Drake of Puget Sound, the private contractor. We never saw the guns. Anyway, we poured the floor, then commenced the job of forming the sides for the rooms and support for the roof. The maze of timbers to support the pouring of the roof was something else. I believe the roof is 7 feet thick. The network of reinforcing steel in this roof is overbuilt according to the experts. The bars near the bottom of the roof are square in cross section and one inch and a half in width. They are reduced in thicknest to three eights of an inch at the top.

The pouring time for this roof was 72 continous hours. Everyone in the group was involved. We worked shifts of 4 hours and off 8 hours. The trucks brought the concrete in a tub similar to an old style bath tub without an agitator. The concrete was dumped into a large bucket and hoisted over the roof area to be dumped by opening the bottom of the bucket. I was assigned to operate the vibrator. For those who don't know a vibrator is a tube of 3 feet in length and 3 to 4 inches in diameter. There is an eccentric in the tube which operates at a high rate of speed. It is turned by a cable within a flexible tube very much like a speedometer cable. As the concrete was poured in I would drop the eccentic into the flowing concrete and make the concrete run into all the nooks and cranies around the reinforcing steel rods. Droping this gadget through the maze of steel and withdrawing it to be dropped again in another slot of steel would keep you on your toes and in time you developed muscles you didn't realize were there. You see, I was 21 years old in a group of construction workers who averaged out at 37 years of age. These men had worked in the Great Depression on any job they could find, so they were rugged in more than one way. I can tell you I grew up fast. I was indeed fortunate to be associated with these men.

The roof forms remained in place for some 3 to 4 weeks. All of this work was performed in July and August which made the weather ideal for this time of year, as you know. 3 to 4 mos. after we poured this roof you could see the heat rising off it like a black top highway in August in Virginia. As the heat began to dissipate we commenced to pour sand over the structure for camouflage. We went so far as to plant shrubs in the sand, although I don't think they ever took root. You see, the sand came from the beach and was full of salt from the ocean.

When we were there was one road to Kodiak. It meandered through the forest and at one point it ran adjacent to a small bay. Not having a map I would say it was south and west of Miller's Pt.

We had 4 or 5 trucks to haul the sand from the bay to the bunker. I drove a Ford dump truck with a 5 yard capacity dump body. It had seen better days, but it served our purposes. You had to be careful, if not you could pop a universal joint with the slightest provication. One day I was hauling a load to the bunker, over the ups and downs of the road and I spotted a Command wagon headed my way. Both of us had to pull over to let each other by. Well I was headed down hill and put on the brakes and they failed, so, I turned to the right, went through some small trees and came to a stop in a creek and the truck caught on fire. I jumped out in the creek, raised the hood and tried to put out the fire with mud and water. At the same time, the occupants of the command wagon were in the water with me and one of them called for a fire extinguisher. Well, they couldn't find one on either vehicle. Well, the water and mud was flying from all directions and this man beside me was performing a noble job and at the same time laying down a good deal of profanity. In a few minutes we stopped the fire and stepped back to see what we had accomplished. I turned to this man beside me and recognized him as Errol Flynn. Now here was a real sport. He asked about my fire extinguisher. I said, On this truck? Who are you kidding? How about yours? We went to his wagon and we found one up near the roof and behind something. He had a great time kidding his fellow travelers. He had been at Millers Pt. as a representative of the U.S.O.

Later on we got the truck to the repair area, and the chief gave me a beautiful Mackbuldog. A big truck with a tandem rear end. I don't have the slightest idea of how much of that black sand we hauled from that bay but I can tell you that a storm came thru there one night with a lot of wind and the next morning when we arrived on the beach to continue, the road on the bank adjacent to the beach was washed away and the Northwest dragline we used to load the trucks was lying on its side in the bay. Seems like Mother Nature wanted the sand back.

While all of this going on we started another structure located down and away from the bunker by cutting away a bank to start the foundation. I don't know whatever became of that venture.

By the time September and October rolled around things began to slow down at Miller Pt. and some us were sent to Cape Chiniak. One night we were in our rec hall, a place for movies and such, and 5 or 6 men came in unannounced and sat down to "chew the fat". One was Stan Musial, the others were Frankie Frisch (Hall of Fame), Walker Cooper and Danny Litwiler. I'm sure you recognize Musial. Frisch had made his name some time before this meeting. The other two had been around a shade longer than Stan the Man. Musial was truly first rate. Very congenial. Frisch was stuck on himself. He made it a point to keep his beautiful World Series ring in full view. It was large. Had a green field with gold lines inlaid to represent the base lines and each base was a diamond. Cooper and Litwiler were major leaguers. Nice guys.

[2014 update: A few years ago I received a package in the mail from Musial. It contained a framed drawing of him in his baseball uniform with notation, To Reuben Burton, Jr. Best Wishes, Stan Musial.]

Around Nov. we moved to Bells Flats, and in December we boarded ship and headed across the Gulf of Alaska to the top of the Inside Passage, down to Ketichan, then to Seattle. From there it was to (then) Camp Parks just east of Livermore, California. We immediately went on a good leave for 30 days. Eventually I was detached from the good old 43rd and sent to Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. I was there until Feb.45 and then sent back to Davisville, R.I. to join up with the 301st Battalion. This was the largest CB battalion. Over 2000 men. A dredging and diving group. We were spread from Guam to Pelileu to the Phillipines to Okinawa. I was billeted on the dredge New Jersey. A large and powerful machine. It dredged the harbor at Agana down to 40 feet. The 43rd went to Maui after 3 to 4 mos. in California and then to Nagasaki very shortly after the surrender. I believe the Battalion was disbaned in Nov. or Dec. 45. I was discharged in Jan 46. Would I do it again? You betcha.

Reuben Burton, Jr.

Reuben Burton, Jr.
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Taken at the beach in the area of the washout. The man on the left with the black hat is a surveyor from Staunton, Va. The man in the center is a truck driver from Georgia. The man on the right is Reuben Burton, Jr. The bay is to the right. There is a pond in the left of the picture. The hole through the trees to Reuben's left is the road to Miller's Point.
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Inside the Quonset hut used as a canteen. A pool table is located behind the group. The white square above their heads is a movie screen. Taken just before the arrival of Stan Musial and group.

Sign for Miller's Point Canteen from the previous picture.

Update April 2014
Here are photos of a group of WW2 vets on a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, Iwo Jima Memorial, Marine Corps Museum at Quantico and the WW2 Memorial in Washington D.C. The Folks in the green jackets are vets and yellow are guardians. My guardian was a high school freshman. Groups of these fellows are known as the Honor Flight. They travel by bus or air at no cost to them from all over the US of A. These photos are dated April, 28, 2012. For more info, Google- Honor Flight. Many times during the trip tears rolled down my cheeks.

At Quantico I asked a guard, when will you close today, he answered, when ever you are ready to leave. Note the picture of the man in the wheel chair/ eye glasses. He was the navigator of the Enola Gay, the bomber that dropped the bomb over Hiroshima. The black car and the black bomber are at the entrance to the Air Museum at the Richmond Airport. The bomber is the SR 71 Blackbird and the auto is my Buick Grand National.

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