The URL of this page is http://www.kadiak.org/wacs/wacs.html
The White Alice Communications System or WACS was a tropospheric communications system throughout Alaska from about 1956 until 1979. The Kodiak station, PMY, was on Pillar Mountain. It was dismantled during the summer of 1997. Right up to the end, one of the big fifty-foot dishes was in use by KWVV-FM to feed their translator in Kodiak. All that remains is one set of dish foundations with a new FAA communications facility mounted on it. The foundation that remains is one that was a link from Pillar Mt. to Sitkinak Dome. The pictures from 1957 below show an antenna on this foundation. The system to Sitkinak does not show up on later documents. The Sitkinak antennas at PMY were removed in 1957. There was construction on Sitkinak Island.
There were 25 WACS tropo stations built originally at a total cost of $140 million. The system was designed by AT&T and built by the Western Electric Company taking 3,500 people three years to complete. Ultimately there were 49 tropo sites.
The Air Force Communications Service, a separate Air Force major command took over the system on January 1, 1962. On July 1, 1962 it absorbed the Alaska Communications System which had been run by the Army for 60 years. On January 10, 1971 the system was transferred to RCA. The last tropo system was from Boswell Bay (BSW) to Cape Yakataga (CYT). It lasted until the mid eighties. By 1981 all the other tropo sites had been replaced with satellite terminals.
A nice story of the White Alice system starts on page 171 of Top Cover for America, the Air Force in Alaska 1920-1983.
A related system is the DEW Line.
from RCA Alascom Carrier Booklet July 1977, my head, John O'Larey, and other sources
The mode of propagation between stations was tropospheric scatter. Frequencies near 900 MHz were employed with transmitters made by Radio Engineering Laboratories using maximum power levels of either 1, 10, or 50 Kilowatts. The two Kodiak antennas, fed with really big waveguide, were roughly fifty foot diameter spherical or parabolic(?) dishes using space and frequency diversity over a path of 134.5 miles to another WACS site at Diamond Ridge near Homer, WACS path number T3152. This was an over-the-horizon path with the mountains of lower Kenai Penninsula blocking. The tropo radio was a REL GS-1808i (Is this the right model? My copy is blurred.) with a maximum channel capacity of 132 channels. There were two types of multiplex employed on the Diamond Ridge path: five groups of Western Electric type L carrier terminating at Diamond Ridge (DRJ), one group of L carrier terminating at Neklasson Lake (KNV), and three groups of compatible Collins MX106 carrier terminating in Anchorage (ANC). This was a total of 108 channels.
Another path from Pillar Mountain went 17.7 miles to Port Lions on 97.4 MHz with a return on 89.4 MHz. This circuit lasted several years after the tropo system was turned off. This path used four channels of Lenkurt 45 carrier labeled system 1CX over a Farinon PT-80 radio. There wasn't any toll switching in Kodiak so these four circuits went all the way to Anchorage. The two corner reflectors, horizontally polarized, were still in place on Pillar Mt. when the site was dismantled in 1997.
One more VHF link from Pillar Mt. was WACS path number H3178 4.6 miles to Woody Island (WDY) where the FAA still has a VORTAC and a NDB. This was 12 channels of Lenkurt 45 carrier, system 1BX on a Farinon PT-150 radio.
There were two Lenkurt 74B radios on the 6GHz band. One was path M3179 running 15.1 miles to Chiniak (CYK). This had two 8-channel banks, 1BX and 2BX, to PMY. The other Lenkurt 74B was path M3200 running 7.7 miles to an active USCG owned repeater at Holiday Beach (HLB) where it connected to path M3201 running 4.7 miles to Kodiak USCG (NHB). This system had 5 groups of 12-channels each (one supergroup) of Lenkurt 46A multiplex.
The last route from Pillar Mt. WACS was a 100-pair cable to Kodiak city. An earlier 100 pair armored cable, called the GOLF cable, to the Navy base (NHB) building 576 had already been abandoned in 1977. The Kodiak city cable is still in place and is being used by several other communications sites on Pillar Mt. in 2005. While the old cable to the navy base is still visible in several places, it is abandoned. There is about a 100 foot piece of it missing in the middle but the rest appears to be intact from the old WACS site to Swampy Acres.
Pillar Mt. had Western Electric 43 telegraph carier for a good many TELEX circuits and some FAA. There was an array of test boards with jack access to every test point.
As of this report, July 1977, other Kodiak communities of Old Harbor, Akhiok, Karluk, and Larsen Bay had their first telephone service and it was satellite using CMI SCPC multiplex. Port Lions was mentioned above. Ouzinkie had one village phone from a site on the Kodiak Municipal airport. It was via a General Electric Progress Line VHF radio on the 150 MHz band. The Ouzinkie phone number was 486-5800. The tower was left over from an old CAA link to Shuyak. Portions of this tower are now in use at the Harbormasters and the Pier 3 cargo dock to hold tsnaumi sirens. The concrete building that housed this link is still visible at the intersection of Von Scheele Way and Selief Lane although it is very overgrown. As of 2012 Ouzinkie and Port Lions have a new microwave link to the Kodiak fiber cable terminal.
This carrier booklet also shows one page of open wire facilities using Western Electric O carrier, J carrier, C carrier, and Lenkurt 45A. The open wire ran from Fairbanks (FBK) 296.9 miles to the AlCan border (BDR) via Tok (TKJ). A separate open wire route from Anchorage to Eagle River (EAG3) was still in use with 48 channels.
This 44 page booklet also shows details of the microwave path down through Canada.
This is a list of MEN AND WOMEN OF WHITE ALICE.
A total of 821 Bell System people came to the Project from 17 companies.
Their names, company affiliations, occupations and home addresses are listed here courtesy of Will Fletcher.
Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5, Page 6, Page 7, Page 8, Page 9, Page 10, Page 11, Page 12.
The Pillar Mountain White Alice site had a number of employees. John O'Larey KL7HBK, Lynn Saupe, Jim Duros, Marty Woods, Bill Ishimoto, Ray Mackie, Chris Billings, Bob Thompson, Gary Ennis and Rob Elmore. The last time I talked to John he was living in Deadhorse and still working for Alascom. John was a technician from the summer of 1977 until summer 1978. Jim published a book on Benny Benson in 2004. Jim was the maintenance man who kept the road up the mountain in good condition and kept it open in the winter. Marty was heard of in Eldorado Springs, MO. Ray Mackie started Macks Sport Shop in Kodiak and was living in Kodiak in 2006 but has since died. Bill Ishimoto worked at Pillar Mountain during the early 60's. Pat Crittenden.
John O'Larey watched Marty Woods turn the tropo transmitter off in the summer of 1978 when the system was shut down. He said Marty threw the switch OFF and in a few seconds it switched itself back on. It didn't want to die! Actually it had an automatic reset they had forgotten about. It was spooky for a minute though...
Construction in 1957
Will Fletcher photos 65 images.
This is a list of MEN AND WOMEN OF WHITE ALICE. A total of 821 Bell System people came to the Project from 17 companies. Their names, company affiliations, occupations and home addresses are listed here.
Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5, Page 6, Page 7, Page 8, Page 9, Page 10, Page 11, Page 12.
Photos taken March 1957 by Will, jessie (at) NetHaven.com
In the first photo is George Kost from Michigan Bell. The antenna just behind George was the one never placed into service. It's foundation is the only thing that remains of Pillar Mt. WACS. You can get an idea of the size of the antennas if you look for the electric power pole with the three transformers between them.
Final Days of Pillar Mt. WACS
12 Nov 1956: The first link in the White Alice Communications System was completed.
26 Mar 1958: AAC dedicated the White Alice Communications System, under construction since 1955.
25 Jun 1970: President Nixon approved the sale of the Alaska Communication System to RCA, ending an era when the military provided all long distance communications in Alaska.
1 Jul 1976: The Air Force leased the White Alice Communications System to RCA Alascom ending the last vestiges of government owned long line communications in Alaska.
Summer 1978: Kodiak WACS turned off. Facility still in use for a few years for other radios.
Summer 1997: Kodiak WACS demolished leaving only one antenna foundation.
Summer 2004: FAA builds new radio facility upon old Sitkinak antenna foundation on PMY.
July 1977 network sites
Adak DTE (USN dial exchange) ADK3 CA to ADK1, CA to ADK8 Adak E.S. ADK8 CA to ADK3, SAT to BTL Adak WACS ADK1 TR2 to SYA, CA to ADK3 Anchorage ANC TD2 to R1N, 78A to R1N, TD2 to RCC, KTR3A to BTL, 78A to WDY, T to ATU Aniak ANI TR1 to SVW, TR1 to BET1 Anna AAP SS2 to NKA, UHF1 to ABP Anvil Mountain AVM TR1 to GMT, 228 to OYJ, CA to OME 64°33'48"N 165°22'18"W THIS SITE IS PRESERVED AS OF 2016 Aurora ARA TD2 to GLO, TD2 to PAX, 74A to GLO, 74A to PAX Baker MGS SS2 to NKA, UHF1 to ADP Barrow E.S. Barter Island BAR TR2 to FYU Bartlett E.S. BTL Bear Creek BCC TR1 to PJD, TR1 to KKK, VHF6 to TAL, TR1 to UTO (Station abandoned but existing in 1998) Beaver Creek BVC TD2 to MDV, VHF8 to MDV, TD2 to TKJ, VHF8 to TKJ Bethel WACS BET1 TR1 to ANI (NE 95.7 Mi), TR1 to CZF (W 152.4 Mi), TR1 to EHM (S 148 Mi), CA to BET8 Bethel E.S. BET8 CA to BET1, SAT to BTL, SCPC to various Bettles BTT VHF6 to UTO Big Mountain BMX TR1 to DRJ, TR1 to SVW, TR1 to AKN, VHF6 to ILI Bird Creek BRC SS2 to BRP Bird Point BRP 78A to WDY, 78A to GWY, 78A to TNL, SS2 to BRC Black Rapids BLR TD2 to MLM, TD2 to DLZ, 74A to MLM, 74A to DLZ, G6004 to OAJ Boswell Bay BSW TR1 to MDO, TR2 to KNV, TR2 to CYT, VHF1 to COR, VHF1 to CDV, VHF2 to JPT Bruce ABP UHF1 to AAP Calgary Campion CMN 501 to GAL, 74B to KKK Canyon Creek CAN TD2 TO GKC, VHF8 to GKC, TD2 to DEJ, VHF8 to DEJ Cape Newenham EHM TR1 to BET1 Cape Romanzof CZF TR1 to BET1 Cape Sarichef CSH TR1 to CDB, TR1 to DFB Cathederal CYR TD2 to KRG, TD2 to TKJ, VHF8 to KRG, VHF8 to TKJ Chiniak CYK 74B to PMY Clear CLC TD2 to MYD, TD2 to GKC, VHF8 to MYD, VHF8 to GKC Clear BMEWS CLR 74B to MYD Cold Bay CDB TR1 to PML, TR1 to CSH Cooper Landing JLA FM2 to TNL Cordova City COR VHF1 to BSW, CA to CDV(E.S.) Cordova Airport CDV VHF2 to HBK, VHF1 to BSW Cordova E.S. CDV CA to COR, SAT to BTL Craig Deadhorse Delta Junction DEJ TD2 to SMU, TD2 to TOS, 74A to SMU, 74A to TOS, TD2 to GXR, VHF8 to GXR Diamond Ridge DRJ TD2 to SOY, VHF7 to SOY, TR1 to PMY, TR1 to BMX Dillingham DLG VHF1 to AKN, SAT to BTL Dillon ADP UHF1 to MGS Dolly Varden DVP UHF1 to WFP Donnelly Dome DLZ TD2 to BLR, TD2 to HDG, 109 to DEJ, 78F2 to DEJ, 74A to BLR, 74A to HDG Driftwood Bay DFB TR1 to CSH, TR1 to IKO, VHF1 to UKA Duncan Canal Demonton Eilson AFB EAF MW1 to PJD Fairbanks FBK Fort Wainwright FTW 78F2 to MYA, 78F2 to FBK Fort Yukon FYU TR2 to BAR, TR1 to PJD Frontier Galena GAL SS2 to KKK, 501 to CMN Gerstle River GXR TD2 to DEJ, TD2 to KRG, VHF8 to DEJ, VHF8 to KRG Gilmore Creek GMX 74A/B to FBK, satellite to Goddard Girdwood GWY 78A to BRP, 78A to POT Glennallen GLO TD2 to TOS, TD2 to ARA, 74A to TOS, 74A to ARA Goldking Creek GKC TD2 to CLC, TD2 to CAN, VHF8 to CLC, VHF8 to CAN Grand Prarie Granite Mountain GMT TR1 to KNR, TR1 to OTZ1, TR1 to AVM Grayling GYP SS2 to WFP, SS2 to TBP Harding Lake HDG TD2 to PJD, 74A to PJD, 74A to DLZ, TD2 to DLZ Hill 3870 OYJ 228 to AVM, 228 to KPC Holiday Beach (USCG) HLB 74B to PMY, 74B to NHB Hoonah Iliamna ILI VHF6 to BMX Indian Mountain UTO TR1 to BCC, VHF6 to BTT Juneau Kalakaket Creek KKK TR1 to TLI, TR1 to BCC, SS2 to GAL, 74B to CMN, TR1 to KNR 64°25'33"N 156°50'9"W Kenai Airport ENA E185 to NKA Ketchikan King NMR SS2 to NKA, SS2 to ASP King Salmon AKN8 CA to AKN, UHF1 to EKK King Salmon WACS AKN TR1 to BMX, TR1 to PTH, VHF1 to DLG, CA to AKN8 Knob Ridge KRG TD2 to GXR, TD2 to CYR, VHF8 to GXR, VHF8 to CYR Kodiak USCG NHB 74B to HLB Kotzebue E.S. OTZ8 CA to OTZ1, SAT to BTL Kotzebue WACS OTZ1 TR1 to GMT, TR1 to LUR, CA to OTZ8 Legend Lena Point Lethbridge Lisburne LUR TR1 to OTZ1, ET86 to PHP, ? to Point Lay Dew Line 68°52'8"N 166°8'47"W McCallum MLM TD2 to BLR, TD2 to PAX, 74A to BLR, 74A to PAX Mono Pod TBP SS2 to GYP Moose Pass MOP 78A to TNL, 78A to SRD Mount Dave, Canada MDV RCA9104(TD2) to BVC, VHF8 to BVC, MM to XYO Murphy Dome MYD TD2 to PJD, VHF8 to PJD, TD2 to CLC, VHF8 to CLC, 74B to CLR (only concrete building foundations remain in 1998) Naptowne WNE TD2 to RCC, TD2 to SXO, VHF7 to RCC, VHF7 to SXO Neklasson Lake KNV TD2 to R1N, TD2 to SML, TR1 to SXO, TR2 to BSW, 74A to R1N, 74A to SML, 78A to R1N Nikishka NKA SS4 to SXO, SS2 to WFP, SS2 to MGS, SS2 to AAP, SS2 to MGC, SS2 to NMR, UHF1 to TYE, E185 to ENA Nikolski IKO TR1 to DFB Nome OME CA to AVM, SAT to BTL, SCPC to various North River KNR TR1 to KKK, TR1 to GMT, 74B to UNK Northway ORT VHF4 to TKJ Paxson PAX TD2 to ARA, TD2 to MLM, 74A to ARA, 74A to MLM, G6004 to IBC, UHF1 to Paxson Highway Maint. Bldg. Pedro Dome PJD TR1 to FYU, TR1 to BCC, TD2 to FBK, VHF7 to FBK, VHF8 to MYD, TD2 to MYD, TD2 to HDG, 74A to HDG, MW1 to EAF (WACS all gone 1998) Pillar Mountain PMY TR1 to DRJ, VHF1 to PLN, 74B to CYK, VHF2 to WDY, 74B to HLB Point Hope PHP ET86 to LUR Point Reyes E.S. REY Port Clarence KPC 228 to OYJ, 228 to TNC, 6004 to KTS Port Heiden PTH TR1 to AKN, TR1 to PML Port Lions PLN VHF1 to PMY Port Moller PML TR1 to PTH, TR1 to CDB, CA to PML3 Port Moller PML3 VHF1 to SDP, CA to PML Portage POT 78A to GWY PS10 OAJ G6004 to BLR Putt River E.S. R1 North R1N 74B to KNV, 74B to EDF, 78A to KNV, 78A to ANC, TD2 to ANC, VHF7 to RCC Rabbit Creek RCC TD2 to ANC, VHF7 to R1N, VHF7 to WNE, TD2 to WNE Sand Point SDP VHF1 to PML3 Sawmill SML TD2 to KNV, TD2 to SMU, 74A to KNV, 74A to SMU Scotty Lake-Hill 1688 SCL - OYI 10 hops of microwave Seward SRD 78A to MOP Sheep Mountain SMU TD2 to SML, TD2 to HNE, 74A to SML, 74A to HNE Shell A MGA UHF1 to MGC Shell C MGC SS2 to NKA, UHF1 to MGA Shemya SYA TR2 to ADK1 52°43'25"N 174°08'21"E Sitka Skagway Smugglers Cove Soldotna SXO TD2 to WNE, TD2 to CYG, VHF7 to WNE, VHF7 to CYG, TR1 to KNV, SS4 to NKA Sparks ASP SS2 to NMR Sparrevohn SVW TR1 to BMX, TR1 to TLI, TR1 to ANI Starisky Creek SOY TD2 to CYG, TD2 to DRJ, VHF7 to CYG, VHF7 to DRJ Tahneta Pass HNE TD2 to SMU, TD2 to TOS, 74A to SMU, 74A to TOS Tanana TAL VHF6 to BCC Tatalina Teller KTS 6004 to KPC Tern Lake TNL 78A to BRP, 78A to MOP, FM2 to JLA Tin City TNC 228 to KPC Tok Junction TKJ TD2 to BVC, TD2 to CYR, VHF8 to BVC, VHF8 to CYR, VHF4 to ORT Tolsona TOS TD2 to HNE, TD2 to GLO, 74A to HNE, 74A to GLO Tyonek TYE UHF1 to NKA Unalaska UKA VHF1 to DFB, SAT to BTL Valdez Vernon Valley West Forelands WFP SS2 to NKA, SS2 to GYP, UHF1 to DVP Whitehorse XYO MM to MDV, MM to QHO, OW to CAR, OW to BDR Windy Point WDY 78A to ANC, 78A to BRP Woody Island WDY VHF2 to PMY Seward SRD 78A to MOP Yakataga CYT TR2 to BSW, VHF1 to S.A.M. Ship, G6004 to Ocean Ranger Yakutat E.S. YAK SAT to BTL
From: Albert LaFrance alafrance (at) compuserve.com Mailing-List: list email@example.com Date: Sat, 6 May 2000 23:06:42 -0400 Subject: [coldwarcomms] Plan ICEFOOT Here's a tidbit from the National Archives which may be of interest, especially to the Alaska Communications System/White Alice community. Recently-declassified records of the U.S. Army Office of the Chief Signal Officer contain at least one memo (9 Dec. 1952) concerning "Plan ICEFOOT" - a proposal for monitoring ACS voice traffic during emergency situations, as part of a censorship program. The monitoring would be done at Seattle and Anchorage; the Seattle activity would be housed in a Bell System office. Source: Record group 111: Office of the Chief Signal Officer Series: Army Communications Services Division Decimal Files, 1923-1959 Box: 23 (1951-1952) Folder: "676 Censorship 1951-1952" Albert
From: "R (Sven) Engblom" sven (at) epix.net To: Joe Stevens WL7AML (at) arrl.net Date: Sat, 24 Jun 2000 00:26:15 -0400 Subject: What's in a Name Here is a little story of my existance on the White Alice. Sven What's in a Name? Well...... So your name is Sven...... How did you manage to get that moniker hung on you? Where did you come up with such an aberration? Hmmm..... (sigh)..... This takes time. It's not something you can just pass off with some smart reply. After all, think about it. How can you derive Sven from Richard? Well, yes, but you could say the same for Dick. How do you derive Dick from Richard? That's easy enough. Richard, Rick, Dick. But then again it could have been just as easy to come up with Richard, Retched, Retch, Vomit. Vomit Engblom. Now that has a certain upchuckling ring to it. But, I'm getting off the point here. Sven does not relate. As we pass through our mortal existence, we all experience things; some of them really good, some of them not so good. The good ones we reinforce by thinking and savoring them from time to time. So they are a part of our past that we like to think about. The bad ones? Well we try not to think about those. With practice, we forget about them. Good thing too. But there are some memories that we are not so proud of that you can't forget. They stand out in your mind regardless of how you perceive their goodness, or badness. And so it is with Sven. Each time someone calls me "Sven" the memory is there; boldly asserting itself should I choose to think about it. Its just there, hanging in the wind; and it never goes away. I arrived in Alaska wet behind the ears. I was part of a group of guys that was to take part in some cursory equipment training and then be sent out to man and operate the "White Alice" communications system. This was a system to link all the Aircraft Control and Warning stations sprinkled about Alaska with each other. It also served as an interface point for the DEW line at Cape Lisburne on the Arctic coast which would alert the AC&W stations of any intruder. We worked for Federal Electric Corp. who had a contract with the Air Force to provide the O&M for the system. Good money for the time as all sites were from somewhat remote to all by itself on a mountain top. After 3 months in training at Anchorage, I spent some time at Kodiak and then was sent to a site on a mountain top called Kalakaket Creek. (A mountain called Kalakaket Creek? Naaaaa. Kal Creek just happens to be near by.) You can find it on a good map just 20 or so miles southeast of Galena in the center of Alaska. Galena is a very small native village on the banks of the Yukon River. Its main claim to fame at the time was that it was home to a squadron of fighter planes ready to scramble at a moments notice. They would also scramble if something screwed up in the communications link. They got lots of practice scrambling as we managed to screw it up enough! But I'm getting off the point here. The station was in the final stages of construction when we arrived. There were maybe 40 or 50 construction men of different crafts there plus the support staff, (cooks, bakers, waiters, etc.). We had to live in Quonset huts down by the airstrip for awhile while the living quarters were finished up. But, the combined mess/rec room was in good shape - enough so we could have a party each Friday and Saturday night after the movie. A plane would come in Friday afternoon with a case of whiskey and several cases of beer - just the right ingredients for a good hangover. It was also the start of the all weekend poker game. It started Friday after supper and didn't stop until Sunday after supper. And those guys knew how to build a pot. Thousand bucks on a turn of a card was not uncommon. But, this is beside the point. I am somewhat musically inclined - I play the accordion..... yech..... but I can strum a guitar a few licks also. The mix was good at the time and I was welcomed by the crew.....live music with plenty of booze! How good can it get? I have a middling voice and knew all the western music of the early 50s. And I knew all the good singalong songs of the time. Bob Crutcher, our station manager, thought it was just great. He could really sing around midnight! As you might expect, I was well known quickly as the guy who played the accordion - no name - just the guy that played the accordion. Bob Crutcher had been a Captain in the Air Force and owned a plane which was kept down at the air strip. He always took it for a ride when the weather was good. One day he asked me to go along with him to a place called "Ruby". There was a trading post there and they had the distinction of having the only bar along the Yukon, or at least the Alaska portion of it. So, a couple of us guys piled into his plane along with my accordion and away we went. At Ruby, we buzzed the town indicating we were going to land at the air strip a mile or so away. Soon as we set down a jeep came up the road to take us into the village. The village of Ruby at that time was very small consisting of one unpaved road running along the bank of the Yukon River. Obviously we made straightaway to the Northern Commercial Trading Post to take advantage of the local oasis. Sure enough, after entering the store, (pretty much like a general country store), to the right was the bar - a plank across a couple of wooden barrels with a couple of stools. It was a cozy place as they had a pot bellied stove stoked up with the necessary dog curled nearby. (I suppose I could say there was a grizzly miner there, northern lights out, and temperature at 50 below. But it wouldn't be true.) There was also an open area with a couple tables where a few people were having some coffee. Behind the bar there was a bottle of whiskey - that's all - just one bottle of whiskey. And you had your choice of drinks - straight whiskey, whiskey and water, whiskey and coke, or whiskey and 7. (I guess there were some wimps that would opt for just coke or 7 up - I was not a wimp!) Just as a side note, although we drank and sang throughout the evening, I never saw more than one bottle of whiskey behind the bar. Nor did I see the proprietor seek another. (The obvious answer is that I couldn't see!) After a good evening meal and several rounds of drinks, I broke out the accordion and started things going. It didn't take too long before the whole village was there dancing up a storm! We were really in fine shape and everyone was really enjoying themselves. I handled every request that came my way and added a few of my own. Just as things were really getting good with everyone participating, a young Indian princess asked me if I could do something special for her. Sure thing. Elvis Presley? Huh??? Elvis and rock and roll were just taking off in the music world - definitely not something geared for the accordion. I stalled her off and kept up with other requests. But she was persistent. Finally I gave in and said OK. I had a real good glow on - really into the music - and there was someone's guitar handy. I grabbed it, banged a couple chords, and then launched into "Blue Swede Shoes". The only thing is I put a little twist on it. I sang it with a very heavy Swedish accent! I had listened to my Dad talk with a Swedish accent all my life and could imitate him down to a tee. Vun for da money - two for da show - tree to get ready - now go cat go! And don't you (heavy accent on you) - step on my blue (heavy accent here) svede shoes. Well, needless to say, this brought the house down! Everyone was laughing so hard. And Bob Crutcher was laughing the hardest. And it didn't stop there. There were several songs I sang in the heavy swede accent. One about the waitress and her logger lover - Ders none like him today, if you'd pour viskey on it, he'd eat a bale of hay. They loved it. And Crutcher just howled. But after a bit it was time to get back to regular jitterbug with "In the Mood" and things like that. I went on until midnight or so reverting back to a few Swedish tunes just to keep the humor going. We put up in the local cabin that passed as an inn and slept soundly under a pile of blankets. The next morning we arose to a fresh blanket of snow; maybe six inches or so. We had a good breakfast which helped put out some of the fire in the belly. We were a little concerned about taking off in the snow but we had to get back. They couldn't clear the runway in time for us to leave so Crutcher decided to make a path with the plane. We loaded up and started making passes down the strip going a little faster each time. I thought Bob was going to lift off the sixth pass but he cut the engine right at the point of no return. The seventh pass we made it and flew on back to Kal Creek. They had cleared the strip for us so there was no problem with our landing. It didn't take long for Crutcher to relate the festivities to the others and put great emphasis on the Swedish accent bit. And, that night it was command performance time. I obliged. Bob called me Sven, the mad Svede. It stuck with everyone as that was something they could remember. Now I wasn't the guy that played the accordion - I was Sven! Each station was connected to the other with a party line orderwire which was used to troubleshoot circuit problems between stations. Mostly it was used as a community BS line. Although it was set up as a dial up system, most stations just set up a speaker on the line. That way you could listen to anyone who was on the line and put your two cents in when you felt like it. Well, it didn't take long for the story to be related to the buddies I went through training with - and everyone else who was listening on line. Problem with a circuit on the eve shift? Call Sven! Maybe you can pull his leg a little - get a little swede talk out of him! I was transferred from Kal Creek to Cape Lisburne on the Arctic coast. I had to go via Fairbanks, Nome, and Kotzebue. Naturally the flights were such that I had to overnight at each place. I had a good buddy at the Nome site who met me at the plane. He and his wife were living in Nome and I spent the night at his place. Of course we had to go into the village for a little bar hopping. We were doing just great at the Polar Bar when he said he had to go home but would be right back. True to his word he was - with my accordion! I played and they danced. A couple hours later a comely young Eskimo girl came up to me and shyly asked me if I could play something special for her. She even called me Sven! I knew what was coming. And I knew those guys had put her up to it! Once again it had the effect of a lot of laughter and general good feeling. I departed the next day for a six month stay 200 miles north of the Arctic circle. I was transferred to a large, relatively empty station near Fairbanks called Pedro Dome. And it had a road into Fairbanks 25 miles away. The name Sven proceeded me and it just stuck with me. OK, Sven. That explains how you picked up the nick name. But that doesn't explain why you still have it. Lots of guys pick up nick names in the military for various reasons. And when they get out of the service the name disappears. Why do you still use it? Hmmmm...... Well........ That's another story. You have a little more time? A very unlikely event changed my life even further at Pedro Dome - the station manager, Ralph Johnson, had a heart attack! And I had just agreed to be his assistant manager the day before. I was attending classes at the University of Alaska at the time, but that came to a screeching halt as I had to run the station in his absence. It was just a little site, 4 culinary people, 5 mechanics, (we generated our own power), half a dozen technicians, - and me. I was only 26 at the time and had to do some very serious maturing. No more entertainer - this was serious business here. I was just supposed to hold the place together until Ralph came back. Weeks ran into months and he finally retired under doctor's orders. Bill Miller, who was the Northern Alaska Sector Manager, felt I had done a good job but he could not keep me on as site manager as it would not be fair to others in the bush waiting for a good assignment. So I went to Kotzebue for a year as site manager. The contract changed hands while I was in Kotzebue. RCA Service Company won the contract and I hired over. Andy Cowen, the new Operations Manager, asked me to go back to Pedro Dome as site manager. I agreed. By this time, the BMEWS station was being built at Clear, Alaska and, as a result, Pedro Dome was being filled with equipment and made into the biggest communications hub in the system. The site grew to about 25 people and I really had to knuckle down. I ran the site for 6 years. The site grew bigger and I took on more adjacent sites - even one down at Clear. The site, being adjacent to Eilson AFB, became a showcase for visiting military. Hobnobbed with high military brass and all that goes with it. But people still called me Sven. They didn't know why. I was just Sven. Besides, it was a lot easier to say than "Engblom". There was a ski area just off the hill from Pedro Dome - Cleary Summit Ski area - where I learned to ski. The owner, Bob McCann, and I were on good talking terms as we were, in effect, neighbors. And when his sister came to visit him he introduced me to her. Jane - meet Sven. So started a courtship. It wasn't until after we were engaged that Jane found out my name was really Richard. She almost had a fit. "I will not go through life being part of Dick and Jane!" She figured we would be the butt of unimaginable jokes that would plague us from then on. So, Sven it was. Kinda hard to explain to my parents why Jane kept calling me "Sven" when they called me "Dicky"! Quite obvious why I stuck with Sven. We stayed in Fairbanks for 5 years where Jane presented me with three wonderful children - Lisa, Maija, and Thor. (They haven't themselves heard the full story of how my name came into being.) In the fall of 66, I took on the job of SW Alaska Sector Manager and found it was a mistake. I did not like being away from the "hands on" site activity. So, just as the winter snows were starting to fall, we packed up the car and headed down the Alcan Highway - with two of three kids in diapers! The use of the name Sven followed me throughout my life. But the story of how it came into being died in Alaska. I know, I know...... I could be just spinning some yarn..... taking some long ago events and really exaggerating on them. But, (as the humorist Dave Berry would say), I'm not making this up. Its all true! I couldn't make up anything so goofy. And now you know............ I can still play the accordion but haven't for several years now. I keep promising myself to get it out and practice a little. I can put on the Swedish accent anytime, but never do. Too conservative now. And no one would dare laugh at an old geezer talking funny. They would shake their heads knowingly saying "tsk, tsk, tsk". I even thought of legally changing my name to Sven. Too much trouble dealing with the government. Besides, I wouldn't have anything to talk about when someone asks, "How in the world did you ever get the name Sven?" ------- End of forwarded message ------- Sven [See more in the Guestbook] When you smile you brighten someone's day.
Aniak and Bear Creek
Harry Tabor, Sven Engblom, & Al Martin
Gene Porter, Lynn Saupe, Sven Engblom
removal of Sitkinak antenna
Helmut Troutman (sitting), and Jim Waters
My personal home page
Wikipedia WACS page
Wikipedia list of sites
The Wikipedia site does not know where the Neklasson Lake station is located. Google Earth coordinates are 61 37 12 N, 149 15 22 W.
The White Alice Communications System by Bill Everly, with MAP. Be sure not to miss Bill's HISTORY page. He has a picture of the NEK Lake site.
Granite Mt. WACS site still in situ in 2006. 138 miles 060° from Nome. 65°25'42"N 161°13'56"W. Runway at 65°24'08"N 161°16'53"W. (Cut and paste those coordinates into Google Earth.) GMT (Granite Mountain) had direct paths to AVM (Anvil Mountain), OTZ1 (Kotzebue)and KNR (North River). YouTube video of airstrip and flight to Nome (uploaded 2009). There is a good tour of the WACS site on YouTube but the people who filmed it had no clue what they were looking at so the title is not relevant and I can't find it again. If you run acorss it please let me know. ...j0e)
Anvil Mt. WACS by the Alaska Dept of Fish & Game and another on Flikr and another. In 2016, the City of Nome purchased the Anvil Mt site for preservation.
Ft. Yukon White Alice Communications Site by Dale Powell in Fairbanks has a very good collection of pictures. This site was demolished the summer of 1999.
The Early Warning Connection has a marvelous set of links.
Air Defense Radar Museum
Official AF history of AC&W.
The Air Force originally built the WACS. A chronology of some Air Force events surrounding WACS shows that construction started in 1955.
Later WACS was sold to Alascom.
History of Alaska Communications from the Alaska Public Utilities Commission.
Sparrevohn, SVW super 8 movie from Bob Johnson, 1968. Larry Clasen, Jerry Karim.
REMEMBER that some of these stories are dated. Consider when they were written.
The Alascom Story written 1992. The reference to HF radio should include MF as the majority of the radios were MF not HF.
Today more communications is moving to fiber-optic cable. For a look at submarine cables and some insight into how they are repaired, check out http://www.teleport.com/~samc/seas/deep3.html
The Washington - Alaska submarine cable was retired in 1977, built in 1956 ( 21 Years of Service) and ran from Port Angeles, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska - 2,776 km at 144 + 144 KHz - WSTCS Ref#: 27. Maintenance Authority: AT&T
Lest you think that tropo systems were unique to Alaska, see this page about Florida City which had links to Cuba and Bahamas.
The North Atlantic Radio System (NARS) ran tropo up into the 1990's between North America and England.
Lynn Saupe WACS photos (78 images from various sites) (Lynn Saupe obituary.)
White Alice by Bill Everly, partial site
White Alice by Bill Everly, more complete site
WACS Guest Book by Bill Everly WACS Newsletters internet
WACS Wikipedia where you can edit and add content.
White Alice by Dale Powell, AL7Y
WACS Newsletters CD ROM
Kodiak Military History main index
My personal home page