Hi Res

Welcome toShemya AFB, home of Det-1, 6th SW, SAC (Circa 1969). The remote island of Shemya is at the far end of the Aleutian chain (The Twilight Zone). If and when you ever get there, you will find out what Alice in Wonderland felt like when she entered the Rabbit Hole. After you arrive and get your bearings it will become quite clear that Shemya is not a mirage but a secret base of operations for collecting intelligence and launching spy planes. Shemya is no ordinary run of the mill island and tourists are not welcome. When veterans speak of Shemya they usually refer to it as "The Rock" or "The Black Pearl of The Aleutians".

On 6 April 1993 Shemya AFB was renamedEareckson Air Station.

"The Iron Pumpkin"
Hi Res

Hangar #2, The SAC Hangar, was our rabbit hole. It was like an Island on an Island. We did everything under one roof. We even stocked our own food and ate in the hangar when the weather grounded us. Our Detachment Commander (Col. Ratto) was famous for scrounging food supplies from the chow hall and smuggling goodies from the mainland. He also loved to welcome us back from operational missions with a buffet in the hangar. As General LeMay would say: "Nothing is too good for the boys in sage green."

Click on the following links for high resolution photos of Hangar #2 (Looking South) that were taken in 2003:#1,#2

E. Wakeman
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Boozer was a friend to everyone on Shemya. One of his favorite spots was the main entrance to building #600 (Comp Bldg.) as shown in the photo above. He was put to sleep on31 December 1968and buried next to the "Shemya Plug" in front of the Comp building on New Years day with full ceremony. The loss of Boozer was not a good way to start the New Year as we would all learn. In retrospect, it was a bad omen.Click Herefor more Boozer stories, photos, history and a memorial tribute.

E. Wakeman
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Aaahhh....Yes, the "Million Dollar Dump" ($1,000,000). Environmental control.... Shemya style. Everything ended up here when it became useless. For many of us it was like a playground. We loved exploring for little hidden treasures. Some of those treasures are probably still in many a garage and basement. I still l have mine, do you have yours?

A. Hansen
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The wind swept shoreline of Shemya consisted mainly of rocks and gravel. The island itself was a combination of grey fog and blowing snow mixed with drab buildings, remnants of WWII and rusty vehicles.

It was a cold, windy and desolate island. In a word.... it was "Grim".

K. Hawes
Hi Res

The treasured jewels of Shemya were glass balls that washed up on the beach. They were hard to find but they were worth their weight in gold. Your tour of duty was not considered complete if you left The Rock without any balls.

The super glass ball in the photo above was a gift from Bob Armentrout (Granny)..... thanks Bob.

The glass balls were used by nearby fishing fleets to float their nets. A typical ball measured 5-6" in diameter and was made out of green glass. One time someone found a ball that measured almost 12" in diameter ! That was big news on Shemya. Speaking of news.... there was even a unit newspaper called "The Glass Ball".

Now if glass balls don't appeal to you, maybe coke bottles will. They were also in high demand and if you found one with the right markings on the bottom it was worth.... "Big Bucks" !

"A Place Called Shemya"
Hi Res

For those of you not interested in hunting for glass balls, coke bottles or treasures in the $1,000,000 dump, maybe you would like to explore "The Twilight Zone" as Bob Brown and Joe Hall are doing in the photo above. Believe it or not, they're standing in the middle of the runway ! I'm not sure why they are wandering around in the middle of a blizzard. Maybe they were out looking for some trees and got lost. Anything is possible on Shemya.

Weather conditions on The Rock were cruel, harsh and unpredictable. The job of a weather forcaster was virtually impossible. The best suggestion I ever heard of for improving weather conditions was to move the entire island further south toward Hawaii by transfering rocks on the north shore to the south shore.

Click Herefor current weather conditions on The Rock. Note the wind speed and direction (Crosswind) relative to runway heading (10 - 28) and you will begin to appreciate the difficulty of landing an RC-135 on The Rock at night in foul weather when your aircraft lacks thrust reversers, crosswind crab, drag chute or tail hook. In a word....It's a Bitch.

K. Hawes
Hi Res

Not far from Shemya is another remote and mysterious world called Kamchatka. Kamchatka is a peninsula about the size of Japan on the far eastern edge of the Soviet Union (Russia) and served as a target area for ICBMs launched from (1)Plesetsk, (2)Kapustin Yarand (3) Tyuratam / Baikonur. When the missile's reentry vehicle (RV) entered the atmosphere and streaked toward the (4)Klyuchi / Kura Test Rangeon Kamchatka, we wanted to be front and center with Rivet Ball and record every aspect of the event.

Rest assured, we had the best seat in the house.

Kamchatka is also famous forvolcanoes,submarines,espionageand the shootdown ofKAL-007. Kamchatka was the primary test range for Soviet ICBMs throughout most of the year. For about one month during the summer the Soviets would launch ICBMs far into the Pacific Ocean to test their long range accuracy. We loved it when they did that because that meant we would stage our missions out of Hickham AFB in Hawaii andJohnston Island. Johnston Island's claim to fame was high altitude nuclear tests in 1962 (Operation Dominic) and chemical weaponsstorage/demolition. The only thing Johnston Island and Shemya had in common were their small size and remote location. Other than that they were two very different worlds. For most of us, Johnston Island was a tropical paradise.

Johnston Island wasn't the only remote location where the US tested nukes. Our neighbors about 300 miles east of Shemya became famous in 1971 when they were preparing for a five megaton underground test named "Cannikin" on the island ofAmchitka. That's when "Greenpeace" started to protest nuclear testing by sailing their ship "Phyllis Cormack" into harms way. They were unable to stop the test but they did manage to become one of the most powerful environmental organizations in the world.

During the "Cold War", Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) were a major threat to the United States. So much so that President Reagan announced to the world on 23 March 1983 his intentions of developing a defense system, Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), capable of destroying ICBMs in space. Especially ICBMs launched by the "Evil Empire" of the Soviet Union. The SDI was immediately dubbed "Star Wars" by the press.

Rivet Ball, Rivet Amber and the radars on Shemya played an important role in the early years of our missile defense effort. Think of it as "Star Wars -101".Cobra Ball,Cobra Daneand Cobra Judyare the current leaders in gathering vital missile intelligence. In the near future, Shemya will become the first line of defense in our "National Missile Defense" program and Boeing plans for anAirborne Laserplatform (ABL) designed to destroy missiles in space.

Evil Empire Speech

Copyright 2000 Kingdon R. Hawes (Webmaster)
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