By Robert Gibson “Bob” Corder
I joined the Navy in 1955 after graduating from high school (in Virginia), primarily because my parents couldn’t afford to send me to college.
While in boot camp at the Bainbridge NTC, I was selected for Communications Technician schooling in California. After graduating boot camp, I was transferred to the San Diego NTC for two months of schooling in Morse code, procedure, and theory before being transferred to the Naval Radio Station at Imperial Beach for four months of Communications Technician schooling.
On arrival at the base in Imperial Beach (in February 1956), I was dismayed by its appearance. Unlike the adobe-style barracks (with terra cotta roofs) at the base in San Diego, drab-looking wooden barracks (and other buildings) were situated on a barren strip of land adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. I was initially housed in barracks located just inside the main gate (off Palm Avenue), approximately 0.25-0.50 miles from the chow hall, school buildings, administration building, and additional barracks. In the middle of that expanse of land was an underground concrete bunker known as “the tunnel” with tall antennae located nearby (we were told that the antennae field was “mined”). After a few weeks, I was transferred up the hill to the barracks near the school buildings.
My class instructor was S. Franklin “Frank” Alspaugh (CTC), a prince of a man. The course work alternated; two weeks during daylight hours, two weeks at night. The course work was challenging, but I managed to graduate 7th out of my class of 25 (with a score of 95 out of a possible 100).
My best buddy while stationed at I. B. was Floyd Stevenson “Steve” Harris (from North Carolina). We were both very interested in getting a “fleet appointment” to the Naval Academy and were missing our girlfriends back home, so we bonded quickly. As if it were meant to be, at graduation, we were both selected for advanced CT schooling at the Naval Security Headquarters in Washington (D.C.) where we trained in the latest equipment and technologies.
One rather humorous event, which I will never forget, happened very early one morning when I was awakened around 4:00 AM and ordered to hurry over to the Administration Building to assume the Telephone Watch (the Sailor originally scheduled for the duty had taken ill). I threw on my uniform and, half asleep, ran over to assume the duty. I had not stood that particular watch before, so I had to learn how to operate the switchboard on my own, dropping a few calls in the process! Later that morning, I had to hoist the flag up the flag pole while a recording of reveille played over the P.A. system. The flag pole was a very high one and the flag was huge, so I had a very difficult time attaching the flag to the pulley assembly without letting it touch the ground. The recording of reveille had long since stopped playing when I finally got the flag fastened and hauled up the pole. To make matters worse, the flag was flying upside down! After bringing the flag down, refastening it the proper manner, and hoisting it back up the pole, I had to laugh to myself at Sailors saluting an empty flag pole while reveille was playing. Thankfully, no one noticed my faux pas.
On the weekends, I usually hitch-hiked up the “Silver Strand” to Coronado where I boarded a ferry boat and crossed the harbor bay to San Diego (where I had my “civies” stored in a locker at the Servicemen’s YMCA on Broadway Ave.). Sometimes, I rode a transit bus to “Diego,” and I remember that one of its stops was inside an old Army base named Ream Field (later renamed the Naval Auxlilary Air Station).
After my CT schooling, I was assigned to the Naval Security Station headquarters in Washington (D.C.) where I became a Cyrillic Morse Code Intercept Operator.
Postscript: Communications Technician rating was later (1970s) changed to Cryptologic Technician.
Robert Gibson “Bob” Corder, former CTR3
Thank you Bob for sharing your story.