In December, 1953, the NSG Dept at NCS Port Lyautey, located at Naval Air Station Port Lyautey, French Morocco, moved to Sidi Yahia, and was established as the NSG Dept, NCS Sid Yahia, Morocco. NSG Dept, NCS Sidi Yahia remained active until it closed in December 1976.
The following is from the NSG Bulletin 1978, courtesy Tom Kotche:
U.S. Hands Over Base to Morocco
The United States quietly abandoned its last military base in Africa on September 30 with a low-key ceremony that ended a 36 year military presence in Morocco dating back to Operation Torch, one of the turning points of World War II.
The signature of Captain William Parrish, USN, the commander of the American run communications bases centered at Kenitra, 25 miles north of the Moroccan capital of Rabat, formally handed over to the Moroccan government all the that remained of the multimillion dollar installations.
Captain Parrish and four other officers were the last in a succession of tens of thousands of American troops who have served in Morocco since General George Patton’s GIs stormed ashore on November 8, 1942, and captured Kenitra – then named Port Lyautey – from the forces of Vichy France in a three day battle that cost the lives of 57 Americans.
Greatly expanded and modernized by the United States, the bases at Kenitra and neighboring Sidi Yahia and Boukanadel were placed under nominal Moroccan command in 1965 to counter communist and Third World criticism, similar to the raised against the former U.S. military facilities in Libya and Ethiopia. Those facilities were abandoned after new governments came to power in those countries, but the Moroccan bases remained firmly under U.S. control.
At the height of their importance in the 1950’s, the bases served as a major U.S. arm deport, staging point and communication center, with a garrison of more than 2,000 troops and dependents.
The NAVSECGRU presence in Morocco began in July 1945 and continued in one form or another until very recently. COMINT operations ceased in July 1972. All “T,” “R,” and “I” branch CTs left Morocco shortly thereafter, although “O” branch personnel and some “A” and “M” branchers remained at the NAVCOMMSTA. Now they too have departed.
Two years ago the United States decided to disestablish the bases, costing more than $7 million a year to operate, and replace them with satellite facilities. Sidi Yahia, the radio receiver station, was turned over to the Moroccans in December 1977.
5 December 2020 at 10:07
I remember it well. I served there as T Branch CTT1 and then CTTC between 68 and 70. Lived in town in Kenitra and then moved on base with my wife four children. We enjoyed the time there, although the kids were a bit young to remember it all.
5 December 2020 at 14:09
I was stationed at Bouknadel in 1957-58.
5 December 2020 at 21:09
Arrived in Sidi Christmas eve 1966 and worked the tropo site. Met a young French girl who worked as a secretary for the CB’s. Married her in 1967 and we just celebrated our 53rd anniversary. A great duty station and beautiful country. Met a lot of really nice people. Retired as an ETCM in 1986 but will always remember my first duty station.
5 December 2020 at 22:43
Nice story, congrats on your finding the woman you love ! It was a good experience for me in Bouknadel at the transmitter site.
5 December 2020 at 17:16
A great duty station a long as the French were there. They gave our troops break in court. I was the Legal Officer and interpreter. When the Moroccans took over they left the airfield , the barracks and everything else in shambles. Long story.
6 December 2020 at 00:41
Sidi Yahia was my one and only enlisted tour after DLI and Goodfellow. I arrived as a CTI3 in lat ’69 and left for OCS in September of ’70. I didn’t think much of the mess hall food or the barracks without AC. It was hard to sleep after a mid watch in the summer time when the indoor temperature got above 90 degrees. The mess hall suffered from a long supply chain and problems with the quality of local produce. However, there was plenty of cheap beer at the EM club. I slept through a lot of rides to and from Kenitra on the liberty bus but food and drink were good and a working knowledge of French made trips into town pretty interesting.
6 December 2020 at 01:42
First and Best duty station. 70 to 72.
6 December 2020 at 05:29
Was my first duty station after Pensacola…arrived early ’71 and moved off base when I made E-4 and lived in apt. in Kenitra with Billy Williams and John Williams (not related). Billy died in a “White-Out” in Adak at his next duty station and I still toast his memory.
“Volunteered” to be the base lifeguard for several months over the Summer as I was “certified” as a life guard and could teach swimming lessons. Worked under a Lt. Dumont who also was fluent in French (the language of commerce) and a source of knowledge for the local cuisine. Because of the sun’s intensity I got to fly out to Rota for an eye exam for Rx sunglasses. This happened shortly after the 1st (annual) coup attempt on the king and I had to fly out early in the morning on the C-47 (DC-3) mailplane… Got dropped off at the air base entrance (which was also the Moroccan’s military base) and was walking down the hill to the flightline in the dark when 2 Moroccan guards stepped out of the darkness and trained their weapons on me. Somehow I managed to show them my suitcase and that I was flying out and not a threat and they let me by. Some time later, I boarded the plane and as it was starting the engines, one didn’t seem to work properly (flames and smoke) so they shut it down and we deplaned while it was fixed. Several hours later, we gave it another try and this time we started to taxi but one of the flight crew had come to the back entrance door and had propped it open with his foot so as to look thru the crack forward…toward the back of the engine that’d just been worked on. When we started to pick up speed, he’d yell, “okay…okay…okay” as we headed down the runway…finally yelling forward, “Looks good! GO!” shut the door and walked past myself and several others on the flight…who looked at each other as we left the ground and I remembered the “stories” of how the mail plane flew along the coast in case it needed to land on the beach as well as why it climbed in altitude when it attempted to cross over to Spain…again, so as to be able to glide to either shore if the engines cut out???
Overall, Morocco wasn’t my first choice for a duty station, but with my military pay at the time, it was the best place to be to afford to live off base, travel, eat and obtain some of the items locally made. Of course, being a Muslim country, there still were bars contrary to their beliefs, but also, often I’d travel alone and never felt uncomfortable…something that was sweet to experience, but presently unlikely to ever happen again.
6 December 2020 at 06:47
I and my family (wife, boy 4 and boy 3) 08/02/70 as CTO1. Lived off base in villa owned/rented by French lady whose
husband had fought as underground in WW II. It was on last street in town before road to Bouknadel and Rabat. We
lived there for a year before getting base qtrs at Sidi Yahia 08/01/71. Loved the place. We had a 17yr old Morrocan
houseboy that took care of cleaning and walking our Wolf/German Shepherd mix while we lived in town and then I
got him cleared to work for us on the base. We had to have the dog put down (it got bitten by a rabid dog), but got
another GermShep to replace him and when I was xfrd to Keflavik I learned just a few days before leaving I had made
Chief. I could tell you several stories about my tour at Sidi but they are too long for here.