The Communists Are Coming

The second time our emergency defense capability was employed happened on 1 May 1952. The communists had publicly claimed they were going to come on-board the naval base. The Marine detachment had a Sherman tank planted in the middle of the road on the inside of the gate. On each side were a mobile quad .50 caliber machine gun unit and a company of Marines behind the tank on the road to the officer’s club. Our company was located on the road to the hospital with M-1 and bayonets fixed. I believe most of us were wondering what we could do.

The communists got off the train at the station and began marching down MacArthur Blvd. about ten abreast. As they came into view I heard the Marine officer give the order loud and clear, “LOCK AND LOAD.” The tank rammed a round in the cannon while the two .50 caliber units began pulling the bolt back on all guns putting a round in the chamber. As the group got closer, the Marine officer shouted the order, “Aim!” and every machine gun and cannon pointed at the people in the lead.  This front line suddenly shifted direction from towards the main gate to facing the road heading south. The entire group marched by and disappeared at the next roundabout!

The Army in Tokyo and Yokohama experienced all kinds of property damage from these Communist demonstrators but in Yokosuka, it was quiet as a church.


During 1951, I was promoted to second class and put in charge of a maintenance watch section. We had one shop on the third floor and typically, during the mid-watch, when things slowed down, we would set up a RBC receiver, XFG unit and Model 15 teletype to print either Associated Press or other news broadcasts. One night Bernard F. Mitchell, one of my crew, was assigned this task. Suddenly, he asked me to come and see what he was copying. The heading of the message was SECRET codeword. Therefore, I ran down to the second floor analysis group under LT Harold Joslin and showed him the printout. He came up and began reading what we had printed out. About this time a new message was started, again with SECRET and another codeword. He quickly recognized it as one he had just turned into the communication center for transmission. We went back down to the second floor and into the communication center. Jim Wholey was sitting at a model-19 teletype system typing away on LT Joslin’s message. I quickly checked the equipment and noticed the ground wire was loose. I tried to reconnect it but was knocked on my butt since there was 120-volt difference between the unit and ground. I replaced the 18 gauge ground wire with a larger size wire and went back upstairs.  Now the signal was weak so we switched from the whip on top of the building to one of the rhombics located in the storage yard area. Again the signal came back 5/5. Both of us were ordered to remain after the end of our watch until the SSO came in and had us sign a document warning us not to speak of this problem to anyone. Over the next few weeks, the maintenance department installed a massive grounding system throughout the building. Later I learned they assigned the name TEMPEST to this security hazard.

Model-19 (and model 15) teletype system

Naval Communication Station Skaggs Island
January 1953 – January 1954

My next duty station was Skaggs Island where I enjoyed hunting and fishing to my heart’s fulfillment. There were two factors which helped me significantly at my next command. They were attendance at 35mm movie projection school and crypto repair school.

January 1955 – March 1958.

Wheeling and Dealing

Upon reporting to NCU-37 in 1955 I began an adventure beyond my wildest dreams. I forget the chief’s name I relieved since he spent most of his time trying to keep the equipment working at our old site near Tengan. I spent my time checking out our new facility located at Futema just above the abandoned Futema airfield. We had two of the four antennas typically part of a HF/DF site, a barracks facility consisting of generator building, transmitter/maintenance building and a barracks.  Since we were a small unit of less than fifty men total, we were very dependent on the Army for all our logistic support. It did not seem important at the time, but our OIC gave me a letter of authority to sign for surplus material at both the Army and Air Force salvage depots. During my first year, I quickly learned that cumshaw and wheeling and dealing was the only way we could acquire any extra benefits from our Army support.  There were no recreational opportunities available within our command. Therefore, I began slowly to acquire them from the Army. First, I built a TV antenna that was strong enough to survive the many typhoons that hit the island. The only way we could show 16mm sea prints was to sign up with the Army as our religious representative, which authorized me to draw a projector from the Army. By this time, I was well known at White Beach where the Navy would tie up, as one of my collateral capabilities was class “A” crypto technician. Apparently, I was the only one on the island and became quite popular with the various military units.

I discovered white, exterior, enamel paint was more valuable than money in obtaining resources or assistance from Post Engineers or other military units. Thus, I would order at least 30 to 40 gallons of white paint every year from supply. The Army policy was to issue only the amount of paint deemed necessary to apply one coat of white paint to a latrine or galley or whatever had to be painted. Between this type of currency and my ability to acquire anything in either salvage yard (issued to me by the pound rather than description) I was very busy.  After about nine months, I had collected enough data on antenna bearing accuracy that I needed to level some of the terrain around each of the two antenna arrays and replace the ground plane. They used copper-coated steel wire for this ground plane and it was rusting fast. I went to the Army supply facility north of Naha and found about thirty tons of #2 AWG soft drawn copper in one of the warehouses without any record of its existence.  After the war they simply used bulldozers to push everything into one big pile before leaving for the states. The civilian personnel who came later to operate this supply facility began documenting what they found over the years. Initially they refused to let me have any of the wire without paying for it. Since they did not know where it was located in their huge facility I refused to tell them its location. Finally, we got a deal and I hauled a couple of truckloads up to our unit.

Note: Featured image is LT Harold Joslin pictured as a Captain. LT Joslin was an original member of the On-The-Roof Gang, training at the Navy Main Building in Washington, D.C. He was also a POW during World War Two.