The following is a consolidated response primarily written by, William “Red” Hathcock, CTTCM (NAC), USN Retired, regarding the Todendorf Germany story written by Don Dupay. The story in question was posted on Station HYPO on 25 November, 2022.
The following are my comments concerning the HYPO article, ”The Last Surviving Member of USNAVSECGRUDET Todendorf, Germany, 1957” and come not from just myself, but are a compilation of comments from my E-Mail group (9 former CTs). Three of us served at Todendorf and knew the author. The following comments are provided to you for what I consider three primary reasons:
- To provide comments to show that the article is about 80 – 90% false.
- A desire to inform you of the inaccuracies and so help in possible vetting of future articles.
- To illustrate how the writer has attempted to show himself (I believe) in a light of “I am the last of the original 17 men at NSGD Todendorf, we were the standouts, and when I pass on, the legacy will end!” This is disingenuous to say the least.
First I should state that my tour was 1958 – 1960 and I was a CTR3 when I arrived at Todendorf. In those days there was no CTT branch and CTRs manned the ELINT positions. About the time I was promoted to 2nd Class the SECGRU came out with the CTT branch and I converted over to that and remained a CTT until retiring on 30 years in 1986.
When I arrived at Todendorf we had approximately 30 people and we were a Detachment of NSGA Bremerhaven. Our OIC was a LT, with a W4 as the Assistant OIC and maintenance Officer. We were on a 4 Section, Eve, Day, Mid watch schedule. Each watch section was composed of 2 – 3 ELINT operators (T-Branchers), and 2 COMINT operators (R-Branchers).
ELINT OPERATIONS: ELINT operations consisted of 3 positions. The two primary positions utilized an AN/SLR-2 which was split (frequency wise) between the low side (500 – 2500 Mhz) and the high side (2500 – 10,750 Mhz). The low side was not working when I arrived onboard and was finally brought up about six months later. The third position covered VHF and telemetry frequencies, however we never collected any TM in the two years I was there and I never heard of any TM collection by Todendorf. Our operations continued on pretty much the same throughout my two year tour. The one addition was Project GRAB in 1960.
I’ll try and discuss inaccuracies of the article by using page numbers. I should point out that some of the following comments may see trivial but provided for what is considered an accurate portrayal of Todendorf ops.
Page 3: This is the initial comment on a total of 17 CTs at Todendorf. I have no idea how many CTs were originally sent to Todendorf, but when I arrived in 1958 we had approximately 30, two Officers, four Chiefs, and the rest were white hats. The article states that the writer is the only survivor of the original group but gives the impression no one other than the 17 ever served at Todendorf, which is a total false indication.
Page 3: This paragraph states putting Todendorf on an Army base was a way of hiding our operations and is totally inaccurate. All you have to do is look at that tower we had with all kinds of antennas and you knew right away what we did. To illustrate that point, the Germany Navy operated a coastal surveillance radar (AN/MPS-501B) about a couple of hundred yards from our site and we use to go drinking with some of the operators One of the operators asked me what we did at the site and I told him our cover story that we were a weather site and the domes covered weather radars. He smiled and told me that he had had seen Kitzmiller (one of our CTMs) working on the antennas with the domes off and they were not radars as they rotated too fast. On another occasion this same sailor told me he had visited the Z-1, one of 5 US Destroyers we had transferred to the German Navy. He further stated he had a friend on the Z-1 who was an electronics technician and he worked on the system which used antennas just like we had on our tower. Point being that hiding us at Todendorf was not correct.
Page 7: Throughout this article the writer seems to have mixed ELINT and COMINT operations. As an indication of that, the first paragraph states two sets of earphones, one on the receiver working on and one on AFN Radio. The writer was an ELINT operator and there was no equipment hookup possible to do what he says. The COMINT folks could have done that, but he was not a COMINT operator. Minor point, but a case in point anyway.
Page 7: Comment about beer stashed in the boiler room seems farfetched as it was hot as hell in there and wouldn’t be a very good place to stash beer. Not sure why they would do that as the norm when I arrived was to keep both beer and hard liquor in your locker as nobody cared if you did so. Minor point, but a case in point anyway.
Page 7: The writer states there were two ELINT positions manned 24 hours a day.
See my comments above on three positions and the incorrect comments on this page.
Page 8: When I arrived at Todendorf, our mobile van consisted of a stake bed truck, with a van on the back. In the van we had one position, utilizing an AN/APR-9 with two tuners, one for S-Band and one for X-Band. This van was a “home built” affair constructed by CWO Harris, PO1 Randall and the members of the maintenance shop. We would set this van up at the rear of the site and practice ops in it. I don ‘t remember if the writer had departed the site when this van construction occurred, but I believe he had been transferred. In 1960 we got the new van which was a huge jump over the older van. The new one was an Army van with expandable sides which contained four positions, three ELINT and one COMINT. Only problem with this one was you had to manually install the antennas, but I heard a later improvement had hydraulically raised antennas. The writer states Mobile site circa 1961, which would have been after he left Todendorf so not sure why he included this. Minor point, but a case in point anyway.
Page 8: His comment about the Gasthaus is somewhat true, but he failed to mention the Astoria and Metropol where we also spent a considerable amount of time. The statement about not socializing with the Army is NOT true. There were about 50-75 Army troops at Todendorf and we drank and socialized with them quite often and were friends with a number of them. We didn’t socialize that much with the battalion people who came up to fire on the range but that was more due to their being there only a short period of time. The writer’s comments gives me the indication he’s saying we were some spooky group who had to be standoffish and so had nothing to do with anyone except the owner of the Oasa. Comments are not true!
Page 9: This page is basically totally false. The only escape plan in case of hostilities was to attempt to either drive to Bremerhaven or possibly escape to Denmark. I do remember a burn barrel behind the barracks but I don’t remember any times when we trained on emergency destruction. I was never told specifically to burn classified material and wreck the equipment. I suppose we would have attempted something like that but were not told to do so. The only evacuation comment I ever remembered were something to the effect of, “Get in your car and haul ass!”
I was not married during my tour but wives and children were NOT discouraged from coming to Todendorf. If I remember correctly, the regulations were you had to be E5 or an E4 with over 4 years service for the government to move your family overseas. If you were a married E4 or below and wanted to bring your family overseas, it was ok but you had to pay for it. In cases like that you would not be command sponsored and therefore not eligible for military housing.
The article goes on to comment that our defensive weapons were a few Model 1911 45’s (one of which he indicated was his to keep close), and one 30 caliber carbine. We actually had two or three 45’s, 3 or 4 M1A1 carbines, and one tommy gun. None of the weapons were issued to individuals at the site, only when on a duty status which called for sidearms or for weapons training on the local range.
The writer states only the OIC and Chief had private vehicles. That may have been the case when the DET was originally set up but I doubt that as there were no restrictions on having private vehicles. During my tour most of the troops had private vehicles and about 5 or 6 of us (me included) had bought sports cars. The writer’s statements on this page are basically NOT true!
Page 10: First of all, showing the picture with the huge log periodic antenna, and Project Grab hut came along long after the writer departed so not sure why he included it.
Sure, we were very close to East Germany, but the writer states the troops were so scared, and the stress was so great they relied on alcohol to get by. That is totally FALSE!! Todendorf was in the state of Schleswig-Holstein and was mostly sugar beet and wheat farming. The Germans were big drinkers and to help with our US military people-to-people function, we joined right in with their consumption of alcohol. Our drinking had nothing to do with stress, it was simply our way of relaxing and attempts to meet German girls, and hopefully with an end result of having sex with them. We didn’t think about the Russians or East Germans, just tried to enjoy our tour.
Page 11: The writer is correct in his statement that we were not supposed to visit Lubeck, and that was due to a part of the city being in East German. I visited Lubeck once and that was only because a girl I was dating had relatives there and she asked me to drive her there for a visit. Again, his comments about the Russians seem totally false, but who knows, maybe that was really his feelings.
On his comments about his friend’s death in a traffic accident in Kiel. That happened a little before I arrived and the story I was told was that three CT’s from Todendorf were killed in the accident and a Signalman from the NATO base in Kiel was the only one who survived, not an Army troop as stated in the article. Simply another inaccuracy of the article. This is the one section of the article that I really don’t understand. His comments seem to read like something out of a murder mystery and do not ring true at all to me.
In this section he states, “Because it was too dangerous for dependents to come to Todendorf…..” and then goes on to comment about he and his wife agreeing to remain celibate during his tour seems like another section right out of that murder mystery and again do not ring true. And anyway, it was not “too dangerous for dependents to come to Todendorf” and his statement is totally FALSE as there were numerous dependents who came to that area.
The ”Margrit story” is just too much to swallow and seems like he’s using a paperback love story as a reference.
Page 14: Way past believable. In particular the last paragraph.
END OF COMMENTS
I would like to say again, this is not written as some finished literary manuscript, just our comments on the original HYPO article. In reading over this a number of times I have to admit that one reason for my comments, and I believe my buddies also, is that the article pissed us off and seemed to be a kind of slander on us, the other troops who served with at Todendorf, and the ones who served there until the site was shut down. He appears to be trying to promote himself, and that just simply sucks!
One final point. I have not used the article author’s name in this compilation and did so in case you wish to show it to anyone else. Also I have not included the name of any of the troops in my email list who contributed to this compilation. The reason for that is our names in the report would serve no real purpose and also, I have not asked them if I could include their names.
By, William “Red” Hathcock, CTTCM (NAC), USN Retired.
Thank you for taking time to written your comments.
27 November 2022 at 19:13
From the days when “my job was so secret, even I didn’t know what I was doing”, it is refreshing to have other accounts to separate b.s. from fact. I am actually glad that some of my memories are not sharp enough to warrant being printed let alone seek credit for them.
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