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"Victory At Sea"
It might sound strange, the Navy ( MSTS ) having a civilian as liaison with the Air Force in places like Goosebay, and Sondrestrom ( old Bluie West Eight ), and a Merchant Seaman at that, instead of a Naval Officer, but it was on request of the Air Force.
It seems MSTS had originally sent a Navy Lieutenant to "Goose", but when he asked the AF for a sedan, with chauffer no less...that was too much. The civilian who replaced him turned out to be not much better, being rather "officious" himself. So...word got back to MSTS about this guy, who, though at one time had been a "seaman", but had "dropped out", and got a job in headquarters.
A funny thing happened to civilian mariners ( mostly ships' officers ) when they "went ashore". Taking up positions in, and as Port Captain, etc....they became like "gods"...so to speak, forgetting everyone they ever sailed with.
I guess the Air Force could detect this anomoly.
So...in a last ditch effort to solve this "liaison" problem, MSTS took a civilian skipper right off a ship before he got any bad habits, and sent him "up there". The contrast was so overwhelming for the better between who they ( the AF ) had, and who came to relieve him, that the Air Force broke out a brand new blue sedan without markings, assigned it to the new "Rep", telling him it was his, and for him to drive the other one to the air strip in it when he left.
No "chauffer" of course, but alot better than the International Harvester pickup truck wreck MSTS shipped up there for the Reps every year. Subsequently, as each new season opened, this is what you started out with for transportation - the old MSTS I.H. wreck, until the Air Force got to know you, and then you got a new sedan to use...without markings, no less, sometimes.
Now...you have to know, that there are "differences" in the services, or were. Having worked closely with all three of the "major" services, I found, as seen from a Merchant Seaman's perspective, the Air Force to be mid-way between the Army, and the Navy...the Army being more or less "down to earth", with the Navy being up there somewhere on "cloud nine"...shall we say, or maybe to better put it - "full of it".
I guess this can be better understood when you realize that the Army has proven itself on land, sea, and air ( remember ATS, and Army Air Force ), and also the fact, that unlike Great Britain, where the Navy is the "Senior Service"...or was...here in the U.S. the Army is. Now...this has to have some effect on the Navy here, since so much of their heritage, and tradition is from the British Navy, and still is.
The Air Force, wedged between one service - the Army, which know what they ( the Air Force ) are all about ( been there...done that ), and the other "wanna be air force", - the Navy, which hasn't enough with being below the surface, but insists on being above it as well, the AF goes on without too many pretenses.
The Air Force, at least in these remote places like Goose, and "Sondy", being short on ceremony, welcomed whatever help they got from the "Rep", when it came to the protocols involved with welcoming visiting ships like the MSTS freighters, and U.S. Coast Guard ice breakers. They especially welcomed the help offered in Goose by the Canadian Port Captain when foreign ships, like French combatants visited.
This old fellow - seventy then, was a former British Royal Navy Commander...well up on the old traditions of protcol, quite unlike the MSTS ships' simple "what'll'ya'have" invite. It must be said, that the Air Force, from the top, down, in these remote places felt a common bond with the civilian mariners on these MSTS ships, and vice versa.
Though the Coast Guardsmen were welcomed, here we had, in some instances, particularly with the "brass" - the C/Os, and there "Execs", who were, after all, "other military", no comaraderie as such, and were left to me...and we had a good time.
I, at one time, for some function,or other, was encourage to wear my "blues" - identical to the Navy's, except without the "star" above the stripes. "Hmmm...dazzling.' commented the Base Commander, but I could sense an instantaneous drop in my poplarity, though I'd breakfast with him every morning. I only wore it once after that, and that was a fiasco.
Two boners, one my fault, another not. The first boner was at breakfast. The new Base Commander - Colonel Moffat, if I remember right, came in for breakfast for his first time. It was about 0630...and being an early riser, I just preceded him. He joined me, introducing himself. Except for he, and I, we were the only ones there. "Where's the others?' he asked.
"You gotta be kiddin!' I said, without thinking, continuing: "You won't see anyone in here until 7:30 or so.'
Talk about shootin' yourself in the foot!
"Yeah...well, we'll see about that!' he said.
It was quite a while before anyone talked to me on that base. Ha Ha.
Sondrestrom AF Base
was in 1965, at least, unescorted ( there's another term for it ) duty...no dependants. It was by no means though, arduous duty, it was a fun place otherwise. However, any visits from "outside" were a big deal - more or less "party time" in the "club" that night.
I got a message that my boss - a rear-admiral, was coming through on a visit. He was "doing" Goose first, then us, then going on to Thule, Greenland...in his own plane ( Navy ). Of course the AF in Sondy were on the same message.
I got a call from the Base Commander saying he'd be there with me to greet the Admiral when he landed, and that he had set up the VIP quarters, and one of the boats for a fishing trip down the Fjord for some fishing.
He didn't tell me that he had alerted the whole base for a "party" in the club in honor of the Admiral for that night.
Well...the plane arrives shortly after breakfast, we meet the Admiral, and it's introductions all around, then off to the BOQ with him, and his staff, they change into khakis, and off to the port. During the drive to the port, I brief him on how things are going, a few cargo figures, no problems, etc., which his aide is jotting down, and without even going to my office, - my house office, it's into the boat, and out for some fishing.
Well...not wanting to miss lunch at the base, I return, and during lunch the bases' cargo officer - an Air Force Lieutenant, tells me all about the surprise party set up by the base officers for the Admiral in the club that night. "Hey...great!' I said.
Sort of excited by this extension of friendliness, I return to the port to pick up my "charge", arriving just in time to meet the boat. Whether he landed any big ones - Arctic Char, I think they were, I don't remember, but anyways I stay mum about the party, and we chat on the way back to the base.
He was a nice man, very pleasant, but seemed to be in a hurry. We had to visit the Base Commander for his spiel, or whatever...so we were heading that way.
After "business" or whatever, the Base Commander extends the invitation for the evening. "Thanks, but I have to get goin'.' or words to that effect, says the Admiral.
I couldn't believe it, and neither could the Colonel, who's now looking at me like "what's this?".
"No...I only have that plane on loan, and they only give me so much time.' he said. The plane said "U. S. Navy" on it, along with some numbers...it didn't say "Avis". It was nothing to brag about either, an R-4D, or something like that. If he didn't return it, I don't think it would have been missed, nor would he if he stayed another day.
"Thanks for the fishin' trip...I better be goin'.' said my boss.
"Yup...have a good flight Admiral.' said the Colonel, and we left for the BOQ, his gear, and off to the plane.
I could see the Admiral was disappointed too, but he didn't say anything.
I knew I'd be persona non grata once again, and didn't go to party either.
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