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Campion AFS

1953 to 1983

Name of Ski Area: Campion AFS (Air Force Station)
Location: Galena, 9 miles to the east, upriver on the Yukon River (Interior Alaska)
Type of Area: A few natural, gradual, skiing hills - but most flat tundra skiing
Dates of Operation: 1953 to 1978
Who Built It?: The United States Air Force built this Long Range Radar Station.
Elevation:

~350'

Lifts: None
Facilities: A gym and recreation center where servicemen could check out skis for use.

During the time this radar station was in operation, a fighter plane base was in place 10 miles away at Galena.  Along with King Salmon Air Force Base, the Galena Air Force Base had fighter planes on hot alert to immediately scramble and intercept Soviet aircraft when radar detected them approaching the west coast of Alaska.

Miscellaneous:

The Campion AFS was named after Alan J. Campion who was killed in a plane crash in Galena in 1950.

The Campion Air Force Station was phased out during the late 70's and early 80's.  At present the Campion Air Force Station has been decommissioned and some of this property is being used, since 1997, as the Galena landfill.

The Galena Air Force Base is still manned and operational, but not used as a full-time fighter plane base.

Sources of Information:

The Online Air-Defense Radar Museum - www.radomes.org/museum/, Sam "Art" Nicholson; Donald Bidwell; Lionell Haywood; Don Ruggles

 

~  PHOTOS and DOCUMENTS  ~

(All Courtesy of The Online Air-Defense Radar Museum, www.radomes.org/museum/)

(click on any image to expand it)

The document on the left is from the 1962 "Guide to AAC Remote Stations".  This was a "promotional brochure" in helping servicemen decide what station to apply for.  It mentions skiing as a base base activity.

On the right is the striking patch of the Campion AFS - an eagle snatching a red Soviet MIG fighter plane out of the air as it approaches Alaska.

NOLI ME TANGERE - No one touches us.

 

CampionAAC62.jpg (54822 bytes)
Here are a couple of aerial shots of the Campion AFS.  As you can see - mostly gradual terrain, except for the giant riverbanks that drop down to the mighty Yukon River.  The name of this section of river banks is "Cave Off Cliffs".  In other words - probably not a good place to ski on old military ski equipment. CampionAFSAKaerial2.jpg (22602 bytes) CampionAFSAK1.jpg (13734 bytes)

The deal with duty at remote Alaskan Air Force Stations ... was that it was a twelve month hitch - with no leaves!.  No matter what station you arrived at, the nearest city was 12 months away!

During the 12 months duty stretch at Campion AFS - folks had to pass the Air Force fitness test.  That meant a 1.5 mile run inside the gym (picture on the right).  Many laps!

 

 

CampionAFSAK71-sign1.jpg (18808 bytes) CampionAFSAKgym.jpg (23253 bytes)
A very remote Cold War outpost ... but everyplace has at least a touch of beauty. CampionAFSAKnite1069.jpg (29216 bytes)

~  MAPS  ~

This large scale topo map shows where the Campion AFS was relative to Galena and the Galena Air Force Base.  A road connected the two Air Force installations.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_campion.jpg (107692 bytes)

A zoomed in view of the topo map shows the layout of the Campion AFS.  Hills around the base were gradual, except for the Cave Off Cliffs river banks.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_zoom_campion.jpg (73259 bytes)

Research Correspondence 
[Sam "Art" Nicholson - 21 December 2004 email]

 

Hello,

I was stationed with the 743rd AC&W Squadron at Campion Air Force Station near Galena.  I was there from July, 1955 thru Dec, 1956,  We were able to rent skis from our supply sgt at no cost.  However we were issued a  warning that when the temperature was very cold , the possibility that our lungs would freeze if we over exerted. Also we were issued tinted goggles because of the bright snow.  If we did not wear them , the possibility of snow blindness was real.  We had a few small hills but most of our environment was flat tundra.
Regards,
Sam "art" Nicholson
 
[Don Bidwell - 05 July 2005 email]
Tim,
Like the Galena guy, we at Campion, 9 mi up river from Galena, had cross country skis, the big white wide jobs and white bunny boots we could check out.  We also had standard snow shoes and bear claws.  Obviously, we had lots of room to ramble around in. 
Don

 

[Lionell Haywood - 12 July 2005 email]
 
There was no skiing when I was at Campion in '57-'58, but we sure did some snowshoeing with the old fashioned military issue snowshoes. Pretty deep snow.
Regards,
Lionel

 
[Don Ruggles - 14 August 2010 email]
 
I was with the 743rd during 1954& 1955 for 15 months.  We skied using trucks to pull us on the runway and on the road from base to river where the barges that re-supplied docked.  We also hunted and once used a sled team to give rides. 
Don Ruggles
 
[Name Not Given - 06 October 2012 email]

I was at Campion in '82-83 so the site was still active. My first few weeks I was a Tsgt. as Acting First Sgt and NCOIC-- had to replace a guy who liked the bottle. This was my third AAC assignment-- the first two were both at Murphy Dome in '67-'68 and '71-'72.

We had Rec runs to the NCO club on Friday and Saturday nights because our commander almost killed the club at Campion. He was a new Major on his first command slot. He interfered with the civilian force on site and they made his tour miserable.

We had a good softball team and I organized a basketball team so both teams played others in the area.

Mr. Dale Hill kept our road graded and open in winter but I don't remember any other names.

 

 

 

Do you have further information, stories or pictures that you would like to contribute about this ski area?