|Name of Ski
AFS (Air Force Station)
on Tokotna Mountain, about 15 miles west of McGrath
|Type of Area:
Hill, Sledding Road
to 1983 (*downsized in 1983-1984)
|Who Built It?:
United States Air Force built this Long Range Radar Station.
for the Lower Camp, ~3200 for Top Camp
Tow, diesel powered. Before the lift was installed a
tracked vehicle, a Weasel, was used to carry skiers to the top
of the hill. The rope tow was built in 1974 by the motor
pool maintenance airmen.
full-service remote Long Range Radar Station camp that would
support over 100. Roads that led from the Kuskokwim River
up to the landing strip, Lower Camp and up to the Top Camp at
the top of Takotna Mountain. Also, a road that lead north
to the hamlet of Takotna.
about this ski area appears in a 1980 "Welcome
to Tatalina" pamphlet (see below). Under the recreation
section this pamphlet mentions: "WE HAVE A TERRIFIC SKI SLOPE
FULLY EQUIPPED WITH A TOW ROPE". They were big into
sledding here as well: "'THREE MILE HILL', A LONG DOWNHILL
STRETCH BETWEEN TATALINA AND TAKOTNA, IS A FAVORITE SLEDDING SPOT
FOR THE SITE PERSONNEL". And if you wanted to ski or
sled, the equipment was there for the asking: "SKI EQUIPMENT,
SLEDS AND LARGE TRUCK INNER TUBES ARE AVAILABLE FOR WINTER TIME
From this pamphlet it
sounds like the site personnel were avid and proud of their
winter-time outdoor pursuits. Hopefully we can find out more
details and stories of this remote and unique skiing site.
Johnie Morris contacted
ALSAP to let us know that while he was there in 1966-1967
working as a cat skinner (dozer operator) - he cleared the brush
off the ski hill and occasionally "groomed" the ski hill by
back-dragging the snow with a bulldozer blade (see Johnie's
email and pictures below).
Phillip G. Tackett; The
Online Air-Defense Radar Museum - www.radomes.org/museum/;
Ron Nigg; Johnie Morris; Larry Daniel; Bernard Shelton; Jimmy D.
Rogers; Dick Laxton; Mike Ringwald; Dennis Tatman
Tatalina AFS Sledding Photos and Memories ~
Courtesy of Phillip
M. Tackett - Assigned to Tatalina AFS from Jan. 1983 to Oct. 1983
(Click on any image
to expand it)
[Left] Heading out to The
Hill. Airstrip is just over the small hill in the distance.
[Right] The Tow Rope shed in
the foreground, the "Red Apple" Ford Truck (the only vehicle allowed to
be used for recreational purposes), Takotna Mountain in the background.
A good shot down The Hill
ith base camp in the background. The sharp turn half way down was
difficult on a sled.
[Photos courtesy of Phillip M. Tackett]
[Left] The easiest way back
up The Hill. The Airman who hit the tree is in front on this ride (I
have forgotten his name), Mike Childers on the back.
[Right] The sun sets over the
dirt berms (or ramps) near the bottom of The Hill.
Phil Tackett's Memories of the Tatalina AFS Ski and Sledding Hill
I was one of the last Airmen
assigned to Tatalina AFS, where I spent about 10 ½ months as the new
civilian stationed site was being built.
I do not recall anyone skiing 3 Mile
hill while I was there, but I do recall some reference to the site. It
was on the road to Takotna village. I do, though, remember the sled
hill with great fondness. I can recall one particular cold winter day
when, for the first time since my arrival Alaska, I experienced a real
taste of just how beautiful and fun the Great White North can really be.
Growing up in Michigan I had spent
many a bitter winter day on local sled hills and highway overpasses with
makeshift sleds, but when my buddies suggested we shake off the winter
blues by hitting the hill with skis and toboggans in hand I knew I was
in for something really cool.
After a couple of the Sergeants
spent some frustrating time getting the engine for the tow rope cranked
up we spent all day (which equated to about 3 hours that time of year)
running down, and being pulled up, that hill. Sometimes we would go
down one or two at a time, but the most fun was had when we would ride 5
or 6 to a toboggan. The hill at Tatalina made this particularly
challenging. You would start with a 5 foot vertical drop and, if you
could not expertly steer the sled, end the slope at a rather abrupt
earth berm and a thick tree line.
Let me say now that there is a sound
reason that most locally approved hills do not allow multiple riders.
As some of you may know, you do not want to be the first rider on a
packed sled hurdling toward danger. If you have to eject from the ride
in a hurry, the person in the front often has precious few seconds to
roll to safety. Needless to say, our group of young, fearless, and in
some cases drunken, Airmen spent a good part of the day playing
‘chicken’ and seeing who would stay with the sled longest. On one of
the last rides down the hill one of the younger kamikazes did not make
it off the sled in time and was launched over the beam into the trees
from where we heard a shattering ‘crack’.
To this day I still believe that the
only reason he was unharmed when we reached him is that he was totally
limp from one to many beers.
I think we only got one more chance
to hit the hill that winter, but outside of spending a night checking in
dog teams for the Iditarod, and maybe the midnight softball game, no
other memory of my time in Alaska stands out in my mind more than that
day on the hill.
I hope to get back that way one day.
Associated Facts (as I remember
Phil Tackett - Assigned to Tatalina AFS from January 1983 through
October 1983 as a Radar Operator and Weapons Technician.
do not believe there was a tow rope at 3 mile hill, but there was a
diesel powered tow rope at the sledding hill, which doubled as a short
ski run. The rope was slow, but had tons of pull.
was plenty of ski and sledding equipment made available by the Air
tram was no longer being used by the time I arrived.
believe there were some cross country trails around the area as well.
Tatalina AFS 1974-75 Pictures and Memories ~
Courtesy of Airman
(Click on any image
to expand it)
Early snowboards (1974)
Tatman's Memories of the Tatalina AFS Ski and Sledding Hill
I was so glad to find your website.
These pics are from 1974-75, I was still an airmen, but full of life.
With the help of a lot of great men we took to Alaska like a storm. I
was in the motor pool maint. So everything that was broken we fixed.
First was the ski hill, which had no lift, so we pulled the unit from
the old Tram and got it running. We poured a concrete slab on the top of
ski hill, set the trans unit and motor. The building was next, followed
by poles down the hill. We had to order the rope, thank you special
services. The time came to connect the rope, but no one knew how to
splice. After lots of beer we finally made it happen. The rope tow was
awesome, just had to get the right speed. I need to give special credit
to Charles Trap, Steve Ayat, James Black and Ron Hawkins.
As the months went by we added 2 recreation vehicles, the dodge 6X and
the chev pu. People could check them out to go to Takotna or to haul the
boats to the river at the fuel landing. We added 2 boats with brand new
motors, thank you base commander. The HTT jeep was a creation from the
old scrap yard down by the dump .It was used by 3 of us to help people
More on the ski hill. My first pic is a story all its own. This is me
holding the first snowboard that i know of ever .It was created by Steve
Ayat of Hawaii. We were both in Florida at Patrick AFB and got orders to
go to Tatalina. So it was only natural to find a way to surf and we did,
crazy!! Next is our dog Bilbo at the top of the ski hill. Next is
tubeing, followed by Drinks at the tavern in Takona. The old Tram up to
the top. Reeve Air coming in when no one else would. I have lots
more pics and stories and memories i will never forget.
Tatalina Cat Skinning and Ski Area Maintenance (by Dozer) Photos and Memories ~
Courtesy of Johnie
Morris - Assigned to Tatalina AFS from Summer 1966 to Summer 1967
(Click on any image
to expand it)
Johnie Morris at Tatalina "Hilltop" on a cold day.
Cat skinners like Johnie punched through giant snowdrifts to
keep the Tatalina roads open.
Heading back from McGrath in a tracked vehicle (L to R: Dean,
Morris email - 22/23 August 2005]
I just saw the [ALSAP]
web site about Tatalina AFS for the first time today and it
brought back a lot of memories.
I spent my year there from summer 1966 to summer 1967 during the
height of the Cold War. I thought it was a beautiful place, made
a lot of friends on site and a few in McGrath and did some great
hunting and fishing while there.
When the spring of 1967 rolled around, it turned out that I was
the only G.I. left who had ever driven on the road to Sterling
Landing over on the Kuskokwim river, so I was elected to run the
lead dozer, we had Allis Chalmer HD16's, clearing the way before
the spring thaw washed the entire road away.
It was simply a matter of heading the dozer into the 20-foot
snowdrifts until I found where the road met the mountain then
pushing the snow toward the edge until I ran out of road. For a
20 year old Cat Skinner with a broken right hand, it was a piece
of cake. The medic borrowed a big ladle from the cook, wrapped
my hand and arm with an ace bandage, and then taped it to my
hand and arm. I bent the handle down on the end so I could grab
the blade lever between the end of the ladle and my forearm and
it worked quite well. If I remember correctly, it was well over
20 miles from the landing strip to the river and took a few days
to clear. After the road was opened, they sent me to Elmendorf
AFB to have the bone in my hand re-broken and re-set and a cast
About half my time was spent maintaining that 3700 feet of slate
runway and then keeping a good snow pack on it in the winter. I
was the guy who first put the day-glow orange plywood tents on
the runway at both ends marking the touchdown area. These things
had 4 or five coats of paint and were sprinkled with glass beads
while the paint was still wet so they really sparkled. The first
time one of our C130 supply planes crossed the Alaska Range and
saw them, they reported 4 bright-unidentified objects floating
in the distance; F102's were scrambled from Elmendorf to check
it out. They really rode that poor C130 pilot hard about that
for quite a while.
The rest of the time I was keeping the roads around the base
open. RCA kept the road to hilltop open with their bigger HD21
but once in a while I was called on to do that one also.
I kept the road to Takotna open all winter but had to turn back
at the bridge because of the load limit. One Monday morning,
while feeling a little nervy and still a little to drunk to be
considered hung over, and knowing the ice to be a good 3 feet
thick because we had been ice fishing on it the previous day, I
decided to cross that river. I drove my Dozer down to the edge
of the river, pointed it at the other side, raised the blade as
high as possible, set the throttle at ½, put it in low gear, let
out the hand clutch and jumped off and ran across the bridge and
waited for it on the other bank. It came right on across with no
problem so I climbed in and cleared the rest of the road into
Takotna. I was feeling pretty spunky after that because I'd had
a little more libation at Miller's place and didn't feel like
walking so I actually drove it back across a few yards down
The hill where the sled is in your photo was overgrown with
scrub when I got there so I cleaned it up really nice with the
dozer and back dragged it and when winter came, it was a
passable ski slope. When the skiers got to the bottom, I'd meet
them and take them back to the top in the VW snow-go. We didn't
have a towrope.
The gondola system didn't work while I was there either and
there were no plans to fix it so we cut some of the cable up and
made choker's out of it to use to pull the dozers out when they
would get stuck in the snow.
I have quite a few photos taken while I was there and got them
out to take a look. I've attached a few for your viewing
Thanks again for the memories. This 20-year-old cat skinner is
now a 59-year-old grandpa. Time flies when you're having fun.
When I retire in a few more years, my wife and I plan on flying
back up there.
Former Sgt. USAF
[Tim Kelley email
excerpt to Johnie Morris]
Hey Johnie, You mentioned a "VW snow-go" used to haul skiers back up the
hill. What do you mean by that? Was it a VW that was modified to
have tracks? Or some custom tracked vehicle with a VW engine?
Thanks for your reply. A VW snow-go was a great little machine,
I'm not sure if that was the real name but that's what we called
it. The engine was in the front so the gear shift was exactly
backward because all the running gear remained the same. It
would go about 40 mph which seemed like a 100 out on the tundra.
I drove it to McGrath quite a bit. I've attached a picture [see
above]. Sorry, but Sgt. Dean, Me, and Teaque are blocking most
of the snow-go. In this photo we are returning from McGrath. We
had stayed the night because we had spent a little too long
sitting at the bar in Jack McGuires Tading Post and if I
remember correctly, Jack had more or less insisted. That is the
base of Takotna Mountain in the background. If you have the
resources, you should really research old Jack, he had a
colorful and rather checkered background but he was a hell of a
guy! He was in his 70's back then but was built like a bear and
tough as nails. He'd been in Alaska for years and acted as guide
for European Royalty when they came to Alaska to hunt. He had
old newspaper clippings tacked up all over the place with
PHOTOS and DOCUMENTS ~
Courtesy of The Online Air-Defense Radar Museum, www.radomes.org/museum/)
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.
The document on
the left is a page from a Febrary 1980 "Welcome to Tatalina"
pamphlet. The ski slope, rope tow and sledding are mentioned under
the "Recreation" section.
aerial photo on the right shows the Lower Camp and the road leading to
the radar installations at Top Camp on the top of Takotna
Mountain. As with many remote Alaska Cold War radar sites, they
had a tram to moved supplies up the mountain. The tram can be seen
in this picture.
the right is a stark shot of White Alice communication dishes and
radomes in the distance. Many people once lived here.
the road open to the top of the mountain had its challenging moments.
right is a good shot of a couple of the tram towers near the top of the
(Left) The Tatalina
(Right) A 2001
view of the weather station on top of Takotna Mountain and the Lower
Camp site below. The road can be seen leading to the
airstrip. A road leads on from there to the Kuskokwim River.
large scale topo map shows where the Tatalina AFS is situated relative
to Takotna to the north and McGrath to the east.
on this map to expand it)
zoomed in view of the topo map shows the location of the Tatalina Air
Force Station at about the 1400 foot level on the south side of Takotna
Mountain. The road heading north to Takotna is where the infamous
"Three Mile Hill" is.
on this map to expand it)
[Ron Nigg - 5 July 2005 email]
As I mentioned
yesterday in my email about Indian Mountain I was stationed at
Tatalina in 63-64. We had no tow rope but we used to Sled down the
road from bottom camp to the flight line and then someone would haul
us back up in a Pickup and then down we would go again. We had to
have someone with a vehicle and weapon as we would pass the dump and
there were always bears around that area. Being in Radar Maint.
(303X2) I spent 6 months at lower camp and 6 months on the hill top.
At Hill Top I was the only one licensed to drive the Hilltop Road so
I spent a lot of time doing that and cutting hair. One time I was
snowed in at lower camp for a couple of days so one of the civilian
Cat Skinners volunteered to take me back to top camp in a Snow Cat.
We didn’t use the road as I knew it but instead went up the back
side of the mountain as the old guy had helped build the site and
knew the mountain like the back of his hand. We also drank a fifth
of VO on that three to four hour trip. (On the back side of the
mountain we had no radio contact with either top or bottom camp but
could talk to the White Alice site) The old cat skinner was pretty
good and got us there safe and sound with the mail so we were
somewhat of Hero’s that night. At that time there were eleven of us
on Hilltop including Radio, Radar Maint. and one cook. On weekends
we cooked for ourselves. Again I do have pictures and if I can find
them I’ll send them along also.
[Larry Daniel - 25 January 2008 email excerpt]
across your site, and found it interesting and thought
I was stationed
at Tatalina AFS from January 1971 to February 1972, I was 21 at
the time. While most of those 13 months were not noteworthy,
there are a few items I would like to share.
As a Radar
Operator, 276X0, I worked in Operations, and we were charged
with the duties of Road Patrol. We didn’t drive the roads, we
gave permission via radio, for people to travel from one
location to the other. This was for safety year round, and
necessary in the winter for the road to top camp, as it was a
one lane passage. The driver would radio Ops and ask for
clearance, which he would be granted if there was no other
traffic or extenuating conditions, and he would have the right
I made one trip
up the mountain, during which we stopped to admire the beauty of
the view. The SSgt driving pointed out a vehicle at the bottom
of the mountain, which was a long way down, and told us that an
Airman that was stationed there in the late 50’s had stopped, as
we had, to admire the scene, he took out his camera and took a
picture, and then as he was taking the second shot, a vehicle
appeared in the photo. It seems as though he did not securely
engage the emergency brake, and his vehicle began rolling and
went down the mountain. The only bit of confirmation any of us
ever got for the story was the fact that there was, or maybe
still is, a wrecked vehicle at the bottom of the mountain. I
can’t figure any other plausible explanation for one being
supplies came in by barge in May or June, coming up the river to
the landing. The supply Sergeant would hire us GIs to offload
the barge and haul the food and beverages (a lot of booze and
beer) to the supply warehouse and freezer. It was hard work and
the mosquitoes were about as big as a housefly and as thick as a
fog, and made a big whelp.
The only real
entertainment centered around or in the NCO club, where you
could watch your fellow airmen get toasted night after night.
There was also a nightly poker game that was open to anyone with
money. The locals from Takotna and some from McGrath would come
into the site and play poker. The local tribal chief was a
regular. There was also a makeshift movie theatre next to the
NCO club. We would get about 4 movies a week sent in, and many
had been there before.
Services had all types of gear and equipment that we could use
for entertainment or recreation, and that included a couple of
Jeeps. In the winter, it was fun to get the jeeps on the frozen
river, get up some speed and then spin the steering wheel. This
would send the jeep into an uncontrollable slide that was a hoot
to experience, and alcohol was not necessary, however it was
usually there and well consumed.
playing softball during the celebration of the Midnight Sun, and
I remember seeing the Northern Lights, Officially called the
Aurora Borealis, and more wildlife than one can imagine. It is
much easier looking back on the experience than it was living it
at the time. The beauty was more than offset by the loneliness
and isolation that we experienced, as at that time, there were
no females stationed there. Just about 85 GIs.
We skied the
slope, and we sledded the road to the air strip, and I quickly
decided one day, as the Fire truck rounded the curve coming from
the air strip, and I was on a sled, hauling butt down the road,
that I was on my last sled ride in Alaska. I had no way of
steering the sled, and the truck had no where it could go, so
Sparky, the driver and fireman simply stopped. I slid under the
truck and on into the ditch where the curve began. I busted my
rear, but was luck that fire trucks have a high clearance, and
it could have been worse. I climbed out of the ditch and we
hauled the sled back up the road, and I retired from sledding.
We worked with
the White Alice workers from RCA, and the locals would come to
visit regularly, but the isolation and lack of a social
atmosphere took its toll on several of the guys stationed
there. On site, we operated a TV station, with reruns of “Leave
it to Beaver” and “Lucy” and the like, but nothing recent, and
why would there be, I’ll bet there weren’t three TV sets to get
the signal. We operated a radio station too, but it was staffed
with local talent, you know, the GIs that you worked with, who
would talk and play records. The only good thing was, there
were no commercials, but, you know, commercials might have been
an improvement in quality programming.
There are many
people stationed there, that rotated in and out during my time
there, and sadly, I never stayed in touch with any of them.
But, that is the way it is in the military.
I left Tatalina
on February 9, 1972, and when the pilot and three passengers
with baggage started loading into a two seated Cessna, we ran
out of room. I opened my footlocker and extracted the items I
needed, and left it on the strip. I guess somebody figured I
needed the stuff, because almost a year late, it was delivered
to my parents home.
[Bernard Shelton - 30 October 2008 email]
I was attached to the 717th from
the 10th Radio Relay approximately from June 1954 to
October 1955. This was at the very beginning of the 'cold
war'. Until Jan 1, 1955, access to the radar and
communications area was by means of a tram suspended up to
the top of the mountain. Just after midnight on 12/31/54,
the tram was returning the communications men to the main
camp when it crashed into one of the towers. I was a
passenger on that tram.
The tram operator at the base
camp was able to force the car back to near the top. From
that time on, transportation was only by road (when it was
passable). We were not able to return to the main camp
after the accident for almost 6 weeks. Fortunately there
existed an adequate supply of C and K rations to sustain the
approximately 8-10 men. Water was obtained by melting snow.
Hope this was of some interest.
Bernard Shelton, USAF veteran
[Jon ???? - 24 April 2009 email]
The Snow Trac
at Tatalina was this Model. Others had big wheels in front
instead of the little bogies.
1968 SNOW TRAC
AB Westerasmskiner of Sweden built 2,220 Snow Trac machines
between the years 1957 and 1980. These machines were
primarily sold in Northern European countries to be used on
snow covered terrain. Ski resorts also employed these
machines to groom trails. While not built to be a military
vehicle, some European Armies drafted Snow Tracs into
service. This particular Snow Trac was purchased new in 1968
by the caretaker of a 6,500 acre Gentleman's Hunting Estate
in Scotland and was used for maneuvering the hilly terrain.
He thought he had died and gone to heaven when the new
machine was delivered and was finally able to retire his old
horse and buggy. Originally painted Red, the caretaker of
the estate painted the Machine Green (with a brush) so his
machine would blend in with the surroundings. A Snow Trac
enjoyed momentary Hollywood fame in the 1980 movie, The
Shining, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall. You
might remember Ms. Duvall's daring escape in the Snow Trac
at the conclusion of the movie. Chicago Classic Cars
acquired this Snow Trac from the Hunting Estate. VIN: 01069
Stats Powered by an air cooled 4 cylinder Volkswagen engine,
4 speed transmission, Variator Steering arrangement. Top
speed: 13.7 miles per hour. Weight: 3,307 lbs. Frame: welded
steel. Body: aluminum. Seating for 6 adults. Low center of
gravity for ease of control on steep slopes.
[Jimmy D. Rogers - 28 November 2010 email]
[Dick Laxton - 10 December 2012 email]
I thought I would contribute. As I look back and
remember my military career I can honestly say that
Alaska was my favorite assignment. I was 18 years
old and was assigned to the 1931st Comm Group. I
was a telecommunications specialist at Elmendorf.
Being board I never joined the military to sit in
some basement, even thought it was the AAC
headquarters, it was still boring. The building
always reminded me of the gold storage building at
Ft. Knox. Anyhow I volunteered to go remote. Was
it ever the best decision I made while I was up
there - yes it was. The flight took to McGrath
Alaska, then over to Tatalina AFS. I was amazed at
home everything fit into this tiny little complex at
the bottom of the mountain or bottom camp as they
called it. My job was simple to take care of the
crypto stuff and teletype. Well, yea it was work,
but I found it more fun then anything else.
The NCO club was the center of all activity with
nightly drinking by all. I refrained, having taken
the advice of one of the sergeants, at least for a
little bit. They had this tradition of buying you
the first drink, and the first drink and the first
drink. I made the mistake of ordering a tequila
sunrise, next thing I know I was drinking out of
this large beer stein full of them. Oh, they had an
arts and craft center where you could make ceramic
steins. The food was outstanding and I always
looked forward to lunch, when we would eat while
watching "AFARTS" tapes of television shows.
Everyone was close knit there.
The sledding trip took us to Top Camp via the red
pick up truck, I remember riding in the back trying
to drink a beer before it turned to slush. We had
somehow acquired "flexible" flyers that the weld
shop had modified to accommodate the heavier guys.
Once at the top we would ride these things down to
bottom camp, sometimes going over the edge and
rolling down the side of the mountain. You had so
much on it didn't hurt much.
One day, I thought I would head over to the "Ski
Slope", which was a very bad idea. I checked out
the equipment and well the skis looked OK, the
boots, yes they were boots with laces were issued me
(this was 1977), something the Von Trapp family
would have worn. I went down a few times but these
boots almost killed me. I left, went back to the
The biggest adventure we went on, was in the
spring. We had the great Idea we could pan for
gold. We hiked out, down a gravel road and found
ourselves in some old dredge "camp" with antique
equipment and old buildings. The mosquitoes were
bad, read bad and we took refuge in a building and
lit a mosquito coil. This was welcome relief until
someone announced bear and of course all of us got a
little excited. Fortunately it was a small brown
bear, that had been curious. Well, we were back in
the river panning for gold, with no results. We
left, started the hike back and realized we had not
taken water with us. My idea was just to drink out
of the streams. Anyhow I heard running water, like
a mountain stream. I ran to the small water fall,
for water. I began to drink, then looked down -
there in a pool of water was a six pack of beer. I
yelled down to the others at what I had found - they
laughed, thinking it was a joke. I cracked one of
them open, started drinking - the others rushed up
the hill. I often wonder how that beer had gotten
there and what the reaction was to the person
returning to find it gone.
Anyhow, I have pictures of a lot of my adventures
and will send them if you like. Alaska, it was a
good time and I miss it. later on I went to other
remote sites, such as a place on top of a hill on an
island called Unalaska.
Jimmy D. Rogers (1976-1978)
would like to add a little clarification to a couple of things.
First off my name is Dick Laxton ,age 76 and I live in Rosenberg
,Texas. I was stationed at Tatalina in 1955-56 and again
in 1960-61.The reason for the second go around was Tatalina was
considered to be one of the better AF Installations in Alaska so
when I was reassigned Alaska Remote again, I requested
of the posts by Larry Daniel's I believe mentioned a vehicle
that had gone over the road edge on the mountain and a story
that went with it. I'm not sure just when this happened
in my 1st or 2nd tour that I had. I did see it the morning
after if happened ,the real story was a 6 x 6 military truck was
coming down the mountain with the GI's that were coming down
after shift change. The brakes on the vehicle failed and
the driver had attempted to slow the vehicle by ramming it into
the up hill side of the mountain bounce off and then ram it
again as he hollered for everyone to jump, he and one other
sitting in the front with him were the last to jump just as it
went over the edge. The worst injury was a broken arm.
Myself and 3 or 4 others after getting off work from a midnight
shift decided to hike up to the wreck site a few days later.
We did so and noticed the set of rear dually's with the drive
shaft still attached hung up on some rocks. The truck was
pretty well totaled. We decided to have some fun and
pushed and tugged on that unit until we got it moving .It
made one bounce and broke off the drive shaft and then became a
downhill runaway bouncing very high at times, when it hit the
tree line it mowed down the small trees like a large lawnmower
had been thru there. BTW there is also a jeep over the
side between the river and the site. A Lt. I worked with
asked our crew members if we wanted to go to Maries, a bar in
Takotna, after work, naturally we all did so we packed into this
jeep little did we know that he had taken it with out permission
, we thought the C.O. had sanctioned it. The Lt. had to
pay for it $750 I think it was at that time we offered to help
but he refused saying it was his fault.
Another statement in another post by someone spoke of the Mona
Lisa yearly resupply where the Supply Sgt hired GI's to help.
When I was there it was all part of the day of an airman and you
were expected to help and you got no extra pay for it.
ski tow, hill and sled run was also not there. We built
the first Bobsled at Tatalina and used to run it down the
mountain road starting about half way up where we were towed by
a weapons carrier. We opened the gate into the fuel depo
area in case of a runaway. The attempt was to slow the
sled so you could make the turn onto the Sterling Hi-Way Road
and head to the Landing Strip.If that was successful then you
could get a 2 to 3 mile ride and then a tow back up and go
again. The driver said he was going 50mph+ and the sled
was catching him on many occasions. Things had to be
perfect to make it all the way to the flight line, we usually
stopped some where around the dump. There were a number of
over the side spills and once again the worst injury was a
broken arm. The Bobsled did not have a brake so the only
way to slow it was to put it in an intentional skid, if
that failed then it was 6 riders over the side. The snow
usually stopped us within a 100 feet of the road.
speak of a tracked vehicle, we had an old military "Weasel
Amphibian", I wonder if the under carriage of that was the
OLD Weasel. We nearly sunk it in the Takotna River once
,the one and only time it went in the water while I was there.
If any of the readers happened to read this and the Radar Ops
Ready Room still existed when you were there ,I personally hand
cut the tile with the words "Radar Operations" that appeared on
of memories are still there by many,there are many stories that
will never be told.
[Mike Ringwald - 15 June 2013 email excerpt]
I was stationed at the 717 ACW in 1983 when we shut down, was
one of the NCOs who would operator the lift, so everyone who
was crazy enough could sled down the hill.
you have further information, stories or pictures that you would like to
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