Minemen Around the World
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Orders for LTJG Don DeCrona conduct FSMT EASTLANT 3-65
and the World Wide Surveillance Program at Andoya, Norway:
FROM: Commander Mine Force, U. S. Atlantic Fleet
SUBJECT: Orders to LTJG D. A. DeCrona, OIC, MOMAT 0321.
On or about 25 May 1964, proceed to Royal Norwegian AFB, Andoya, Norway, for temporary additional duty of approximately thirty days. Assist the personnel of Mine Project FOUR in carrying out the directives of: assembly for FSMT EASTLANT 3-65, and, the World Wide Surveillance Program for stocks at Andoya.
Upon completion, proceed to CINCUSNAVEUR Headquarters in London, in company with the OIC, Mine Project FOUR, to make an oral report on conditions at Andoya. Upon completion, and when detached by CINCUSNAVEUR, proceed to RAF Base, Mildenhall, England, to inspect NAVACTS U. K. Detachment (MOMAT 0321 Bravo) for about two days.
Authorized to omit or revisit any of the above mentioned places, or visit additional places as directed or approved by CINCUSNAVEUR, and to vary the above itinerary as necessary. Wearing of civilian clothes is authorized."
MOMAT 0321:1 officer, 5 enlisted.
LTJG Don DeCrona, MNCA Daniel W. Priest, MN1 James R. Coffman, MN2 James A.
Manning, MN2 Joseph L. Ellis, MNSN Robert B. Pricer.
Mine Project FOUR: 1 officer, 6 enlisted.
LT John Koerber, MN1 Ray Avon, MN2 Walter Kibe, MN3 Rudolf Heydenrich, MN3
Gerald Sevier, MN3 William Briggs, MN3 Dennis Walsh. (Later Mine Project FOUR became MOMAT 0327).
To carry out these orders, replacement mine components, test sets and other equipment to perform the necessary task for preparing mines for the FSMT, were assembled at Langley AFB, Virginia, for loading and transport by aircraft to Andoya. Included within one of the deployment boxes were some nonperishable food and several pounds of coffee. Personnel and equipment departed Langley on 26 May to arrive at Rhein Main AFB, Germany, on 27 May. After a one day stay in Germany we departed for Andoya, arriving the same day about 1930 hrs where lodging and messing was provided. The meal consisted of milk, fish, cheese and bread. This was the same meal that their personnel had for dinner.
The next morning we were contacted by the Base Command asking if we would mind moving to the hotel in Andenes that was still under construction, as space and messing was not available to support us and visiting air crews. The hotel was almost complete; with the common head and washing facilities down the hall.
There was one restaurant that would open for us to eat. In the morning we would place our order for dinner and at dinner our order for breakfast. For lunch we would send a truck to town to pick up food, mainly from the bakery. Unless it was necessary we did not work on the weekends, as limited or no support was available from the Base. It was one of those days when we went to our favorite restaurant for breakfast and it was closed. We did not know that it was a day for celebrating the fishermen. They had a small parade and gathering at the town square. We were able to eat after the festivities.
Andenes is a fishing town where people work and conduct their daily life when the fishing fleet is in. My first night at the hotel I was reading and heard families with kids playing outside, so I didn't pay much attention to the time until I had problems keeping my eyes open. It was 0300 hrs and still daylight outside. This was my first experience of sleeping under a heavy down comforter; no blanket needed.
AFB personnel we worked with: Colonel Tor Vik, Base Commander, Major A. A. Anstrop, Chief of Maintenance, Capt, Moe Hansen, Supply Officer, Capt. Ottesen, Admin. & Ops. Officer, LT Kulleseid, Transportation Officer, MSGT Iverson, Armament.
World Wide Surveillance Program for stocks at Andoya was part of the FSMT to be conducted. The mine components that we had brought with us replaced the components stocked at Andoya, and then their components were installed in the FSMT mines. Mines and components positioned at Andoya were accomplished a couple of years earlier by personnel of Mine Project FOUR.
The Norwegian AFB desired to increase their mine readiness, as they were located 300km above the Artic Circle and six minutes flying time from Russia. John Koerber and I presented an assembly of the mines that would provide a faster deployment time. After a couple refusals of our recommendations we asked how fast must these mines be ready and loaded on aircraft. Their answer: six minutes. That meant mines would be stored with detonators installed. We messaged Washington on what they had recommended and their reply to us was that it is not authorized and that it was not in conformance with our regulations. Our simple message reply to Washington was that this was Norway and that their regulations did authorize such storage of weapons. They took us to their magazines and we saw all ready weapons. We asked what they planned to do with the mines if the Russians prevented the deployment of the mines. They had plans to use the mines to blow up the air field and other security areas.
After completion of all assigned tasks, the FSMT mines and our equipment were placed by the runway for loading in an aircraft due for arrival. In the meantime air transportation had arrived for the enlisted personnel, so they departed. John Koerber and I still had to do some briefing at other commands. When the plane did arrive we were without manpower. The Norwegian AFB did not have personnel to help and the Load Master could not help.
After the plane had landed and being the largest plane that had ever landed at that base, we had several civilians that had been watching our daily routine and others to see the big bird. Acting like we were still Chief Petty Officers, we recruited the civilians to help load the plane. John and I operated the forklifts. Mission accomplished without incident.
We stayed another day and the helper at the hotel asked us a question in her language that we could not understand. She found the word in her dictionary and pointing to the word, it was SPY. Then for dinner we went to our restaurant and ordered a meal from the menu. We waited with no meal coming. Customers were coming and going without us being served. Later our meal did arrive with French Fries. They knew Americans liked their French Fries, so they had to get all the makings for the French Fries. What we wanted was a traditional Norwegian meal. We ate the fries.
We departed on 22 June, flying on the Scandinavian Airlines System to Oslo, Norway. On 23 June we checked in at the Office of the Naval Attache Embassy and did our briefing. Next day we flew to London, briefed CINCUSNAVEUR, John flew home and I visited Mildenhall before using military aircraft to return to CONUS.
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