The second chapter of a four part series by Ed Wiggins

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THE USAFSS AT CHICKSANDS 1950 - 1953, Continued

About the first week of December 1950, the first contingency of trained radio operators were transferred to Chicksands from the 2nd RSM by Special Order Number 211, dated 30 November 1950. This was very important because of the experience of such NCO's as S/Sgt. Ambrose Jackson and S/Sgt. Murl Olson

As more 10th personnel arrived, work began with the task of building the technical portion of the operation in and around tech site A. This was accomplished quickly, even with the bad weather. Tech site A was the center of operation. This included the 240 ft. wooden towers. The RAF furnished all building utilities and maintained the towers. The technical service team with MSgt. Tarlton as NCOIC, Sgt. McMullen and about 10 exceptional technicians installed all equipment starting with the internal the Jephone system and communications center. This was followed by a series of parallel events such as antennas installed on the towers, restoring the radio frequency signal transmission and distribution system and the building of the radio receiver positions - the first of which was installed in building J. All this was completed on 5 December 1950. The position was activated that day using typewriters or pencil and paper to copy the traffic. It was an immediate success. The radio receiver positions, using Cuins 51J receivers, steadily increased in number, as operators became available. The building of the operation was accomplished with these very few technicians during very cold, wet weather and by people who, to a great extent, did not know one another prior to arriving Chicksands. The weather was of particular concern while working outside buildings to install telephone lines and antennas. The men kept a log of when they saw the sun. They reported that it was visible six times for short periods, from mid-November 1950 through 1 March 1951.

Most of the American wives arrived by ship at Southampton during early January 1951. Married personnel lived in homes leased from local owners. They lived in such diverse locations as Bedford, Litchfield, Shefford and Luton.

As a diversion, parties and dances were organized on the first level of the Priory for both RAF and USAF airmen. These were well received. Other events included special meals in the Airmen mess. Sgt. Hyman put together a Thanksgiving dinner in 1950 with all the traditional fare. An old theatre building was renovated. Special services furnished first run movies and even stage plays. The hard work, in adverse weather conditions, resulted in the development of a strong camaraderie among Chicksands personnel. They had a good feeling of accomplishment in an important job welt done.

Volunteers built a NCO/Airman’s club in one of the Nissan huts. It was very active. A few weeks later a larger club building was designated. A small Base Exchange was included .in the building. One popular reoccurring event at the Club, were dances where bus toads of girls were brought in from surrounding cities and towns.

An Officers Club was built despite the fact that there were only about five to eight officers on station. A Sgt. Beeman, the unit illustrator, helped with the design and the officers painted the inside of the building. Beeman assembled a divider that separated the open dance floor from the bar by adding pierced steel planks (PSP) on end and curvi’1g the joined pieces in an S shape,

‘Then painted the divider red. Very attractive. Parties usually involved potluck dishes prepared by the wives. One night a party was planned which included an invitation to several local civil dignitaries. Very bad fog set in. Every American arrived but not one British as they know when the fog is very thick parties are cancelled.

A library was organized and manned by an older British gentleman who was very knowledgeable about libraries and books. He did an excellent job and the reading traffic was routine and normal The gentleman eventually’ was forced to resign for health reasons and was replaced by a very attractive lady in her late twenties. The reading traffic increasing to the extent that it became hard to find a place in the library to sit and read.