THE ATTU LORAN STORY
by
Ardon Smith

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The year was 1943. The US 7th Infantry Division had taken Attu from the Japanese in a bloody battle from May 11, 1943 to May 29, 1943. About 5000 Japanese had evacuated Kiska on the sly about July 28, 1943 just before a task force of 100 ships and amphibious units carrying over 34,000 troops invaded Kiska only to find the island deserted. At MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) a Long Range Aid To Navigation (LORAN) system was being readied for deployment in the Pacific region. Stations were first constructed on St. Paul Island and St Matthews Island in the Bering Sea and on Umnak Island in the Aleutians. The next stations were to be constructed on Adak, Amchitka, and Attu in the Aleutians. Loran was classified as "Top Secret" and would be used to provide position information for ships and aircraft on bombing missions and future attack on Japan.

A Liberty Ship, the SS George Flavel left Seattle on October 20, 1943 with the construction material and personnel to build and man the stations. US Coast Guard Construction Detachment #26 was assigned to build the stations along with the help of the men that would be assigned to the stations. The Attu Loran Station (CG Unit 62) was built on Theodore Point, the southern most point on the island. The building material was off loaded at the US Naval Base at Massacre Bay, Attu.
From there is was transported by landing craft, the CG Cutter Clover, and barges to a landing site called Baxter Cove, several miles from the building site. Bad weather hampered the operation but after several attempts the material was brought ashore on December 24, 1943. A road was constructed and material transported to Theodore Point on a huge sled over the frozen tundra.

The LORAN equipment was loaded onto the SS McKenzie in Seattle and after several stops en route, arrived at Massacre Bay, Attu in December 1943. On January 15, 1944, construction was completed and the Loran equipment installed. The station went on the air for testing and became operational on February 15, 1944. At the same time the Master Station at St Mackarus Point, Amchitka had completed testing and became fully operational which completed the master/slave station requirement. Attu was the Slave station and Amchitka the Master station.

The Attu station consisted of five large Quonset huts, some longer than others, placed in the shape of an "H" with connecting passageways. One was the galley and mess deck, one the recreation room and generators, one the CO's quarters, armory, and storage area, one the crews quarters and pharmacy and the center hut had water tanks, freezers and dark room.
The Loran/Radio shack was separate and about 100 yards toward the point. There was a board walk with safety line between the quarters and the Loran/Radio Hut.

The original 1944 crew was Lt Ed Doster, CO; Chief Hoover EXO; Vic Sirwinski, Roy Turner, Ed Oshushek, Joe Costa, Tom Ohlendorf, Burke Bodwell, Cook Peterson, Cook Stuart, Motor Mach Eckis, Motor Mach Gary Mohr, Carpenter Ralph Bellamy, Loran operators John Swan, L C. Davis, Orville Morris, Roy Luckhardt, Stuber, Bob Yeaton, Ned Zenger, Ken MacDonald, Doc O'Donnell, Arky Moore, John Mitchum and Les Marten son. The tour of duty was supposed to be about 1 year and most of the original crew departed about December 1944. The 1944-45 crew consisted of Lt Jg George Orford CO, BM Schneider, Fred Weddleton, Everett Esty, Bruce Wyrick, James Trusty, Sam Baseel, Allen Cooprider, Ancel Dinwiddie, Ed Weber, B.H. Miller, Art Sanford, Ken Benson, Pauley, John C Francis, Doc Watt, Bill Cole, Eldie, Phillips and Doyal Sanders. The 1945-46 crew was Lt Jg Ziemien CO; Al Visnauskis, Dick Griessel, Norman Williams, Fred Pickering, Al Moser, Floyd Pace, Bruce Garfield, Hugh Brittain, Wilton Lisk, Chester Skowron, J. P Strickland, Don Procter, Gene Schnesky, Lin Cubbison, Len Kaluza, George Peddicord, H. Morgan Smith, Bob Hanna, Doc Whitney, John C Craig, Billy McCord, Julian Skiles, Morten W Meyers, Phil Giles, Hank Nachorny. The 1946-47 crew was Lt Jg Ron Lineburg, CWO James Meade, Lt Jg James H. B. Morton, Hollis Peden, Hank Selasky, John Barago, Don Funk, Higgins, Gordon Decato, Herb Stearnes, Walter Faron, Bill Mathias, Walter Baum, George Reeley, Ardon Smitty Smith, Norm Saad, Brooks Talley, Jimmy Yandle, George Nehring, Robert McMaster, Dutch Van House, Doc Brown. The 1947-48 crew was Lt Jg Burton V Weston CO, Lionel Vandergrift, Nicholas Borgia, William Mataftin, Red Clements, Jim Poradek, Allen, McDonald, and Mack Burton.

Of the hundred plus men who served on Theodore Point, there are 40 still alive (as of 10-24-2002), 20 known deceased, and 40 that we have not located, probably most are deceased. Of the survivors, we have a reunion every two years starting in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, the last one was in Chattanooga, TN in September. For further information on the Theodore Point Loran Station, please contact: Ardon "Smitty" Smith at ardons@comcast.net .
 

 

Last Updated on 04 Jan 2013 12:02

Originally published 2 January 2002