KEVIN MACKEY'S ATTU SCRAPBOOK
1994-1995

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I was stationed on Attu island from March, 1994 through March of 1995 as the Engineering Petty Officer. Surviving the island for one year was one of the hardest things I have ever accomplished. Winds over 200 mph, 17 feet of snow in 24 hours, several earthquakes and tsunami warnings. We had a few civilian visitors on the island that had stopped in Massacre Bay on the way back over from Japan on their boats. We would supply them with fuel, water and what food we could spare.

Prior to my assignment on Attu I became the Engineering Petty Officer at the Coast Guard Station located at Chatham, MA. I had never traveled to Alaska before but found it to be unlike anything I had ever seen on the East Coast. I arrived at Kodiak Air Station in March of 1994 where I spent about a week waiting for the bi-weekly Logistic flight to Attu. I recall having met an officer's wife at the commissary one day with whom I had a brief conversation about where I was going and when I was leaving. A few days later a flight crewmember handed me a basket as I boarded the C-130 flight heading for Attu. There were several home made baked products and a card in the basket. Some of the goods I had never eaten before, namely scones.

The five hour flight to Attu was cold...there was little heat to be found inside the C-130. I was seated in the back of the cargo bay with large food bins and miscellaneous gear destined for the Loran Station (LORSTA) at Attu. Upon arrival on Attu in my service dress uniform, I was met by the Loran Station Commanding Officer, CWO Skip Baldwin. I was directed to head for the main building. The crew was in the midst of digging out from a recent storm and repairing broken snow removal equipment.

Some memorable events; three fires at the station...one was a clothes dryer fire, another a large electrical transformer, and the last an underground cable fire caused by a rat gnawing through it. This last one caused the transmitter to fall off line (not much left of the rat but fur). Norwegian wharf rats were always a force to deal with. They would crawl up the sewer pipes and come out of our toilets and into our rooms. They could be found in our dry store area, in our tool boxes...nearly everywhere it seemed. We looked forward to the bi-weekly flights the same way a child looks forward to Christmas. Receiving mail packages from home, fresh food and newspapers were the mainstay for us. We had only one television channel to watch, Ratnet, rural Alaskan television.

We did receive some visitors. The birders arrived in a private plane and stayed in the Old Loran A station building. They kept mostly to themselves. The building did not have heat, and electricity was provided by small portable generators. The birders seem to be happy in their makeshift accommodations.

We even had a kayaker who was brought down the island chain from Dutch harbor by a crabber who dropped him off at the island. He subsisted on mussels and other wild foods. Eventually he was taken back to the mainland by one of the recreational sailboats that would stop by to replenish badly needed main staples. I still recall the kayaker. Every time a Log flight would come in he would peddle his bicycle down the runway as fast as he could to see if he could hop a ride on the plane, only to be turned away due to red tape.

Exploring the sites in the spring and summer were fun. We were trained on the use of all-terrain vehicles and ventured out to Chichagof harbor to see the Aleut village remnants and the WWII coke bottle dump.

While fishing for salmon kept us busy, I definitely got tired of eating salmon. We smoked them, baked them, fried them and so forth. Now it is 14 years later and I will still not touch salmon.

Another memorable event was on Thanksgiving day when a crewmember snow tubed down a mountain and became airborne when he hit a small hill. He separated his shoulder upon landing. News got back to the station...we had to transport him back in the Ski Dozer to the infirmary where HS1 Ladyman opened up a medical technical manual and administered an IV with morphine. He and I then reset the shoulder utilizing a bed sheet in a manner similar to a tourniquet. We requested a medevac but was refused.

Shemya was in the process of downsizing, getting ready to cease operations as a United States Air Force air station. I worked with Air Force TSGT Heim to coordinate the procurement of some of the nice furnishings the Air Force had to offer. It made our stay on the island a little bit easier.

Leaving Attu was bittersweet. While leaving behind those who had not completed their time was sad, thinking about seeing the family again overcame that sadness. I was assigned to my hometown of Gloucester Massachusetts, my first choice pick, as the Engineering Petty Officer of a new 110' Patrol Boat. Three years later I was promoted to Chief Warrant officer and was subsequently assigned to the USCGC Spencer.

My last tour of duty was at the Naval Engineering Support Unit in Boston. I retired from the Coast Guard in May of 2001 and became a police officer in Gloucester Mass.
 

 

1. A photo taken during my tour on Attu Island 1994-1995. The photo was taken as we (crew of the Lorsta) scaled the side of Mount Terrible during he summer months.
   
2. A picture taken in front of the Attu loran station main building looking down the road that leads to the warehouse. Notice the yellow pipe, it is the refueling pipe that leads to the beach from the fuel farm.
   
3. Another pic of the Attu warehouse road, the refueling pipe. On the water side is an old navy pier on massacre bay.
   
4. A pic of the biweekly C-130 Logistic flight taking off from the Loran stations 6000' runway.
   
5. A picture taken of a possible plane wreckage lying on the beach on Attu.
   
6. A photo taken after a recent snow storm while standing in front of the LORSTA. The roadway leads towards the runway.
   
7. A picture taken inside of the transmitter building of the newly installed transmitters which was completed in 1993 on Attu.
   
8. A picture taken after a recent snow storm on Attu. The area is the main building.
   
9. A pic taken in the spring on Attu, the roadway is the route to the old Loran A station building.
   
10. A picture of the Attu Loran C tower, unsure the exact height.
   
11. A pictures of a C130 Logistic flight taxiing down the runway preparing for take off on Attu.
   
12. A picture taken of myself wearing a crash suit as I ready a C-130 for landing on the Attu runway (Normal operation).

 

Online since 24 Feb 2008

Last Updated: 04 January 2013 12:02