My Shemya Log
Frank J. Cosmano
I am a retired research technician from Eastman Kodak Company. Born and
spent most of my life in Rochester NY. Husband for 41 years until my
wife passed away in 2004. Proud Father of three. Proud Grandfather of
three. Now living in Lake Havasu City, AZ. However, once I was a soldier
and lived on the ROCK.
I was on the Rock in May of 1966 till May of 1967, part of the Armyís
ASA contingency on the island and very proud to be a member of that
unit. I was a spec. 5 and a trick chief at work and a squad leader off
work. It was my first leadership roll ever and an enriching experience
for me. I learned a lot and met truly wonderful people. Life on the Rock
was ok. We learned quickly to depend on each other to ward off the
loneliness of being in such a remote place. I was delighted to find this
web site and quickly signed on to upload some of my pictures from my
Shemya archives. I hope that they are a helpful enhancement to this
site. I read through the articles and fondly recalled my adventures of
those days on Shemya. I always thought it was cool to be one of the very
few people whoever walked on that small part of planet earth.
Fond Memories of Shemya in no specific order
Arrival on Shemya:
I remember the flight from Anchorage to Shemya. It was a 4 prop plane
and we made a stop at Adak to drop off some Navy dependents and probably
re-fuel. I think the flight took like 7 hours and they feathered two
engines before we got to the Rock. I can still remember the plane
straining to get over the cliffs and onto the runway. I was happy to
I think this is a good place to define this term. A JEEP was a new
arrivalís to Shemya. I have a hunch it was an acronym for something but
I never heard what it might be. JEEPís were victims of some minor
practical jokes but mostly each one represented a replacement for a
trooper that was going home soon. So there was usually a group of
greeterís when you came in all looking for a person refereed to as ďMy
JEEPĒ. It was then there duty to take that (My JEEP) under wing and
train them. It was a great mentorship concept and it worked. I will
never forget my mentor (Bob B.). He was a little older than me and had
that swagger and self confidence that comes with knowledge and
experience. He had that quality that I as a young soldier moving into
his first leadership roll wanted to emulate. I wondered then, when it
was my turn to pass the torch if I would posses those attributes I so
admired in him. I hope I did but that is not something for me to
Living in the composite house:
A short bus ride and arriving at the composite house was filled with
apprehension but we as (JEEPís) were given a warm welcome and it did not
take long to fit in. Places like the NCO lounge, the day room would
become parts of my everyday life. Things like the wall god, the Gunkle,
mystery meet and Opís would be part of daily rhetoric.
The best waffles I have ever had:
I remember the mess hall as being an always busy but a good place. After
I left the Rock I tried to find waffles as good as they made there. Iím
One of our favorite pass times on off duty hours was beach combing. I
think I am the only one who never found a glass ball but had some great
adventures exploring the island. Hand feeding the Blue Fox and walking
out near Seal Rock at low tide. Wandering through the below ground level
buildings from WWII.
Parties at the smoke house:
Each unit on the island had there own smoke house. These were also old
buildings I think mostly WWII vintage. They were gathering places for
parties (mostly sitting around a fire place and drinking). The Army
smoke house consisted of two Quonset Huts joined by wooden building as
kind of a pass through. It also housed a really nice bar.
Really long poker games:
Usually after a Mid my team would head over to the gym and we would play
volley ball for a couple of hours before going to sleep. However, on the
last Mid just before our break we would play poker. Those games would
sometimes last the entire 2 days of our break. I could never do that now
but then it was fun.
Hours of good conversation searching for the meaning of everything:
Sometimes we would just sit around either in one of the rooms in the
composite house or at the smoke house and just talk and share stories of
home, friends and family. Other times we would enter into lively debates
and share thoughts and feelings. It was all good and tended to work as a
good team building tool. It definitely had a positive effect at making
us an outstanding team at work.
It was great to watch the team mature and to work with a group of people
who all gave 100% to being the best at their jobs. Our mission was about
maintaining the peace. I think we did an exemplary job doing just that.
So I have great pride in what we did.
Well we all heard about the earthquakes before we got to the Rock. Some
of the first stories we heard when we got there as JEEPís were of
earthquake experiences. This of course left us in great anticipation of
our first encounter. I was happy to find out that most of the stories
were greatly embellished by the story tellers. When spring came and we
got a tremor or two each day we got to build our own stories
(embellished of course) to tell the next group of JEEPís coming in. We
had two types of tremors the oneís that rocked and the oneís that
rolled. Here is the good part. Next to my bed was a night stand on the
night stand was a relatively tall stereo speaker. On top of the stereo
speaker was a very heavy brass lamp. Next to all of that I laid my
little head. Why that lamp never fell on my little head during a rocker
or a roller. Why I will never know.
Beloved Dog and MascotÖHe was always on the front porch waiting for us
to come home. He was never very lively or playful but seemed to enjoy a
warm pat on head. We kind of assumed he was a little hung over from the
night before but really he was just getting old. I did read that he
passed in 1968 the year after I left. Iím glad I was not there for that
Waiting for the Mona Lisa:
I learned about the Mona Lisa very soon after I arrived on Shemya. Of
course it was relayed to me by (Bob B.) with all the proper
embellishments. Mona was the barge that came in once a year carrying
most of the food and dry good supplies and probably (Beer and other
spirits) to maintain the islands residence for a year. I also learned
that when the time was near for Mona to come the supplies we had on hand
were dwindling or getting too old to be good. One of the things you had
to do to keep a measure on this process was to always cut your eggs (the
eggs have to be over easy or sunny side up never scrambled) and if they
were runny or smelly you were not to eat them cause they were old. This
also meant the Mona Lisa would soon be there to remedy the situation.
The other measure was that the mess hall would start serving a lot more
omelets. So it was all about the eggs. Anyway as a result of that I
still cut my eggs before eating them. Most people think I am nuts and
ask why I donít just order them scrambled (I donít like them scrambled)
but you still gotsa be careful. I did get to see Mona before I left it
was a beautiful barge.
The Shemya Rag:
I read the article about the news letter called the Shemya Informer.
Individuals could submit articles for publication and they would be
printed without editing for spelling or grammar. It basically allowed us
to share thoughts, feelings and events with all the other units.
However, when I was there it was called the Shemya Rag (prolly would not
be considered politically correct now days) but Iím sure thatís what it
was called cause I use to submit articles to publish about unit
activities and accomplishments.
Aggatu or Attu:
One of the pictures I uploaded to post shows the mountains of a near
island to Shemya. I always thought that was Attu and some other postings
shows this and identify it as Attu. However, I happened upon a website
that describes it as Aggatu which would be closer to Shemya than Attu
was. So maybe someone can clarify that for me. Until then it is Attu.
I remember waiting outside the composite house for the bus to take me
and others leaving the Rock to the air strip. I was full of anticipation
to be back in civilization again. I was anxious to be in a place that
had trees, did not shake, the wind only blew in one direction at a time,
the fog did not prevent you from seeing your own hand and all women were
not stewardesses. I would miss the friends I had made and the rewards of
a mission well done, AFRN radio and the adventures of chicken man. My
experiences on Shemya would forever be part of who I am and I am proud
to have served.