Gerrits Travels – Part 1 – BMEWS at Thule Air Base – Greenland

Missiles in Greenland, war in Vietnam, problems in Persia…..

During my teens in the early 80’s I came to know Gerrit. He was an acquaintance of my parents. He had stories and photo’s of countries and places where nobody else I knew had ever been. He was a bit of an adventurer so there was much to tell. Being only a kid much of this information was lost over time. After Gerrit passed away I inherited many of the photo’s and items which had interested me so much in my youth.

In this new series of blogs I will share some of these photo’s and items from his travels in the 60s, mainly his life in Greenland and Vietnam. Both working as a civilian contractor for the US military.

Gerrit wearing a USAF cold weather parka in Thule, Greenland

Gerrit was born in 1929 in Deventer, Holland. In the early 50s he studied Hotel Management in Switzerland and soon after emigrated to the US where he became a citizen, after his retirement he returned to Deventer in the Netherlands our mutual home town.

The Cold War

In the 50s and 60s of last century the tension between the western world and the east, especially the Soviets was building up. The war in Korea, the Cuba crisis and later the Vietnam war were al very visible examples of this. The cold war was also one of fear for a Nuclear war with Ballistic Missiles flying over the oceans. If you could stop the enemies missiles you could win this potential war….

BMEWS – Ballistic Missile Early Warning System

In order to find and after shoot down enemy missiles the US started the BMEWS project in 1959 which was completed in 1964. The main contractor for the entire project was RCA, short for Radio Corporation of America. The contract was close to 500 million USD initially. They were building enormous radar sites with linked computer systems. There was a total of 12 radars at several sites, Thule being the biggest with 5 of these radars the location was known as the J-Site. Next to the Radars there were jets for interception and NIKE missiles but I will get back to that later.

Gerrit in front of the BMEWS Radars in Thule

In the years that Gerrit worked in Thule (63/64/65) everything was aimed at completing the project as soon as possible in order to guarantee the USA a higher level of safety against the Soviet threat….

As mentioned he worked for RCA, probably in the role of facility manager (food and accommodation for the RCA employees). Here his address at the time as stated in the postcard also seen at the top of this blog.

And here a folder for new RCA arrivals at the Thule BMEWS project. On the inside he describes the location of his sleeping quarters in spring so this is probably from 1963. The location of the dot on the inside corresponds with the map on the outside.

I have planned several more episodes on Thule: missiles and planes; life on the base; trip to Dundas and some of Gerrit’s items of that period. So stay tuned 🙂 And after that we move to Vietnam for a view of 5 years of war….

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Missiles and planes preview photo

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Eskimo sledgetrip to Dundas preview photo

 

 

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