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FORGOTTEN GUYS of ICELAND PRELUDE: This story was written by A/2c Darwyn G. McCall in 1955-56. It depicts his experiences from the time he left his home in Virginia to his departure from Iceland. The story he tells is typical of the stories we all had upon arriving in Iceland.

933rd AC&W Sqdrn

Forgotten Guys of Iceland

I shook the sleep out of my eyes as the porter called Washington, DC through the car. Thinking to myself about the times that I had made this same trip, I should be able to sleep during the course but for some reason this early Sunday morning, I wasn't able to do it. All through the morning hours, it had been the same thing, tossing and turning in the small cramped seat. Maybe it was the thoughts of what I had left only a few hours earlier and now of what was to come. We drifted through DC in the early morning hours as people were just going for the sack after the one favorite night of celebration. Then the usual confusion and movements of getting everything together to hop off the car. Walking from my car back to the terminal, I thought of how much easier it would be to park those darn cars closer to the terminal but nothing like that half a mile that early in the morning. Upon entering the terminal, I checked my AWOL bag in one of those nearby coin locks, found some orange juice from one of those drink machines and gazed over the list of departures for New York City. This was to be another one of those screwy deals. There were two trains that my ticket was good for, one in fifteen minutes and one in an hour. The thing I had to account for was which one that duffel bag of mine would be put on. I couldn't afford to lose that baby right now, not where I was going. I took a chance on common sense and waited for the second train. If it went on the first, fine, but if it was on the second, then I'd be with it. That gave me some time for some chow but I didn't feel like fighting that mob in the coffee shop, but one of those benches looked nice and soft about then, so I proceeded to catch some sack time. That was a fast hour because I found myself with bag and raincoat starting that half mile back up to my car on the next train. Inside, the same old thing. Some old bag and half a dozen kids yapping like mad, they needed muzzles for those brats. I had picked up a copy of the Washington Times, really only interested in the comic strips but I couldn't eat the thin dime anyway. This seat was softer so I went into my favorite hobby again. I remember hearing Baltimore and a few more small places and then the Hudson loomed up in front. It sure gets stuffy under that river and seemed like hours since we came into this tunnel but the brakes were grinding now and we slowly drifted into Penn Station. Having been quite some time since I was here, I tried to think as I walked through the place just where that baggage room was. I found myself going around in circles so I stopped and studied the place. The second floor exit showed a long line of cabs and the crowd was going up the steps without baggage and a few minutes later getting into cabs with baggage. I tried the same thing. Why didn't they have bigger signs in these places anyway? I found it alright but it would take a half hour for my bag to come up. Where my train was from where I stood now was just like on the other sde of my hometown. I finally picked it up and conned a cabdriver down a couple of bucks to run me out to Manhatten Beach in Brooklyn. I felt better now so I sat back and took in the city while he worked his way through the traffic. This was Sunday afternoon now and everybody seemed to be going somewhere. This guy driving must have been in the Indianapolis 500 because he took the inside, the outside, the middle side and all sides at once before we breezed through the Brooklyn Tunnel. Coming out on the Shore Parkway, I felt at home again as a few familar sights came into view. Believe it or not, that Empire State Building being so tall, you can't see it until you get about ten miles away from it. We ended up on a dead-end street in a residential section but the sign in front of us on the fence across the street read "Manhatten Beach Air Force Station", so guess this was where I was supposed to be. The cabby gave me a mean look as I paid the flat fee on the meter and didn't even help me with those bags. He was wanting a tip bad but he made more than I did and the buck I conned him out of wouldn't help him much , but he looked so teed off , I handed it back to him. It didn't change his expression but he did manage to grunt as he drove off. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Well, here I was, hot, tired and hungry. I wondered if Chuck and Ed were here yet. We had been stationed together before and were reporting in at the same time for this trip. I entered the receiving building and signed in, gave my orders and pay record to the clerk. Guys were pouring in like mad so he was in a hurry as they always are. I checked my bags in for delivery to the barracks and was about to head for the billeting office when the clerk called me over, gave me a list of paper and some directions, said I could start processing now since I was going to Iceland. This Iceland deal must have some priority or something in this case. I walked down a couple of blocks and entered another old building. This base must have been Navy at one time from the looks of it. Gave my records a once-over, they were in order, checked the medics. I didn't feel up to those shots I was about to get , but no way out of it now. The A/3C checked my shot records , made some notations and said " You're through!". That was a surprise, but I was never called back. The barracks were crummy, hot and too many guys in them, but I sweated it out. During the next two weeks, I ran so much during the day from detail, I felt like I had been working all day, but I enjoyed it. They did stick me with two KP's , but they weren't too bad except for that getting up at 4 in the morning. We left there on Sunday afternoon in blues with the temperature at 94 degrees on a bus to McQuire AFB in New Jersey. Even your imagination won't tell you what it was like in that hot bus during that ride. Arriving at McQuire, we checked the passenger desk for our in-flight meal tickets and to check weight on our bags. We were allowed 65 lbs on the military aircraft. I watched about 20 guys in front of me pass through ok, but the one in front of me started it.The desk clerk looked at his baggage ticket and said "Stand by!". I got the same treatment with about ten other guys. We found out that there were too many of us scheduled for this flight and we happened to be the ones to lay over until the next nght for a plane. This was just my luck. Monday night, we were scheduled to take off at 1900 hours. We were there in plenty of time and waiting. We finally got aboard and settled in our seats. That was a very nice trip to Newfoundland where we stopped at a base for chow and that was where the trouble really started. First, it was to be a 15 hour lay-over for a crew rest which was just double talk for bad weather in Iceland. The next day, we come down for take-off and two officers wanting to make the trip had priority orders. As luck would have it, my name was first on the manifest , so off I come and my buddy Chuck along with me. We were stranded here until space was available on another plane. The next scheduled flight was the following Friday night , so we waited. No towns, not much of a base, but we waited. Wednesday morning, about 4AM, we get a notice to report to the passenger desk. That was a wicked hour for this, but we packed up our bags, turned in our bedding and shagged it over to the terminal. A non-schedule job was in and had space for us. We check our bags, get meal tickets and settle down in a lounge chair to wait out the twenty minutes before take-off. Five minutes of, it came again....." McCall and Hauk, report to the passenger desk." We did, fast! "You guys have been bumped again. Sorry!" Bitching did no good, so we head back to the transient barracks, picked up our bedroll, made up the sacks and settle in for the winter or so it seemed. Friday night, it came again, about 11PM this time.We weren't in a hurry to get down there this time because this packing, turning in our bedroll was getting to be a habit, but we managed to get over there. Going through the requirements again, we settle down to wait, but much to my surprise, when they called for the flight departure, we managed to get out of the building without anyone calling our names. I still didn't believe it so we sneaked inside the plane with both ears trained for our names to be called.Once we got the Mae-Wests strapped on and were gunning up RPM's for take-off, I ceased to worry. I was looking forward to getting settled, unpacked and some clean clothes for a change. This and that had gone on long enough!! This is a C-118 used to transport troops in the mid 50's to places like Iceland, etc.

We had a beautiful flight up, about 1150 miles and we were flying at 18,000 feet. Nice trip for sacking and those in-flight lunches were good too. The pilot called out notice with about 30 minutes out of Keflavik Airport, Iceland and everyone began to wake up, start to hunt different articles here and there and to more or less straighten up in general. These Air Force C-118's are better than commercial airlne jobs to me with the exception of the flight stewardesses. The seats are backwards too so you ride backwards all the time, but you get used to it. We were losing altitude pretty rapidly and that Atlantic looked cold and rough down there when we saw it through holes in the clouds. I was looking out at it when someone in the plane made a comment about two jets on our tail and sure enough, two F-89's go whizzing by as smooth as silk. At least we knew the scope dopes were on the job and there was someone watching us come in.Those jet jockeys seemed like they were just up on a pleasure cruise though, but it was pretty foggy up there and Iceland wasn't a very large island. I just hoped that pilot knew where that little runway was when he started to settle down.Old GCA was sharp up there because we drifted down through the fog and broke the ceiling at about 600 feet. Just the way I like to come in!! There was the shore of Iceland. I looked! I looked again!! There was nothing there!! Just the outline of the island and nothing but rock, big flat rocks, no trees very little grass from what I could see and it sure looked cold. We settled down, taxied up to the terminal and piled out. The wind hit us almost immediatly and still does. No matter what happens,that wind is there. A Captain greeted us before we got to the terminal , led us to one side into a small room where a roll-call was made. We next stood in line for exchange of money, our greenbacks and silver for script, military money in foreign countries. Even the nickels, dimes and quarters were paper. Takes a while, but you get used to that too. You had to!! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The terminal looked just like any other terminal except for the signs printed in Icelandic and English underneath. One look at some of those words and it gave us the thought of learning or attempting to learn the language.We were taken outside after picking up our duffle bags and piled on a 6 x 6. It was raining now, light, but the wind was still there which made it miserable. Still no trees, nothing but rock!! We were driven to a mess hall which was welcome. The chow was so-so, but Icelandic men and women were working there, some of the broads didn't look bad,all blond and blue eyed, almost everyone and that language. You have to hear it spoken to get the effect of it. They're talking like mad and its all mumble jibberish to you. We got used to that too. A visit to the Chaplain was next and to Imbarkation Office for assignment. Chuck and I drew the 932nd AC&W Sqdrn, but later learned that there were so many guys there already, they had no room for us, so we were taken, about 15 in our group to what was called " The Seaweed Area", which I'll never forget. A small dirty little quanset hut was to be our home. Oh, this was going to be lovely!!

Inside, it was cold, oil heaters were installed in each hut and we worked ours overtime during the next few days.There was't any room for hanging our clothes, nothing but bunks in there. We managed to get things shaped up. We were told we would only be here for a few days, so we waited. The days turned to weeks, but we waited. Days, we slept during the morning, mess hall was close enough, afternoons, we visited the PX and coffee shop. Everything was a quanset hut and every day was rain and cold. One odd thing was it stayed light outside all the time. 11:30 at night and still daylight!! But, we got used to that too! At nght, we took in a movie, a cup of coffee and then the sack. Everyday, the same pattern. There were Airmen, Army, and Navy personel all together on the one base plus the civilian American contracters and Icelandic workers. Quite a bit of confusion. The driving of cars on the left side of the road almost got me run over several times until the habit took over. These "Mojacks" run wild in a car, what few they have and you had to watch four directions at once. We were told a few days after our arrival that we had been transferred to the 933rd AC&W Sqdrn, a small isolated detachment on the northern side of the island near the Arctic Circle. We also learned the place was supposed to have the best food and good living quarters, although it was still under construction. All we wanted was a place to relax, unpack, get cleaned up and feel at home again. Only NCO's could get their blues cleaned on the base and that took from 10 days to two weeks, so that was out. Our mail situation was the thing though. We were to check the post office each day at certain times, but our trouble started with the clerk there. He wasn't checking very closely because no-one was getting any and we knew it was there. A visit to the Postal Officer fixed that up and things were a little better. No matter when we went for mail, that clerk didn't give us a chance to give him our names before the expression, " You ain't got none." came out. Most of the time, we didn't because he just wasn't checking. One bad thing about mail up there is the weather for flying. The mail may not come in for 2 or 3 days from the states and then it hits all at once. We soon became known over that whole base as " The Seaweed Boys". The SAC crews came and went, but we were still in one of their huts. Our pay wasn't coming in as it should so a few more complaints went out to the adjutant of the 933rd who was working with the 932nd at the time. The pay was late, but we got it. Finally, after three weeks and five days of living like animals, the notice came that we were scheduled to fly out to the site on Tuesday. We had been misinformed about the location because it was really on the southestern coast of Iceland about 250 miles out. At least, it didn't sound quite as cold there. Tuesday came, bad weather as usual and the flight was cancelled. Wednesday, we packed up everything, got to the terminal , got aboard the old "Gooney Bird". "Triple Nckel Four",we called her from the serial number. We had used "Mae Wests" in Newfoundland and landing here, but now came parachutes. It was my first time to have to put one on in flight and I wondered just what else was coming. We got settled, strapped in, got comfortable and was in the process of saying so long to Keflavik when my luck came off again. So far, ever since I'd left home on this trip, my luck came as a charm gone bad. The plane had gone up that morning with another load of troops and was back now for us.The luck I mentioned turned out to be our VHF radio receiver was out. We had only taxied a 100 yards out, but we came back. The pilot said we would try again tomorrow. No-one was crazy about the idea of going back to Seaweed for the night and we did manage to get a room in the civilian hotel at the terminal. There were two buildings, one small with GI bunks just for cases like this. We got the rooms ok and about 11:00 that night,some guy came in from the 932nd with mail for H3, the number for the site to which we were going. We had our doubts now. We checked through and found a few letters for ourselves which were really appreciated. That was one blue bunch of guys now with all the mix-up that had happened. Thursday, we tried again. We went through the same procedures and this time were airborne. The old man reached altitude, throttled back to cruise, placed his engines in tune and flipped on the auto-plot, so I fired up a fresh "Lucky" and settled in the seat for the ride. Lots of clouds up there, but the air was smooth and "Triple Nickel" was purring like a kitten. I was asleep before long as usual, but I woke up cold. We were at 10,000 feet now and passing so I was told the second largest glacier in the world. That glacier must really have the freeze on because it was sure cold in that plane. We banked and dropped a couple of thousand feet , circled some more, but there was nothing down there but clouds and fog and then the word came. I was in the front seat and the door was open to the cockpit. I got the word as the pilot said them to the engineer. "Tell them we're going back!!! The strips socked in!!!" -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So, we returned to Keflavik for one more night in that hole. Friday broke through nice and clear and we're all set to make it today. We made it fine and even the fog was gone when we descended to the short dirt strip at Hofn, Iceland. We leveled at 800 feet and took a hard bank to the left. There was nothing down there but a dirt strip on a small island. The ocean was sending in its supply of water on one side, but the other side was calm enough. The wind sock down there was going in so many directions, I didn't see how the pilot knew which way to go in. He took a chance and we dropped some more. That was a few minutes of wondering, until we were low enough to get under the cross-winds that were flipping us around. We touched hard, bounced, touched lightly and settled softly. This guy knew what he was doing. He brought the ship around, we bounced to the far side of the strip.We dropped to the ground as the pilot cut the engines and again that wind! There were several guys from the base and the Commander waiting, although we couldn't see from where we were just how they had arrived there. After unloading the plane of our bags, a few movies, and some supplies, around the corner of some old ruins , we saw it!!! If you've never seen a whaling boat, then you haven't missed much, but there it was. Just an oversized canoe with a motor. We all crawled in with the boxes and bags and started across to a small town . Tying up on the other side, we saw the 6x6 and a carryall into which we loaded the supplies. About seven of us were driven by the Commander in the carryall. While passing through town, he explained a few things to us. The town was Hofn, population about 300 and was off limits to us at all times except for passing through to meet the planes. There was nothing there anyway, so it was no letdown. On the other side of town, we started on a small dirt road with the ocean on one side and huge mountains on the other.

The decline of the peaks were made up of small rock much like crumbled lava, I would think. This same pattern was there for the twelve miles to the site. Upon rounding one rather sharp curve, we saw it!!!!! There was a rockbed leading from the mainland about a half mile out to the site. It was on kind of an island , but for a 100 yards on either side of the road on the rockbed, there were tidalflats which were covered with water most of the time, making the place an island to me. We passed over and into the Squadron area. We were low in spirits by now just looking at the long one story cement buildings, all nine of them. We were just in time for chow and upon entering the mess-hall, things looked different. The inside was very nice, a pleasant atmosphere to it and the chow was just as we had heard. I can say now that it is the best I've ever had since being in the service but they had to have something good out there. There were a few guys sitting around, they didn't look downhearted, but then they didn't look so happy either. Next, we taken to one of the barracks where we picked out a room. The barracks were long affais, almost like a hotel. Inside the rooms, Chuck and I found tile floors, hollywood bunks, desks, chest of drawers, three wall closets with drawers in the bottom part and to set it all off, a wash basin and mirror in one corner. After a visit to supply where we picked up new sheets, new blue blankets and something else new to us in the service, a dark blue comforter for the sacks. There were individual bed lamps on each sack, a desk lamp, light over the sink and the overhead light, in fact there was plenty of light, these would be nice in the winter when the sun didn't come up tll 10AM and went down again at 2PM. We had the afternoon to clean up the rooms, wax and buff the floors and above all to unpack and get to that washing machine. There was only the one machine and about 80 troops here now , so you had to get there first and fast or wait. Most of the time, we waited. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The CO had his policies , as everywhere and one was the wearing of civilian clothes for the evening meal. Having no civvies with us, it was permissable to use khaki pants and blue poplin shirts. This was to be the standard uniform for the evening meal. With no cleaning facilities whatsoever nearby, we soon learned to wash, dry and iron our clothes and in time, some of us were getting pretty sharp with that iron , except me, that is. I managed to get by though. My section was still under construction with no set date for completion so the group of us radar operators were to be the so-called detail men of the squadron. We did odd jobs from unloading the boat at Hofn with a lot of supplies, setting up furniture in the rooms, washing windows which needed it every day after the rain. Some of us ended up in Supply Section where others weren't so lucky as to find a permanent job for awhile. My luck changed for some reason and I was asked if I wanted the job of Operations Clerk. I had this job on my last station for awhile and it wasn't bad. Consisted of a little typing, odds and ends of an office which was ok with me. Having found myself a job for the rest of my tour, I settled down to work athough there wasn't that much of it. Chuck ended up in supply but a couple of weeks of that was enough, so he ended up as my so-called assistant. There wasn't enough work to keep me busy most of the time, but we found a few odd jobs for him to run through. Being a camera fiend on a small scale, both of us used most of our spare time on the island shooting everything we could see. A couple of days of this and we had taken a picture of about everythng on the island and since we were restricted to the island, the cameras went into storage for the winter. Our mail situation was really on the rocks here as everything had to be flown in. The usual days were Tuesday and if we were lucky, Friday. The weather was a big handicap because there were no facilities on the strip for guidance to the pilots. Those were blue days for guys waiting for that plane. The sound of a motor brought everyone out gazing up for the sight of it. They usually gave us a wheel check before they settled down at the strip to give us notice and for time to get a vehicle out to pick it up. Some weeks were bad, on Fridays we had mail, Tuesday was nice but no plane. Wednesday, we waited, nothing, Thursday we waited and nothing and finally early Friday morning, the drone of old "Triple Nickel" sounded out loud and clear in the little valley and you could see wide grins on the faces of the guys as they yelled at each other passing out the doors to watch that beautiful plane circle overhead. It gave you a feeling of being, as I would think, never having the experience, of being stranded in the middle of the ocean waiting for a search plane to find you because the mail on board this one was just like a lifesaver although the people at home didn't have the same feeling. Its strange that they get the attitude that you're travelling around seeing the country and enjoying yourself and that their little letter means nothing. If they could only see some of these places, they might change their opinion fast. No matter how had you try, you can't put over in a letter the atmosphere of being in a place like this. The days wore on turning into weeks and you drift into a pattern. The same thing day after day. You have a few movies, but they only help out for a couple of hours. There was a small club if you wanted to drown your sorrows which a lot did, including myself at times. The PX was small, handling only the necessities with a few different articles thrown in. We had our own barber there and thus we existed. Many of the guys had been fortunate enough to have their rotation dates cut, some as much as two months. My luck was still with me because I didn't get a single day along with the others in my group. We had the full year to pull rght here. It soon came to us that a break would have to be in here somewhere. You couldn't stay here forever. There were no towns to hop to after work, and Dear reader, if you are looking for the buildup of the opposite sex, you can stop here because there isn't any. THERE WERE NO GIRLS, PERIOD!!!! You don't miss those dear little creatures until you're really away from them and I think we were away , so we missed them. After a few weeks, we really missed them. The idea of a morale leave was there, but at Keflavik, it was sign in and sign out at the terminal and take a chance of using all your leave time travelling or laying over for bad weather and paying your way back on commercial airlines.After checking it over, we found that we could take 15 days, start our leave at McQuire AFB in New Jersey and end it there giving us a full 15 days in the states, plus we got free transportation to the states and back and our travel time counted as duty time.I know of one instance of the guy who could take it, he needed to save money bad , but after a few weeks of this and his name was on the list for a leave right next to mine. It was take a morale leave or check out a straight jacket, so the leave came first. A couple of weeks ago, our troubles really came on the mail situation. We had gone a week before without a plane, but this was the eleventh day without one and these guys faces were getting uglier by the minute. Even our rations were about gone in the mess hall. Frankly, I was getting a little sick of soup and stew. Only animal or bird life here were the seals and sea gulls. They might not taste bad. Come to think of it, I haven't been told what the stew was made of. On the 12th day, we got up to see all the fog. No chance for the plane today. About 9:30, the fog lifted a little and around 10:00 , we were in the mess hall for our morning coffee break when we heard it!!! This motor didn't sound like a gooney bird so out the door we go! Even the CO ran out himself. This one was a plane alright, an old B-25.

Instead of lowering his landing gear, on the second pass, he opened his bomb bay doors. Took about a minute to understand what he meant so we head for the only spot on the island big enough and clear of rock for a mail bag to land in because thats what we got, a mail drop!! They passed over about 500 feet and dropped one bag at a time. About a dozen guys were on one bag before it hit the ground. We were happy to see three bags dropped but he kept circling for another pass.The total amounted to 7 bags. We took a holiday for the rest of the day and even that stew tasted better at noon. The 17th day, we got a plane out that landed wih rations on board. We've gone as long as eight days since then without mail, but we still have that record! As time went on, we became familar with the whole layout which wasn't much. We got into limited operation and got rid of most of the detail except for KP which kept drifting around every 9 days and I hate that with a passion. I'm sitting here now counting the days til my leave comes through. My leave has been approved and my orders should be on the next plane. 22 days til I leave here. Haven't found out exactly when my reservations are for a plane to the states from Keflavik, but I'm sure of being home for the holidays. My luck can't run bad all of the time. Got my AWOL bag full of time tables and tickets and be on my way. When that plane touches down, I'm home! Until then, I'm one of the FORGOTTEN GUYS OF THIS GOD FORSAKEN PLACE!!!

Don Wyatt and Darwyn G MacCall. This picture was taken in 1999. Don and Mac were roommates at H3 in 1955/56. This was our first reunion since those days 44 years earlier. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------