Doomsday Clock Chart Created by atomic scientists to indicate the minutes before we incur catastrophic destruction (midnight”) - At 2 minutes to “midnight” in 1953 through 1960.
The Threat Russian long range bombers had been flying over northern Canada at will
The 1952 Summer Study A Summer Study group was assembled at Lincoln Labs of MIT to consider measures required for a defense against the Soviet bomber threat. The existing Pine Tree Line could not provide the six hour warning needed to launch air defensive forces.
Project 572 ATT, Western Electric and the Bell System were assigned the task. Project work began in 1952. (At that time, Bell System included Bell Telephone Company of Canada and Northern Electric) This led to the largest and most difficult construction project in history – what became known later as the Distant Early Warning Line The DEW Line would supplement the existing Pine Tree Line, and the planned Mid-Canada Line
The Radar Lines as of 1953 DEW Line (Lat 70 N) very early in planning – would grow to 43 stations Mid Canada Line (Lat 55 N) early in planning – would grow to 98 stations Pine Tree Line (Lat 50 N) partially completed - would grow to 50 stations
Project 572 Objectives Construct an accessible prototype site at Streator, Ill for equipment evaluation / training. Construct three Arctic radar sites - at Pt. Barrow, Barter Island and Komakuk to form a 200 mile prototype “Test Line” section of the future DEW Line. As part of the ongoing development process, evaluate the Search Radar, Doppler Radar, lateral and rearward VHF and UHF communication systems for future DEW Line deployment. Evaluate the Sno Shu tracked vehicle and Otter amphibious vehicle for future DEW line use Assess staff selection, level and training problems.
The “Test Line” Arctic Sites Pt Barrow Barter Island Komakuk
VE3AAS in 1953 I had spent World War II studying, teaching, and working on Radar in the UK and the Far East By 1953 I had graduated from UWO in Radio Physics and was working with Northern Electric in Belleville under Bud Punchard VE3UD. Though I was working for a Bell System company, I was unaware of the highly secure Project 572 activities at top levels in the Bell System and Western Electric.
Canadian Project 572 Contingent Several engineers chosen from Northern Electric Several engineers chosen from various Canadian telephone companies Some would not survive the rigorous evaluation and training ahead
My “Briefing” More an interview to determine the capability of the “volunteer” to survive a year of Arctic isolation. The interviewer did not reveal much about the project since security level high.
Major Project 572 Challenges Harsh environment Remote locations Staffing Radar Rear and lateral communications Cost Security These only became apparent to me over time as the training program progressed.
Psychological Evaluation Shrink team from Northwest University - Chicago Aptitude tests, ink blots Ability to survive alone Political - follow on from McCarthy era Some curiosity about Canadians Several initial candidates did not make it through this evaluation process and training
Diesel Power Plant Training Key place of the electric power Maintenance and repair Fuel supply lines in frigid weather Synchronization switching of main to standby generator
Firefighting Training Practice sessions at Western Electric Hawthorne plant, Chicago. Remember, an Arctic building fire leaves you completely without shelter. Use of extinguishers and other equipment.
First Aid Training First Aid as per American Red Cross No doctors or nurses at hand so --- How to remove an appendix !! Frost bite treatment. Extreme care.
Arctic Survival Training Kit of blanket, shotgun (miniature), water tablets, hardtack Beware weather, wind, blackout, ice Eskimo guide Never alone
Welcome to Arctic Alaska Flew commercial into Fairbanks Flew charter into Barter Island, the more advanced of the three “Test Line” sites as it had sea-lift access and supplies went out from there. Lots of contractor people still building that site Joined a dozen or so on the electrical team - two of us to focus on the Search Radar, others to focus on VHF, UHF and Doppler Spent two months at Barter Island before going on to Komakuk, Yukon to start over again there.
Our Objectives The radar and telecommunications equipment, antennas and towers had been unpacked and installed by contractor people before our arrival, under factory supervision. To calibrate and evaluate the equipment features and suitability for future DEW Line deployment To use and report observations on other equipment in use at our sites, including diesel power plant, Sno Shu and Otter vehicles.
Reporting and Decisions Instead of formal reports there were daily TTY exchanges in the form of questions from Western Electric at West Street, NYC and our answers Often questions came from Bell Labs and the Western Electric Company plants
Environment 10 Months+ Winter Very bitter cold Drifting snow Violent wind 2 Months Summer Clouds of mosquitoes
Engineer Drowns at Komakuk That tragic drowning left me alone on Search Radar for the duration.
L Band Search Radar AN/TPS-1D (Tipsy One Dog) Built by Western Electric 1220 – 1350 MHz, 500 KW, 4 o H, 12 o V Used selected 5J26 magnetrons Movable automatic alarm range rings. Frequent Minimum Discernable Signal tests Frequent VSWR tests Frequent frost problems on feedlines
Project 572 Test Results Extensive tests for future DEW Line suitability had been done on the AN/TPS-1D L-Band Search Radar using USAF aircraft High level of security prevented access to my own test results TPS-1D L Band Search Radar: successful; special features performed well Doppler Radar: much false triggering by vehicles, animals, birds and vibration VHF and UHF Telecom: Some fading
Project 572 Test Results (cont’d) Otter Amphibious Vehicle: irrelevant for DEW Line Snow Shu Vehicle: no suspension meant much rider discomfort and significant vehicle damage Ongoing improvements on various pieces of radar and telecoms gear would be made throughout the DEW Line operations phase AN/TPS-1D evolved into AN/FPS-19
Amenities We had all the amenities of an isolated US military base, provided by Uncle Sam Hunting equipment Model railroad Heathkits Music library, movie projector, games Photographic darkroom to develop & print Ham radio station