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Francesco (Frank) De Leonardis until '79

Rick: hi there!
My name is Francesco (Frank) De Leonardis, I'm writing from Italy. I am in Forli', south of Bologna, north of Rimini in the Romagna region.
As it often happens with the big Web, early this afternoon I made the hit of the week: the Kagnew Station Homepage. I was born in Asmara 43 years ago, lived there till 1979 when we were forced to pack our bags and return to this country due to the deteriorating war situation there. My father was the owner of the household-goods shop "EVERYTHING FOR THE HOUSE" that many from Kagnew paid visits to. Kagnew has meant a lot for me and it still does: Mr & Mrs Robert C. Sanders (from Indianapolis, IN) and my family are very close, so close that I am considered to be their fifth son! I can easily fool Americans with my pure American accent and nobody believes me when I say that I am genuine Italian stuff, that I have been just once to the States and that for only two weeks. I admit my English is getting rusty but on this side of the lake it's far from easy to meet a Memphian or Bostonian on the street. But what really lights my heart when I speak of Kagnew is AFRTS. How I loved that Radio station: everyday, as soon as I came home from school, I tuned in to the AM band and stuck close till it was time to go the bed. I wrote down every week's Top Forty countdown chart, kept data of new records being released, started to grow a deep love for soul, R & R, R & B, country, rock, pop, bubble gum, you name it, I love it. I had only a radio back then, I couldn't afford the records themselves. Now it's the opposite: I have built up a large collection of CDs and LPs trying to recapture the sounds and feelings that go with those long ago times. Friends from Asmara ask me for tapes of "Kagnew Music". You just wouldn't believe how popular "Time Is Tight" was in the early '70 and how much people ask me to put that particular record on tape. Just let me add this: next July, Booker T. Jones, of Booker T. & the MGs, authors of that tune, will be in person at the Porretta Soul Festival, held every year since 1988, to commemorate Otis Redding and Memphis Music. He is bound to hear this story being retold again...
I have managed to get in contact with Reggie Young, guitarist extraordinaire, who was in Asmara too. Is there anyone out there, among the many who served at Kagnew, who is treasuring original tapes of radio shows that were aired from AFRTS? I would like to get in contact with them with the aim of at least getting a copy of them.
This time I just sneaked in, read the main page, got a quick look at the two most recent pictures of the main entrance to the Base and got feverish about sending this to you.
I'll be back for more. Ciao, Frank.

Jerry Ingle '57-'59

My name is Jerry Ingle. I joined the army Jan. '57, took basic at Ft. Jackson, SC then to Ft Devens for 058 school. I got the only allocation in my class for Asmara and arrived there Nov. '57. While processing in I was told I would be assigned to the personnel office because I was a "skilled typist", they were short handed and Larry Edwards couldn't go home until they were up to strength. (forget about 26 weeks of dits & dahs). If you were ASA at Kagnew from Nov.'57 to Nov.'59 I was the one that saw you got paid and the one you yelled at if we made a mistake (yes, we did make a few). Made Sp5 though, better than I could have done as 058 with my code skills.

I remember Col. Little was Post CO when I arrived and Col. Harris when I left. Remember Cpt. Whelan, Cpt. Raymond, Cpt. Peters, Maj. Wall, CWO Lum, Col. Tabbi. Still see buddies Guy Gray, Ms., and Billy Brown, La. Haven't seen or heard from big Jim Craven, Al., Frank Martone, Pa., Jack Revello, NJ., Henry Heckert, Mo., Bill Duhane, Ma., and others. Went hunting a lot, went with Al Rayl once. Came back with malaria and had it off and on for years.

I got out after 3 years (always wish I had stayed in). Was Ga. State Trooper for 13 years then had chance to go into business. Did well and am now retired living where it all started in Chatsworth, Ga. about 30 miles SE of Chattanooga, Tn.

Can't tell you how much your site means to me. When your 60 and you have a chance to relive "the best years of your life" all you can say is "thanks much and keep on keeping on".

Bruce Matthews 'yy-'yy

Please add me to your list of Kagnew Station veterans.

U.S. Navy Personnelman stationed at Kagnew 1969-1971. Played guard on the Navy basketball team for 2 seasons (yes, we beat Stratcom the second year) and traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East on the all-star team. Also won the base tennis tournament. Still get together with 3 Navy buddies who spent time with me in Asmara--George McLaughlin, Terry Hunt, and Gary Burtner. Owned a Ducati 450 (candy apple red) and had some great times biking down to Massawa, Cheren, and Massawa Park. I have some issues of the Kagnew Gazelle which I will get to you. Probably some pictures as well.

Love the site--can't wait for the reunion in October here in Cincy!

Take care and thanks for the memories.

Terry Hunt Navy, '69-'71

I was put on to this sight by Bruce Matthews. Great website. Also nice to know that other Kagnew vets are out there. Many memories of Asmara, Gura, J.C. point and the old abandoned hotel at Massawa beach among many other things. I hope this forum finds its way some of the lost brothers--YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

David Whitehurst ASA, '61-'63

From a note to Steve Waycaster with David's permission.

It makes me feel good to know that I helped in one of those 30-year reunions that are going to become a more common occurance now that the Kagnew Station website is growing so fast. The guys that are running the site are doing a fantastic job as you can tell every time you visit it. Everyone expresses it the same way when they write to tell their feelings about when they first stumble onto the site, by whatever means. I'm glad you made contact with your friend...but you know that in the back of my mind I was also wanting to let another "newguy" (your friend Mike) know about the Asmara- Kagnew-ASA, etc. websites. The bond between all of us that had the "luck" (unknown to most at the time!) to have been there, is going to grow in the future, I'll bet.
Continued best wishes to you. David Whitehurst, Los Angeles, CA
Kagnew Station, ASA '61-'63

Todd Conley Navy, '75-'77

Editor's Note: Todd has agreed to work with me to bring you his views of "the last days of Kagnew." I'm excited that Todd has found us and will be participating in the page. Stay tuned and we hope you will all enjoy his stories.

Hi, Rick,
My name is Todd Conley. I'm currently a CWO3 (USN) serving as the Technical Control Officer at NCTAMS EURCENT (formerly NAVCAMS MED) in Naples, Italy. It only dawned on me the other day to check the internet for information regarding Asmara. I think I was probably absorbed in a nostalgic stroll down memory lane at the time, something I hadn't had a chance to do in a long, long while.

At any rate, I was stationed at Kagnew Station from October 1975 to April 1977, when it was a Naval Communications Unit. I've given a quick glance at some of the information you have available regarding Kagnew Station, but it all appears to be about the place long before I came on the scene. I'm sure the longer I think about it, more names and events will come to mind, all of which I'd be glad to share with anyone who might be interested. I'd also be interested in participating (if that's the right word) in providing any information and learning more about a place where I grew up in what seemed like a very long year and a half.

When I arrived at Kagnew Station, the civil war for Eritrea's independence was in full force. The station compliment had dwindled to 13 military and a few U.S. civilian contractors. It was my first real duty station after school, I was 19 and scared to death. A couple months before I arrived in country, two americans had been killed after hitting an antitank mine on their way to the transmitter site (I don't really recall, but does tract Delta ring a bell?). Five others had been kidnapped by one of the insurgent factions. At any rate, we lived on a corner of Tract Echo and worked just outside the back gate at Tract Bravo.

I'll end this here by saying I'm sort of excited to have found the Kagnew Station information. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Bob & Abrehet Dannaker ASA, '66-'68

My wife being Ethiopian has obviously kept us very close to developments in Eritrea and Ethiopia. One of the reasons for our being in Saudi Arabia is its close proximity to Ethiopia. During the reign of terror brought about during the years of rule by Mengistu's dergue government, we had almost no access to Ethiopia. To say the least this was very difficult for my wife, as her family comes from Eritrea and Tigray in northern Ethiopia where most of the heaviest fighting was taking place. However, since the overthrow of Mengistu and the advent of peace, we have visited Eritrea and Ethiopia extensively. We've been back to Asmara many times. Considering the terrible distruction that Eritrea was subjected to, it is amazing how well Asmara is doing. The city is in good condition, nearly crime free, very clean, and accomodations are clean and comfortable (the best hotels might rate two or three stars by European standards). The restaurants have a lot of catching up to do, but you can get an adequate meal that is safe to eat at several restaurants. And prices are low! In general, there is a shortage of foreign goods in the market place. However, this situation is quickly changing. What is really attractive about Eritrea and Ethiopia is the people. They haven't lost their wonderful hospitality, or their gentle and kind natures which is amazing considering the hardships they have been through. Right now these countries are unspoiled by commercialized tourism. I've traveled all over the world, and I sincerely believe there is nothing like Eritrea and Ethiopia for their spectacular scenery, facinating cultural diversity and historical heritage.

Anyone interested in Ethiopia should read "The Sign and the Seal" by Graham Hancock (sp?). He provides a revealing look at the the very mysterious side of Ethiopian culture and history. As you can see, I have a great affection for these two countries and their peoples. They are very rough uncut diamonds that hide the beauty of their gems within. I would be happy to correspond with anyone concerning this subject. I'm particularly interested in making contact with any Americans who have married Eritreans or Ethiopians.

Signing off for now ...
Bob Dannaker

Frank Thelen III CDR USN-RET, '61-'62

(Two notes from Frank)

I wish to be added to the Kagnew Station Roster.. Duty info follows: RM2/RM1 Assigned to NCU Asmara Jan 61 through Sep 62. Assignment was Ship/Shore Watch Supervisor, worked for RMCS Pendergrass, CWO Lloyd L. Malloy and LT T. J. Vroman at Track F.

Looking forward to making contacts with shipmates and renewing old acquaintences. Also any ham radio buffs still active maybe we can get a net going for one on one rag sessions. My call NO1H.

Best regards, Frank Thelen III, CDR USN-RET..

Hello Rick...
Thank you for your courteous and rapid response to my inquiry.

Will be glad to donate whatever remittance is required to defray your cost of maintaining and updating the Kagnew Station Roster when such is determined. Again, many thanks for the response and good luck in your efforts to put this all together.

Happy Easter season to you and yours.
Sincerely and respectfully, Frank....

Roland Richter AFRTS, '72-'73

Love the new look of the page. I particularly like your signing off line :"the memory lives on". Its really amazing how that place stays with you.

Rolands' note to everyone

Hello fellow Kagnewites!!
It was with great pleasure that I found this site and through it have found many old friends and relived many great times. I arrive when many were leaving...never got to experience the Oasis, but heard many stories! I will never forget the Top 5, though, and the great service from many great waiters...too bad some of those working in some of the really high-dollar places here could not learn from them!! I had the great pleasure of working with some great people at the Radio Station at Kagnew...Mike and Dan King, Larry " I like to Rock" Snider, Mike Edwards, Rick Glasby and many others. Working at that station really gave me an idea of how a station can become part of the community. And experiences on TV there were like no other...where else did we have a Christmas tree in the studio that we put on the air daily for those who did not have one? And PBS never had a fund raiser like the AFTV White Elephant Sale. And where else did a TV station put a solar eclipse on the air live. Or put a Halloween show on live from the movie theater?( seems to me I remember some members of the cast of that 1973 show going downtown in costume---after a stop at the top 5 for "fuel"---) Doing the morning show with Mike and Warren Krech was great.

Also enjoyed the ham radio operating at ET3USA...talking to the world from Asmara was lots of fun. I am still into ham radio today, but operating from the states will never be anything like fighting the huge pileups of stations trying to work us there. A 1973 trip to the Dahlak Islands to put them on the air is something I never will forget.

My current ham callsign: WA5IEX... I am still in radio ( never got honest work)...worked in engineering, programming and news...even at the ( gasp!) corporate level for a time. Built four FM and four AM transmitter sites as an engineer. I am now back in my hometown ( Waco...and, yes, I was here for the Branch Davidian deal. That's a whole 'nother story!!) and am news director for a local News/Talk station...doing some stringer reporting for NBC, UPI and the Texas State Network.

I have gotten to know some really great people in the growing Eritrean community in Dallas. If you ever get there, you have to go by the Queen of Sheba Resteraunt at McKinney and Lemmon Avenue...Would love to hear from anyone who knew us at the radio station or from the local Asmara station downtown...heck, I'd like to hear from anyone who remembers driving down the mountain, dealing with street boys, trading money, eating at The Caravel etc.

The Memory really does live on ....

Vince Swanson, '59-'61

I was an Electronics Technician 3rd Class at NavComUnit 3 from the fall of 59 through the spring of 91 (18 month tour).

I worked at the transmitter site for my entire tour, and worked for Jim Blair (see 1959) during a portion of that tour. I retired from the Navy as a Senior Chief Electronics Technician (ETCS / E8) in 1977.

I've spent the last 20+ years as a technical writer, and am currently the Technical Publications Manager for ArrayComm, in San Jose, CA.

Jim Lockwood, '60-'63

I thought I'd pass my name along to you. I was there in 60 thru 63. I was a part of the USA Middle East Signal Agency (MESA). I believe that became Stratcom later. I had 2 sons born there. Chris was born on July 25, 1961 and Tony was born October 8, 1962. I also had a cousin stationed there in 1962, Margaret La Prath, who was an Army nurse. She died in 1990.

Take care and keep up the good work.

John Bartosik, '61-'62 & '64-'65

Well, I'm finally on the net. Afriend of mine told me about this site and I'm glad I finally on it passing information.

I was stationed in Asmara 61-62 and then again 64-65. I was assigned to USASTRATCOM before it became USACC. I was a 32D(fixed station tech controller). Being of a collector or sorts, I saved many of the Kagnew paper that was printed, I have currency, and countless photo's that I took while during my tours of duty. I spent a total of 30 years in the Army and retired as a SGM, 1960-1990. I currently work for the state of Florida in the Department of Labor.

I have not had the time to browse all the areas that are involved on this Web, but as time goes by, I certainly will. I certainly would appreciate hearing from you and what may be the latest plans that are in store for this organization or association. Thank you for the opportunity to add my name to the list of personnel who served at Kagnew Station.

Roger, Wilco and Out from Tallahassee, Florida.....

Fletcher Stutzman, '46-'50

I am not familiar with Tract "B". We were out in the "boonies". I went to Asmara in '46 with the Sig Corps. We operated comm/crypto center for 4th Det, 2nd Sig SUBN (ASA). Also xmitter/rec sites. I reenlisted in '47 in ASA and filled the same slot. Comm/crypto was taken over by ASA. If you want to list me on your Kagnew page I suggest you use Radio Marina. How do I get the Kagnew Roster?

Steve Nantz, mid 60's

My name is Steve Nantz. My father (Frank, initials R.F.)was a chief petty officer for the Navy at Kagnew in the mid-60's. He went on to serve with the SEALS in 'Nam. While in Asmara we had a young man working for us. His name is Brehane Semere. The spelling may not be correct. Anyway, he was a wonderful guy and I'd like to get in touch with him. He was a real idealist, so he may have fought with the EPLF, but of course I can't be sure of that. Spoke excellent English, and likely found work with other Yanks. I appreciate it. Thanks. Also I have info about John Sartain, also Navy, if anyone is interested. I'd also be interested in finding a guy named "Skipper" -- his nickname. African-American kid I went to grade school with. Also Billy (William) Tucker and Donna Smith (who wore those white ankle high boots in the fourth grade and was responsible for those first stirrings of... never mind). Thanks for the great site, my friend.