"Kagnew Recollections" by Arthur Adolphsen

I arrived in Asmara Jan 57 via Frankfort Gm, spent a great 10 days in the SS barracks over Christmas, the Officer traveling with us (50+) would not let the local command give us ASA personel any duty, just a lot of sightseeing.

The warm climate of the Asmara airport in the Ike jacket winter uniform was a contrast to the cold and snow we left in Germany. I remember the first taste of Eritrea was a "fly", I quicky learned to keep my mouth shut while moving forward.

The old Kagnew Station with the tall radio towers was quite a site, the barracks seemed like someting out of a movie, there were about 50 bunks, all on one floor with an oil stove in the middle. The first one to meet us was the house boy twice my age, a real nice person, I wish I could remember his name.

The first memorable story was when a new 2nd Lt arrived, during barracks inspection at 2300 , spread all over the barracks were beer cans, the Lt didn't think much of that so all were awoke and told not to drink in the barracks, As you can probably guess, the next nite the cans where piled high on the hot stove, in a neat pile, when the Lt came in he grabed the bottom can and it was hot, he yelled, and we were to fall out in formation, it took about 2 hrs to get us all out in our skivies, the Lt marched us down to the ball field, where we where to do some close order drill (0300), some started counting cadence and it was taken up by all, quite loudly, the lights started coming on all over the Post and the surrounding local houses. Another Officer arrived and it ended abruptly. The 2 Lt was sent to the outstation at Ginda, never saw him again. (Acouple of GI's beat up a half dozen locals, then we where confind to post for 2 weeks, - the whole post).

Somewhere near the end of 1957 while returning from the evening shift, we could see a red glow from the direction of Kagnew Station, when we arrived, we could see the Post on fire it was around the PX, out of the bus and man the hose, it was a wonder we got any water, the fire started in the fryer in the kitchen of the PX, when the Army fire department arrived the first place they aimed the water was at the buring fat, the flames went every where, the kitchen was next to the store room where the hunting guns and amo were kept, when the fire got to that area, we all dove for cover, when the shooting was over we got back to fighting the fire we did save a couple of barracks and the messhall, they had probably 8 fire engines from the Asmara fire department, couldn't get any of them to pump water. Moved to the unfinished new Kagnew Station.

The Operations center (the crew) went on strike some time after we moved on the new base (Dec 57) , it lasted for about 4 days no one could hear any signals, after 3 or 4 days of not much traffic being sent to Washington a plane load of NSA people showed up and wanted to know what was going on, we had a meeting of all operations personel in the gym and they asked us what we wanted, and there where many that were brave enough to stand up and let them know, it was brought on by the Post Command removing stripes and privliges for very minor infractions they would not let us have autos and motor bikes restricted every one to base etc. To my knowledge no personel got punished, but the entire Post Command right down to the Chaplin got replaced, COL Little was Post Commander. Asmara and Ethiopia was a wonderful place at that time, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Art

During one of my many motorcycle trips, myself and 2 other GI's headed for Massawa, the usual way was to go out to the edge of the plateau and turn off the engine and coast down the mountain only had to start the engine once till you reached the desert, for those who had flown in, it was a great way to show them the county, and scare them good. Just a little inland from Massawa there was a desert road north, to a place on the Red Sea where we often stayed over nite, on this trip we came up behind 15 camels with packs, old ropes and 3 natives, our bikes scared the camels and they broke there ropes and went in every direction, with the camel drivers on our bikes we rounded up the camels we were lucky to all leave laughing.

Some time in 1958, the post command was being a little tuff on small infractions of the rules, and removing stripes, and restrictions, we could not have automobiles or motorcycles, and were confind to post a lot. At some point the Operations Company personel seem to have a problem hearing radio signals, this went on for about 4 days of reduced radio traffic going to Washington, it wasn't long before a plane load of Vip's from NSA arrived and wanted to know what was going on. They called all Operations Personel to a meeting in the new Gym, and wanted to know what the problem was, some brave ones got up and told them. As far as I know no personel were affected by the "Strike", but the whole Post Command was changed down to the Chaplin. All got their stripes back. Motorcycles and cars were in. I still have fond memories of the Italian Hotel where we could get big meals steak and all the trimming for 75cents.

From the HILLS of HOPE in the LAND of MAINE


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©Copyright Rick Fortney 1998 All Rights Reserved