Roger Babler and Ed Hansen were interviewed on September 3, 2014 by Leslie McCartney and Karen Brewster at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage Alaska. Jerry and Phyllis Peet also were present during the interview. At the time of the interview, they were attending the conference "A Cold War, 2014 Alaska Conference and Nike Veterans Reunion" held in Anchorage, Alaska on September 4 and 5, 2014. In this interview, Roger and Ed talk about working at the Nike Missile Site Tare (A Battery A/2/562) near Fairbanks, Alaska in 1964, their respective duties, a typical day on the job, the weapons system, radar tracking, and recreational activities. They also talk about the importance of the Nike veteran reunions.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Cold War in Alaska: Nike Missile Sites
Date of Interview: Sep 3, 2014
Narrator(s): Roger Babler, Ed Hansen
Interviewer(s): Leslie McCartney, Karen Brewster
Videographer: Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Sue Beck
People Present: Jerald Peet
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Arriving in Fairbanks
Usual day on the job
Keeping the equipment and the facility operating
Layout of the facility and buildings
Relationship with local community
Relationship among site personnel
Working with the acquisition and tracking radar and plotting boards
Understanding the nuclear capabilities
Reflecting on impact of the job and the experience
Living off versus on post
Disposal of missiles and site demolition at deactivation
Number of nuclear warheads at a Nike site
Nike Site reunions
Importance of the Nike Site work in their lives
1964 Alaska Earthquake
Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.
After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So today is September 3, 2014 and we’re in Anchorage, and thank you very much for coming in to speak with us.
I’m Leslie McCartney. We’re here with Karen Brewster, and I’ll let you both introduce yourselves.
ROGER BABLER: Roger Babler. A-2-562 vet from the ’65 era.
ED HANSEN: Ed Hansen also from A-2-562 in 1964 to ’66.
KAREN BREWSTER: And then our visitors, do they want to introduce themselves?
JERRY PEET: Sure.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay. So what we’d like to do before we get to the actual Nike discussion is a little bit of background about yourselves.
So where you were from and your education, and maybe joining the military? Roger, do you want to start?
ROGER BABLER: Okay. I’m from a small village called Monticello, Wisconsin, thirty miles straight south of the capital of Madison. Graduated from high school in ‘59.
I did a two-year technical school as a electronic technician. Got a draft notice. At the time I got a draft notice, I was doing a small one-man TV/radio repair shop.
Actually, it was a part-time thing. I was working in Janesville, Wisconsin at General Motors. Side point on that, I got my draft notice the same day Kennedy got shot.
Spent my two years -- I was just a draftee, as I said. Got out a couple months early.
Went back. Never bothered to go back to General Motors, and I spent the rest of my business life in what I call the vanishing breed -- the one-man shop.
Closed it and retired a couple of years ago, and started doing computer work and stuff like that the last ten years of being in business.
KAREN BREWSTER: So your business, your one-man business was electronics?
ROGER BABLER: Electronics mostly, yes. I graduated from the home entertainment field and then we did the computer stuff alongside.
So I had multiple hats. We were switching it every once in a while during the daytime.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Thanks. And Ed?
ED HANSEN: Okay. Well, I was from Beloit, Wisconsin, which is about forty-five miles from Roger. And I graduated actually from South Beloit High School.
I went to Northern Illinois University, and I think my Army deferment or military deferment ran out in January of ’64,
So I went down and talked to the draft board and they said, “We’ll be calling you in two months.” So I said, “Well, can I go now?” Not enlist for four years, but just sign up for the draft and go.
So I went the next day into the Army. And I ended up down at Fort Bliss with Roger, eventually, and we came up to Alaska the same day together. And we left the same day.
So we were up here eighteen months at A Battery over by Fairbanks.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And what day did you both arrive?
ED HANSEN: It was in July, right around the first of July. I couldn’t tell you the actual date.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And the year? ED HANSEN: ‘64. LESLIE McCARTNEY: '64. ED HANSEN: ‘64.
ROGER BABLER: Left in February of ’66, right?
ED HANSEN: Yeah. Yeah. So it -- we were released from the Army a little early because it was an overseas station and there wasn’t enough time after we left here to be reassigned, so we got out a couple weeks after that.
KAREN BREWSTER: So Alaska was considered to be an overseas station?
ED HANSEN: Yes. Very much. You know, it was a state long before that, but it had an APO address. Just like it was over in Europe somewhere.
And I did finish college but not until I was about fifty years old. I went back and finished.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So when you came up to Alaska, what was the job you were coming up to do? Or what did you really know?
ROGER BABLER: Not much!
ED HANSEN: Our basic training was at Fort Bliss, like I said, and it was in the Integrated Fire Control area (IFC), so we were working on the radars.
And very clearly when we left they said, “Forget everything you learned here. It’s not going to mean a thing when you get to your location.”
You know, ‘cause one thing, things were advancing so fast in electronics that they were -- the equipment was going to be different and everything when we got here.
And the training was pretty short anyway, so -- well, you know, it wasn’t that thorough.
ROGER BABLER: The training was very basic. You sat in the van for I don’t know how many hours a day.
ED HANSEN: 'Til it got a hundred and twenty-eight degrees.
ROGER BABLER: And basically all you did was go through the procedure to flip the switches that turned things on. And the IT was -- I don’t know how many weeks, but you never saw anything work.
All you did is go through the procedure to flip the switches, and the first time you actually saw anything work was when we got up here.
ED HANSEN: We spent a day at -- a day or two at Fort Wainwright and then were transferred to A Battery.
KAREN BREWSTER: Where exactly is A Battery? Or where was it? I guess it’s not there anymore.
ROGER BABLER: A Battery would be where the Chena flood control building is.
ED HANSEN: That was the launch area.
ROGER BABLER: The only two buildings that are left in any condition at all in the Fairbanks area. There are some behind Eielson that have been used for demolition practice by the -- other people in the Army, and they’re a sad state of affairs.
And there’s some that have been bulldozed down and cleared off. You may see the concrete slab, but the two launcher buildings are in very good shape.
And they built a new building there, as you probably know, as an administration building.
ED HANSEN: The IFC area’s totally gone though. They flattened it out.
KAREN BREWSTER: Because I looked at the map and I was trying to figure out where those sites are in relation to, like, modern context and I couldn’t quite figure it out, so --
ROGER BABLER: We're putting up --
ED HANSEN: Close to North Pole. It was getting over that way pretty far.
ROGER BABLER: Putting up a little memorial plaque that’s gonna go in that administration building with a photo of the launcher area and a photo of an IFC area and a brief description of what the launcher buildings were used for.
Two of us and another vet from New York, who can’t make the reunion unfortunately, collaborated on doing this plaque thing. And it should be, hopefully, installed now or if not, during our visit.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So when you arrived you said you were told forget all the training you’ve had, so what was the new training?
ED HANSEN: It was on-the-job training sitting at the radars, and, you know, just learning to operate the equipment like we should have done in the basic training but didn’t really get to that.
ROGER BABLER: Somebody that was -- had time there before and may have been at another site -- In other words, he was a regular Army and is probably in his third or fourth year, basically would take you and showed you how things worked.
Because they know they’re leaving soon after they get you to take their place.
ED HANSEN: That’s basically how we were trained -- was certain people were leaving and they needed certain types of operators, so that’s what our job ended up being. He ended up on the acquisition radars and I ended up on the target tracking radars.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So did you have to learn any other jobs, too, then while you were there? Or specifically that’s what you did? Was the tracking radar?
ED HANSEN: I also ran the plotting board in the battery control van. And I actually plotted the -- where the aircraft were.
And I think I ran the TTR for a while, too, but --
ROGER BABLER: I also did the plotting board, and then they had a what you call high-power acquisition radar, which was a completely separate building away from the two vans, if you’ve seen pictures of the light vans.
And then I got assigned sometimes to go over there and babysit with that when they were on a hotter status than being a shutdown that had to have it running.
So I cross-trained on ‘em. Three jobs.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Three jobs. What a TTR is? Sorry.
ED HANSEN: Target tracking radar. But there was another one. I’m not even sure I’ve got the right terminology.
ROGER BABLER: TRR. Target ranging radar.
ED HANSEN: Target ranging radar, yeah. That’s the other one I did. I just started on that.
ROGER BABLER: And then there was the missile tracking.
ED HANSEN: Right. I never touched that one.
ROGER BABLER: Yeah. You had five people on that van? ED HANSEN: Yes.
KAREN BREWSTER: And that was the fire control van?
ED HANSEN: There's two vans. There's one you called the battery control van. ROGER BABLER: BC.
ED HANSEN: And I’m not sure we had a name for the other one.
ROGER BABLER: RC? I’m not sure. I don’t know what the term is. Somebody will probably fill you in on that.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So how long -- what would your shifts be? How long would you be working?
ED HANSEN: Technically, we were twenty-four on and twenty-four off. But that was on our radar duties.
And there’s always things to do around the sites. You know, painting, scrubbing the floors, whatever. So we’d be on twenty-four hours and then we’d have eight hours the next day of that kind of duty and then we’d be off until the next morning.
ROGER BABLER: And some days you would be off that second day. ED HANSEN: Yeah, if we were on hot duty, we --
And sometimes if we were on hot duty, we really didn’t get off.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So hot duty meant being --?
ED HANSEN: Ready to fire a missile within, I don’t know what it was, fifteen minutes? ROGER BABLER: Fifty.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And how often were you on hot duty?
ED HANSEN: Well, there were five batteries. One of us had to be on hot status all the time, so we rotated. LESLIE McCARTNEY: So it rotated?
ROGER BABLER: It was a rotating schedule.
ED HANSEN: And, of course, maintenance at sites sometimes interfered with the schedule so you may be on more than you would have been if it -- if the schedule had been maintained.
ROGER BABLER: And you could be brought up. If somebody had a problem, if something didn’t check out properly, all of a sudden they are not hot status anymore.
Then the one that’s on a lesser status, he gets moved up and then the one that’s on another lesser status, they get moved up.
ED HANSEN: We flew up with a couple -- the man that was here at Charlie Battery in Anchorage, and he said that Summit and the one across the bay, what was that? ROGER BABLER: Site Bay.
ED HANSEN: Site Bay. Both had trouble staying on hot status because of the weather conditions, especially up there with the winds.
And so he lived here in town. He said he’d get a call sayin’, you know, "You gotta come up. We’re goin’ on hot status."
So he had to go to Richardson, get on a helicopter, and fly across to Charlie Battery, and then he could go on hot status there.
So here it was even more erratic than where we were that way.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: When we were talking about interviewing you, we were wondering, when you’re on hot status it must be quite a high stress load?
ED HANSEN: When you’re twenty -- I was twenty-four -- it was stressful, yeah. But it was -- I think it would stress me out a lot more now.
ROGER BABLER: I guess the real stressful thing would come sometime when there was an unknown. Most of the time the hot status, the stress of it was that you had to be there and you had to be ready to go on a moment’s notice.
ED HANSEN: It was like in the middle of the night.
ROGER BABLER: But sometime at two or three o’clock in the morning something didn’t check out properly and it was an unknown aircraft.
Mostly, it was a bush pilot that didn’t file a proper flight plan. Or was lost. But there were other occasions, and I can truthfully say we never saw one where they were, you know, Russians were playing games.
And we did also play games with them in that particular time period.
KAREN BREWSTER: But you say you never saw a Russian plane?
ROGER BABLER: Well, we never saw anything on the radar that would resemble something that was flying with the proper altitude and speed that would designate that this is something that you really ought to be concerned about, you know.
Mostly it was something that was flying at a much lower altitude and at a slower speed, which denoted a propeller-driven single-engine bush pilot style of plane.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So how would you check that out? How would you --?
ROGER BABLER: When you track it with the radar, it would give you the speed and the altitude.
ED HANSEN: But the Air Force is also goin’ up with planes checking it out.
ROGER BABLER: Yeah. And the Air Force will scramble two jets out of Eielson to take a look at it.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you would see it on the radar and then you would notify Eielson? Or how would they know to go and check?
ED HANSEN: Notification always came down -- ROGER BABLER: It was a simultaneous operation.
ED HANSEN: Yeah. But most notifications came from Murphy Dome and assigned us to go, you know, do what we do.
But I can remember -- exercises, I guess I’d have to call them that late at night or early morning, and after it was over they’d say -- they would say, “Well, it was a KLM airliner off course.”
So was that a Russian plane or was it a KLM? We never knew.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So what would happen when you did see something on the radar that was unusual? What was the chain of command in reporting?
ED HANSEN: Well, there would be us -- to our first notification it would come in as a commo-call from ARADCOM or -- and they would order us up, so to speak.
And so we’d hit the switch and blow the siren and everybody’s probably upstairs in bed trying to get a couple hours sleep. And you sleep with your clothes on.
And so, you know, they all run down to their duty stations and fire up the equipment and get ready. Until, you know, another word came down to either proceed or shut down or whatever.
ROGER BABLER: You would maintain a track on it and they would decide.
ED HANSEN: You’d designate it and we would acquire it.
ROGER BABLER: Yes, and the launcher people would probably roll something out and get ready, just in case.
I’m not sure how they picked what they rolled out.
JERRY PEET: It came down from fire control.
ROGER BABLER: On HE or --?
JERRY PEET: As to what it was.
ED HANSEN: Yeah. The type of warhead that would be on the missile is what he’s referring to.
KAREN BREWSTER: So depending on what was seen on the radar would determine what type of warhead?
ED HANSEN: Not really sure how that was determined. Somebody had to order it.
ROGER BABLER: Officer in charge would --?
ED HANSEN: It came from -- like he said, it came from the VC van, but where he got his authorizations? It wasn’t on his own, I’m sure, as to putting a nuclear warhead up.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So run us through a usual day. Or was there is such a thing as a usual day?
ROGER BABLER: The usual day. Well, you get up in the morning. You’d do breakfast. You’d do your morning formation.
And for IFC guys that meant you would polish the floor. And then after you polish the floor, we’d go in and do equipment checks and make sure everything was running.
ED HANSEN: That’s if we weren’t at a really high status.
ROGER BABLER: There may be other maintenance issues to do up until noon time, and then you'd have noon chow. You would polish the floor. And work would continue 'til suppertime.
And you would polish the floor. And then not to make sure it didn’t get polished again, the one that was on late shift after everybody went to bed, he would also polish the floor.
ED HANSEN: Around eleven, twelve o’clock at night.
ROGER BABLER: At eleven or twelve o’clock at night.
KAREN BREWSTER: So when you were on duty, you would sit at the radar and be watching all the time? ROGER BABLER: Not necessarily, no.
ED HANSEN: Depends on the status code we were under.
KAREN BREWSTER: So if you were on hot status somebody had to be at the radar.?
ED HANSEN: Close. You wouldn’t be far away.
ROGER BABLER: It would be running. Somebody would always be in the BC van and do what they call a comm-watch.
And you would get a Round Robin authentication of all the sites. In other words, everybody would sign in at a particular time they would be called and then you would get the initials of the operator.
That way they would maintain a radio link between all the sites. You wouldn’t necessarily be there watching the scope all day long.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So if something flew in, was there a --?
ED HANSEN: That’s what I said. When the call would come in, you’d hit the siren and everybody comes.
KAREN BREWSTER: But, yeah, I would’ve assumed somebody has to be watching the radar all the time. ‘Cause how else would you know if something flew in?
ED HANSEN: Well, there are big search radars outside of our missile sites. At Clear.
ROGER BABLER: And the DEW-line. The pine-tree --
ED HANSEN: Yeah, the DEW-line. Wherever they were at. Was our early warning system. And targets were picked off there and designated.
ROGER BABLER: Information came from quite a ways away.
KAREN BREWSTER: You must’ve had good communications then.
ROGER BABLER: Surprisingly, yes.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Did they ever go down?
ROGER BABLER: Once in a while, yeah. ED HANSEN: I don't remember any big problems.
ROGER BABLER: Actually, the communications between the sites -- this is kind of unusual. Everything is military. The communications between the sites were all done by microwave.
The person that took care of that was a civilian technician from RCA Service Company. They trusted civilians to keep all the military people connected.
ED HANSEN: He was right at our battery most of the time. He was stationed right there.
KAREN BREWSTER: But he was a civilian? ED HANSEN: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: So when you were talking about equipment check and maintenance, did you have to keep those radars running?
Your training was also in the electronics and all the maintenance stuff?
ROGER BABLER: No. They had maintenance department.
ED HANSEN: We could report a problem or say it didn’t seem to be working correctly. But there was mostly warrant officers that were in charge of maintenance.
ROGER BABLER: Some specialist E-5 or -- most the E-6’s that had more training in order to do the actual repair.
I guess our point of it was, "It doesn’t work. What do we do?" And then a maintenance man would come and say, "Yeah, it doesn’t work, does it? I guess we gotta do something about that."
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So it sounds like there was a lot of staff to do a lot of different things. So how many people were involved in, let’s say the one site in Fairbanks?
ED HANSEN: Well, the site would have up to a hundred and twenty people. They had motor pool people, cooks, a lot of guards, dog handlers, generator operators. We had two huge generators in our IFC area and two more down in the launcher area and --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Was that because you weren’t on the grid, or was that for back-up, the generators?
ED HANSEN: If we went into a military situation, we would --
ROGER BABLER: The hot -- hot status you worked off of -- ED HANSEN: The generators. ROGER BABLER: -- generator power.
EDHANSEN: Normal status, we worked on the commercial power. But tac was a lot more -- especially in Alaska at that time the power was --
KAREN BREWSTER: Irregular.
ED HANSEN: Yeah. But the tac power was pretty constant on its voltage and levels and things.
KAREN BREWSTER: What’s tac power? ED HANSEN: Tactical. Just, you know --
ROGER BABLER: Tactical power means that where we’re off the commercial -- ED HANSEN: Off the commercial grid. ROGER BABLER: -- power grid, and you’re running your own generator setup.
KAREN BREWSTER: So did you have a power plant or a generator plant at the site?
ED HANSEN: There was two generators at our site. They were in the building. They were diesel driven -- huge diesel motors or engines.
And there were two more as I said down at the launch area just like ‘em.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: It must’ve been incredibly noisy.
ED HANSEN: Not that bad. They were in their own room, you know, and enclosed. It was spotless by the way. The floor was just -- you could have ate off it.
KAREN BREWSTER: ‘Cause you guys did a lot of that polishing. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Floor polishing. ED HANSEN: Yeah!
KAREN BREWSTER: But so, you’ve been talking about the -- is the fire control and the battery control, is that? Am I getting my terms correct?
ED HANSEN: Battery control is called that because that’s where the battery commander, at whatever level he was, in charge that night, is where he sat. He sat at the fire control panel, you know, with his switches, and so they call that the battery control van.
It did have radars. It had the two acquisition -- high power and low power acquisition.
ROGER BABLER: Computer operator.
ED HANSEN: Yeah. And the computer.
ROGER BABLER: And the officer in charge. And plotting board.
ED HANSEN: And plotting board, my favorite job. Then the other van had the screens and associated hardware for the tracking radars. Missile and target and target ranging.
ROGER BABLER: I guess for practical purposes you would call that the tracking van. Because basically it tracked two things. It tracked the missile if it was to be launched and it tracked the target.
KAREN BREWSTER: And then the fire control area --?
ED HANSEN: That was the whole area. It was the battery control van and the target tracking
KAREN BREWSTER: And then the launching was a separate place? ED HANSEN: Right.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And how far away were you from the actual launch site?
ED HANSEN: I think the cables were, like, two thousand yards long minimum, so they may not be stretched out but, you know, you had two thousand yards of cable there.
ROGER BABLER: They had to maintain a certain amount of distance between both, because it was required in order for the missile tracking radar to track the missile. Because it would take off from the pad so fast, if it was close, it couldn’t continue to slew towards the missile.
So it had to be back a certain distance, beyond a certain length. So it was maybe a mile? Mile and a half down the --
ED HANSEN: Well, like I say, a minimum of two thousand yards, I think. But 'cause if the missile were right outside our window, you know -- pfffffttt -- and your radar’s still looking here.
And then you’d get a destruct button -- boom. So you’re way out here. Then it could keep up with it.
KAREN BREWSTER: So the radar could move with -- as the missile went on?
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So do you have any practice launches? Not with nuclear, but practice launches so that you can practice tracking and --?
ED HANSEN: One. Yearly. In fact one year it was -- we didn’t even launch. It was electronic. The other year we launched. At least I wasn’t involved in the launch that year.
ROGER BABLER: You weren’t? I only remember one, I guess.
ED HANSEN: That’s all I remember. And the next one they put a electronic target out and we did an electronic firing. You know, simulated.
KAREN BREWSTER: So it was as if there was a missile launch, but it didn’t actually launch?
ED HANSEN: Right. The computer thought it did, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Interesting.
ROGER BABLER: And we did an actual launch against one of our own planes. And the way they do that is they configure -- one of the radars so it is exactly 180° looking the wrong direction.
Somehow they did this with -- I’m not sure how they did that. Somebody --
ED HANSEN: Reports 180°.
ROGER BABLER: So -- And then they figured out the distance and everything, and then they scored you if it was, you know, within the right parameters to be close enough to be an actual hit.
And that was done from B or C? B Battery, I believe.
They did some here at Site Summit early on. But then people started building houses too close to Site Summit up on the hillside, and they were in trouble with the booster separation from the launcher.
So they quit doing them. And they brought those people up to Fairbanks to do their practice firings. Stateside people would all go to White Sands?
ED HANSEN: Sands or Bliss? ROGER BABLER: Or Fort Bliss.
KAREN BREWSTER: So in Fairbanks when you did that practice launch, where’d the missile go and what happened to it?
ED HANSEN: It went up and blew up.
KAREN BREWSTER: So it was programmed to blow up?
ROGER BABLER: Yes. It was programmed to detonate.
ED HANSEN: There’d be some kind of target out there for it, whether it was electronic or a drone. You know, there was something there for it to pick up and go after.
KAREN BREWSTER: And so what direction did you shoot in? Do you remember where it went? ROGER BABLER: I don't know.
ED HANSEN: Rather northerly, I think.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And did local residents know that these were there and that this was going on? Or was it really quite secret?
ED HANSEN: I don’t think it was all that much secret that they were there, but I do -- would say that a lot of people were very unaware. I can’t speak to here so much because, you know, we didn’t know anybody here -- never talked to anybody.
But back in the States I’ve talked to a lot of people that come around the sites that are kind of partially restored and we’ve gone to, and they say, “Oh yeah, I grew up right there. I always wondered what was there but I never knew.”
You know, and they were not hidden. They were pretty much right in plain sight, especially when they raised them up, you know, around Chicago, around Milwaukee, in our area.
So it was big cities, and you’d think a lot more people would’ve noted them.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I mean here in Fairbanks the one that’s -- I mean here in Anchorage -- the one that’s down near what’s now Kincaid Park. Now it’s right smack in the middle of the city, but back then perhaps not so much.
ROGER BABLER: It’s right next to the airport. Kind of hard to miss.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So I don’t know if people here knew about it?
ROGER BABLER: Well, the practice firings that we did were fairly well-publicized.
ED HANSEN: And they were very visible. I mean, if you happened to be in the area and looked, you’d see the contrail, the burst.
ROGER BABLER: Of course, they would have military dignitaries at for “show and tell” for some of these practice firings. And, of course, because they were dignitaries this would all get written up in the post newspaper.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So it wasn’t like it was advertised as “This is going to happen this weekend,” so if you hear --
ED HANSEN: Some cases they did, yeah. I’ve seen some articles -- historical articles that people have sent to us that outlined that there was going to be a firing.
Especially in the early days of the sites being here. Not when we were here in the ‘60s.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So did you get to be involved much with the local community or was life really just there?
ED HANSEN: I was just pretty much there. I never got out.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So you lived right there?
ROGER BABLER: Not really as far as us. Now, some of the other people that worked on site that may have family and lived off post, they probably had more involvement in the community. But we both being single guys that lived on post -- so we made an occasional trip to town.
Most of our journeys if we went to do anything, we went to Eielson Air Force Base. We did not come back to Fort Wainwright. One being it was closer and the other one I don’t think we’ll talk about.
KAREN BREWSTER: The officers' club?
ROGER BABLER: Well, it was a difference of being an officer in the Air Force and being an officer in the Army versus the enlisted personnel.
The Air Force was a much more lax organization in that respect.
KAREN BREWSTER: And you guys were enlisted? ED HANSEN: Yes. KAREN BREWSTER: At the time?
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So when your time was up here, it was just because your time in the Army was up? You chose to leave or it was just time to leave?
ED HANSEN: Yeah, our enlistment tour of duty, you know, expired and so we were due to be discharged from the Army.
That happened at Fort Lewis in Washington, so we flew down there and got our discharge.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you only served two years in the Army? ED HANSEN: Yes.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So it must’ve been quite a revolving -- revolving staff of people then up at the sites, was it?
ED HANSEN: Oh, very definitely. Yeah. And I found that at least in the IFC area, I don’t want to use the word clique because that isn’t what I mean, but we were groups.
The duty crew that I was on and Roger was on -- five -- nine, maybe nine men in the vans.
We were on duty for a day. The next day we were off. Our counterparts were on the next day. And so we rarely saw ‘em to really become friendly with ‘em.
In the launch area, they were gone for days at a time down to the launcher area, you know, so --
And the guards the same way. So in that regard I guess the right word would be kind of cliquish. You just never mixed in with the other groups.
ROGER BABLER: Because when you had your time off, you maybe went and did something with some of your friends. Well, they’re working. So when they had their time off, they had their group.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And so you said there’s about nine of you together. So were you together the same nine the entire time or did people move in and out?
ED HANSEN: In and out. Mainly, because people left. You know, their tour was up. And new ones filtered in.
KAREN BREWSTER: I was going to say, every two years -- a two-year duty round, it was like you have a lot of turnover and you have to keep training new people.
ED HANSEN: Sure. Roger and I came in, we were the only two new ones for a while.
And then, you know, then it wasn’t terribly long and some more new guys came in and people left.
It wasn’t all, you know, today they’re here and gone. It was one or two guys and then one or two more.
ROGER BABLER: It wasn’t a big turnover all at once. And the battery roster -- because we’ve done some looking for people and we went to the national record center at St. Louis and gotten a few rosters from our particular unit only.
And the manning would go from a low at one time of some eighty-some people to, like Ed said, a hundred and ten, a hundred and twenty. So it was fairly flexible depending on what turnover would be.
ED HANSEN: Yeah. I don’t know how that could have been.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Because you still need your core of people. You’d still need mechanics, you still need --
ED HANSEN: Right. You gotta have your two shifts or two crews or else the other one’s on all the time.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. Yeah. So how often were you on the hot -- you said that it rotated but then sometimes it changed. So was one site on hot status more than other sites sometimes? Or was it pretty even?
ED HANSEN: I don’t think so. Not in our period.
ROGER BABLER: I think it was a fair rotation.
ED HANSEN: Maintenance was a big thing. And each site went through that. Where it wasn’t just normal maintenance, but it would be the replacement of new equipment. You know, and insert it into the --
ROGER BABLER: A system upgrade.
ED HANSEN: Yeah. A system upgrade and, you know, you’d be down for several days, if not a week.
ROGER BABLER: Sometimes some of the upgrades were quite extensive. ED HANSEN: One summer, it was quite a while. ROGER BABLER: And was off for maybe a week or two weeks.
I remember seeing the tracking van all tore apart. ED HANSEN: Yeah, you’re right.
KAREN BREWSTER: You had mentioned a few of the different jobs you did. Maybe you can tell us some of the details. Like you talked about a plotting board. What is that and what did you do? What's the job?
ED HANSEN: The plotting board was basically a big circle and then smaller circles and they represented yards on the rings as they went out.
And the idea was I had a headset on and I’d get the conversation from whoever was giving the data.
ROGER BABLER: Murphy Dome more than likely.
ED HANSEN: Murphy Dome. And I’m told the coordinates and just put a spot on the board and keep track of the target.
ROGER BABLER: It was sectioned in squares, and each square would have a number/letter designation, and you could subdivide the square in units of ten, I believe.
Something like that. It’s been so long I don’t remember.
ED HANSEN: Yeah, it’s been fifty years!
LESLIE McCARTNEY: But you would be continuously moving? ED HANSEN: Yeah, every couple minutes, we'd put another plot in. ROGER BABLER: And you would physically draw with a grease pencil on this board just tracking this supposed coming in.
ED HANSEN: They were seeing the same picture on the radar. It mostly was out of range, which it wouldn’t have been -- ROGER BABLER: If it wasn’t out of range, then you would have an idea of where to start looking for it.
ED HANSEN: Yeah. Where we would start looking for the target.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you were making the sorta the physical representation of what was being seen by somebody else on the radar?
ED HANSEN: And probably before they saw it. And that was probably the big purpose of it was to have an idea of where it was coming.
KAREN BREWSTER: And then you mentioned an acquisition radar and a tracking --? ED HANSEN: I'll let you tak the acquistion.
ROGER BABLER: Okay, the acquisition radar runs a 360° sweep. Looks at everything.
ED HANSEN: The ones you see on TV. You know, that’s --
ROGER BABLER: And this is what is used today for air traffic controllers and all that. And there was two acquisition radars. One was called high-power radar, which you could actually see a much better image further away than the low-power radar.
It was a site improvement that was done, I don’t know when, but it was done before we got there. ED HANSEN: Shortly before we got there.
ROGER BABLER: And then there’s a computer operator in the same van. Basically, the computer was -- To put it in the simplest terminology -- ED HANSEN: It was an analog computer. It wasn't digital.
ROGER BABLER: -- it was two giant volume controls for a radio. And they were run by a very precise motor and they measured a voltage.
And the one that measures the voltage of the proposed aircraft had to be matched by the one that was guiding the missile. And these things would make all sorts of weird noise -- ED HANSEN: BzzzzzzZzzzzzz.
ROGER BABLER: -- as the volume control slewed in and out. This was back in the non-digital days. And then the tracking van is where Ed spent his time.
ED HANSEN: Yeah, there was a electronic link between the two vans, where an operator like Roger, he would put a signal over the target and hit send.
And we would get some information on our target tracking radars, as far as range, how far out it was. I think that was one of them.
ROGER BABLER: There was all three: azimuth, elevation, and range.
ED HANSEN: But elevation was a little tough. We had to search in elevation to give us an idea.
But we have to search because it wasn’t exact. But range and azimuth was -- was pretty darn good. We’d be right on it. ROGER BABLER: There'd be a cross on the --
ED HANSEN: So once we got that and found the target, we threw some switches and that locked our radar on it so that wherever the target went the radar followed it.
And then at the same time, the battery commander is sending signals down to the launcher area about, you know, what missile to use and so forth. And they roll that missile out and they’re getting it ready.
Now the missile tracking radar locks on that. And so when the fire command is given, you know, it follows the missile and tells it where to go. I shouldn’t say it follows it. It tells it where to go.
So target and missile, and they meet.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Just going back to the board tracking, so you’re -- you're putting all these plots on the board. Is there a record kept? ED HANSEN: No.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: It’s not. So it’s continuously moving all the time? So if something had happened, and they said like last week, show us?
ED HANSEN: It was grease pencil. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
ROGER BABLER: It was done with a grease pencil, I think I said, and they just marked that on the board.
ED HANSEN: We did have plotting paper. Of what the radars were --
ROGER BABLER: That would actually plot the missile to the target.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay. So that there were paper copies. You could go back a week or two?
ROGER BABLER: That -- that would be hard copy, yes. LESLIE McCARTNEY: So, there was that, too.
KAREN BREWSTER: So, Roger, you were in the acquisitions radar -- ROGER BABLER: Yes.
KAREN BREWSTER: -- looking for things, and then, Ed, you were there with the tracking radar? ED HANSEN: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: Once something was acquired then you --
ED HANSEN: We’d lock on it.
KAREN BREWSTER: You’d lock on and figure out the details? That’s interesting. I didn’t think radar -- I thought there was only one kind of radar.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And then what was the message you were getting from Murphy Dome? So what was on Murphy Dome?
ED HANSEN: Well, like I say, I had headsets and they’d just give me the coordinates of whatever we were doing.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So there was somebody sitting at Murphy Dome? Somebody was actually there? Okay. ED HANSEN: Yeah. And then we’d plot it out.
KAREN BREWSTER: And -- would -- they were another type of radar? ‘Cause I know about the DEW-lines. They were looking for planes and things.
ROGER BABLER: I think the DEW-line was then connected to Murphy Dome. And it was a sequence of events that led it all down to the final.
ED HANSEN: That's why I’m not too sure what it all was, 'cause --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: You just have your litle part? ED HANSEN: -- the bottom line was right here for me. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that’s what we were wondering is, you know, with your training and with all those jobs that you were trained and did one thing basically?
ED HANSEN: Pretty much, yeah. ROGER BABLER: Yes.
KAREN BREWSTER: Just somebody else did one other thing. You didn’t get cross-trained to do different jobs?
ED HANSEN: We were crossed trained, but like I said, I did two or three different jobs, but my main job was on the target tracking radar.
But they knew people were going to be leaving, and so it was important to have somebody else know what to do, you know, while the new person was being --
if we were lucky enough to get one right away, the new person could be trained.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So could you talk to people who weren’t in the military about what it was you were doing? Or was this --?
ED HANSEN: I didn’t even tell my family forty years later what I did in the Army. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Really.
KAREN BREWSTER: And so when you were sent up here, were you told, "This is top-secret. Don’t talk about it."?
ED HANSEN: Yeah. We weren’t even supposed to talk in the battery. I guess the military term at the time and probably still is, is need to know. If you didn’t need to know, nobody’d tell you.
So the launch area people didn’t tell us about the missiles and we didn’t tell them about the radar.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: We were reading, Karen, weren’t we, about there was like a code if you were gonna launch a missile. Somebody knew part of it and somebody knew another. But that probably wasn’t in your guys --
ED HANSEN: Well, the launcher area had to -- I think they had a key they had to flip and the battery commander up in the BC van, he had to -- So it was a two-man show as far as actually firing the missile.
KAREN BREWSTER: So did you know that there were nuclear warheads on these -- some of these missiles?
ED HANSEN: I didn’t at first when we went up there. I had no clue.
And frankly, one of the launcher guys got me to the side one day and told me all about it even though he wasn’t supposed to, but he did.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And what did you think when you were told this?
ED HANSEN: A little surprised and realized then what a dangerous game we were in. It wasn’t just shooting a missile at one airplane. It was -- it was going to be all over for a lot of us if -- once we fired a missile.
Because the reason we would be is because we were getting attacked by Russian bombers. Not one. Many.
KAREN BREWSTER: And so what was that like for either of you? I mean you were very young men. That’s a lot of responsibility to have. What was that like?
ED HANSEN: Didn’t think about it much, honestly.
ROGER BABLER: No, it was kind of different.
ED HANSEN: We grew up under the nuclear threat. You know, that was part of our life always when the -- at our age.
And they were teaching school kids to hide under desks. People were building fallout shelters.
ROGER BABLER: Yes. We were pretty well trained to do a job. And I don’t think, from my personal standpoint, we were never really informed exactly how important this was.
ED HANSEN: That’s right.
ROGER BABLER: As being an acquisition radar operator, they took some of us to Murphy Dome for a instructional session.
And we were given a presentation, and at that time Murphy Dome was something straight out of Doctor Strangelove. It was impressive as all get out. ED HANSEN: For that era.
ROGER BABLER: An Air Force officer got up and says, “Okay now. This is how this is all going to work. There’s going to be so many KC-135 tankers coming from here, and there's going to be so many coming from over here, and then we have ours here.”
And then he would rattle off eight or ten other Air Force bases where these tankers were coming from.
And this little guy says, “Pardon me, sir. Where are they all --“ And he said, they’ll come back here towards Eielson.
“Pardon me, sir. Where are they all gonna land?” As a dumb kid.
And he said, “They’re not all going to make it.” And that was a very rude awakening.
ED HANSEN: Of course, that also meant that the pilots weren’t going to make it either.
ROGER BABLER: As being a naïve twenty-one-year-old, twenty-two-year-old, "Oh really?" That was the one point for me that it actually soaked in what was goin’ on.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And that was going to be my next question is when did it sink in just how important this truly was to both of you?
ROGER BABLER: That was the wake-up call for me.
ED HANSEN: When I found out there was nuclear weapons on them, that was the time. ‘Cause, you know, if you fired, you know, the whole world's going to be fired on. It’s not just us firing a missile. It’s everybody -- Or dropping bombs.
In those days, it was more bombers than -- ICBMs were just coming into, you know, the picture then.
KAREN BREWSTER: And so, I mean, you had some limited training and then you had this on-the-job training. Did you find that -- the job easy to do? Difficult to do? You enjoyed it?
ED HANSEN: I didn’t think it wasn’t particularly hard to do. It was long hours, you know.
ROGER BABLER: It was the twenty-four on, twenty-four off, I think was the -- basically. And you’re not hot status was fairly relaxed.
ED HANSEN: It was very relaxed, yeah. Far as the evenings, I think. I mean, we did our duties during the day and our evenings were pretty much, you know, free.
We couldn’t go have a beer or something, but I mean we could be down in the PX area and talkin’ to guys and having snacks and pop and stuff.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And on your twenty-four hours on you could nap? You could sleep? I mean, you can’t make very good decisions after you’ve been awake for twenty-four hours.
ED HANSEN: We always were -- unless we were required to be on the radars, you know, if we were running missions. Yeah, after certain hours we could go up and --
Like I say, I never took my clothes off when we did that, ‘cause --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Well, it just scares me to think that someone’s been up for twenty-four hours and is going to be making decisions with nuclear warheads. Not a good mix.
KAREN BREWSTER: Or was the battery commander up for twenty-four hours?
ED HANSEN: No. Un-unh.
KAREN BREWSTER: ‘Cause they were the ones making the decisions. ED HANSEN: He was only around --
ROGER BABLER: Duty officer would be there at -- all the time at hot status. There would be a room they had upstairs for Officer In Charge of the IFC.
ED HANSEN: But he wasn’t staying awake, particularly, I think. ROGER BABLER: No.
ED HANSEN: He’d get his call just like the rest of us with the siren. And down he’d come.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So now that fifty years have passed and it’s time for reflection, positive or negative or --?
ED HANSEN: Probably, more positive now than I have been in the interim. And it’s ‘cause I’ve talked to a lot of other vets.
And, you know, we’ve had our reunions and that’s where we do a lot of our talking. And it even drove it home how much more important it was now than I understood then.
So, yeah, it’s -- I look back on it pretty positively now. I don’t think I ever looked back on a military career as positive, but what we did I would look on as positive. Yeah.
ROGER BABLER: And the information about the whole scenario is now more widely available. And painting a bigger picture of what may have -- could’ve happened, I guess, not may have happened.
And there’s stuff out there, and if you look at the Internet, there were so many that were targeted. The sites were actually targeted.
ED HANSEN: An unbelievable amount of nuclear weapons.
ROGER BABLER: By the Russians. They wanted to make sure that there was -- target so many for each site in the Fairbanks area, to make sure they were -- they were gone if they were going to come over. ED HANSEN: The whole United States were targeted for us.
ROGER BABLER: That, what? Two bombers per site or whatever. I don’t remember the exact number. But it was -- I saw it somewhere doing some of the looking up on the web.
ED HANSEN: Well, if you go to -- ROGER BABLER: Ed’s?
ED HANSEN: No. Bob Rinkles, he has it here -- the thing he wrote. Get towards the end of the article, and I think he spells out what the Russians said they had targeted for the sites around us. Around Eielson and Elmendorf.
And it was staggering what they planned to throw at ‘em. Of course, that included the Air Force's, too, you know. It wasn’t just the sites. It was the Air Force, too.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. The Nike sites were Army, correct? ED HANSEN: Yes. ROGER BABLER: Yes.
KAREN BREWSTER: I -- if we could go back a little bit, you mentioned, you know, on your time off you’d go to the PX. I was wondering what you did for relaxation and recreation?
ED HANSEN: We spent -- in decent weather we spent a lot of time wandering around in the -- don’t know what you’d call it -- the tundra or whatever around our battery there.
‘Cause -- it wasn’t like you have here with, you know, the mountains and things. Our immediate area was kind of flat and it was short pine trees and it was spongy ground.
And we spent a lot of time out walking around looking for moose and doin’ other things. The bad weather, I don’t -- I don’t even remem -- 'til it got above twenty below or so. Get above twenty below and then maybe we’d go out, but when it was, you know --
ROGER BABLER: I had the luxury of having an automobile up there. So we would go touring, also.
Tried to go to north one day, I know. You know, to see how far north we could go.
And when it got to be kind of like a cow path, so to speak, check it out, we’d turn around and come back. We’d go out to the gold dredge out by the -- past the University out there, I believe it is.
We’d go down to Clear, because Clear was the big mystery at that time. And look over the fence.
ED HANSEN: Well, go the Air Force and look over the fence. U-2s were flying out of there.
KAREN BREWSTER: Out of Clear or out of Eielson?
ED HANSEN: Eielson. Yeah. We’d go over there, and once -- I know at least once we saw the U-2 take off.
KAREN BREWSTER: So did you know what Clear was doing?
ED HANSEN: Vague idea, and that was about it, you know. Roger knew more because he actually went there. Or not Clear. He went to Murphy Dome. I’m sorry. Yeah. ROGER BABLER: Murphy Dome.
KAREN BREWSTER: But Clear, weren’t they -- also weren’t they ICBM tracking or something like that?
ED HANSEN: No idea.
ROGER BABLER: Yes. Clear was made to track missiles. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
ROGER BABLER: That was an early development. I don’t know when it became active in relationship to the years that we were there.
I believe it was totally active when -- in -- at the timeframe we were there.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. But so you didn’t -- but when you were stationed at the battery, did you know what Clear was doing? Did they tell you?
ED HANSEN: I don’t remember that any --
ROGER BABLER: Yes. I would say we did.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Just getting back to recreation and the winters, how many winters were you here? You said you were here eighteen months, sorry.
ED HANSEN: Yeah, we were one full winter. LESLIE McCARTNEY: One full winter. ED HANSEN: And part of the next, you know, through January or end of January.
ROGER BABLER: Luxury of a winter and a half. First one wasn’t good enough. We had to stay for part of another one. ED HANSEN: Thanksgiving Day on both years was fifty below, so it started early.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you mostly just stayed in the buildings? Or did you go out and ski and snowshoe?
ED HANSEN: I didn’t. I think some of the guys did. We had guys that went sheep hunting and, you know, moose hunting.
I didn’t do any of that and I don’t think Roger did either. ROGER BABLER: No.
ED HANSEN: But there were, you know, a lot of other guys. Well, I shouldn’t say -- I don’t know how many. But I know guys did that.
KAREN BREWSTER: But there was an opportunity, that when you had your days off, you could leave post and go do things? ED HANSEN: Yes.
KAREN BREWSTER: You didn’t have to stay there?
LESLIE McCARTNEY: If you weren’t on the red or on the hot? If you were on the hot, were you allowed on your time off to leave?
ED HANSEN: Not on hot. And on the other days, we usually were expected to work eight hours.
But, you know, weekends that may not be true. If we weren’t hot, we could have whatever we want to do on the weekends. We had to be back. I mean we couldn’t go overnight.
They were very stringent on that, that --
ROGER BABLER: You had to be accounted for. You had to be around.
KAREN BREWSTER: This is the military we’re talking about! They care about those things. Well, it’s interesting. You said though that there were some of the personnel who were married with families and they lived off post.
ED HANSEN: They usually lived at Fort Wainwright, a lot of them, in military-type housing. The military supplied housing.
And most of the time they would’ve been sergeants, at least, or officers.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: But if you were on hot, were they allowed to actually go back or did they have to stay?
ED HANSEN: There was quarters there for them where they could stay. If they were a duty crew, they could stay at the site.
KAREN BREWSTER: So were there quite a number of guys in that situation? Or there were more of these younger single guys?
ROGER BABLER: The maintenance guys, because they were all probably E-6’s and they were mostly family guys. They lived off post.
ED HANSEN: There were sergeants, you know, ranking sergeants that lived on our battery, too, that weren’t married or didn’t have a wife at the time or something, too.
So not all of them lived off. The biggest majority did.
ROGER BABLER: It basically depended on their finances. Some maybe lived on post because it was much cheaper to live on post than it would be to live off post, especially in Alaska. Not like the Lower 48.
Because pricing on various things are a lot higher for you people.
ED HANSEN: Well, pretty nearly everybody that served on the missile site up here was not from here. But it’s different in the States. A lot of the sites were more local individuals.
And in fact a lot of them were National Guard run, so they, you know, they may have only been on the site when they were on hot status. They wouldn't have lived there all the time.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Just going back to something you’d said earlier about just how many nuclear missiles there were. So, does anybody -- when the Cold War ended what happened to all this stuff?
ED HANSEN: Now what happened to the warheads, I couldn’t tell you.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: No idea.
ED HANSEN: I do know from -- we were down at SF-88 in San Francisco last September for our reunion. And the guys there that run that place were telling us that during the SALT treaty, the Russians actually came over and supervised cutting up the rails that the missiles rolled on there.
That was supposedly stopping us from firing ‘em, as part of that treaty.
ROGER BABLER: The SALT treaty.
KAREN BREWSTER: The SALT treaty, yeah. Well, I think, I mean, I see that the facilities, you could tear down the buildings and pull up the rails and --
ED HANSEN: But I don’t know what happened to the warheads.
KAREN BREWSTER: As we know, you know, here in Alaska, a lot of those buildings are no longer there. ED HANSEN: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that -- not even -- I mean, one's the warheads, but also the missiles themselves. Where'd they go?
ED HANSEN: Well, at SF-88 they probably went down below, down underground -- eight missiles underground? But don’t matter exact count. But, there’s still six to eight, I’d say.
And then in canisters, they have probably another eight to ten sitting there. How they came into possession of them, I don’t know?
ROGER BABLER: Well, we had two launch buildings and you had four launchers per building. So you could have physically eight missiles ready to go. ED HANSEN: And all wouldn't necessarily have warheads.
ROGER BABLER: As far as what was still in the building, I have no idea, because we weren’t privy to that information. We didn’t go down there.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So if you had eight -- sixteen ready to go? And then was there more underneath that you could load up?
JERRY PEET: You had eight launchers. You had sixteen missiles sitting in the buildings in the confinement area.
ED HANSEN: They all have warheads on them?
JERRY PEET: All had warheads on them.
ED HANSEN: Do you know anything about what -- how they determined HE’s (high explosive) versus nuclear?
JERRY PEET: They were marked on the missiles as to whether they were high explosive or --
ED HANSEN: Yeah, but I mean the number. Was there a ratio of what --?
JERRY PEET: Oh, I don’t remember that there was a ratio.
ED HANSEN: But there were various sizes of nuclear warheads, too.
JERRY PEET: There were -- They had two sizes of nuclear warheads. They had a low-power nuclear warhead and they had a high-power nuclear warhead.
And then the high explosive. And which one was chosen came down from the upper command.
KAREN BREWSTER: So they weren’t all nuclear? You had some regular warheads?
ED HANSEN: But I don’t know the ratio.
ROGER BABLER: I get the impression there weren’t many HE warheads.
ED HANSEN: It wouldn’t make much sense.
KAREN BREWSTER: What's an AG?
ROGER BABLER: HE would be a non-nuclear.
ED HANSEN: High explosive.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So you said there was sixteen missiles ready to go?
ROGER BABLER: Per section.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Per section. And then was there like a warehouse of more? Or they figured once they --
ROGER BABLER: Not on site.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Not on site? So there must have been in Alaska somewhere?
JERRY PEET: At ordnance on Wainwright? I don't know.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, and then here in Anchorage, one of the sites was a double launch site, right? A dual site.
ED HANSEN: A dual site. They had Ajax and Hercs there, I believe.
ROGER BABLER: I guess you could look at it this way. You had sixteen missiles ready to go. If something happened, I don’t think you worry about the next batch of missiles. LESLIE McCARTNEY: That's what my question was. Is it even relevant?
ROGER BABLER: Because it’s all over but the cleanup. Unfortunately.
ED HANSEN: In fact, with my limited knowledge of that, warheads going off caused problems with being able to -- could cause problems with being able to fire another one.
The electronic impulses that come from the explosion destroy other electronics. But whether our sites were hardened enough to survive that or -- you know, I don’t really know.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, but could you have actually fired sixteen?
ED HANSEN: I don’t -- it was my opinion that we couldn’t, but I don’t know. KAREN BREWSTER: That's interesting. JERRY PEET: It would take a while to do it.
ROGER BABLER: That was one of our late night informational meetings.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Did the cold affect any of your equipment at all?
ED HANSEN: It affected us going out there and climbing up on the antennas.
KAREN BREWSTER: But were the van buildings you were in, were they insulated?
ED HANSEN: They were inside a building, a heated building all nice and cozy.
Now the launcher guys, they were right out in the weather when they rolled the missiles out and stuff, so --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: We wanted to touch on, too, Karen, or am I jumping ahead, that the whole thing about the Nike summit reunions, because that’s why we’re here.
So obviously working at the site has meant a lot to you, that, you know, fifty years later or forty-some-odd years later you wanted to get together.
Can you talk a little bit more about that?
ED HANSEN: Well, actually it started in our case anyway -- ‘cause like we said, we started with just A Battery from Fairbanks. Roger and Paul Kulba were the first two.
And they contacted me, and so I joined with them. And Roger did a lot of the gathering of names and things.
And Paul and I worked more on, you know, where we were going to have the reunion and then, you know, the details.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And when you say Fairbanks, do you mean just the years that you were there or you wanted to connect with everybody who had worked in Fairbanks, didn’t matter what year? You may not have known them.
ROGER BABLER: We started basically with the roster of a year we were there. If it wouldn’t been for the Internet this probably would’ve never happened.
Because being a bored individual one day we started looking on the computer and -- Well, this is all about Nike. I remember Nike. That was something I did!
And then there’s a name of a guy in New York that was stationed at the site and it gave the year. That’s the same year I was there!
And it’s like a little snowball that you roll down a hill. It kept gettin’ bigger and bigger.
And I called Paul and I think what his remark was, "If I had so many guys, I think we’d have a reunion." And that’s when I went to the records center and then we got the -- this is great. Me and Ed were there, as you know, we talked about earlier, at the very same time. We left at the very same time. We drove back to Wisconsin together.
ED HANSEN: Going through California.
ROGER BABLER: To California. We visited with two vets in California. One which will be here and one unfortunately has passed away.
We stayed a week at either one’s place. And then we drove back to Wisconsin.
I dropped him off in Beloit. I never saw him or talked to him for how many years?
ED HANSEN: Up until 2008.
ROGER BABLER: 2000 -- Well, a little before 2008. We had a reunion. ED HANSEN: 2007.
ROGER BABLER: Probably a year before that we finally found each other. Because we went on our own -- our own ways.
He went back to school and he went to a different job. I stayed with my little business that I had in my hometown.
And that’s kind of strange, but that’s how it worked. I didn't --
ED HANSEN: I did drive through Monticello once when I was over that way. And I looked, because I knew he’d have a shop or something. I looked. Never saw anything that looked like a Roger Babler Shop.
KAREN BREWSTER: And your towns are like what how many --?
ED HANSEN: Forty-five miles apart. And so when we finally did meet up, I found out why I didn’t find him.
He has no name, or no advertising, at all. There was a door. That’s it. ROGER BABLER: Incognito. LESLIE McCARTNEY: And you wondered why business was slow.
ED HANSEN: It’s a village, you know, of a few people and they all know him, so he didn’t have any need to advertise or --
KAREN BREWSTER: So you started this reunion of just the people you worked with at A Battery. Did you recognize people’s names? Do you remember people? ED HANSEN: Some.
ROGER BABLER: Yes. Some we did, yes, and it grew from there. And some, of course, like, you know, Ed said, well, it was sort of clique-y in the fact that you worked your shift, and they worked their shift.
And the launcher people, they were different because you didn’t really communicate that much with them other than maybe at mealtime or something like that. Or maybe sometimes you did go with some of them --
ED HANSEN: Traipsing around or downtown.
ROGER BABLER: Googing around downtown. So those names -- and then you’d get new names, you know.
Then, of course, when it graduated to other time frames, not your eighteen-month time frame, then it brought in a whole new batch of people and different batteries, like from where he (pointing to Jerry Peet) was. And it’s grown from that.
PHYLLIS PEET: So how did you find, like, Jerry, then?
ROGER BABLER: Ahhhh, well, some of ‘em found us.
ED HANSEN: Yeah. We didn’t always find them. They were on the Internet and found us.
JERRY PEET: They call -- they started to email me.
ROGER BABLER: A website and then there are -- PHYLLIS PEET: And then what, three years later. JERRY PEET: Yeah.
ROGER BABLER: There’s a very informative website where people sign in, and the guy keeps good track of this. Called Ed’s Nike Site. And he lists the units and the states, and that was a gold mine of information for -- for lookin’ for vets.
And they would have a link to their email address. Unfortunately, some of them changed their email address. \ ED HANSEN: Frequently. ROGER BABLER: They go to a different provider and we lose ‘em.
KAREN BREWSTER: So the first one was in 2008? ROGER BABLER: Yes.
KAREN BREWSTER: And where did you have that?
ROGER BABLER: Nashville, Tennessee.
ED HANSEN: Just a location that from looking at the people that we thought would possibly come, it was somewhat central to those.
Wasn’t central to the United States entirely but --
KAREN BREWSTER: So it sounds like many of the people who came and worked here in Alaska, they left. They didn’t stay in Alaska.
ED HANSEN: Right. I think there are a few in Anchorage.
ROGER BABLER: I think there are more in Anchorage because the weather is more hospitable here than Fairbanks.
ED HANSEN: And jobs probably were easier to come by than in Fairbanks. KAREN BREWSTER: In that time period, yeah.
ROGER BABLER: The employment opportunities here, yeah, at the time.
ED HANSEN: That was before the oil line days and, you know, when we were here.
KAREN BREWSTER: So now these reunions are with people from all over the country? And you guys, every year you meet in a different location?
ED HANSEN: Yeah. We’ve been to Nashville. We were in Hot Springs, Arkansas the next year, Hot Springs Village.
And then we went to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. Then we went to Tucson to a Titan 2 missile silo out there, Air Force missile.
And then we went to Sandy Hook in New Jersey. There’s a partially refinished site there, that we met up with those guys.
And some of them have come to our later reunions. And then we went to SF-88 in San Francisco last year.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So you always try to go to a place where there was a Nike site?
ED HANSEN: No. Some kind of military connection. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Some -- just military connection.
ED HANSEN: Yeah, like the Air Force Museum and the missile site.
ROGER BABLER: Other than Nashville and Hot Springs. ED HANSEN: Yeah, those were nothing.
ROGER BABLER: They all had a tie to the military thing. We may not -- ED HANSEN: We've talked about the next one will not have. ROGER BABLER: -- tie it to -- We talked about doing something different, but it’s all up in the air. We haven’t gotten any idea what we’re going to do next year.
KAREN BREWSTER: So what is this meant having these reunions? What does it mean to you guys?
ED HANSEN: I can’t say that it -- very many instances it was renewing friendships, but there was some of that. There’s two guys that are coming in tonight that we served with in Fairbanks. And, of course, Paul and Roger and I renewed those friendships.
But a lot of it's just they were there. You know, they served here, and had the same experience as we did. And so it was a common ground. It was enjoyable to get with them and talk.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Have you learned more about what the sites were? Now than what you actually knew then?
ED HANSEN: Some, I think, yeah. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Because you're talking to people?
ED HANSEN: Oh, yeah. But, you know, they all have families and so we’ve met their families in a lot of cases. The Peets here. We met them.
Our wives were at all the other reunions, except Karen was --
ROGER BABLER: Well, she had a medical issue that she couldn’t attend that one year. ED HANSEN: In New Jersey.
ROGER BABLER: This year they -- due to the cost of the plane tickets, they decided not to.
KAREN BREWSTER: It’s a long way to come. ROGER BABLER: Yes, it is.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, you mentioned the sharing of common experience, and you said that for forty years you didn’t talk about what you did. ED HANSEN: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: So now having this group to talk about it with -- ED HANSEN: Talk pretty freely, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- that’s helpful?
ROGER BABLER: And we actually in conversation now find out a little more about the mystery jobs in the launcher area.
And the launcher guys find out about the mystery jobs “up on the hill.”
ED HANSEN: We all find out about the guards, the things that they did. ROGER BABLER: And the guards.
And their friendly pet dogs they care -- the dog handlers.
ED HANSEN: At our first reunion, there were a lot of guard dog handlers. They had kept in contact over the years as a group. So they were already in that cycle.
ROGER BABLER: They had a good core of people there. One gentleman did a lot of legwork before the Internet thing and they kept in contact.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, it’s interesting that, you know, it was eighteen months of your lives, maybe two years if you add the training prior, that it sounds like it was -- has continued to be very important to everyone. You’d think, well, two years, that’s just a blip in a long life.
ED HANSEN: Yeah, I think it’s become important to us all. But and I think military experience in general to -- like, that’s the same era as the Vietnam War.
And those guys are awfully close with each other. And they probably talk about it less than we do. You know, because their -- they were nightmare experiences for them.
Ours were frightening, but they weren’t nightmares.
ROGER BABLER: No.
KAREN BREWSTER: Frightening in what way?
ED HANSEN: Nuclear bombs. War. You know, that is frightening.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So, hopefully your reunions can continue for several more years.
ED HANSEN: I think it probably will. At least one more. We're pretty much taking it one year at a time now.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah. How many actual Nike sites were there around the whole United States?
ED HANSEN: About a hundred and forty-nine. Somewhere in that area. A hundred forty something.
KAREN BREWSTER: And you say you get about forty to fifty people at the reunions?
ED HANSEN: Yeah. And that includes their spouses. And in some cases there was other family members that came.
ROGER BABLER: We probably have a list of contacts somewhere over four hundred names.
ED HANSEN: Some we’ve never seen. You know, but they want to be on our list, so we send them the information.
ROGER BABLER: Some we have a brief contact with and, like I say, they change their Internet service provider. I actually used to do mailings. ED HANSEN: But that got expensive.
ROGER BABLER: That got expensive. We don’t have much of a budget. I run a small website. That comes out of my back pocket, which is not a big deal. It’s only a few bucks a year to have. The hosting fees are not that expensive.
ED HANSEN: And we charge no dues. At the reunions, we’ll pass the hat or somehow pick up enough for getting the next reunion going.
ROGER BABLER: Have some refreshments or some planning, whatever for the next go around.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So this one is being held in Anchorage, but we also have some big speakers. ED HANSEN: Right.
ROGER BABLER: This is going to be a tough act to follow. We are not going to be able to duplicate this. This is --
ED HANSEN: We didn’t really know exactly what we were getting into. A couple of years ago, we talked to Jim Rickert and we had talked about we wanted to have a reunion in Alaska.
And he said, “Well, why don’t you come here?” But then he also said, “But why don’t you wait two years,” ‘cause it would correspond with the Anchorage Centennial.
ROGER BABLER: They wanted to postpone it then. ED HANSEN: So we did. ROGER BABLER: And we did.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, just reflecting on your lives and the time you spent in Alaska and working at the site, what has it meant to you in the context of your whole life?
ED HANSEN: That’s a pretty tough question.
ROGER BABLER: Oh boy!
KAREN BREWSTER: Positive experience? Negative experience? Glad you did it?
ED HANSEN: When I left here, as I said, I didn’t think of it as much of a positive experience. But as time has gone by and I’ve talked to guys and all that, yeah, it’s become -- I look back on it as more positive.
I think the reason -- it could have been more positive, if I’d been able to have been inspired to take advantage of the activities that we could have done here, and I just didn’t do it.
And that’s basically on me. I was just, you know, not motivated to do it for whatever reason.
KAREN BREWSTER: So it was negative in the sense that it was cold and dark and boring. Or it was negative --
ED HANSEN: All military tone. KAREN BREWSTER: The miltiary work was negative, in that it was --?
ED HANSEN: I’m a person that doesn’t handle authority well at all. Somebody tells me what to do, I don’t like that.
ROGER BABLER: You gotta remember, these were two draftees. We did not ask for this job.
We were given it by our friends and neighbors. So to speak. But --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So you didn’t have a choice in what you did or where you went? Right.
ROGER BABLER: I guess we did it, we got out of it, and we didn’t think about it for years.
ED HANSEN: Yeah, we did our duty. That’s the way we looked at it. You know, yep, that’s our duty. Because that was the thought in those days. That’s the way we were raised.
You know, that yep, that’s what’s expected of you. You go do it, and then get on and do your life after that.
ROGER BABLER: And as hindsight nowadays, we feel that now that we were part of something that -- this was a small core of people, although it was a hundred and forty-nine some-odd sites in the United States, it was a short-lived project.
ED HANSEN: Twenty years.
ROGER BABLER: Basically, most of the sites were only active for around ten years, but it played a deciding role in our ability to have the standoff in -- they have a terminology for the Cold War.
I don’t remember how you would say that, you know. I don’t know what the terminology --
ED HANSEN: Mutual destruction. ROGER BABLER: We took a big part of what that was.
KAREN BREWSTER: The deterrent. ROGER BABLER: Now we look back on that.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And now, too, that you’re willing to talk about it, whereas before you weren’t willing to talk about it. And as you talk about it, you can really see the importance of where it fit in in the world history.
ED HANSEN: Before it was a matter of putting it out of our minds.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Hi.
INTERRUPTION FROM JOHN CLOE ENTERING THE ROOM: Does this have something to do with the Cold War conference? ROGER BABLER: Yes. LESLIE McCARTNEY: We'll wrap it up. JOHN CLOE: There's some confusion, KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, we'll come out and help resolve the confusion. ED HANSEN: Who is he, that's the first question.
KAREN BREWSTER: I was just going to ask Roger, did you find it a positive or negative experience. We heard that Ed found it to be somewhat negative.
ROGER BABLER: Ed, what time frame, I guess?
KAREN BREWSTER: When you were here and when you left, did you find it --
ROGER BABLER: Yes, I would say at that particular time in my life, I thought it was negative and, you know, then “I’m finally outa here.” You know.
ED HANSEN: I know from knowing him that he’s a little bit unhandy with authority, as well.
KAREN BREWSTER: But as a military assignment in the early 1960s?
ED HANSEN: I was glad to be there compared to --
KAREN BREWSTER: You could have been sent someplace worse? ED HANSEN: Yeah.
ROGER BABLER: Oh yes. ED HANSEN: I was glad to be there. And I did know that, and I was appreciative of that.
KAREN BREWSTER: And do you know why were you selected for this assignment?
ED HANSEN: Don’t know really.
KAREN BREWSTER: Did you have -- I mean, Roger’s had some electronics background.
ED HANSEN: Well, I know we took tests. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.
ROGER BABLER: I think it was the battery of tests you took.
ED HANSEN: And where the bodies were needed. You know, that’s always a big part of it. If they had hadn’t needed them, they wouldn’t send us to missile school just based on our test scores.
ROGER BABLER: If you are technically oriented, you know, and then they’d ask these strange questions. And sometimes I’d wonder why they asked all those?
ED HANSEN: Like for instance, after the military I went to work for an aerospace company, Sundstrand Aerospace. And if you’ve -- I mean, every plane you’ve ever flown on has many Sundstrand electronic devices on it.
So I was interested in that kind of activity, you know, even though I didn’t have the schooling in electronics that Roger did.
KAREN BREWSTER: But so your experience here led you into a career path?
ED HANSEN: And I worked in that 'til 1995, when I retired.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Anything else you would like to add at this point that we maybe didn’t touch on?
ROGER BABLER: Wow. I think we covered pretty well everything. And I’m sure you’re going to get some better answers to some of the questions from some of the other people.
Because you’re going to get some guys that are from the leadership end. I hope you do. That are gonna show up. And you’re going to get a little bit bigger perspective.
We’re at the bottom of the totem pole. Being draftees and retiring as a PFC after two years.
But you’re going to have some guys that are officer material, and they’re going to give you a little different perspective on this. And they may say that, "What those guys told you is all wrong."
KAREN BREWSTER: We like to talk to people with different perspectives.
ED HANSEN: One of the guys that’s coming tonight, I think I gave him your name, I’m positive I did. Was Hal Faulkner.
And he was our mail clerk and he was our medic and he was our PX operator, and several other chores.
So he knew everybody. And he was, you know, he was a personality that got along with everybody. So he --
KAREN BREWSTER: I think I wrote to him and didn’t hear back from him.
ED HANSEN: He comes in at midnight tonight. He'll be landing. ROGER BABLER: Yes.
PHYLLIS PEET: Well, you were an officer, weren’t you?
JERRY PEET: I was non-com. PHYLLIS PEET: Non-com.
ED HANSEN: And what battery were you at, Jerry?
JERRY PEET: I was at A.
ED HANSEN: You were at A? Just after us, though?
JERRY PEET: After you. I was here ’67–’68.
ED HANSEN: So just after us, because we left in early ’66.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you were ’64 to ’66? ED HANSEN: Yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: When you guys arrived, the earthquake would have already happened in Anchorage. KAREN BREWSTER: Because you came in July. LESLIE McCARTNEY: You came in July, and it happened in March. So did you have any knowledge of --?
ED HANSEN: Well, a couple of things happened with me in that regard. One was I was issued my winter gear, a parka. And it was all sewn. It was neatly sewn. I don’t mean that it was a junk, but, you know, that would have been unusual.
I should have had a, you know, clean parka with no things like that. And I was told the regular Army stuff was down in Anchorage because of the earthquake. You know, they’d handed out to people.
And another thing was I came to Anchorage on leave. Must've been in ’65 -- the winter, January probably for just a weekend pass type thing.
And I remember seeing, like three straight city blocks with no buildings, just holes there, you know, in the ground there. So, it was long enough after, so it had been cleaned up.
But also after -- I don’t remember if it was after I got here or probably it was. I think I went back to Wainwright.
They wanted to find some sucker, so they picked me. I was one of the new guys probably.
And when we got down there, probably university people gave me a quick explanation or, you know, whatever of the earthquake, and then tested me on what I remembered. I don’t know why they were doing it.
But it was a memory thing, you know. They were doing some kind of study on military personnel. Just happened to be the subject of the earthquake.
I suppose because it was one that I didn’t know about otherwise they probably felt. And so, you know, that was my involvement with the earthquake.
And we did have an earthquake after we got to Fairbanks, too. Not a big, nasty one. But enough so we felt it pretty good.
ROGER BABLER: Aftershocks. So to speak.
ED HANSEN: Well, it slammed doors in the hallways and things, you know.
KAREN BREWSTER: Did it affect your equipment in any way? Did you have to deal with that?
ED HANSEN: Didn’t seem to do much to it. We went out and checked it all right away. That’s the first thing we did, was ran the back azimuths and everything to see that everything was still lined up.
KAREN BREWSTER: Alright. Well, thank you very much. I know you guys are tired after a long flight. I appreciate you doing this today.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah. Thanks so much.
ED HANSEN: Well, I hope it has -- Say, we were kinda dolts as far as what you’re after, so --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: No! Every job -- like -- every job that was involved is part of the story. So thank you very, very much. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, all perspectives. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yeah.
ED HANSEN: Now you can interview them (pointing to the Peets).