Bob Bishop was interviewed on September 9, 2014 by Leslie McCartney and Karen Brewster at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Bob had attended the conference "A Cold War, 2014 Alaska Conference and Nike Veterans Reunion" held in Anchorage, Alaska on September 4 and 5, 2014. In this first part of a three part interview, Bob talks about joining the Army, going to Military Police training, coming to Alaska to work at a Nike Missile Site, and learning the skills to become a guard dog handler. He discusses guard patrol duties, the care and training of the dogs, and the clothing they were issued.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Cold War in Alaska: Nike Missile Sites
Date of Interview: Sep 9, 2014
Narrator(s): Bob Bishop
Interviewer(s): Leslie McCartney, Karen Brewster
Videographer: Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Sue Beck
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Attending Military Police (MP) school
Learning to work with sentry dogs and shifts at Nike Missile site
Becoming a dog handler and layout of the site
Dog handler duties at a Nike Missile Site
Dog training and kennels
A sick dog
Walking the perimeter
More dog training with an attack suit
Relationship with town
Clothing issued by the military
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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So today is September 9, 2014. We’re in UAF in Fairbanks with Bob Bishop. Thanks, Bob, so much for coming in.
I’m Leslie McCartney and Karen Brewster is also with us. So, Bob, we wanted to talk to you today about your experiences in Fairbanks when you were here before with the Nike sites.
But maybe we can start off by you just telling us a little bit about yourself, where you were from, education, how you got into the Army.
BOB BISHOP: Okay, I was born in San Francisco in 1944. And grew up on the peninsula in San Carlos.
And how I got into the Army. I enlisted. My father and I had a disagreement on his drinking habits and he threw me out of the house, so I joined the Army.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: How old were you when that happened?
BOB BISHOP: I was -- actually, I was almost nineteen. And I knew that to be an MP you had to be nineteen years old. I wanted to be an MP.
So -- joined the Army and went through Fort Ord for basic training.
We did MP school at Fort Gordon, Georgia. That’s where the MP school was at that time.
And there was -- during basic there was -- we had a local (inaudible) nation of people -- ‘cause we had NG, National Guard that were doing their six months in basic and all that kind of stuff.
We had the US, which is the people that were drafted, and then RA, which was regular Army.
But there was six of us that went through basic training. We went to Fort Ord together and then all of us, I guess, were selected to come to Alaska.
And I think that primarily had to do with if you -- see, the tour in Alaska was eighteen months if you were single. If you were married I think it was twenty-six months?
I could be wrong, but I know it was almost twice as -- or maybe it was three years. I just don’t remember. But all of us from California, we all enlisted and we all ended up in Alaska.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And just to clarify for the recording, MP means military police?
BOB BISHOP: Military police, yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Right. So did you know you were coming up to the Nike site or --?
BOB BISHOP: We didn’t know until, oh, about a week before we graduated from MP school.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay. Maybe you could walk us through a little bit about what -- what kind of training do you get at MP school? What does that entail?
BOB BISHOP: MP stuff. A lot of marching. We always said MP stood for Mop Pusher.
‘Cause on lot of posts the MP company on post will march for the parades at the end of every month when people retire and everything.
And they had your, you know, basic stuff. How to drive a Jeep, judo stuff, different laws and things and so forth. Anything that would be -- anything of a police nature.
And then plus all the other kind of Army stuff -- how to read a map. Just more a continuation of what we did during basic.
KAREN BREWSTER: Did they teach you specifics about the weapons you’d be carrying?
BOB BISHOP: Yeah. We all fired .45s for -- as our basic unit, our basic firearm.
So -- and then during basic, see -- we were the last company that used a Garand M1 and then the Army was switchin’ over to the M14.
And, yeah, I didn’t see an M14 until I came up to Alaska, ‘cause we had ‘em at the battery.
Yeah, I mean, I don’t -- At times when you’re goin’ through MP school, it was like you were kind of sleep deprived at times, and sometimes some things you just don’t remember.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Why did you want to go through to be an MP?
BOB BISHOP: I always wanted to be a cop. And that was a, you know, primary, you know, reason.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Now we know that you were a dog handler up here, but did you learn that in MP school?
BOB BISHOP: No.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So where did that come in?
BOB BISHOP: That came on on-the-job training. The guys that -- The dog handler school is at Lackland Air Force Base, which is out of San Antonio.
And that’s two months, I believe.
And -- but when I got up here, we were -- they were short one dog handler, but they had a dog. And l kinda, well, that’s over. I’m getting ahead of myself.
My first post was Post #1, which was the main gate to get into the launching area.
And that was manned from eight in the morning till five at night. And then there were two dog handlers down in the launching area for two days and then they had two days off.
So the one dog handler would start at six and end at midnight, and the other one would come on at midnight and be done at 6 AM.
And if anybody needed to come in or out, they could call and somebody would go out and, you know, open them up. But the -- the guy that was there at that gate, which I was doing in my first week there, it’s kind of boring.
I mean, I soon found out I really didn’t like sittin’ in the guard shack.
KAREN BREWSTER: You didn’t have a whole lot of people coming through?
BOB BISHOP: No. I mean, you had a big rush in the morning if -- well, the battery was either hot, cold, or what I used to call dead.
If they were in the hot mode, which means that everybody was down in the launching area for, say a week.
And if there was any intrusions with anything flying, that was the battery that was going to shoot the missiles off. The one that was hot.
And then -- and then they went two weeks, kind of like I said, semi-hot mode, where they would be there during the day.
But most of them went back up on the IFC area for eating -- to sleep and eat and so on and so forth.
And then when -- when they were dead for a couple of weeks, there wasn’t even -- the guys were there during the weekend -- they would be doing maintenance at the battery, but they weren’t in the hot status or anything.
So at times there was a lot of people down in the launching area, and at other times there was the guards and two missile men.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So irregardless of what status you were on, there was still somebody there from six to twelve and twelve until six?
BOB BISHOP: Yes. So like there was -- and the one -- the guy at Post 1, at five o’clock he’d go back on the hill and stay over -- say, you know, go up and sleep and eat and so on and so forth.
The two of the four other guards at Guard Shack #2, they did six-hour shifts and they were down there for four days.
And then they would have one day off. And -- which was pretty grueling.
And being the new guy they put me on the Post #1. But I knew I was going to be going on Post #2 before long. So anyway.
KAREN BREWSTER: Can I just backtrack us a second? BOB BISHOP: Sure.
KAREN BREWSTER: Which is to tell us which site you were working at?
BOB BISHOP: I was working at A Battery. Site Tare.
KAREN BREWSTER: Here in the Fairbanks area? BOB BISHOP: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: And what year did you get here?
BOB BISHOP: I got here the very, very end of 1963. And I left in June of ‘65.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So when you first came up here -- just to backtrack again -- when you first came up, was it fairly immediate that you became a dog handler or what were you coming up to do?
BOB BISHOP: I was going to be an MP at the missile site. That’s all we knew.
We were just told you are going to second battalion missiles, 562nd artillery, and that was it.
And, I mean, I still don’t -- well, I think I have an idea how we got where we were -- how we ended up. was that -- I don’t want to say everybody in the Army was lazy, but there was an easy way to do something they would do it.
And I would -- because two of us went to A Battery, two of us went to B Battery, and two of us went to C Battery. And they just -- well, the guy that came to A Battery with me was Art Angst, so that was A and B.
And the next two guys -- I think one of them’s last name was D and the other one was F.
And then the other two, whatever their last names were, they went to C Battery. And that’s how they determined where you were gonna go. It wasn’t very mysterious or anything.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you said that first guard post was at the launch area? BOB BISHOP: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: Now was there also a guard post to enter the main site?
BOB BISHOP: When you say the site, you mean the IFC area? KAREN BREWSTER: Um --
BOB BISHOP: There are two separate entities. Okay. But the whole thing is called, like, A Battery.
The launching area is where they launch the missiles from. The IFC area was -- Integrated Fire Control? That’s where they had all the radars and all that kind of stuff.
KAREN BREWSTER: And the barracks and all that?
BOB BISHOP: Right. And that’s where the mess hall was and everything. So they used to have to bring food down for us, which -- it was okay. At least it got down there warm.
But that was one of my big contentions. A matter of fact, I talked to the battery commander that came after ours, Captain Greene.
And he said he worked for a long time trying to do away with having to bring the food down there and have everybody have a hot lunch or dinner or whatever.
But what would happen invariably was somebody would eat all the food, there would still be guards coming in, and there wasn’t enough food for them to eat.
So I, you know, to me it was sort of like, you know, the officer of -- the launching officer should have, you know, looked out for his men. But ours didn’t.
But they should have had an NCO or somebody from the kitchen or whatever to dole out the food so everybody got their fair share.
Now they always usually sent extra, but invariably somebody would pig out before some of the guards. And of course the -- I guess they call them melmite containers and they were made out of aluminum in the inside?
So they would always send down scrambled eggs in the morning, but by the time they got down there they kind of had a green tinge to ‘em, so I never ate breakfast in the launching area.
KAREN BREWSTER: So the IFC and the launch area were in separate locations? So there wasn’t one big gate around the whole big perimeter? BOB BISHOP: No.
KAREN BREWSTER: They had their separate security.
BOB BISHOP: Right. Now they -- well, -- the IFC area, I think they had a gate guard. And there was a gate that they closed. But I think they closed that at midnight and then opened it up at 6 AM in the morning. But --
KAREN BREWSTER: So the launch area was where they were really security --? BOB BISHOP: That’s where they were concerned.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So how long was it then before you arrived in Alaska and that you were designated to become a dog handler? Was there much lag time in between?
BOB BISHOP: Not much. Like I said, Corporal Denny Jordan came over, I think my third day on guard duty. And he sat me down and he said, “Listen up, boy.”
He said, “Let me tell you why you want to be a dog handler.”
And he did. And I had to agree with him, because the dog handlers had two days on and two days off. And he said, “You’re going to be in that other group and you’re going to be working four days in a row and have one day off.”
They were always trying to get the guards to pull KP, which is kitchen police. And dog handler, I was classified as unclean so I could not -- I could not pull KP even if they wanted me to.
But -- and then also you worked two six-hour shifts. You know, a six-hour shift each day as compared to two six-hour shifts each day, so it just kind of made sense.
Now becoming a dog handler, that was kinda scary. Because these dogs were vicious.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And what kind of dogs were they?
BOB BISHOP: They were all German shepherds. But the dog, like I said, had not had a handler for a month. And they get lonely.
And, I mean, the guy that did the midnight to 6 AM shift, he fed all the dogs before he got off.
So, I mean, the dogs were getting fed and everything. It was just the fact that no one was doing anything with him.
Now the dogs weren’t quite as vicious when they had a choke chain on, but when you put on the leather collar, their whole demeanor changed. So --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Why was that? Did the choker mean something else?
BOB BISHOP: The leather collar meant it’s time to work. They're always -- when you did your stint in walking your dog around the launching area, it was always with a leather collar.
In other words, he knew, okay, fun and games are over with. We have to go bite somebody.
And they’d be more than happy to do it. But they had a obstacle course down by the kennels, and I think there was a couple of jumps.
There was some kind of galvanized pipe maybe two feet round, maybe twenty feet long that the dog would have to, you know, climb through.
And then they had -- if you took like a homemade ladder and stuck it up in the air six feet, and then there was about six feet up in the air there was a ladder, and then two ladders coming down, they had to walk that.
So, I mean, it was a slope but, if you’ve ever had a dog that did not like to go upstairs, because they don’t have that depth perception for that, I guess.
But, you know, they all did it. I know there was something else that I just don’t remember. Well, it’ll be on the CD.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Was this like a daily training that they had to go through?
BOB BISHOP: Yeah, maybe you were supposed to do it daily. We did it when we felt like it.
See, that was the other thing. The dog -- the kennels were by themselves. And they all had, you know, KEEP OUT – NO TRESPASSING – OFF-LIMITS, etcetera, SENTRY DOGS, you know, all this kind of stuff.
And you weren’t supposed to go there.
Now at that time, we had parachute -- the nylon from parachutes that went around the cyclone fence during the winter time. And that was just to keep some of the snow from blowing in so we didn’t have to shovel it.
So you really couldn’t see into the kennels, anyway. But I loved it when they were having an inspection. I wanted to be down at the kennels more than any place else, because you’d have all this brass here.
I can remember when the commanding general or -- yeah, of Alaska. It was an IG inspection, Inspector General inspection.
And the colonel from Wainwright and the battery commander and the battalion commander and all these people.
And they would come out to the kennels and you would report to them, you know, like, you know, “Private Bishop. Kennels ready for inspection, Sir” And they would start to look in and the dogs would just go batty.
They would be snarling and barking. It looked like they were going to tear those poor officers apart.
They took one look in and said, “Oh, very good, Private,” and they skedaddled out of there. So that’s why I loved it. But --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Can we go back to how you got trained then to be a dog handler?
BOB BISHOP: Corporal Denny showed me how to run the -- you know, said heel and all that kind of stuff.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: You didn’t have to go away for it?
BOB BISHOP: No. No. Right there. The dog knew what to do. I mean, he exactly told me that. “The dog knows what to do. You have to learn.”
And once you got past the intimidation of the dog itself, you know, you say heel with an authoritative voice, and, you know, etcetera, etcetera.
Well, then, yeah. I mean, he wanted -- well, he's like anybody else. He wanted to be loved, so it wasn’t that hard.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And are they mostly -- did they use males only? Females? A mixture?
BOB BISHOP: You know, I think there was a female, but I think she was fixed. Because they wouldn’t want a female going in heat, because then everybody would be attacking everybody.
Now also these dogs did not like each other, either. I mean they had personalities, too. And some more so than others.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And were you always with the same dog?
BOB BISHOP: Yes. The guys that came up from Lackland, they had their dog. They went through training with that dog and that dog stayed with them the whole time.
It just so happened -- I don’t know why they lost a dog handler. That happened before I got there, so --
It could have been that he got sick. He had a hardship discharge maybe or something, and so they, you know, they left the dog there.
KAREN BREWSTER: So all the other guys who were dog handlers had come up from Lackland with the training? BOB BISHOP: I believe so.
KAREN BREWSTER: You were the only one who kind of stepped in?
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And what did the dogs have to go through for training? And what age are they when they’re --?
BOB BISHOP: I think they're pretty young. Maybe six months or a year. I mean, I’m not quite sure because I didn’t go through training, but I mean it would be basically the same thing as basic training as a guy had.
The dog would have the basic training with the dog handler. You know, how to sit, heel, and do all that kind of stuff.
The guy learns how to take care of the dog. You know, the feeding and all that kind of stuff. And then whatever they did for the attack training.
KAREN BREWSTER: And now you said the kennel was off separately. Where was the kennel?
BOB BISHOP: It was inside the launching area, but it --
KAREN BREWSTER: But it wasn’t right where the missile were?
BOB BISHOP: No. I’ve got pictures of the kennels in here.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. Yeah, I was just trying -- yeah, if they were at the launching area? They were up --?
BOB BISHOP: No. No. Everything that I’ll be talking about is pretty much the launching area. But --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: About how long was a dog’s career?
BOB BISHOP: Some short and some -- we had four dogs. Somehow we ended up with another dog and a dog handler.
And I don’t know why, ‘cause they should have known that we had four dogs and four dog handlers. And --
KAREN BREWSTER: So four was enough to cover the shifts and patrol the area?
BOB BISHOP: Right. There was always four dog handlers up there.
KAREN BREWSTER: There was always just one dog and one handler on shift at one time? BOB BISHOP: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: And so what did you do during that six hour shift?
BOB BISHOP: We walked around the launch area. Basically.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And they're on their leather --
BOB BISHOP: Right. The leather leash. And we had a thirty-foot leash, but we used that for training more so when they were doing the obstacle course.
But every once in a while just to mix things up we would, you know, do the other.
But to get back -- somehow we ended up with another dog. And he was in a crate.
And I guess the dog -- this dog handler was older than we were. He was maybe twenty-seven or so.
And he did -- I guess he didn’t want to be in Alaska. I don’t know.
He went down to Fort Wainwright and -- put him into the psychiatric hospital, and now we got a dog with no dog handler.
The dog was pretty much in the crate all the time. It’s not our dog, you know.
You don’t know what he’s going to do. And -- but you know we’d play with him a little bit, but he was getting no exercise or anything.
And then he got sick.
And the battery commander is more concerned about the missiles than he is about maybe other things. So down on the bottom of the list would be a stupid dog in the kennels.
And I kept telling my security sergeant we got a sick dog down here. We gotta get him to the vet's.
And the vet at Fort Wainwright was a colonel.
And finally, they were able to get -- and he didn’t want -- the colonel must’ve loved the animals, but he sure as hell didn’t like the sentry dogs.
I mean, we had to put muzzles on them and everything because they were -- they can bite, yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: That’s what -- they’re trained to do that.
BOB BISHOP: Right. And the dog died. And I sure was happy not to be around when the battery commander got that telephone call from the vet, because he probably chewed his butt out.
And, you know, you are military property. And whatever goes with that. But that was -- as far as the dogs go that was probably the most tragic thing.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So you actually had vets on --
BOB BISHOP: At Fort Wainwright. We had to bring the dogs in. I know that they went and saw the vet at the least once a year.
If there was other problems we could bring the vet in, but this was to get their shots, teeth cleaned, I don’t know what other maintenance.
And I know that we were supposed to bring them in on a Monday, and the battery commander had -- it would be like a deuce and a half truck -- and they needed it for something else.
Well, the vet called the battery commander that morning and he said, “ I don’t care what you needed it for. I’m the colonel here,” you know. I want those -- I want -- it would be like one dog every day during the week. I want one dog here tomorrow.
And it got there. But, yes, sometimes that’s just mis-communication or confusion or something like that. But the colonel -- I mean, he was a real good vet.
KAREN BREWSTER: But as you say, the priority for the commander was --
BOB BISHOP: Not necessarily the dog handlers or their dogs.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But he needed you guys for security purposes, obviously.
BOB BISHOP: Right. Well, see, I never knew why they needed MPs for security duty at the missile site. Because I was told with the Ajax, the launcher guys, we called them rail apes, they had done their own security.
But I guess there was some agreement with the Russians that if you had nuclear weapons, then you -- the Army had to have an outside security force and that was the MPs.
So that’s why there was MPs at a Nike site, but not at an Ajax site.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, because the Nike missiles had nuclear weapons and the older Ajax Hercules did not? BOB BISHOP: No.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Did you know that these -- that there was nuclear weapons? BOB BISHOP: Yes. LESLIE McCARTNEY: You did?
BOB BISHOP: Not how many, but I -- we knew that there were.
Once again, it was sorta like you don’t have a need to know. And --
KAREN BREWSTER: But as MPs, you’d think you would need to know. But they didn’t tell you officially? You just found out?
BOB BISHOP: Well, I mean, yeah, we just kind of found out through talking, but I mean if they said run in the A section and disarm that missile, I wouldn’t know what to do anyway.
Now, the rail apes knew what to do. And so, yeah, I wouldn’t -- I would not have known how to do any of that anyway.
KAREN BREWSTER: But if you’re wandering -- not wandering. You’re walking the perimeter of the launch area and those guys are there doing their jobs, did you stop and chat with them?
And that’s how you find out?
BOB BISHOP: Nobody’s supposed to be out when the dog handlers are out. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh!
BOB BISHOP: That’s why guys got bit. Because they didn’t follow the rules. See, the dogs only worked at night.
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.
BOB BISHOP: Now in the summer, even though it was light out and not dark, you still work 6 PM to midnight to 6 AM.
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, so you said six to midnight. I was thinking 6 AM to midnight.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: I did, too. So, it's just 6 PM to midnight and midnight to 6 AM? BOB BISHOP: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: So when the launch site is being manned, and operations --
BOB BISHOP: During the day at the launcher area, there’s no problem because the dogs are in the kennel.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And there’s people there?
BOB BISHOP: Yeah. They’re doing whatever they’re doing and whatnot. And it’s just at night then -- now the rail apes had to do checks.
They had to go into the building and do whatever they did. And I don’t even know what they did, but they called them checks.
I think they had to go and read one of the electronic boards or what would’ve been electronic board these days.
And that would’ve been done -- say right before the dog handler started working at 6 PM. Then at midnight. And then again, say after 6 AM when, you know, the dog handler wasn’t working.
And usually the dog handler would start heading back towards the kennel around eleven thirty or something like that. And they’d go wake up the other dog handler.
Then he would start maybe twelve fifteen or whatever, you know. And then some times, I mean, if it was really, really cold, we would just go walk out to Post 1 with the dog and get comfy in there for a while and pet the dog and so on and so forth.
And just get warmed up and leave the blower going, and then we would go maybe walk around a couple times and then go sit in the post for another half an hour or so and then go walk around.
But they didn’t -- it wasn’t like you have to be here at ten fifteen, here at ten thirty. And you could, you know, you can go counterclockwise or clockwise or no-wise. You go wherever you wanted to go, just as long as you are walking around.
KAREN BREWSTER: But so for your six-hour shift, you basically had to just keep walking around for six hours? BOB BISHOP: Yeah. More or less
KAREN BREWSTER: Other than your little rests to get warm? BOB BISHOP: Yeah. Yeah.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And how big is the perimeter that you would do?
BOB BISHOP: Well, you know, I think somebody said -- Oh, we never went into the exclusion area where the missiles were.
Well, first of all there always had to be two people that would go in. I’ve -- I’ve never been -- until I got up here to Anchorage,
I’ve never been in a section before. There was no reason for me.
I think a couple of dog handlers -- or a couple of guards had been because maybe somebody was sick. One of the rail apes, and one guy came out, so the MP went in and then the guy did his checks and came back out but --
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, the missiles -- so this exclusion area, that was inside a building? BOB BISHOP: No.
KAREN BREWSTER: Where the missiles were?
BOB BISHOP: You had a great big fence that went all the way around the missile site. Okay. So like, Guardpost 1 was here. The kennels were here. There was a guard shack here.
There was a motor pool, and then there was a road that went to the assembly building. And that had where they assembled the missiles.
There was a generator. There was a guard’s room where the guards slept.
There was a separate room, bigger room, because when the missile guys were there, I think there’s probably ten on a crew.
And then an area where we -- where we ate and stuff and had coffee and all that kind of stuff.
And then there was the van, the fire control van I guess they called it, where the, you know, two guys turned the key. And the boiler room.
So then there was a great big berm, and that was probably hundred and fifty feet long but it was about thirty feet high. And I guess that was so when the missiles took off, it didn’t destroy the assembly building.
And then -- then -- well, you’ve got this great big area and the sections were here -- A and B -- and the warhead building.
That was inside another security fence, so we -- I never went into that area.
But we could walk -- and there was a road here on the back that went all the way around and then a couple other roads and paths. So we could walk wherever we wanted to walk.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So are we talking maybe a mile in diameter?
BOB BISHOP: I think somebody said it was about a mile. Around the inside of the missile site.
Now they had -- they had phones on the perimeter fence on the backside of where the sections were, so if -- I guess, if a guard had problems or something then they could call the guard shack.
I think later on then they had radios, but not when I was there.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I was gonna ask, you didn’t have radios?
BOB BISHOP: No. That came later. Because I was talking to it dog handler from B Battery and he said when he was there, that was about two years later, they had radios, which are not like the radios you have today.
And they were little bit bulky, you know, and I always thought you’d have to put one of those on with a parka and everything else and then have to do the dog and whatnot, so --
And then where the -- the boiler rooms were supposedly the dog handlers were supposed to take care of. And that was just because we had our dog displays in there.
KAREN BREWSTER: What you mean a dog display? BOB BISHOP: I was going to get to that. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay.
BOB BISHOP: Extra leashes. They even had little booties for them. The dog dishes etcetera, etcetera. And that’s also -- we kept the dog food, because canned dog food would’ve froze if there wasn’t some place where it was warm.
And it was plenty warm in the boiler room.
KAREN BREWSTER: Dried out your wet clothes very nicely.
BOB BISHOP: Yeah. And they got one scoop of dry and a can of dog food.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Once a day?
BOB BISHOP: Once a day. Now maybe some had told you -- because later on everything froze in the kennels, so we didn’t have running water during the winter.
During the summer, we had water, which made it so much nicer. Easier to clean the kennels, because they had a trough where everything just got washed in the trough and went wherever it went.
But during the winter, you had to chip it. You know, like an ice scraper and stuff. And then you just swept everything up and you threw it behind the kennels or whatever.
But later on, I guess they had some kind of a heating device like you would use for hot coffee. You know, the old days where that little round thing? Yeah. They were using -- And I guess they had a lot of problems with it, but our dogs ate snow.
KAREN BREWSTER: They didn’t get a bowl of water?
BOB BISHOP: No. Now they weren’t supposed to, but all of us did.
‘Cause we’d take them in the boiler room, too, and, you know, and give them water. Because, you know -- I’m trying to remember what it is. Something like seven to one as far as snow.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.
BOB BISHOP: Yeah, so they weren’t getting much water and they, you know, like everybody else they need water.
But -- oh yeah. I mean, the dogs were very, very happy to see you when you were bringing food.
Now they -- I mean, like I said, they were well trained. So I mean, if we -- when one of us would go in to feed the dogs -- like my dog’s name was Silver, and I just go -- well, for him it didn’t matter, but I go, “Silver, get in your house.”
And he'd jump in the house. You know, and you’d plop the food down and close the door.
And the next guy, “Buddy, get in your house.” And he’d do it, because he knew he was going to get fed, so just right on down the line.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you didn’t feed just your dog. You fed all the dogs if you are on that shift? BOB BISHOP: All of the dogs. Right.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And you were saying the dogs didn’t really get along, so I take it they were -- even though they were in a kennel, they weren’t able to get at each other? They were on leads or in pens?
BOB BISHOP: No. They were right next to each other, a common cyclone fence, but they didn’t like each other.
KAREN BREWSTER: So they were -- each kennel was a fenced-in kennel, like at a dog -- like at an animal shelter? BOB BISHOP: You’ll see it in the pictures.
KAREN BREWSTER: But it’s like an animal shelter? It’s not like a sled dog team where they’re staked out with little houses. BOB BISHOP: No. KAREN BREWSTER: Just so we get a picture of it. BOB BISHOP: And then --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: How did the dog take to you as a new handler?
BOB BISHOP: He was lonely. And it seemed like I could give him the right commands to do. So he was happy.
And then, of course, the big trial of error I guess or whatever was -- we were always looking for people to dress up in -- what in the hell did they call it? The suit, the attack suit.
KAREN BREWSTER: For training?
BOB BISHOP: For training. And it was -- it was heavy and bulky. But it was a great big, like, burlap suit.
And burlap and cotton and whatever, probably about that thick.
And so it -- I mean, you look like the Michelin man. And great big -- I mean the arms were all -- I mean really, really thick and so on and so forth.
So the dogs were always trained to go for the throat. And so that’s what they would do originally.
And -- if you were in the suit. And if they were able to knock you on the ground, then the next thing they went for was the shoes, because leather’s not as thick as the burlap suit was.
I mean, they were gonna get you one way or the other. But when they did that training -- and Corporal Jordan or myself and -- ‘cause you usually only did it two dog handlers at a time -- and then somebody would be firing the .45, so they would hear the noise, the gunshots, and so that wouldn’t deter them.
Their, you know, main job job was to bite somebody.
And so when I -- when I successfully completed that I was considered a dog handler. Without hurting myself or anybody else.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Now was this a routine that they had to do every couple of months or was it a once a year thing?
BOB BISHOP: I don’t know how often we were supposed to do it. It was probably at least once every six months maybe or something. I only remember doing it three times with my dog.
KAREN BREWSTER: And so was it that you had your dog attacking you?
BOB BISHOP: No. Somebody else in a suit. I was controlling my dog that was attacking the guy in the suit.
So we were always trying to find -- and then a lot of guys -- I’m not doing that!
And the dog handlers didn’t -- because they -- I guess at Lackland Air Force Base when they were doing it, you know, the dog school there, they had to do it all the time and they didn’t want to do it.
So we were always trying to find somebody that would be dumb enough to say, “Okay, I’ll try it.”
KAREN BREWSTER: So it wasn’t just another dog handler in the suit. You’d just pull in some other enlisted guy?
BOB BISHOP: Yeah, a shmuck. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Oh, geez!
BOB BISHOP: Nah. Actually, I mean, we usually went for -- there was always at least one guy. I mean, everybody was rotating at different times.
I mean, if they lost the whole -- our whole battery after eighteen months and there was a whole fresh bunch of guys, that wouldn’t work.
So, I mean, people were always comin’ in and out and there were some -- “Oh, I’ll try that!” You know just for something to do.
Because, you know, I mean, it got pretty boring at times. You know, sort of like I never had any intruder come in when I was walking the dog. And I almost wished I had just for something, you know, different.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Do you know of anyone during the time you were there that did have any intruders?
BOB BISHOP: Just the ones that the Army sent us. What they would do was -- and you knew they were going to do it because the guy came in down with the launcher control officer.
And it would be some visitor, so he would have a visitor’s badge, and you kinda put two and two together.
And, well, the SOP, for say somebody getting into the exclusion area, was we had five minutes from the time that we were notified to be to the sections. So --
And there had to be two of the rail apes because then they would have to go inside.
So that meant, especially if there was nobody down there except for the guards and the rail apes, that meant that one of the dog handlers on duty -- oh, when anybody came and we had the dog, then we had to go but the dog in the kennels and then come back out.
You wouldn’t go open up the gate with your dog or anything like that.
But like I said, we had, you know, five minutes to get there. And they didn’t particularly care how we looked just as long as we got there within the five minutes.
KAREN BREWSTER: So what was it that you need -- what was the five minutes? That’s if the missile was gonna --?
BOB BISHOP: No. If there was an intrusion into the exclusion area.
KAREN BREWSTER: A security breach?
BOB BISHOP: Right. So what would happen was -- like I said, it was kind of easy to find out -- I mean tell what was going to happen.
The security officer would come down with somebody that was gonna have a visitor’s pass. And it could be FBI. It could be CID or something like that.
But sometimes he just walked in. He gave him his badge. He gave you a piece of paper and said, “You have an intruder in B section.”
So then you’d have to call Post #2, tell them we have an intruder in B section. You’d call into the assembly area -- room area and then everybody -- we had, you know, the MPs had 45’s.
We had M14’s and Garand carbines with the big banana clips, and those were fully automatic.
So, of course, the MPs would take their .45, but you also took a rifle of some sort, whatever you wanted.
KAREN BREWSTER: So that was just -- that was testing? That was practice to keep you guys fresh.
BOB BISHOP: So you would run to Post 2, and by then that officer and whoever the guy was, they would run to Post 2, but as soon as he gave you the card the stopwatch started.
And you were supposed, like I said, be there in five minutes.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Were any of the fences around alarmed at all or anything? BOB BISHOP: No. KAREN BREWSTER: And not electrified? BOB BISHOP: No.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So that was the way of saying you have an intruder? It wasn’t tripping something?
BOB BISHOP: No. Now in Guard Shack #2, there was a panel in there that had several different colored lights. I think green and red for the different sections.
And if the door went open, I think it would go to red. It would start blinking or something.
But there was no sirens that I remember.
The only -- they had klaxon or something like that when they were opening up the doors for the missiles to push them out, but there was no -- not that I remember as far as if somebody intruded or whatnot.
But then when we got there, you know sometimes they would have the guys go into the -- you know, Section A or B or whatever and sometimes they didn’t.
As long as we get out there in five minutes.
KAREN BREWSTER: And at any of the other batteries in Fairbanks or in Anchorage, did you ever hear about -- did they have intruders?
BOB BISHOP: Not that I know of.
KAREN BREWSTER: I don’t know if you would’ve known, but --? BOB BISHOP: No.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And did it rotate between the various -- were you always in the same place?
BOB BISHOP: Yeah. Always at -- unless you transferred to a different battery for whatever stupid reasons.
A Battery was considered the best battery to be at because it was the closest to everything.
KAREN BREWSTER: That was the one that's now near Moose Creek Bluff? Up there, yeah?
BOB BISHOP: Eielson Air Force Base was what? Six miles away? You could hitchhike.
You know, because we wear Army parkas and our hats. Hitchhike, someone's going to pick you up. They knew you were in the military.
And the same thing coming back. And whereas B Battery and C Battery, you’re maybe another fifteen, twenty miles further up into the hills and it was just more difficult to get into town.
So that’s why B -- or A Battery was always considered the place to be.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: That’s one of the things we kind of had on our list of topics is, did you come into town often? Did you have much contact with local people or were you pretty well in your own world there?
BOB BISHOP: All the above. It all depended who you were, how old you were, etcetera, etcetera.
I got up there when I was nineteen so I couldn’t drink in the state of Alaska. I think the first week in I went to town. I got thrown out of every bar in town.
KAREN BREWSTER: Because you were too young? BOB BISHOP: Because I was too young.
KAREN BREWSTER: Not because you were drinking?
BOB BISHOP: No. No, I never had a chance to have a drink. And if I remember correctly I think a can of beer was a buck.
KAREN BREWSTER: And there certainly wasn’t drinking allowed on the site. Was there?
BOB BISHOP: Yes and no. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.
BOB BISHOP: I’ll get that in a minute. So -- and I think a beer down in the States was like twenty-five cents. So we’re talking four times the amount.
But a lot of guys went to town, spent their whole paycheck getting drunk, getting into fights, doing whatever -- especially if they’d been there for a while.
Just to relieve the monotony, you might say. Some guys never left the battery the whole time they were there.
KAREN BREWSTER: So they’d get days off?
BOB BISHOP: Yeah. Like the -- well, like the guards. This one guy, he used to come down to whatever the radio -- we only had two radio stations here, two TV stations. All black-and-white, of course.
And everything was sent up by plane, so everything was six weeks later than what it would have been down in the States.
So in other words, it would be the middle of February and you’d be watching Christmas programs on TV.
But he used to come. He’d decide one day -- Hey, I want to see who this disc jockey is. And he went down, and they had a friendship for about a year.
He’d go down. He’d help put the tapes in and stuff, and then they’d bullshit in between and so on and so forth.
Some guys -- oh, there was another thing. The bars in town, I think, closed at two or two thirty. Maybe it was three?
But the bars outside of town, they closed at 6 AM and then reopened at 6:30 AM. They’d sort of like sweep out the bodies.
But there was some guys that -- they would go into town just to get in a fight, just for whatever reasons.
And you would think they were sane people, but maybe they were when they got back home, but some -- you know, everybody I think went a little bit nuts.
Because you were, you know, like, having to be at the launching area for the two days, regardless if you were working or not. You know, just kind of, "Oh God, I gotta go back down there again."
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Did the darkness or the cold bother you at all, particularly?
BOB BISHOP: The cold did. It was colder there than it is now, I’ve been told.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. We were talking about that. What was the coldest you remember it being?
BOB BISHOP: Minus seventy-two. I remember when I first got off the plane. In those days, you actually -- they opened up the door of the plane, put the steps up, and you walked down the steps.
Some people you have to tell them this because they don’t know.
And we got here about midnight. And I had a class A uniform on, which is a green wool.
And before I even got to the -- it was Pan-American -- before I even got to the door it was cold.
And I’m kinda going, “What in the hell have I gotten myself into?” sort of type thing. And then things didn’t turn much better when we were walking through the lobby after we got our duffel bags and whatnot, and they had a sixteen-foot grizzly bear stuffed in the lobby. Is it still there?
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Yes.
BOB BISHOP: And going, “Oh, I don’t know about this.”
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I did want to ask you about the clothing that you were issued. Because you were outside for long shifts, and so what kind of military clothing did you get? And did it work?
BOB BISHOP: Well, I have to go back to basic training. I went to Fort Ord.
KAREN BREWSTER: Which is in California.
BOB BISHOP: Which is California, outside of Monterey. They issued everybody woolen underwear. This is California now, mind you.
Now it does get foggy there, but also Fort Ord was always kind of notorious during the summer months for meningitis.
There was guys that went through Fort Dix, which is in New Jersey. They went through basic training in the cold and the snow and etcetera, etcetera. They didn’t get issued long johns.
So I had long johns, but they were completely useless because they just itched so bad.
But in the summer we wore just the regular fatigues and a baseball caps thing.
Then during the winter, we wore the Elmer Fudd caps. And then it was a real good heavy, thick wool shirt. And we wore field pants.
And then we wore our parka, which were lined. Now the parkas, Army parkas, maybe weren’t as good as the Air Force parkas, but they worked.
I mean, most of the time when you were out -- because you kind of -- when you’re walking around when it’s cold out, you kind of -- you don’t work up a sweat, but you do get warmed up.
And so usually that was sufficient. It was just on those -- when it was like below seventy, minus seventy. I remember it hurt to breathe. Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Did they issue you what we now call bunny boots? The big white plastic kind of boots? Or did you have mukluks? Those green mukluks?
BOB BISHOP: The MPs had white snow boots. Now the other -- everybody else had black ones. So just the MP wore the white ones.
And as far as I was told, they were exactly the same, just one was white and the others were black. And maybe that was so they would know who the MPs were.
But everybody that wore the black ones were bound and determined that the white ones were warmer. Why, I don’t know.
And that’s, you know, basically what they gave us. Now I know some guys, I think they wrote home and maybe they got some silk underwear or something like that that, you know, helped.
KAREN BREWSTER: And what about in the summer for mosquitoes?
BOB BISHOP: Nothing. And don’t talk -- I don’t want to talk about mosquitoes.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: They must’ve bothered the dogs something fierce, too? BOB BISHOP: Well -- KAREN BREWSTER: I'm gonna change tape.