This is a continuation of an interview with Bob Bishop on September 9, 2014 by Leslie McCartney and Karen Brewster at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In this second part of a three part interview, Bob talks about being a guard dog handler, dealing with mosquitoes while on guard duty, what happened to the dogs when they were retired, dog biting incidents, life in the barracks, and the use of alcohol. He also reflects back on his time in the Army and discusses the Nike veterans reunion.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Cold War in Alaska
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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Dealing with mosquitoes
Keeping the dog kennel clean
Discussing specific dogs
Death of a dog
Armed Forces Day
Life in the barracks
Life after Alaska
Recreation at the missile site
Big Bishop, Little Bishop
Life after the Army
Reflections on his time in Alaska
Nike Missile Site Reunion
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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
BOB BISHOP: Well, what I understand now about mosquitoes is that they are attracted to carbon dioxide or whatever? So then with the dog you’ve got more carbon dioxide around you.
But, well, mosquitoes are also -- they like green or darker colors, so we wear green army fatigues.
They like odors and we never bathed the dogs. So they had a certain -- not bad, but it was doggy odor and it was on our clothes. So the dog handlers were almost like magnets for mosquitoes.
And you’d go out and you’d be walking around the launching area, which was kind of ridiculous because it would be, you know, say, ten thirty at night and that was like three o’clock in the afternoon anywhere else in the world. And gettin’ eaten by mosquitoes.
And it seems like they started off a little bit smaller in the spring and grew into great big huge things by the end of summer and then kinda went back down a little bit. We always laughed that they were like B-52s. And --
KAREN BREWSTER: And they didn’t give you mosquito repellent or anything?
BOB BISHOP: Oh yeah, well, you wouldn’t call it repellent.
KAREN BREWSTER: That’s what it was called. That’s not what it did, huh?
BOB BISHOP: No. No. It wasn’t repellent. They gave us cans of DDT.
And we just sprayed ourselves with it. It was all over. Just get these things off of you, you know.
I know, I always said I must -- I must have lived right because I was able to reproduce, you know, ‘cause you figured DDT is not very good for you.
But I remember every once in a while you’d be in the guardroom trying to sleep and there was a mosquito in there. And of course it’s just -- well, you know. They can drive you crazy.
I mean, there was one guy, I thought he was gonna pull out his .45 and start shootin’, you know.
And he knew that he was going to land on you, so you couldn’t go to sleep. You know, and you hear that buzzing around etcetera, etcetera.
And then maybe you got him, maybe you didn’t. But until that mosquito died, nobody got any sleep.
But I hated those mosquitoes. And most people don’t -- "Mosquitoes? Why were there there mosquitoes up there?" Because there’s tons of water up there!
And I think, you know, another thing is that as far as the water goes, if the permafrost -- if everything doesn’t thaw out, you know -- because somebody said the last few summers here you guys have gotten a lot of rain?
KAREN BREWSTER: This summer in particular. Not last summer, but this summer.
BOB BISHOP: Because I know in sixty -- was it ‘67 when they had the flood here in Fairbanks? And I read about that and I’m going, it didn’t rain the whole time I was there, you know.
KAREN BREWSTER: Like last summer, we had a hot, dry summer. So it depends.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So was there fear of the forest fires then coming very close to the launch sites if it was that dry those summers?
BOB BISHOP: I didn’t worry about it. No. I mean everything was -- in the launch site there was no plants or anything. Well, there was grass, but that never got watered or anything.
And then outside of the fence, there was maybe twenty, twenty-five feet where the trees didn’t come right up to the fence.
So -- but, yeah, I mean, that surprised me, because I don’t remember any rain when I was here. Snow? Yeah. But rain, no.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, you had talked about, you know, feeding the dogs and taking care of them. You also had to clean up the kennels?
BOB BISHOP: Right. Well, that’s why I said in the summer we had water. And the kennels had a trough where you could squirt everything into the trough and then --
KAREN BREWSTER: I was going to say, where did it all go?
BOB BISHOP: Out in the launching area someplace. It was during the winter it was a little bit more difficult, because then you were chipping the urine and dog feces and whatnot.
But then you just swept it up into a bucket and, yeah, just walked outside the kennels and did away with it.
So that was, you know, a little bit more work.
And then the doghouses, we never used them as far as -- they had a sliding door that you could put -- tell the dog to get in his doghouse and then he’d go in, and then you could slide a door down, and it would close it up so he couldn’t get out.
But it was a rectangle and -- so the dog would go in here. Then it would turn and come back this way, and then we had hay in there for them to sleep in so they could stay a little bit warm.
You know that’s why, you know, I don’t think they ever wanted us to bring them into the guard shacks or anything like that, because they didn’t want them to get used to being warm during the -- but we all did.
Just because I have to be out here, it doesn’t mean that you have to be out here all the time either, you know. You can come in with me. So --
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I would think after eighteen months you would’ve bonded pretty closely with that dog.
BOB BISHOP: Yeah. Yeah. You got to -- well, the first dog I had was King.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And that was the one that had no handler?
BOB BISHOP: Had had no handler. Then Eitner, he was from New Jersey. He was getting rotated out. And he had Silver, so --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So the dogs didn’t leave with the people? The dogs stayed?
BOB BISHOP: No, he -- No, not necessarily.
Eitner was going to go to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, and they didn’t have dogs there. That’s a whole -- another story.
Anyway, and Silver was a real good jumper, and he was a little bit more vicious. I mean, he was probably the most vicious dog we had up there.
So he wanted me to have him. So then I started working with him and then they sent King back to the States.
Now King might’ve been a little bit older, too.
I talked to somebody down in Anchorage that was at A Battery, ’67 and ‘68. He says he remembered the dog Fritz and Buddy, and those two dogs were there when I was there.
But he couldn’t remember any of the other dogs. I’m sure Silver was probably, you know, sent back home or whatever, because he was -- he was not real old, but he was gettin’ up there.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Was there a retirement age for dogs? Like when they hit ten or eight it’s time to --?
BOB BISHOP: I think it all depends on what was going on with them. You know, I mean, I’m sure that there would be other places in the U.S. where there was the dogs where the climate wouldn’t be so bad for them. But I don’t know.
KAREN BREWSTER: And German shepherds do have a history of hip problems, so it may be after a certain point --
BOB BISHOP: Yeah. But I know Silver was a great jumper and he was still able to jump, you know, but --
KAREN BREWSTER: You had mentioned that case were that one dog died. BOB BISHOP: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: Did that happen any other time or just the one dog?
BOB BISHOP: Just -- as far as I know that -- just that one time.
KAREN BREWSTER: And how did you -- how was that for you handlers? Was that difficult?
BOB BISHOP: We didn’t like it. You know, I mean, we, you know, blamed it on the god-damned Army, you know, I mean somebody -- somebody from the hospital should’ve sent that guy out to come get his dog, take care of his dog regardless, you know.
And -- or take the dog and bring it back to Lackland, do something, because that was just -- that was just a waste of a dog. You know.
And I like dogs. I like pets. So, I mean, yeah, everybody was upset with it that way.
But -- but they did rotate the dogs out, because when Eitner gave me his dog, he was gonna to be transferred to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.
And Lackland Air Force Base is in San Antonio, Texas. So he was, you know, the Army would give you transportation to your next post, of which they gave you a ticket from Fairbanks to Seattle.
And he figured with the money that he would’ve gotten, he could probably get home, scrounge up some money and get to Fort Chaffee, because he had like probably a month he was gonna take off anyway.
So then right before he was going to rotate, the Army said, "Uh, not so fast." They decided they were gonna send two dogs down to Lackland Air Force Base, and probably one of them was King.
So they threw him on an Air Force plane and they flew him to Lackland Air Force Base, so all he got for travel money was from San Antonio to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. So he did not get very much money for traveling.
KAREN BREWSTER: You also mentioned this -- the biting. And there was accidents where guys got bit. Can you talk about that?
BOB BISHOP: Sure. Some guys did some things different than maybe I did. My dog was noted to be somewhat more vicious maybe than the others.
And I, if I was working the dog I never took the collar off or put the choke chain on. I always left the leather collar on. So I would go to the guard station with the two guards in it.
I would take the leather leash, put it to the inside of the door handle and close the door. So the dog was outside and we were inside.
And some of the guys -- maybe their dog wasn’t quite as vicious or maybe, you know, learned enough that -- you wouldn’t want to move fast, but if he was inside the guard shack these two people were maybe okay. I would never do that with Silver.
So -- and sometimes you -- you lose track of time a little bit because you're BS-ing with everybody and stuff.
And I’d think, "Oh, crap! It’s almost midnight." And we looked up and there was two -- two of the guards coming up, Fitzherbert and little Bishop, I think.
KAREN BREWSTER: You were Big Bishop?
BOB BISHOP: Yeah. And they’re supposed -- at night you’re supposed to call, regardless of who you are, Post #2 and if not, Post #1 and find out where the dog handler is.
KAREN BREWSTER: So they were coming out for shift change?
BOB BISHOP: Right. And like I said, we were just sitting there BS-ing a little bit longer maybe than we should’ve. And I had my gloves on or whatever.
Went and opened up the door, grabbed for the leash and I lost it. My dog, pfftt, took off.
And once he knew that he was free to bite somebody, he was gonna bite somebody. And he bit Fitzherbert. Got him in the arm and the behind.
And Fitzherbert, I was almost kind of glad that he bit him. He could be a pill.
The thing is he was RA, regular Army. He got up to Alaska and, I mean, he just hated the Army.
And Little Bishop was a draft dodger and he hated the Army even more. And they were always bitchin’ about this and that and so on and so forth.
And, I mean -- I mean, that’s all they ever talked about was how much they hated the Army! Well, that gets a little tiresome after a while ven though you hate it that much --
And matter of fact I talked to both of them not too long ago, and Fitzherbert said the only the reason he hated -- Fitzherbert was a choo-choo guy. He liked trains, trolleys, trams, any of that kind of stuff.
And there weren’t any in Alaska except for the Alaskan Railroad. Now when he got sent down to Fort Lewis, Washington, I mean they had trolleys in town, and he was just happier than hell.
And he would go home on leave or he didn’t go home, he rode the Daylight and the whatnot down the coast to California and all over. I mean he was just a train guy.
And but he -- yeah, I mean that’s all they talked about is how much they hated the Army. And you just -- that wasn’t a very stimulating conversation. Because we all hated the Army one time or another.
KAREN BREWSTER: And you guys were isolated at a remote site.
BOB BISHOP: Yeah. Like I said, some people went out more than others. Some people found different things to do. They would be craze-ists, you might say.
KAREN BREWSTER: So with your dog biting these guys, were there repercussions?
BOB BISHOP: No. They were supposed to call and find out where the dog handler was. It was your fault.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
BOB BISHOP: And then another time I came out of the boiler room. And there were several doors to go into the boiler room that led outside.
And again it was probably around the shifts, you know. And I think I’d been messing around with, like the thirty-foot leash.
And two of the launcher guys went out this door and was walking down this path and I came out this door, but he was on the thirty-foot leash. And he heard them and he went running over this way and got the one kid.
Just so happened the kid was black. And after that, he was terrified of the dog.
After that he wouldn’t go anywhere until he found out where the dog handler was.
KAREN BREWSTER: And what about other dogs? Were there other accidents? Those were two where you were involved.
BOB BISHOP: You know I really don’t know. There could have been. I just didn’t hear about it.
Because the other two dog handlers, I basically never saw them. I mean, they were either on duty or off. If I was on duty, then they were somewhere else, so I mean, we never -- we hardly ever saw each other.
KAREN BREWSTER: At shift change you’d see each other? BOB BISHOP: No. KAREN BREWSTER: No?
BOB BISHOP: The dog handlers would come down. They’d be on a bus. They would just turn in their badges and whatnot and get the one that hung.
And then they would drive in and, oh, I might wave to them or something like that, but then -- then I was on the bus going back up.
If -- I was I wasn’t getting paid to be an NCO, so I wasn’t going to do NCO work. That was another gripe I had, but that’s all right.
But yeah, I mean one of the other dogs could have bit some other people, I just didn’t hear about it.
I know that one of the other duties of the dog handlers were -- or was the boiler room. And there was two boilers. One that went mostly continuously all the time.
And the other one was kind of like a backup. And they had different gauges on them and everything.
So my training with the boilers was, "You see that dial there? You see where it’s red? If the needle goes in the red, see if you can turn it off and then run like hell."
And so that was one of the other things the dog handlers were supposed to do.
Now Armed Forces Day, some colonel or general or whatever had a bright idea that they had one dog from each battery come down for Armed Forces Day and put on a show for the local folks.
So they had an obstacle course like we had, you know, set up and everything.
And like I said, not only did my dog not like the dog that lived next to him, he didn’t like any of the dogs from the other batteries either. And we’re standing like dog handler, dog, dog handler, dog. Five of us.
And I told this officer, “I think we’re a little too close to each other.” Because we’re only five feet away.
Well, a leash is three or four feet, and two leashes, four feet, make eight. And Silver’s there, you know, heel position and it was the left-hand side.
He’s lookin’ straight ahead but his eyes are this way. He’s looking at that other dog. And he’s making up his mind, should I bite him now or later?
And he started to go and I pulled back on the leash and said, “Cut it out,” you know.
And the officer comes by and goes, “Can’t you control your dog?” I almost let the dog go after him. "No, I can’t."
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So they didn’t wear muzzles for this event?
BOB BISHOP: No. No. I mean that was so stupid. If a leash had broke or something like that, these dogs would have done some damage to some of the fair citizens of Fairbanks.
Which I really wouldn’t have cared about that much, but, I mean, still, there could have been kids, you know. So, I mean, I’m going, like, who came up with this idea?
But it was part of the Armed Forces Day show, so I made sure the next year that, "Uh! Not going. I did it last year, someone else can go."
KAREN BREWSTER: So your dog didn’t attack the other dog?
BOB BISHOP: No, no. He wanted to. Definitely wanted to. I don’t think people realized really how vicious these dogs were.
They -- their enjoyment was biting somebody. That’s what they were trained to do.
They were -- when their life was over as a sentry dog, they put them to sleep.
There was no retirement in some mom and pop family with kids or anything like that, because the Army knew that it wouldn’t work out. They were put to sleep.
They were just vicious, vicious dogs. Except for the dog handler.
And sometimes -- I mean, I think one, you know, I think -- I think Joe D. Myers’ dog, Buddy, snapped at him once and got him in the thumb or something, you know.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: I was going to ask, did they ever turn on you as a handler?
BOB BISHOP: If they did, it was just because they were having a bad day or something. Or you were taking away something sooner than he thought. Maybe his dog bowl shouldn't have been taken away or something stupid like that.
But I think -- I think -- I know I never got bit by my dog. But I think Joe did. I mean it was just a nip, just broke the skin on his thumb or something.
But I think Buddy had a tendency to like to do that anyway. Not necessarily a lovebite either, you know.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So you didn’t wear thick gloves when you were handling them or anything?
BOB BISHOP: Oh yeah, we did when we were out on -- during the winter, but during the summer, no.
KAREN BREWSTER: And so you lived in the barracks on the site? BOB BISHOP: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: Because you were single. I assumed at nineteen you were still single? BOB BISHOP: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: And so what was that like?
BOB BISHOP: Different. You have to remember when you go through basic you’re sleeping with forty of your closest friends.
And when you’re going to AIT, which is like MP school. AIT is advanced, or they call it Advanced Infantry Training. But if you went to MP school, they just still called it AIT. Once again you’re sleeping with forty of your best friends.
But when we got up there, the second floor was sleeping quarters. Downstairs was supply room, laundry room, security office, orderly room, the captain’s office. There was a small PX. There was a photo lab, a day room, TV room, a shuffleboard and a pool table, and then all the rest was mess hall. And a bathroom, I guess.
Or did we have to go upstairs to go to the bathroom? I don’t remember.
So upstairs, one end of the building was kind of like for unmarried or married NCOs that didn’t bring their wives up because if they brought their wives up they were gonna have to stay in, you know, Fairbanks longer. Some of them said they didn’t want to stay that long.
And a few warrant officers. And then they had rooms for four bunks to a room.
And when I got there, it was the IFC guys and the headquarters guys, which included the MPs, had rooms. And then all the rail apes were in a great big squad bay.
Something happened. I don’t know what caused it. All I know is I came back up to the top of the hill and they said, “You’re all moving into the squad bay.” The MPs and headquarters company.
And I think that the rail apes were saying, "Well, we don’t get the sleep that we want to get." Well, what about the MPs?
So they put us in the squad bay, which was okay because , like again, for the dog handler, I was only up there two days and then I was down in the launching area for two days.
But we had a couple of people that were certified -- certifiably insane. Ned Smith liked to get drunk, go into town and beat up people. And he did.
And you know, he used to tell us all these stories and everything and -- Yeah, yeah. Sure, Ned. Sure, sure, sure. When I left here, I went down to Redstone Arsenal and I just happened to notice -- they made me a company clerk down there at the MP company, and I noticed there was a guy there from the same city that he came from -- Wilkes-Barre, PA.
And I asked him, “Do you know Ned Smith?” He looked at me. He says, “Oh, don’t tell me you know that son of a gun.”
And -- ‘cause he knew that he had gotten drafted, but he didn’t know when. And I’ve come to find out that everything he told us was true.
KAREN BREWSTER: So yeah. I mean, how did people get along with each other? And was there a hierarchy?
BOB BISHOP: Sometimes very well. It all depended if you were drunk or not. Primarily.
You know, I mean, some people liked their privacy a little bit more than others. You know, some people want it quieter when they want to sleep. I mean, there always seemed like there was noise going on.
I know, like, Jim Smith. He would come back from town. He’d have the heat on, and he’d climb into bed. Maybe he couldn’t go to sleep or whatever.
“Well, if I can’t sleep, no one’s gonna sleep!” And he’d go pushing people out of their bunks and all this kind of stuff.
But one big ruckus in the living quarters one night --
LESLIE McCARTNEY: What happened?
BOB BISHOP: I got my Dear John letter. KAREN BREWSTER: Aw!
BOB BISHOP: Which I knew it was coming anyway. I mean, it wasn’t that we had planned to get married or anything. It was a girl I had dated the last couple of years of high school.
And the medic, his name was Savage, he decided we had to go out and get drunk.
So we went out and got drunk. And I guess I went into a blackout because we had drank a lot.
And I guess -- I remember going back to the barracks. I remember wanting to fight everybody, which wasn’t really my nature or anything.
And I know I picked on one of the strongest guys I had ever met in my whole life. And, you know, there was a lot of yelling and stuff and whatnot, and I guess the officers were getting a little concerned what was, you know, going on down in the squad bay, etcetera, etcetera.
So somebody went out, dug through the snow, threw me in the hole and covered me up. I just remember being really, really cold.
Now obviously they did dig me up maybe a half an hour later, whatever, which I’m surprised that they remembered to do it.
And, you know, being an MP you always kind of have your stuff squared away anyway, so I had my uniform all ready to go because next morning I was going to go on to duty anyway.
And so I got dressed. I was hung over. I had a black eye. I mean I just looked terrible.
So I put on a pair of sunglasses, walked down to the security office. We were doing our guard mount inspection.
Sergeant Gibbs looks at me and goes, "Private Bishop," or “PFC Bishop, we do not wear sunglasses at guard mount.” So -- “Okay, Sergeant." So I took them off and he looked at me and he said, “Put ‘em back on.”
KAREN BREWSTER: So you socialized with each other? Was there a hierarchy of you're MPs, you only hang out with other MPs?
BOB BISHOP: Well, there wasn’t a hierarchy, but in a way there was. All promotions were going to go to IFC guys or launcher people.
The only -- the whole time I was there, the only way if a guard got promoted was through Soldier of the Month. And I was there for -- I think it was three months -- and our first sergeant, Bell, he told me a couple of days beforehand that you’re going to go for Soldier of the Month next Monday morning or whatever.
Okay. So, make sure everything was all top-notch and so forth. I went down for Soldier of the Month.
I went through the little ceremony stuff and everything, but I had worn -- I don’t even know what you call it, but it was a thing to keep your collar shirts, you know, flaps down. You know, straight.
And I guess when I had saluted they popped out, and they didn’t like that. But Sergeant Bell said, “If that hadn’t happened, you’d be walking out of here a E-4.”
So I was a PFC for the rest of the time that I was there -- or for, you know, my whole time there.
And I made a lot of people very angry when I got down to Redstone Arsenal at the 291st MP company, because I had more time in grade than anybody, and that meant I was going to get the next promotion that came down.
Plus the fact they made me the company clerk and I was gonna get it anyway then.
But yeah. Various -- they did -- maybe the cooks and whatnot. Maybe they got the whatnot, but they didn’t like -- they weren’t gonna give the MPs a promotion.
Every MP got it through Soldier of the Month. That way it was a way that it wasn’t allocated against the unit you might say.
Now Corporal Jordan did not like it if MPs talked to other people. But when he left then we talked to other people because I thought that was kind of stupid.
I mean, just because they gotta live with you guys and talk to you guys when we’re on duty and all this kind of stuff -- hey, I want some fresh stories.
So I had no hesitation, you know, about -- now once again, you weren’t -- maybe you wouldn’t be talking about certain job-related things.
Or if you did and you asked a dumb question, they would just say, “Don’t ask that.” Okay.
But as a whole the rail apes kinda stuck around with the rail apes. Maybe headquarters company, which is the cooks, the guards, the medics and whatnot, maybe they had a tendency to stick -- because we were living together.
And then IFC guys, but I always tried to be, you know, nice to everybody. Why -- you don’t need to make yourself a enemy or anything.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: You said you were there until ’67? BOB BISHOP: No. KAREN BREWSTER: ’65.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: '65. So did you put in to be transferred out or was it just time in the Army for you to move on?
BOB BISHOP: When you went to Alaska it was for eighteen months. LESLIE McCARTNEY: Eighteen months, that's what you said, yeah.
BOB BISHOP: Unless you were married and you brought your dependent. Then it was -- I want to say two and a half years, but it might have been three years.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So when you were posted out was it still in the position of a dog handler then? BOB BISHOP: No.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you stayed in the Army?
BOB BISHOP: Well, I stayed until I got out. I mean --
KAREN BREWSTER: So your eighteen months wasn’t, I’m done with the Army I can leave now? You had more to serve?
BOB BISHOP: No. No, no. Because I was regular Army and I enlisted and that was for three years. And the draftees had two years. So the draftees --
KAREN BREWSTER: So a draftee could get released after their time -- ?
BOB BISHOP: Eighteen months, but you did, like -- basic training was basically two months. Basic and AIT was basically two months, so that would’ve been twenty-two months.
And a draftee was two years, twenty-four months, so the Army usually let them out early.
KAREN BREWSTER: But so you still had time to serve, so that’s where you went to this --
BOB BISHOP: Right. Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, in Alabama. Okay. BOB BISHOP: Huntsville.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: And is it also a missile site? No -- it’s just --
BOB BISHOP: Well, in a way.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Okay. How was it “in a way”?
BOB BISHOP: They had a lot of missile people there.
I did the schooling, but that was also Werner Von Braun’s main office. That was all NASA.
It was about ten thousand, probably more now, of civilian employees at Redstone Arsenal. That’s where they made all the missiles for the moon shots and stuff.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you said you were a clerk there? Or did you MP?
BOB BISHOP: I was sent to an MP company, but when I walked in the door the first sergeant more or less asked me, “Can you type?” They knew I had gone a year of college because they had gotten some of my records.
And -- and I was -- I didn’t want to be in a guard shack anymore, saluting cars coming in and all that kind of stuff that I would have been doing, etcetera.
And I knew exactly -- as soon as he said can you type -- I knew what he was gonna to ask me. So I kind of played like, oh I don’t know. Oh yeah, sure I’ll do it top. Going like, oh thank you!
KAREN BREWSTER: So a couple of more questions back on your Alaska part. We talked about what people did. They’d come to town and go to bars.
Were there other recreational things you did -- like outdoor -- I mean you were outdoors walking the dogs. Maybe you didn’t want to, but -- ?
BOB BISHOP: Well, like, I’ll say it again. I wasn’t for all of them, but they did have a USO show come up maybe every six months. And it was just a, you know, crappy band, some pretty girls to look at, and whatnot. But it was something different.
KAREN BREWSTER: And was that at Eielson or Wainwright?
BOB BISHOP: No. Right at the battery. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh! Right at the battery.
BOB BISHOP: Up in the IFC area. And -- but if you were on duty, they only had put on one show so you missed it. So some of the guards never got -- never went to a USO show.
I know on the longest day of the year, was it June 21st, 22nd? The USO had a -- well, the -- the Riverboat Discovery. I did that.
We had, I guess, some kind of a woodworking shop. I was told that we had one, but I never saw it. But things -- like I said, things would come in fads.
And somebody made a -- like a driftwood lamp. And then thirty-five other guys did.
And then some of the guys maybe had their pistols sent up and then there was a whole bunch of guys, you know, bought leather holsters and then engraved them. You know that kind of stuff.
KAREN BREWSTER: Crafts kinda? BOB BISHOP: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: And you said you had a pool table and --
BOB BISHOP: Yeah. Shuffleboard. Now we also had a little small PX. That would probably be -- let’s say from here to the wall there.
KAREN BREWSTER: So, like eight feet? Ten feet?
BOB BISHOP: Yeah, maybe eight feet. Maybe not even that big. But we sold a lot of stuff in there.
You know, cigarettes and soap and washing detergent. Sodas, Vienna sausages, camera stuff, film, beer.
Just about -- if somebody wanted something from the PX, we would see if we could find it and then we would sell it to them.
But I worked there for maybe nine months. And that kind of really kept me in -- kind of locked to the battery. Because on the two days I was in the launching area I couldn’t work in the PX.
So when I came up, then I had the two days off, I would do the PX thing. And that -- it opened from maybe twelve thirty to one o’clock in the afternoon and then after the dinner mess hall maybe from seven to ten.
And we got paid extra money for that. I mean, that was -- it wasn’t Army. That was the post exchange people.
And we had -- they had movies. Four or five years old, but they were movies. I know the chaplain used to come, I think once a month. Then we had the photo lab.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So lots of extra things.
BOB BISHOP: Yeah. And one of the guys, he was a photo-lab nut.
Well, on that CD there’s some pictures of the missiles, and they’re all black and white because I don’t think we had -- or the Army wasn’t going to pay for the stuff to do color film.
But I think Al, he bought that stuff anyway because he wanted to do color film.
But -- and then they had some weights and whatnot, so if you wanted to lift weights. Just weights, you know, nothing fancy or anything.
And I know some guys -- we were allowed to have, like, tables where our bunks were where you could put maybe a radio player, radio, or something like that. And I know some guys had like false bottoms in there where they could put in a bottle or something.
And of which they used regularly. And it was one thing if your beer or your soda you bought wasn’t cold enough, well, they had where you could open up the window and all you had to do was leave it out for like two minutes and it was -- got just as frosty as you want it to be.
Then I drove some people nuts. In the squad bay, because you had so many people in there, it would start to stink after a while.
Not because people were unwashed. It just stunk. You know, and it never got aired out.
So when I was up, I’d open up one of those little door things, and of course the temperature in there dropped to like minus twenty or whatever.
And -- but nobody got out of bed to close them. And I didn’t because I was the one that opened it. So I remember one of the guys saying, “Who in the hell was the idiot that used -- ?” "I did." So -- But --
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, you didn’t -- I had asked before about drinking on-site. So -- BOB BISHOP: That’s what I was saying --
KAREN BREWSTER: So people were drinking when they weren't supposed to?
BOB BISHOP: Well, no. You could drink at the battery because they sold beer. It was beer. KAREN BREWSTER: They sold beer? Whoa.
BOB BISHOP: It might have been 3.2 beer. That’s what everybody said. I think it was just the regular beer, but yeah, we sold -- we sold beer.
But some people like stimulants a little bit stronger, perhaps. But I mean, if you were on duty -- I don’t remember anybody drinking while they were on duty.
Now some of the guards, a few of them, they didn’t even drink at all. So --
KAREN BREWSTER: And were there parties? Did the base hold parties at -- Christmas parties or other things or people had their own spontaneous parties?
BOB BISHOP: See, I -- if they had some of that stuff, I might have been working. But I know that -- I think a couple times during the summer they, like had a beer bust using PX money.
And I think somebody had gotten hold of some moose meat or something. So they were having moose burgers or whatnot.
And I know that probably happened maybe three times during the summer months.
The PX money was something -- was whatever we bought for the PX and we sold, part of that went to the -- to the battery.
And with that money, they had to buy stuff that was from the PX. So like when I was at the 291st, our PX money would come in from the PX that went to all the units whatever base you were on. Now they might save up their money and buy like a colored TV set.
Or maybe they would resurface -- they could resurface, I think, like the pool tables and stuff like that.
But supposedly the PX money was supposed to have been spent at the PX. So PX sells beer, so then you could have a beer bust.
And on Thanksgiving and Christmas, you had to wear your Class A uniform. And some of the officers and NCOs wore their army blues. But you could bring your wife and dependents to the mess hall, and basically it was everything from soup to nuts.
I mean, it was a big seven-course meal. And that was always a tradition. And that kind of made it where you would know -- I mean the guys that were married, you had no idea what their wives looked like or whatnot. It was a way to kind of -- Oh! Maybe this guy is normal, or human or something.
But, you know, I mean, it was just a whole bunch of monotony to a certain extent.
Now we had -- somebody again had done something. The company commander or battery commander put us on some kind of like -- the whole company was on a work detail. I forget what the technical term is.
And they were trying to figure out, what in the hell can we make the guards do?
So they decided we were going to go out in the woods, cut down trees, and build a frame to put up over the dog kennels so the snow wouldn’t blow in and whatnot. So we built that.
And surprisingly, because that would’ve been 1964, the guys that were there in ’67 and ‘68 said it was still almost standing.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Bob, what else did you have on your list there that you had thought of?
BOB BISHOP: Well, okay. Let’s see. We did that. Weather, blah, blah, blah. Job, shack, dog handlers. Inspection, the kennel, Armed Forces, daily vet, dead dog --
We had a Sergeant Burns that replaced Sergeant Gibbs. Because he went home.
And he was a line company MP. In other words, he was from an MP company and they wore all this -- ‘cause we just wore an MP brassard and -- and a forty-five. And as -- they would say very RA-ish. In other words, you know, "Hey, hey, you know. MP, blah blah blah."
And then we get into the controversy of Big Bishop and Little Bishop.
And Little Bishop hated the Army. They always said that -- I saw the battery clerk about a year after I got out of the service. I got out early because of my hardship discharge.
And I just happened to be back in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and I ran into him.
And he said the first sergeant -- they never knew -- they would’ve maybe tried to promote you, but they could never tell which one was which. I’m 6’3” and the other guy was six -- or 5’ 6”.
The other guy was losing all his hair, etcetera, etcetera. But anyway they could never tell us apart.
So as it’s starting to get cold out here and it was a little bit further into the -- maybe the month of October.
And I believe they let the dog handlers start wearing their wool shirts and parka. We hadn’t switched over to the boots or anything, but still, because we were outside. And the guards still had to wear their fatigues.
So we’re doing guard mount, and we had to stop doing guard mount in the security office. The MPs had to take care of the laundry room. So we were doing guard mount in the laundry room, which is -- right across the hall was the door into the orderly room where the first sergeant and everybody was. The commander and so forth.
So Bishop, Little Bishop comes down. He wasn’t a dog handler and he’s wearing a parka. And Sergeant Burns looked at him and he goes, “Bishop, the uniform of the day is a field jacket.”
And Little Bishop goes, “Parka.” “No, I said field jacket.” “No, I said parka.” They started yelling at each other.
I mean it was, "Field Jacket!", you know. "No, it’s parka!" First sergeant’s coming out, lookin’ at ‘em, thinking, "What in the hell’s going on here?"
And thinking well, let’s see if this NCO can take care of this, you know, problem. Which he didn’t handle very well. Because if I remember correctly Bishop went down wearing his parka regardless. But he was very much disliked.
KAREN BREWSTER: The sergeant was?
BOB BISHOP: The sergeant was. Well, so was Little Bishop, but that’s besides the point.
But everybody -- you were on call basically twenty-four hours a day. Who's up all night? The guards. So --
The only outside line was in Lieutenant Gettinger’s office. So they would just call up Sergeant Burns two or three times a night and wake him up. Not leave a message or anything or whatnot.
And I found out after I left, it went on for several more months and basically he turned himself into the psychiatric ward. He just couldn’t take all these telephone calls.
The guys were harassing him. And so I mean, if you have a guy that you didn’t like, I guess, you know, you could do one thing or another.
KAREN BREWSTER: And so Gibbs was this Sergeant? BOB BISHOP: Before Burns.
KAREN BREWSTER: When you first got there? BOB BISHOP: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: So he was the sergeant for the MPs?
BOB BISHOP: Right. And he was a nice guy. Matter of fact, he died not too long ago, but he was Highway Patrol for New Hampshire or Maine or Massachusetts, one of those places.
KAREN BREWSTER: So what did you go on to do after you left the Army?
BOB BISHOP: I went to UC Berkeley. Criminology. And then I got out -- or graduated.
I had a whole bunch of jobs lined up. The bottom fell out of the aerospace industry much like Silicon Valley today, and I was no longer qualified for any job. They all wanted people with MA/MBs because they could get them.
So I had gotten married, so I kinda worked for my father-in-law, which wasn’t a good idea.
And I ended up actually doing gardening. I was -- I was still on the list fifteen years later to become a probation officer in San Jose. That’s how bad -- when that all happened, it just -- it just happened.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: So reflecting back on your time here in Alaska, how -- was that a good experience? Was it negative? How do you look back when you look back on it?
BOB BISHOP: Love/hate. I remember one of the sergeants. Like I said, where the sergeants and the warrant officers -- because we didn’t have any lieutenants or anything that lived in the thing -- but you could come up the back way from the security office and there was a window that looked out all up -- because the IFC area was at Moose Creek, the bluffs on top.
So they had a very nice view. I know one of the sergeants came by. He says “There’s more guys that look out that window.” Just homesick or something like that, you know.
But yeah, I mean where else could I get tormented by mosquitoes for months?
I mean, I saw the, you know, the longest day of the year where it never got dark. I saw the shortest day of the year where it was light for twenty minutes and went dark.
I saw the northern lights more times than I can remember. And that was very, very interesting, and it wasn’t like you were looking out in the distance. You were looking -- you know, it almost seemed like straight up.
And we used to get just on a regular radio Thule, Greenland Armed Forces station. Then there was a rock station. They said it was in San Francisco, but actually it was Oakland. KEWB.
We would maybe get that for maybe four hours a night sometimes during the winter, just because of the way things were.
And that kind of stuff. So, I mean, it was, like, completely alien to a certain extent. So, I mean, it was interesting. But it was too cold.
KAREN BREWSTER: But are you glad you had the experience?
BOB BISHOP: Oh yeah. I -- you know, it’s like like anything else. There’s always a little good and a little bad.
LESLIE McCARTNEY: Well, you’re at the Nike reunion, so you’re obviously still in touch with some people. That must mean something.
BOB BISHOP: Well you know, it took me a long time. There was one guy. Wilbur Bobbitt. He was from Texas. And I had gotten his name off the Internet. Oh, it had to be, well, maybe twenty years ago.
And when my son was younger he’d see that -- "Who’s this guy?" "I was in the Army with him." Oh, okay. Well, five years later, "Is this the same guy?" "Yeah." "You ever got hold of him?" "Nah. I’ll do it one of these days."
You know, and three or four years go by and he goes, "You contacted this guy yet?" "No." "Hey, Dad, you’re not getting any younger."
So I wrote him. Well, when I went to the Google Earth and found the launching area and printed it out and just said, "If you were here when I was here, you know, here’s my telephone number." His wife told me later that about three seconds after he read the letter, he called me.
So yeah, there’s -- there’s -- normally A Battery kinda has their own little reunion, and we've been doing it for maybe seven, eight years now.
But the last couple of years we went with the bigger one. One because it was in San Francisco, and -- and then this.
There was like, "Oh, we gotta do it, you know". Matter of fact I was talking -- well, when you called and my line was busy this afternoon? It was one of the guys that was going to come, and he called me saying, "How’s it going? Having fun?" and all that kinda stuff.
And I've never been -- every time I've tried to switch callers over, I always -- everybody disappears. So that’s why I didn’t answer.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, we we’re done with this tape so, unless we want to keep going, I’d say --
BOB BISHOP: Well, I got just a couple of other things that you might find funny. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.