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John Haile Cloe, Part 1

John Haile Cloe was interviewed on September 21, 2016 at the Baranof Hotel in Juneau, Alaska by Karen Brewster. John lives in Anchorage, but he and Karen were both in Juneau for the 2016 Alaska Historical Society and Museums Alaska joint annual conference, so it was a good opportunity to do an interview. John is a former member of the US Air Force and was on active duty in Alaska during part of the Cold War era, and is retired as historian with the US Air Force at Joint Base Fort Richardson/Elmendorf in Anchorage, Alaska. In this first part of a two part interview, John talks about the history of the Cold War in Alaska and Alaska’s role in the Cold War and the impact it had on Alaska and Alaskans. He discusses the strategic importance of Alaska, Alaskan military operations, and the economic, military, social, and political implications of the Cold War in Alaska. He also talks about the impact of the military on Alaska 's Native people and the legacy of the Cold War.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2014-18-14_PT.1

Project: Cold War in Alaska
Date of Interview: Sep 21, 2016
Narrator(s): John Haile Cloe
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Denali Whiting
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Historical Commission, Alaska Humanities Forum, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


Personal background and military service

Coming to Alaska, and planning military training exercises

Beginning of the Cold War, and Alaska warning and detection infrastructure

Importance of Alaska's location during the Cold War, and missile defense systems

Changing technology in weapon systems

Alaska's contribution to the Cold War, and competition between the United States and the Soviet Union

Impact of the Cold War on Alaska

Strategic importance of Alaska, and different practices in World War II and the Cold War

Russian and American planes flying along Alaska's coast, and a U-2 plane landing at Kotzebue

Use of spy planes and satellites for surveillance, and airplane crashes

Rumors about Russians landing in Alaska and defecting

Training locals in Operation Washtub, and service in the National Guard and Alaska Territorial Guard

Opportunities for Native people in the military and the National Guard

Relationship between military sites and local communities

Changing technology and modernization

Secret versus public information

Negative and positive impact of the military on Alaska's Native people

Economic and social influence of the Cold War on Alaska

Legacy of the Cold War in Alaska

Role as Air Force historian

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.


KAREN BREWSTER: -- Brewster, and today is September 21st, 2016, and I’m here with John Cloe to talk about the Cold War in Alaska. And we happen to be at the Baranof Hotel in Juneau, although John lives in Anchorage. JOHN CLOE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And -- and was a Air Force historian in Anchorage. Is that correct, what you’ve retired from?

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, I was an Air Force historian, civilian type, from 1973 to 2006. And I was also in the active duty Army, National Guard, and Army Reserves from ’63 until ’92. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. JOHN CLOE: And with a -- retired with a rank of Colonel.

I was born in 1938, so that makes me, you know, one of the solid generation. I have memories of World War II and I have a lot of memories of the Cold War.

And come of age during the '50s and -- and then I -- went and graduated from college, I went on active duty with the army for ten years. And I was in Vietnam for two of those years as an Infantry Officer.

Then I was hired -- I got off of active duty, immediately went to work for the Air Force, and so I have a combination of active duty, reserve, military time served during the Cold War.

Plus documenting for the Alaskan Air Command, 11th Air Force.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And where were you born and where’d you grow up?

JOHN CLOE: Born in Northern Virginia, a place called Stafford County. It was a rural area then. It’s 48 miles south of Washington D.C.

And I went to Virginia Military Institute, graduated there in 1963, and I went on active duty immediately. Got married, went on active duty.

KAREN BREWSTER: And now did you -- you mentioned your military background just now, what about other training?

Did you have -- get training as a historian or how did you fall into that?

JOHN CLOE: No, I was trained as an infantry grunt, you know, basically. And went to -- After basic course at Fort Benning, Georgia and --

I remember this was the height of the Cold War, just right after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and, you know, basically I trained to go to Europe.

You know, all our training was oriented on Europe, of course. It was NATO commis -- commitment and stopping the Russian hoards from coming all across the bay -- off the border and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And then we got caught up in Vietnam during that time, which was part of the Cold War. It was sort of a major distraction from the Cold War.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, it was similar with stop the communists, right? JOHN CLOE: Yeah, well, basically stopping the communists. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JOHN CLOE: Containing them.

KAREN BREWSTER: So then how did you end up being stationed in Alaska?

JOHN CLOE: Well, I was going through the infantry advanced course, which is a nine-month course at Fort Benning, again. Training you for European war.

The air conditioning broke down in the quarters, I remember that. And I had just gotten back from a very hot country. And where in the world is it cold?

So I volunteered for Alaska. Got accepted here in Alaska. And at that time, Alaska was all the backwaters of the army, I remember that.

And, you know, the major threat that was not there like it was during the ‘50s --

You know, maybe we’ll probably get into it is (inaudible) pretty soon.

And we drove up the highway and I went to work as a exercise plans officer in the old G-3, which is training operations security section of the whole United States Army Alaska.

It was a major army command there and basically planning exercises where -- that were tailored against stopping the Russians from invading Alaska.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. Ex -- Can you give an example of one of those exercises?

JOHN CLOE: Basically, they were forward deployment. The threat at the time said that the Ala -- the Russians would occupy four positions in Alaska, like Nome, Kotzebue, people and the places on the periphery, by airborne assaults.

And then they would establish bases there and then they would further advance into the main base complexes, which were around Anchorage and Fairbanks.

So that was a threat, the Russians are coming across the border. So we would have to -- To counter that threat we would forward deploy our forces to these peripheral areas.

So there was a lot of air-lift involved, a lot of logistics involved getting people out there.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so the training was you actually did this by transporting -- ?

JOHN CLOE: We were training according to threat. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah. First thing, you need to assess the threat. Then you need to plan for the threat. And then you have to train for the threat. Yeah, the threat drives everything.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And then, we were talking before, the Nike missile sites in the '60s when you came, they were still active, right?

JOHN CLOE: They were still active. They were put in place to defend the main base complexes around --

Well, I say main base complexes, they're like Anchorage, Fort Richardson, Elmendorf. That was the main base. And then Fairbanks, Eielson, Fort Wainwright. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: So that’s where all the command and control, the headquarters, the -- most of the forces were located.

So, you know, the Russians went after them, they wanted to knock them out and knock out our capability. So the Nike sites surrounded these places.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And so did your training exercises include -- JOHN CLOE: We included -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- the Nike -- JOHN CLOE: With the Nikes, it’s all like a rear defense. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

JOHN CLOE: The primary forward defense we had air -- fighter interceptors (airplanes) stationed out at Galena and King Salmon. And they used, you know, a fifteen minute air defense alert.

And they could be reinforced doing contingencies by additional airplanes going out there. They would try to intercept the bombers as far out as possible. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

JOHN CLOE: Off the Alaska coast. As a matter of fact, they did a lot of intercepts. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, they did?

JOHN CLOE: Oh, yeah, the Russian bombers would fly into our -- not into our airspace, but paralleled our airspace. It looked like they were flying in they -- we would inter --

We would scramble the interceptors and they'd go out there and intercept the Russian bombers, and they’d wave at each other. And that type of thing.

You know, some pictures were taken of a Russian crewman holding up a can of Coke and all. Something like that.

KAREN BREWSTER: So they were just -- the Russians were coming close just sort of -- JOHN CLOE: Testing our -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- testing. Testing your -- our defense? JOHN CLOE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: And probably flying intelligence collection sites against our radar sites. See what the capabilities are.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I mean -- I was going to say, we had White Alice and DEW Line sites out along the coast -- JOHN CLOE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- monitoring as well, right?

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, basically after World War II had ended, you know, the Cold War hadn’t quite started. It started in -- basically, perking up -- well, Yalta was a turning point, so was Potsdam Conference.

And, you know, the Russians were allies during the World War II. Allies of convenience.

And, you know, Stalin made his famous speech to the Supreme Soviet that we need to maintain a military -- strong military posture against the Americans. And then Churchill's speech.

And then the, you know, famous long telegram. And I can’t remember the guy's name. Was a State Department employee. And there was a certain -- it was barely in the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: Everything heated up during the late '40s, and it really got into the Cold War during the '50s and --

The road to the Lower 48 at that time -- the best route for a bomber was over Alaska from Soviet bases in the far east. The shortest distance.

The Russian bomber fleet was not all that capable. They had copied our B-29, the Tu-4 Bear. They had copied our bomb that -- atomic bomb almost identical, copied one of those dropped on Nagasaki. Fat Man. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: The plutonium implosive bomb. And they figured -- the Americans figured that the Russians could do a one-way flight to Seattle and drop the bomb. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: So they built this huge infrastructure during the '50s in Alaska, and it consisted of a number of components.

One was the aircraft control and warning radar system (ACWS), not to be confused with the DEW Line system. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Which is, often it is. But it was a system of radars, surveillance radars, air control radars, command centers, you know, scattered all over Alaska. It was like nineteen sites at one point. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: And they would provide early warning, they would provide control for us to launch fighters against Russian bombers, and then the DEW Line was later added in across Alaska, Canada, and Greenland hooking in with the radars in Iceland.

And that provided a trip-wire capability to give warning that the bombers were coming across the polar region.

And then the main bases were defended at that time by tube artillery, anti-aircraft artillery, which were replaced by the Nikes a little late -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Technology changes. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: Very rapid.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then the White Alice -- JOHN CLOE: The White Alice was -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- was just communication? JOHN CLOE: -- a communication system that tied everything together. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: And it was a sys -- it was state of the art at the time. It consisted of these tropo (troposphere) sites, which, you know, you look at one and it’s these huge, you know, billboard type. It looks like a drive-in movie. KAREN BREWSTER: Right, right.

JOHN CLOE: Antenna. And then they had microwave at the line of sight and very expensive. Like 250 million dollars to build the thing and --

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, all of those sites between the ACWS and DEW Line and White Alice and then Nike, it’s been a huge investment from the military into Alaskan infrastructure.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, it was huge. It was -- You know, World War II picked up Alaska, put it on the map. They also had a huge infusion of cash and, you know the -- Ala -- Alaska -- Anchorage went from the third largest to the first largest within a matter of a year. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: Population-wise.

KAREN BREWSTER: Because -- because of Richardson and Elmendorf being developed?

JOHN CLOE: Fort Richardson and Elmendorf. You know, you build a big base next door, you know, and people need supplies and equipment and that type of thing. Services.

So, you know, you have the Pizza Huts and the laundries popping up.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. So Alaska’s role in the Cold War happened because of our location?

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, location. And then, you know, like I said before, it all went into the doldrums after the war and then quickly picked up during the Cold War and here comes another big chunk of cash coming in and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: With Cold War spending during the early '50s to, oh, late '50s.

Everything changed in ’57 with Sputnik. You know, we went from a bomber threat to a missile threat.

And there was a major reduction in forces up here during ’57. We had two air divisions, they were inactivated. We closed down like six or seven of the radar sites. Scaled back a lot, then.

KAREN BREWSTER: And is that because the technology couldn’t track missiles?

JOHN CLOE: Couldn’t -- Well, if you can’t defend against a missile then why bother with a bomber type thing.

Because the Russians had switched their nuclear delivery capability to missiles. They realized that, you know, they were vulnerable in bombers.

But, you know, you can’t stop a missile very easily. And they’re still trying to figure that one out with the missile defense system.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. So I'd say -- JOHN CLOE: Mm-hm. KAREN BREWSTER: Alaska hadn’t caught up yet with -- JOHN CLOE: The technology. KAREN BREWSTER: -- the missile defense technology? JOHN CLOE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: When -- when did that sorta start happening?

JOHN CLOE: It started happening -- you could at least give warning. The Clear -- the BMEW-- the Ballistic Early Missile Warning system. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: They put that in the late '50s, early '60s. And it consisted of three huge radar systems. One at Clear, Alaska. The other one at Thule, Greelend -- Greenland. And a third one at Flyingdale Moors in Yorkshire in Great Britain. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

JOHN CLOE: And they -- it’s like a big fan over the North Pole. And they would track missile -- incoming missiles with it.

And they could predict when they would land, they could predict where they would go into, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: With fairly accuracy.

KAREN BREWSTER: And the Nike sites also were monitoring for missiles or were they monitoring for bombers? JOHN CLOE: They were monitoring for bombers. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. JOHN CLOE: They had no missile capability. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

JOHN CLOE: They were kinda antiquated by then. KAREN BREWSTER: By the time they finished them.

JOHN CLOE: By the time they -- You know, they put them in and the old missiles -- the nuclear weapons delivery system changed.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And so with this -- Now, we’ve got incoming missiles we’re trying to protect against, so you say the missile defense system -- when did Alaska start having a miss -- actual missile defense that we could shoot missiles back?

JOHN CLOE: We have it now. It’s still being at Greenland. Not Greenland, Fort Greely. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. JOHN CLOE: Yeah, the missile -- you know, field up there. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: Is aimed at basically rouge nations. North Korea.

KAREN BREWSTER: But we -- didn’t that start like in the '80s, and then they -- it was defunct and they -- JOHN CLOE: They -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- started again, something like that?

JOHN CLOE: They -- under Reagan the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: -- the Strategic Missile Defense Initiative -- missile defense initiative, I -- Commonly referred as Star Wars. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: They came up with all kinds of systems for -- (coughing) getting a little horse here. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: -- for countering the missiles. And it never really got off the ground. A lot of technology involved and Alaska played a role in it.

Like they had -- they were -- not -- Let's see, I’m trying to remember. I know the Aleutians got involved in, because they put the -- Shemya was a surveillance platform for missiles, space missile development for the Soviet Union. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

JOHN CLOE: 'Cause they -- they compact -- The impact area for their missiles are on the Kamchatka Peninsula. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: So they had radar out at Shemya, the Cobra Dane. They had an NSA activity out there. And they sort of tracked it there.

And then they additionally, for Star Wars, they put a missile launch system out in Shemya. They only used it a couple times. And I’m not sure how the thing worked. I wasn’t privy to it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: But, basically, they shot a missile up in the air when the Russians were launching their missiles and got telemetric data, and then they parachuted out and there was a helicopter stationed over on Attu and went and picked up the payload package. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: And then they were -- The Army was supposed to base their RC-135 out there, we’d track it for Star Wars planning. And -- and it was only a short-lived project. QUEEN MATCH, I think they referred to it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, and all of it it sounds like the technology changes and we’re always a little behind. It takes us a while to catch up.

The Russians switched to missiles, we weren’t prepared to fight their missiles. It took us a -- 30 years to be able to have technology? JOHN CLOE: It was a --

KAREN BREWSTER: Is that an accurate assessment? JOHN CLOE: It was a little faster than 30 years. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

JOHN CLOE: And, yeah, if you go back to the cavemen days, you know, the first thing they started throwing clubs at each other.

Then somebody got the bright idea, why don’t we put a stone arrow on the head of it. Maybe it'll be a little more effective at penetrating the body.

Then somebody came up with the idea of a shield, and then you know it -- it’s constant, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: You know, I mean, that’s sort of a simplistic -- but -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Every time you develop a weapon system, somebody develops a counter weapon system.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I guess that was sort of my question is -- JOHN CLOE: Mm-hm. KAREN BREWSTER: -- how do you stay ahead of that? Is there a way to --

JOHN CLOE: Well, we’re always got -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- keep up and stay ahead? JOHN CLOE: -- the best scientists and best labs and best strategic thinkers and -- And you, you know, you’re always countering something, you know.

You know, we’re still into it, like countering the Russian -- they’re -- Now, the North Korea nuclear threat, we’re trying to come up with a missile defense system that'll counter that.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Right. So they’re -- the strat -- strategists are always trying to stay ahead of the game.

JOHN CLOE: Stay ahead of the game. Trying to figure what the Russians are doing today and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: I don’t think we’ll ever get into a war with Russia, you know. Both of us would annihilate each other. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: They realize it, we realize it, the world realizes it. But some idiot gets a hold of a nuclear weapon, you never can tell what’ll happen.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Well, isn’t sort of that the whole -- JOHN CLOE: Mm-hm. KAREN BREWSTER: -- status quo of the Cold War is -- JOHN CLOE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: We all knew that it could be the end and so nobody did -- fired anything?

JOHN CLOE: Yeah. We knew we had to keep a strong posture. Both sides realized that we didn’t want to start -- start launching nukes at each other.

And, you know, it would wipe out civilization. And then you had all those movies. You remember star -- Doctor Strangelove -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: You know, how he’s not -- You know, fail safe and how things went terribly wrong and launched a -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Well, it was like a standoff.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. So, what do you think Alaska’s contribution to the Cold War has been?

JOHN CLOE: Well, if -- The cockpit of the Cold War is obviously in Europe. That’s where all the forces were. Alaska’s on the periphery -- all they -- we were on -- we’re along the front line of that war.

The Soviets had developed forward bases in -- on the Chukotkski Peninsula, Tiksi, Anadyr, Provideniya, Mys Shmidta, where they could deploy -- forward deploy the bombers. And they could launch the bombers with nuclear weapons.

They’d have to fly across Alaska obviously to get to the targets. Or across Canada. They could come over the poles.

And it was probably -- it was the bomber threat primarily but -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: The Russians relegated the bombers to a secondary role. And the primary role was ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile). KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Later on submarine launch missiles. That’s where they put all the money. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: And the Russians really lagged us in missile development and nuclear capability and up until the Cuban Missile Crisis.

And I can’t remember the numbers, but we had overwhelming -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: -- missile superiority. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: And then Khrushchev called them and said we got to catch up. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: And they did. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Within -- In the early '70s, they were on par with us. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: There's been a lot of confusion with mutually assured destruction (MAD) and massive retaliation. I’ve read some of the contract that have produced studies and they keep talking and referring to MAD. But before MAD, there was massive retaliation.

We had overwhelming nuclear superiority over the Russians. We were very weak in conventional forces. And conventional forces are expensive to maintain. You’ve got to have a lot of GIs on the ground. Paying their salaries and everything.

So, okay, we’ll use a threat of nuclear weapons to counter the Russians. And it worked. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: Until the Cuban Missile Crisis and Russians realized they’d been humiliated; forced to back down.

Although, they got some compensation for it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: You know, we withdrew missiles from forward deployment in Turkey, for instance. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Secret protocol. And we said we weren’t going to invade Cuba, you know, like they were afraid we were going to do. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: But then it went into massive assured destruction, I mean, it’s -- okay, if you launch your missiles, we’re going to launch our missiles. And we each blow each other up.

KAREN BREWSTER: And do you think the military build-up in Alaska during the Cold War did anything to keep that MAD in place?

JOHN CLOE: Not really. Yeah, that’s secondary theater.

I remember seeing a highly classified briefing one time of what the Russians' capability was, and, you know, I remember they’re not going to bomb Alaska. If it is, they're going to drop a few nukes here and there.

Most of it’s going to the Lower 48 aimed at the missile fields, the commanding control centers. Colorado Springs, Omaha, Washington D.C. Trying to take those out.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you -- you did mention before what the Cold War brought to Alaska, which was money and infrastructure.

JOHN CLOE: A lot of money, a lotta people. And a lot of people stayed. You know, a lot of talent came up here. Got out, stayed.

You know, like Hamilton, for instance. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, the president of the university (Mark Hamilton, former president of the University of Alaska). JOHN CLOE: The president of the university here.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. What about any impacts politically or environmentally from the Cold War in Alaska?

JOHN CLOE: It was a tremendous impact environmentally. The feeling of the day, you emptied a 55-gallon drum, throw it over the bank. You know.

And that went on for years and years and years and years. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: Okay, we got a spill. Oh, tish tish. And that type of thing. How much gas did we lose? And the oil went in the ground, of course. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And then with the environmental movement starting in the '60s and the realization we’ve got messes we left, we gotta clean them up. And that’s on-going today.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And then politically, meaning -- Even now, Alaska is used as sort of a political -- I wanna say pawn. I don’t know that’s the right word. About our strategic location and --

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, that’s -- I remember in the '60s we had a massive reduction in the military. Late '50s.

And I remember Senator Gruening, remember he’s an old friend of the military. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

JOHN CLOE: And he was yelling about we -- they’re closing down Fort Wainwright, Ladd Field at the time. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: You know, this is going to be awful to us, we’re in a strategic location.

And the historian making the note, it’s more like economic. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, it's -- A lot of people, you know, they spend a lot of money and they, you know --

You know, the recent thing about shutting down the fighter squadron at Eielson (Air Force Base). KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: You've read about that, you know. We can’t shut it down ‘cause it’s strategically important.

And same thing happened at Fort Richardson with the airborne brigade. It’s -- you know, the politicians get involved because -- and it’s -- it’s universal throughout America, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: That you close down bases next to a town and, you know, obviously, you know, it’s a major economic -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: -- impact.

KAREN BREWSTER: And certainly in the Cold War with the threat of Russian bombers and missiles coming in, Alaska perhaps was strategically important. I don’t know. Versus nowadays, is it still?

JOHN CLOE: It is strategically important, in that, you know, by basing forces in Alaska, and they’ve proven this time and again, we can get to world locations in a lot quicker time than you can get from central United States. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: You know, you'd look at a map, you know, a great circle route going over the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: -- pole to Europe. And that’s one of the primary reasons we’ve got the base structure up here now is support those deployments. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: If we have to reinforce Europe in a hurry, it’s easier to get from here to there. KAREN BREWSTER: That’s true.

JOHN CLOE: Same way of going to the -- You know, people ask the question why don’t you base force -- more forces on Guam? Well, Guam’s a small place, you know. You can only put so much there. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: There’s just don't have the infrastructure.

You don’t have the training ranges that they have in Alaska. Like, they developed a huge training complex up where -- you know the location around Fairbanks. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Back in the '90s, early 2000’s, and that.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, speaking of training, I was wondering about you know -- the -- the shift from -- as you say World War II into the Cold War.

Did the military’s mission change and their training change in Alaska at that point?

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, World War II was spent, you know, fending off the Japanese in the west. And everything was focused on the Aleutians and the North Pacific region.

The threat was from Japan. We were not worried about Russia, you know, they were our allies -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right JOHN CLOE: -- at the time.

As soon as that war is over, the whole emphasis shifted. Okay, we’re defending to the north, northwest now, against Russian bombers. And Russian assaults. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And, you know, the Aleutians were abandoned, including all the stuff that was there -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: -- in the Aleutians.

And everything was moved to the main bases of (Fort) Wainwright and Fort Richardson. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Where the airfields, you know, were, of course.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And then, so is that a difference with -- like in the Aleutian campaign it was ground forces versus Cold War it was much more of an air, missile thing?

JOHN CLOE: It was air -- it was an air operation down there primarily. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JOHN CLOE: Naval air. Not too much ground. And --

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, in the Aleutians? JOHN CLOE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: It was mostly air operations in the Aleutians. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. JOHN CLOE: And you use ground to grab back Attu and Kiska, of course. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Then after the Aleutian campaign ended, we started launching bomber attacks against the northern and central Kuril Islands from Attu and Shemya. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And also loading naval bombardments against there.

Then the Kurils played a major role during the Cold War. And sort of a neglected part of our history.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, why don’t you tell me a little bit -- I know you have a book coming out about that, but -- JOHN CLOE: Oh yeah, the book just came out.

KAREN BREWSTER: But, I don’t know anything about the Kurils and the role in the Cold War, so what -- what was their role?

JOHN CLOE: Well, the Kurils belonged to the Japanese. They got it from the Russians from treaty except for the Southern Kurils, which were traditionally a part of their islands.

Then Roosevelt at Yalta gave the Kurils back -- all the Kurils to the Russians. And the Russians fortified them during the Cold War.

And it’s like a buffer, you know, against us. And it’s still -- military things are going on over there now, and --

KAREN BREWSTER: And would -- they would have been like a stepping stone from Russia, the Kurils, Alaska? JOHN CLOE: Yeah, it could be like that. KAREN BREWSTER: Kinda like that, okay.

JOHN CLOE: Well, we were planning to invade Japan, at least we thought we were trying to local -- from -- like use the Aleutians, Kurils, Hokkaido. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. JOHN CLOE: You know, on down.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. You had mentioned the Russian bombers, you know, coming up to our coast and being intercepted and they were sort of maybe checking things out.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, basically checking -- testing our defenses and testing our reaction and -- It’s an old cat and mouse game.

KAREN BREWSTER: And did we do that to them? Did we go out and --

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, we had planes that flew along their course -- coast. As a matter of fact, they had one of them got shot down and crash-landed on Gambell Island (means St. Lawrence Island and the village of Gambell). KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah. And -- that went -- that went on during the Cold War and they got sort of de-classified about twenty years ago.

We had some of our bomber crews wind up as prisoners of the Russians, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, really? JOHN CLOE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: So -- JOHN CLOE: Not from Alaska, but from elsewhere.

Then we had the famous incident during the Cuban Missile Crisis where we had a U-2 spy plane out. Was going to check over the North Pole. I think it was looking for nuclear fallout or weather or something. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: Launched at Eielson. The pilot got lost and wound up over the Kamchatka Peninsula.

And realized his mistake, you know, and he was running out of gas when he was way up there in the air and this thing could glide forever.

And he finally found out where he was and he made it back and landed at Kotzebue. Of course, it was all hush-hush. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Well, Khrushchev heard about it. He was incensed. And, you know, this was during the deliberations that Kennedy and his brother and McNamara (Robert McNamara was Kennedy's Secretary of Defense) and everybody were huddled down. "How do we get the missiles out of Cuba?" Right in a real tense thing.

And Kennedy made a comment, "It was always one of these son of a bitches that don’t get the word." Because he'd got this nasty message from Khrushchev about Americans violating his airspace. During the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: Tension -- you know -- during the -- when, you know, they were still negotiating.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So did that happen often? Were we sending up spy planes -- That one wasn’t a spy plane, but were we sending up spy planes?

JOHN CLOE: We sent spy planes. I know that there’s one that's open source. We sent some of our C-47s over the Russian mainland to Chukotkski Peninsula checking out their -- back in the '50s and --

But, you know, satellites took over that mission. It was too -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay. JOHN CLOE: -- risky, obviously.

And, like Gary Powell that got shot down there was a -- "Do we really want to send him?" And they debated it. We better send him, because they realized the Russians had probably developed a missile that could reach up and take the plane down.

And when he got shot down, you know, that was right in the middle of the Eisenhower and Khrushchev negotiating. Of course, that ended that. They were supposed to have a summit, they didn’t have a summit.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, he got shot -- JOHN CLOE: And so we stopped sending spy planes over their -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: -- country. 'Cause the obvious reason, they’d all get shot down. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: So by that time, the satellite had taken over. And you can take pictures from a low-altitude satellite just as well as you can from a -- sending a manned bomber -- manned reconnaissance plane over.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. So that one you said that crashed on St. Lawrence Island, that was a U.S. plane that crashed?

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, it was a U.S. Navy Neptune. They were out there poking around the Soviet coastline. Probably checking at the radar.

And was intercepted by a couple of MiGs (Mikoyan MiG-29 Russian airplane) who shot it up, and it crash landed near Gambell.

The local Alaska Scouts went out and rescued the crew. And I can't remember what year. I think it was the early '60s sometime. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. JOHN CLOE: And --

KAREN BREWSTER: So they didn’t get shot down, they just crashed? JOHN CLOE: They got shot up, so they had to -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, I see. JOHN CLOE: -- do a crash. Yeah, the plane was not going to fly anymore. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. JOHN CLOE: Here’s an island, so they -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: -- stuck it down on the muskeg.

KAREN BREWSTER: So the Russians shot at them? JOHN CLOE: Shot it up, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Yeah. Yeah. Did we -- JOHN CLOE: So they crash-landed it. There were -- Injured a number of people on it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Did we ever shoot at Russians and shoot any of their bombers down? JOHN CLOE: Not -- not -- not that I know of. I don’t think we did.

KAREN BREWSTER: Were there any Russians that tried to come over and land? And defect? Or --

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, there were some -- I think there was a defection at Little and Big Diomede (Island) one time. I don’t remember. That was more recent years. You know, the tail end of the Cold War. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And then there was always rumors with Russians landing troops on -- on St. Lawrence (Island) and poking around and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: Nothing substantiated it, though.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, that’s just all rumor.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, there was a guy came up from Soldier of Fortune (magazine) and wrote an article about it. And, you know, he had like one of those -- okay, that we don’t know. Okay, prove it. You know.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. That’s like I've heard a story about the Nabesna Mine and things being hidden there. Bombs or things, you know. Again, like I don’t know that there’s any truth to that.

JOHN CLOE: Well, they did have a -- during the '50s is Operation Washtub, where somebody recently declassified a documents. And the military had divided up Alaska into defensive zones.

Like I said, back then they wanted to defend the main bases. They weren’t really worried about the western Alaska. They didn’t have enough troops to station troops all over the state, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Like they did during the territorial days when World War II was going on and the army had a million and a half people that they could play around with.

And we went down to less than a million in troop strength during that.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, some of that during World War II was the -- JOHN CLOE: Yeah, we had troops -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- the Eskimo Scouts and -- JOHN CLOE: -- in every place you could think of, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: Nome and what have you. Anyway, they had the national defense line, the so-called Eisenhower Line that went through the state. And everything west of it was no-man’s-land. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

JOHN CLOE: We didn’t have troops out there. So, we needed to -- in case the Russians came, we needed to provide a stay-behind force. So they brought agencies -- agents in to Elmendorf, Fort Richardson. Gave them training, got organized gorillas out there.

And they also established all of these caches out there of supplies like rifles, food, radio equipment. You name it. A cache system.

And if the Russians ever landed in western Alaska, these guys were supposed to go to the caches, draw all the supplies, get all the people -- local -- organized to conduct gorilla operations and then recover U.S. crews that went down. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

JOHN CLOE: And they -- they called it Operation Washtub. KAREN BREWSTER: Huh. Yeah, I’ve never heard of that.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah. Yeah, one of the obscure parts of our history. And it all sort of came to the end at the end of the '50s and --

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And that was just in western Alaska or that was all over? JOHN CLOE: Just western Alaska. KAREN BREWSTER: And so they --

JOHN CLOE: The line went roughly from Point Barrow west of Fort Wainwright, you know. There is a line that was actually a part of the statehood agreement. KAREN BREWSTER: The PIC Line (means the PYK Line, Porcupine-Yukon-Kuskokwim. It is the same as the Eisenhower Line). JOHN CLOE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Was that it? JOHN CLOE: The Eisenhower Line -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JOHN CLOE: -- or the national defense line. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: It became part of the statehood pact. You know, Eisenhower says, "Well, we just still need to keep a defensive zone." And then he debated it. "Oh, we’ll take it." You know, that type thing. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: It just came -- it became a non-player though.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So Operation Washtub, was it training local residents so like Native people in villages? JOHN CLOE: Yeah, Natives, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Sort of like the Scouts? JOHN CLOE: Anybody -- anybody that was out there, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. It was almost sort of like the Scouts in World War II. JOHN CLOE: Yeah, well. The Alaska Natives provided Scout battalions during the Cold War. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: They had a battalion at Nome. We had another battalion at Bethel. They had all these village armories all over the place in there.

They was all the eyes and the ears of the Arctic and they would report unusual happenings and --

KAREN BREWSTER: So they still did that during the Cold War? JOHN CLOE: Oh, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Because I knew they did that in World War II. JOHN CLOE: Yeah, they did that in World War II. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: It just continued in World War -- in the Cold War.

KAREN BREWSTER: And Cold War, by then were they National Guard? JOHN CLOE: They were National Guard. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: They were, you know, paid. The old Alaska Territorial Guard was a volunteer home defense system. Basically, they issued a guy a rifle, some ammunition, and a patch. And -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: Made him swear. Didn’t pay him anything. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: And he wasn’t part of the active Army and (phone rings) -- And then after war they -- Okay, let’s see what’s going on. (pause to answer phone)

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. So what -- what -- the phone rang, so what were you saying about you did what?

JOHN CLOE: Okay, the old Alaska Territorial Guard it was, you know, Muktuk Marston was famous. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Although, he was one of the players, he wasn’t “the player.”

The governor decided we needed a territorial guard, because he had federalized the active National Guard and sent them off elsewhere.

And they headed all over Alaska. Not only in the rural areas, but in the urban areas. Like Bob Atwood was recruited into it. KAREN BREWSTER: In Anchorage?

JOHN CLOE: In Anchorage. And he's talking about they gave him some rudimentary military training and issued him weapons and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: -- and then they would report on anything unusual going on in their neighborhood and --

KAREN BREWSTER: And then in -- later it became the terri -- the National Guard? JOHN CLOE: The National Guard after the World War II -- KAREN BREWSTER: In the '50s? JOHN CLOE: -- was over with they disbanded everything. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: And then the Cold War came along and we needed it back, so they -- this time, the -- they federali -- they didn’t federalize the gov -- Guard, but they made it -- they gave them paid positions. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: They gave them ameri -- army uniforms, weapons, and everything else. They had training for them. Routine training.

They even had a officer candidate school, which I ran one time. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

JOHN CLOE: For about two years. And training officers for the Guard. And they stayed in their village armories in place. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And they provided intelligence collection, security in the local areas. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. JOHN CLOE: And the Cold War ended that, so --

KAREN BREWSTER: So during the Cold War, did they provide any critical information that was used?

JOHN CLOE: They would report unusual activities going on in their neighborhood and anything out of the ordinary.

And, in particular, you know, Little Diomede was always reporting on what’s going on in Big Diomede and those -- St. Lawrence was another place that would report a lot of stuff.

And then they, of course, would find washed up things from the Soviet Union on the beaches. You know, pieces of equipment, clothing, food, or whatever got loose from the western -- eastern Russia. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And -- mm-kay, I think someone's trying to come in the door. KAREN BREWSTER: I think your wife’s coming.

So, I was going to ask you, you mentioned the Natives in the National Guard and I was wondering about the in -- the Cold War in Alaska, the connection between the military and the Native communities and --

Were there other things besides what you just said about the National Guard?

JOHN CLOE: Well, one thing that the Cold War did, it provided a opportunity to Alaska Natives to participate in the military. And they were good soldiers. They were real good at operational, and administrative left a lot to be desired.

But they provided training, they provided employment. Like, each village would have one or two guys that were full-time there. Paid employees of military.

And then they would have maybe 10, 15, 20 part-timers that drilled on weekends and twice or a couple times a year, and they contributed to the economy.

But in the meantime, they provided leadership. Like, you know, you've read about John Schaeffer died. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: General Schaeffer, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: He’s a prime example of that.

KAREN BREWSTER: He was a general in the National Guard -- JOHN CLOE: Yeah, he was a general in the National Guard -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- or something like that.

JOHN CLOE: First chairman of the NANA Corporation. And he got his start with the Guard. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: A lot of the Native leadership began with the Guard. Getting training or -- General Pagano, General Lestenkof.

And there were a number of other full colonels and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: I can’t remember one of the Native leaders up on the (North) Slope. I can't remember his name, but he started off as a guard -- guardsman. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: During the Native Land Claims Settlement Act that --

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, well, I was also wondering about some of the bases and the relationship with the community.

Like I lived in Barrow and the DEW Line, I've heard the stories in the '50s and '60s there was limits on interaction with the workers and the local community.

And I’ve been to Kotzebue and like local guys worked out on base -- on the DEW Line. JOHN CLOE: Yeah -- KAREN BREWSTER: So -- JOHN CLOE: Kotzebue was an AC&W site. KAREN BREWSTER: AC&W, okay. JOHN CLOE: A surveillance site. There was also a White Alice site there. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: And it was outside of town. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: I don’t know what the relationship -- You know, how they interacted with the local community. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. JOHN CLOE: I don’t know those -- KAREN BREWSTER: I didn’t know if you might --

JOHN CLOE: There was military there and then there were contractors there and -- And Point Barrow is way -- you know, the full military site is outside of the town. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: Point Barrow.

KAREN BREWSTER: So the -- all of those sites, ACW, DEW Line, White Alice, they had both military and contractors? JOHN CLOE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

JOHN CLOE: Usually, the contractors ran the communication sites, the military ran the radar sites, and then during the '70s they had a contractor initiative. They replaced all the military contractors. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

JOHN CLOE: They changed the radars to minimal attended radars. They, you know, they had a black box, the thing broke down, they pulled the black box, they stuck a new one in, sent the old one back to wherever to get it fixed. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: It only required a handful of technicians versus, you know, on-site repair and on-site operation.

Everything was remoted from these radars -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: -- to a central location. Again, you know, technology keeps changing.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Well, and that’s an -- an effect of the Cold War is as the technology changed, it -- all those troops and infrastructure and money -- JOHN CLOE: Mm-hm. KAREN BREWSTER: -- started shrinking again.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, well, you know, it was post-Vietnam during the '70s and military funding shriveled up, and they had to economize.

And technology had changed and we got where we can’t keep 120 GIs out here on each -- each site.

We need to do something, you know. So they -- new radar doesn’t require a lot of people. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Part of the modernization program. It’s on-going all the time. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm-mm.

JOHN CLOE: And they're constantly -- You know, research and development is one thing the military is big into. And most recently, is how do you put a badly mangled body back together again, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: That’s right.

JOHN CLOE: You'll be reading about these prosthetics and the development -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Guys get both legs blown off. Any other war, they’d probably be dead, now they’re still living. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: And -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: So, you know, a lot of research and development comes out of military experience of --

Apply goes over to the civilian end. Plastic re-construction is a good one. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: You know, we used to have horrible wounds during World War I where half a face was blown off. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Now, they put the whole face back together.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Okay. You’ve mentioned a few incidents that were top secret at the time, and now have made -- been made public.

Are there any other ones you can talk about? JOHN CLOE: No, I don’t know.

KAREN BREWSTER: I don’t know if as the historian you had access to top secret documents or information?

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, I get a little confused at times, and sometimes you read a top secret document and then you open up the New York Times and it’s the same information as there, you know.

I went to the Army War College and they had this cartoon that the guys were reading the paper looking up at the screen, you know. And the Russians are going "I got this new weapon" on the screen up where they’re being briefed at. Top secret, and they’re looking down at the paper, "Russians have built a new weapon," so --

KAREN BREWSTER: So the Cold War wasn’t as top secret as we all think it was? JOHN CLOE: Parts of it were, and I -- I wasn’t privy to it. Everything is very compartmentalized in the military. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: If you don’t need to know it, they’re not going to tell you. And the -- I don’t care what kind of clearance you’ve got. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: You know, you have to have access.

KAREN BREWSTER: But, yeah, you were sup -- supervising troops for a while, though. JOHN CLOE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: During the Cold War periods.

JOHN CLOE: We didn’t do anything top secret, though. KAREN BREWSTER: No? JOHN CLOE: Basically, it was plain ol' training. Confidential at the most, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: And, yeah, so -- I remember the Starlight scope we used in Vietnam was supposed to be confidential, but it wasn’t, you know.

When it first came out, of course, people kept losing them and, of course, the bad guys picked them up and replicated them.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Yeah. Well, do we want to take a break? Do you need to talk to Susan for a second? JOHN CLOE: Yeah (pause)

JOHN CLOE: -- what the guard meant to them. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, right, right. JOHN CLOE: Leadership and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: You may want to talk about the negative impact on the Natives? KAREN BREWSTER: Would you like to comment on that?

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, I think the military sorta had a negative impact on the Alaska Natives. And one is environmental impact, messing up their lands near where they lived.

And I think in one instance they forced the whole village to move and I think it was -- it was on the North Slope and --

KAREN BREWSTER: Was that Barter Island?

JOHN CLOE: No, it wasn’t Barter Island. I think maybe it was Barter Island.

KAREN BREWSTER: To -- to build the DEW Line up there? JOHN CLOE: Yeah, they built a DEW Line station. They upended the whole village and moved them. Because they needed the property.

And I can't remember what site it was, but --

KAREN BREWSTER: I’m not -- yeah, I don't remember if it was Barter Island or one of the other ones. I can’t remember. JOHN CLOE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: But I’ve heard something like that. JOHN CLOE: Yeah it --

KAREN BREWSTER: So that really did happen? JOHN CLOE: It was the old days before EPA and the need for environmental assessments and -- You know, the military came in and they could just build.

Yeah, a classic example they -- is Gulkana during World War II, where they tore up a cemetery for construction, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, for the airstrip or something. JOHN CLOE: Put an airstrip there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So, yes, there is that history, you’re right. JOHN CLOE: There's that history of the military's impact. We can go back to -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JOHN CLOE: -- 1867, you know. The times -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: It’s good and bad. Mostly good, though, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And it brought social change and it brought communications and it --

One thing, the military, they had to supply all these remote sites, which mean they had to move stuff up there like fuel and everything else.

And while they were doing that they might as well supply the local villages up and down the Yukon. So, yeah, you can throw your stuff on our barge -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay. JOHN CLOE: -- type thing. I don’t know what -- there probably was a charge for it. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

JOHN CLOE: But it was the same way with communications. We put this infrastructure, the White Alice system, in.

You can, you know, off -- use it for your stuff, you know, so all these little communications -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: -- greatly improved communications to the rural areas.

And, of course, when they sold the old White Alice system and sold the old Alaska Communications System, which the military ran, they turned it over to the private sector who replaced all this with satellite terminals.

And every village that had 25 or more got a satellite terminal. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm. JOHN CLOE: That was part of the deal on modernization.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay. So that’s a direct link from -- JOHN CLOE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- Cold War to modern -- JOHN CLOE: Modern. KAREN BREWSTER: -- technology? Huh.

I was wondering in terms of the negative impact with having military men stationed by these communities, was -- ?

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, you get a bunch of young GIs, you know, anywhere near -- you know, I don’t care whether it was Phoenix, Alabama, or Kotzebue. You’re gonna have -- Ladd Field versus Fairbanks.

And I hear stories about all the GIs in Fairbanks running out and the police blotter full up with instances and going-ons. And people opened up shoddy businesses catering to the military.

And, you know, the liquor stores and gin mills, and what have you. Gambling and whatever.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. Well, and I was thinking that and the -- in the smaller communities with the -- yeah, those young GIs bringing in alcohol or having relations with local women and -- JOHN CLOE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: -- and what kinda those impacts might have been.

JOHN CLOE: I don’t know the nitty gritty of it, but I’m sure it is. It -- it happens.

If you ever go to around Fort Benning, Georgia in Columbus, Georgia, just drive outside the gate, you know. It's a big strip. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

JOHN CLOE: Loan shark places, Pizza Huts, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: So, talking about the Cold War in Alaska. And I know you’ve written about it. JOHN CLOE: Mm-hm. KAREN BREWSTER: Why is that an important story, what’s important?

JOHN CLOE: Well, I think, you know, it changed Alaska’s economic and social structure, and it definitely brought in a lot of money. And it sustained Alaska’s economy until big oil came.

And it still is a sustainer. It’s not as great as oil, but, I mean, you know, you have a brigade at Fort Richardson and they spend a lot of money on services and equipment and supplies.

And, of course, the people live on the local economy, and they pay rent and buy houses. And where you suck out five thousand people out of that equation, it’s going to be -- they're going to take a hit. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: Like they were with, you know, the plans to inactivate that airborne brigade. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And you could, you know, read in Fairbanks with plans to move that training squadron, the F-16’s, out to Elmendorf, which made economic sense at the time.

And -- and -- ‘cause they’re going to save money. You know, they costed it out and it's cheaper to move the whole squadron down.

You read in the paper all the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-mm. JOHN CLOE: Hullabaloo, hue and cry about that.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, now there’s the F-35’s coming. JOHN CLOE: Now the F-25 -- F-35’s are coming. So it’s a --

You know, Eisenhower talked about the military industrial complex, you might as well -- he should have added a political complex.

‘Cause, you know, right now the military is over capacity with base infrastructure. They got 24% more than what they needed.

But they can’t close down Camp Swampy because Congressman such and such's district is on the military appropriation subcommittee and he won’t allow it, you know. So --

KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. So is that the legacy of the Cold War for Alaska today? Or what is its legacy?

JOHN CLOE: I think its legacy is the infrastructure that was put in during the war. I mean during the Cold War.

All the sites, the radar systems, you know. They could be used for air traffic control, for instance. Still out there, still being used.

The runways that were built, you know, Galena, King Salmon, Kotzebue. Those are World War II runways that were greatly enhanced.

Obviously, Fort Wainwright is a legacy of the Cold War. And Fort Richardson, Elmendorf, same way.

Eielson was a small satellite field during World War II, became a major base during the Cold War. That still remains. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And then all the people who got out. The Cold War brought me up here, for instance. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: You know. And you look around with the military population here, it’s -- we have more veterans up here than the entire military in any capacity, you know, per capita. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, really? JOHN CLOE: Than any other state. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, I didn’t know that. JOHN CLOE: And -- yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And a lot of them would now be Cold War veterans. JOHN CLOE: Yeah, Cold War veterans. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

JOHN CLOE: And you got, like General Gamble's a Cold War (Patrick Gamble, former president of the University of Alaska) -- You know, they go on and on. You know, that type.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. There was just something I was going to ask about. About legacy, I just had an id -- thought, and now it just totally went out of my head. JOHN CLOE: Oh, okay.

KAREN BREWSTER: But, so until I think of that, I’ll move on to this. Your role as the historian with the Air Force. Can you talk about what you did and why that was important?

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, we were responsible -- the air -- the Air Force has got -- has the largest history program. I don’t know what’s happening with it now. That thing has changed a lot since I’ve left it.

And the Army centralizes their program, mostly in Washington D.C. The Air Force decentralized theirs and scattered the historians all over the world.

At any major command -- we have a major command up here, the Alaskan Air Command, which came under -- directly under the part of the Air Force. And we had a small history office of three of us.

At the time I took over, it was a enlisted historian, a civilian editor, and myself, the historian, civilian historian.

We were responsible for producing an annual history. We had to collect all the significant documents. We had to write the annual history report covering the calendar year.

And we boxed it all up and we sent it all with the supporting documents down to Maxwell Air Force Base where the Air Force has its historical archives. So it’s all down there, and we kept a copy up here.

You know, we usually kept the narrative. We couldn’t keep the supporting documents because it filled up a whole file drawer of stuff. So we got the microfilm back.

So we had an archives going back to World War II and before. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: And we maintained that.

We usually asked -- responded to a lot of queries, questions, and -- and both for the public and we supported a lot of contractors.

I remember they used to come use our stuff and write these reports all the time for, you know, the historic preservation part of it, which came about during the '90s. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And, so, we basically -- We were about the only military history function in the state. Like, you know --

KAREN BREWSTER: Did you do just Air Force or -- ?

JOHN CLOE: We did joint, 'cause we had the Alaskan Command. We did their history.

And we did a little bit with the Army, not much. A little bit with the Navy, but mostly it was Air Force.

KAREN BREWSTER: It was mostly Air Force. And in this annual rep -- history report, what kind of subjects were you covering?

JOHN CLOE: We covered any and everything. We covered personnel, we covered operations, we covered plans, we covered a threat, we covered who was commanding, what he was like. It was a big, thick document.

KAREN BREWSTER: Was it the history for that year or -- ? JOHN CLOE: Yeah, the history for that year. KAREN BREWSTER: For that year, okay.

JOHN CLOE: What went on in that year. And it was classified.

You know, one of the frustrating things, I used to crank one out a year, it was like writing a book every year. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: It went in a safe. It’s still in the damn safe.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, really? It’s still classified?

JOHN CLOE: I can’t even get to it now, you know. Because I don’t have my clearance no more.

KAREN BREWSTER: It’s still classified? JOHN CLOE: It’s still classified. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. JOHN CLOE: You know, parts of it are, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: I’d have to get a freedom of information request to do -- get access to it.

KAREN BREWSTER: So in that role in the historian, did you do research on previous parts -- previous periods in Alaskan's military history?

JOHN CLOE: We went back and wrote reports and --

Yeah, I went over to the state library and I typed in my name just for the heck of it on the search engine. It popped up, they got all kinds of stuff that we did. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, some of them would be -- I don’t know how it got there, but it got there, you know.

We did special reports on things, like we covered this P-38 Lightning out of Attu and I wrote a big report on that.

Then I wrote -- we did two books. One was a "Top of America: The History of the Air Force in Alaska." That covered a lot of the Cold War time. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: That's still -- As a matter of fact, it’s going to be on the auction table (Alaska Historical Society Annual Meeting's auction). KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, really? JOHN CLOE: If you want to take a look at it. Yeah it’s -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: It's twenty bucks we're asking for it, so -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I think I’ve -- I looked at it in the library. JOHN CLOE: It’s in the library, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Yeah. I’m going to just pause and --