Pinetree Line Miscellaneous

Tropospheric Scatter System

As we all know, there was a great deal of military construction taking place in the 1950s. Many of the Pinetree Line radar stations became operational in 1952-1953. Work was also progressing on both the DEW Line and the Mid-Canada Line. While it was great to have radar for early warning and ground control intercept - there was also a need for communications. Most of the radar installation locations were quite distant to the nearest telephone land line and a microwave system would be too costly. As a result - the Tropospheric Scatter System was developed and implemented.

The Tropospheric Scatter System would provide communications across the entire northern portion of North America.

Starting in the northwest - the "White Alice Communications System" (WACS) was a tropospheric communications system throughout Alaska from about 1956 until 1979. There were 25 WACS tropo stations built originally at a total cost of $140 million. The system was designed by AT&T and built by the Western Electric Company taking 3,500 people three years to complete. Ultimately there would be 49 tropo sites. The first link in the White Alice Communications System was completed on 12 November 1956 and on 26 March 1958, the Alaska Air Command dedicated the White Alice Communications System which had been under construction since 1955. There is a story to the effect that the main transmitter was shut off in the summer of 1978 when the system was finally shut down. In a few seconds, the system switched itself back on. It didn't want to die! Actually it had an automatic reset which had been forgotten about. It was spooky for a minute though.

White Alice was to connect with the tropospheric scatter system which had been constructed in the "DEW Line" .

Tying the Northeast Air Command (NEAC) radar system together at first was only a HF/LF communications system. Construction began in the summer of 1954 on a UHF tropospheric scatter system called the "Pole Vault" system by communications men. This tropospheric system, completed a year later in 1955, ran from Pepperrell, NF to Frobisher Bay, NWT including all of the stations in between. Later extensions were to go from Frobisher Bay to Cape Dyer and on to Thule. As can be expected, there was a great deal of ongoing change with the military communications groups during this period of time. We are aware of the following detail:

1954 The Pole Vault system was initially managed by the 6631st Radio Relay Squadron.
1959 The Pole Vault system was now managed by the 1876th Radio Relay Squadron.
1961 The Pole Vault System was now managed by the 1933rd Communications Squadron.

Detachment locations remained somewhat constant, but Detachment location numbers appeared to change with the passing of time as units were added or removed from the system. Some of these are indicated below.

Click on the description text to view the photograph.
  1. Pole Vault Deactivated - The End of An Era - 1963.

  2. 1933rd Communications Squadron Detachment Locations - May 1961.

  3. Memories of Tropo Scatter at Resolution Island - 1961.

  4. 1876th Radio Relay Squadron personnel listing at Hopedale, Saglek and Resolution Island - 8 April 1960.

  5. September at Saglek - 13 September 1959.

  6. 1876th Radio Relay Squadron Information Brochure - August 1959.

  7. 1876th Radio Relay Squadron Detachment Locations - August 1959.

  8. 1876th Radio Relay Squadron Detachment crest - August 1959.
    Courtesy of Dennis Abbott.

  9. Tropospheric Scatter Communications Network.

  10. 6631st Radio Relay Squadron Detachment Locations - January 1955.

Updated: December 26, 2004