Goose Bay, Labrador

1967 Memories of Melville John Briggs

Memories of Melville

I arrived at the 641st AC&W Squadron, Melville Air Force Station in January 1967.

I was a young A/1C, trained as a Radar Operator and like so many others, I did NOT volunteer for this overseas post. Prior to my tour of duty at Goose Bay, I had been employed with the 785th Radar Squadron (SAGE) at Finley AFS in North Dakota.

Travel to Goose Bay required that I proceed to McGuire AFB in New Jersey and I then proceeded to Goose Bay on a C-121 Super Constellation or the Super Connie as it was affectionately known in those days.

While at Goose Bay I was attached to the 641st AC&W Squadron as a Radar Operator. We had a rotating sift schedule and as a result, we managed to get our share of days, swings and midnight shifts during a 12 month tour at this location. I seem to recall that we made use of the FPS-20 as our primary search radar and the FPS-6 as our height finder. It is safe to assume that things had mellowed by 1967 and we may have tracked one or two "Unknowns" in an average week.

The AC&W Squadron at Melville was quite fortunate when compared to the other units in Labrador which were still operational at that time. Goose Bay certainly was located in an isolated location but the Goose Air Base was just a short drive away, and with this Air Base well you had almost everything that could be expected in a major Stateside posting.

The buildings at Melville were all interconnected with "catwalks" or "corridors". These were especially appreciated during the winter months when you had to move from one building to another and I do not ever recall anyone indicate that these "catwalks" made a person feel confined.. Melville was a typical radar station located in the north. We had our own barracks, mess hall, messes, and in short, we were a self contained unit. I seem to recall that there were between 150 and 200 USAF personnel at Melville. I have no idea how many civilians were employed there.

As mentioned, however, the proximity to Goose Air Base provided us with all of those little extras. Most of the recreational activities took place at Goose Air Base. Goose had an excellent hospital, extremely large clubs with live entertainment that was brought in from the States, and the PX offered a selection that was adequate for one and all. One additional side benefit of out location would have been with the delivery of mail. Again, in our case, all of the USAF mail would have been flown in on a regular basis from the States, and the runways at Goose Air Base were always in good condition.

Looking back some 32 years I do not recall our having any complaints with the food. We managed to pass the time away with "in house" movies and "popcorn". We had our own parties in the Melville clubs, and while alcohol was readily available, for the most part there were no serious alcohol related problems during my tour.

I suppose that there were many USAF personnel that did not particularly care for the winter weather. In my case well I enjoyed the snow and the mild summers that we had at Melville.

All in all I enjoyed my tour at the 641st. I met a lot of good troops up there, and it seems that a lot of the guys were out of the AEW Units. Most of my time was spent on the site (on and off duty). I took a class down at the Goose and maybe went to the movies and the NCO Club on a few occasions when I made S/Sgt. Everyone seemed to get along very well and I recall we played a lot of cards (Pinochle). Those were the good old days. I really enjoyed my job as a Radar Operator (Sweep Creep, Scope Dope, Blip Dip) or whatever you want to call it. During my tour at this location I worked mainly on the dais as a Control Tech/SD Tech.

As is the case with all fixed tour assignments, I departed the 641st AC&W Squadron in December 1967 and proceeded to Elgin AFB in Florida.