Cape Spear, NF

The American Army, in agreement with the British government, was tasked with the establishment of five radar stations in Newfoundland during World War II. The 685th Air Warning Company was involved with the installation of the radar station at Cape Spear. This complex, from a geographical point of view, was located about 15km from St. John's.

The complex at Cape Spear was completed by the early winter of 1943. It was a small installation and was initially provided with the SCR-271 radar equipment. The station's call sign was "Prime".

Fifty-two members (three officers and 49 enlisted men) of the 685th AWC were assigned to this unit. All of these personnel were fully trained radar technicians selected from Maine to Florida. S/Sgt. Joe Santomas, from Hammonton, New Jersey was the technician who installed and supervised all the maintenance on the five American radar units. Santomas, now retired from the US Army, continually travelled by the US Army supply boats to each location. He maintains that in 1943 all the radar antennae were changed and these gave each station a range of 300 miles. All radar stations were in constant contact with one another by a separate radar network. All transmissions to St. John's were directed to the Top Secret receiver/transmitter at Snelgrove, near Windsor Lake. All radar information was sent to a plotting centre at headquarters, Fort Pepperrell, to track the aircraft coming and going. The plotting centre also sent messages to the radar units concerning lost aircraft or those needing navigational assistance. Both American and Canadian personnel manned the plotting centre.

The 685th continued to operate the complex at Cape Spear until 1 November of 1944 when the unit was handed over to the RCAF. The Canadians quickly titled the complex as No 42 RU. We understand that the RCAF continued with the operation of the Cape Spear complex until 20 June, 1945.

About This Page

This page is located at

Updated: June 14, 2004