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‘Til They Glow Tour 1/02


Fri 01 Mar 02

My original plan for the trip was to jump on I-82 at Ellensburg and head down through Yakima to the Richland/Pasco area, then reverse course and work my back around the Hanford Site through Othello. However, my 1038 departure forced a mod to the route; I instead continued east on I-90 out of Ellensburg, crossed the Columbia at 1303 and then turned south on WA 243 towards Beverly and the Hanford Reach area. Within a few minutes I passed the immense Wanapum Dam, followed by the Priest Rapids Dam and a surprising number of vineyards. The small town of Matawa’s trying to make it with multiple industrial parks; the prime feature is undoubtedly La Popular Restaurant, which features Chinese/Mexican cuisine (I’m not going to comment on that one!).

For those of you who live elsewhere in the country, the portion of the Columbia contained within the reservation – known as the Hanford Reach - stretches from Vernita in the west all the way down to Richland, resulting in roughly 50 miles of river that’s never been dammed, farmed alongside or otherwise modified…which makes it the longest pristine section of the Columbia between BC and the Pacific Ocean. There was a big fight several years ago about the future of the Reach and while the DoE continues to own and operate the nuclear R&D facility, the river itself is now under nomination as a Federal natural reserve. Several local groups tried to pry it away from the Feds with justification ranging from “there’s too much Federal government around here as is and we can do a better job of management” to the standard organizations/individuals desiring to “develop” the reach, which of course would negatively impact the local salmon. Ah well…

Hanford Site – In January 1943 the Manhattan Engineer District of the Army Corps of Engineers formally established the Hanford Site on 640 acres on a plateau in south-central Washington bounded by the Columbia River.

The district started scouting the location in 1942 and in February 1943 it moved out the 1500 residents of the small towns of Richland, White Bluffs and Hanford. Construction actually started in March and by the conclusion of the project in August 1945 the government spent some $230 million putting in over 550 buildings, 386 miles of roads, 158 miles of railroads (serviced to the camp’s gate by the Milwaukee Road, operating south from the Columbia River bridge) as well as two new communities: Hanford Camp to house the 50,000 construction workers, and Richland to house the 17,500 people who worked the project.

The district and contractor DuPont immediately began work on three reactors – designated B, D and F – three chemical processing plants for the recovery of plutonium, 64 underground waste storage tanks, fuel fabrication facilities and support buildings and housing. By August the total population of construction workers exceeded 51,000, making Hanford and its company town Richland the fourth largest city in Washington. The first plutonium was produced in late 1944 and in 1945 Hanford started shipping the material to Los Alamos for use in the second of two atomic bombs, the one which the 509th Composite Group dropped on Nagasaki (Oak Ridge produced the uranium for the first bomb).

Five more plutonium-producing reactors followed during the mid-1950s as part of a major round of plant expansion. Shutdown of the early reactors started in 1964, although the site and surrounding community continued to see economic benefits through the production of weapons-grade plutonium and nuclear power development efforts; the latter, developed as the Washington Public Power Supply System or WPPSS – pronounced “WHOOPS!” – was a spectacular and expensive failure. In the mid 1970s the Feds built the 400-megawat Fast-Flux Test Facility at the site as part of the breeder reactor program but by 1992 they’d pulled the plug. Recent attempts to fuel and restart the reactor for research purposes have failed to win approval, so now Hanford is concerned with nuclear waste management and cleanup. Fluour-Daniel, the current contractor, spends most of its time looking for nuclear waste storage and disposal solutions.

Getting back to the nuclear facilities, the B-Reactor was the first operational plutonium production reactor, placed in service in September 1944 under the direction of Enrico Fermi. The reactor – which remained in operation through 1988 – was graphite-moderated, water-cooled and designed to operate at 250 million watts. The American Society of mechanical Engineers designated B as a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark in 1976; you can read the plaque and see the facility from an overlook on WA 24. Otherwise, pretty much everything north of the River formerly contained within the Hanford Site is now part of the Saddle Mountain Wildlife Refuge to the west and the Wahluke Slope Refuge to the east.

As an “oh by the way,” the Manhattan District did build an airfield to support activities at Hanford. Located 2½ miles northwest of Richland, the airport went from the DOE to Benton County in 1960 and it now serves as a GA field. Airborne Express operates a small feeder operation at Richland; the field also formerly housed a Naval Reserve Center.

I drove diagonally through the site in ’96 on WA 240 and yeah, you can’t go off the highway in any direction without hitting a security gate. However, a route along the north side of Hanford on WA 24 puts you through the refuges with reasonably good access to several historic sites. The Army’s former headquarters/operations site is at the southeast corner of the facility, immediately north of Richland.
Camp Hanford/Hanford Defense Area – Apparently, the first military units in the area were MPs who provided security for the Hanford Reservation. I’ve also found several references to a POW camp on the reservation during World War II, primarily housing Italians. Best I can tell, it was on the far south side of Hanford on the Yakima River and according to one source the site is now a park.

The Army moved out its MPs in 1947 and turned over security for the facility to contractor General Electric, which placed armed guards at several locations around Hanford. After the Korean War broke out the Army gave GE some M8 Greyhounds while furiously working to get antiaircraft units into the installation. The first guns – 120mms – arrived from Fort Lewis in March 1950, manned by the Washington Army National Guard’s 770th Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion.

The Army established Camp Hanford in 1951 specifically to coordinate the air defense of the Hanford Works. During the same period the Air Force put interceptors in at Moses Lake AFB – the 81st Fighter Interceptor Wing, from May 1950 to August 1951 – as well as LASHUP-program radars at Saddle Mountain, Richland, Moses Lake and Hanford itself. The final boundaries weren’t set until 1955 when the AEC transferred an additional 1100 acres in North Richland, resulting in a 3700-acre installation. The camp encompassed most of the former North Richland Construction Camp as well as most of the installation’s 3000 area. Some of the early structures included “Bremerton Housing” – prefabs from the Puget Sound Navy Yard – barracks from the former NAS Pasco and others for a total of some 100 buildings.

The primary command and operations unit was the 5th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group, which included the 83rd, 501st, 518th and 519th battalions; according to Vigilant and Invincible the first batteries of the 518th arrived right about the time the Guard showed up in early 1950. The three battalions eventually served 16 antiaircraft gun sites located in the “100” and “200” areas of the installation; they’re identified and described in an excellent cultural resource study produced by Batelle Pacific Northwest Labs (unfortunately, the last time I tried the address at the document didn’t come up; something tells me Hanford pulled the military site documentation for the duration). The Army officially designated the gun sites with a PSN prefix for “position,” but Battelle also gave them “H” numbers.

Each battery firing site ran about 20 acres in size and incorporated sandbag/wood firing positions and frefab support structures manufactured from wood and aluminum; the later facs got the standard Army cinder-block buildings, probably of the same general design as in the Nike sites. The battalion headquarters sites included the standard assortment of support/personnel structures including ops/admin, mess hall, motor pool, maintenance shops and radar facilities. Weaponry included the 120mm guns and .50-cal machine guns for local defense plus small arms. According to Batelle the intact gun sites are H-40, -42, -50, -51 and –61; H-40 was a battalion command site now consisting of “specially sparse debris-scatters associated with demolished buildings and their contents, concrete building pads, traces of former roads and paths, ammunition boxes, and the sandbagged [doughnut-shaped] revetments, wooden structures and other sandbagged/cobblestone structures associated with the former antiaircraft artillery sites.”

If the reports I’ve read are any indication, few of the air defenders considered the assignment as “choice.” Reputedly you could go AWOL at Hanford and remain in sight of your unit for three days. Pennsylvanian Don Fleming, a vet of A/518th who was 18 when he first arrived at Hanford, told the Tri-Cities Herald that his first thoughts were, “Oh, my God. Where in the hell is this? Is this hell? Everywhere I looked, I saw sand and sagebrush.” Frank Trent said in another report that the majority of the troops assigned to Camp Hanford never really knew what it was they were defending, saying, “All I knew was we were there to defend it…if an airplane flew over, and it was not identified, we were supposed to shoot it down.”

Nike Ajax facilities started going in in 1954 with the conversion of the 83rd and construction of four firing batteries. Between late 1957 and early 1958 the Army deactivated 13 gun sites, leaving three on the North Slope portion of the installation to provide local defense for the missile batteries. In September 1958 the 83rd AAAMBn inactivated and was replaced by 1/52nd Artillery; the 193rd Ordnance Detachment supported the missile battalions out of facilities at the main campsite.

The Army continued reduction of its Hanford defenses during the late 1950s, converting only H-06 to Nike Hercules operations and inactivating the remaining gun units. On 1 July 1959 Camp Hanford became a sub-post of Fort Lewis; in October 1960 the group and missile battalion inactivated, ending ARADCOM operations at the site. Camp Hanford formally closed on 31 March 1961; one of the few remaining structures in the main cantonment immediately north of Richland is the former group and camp headquarters building, now occupied by Battelle as its Pacific Northwest Laboratory operations and services building.

As an aside, the former residents of Hanford and White Bluffs are able to get out to their old towns sporadically. The Seattle Post-Intelligence wrote of one such visit last August under the title of “Victims ousted by Manhattan Project keep town memories alive – A bittersweet reunion at Hanford.” The government moved about 1500 residents in order to build the Hanford Plant; amazingly, the remains of several buildings in the two former communities still stand.
5th AAA Group – The Army activated the 5th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Group at Camp Hulen, TX on 17 August 1942. It redesignated as the 5th AAAGp on 18 February 1944 and inactivated at Camp Myles Standish, MA, on 15 October 1945 following service in Tunisia, Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Anzio and Rome. I haven’t nailed down which corps or divisions the 5th served with although it was briefly assigned to the 36th Infantry Division in late 1944.

The group reactivated at Fort Bliss on 1 August 1946 and on 28 June 1950 consolidated with headquarters and headquarters battery 5th Coast Artillery. The 5th CA dated to the establishment of the 5th US Artillery on 4 July 1861 at Fort Greble, PA; its batteries participated in just about every battle of the War Between the States including the Peninsula Campaign, the First Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Cold Harbor and Grant’s final push through Petersburg and Appomattox. During World War II the 5th CA manned batteries at Forts Hamilton and Wadsworth in New York with some of its units heading overseas. They inactivated at Fort Rucker on 19 April 1944 while the regiment itself disbanded on 26 June 1944. I expect the consolidated unit was at Camp Hanford shortly afterwards, providing command and control for the antiaircraft artillery units which were arriving for local defense.

The headquarters redesignated as the 5th Artillery Group on 20 March 1958 and inactivated barely two years later, on 26 August 1960 as part of the shutdown of Army air defense activities at the facility. That same day the Army consolidated HHB 5th Artillery Group, 24th AAAMBn (formerly of ARADCOM’s Boston Defense Area), 1/5th Coast Artillery and the 5th Field Artillery Battalion as the 5th Artillery under the Combat Arms Regimental System (don’t just love Army history?). The regiment became the 5th ADA on 1 September 1951.

Two battalions of the 5th ADA currently serve, equipped with Stingers and Avengers: 4/5th ADA with the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood and 5/5th ADA with the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea and Fort Lewis. The latter was a Nike operator in the Washington-Baltimore Defense Area

Hanford’s two operational Nike battalions were particularly short-lived, what with ARADCOM shutting down the missile defense in 1960. In fact, Hanford was the first missile-equipped defense area to inactivate, right about the time ARADCOM disbanded the last two gun defense areas at Savannah River and Saulte Ste Marie.
83rd Antiaircraft Artillery Missile Battalion– The 83rd had its start as the 2nd Battalion, 64th Regiment, Coast Artillery Corps, organizing on 17 May 1918 at Pensacola. It demobilized on 9 April 1919 at Camp Eustis, VA and reactivated on 3 June 1921 at Fort Ruger as the 2nd Battalion, Hawaiian Antiaircraft Regiment. It became the 2/64th Artillery (Antiaircraft) on 2 June 1922 and 2/64th Coast Artillery (Antiaircraft)(Semimobile) on 20 February 1924. The battalion redesignated once again as the 750th AAAGBn (Semimobile) on 12 December 1943 and apparently spent the war in Hawaii, inactivating at Fort Shafter on 10 December 1946.

On 13 June 1952 the 83rd AAAGBn activated at Camp Hanford. It redesignated as an antiaircraft artillery battalion on 20 July 1953 and on 1 August 1954 went into the missile business, eventually gaining the four Hanford Nike Ajax sites. The battalion inactivated on 1 September 1958 under the reorganization of the Army’s combat arms units.

1/52nd Artillery – The unit which replaced the 83rd AAAMBn initially stood up in late 1907 at Fort Michie, Great Gull Island, NY as the 134th Company, Coast Artillery Corps, later becoming the 1st Company, Fort HG Wright in Long Island Sound. The battery reorganized as A/7th Provisional Regiment, Coast Artillery Corps on 22 July 1917 and shipped out for Europe where it saw combat in the Champaign-Marne, St Mihiel and Lorraine. It became A/52nd Artillery (Coast Artillery Corps) on 4 February 1918 and inactivated on 1 August 1922 at Fort Eustis.

The outfit reactivated on 1 June 1941 as A/52nd Coast Artillery at Fort Hancock, NJ and subsequently went into combat in the Southwest Pacific, serving in New Guinea, Leyte and the Luzon. It became A/286th Coast Artillery Battalion on 1 May 1943 and A/538th Field Artillery on 30 August 1944 prior to inactivating at Camp Myles Standish on 14 December 1945. It reactivated in the Philippines on 31 December 1946, inactivated on Luzon on 30 May 1947, reactivated again on 22 March 1951 at Camp Carson, CO and inactivated in Germany on 1 June 1958.

The 1/52nd reactivated for the last time at Hanford on 1 September 1958 and served for about two years, inactivating on 23 December 1960; best I’ve been able to determine the battalion has never returned to active service. The only battalion of the 52nd ADA currently operational is the 6/52nd at Ansbach, Germany, a Patriot outfit under the 69th ADA Brigade.

As can be expected the four Nike sites were at the four corners of the reservation. Only one, H-52 Rattlesnake Mountain, is intact with its buildings and magazines and is physically contained within the current boundaries of the installation. The other three battery sites are now in wildlife refuges and are completely obliterated, leaving only the roads and sporadic foundations.
H-83 Priest Rapids- All four batteries in the Hanford Defense Area used the same configuration: two magazines (2B) with eight launchers and storage for 20 MIM-3 Ajax missiles.

The site components of H-83 are located to the north of WA 24 at the extreme northwest corner of the old reservation; unfortunately, I pulled off the state highway to find the reasonably good access road fully blocked by a barbed wire fence and earthen berm (RATS!).

According to most of the references I’ve relied on C/83rd (/55-9/58) and C/1/52nd (9/58-12/58) operated the site, but later in the trip I found evidence that C-83rd actually manned H-12 so this was probably B Battery’s site. Also, an annotated diagram I have for Hanford – I want to credit either Michael Binder or the late Lance Wright – states that the Army did start modifying H-83 for Nike Hercules but never completed the work. Apparently the service decided to inactivate the Hanford Defense Area while conversion was underway, Herc ops took place only at H-06 and only for a brief period.

Well, maybe I’ll get lucky at the next stop. Drive about 14 miles further east on WA 24, watch for the signs indicating the Wahluka Wildlife Area (“Gate closes at dusk”), turn left and there you are…or are you? I initially thought I’d successfully found H-07H, the former AADCP site for the Hanford Defense Area, but instead:
H-04 Hanford – My first indication was that road pattern didn’t really match the diagram I had; when I stumbled across H-07 and H-06 a few minutes later I finally realized what I’d been looking at: a NS gun site.

Charlie Battery of the 519th manned the installation. The diagram at left is a fairly speculative mod from the Hanford historical pub and gives a typical layout for the complex’s antiaircraft artillery sites.

Which left the (probable) AADCP:
H-07H Saddle Mountain – The site was immediately north of WA 24 about two miles east of H-04 and again, all that’s left are the roads, some mounds and some curbing.

As indicated, this was apparently the site of the AADCP for the Hanford Defense Area as well as the home of HHB 519th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion from some point in 1950 through the unit’s inactivation on 20 December 1957. As such it also held the barracks, BOQ and other support structures for H-06, which was literally just up the road.

When I put Rings of Supersonic Steel together with Mark Berhow (BTW, Mark, Sam Stokes and the Fort MacArthur Military Museum should have the second edition out shortly) I didn’t have any information on the AADCP for the Hanford Defense Area. I’m still going under the assumption the defense had a manual AADCP, primarily due to the early shutdown of Nike operations at Hanford prior to the deployment of the AN/GSG-1 Missile Master and GSG-5 BIRDIE

Hanford’s northeastern Nike site was only a few hundred yards to the northwest, with direct access from H-07H.

H-06 Saddle Mountain- A/83rd (/55-9/58) and A/1/52nd (9/58-12/60) manned the only Hanford site which converted from Nike Ajax to Hercules, between June and December 1958. After inactivation the site’s equipment went to N-52 Deep Creek in the Norfolk Defense Area.

What’s out there now – in and around the roads and other paving, including the curved paving which led to the refueling area and assembly building – are the missile blast plates and that’s about it. I didn’t find any evidence of the magazine doors or crew access and ventilation ports; the Army did a fine job of clearing off the installation.

As for the IFC, the road continues a few yards past the battery site but then disappears; the other primary access – along an irrigation canal a few yards east – is blocked at WA 24. Rats…and naturally, I found out after the fact that if I’d continued north from H-04 along the paved road (I actually did, to a point up the side of Saddle Mountain) and then turned east I would’ve come in to H-06C from the back side. Oh well, save that component for another visit, eh?

Still, I was pretty happy; after a few years of trying I finally got on top of a Hanford Nike site. H-12, the other site on the east side of the reservation, is due south of H-06 but its access road is blocked (rats, again…). However, after driving a few yards to the east I found an unpaved road that went in the approximate direction and charged down it; sure enough, it intercepted the site road and away I went.

H-12 Othello – Fourth and last of my quick tour, H-12 operated under C/83rd (/55-9/58) and C/1/52nd (9/58-12/58).

This one turned out to be something of a prize: at the battery area the base of the flagpole remains in place with “C Bty 83rd AAA Missile Bn” cast in the concrete. At the IFC about a mile to the east on the rise the paving extends to leveled-off mounds with broken concrete, giving a good indication of the former location of the radars.

Okay, it was now time to finish the drive to Fairchild via the scenic route.

Sat 02 Mar 02

They may be mewling about snow in September in Puget Sound, but in Spokane it was most definitely still winter with temperatures dropping to about 12° the first night (whuf!). I got up, scrapped the Electric Whale’s windows and proceeded to check in with the 141st AREFW/HO at the west end of Fairchild’s ramp (I know, I know, the official USAF abbreviation for air refueling wings is now ARW, but that’ll always mean air rescue wing to me. What can I say; I’m a reprobate).

F-37 Cheney – Fitted with three magazines and 12 launchers, Cheney was operational under B/10th (12/56-9/58) and B/1/43rd (9/58-6/60). In November 1961 the Army transferred the installation to the Washington Air National Guard, which moved in the 252nd Communications Group (Mobile) and the 242nd Mobile Communications Squadron.

When the 252nd inactivated on 18 June 1971 its place at Four Lakes ANGS went to the 105th Tactical Air Control Squadron; the 252nd reactivated the following day at Paine Field. The 105th went away a few years ago, apparently as part of the transfer of the Western Air Defense Sector from the RegAF to the WAANG. The 256th Combat Communications Squadron now occupies the facilities.

And – as I learned at while at Fairchild – the 256th just got called up to Federal active duty so I wasn’t too surprised when I showed up at the facility and found the gates locked with no one answering the phone. Ah well; a shot of the fence from the road will have to suffice for the time being. As an aside, according to the Blue Twain the 10th AAABn arrived at Geiger via train on Monday, 14 September 1952. Assigned to the 31st Artillery Brigade at McChord, the battalion made its first firing/training trip to Yakima Firing Center the following month.

Sun 03 Mar 02

The day dawned bright and fairly warm – about 44° - and I was ready for my last session with MSgt Weeks. She was good to put up with me; following the attacks the 141st AREFW activated several crews and maintainers but the majority of the wing is still traditional guard, ie one weekend a month and Lord knows she had enough to do this weekend without my prowling around and asking questions. I stayed out of the way best I could, took a few notes, answered a few questions and departed about 1100 via audio-visual where I ordered something like 18 photos of F-86As/F-94Bs/F-89Js/F-102As/F-101Bs for our history program.

From Fort Wright it was easy enough to continue west on Trails Road, up into the flats. The next stop involved the two components of the northeast Fairchild Nike site.

F-07 Spokane – Ron Plante provided some notes and photographs (or was it Michael Binder; it all runs together, eh?) so I knew what to expect when I got to F-07C. This was the other Ajax-only installation; after the Army moved out the Air Force modified the IFC into a comms and satellite tracking facility. Sure ‘nuff, it was gated with plenty of government “restricted area” signs and buildings modified to the point of being unrecognizable. Two geodesic domes are on concrete bases on the eastern side of the facility; the platforms are good sized and non-Nike but they may indicate the former location of the radars (then again, they might not; they’re on the reverse side of the IFC from the battery…tall towers?). The site’s at the north end of Lyons Road at its intersection with Newkirk.

The launcher facility is about a mile to the southwest on the north side of Craig Road. I found a lot of prefab homes in the vicinity (none dare call them “estates”); at 2400 North Craig you’ll see Teen Challenge International-Pacific NorthwestCenters, Spokane Men’s Center. Apparently it’s a rehab halfway house or something of the sort; a newer two-story building is on the property but the old Army structures are recognizable. The three magazines/12 launchers are at the northwest end of the property and are apparently abandoned.

The operators of F-07 were A/10th (12/56-9/58) and A/1/43rd (9/58-6/60). According to an article I received from Tim Tyler, the Air Force has let a contract to build a training and education facility at F-07C, aka the White Bluff Complex. Construction is scheduled to start this spring.

Well, let’s go four-for-four on the Fairchild Defense Area. I drove south from F-07L to intercept US 2 then turned westbound, stopping at a mini-mart to get a Diet Pepsi refill and a copy of the Sunday Spokesman-Review (told the old boy behind the counter I might find some jobs; he responded, “Try Seattle. We’re in deep doo-doo here between Boeing and Alcoa.”). I stopped again to get a good look at the Spokane Plains Battlefield monument across from Fairchild’s main gate then headed out past the small town of Deep Creek to Wood Road, where I turned north.
F-87 Deep Creek – This was the second of two Nike Hercules sites, built for the purpose and manned by D/1/43rd (9/58-3/66). The layout was three magazines/11 launchers and I assume a HIPAR. According to the information we dug out for RS2, the IFC is now owned by Valley Electrical Service while F-87L belongs to William F. Spelker & Sons.

I hit the battery fac on the north side of Sprague Road first…and found three very large, very loud dogs (Tim? Your services are needed) with a pack of llamas across the road wondering what the hell all the racket was about. The site’s in good shape, privately owned and apparently the owners live onboard. The magazine/launcher area is to the north. Off to the west-northwest about a mile – west of Wood, on top of the only hill in the area – is the IFC. It too was locked up with no trespassing signs and no access to the top of the ridge. Rats…

That was it for my second Spokane/Fairchild/Geiger sojourn in five months. At 1320 I dropped back down onto US 2 and resumed my trek west, turning south onto WA 28 at Davenport and backtracking my October excursion. About an hour later I was in the “town” of Lamona (this time I kept an eye out for it).