Andrews Lagoon

Mt. Moffet at Andrews LagoonMt. Moffet at Andrews Lagoon

Andrews Lagoon is on the North side of the island named Adak on the Bering Sea. The main job for the 510 at Andrews Lagoon was the maintenance of the 2 airstrips laid side by side where all the planes coming to Adak would land. The one that used to come most of the time was one that they called a Constellation I am sure you have seen pictures of this plane, it had 4 engines with three stabilizers on the tail wing. We used to call it the clunk and it used to bring in our mail and packages from home so we were happy to see it come in. The land here was not flat, kind of hilly and the Seabee battalion that put together this base did quite a job. We were told that to build the airstrips they had to level off lot of the land so that they could build them. The weather at the lagoon was lousy, a very cold wind came of the sea and it was foggy most of the time.

We all settled in and as usual someone came into the Quonset hut the next day and said that familiar phrase all cooks and bakers report to the galley. At Andrews Lagoon the bakery was in a separate building, It was pretty good size and they had all the latest equipment. I had never met any of the other bakers in the 510. There was a 1st class a 2nd class and two 3rd class bakers and with me that made five guys so we had all the help that we needed. I had worked under two really good 1st class bakers and I thought I knew quite a bit about baking, there was more to learn I soon found out. The baker in charge here was a Pastry Chef in one of the big Hotels in New York before the war and he taught us a lot on how to make first class desserts.

One morning I came in to the bakery and in the corner was a big box that I thought was red celery. I asked him “What are you going to do with all the red celery?” and he answered “That’s not celery Lou that’s rhubarb and we are going to make pies out of it”. I took a bite of a small piece and it was the bitterest thing I had ever tasted. I had to peel off the outside of the stalks, trim off the bad ends and cut them up into small pieces and give them a good wash. We then put them in a large pot with a small amount of water and some sugar, brought it to a boil then added some cornstarch to thicken it and it was ready for the pies. I have to admit it turned out pretty good. Little did I realize that all I had learned from the bakers that I had worked with so far had really made me ready for the responsibility that was given to me when I arrived on Guam.

It was sure nice to see all of the guys back together again, we had a chance to talk to all of our friends and we exchanged all the stories and adventures that we had at all the different places we had been. As soon as we got settled in we were told that they had a rifle range and also some 20mm’s and a three-inch gun that we could use. We went down to the range once a month and got to use the rifle range and shoot the 20’s and 3 inch. The one that I really enjoyed shooting was the 20’s. One guy would shoot another reload and the third would keep the gun at the right level by raising it up and down by turning 2 wheels attached to the gun, the trick here was to keep the knees of the guy shooting the gun with a slight bend. They would shoot flares one right after another across the sky and we would try to hit them before they exploded and come down with a little parachute and a smoke flare.

At Andrews Lagoon there was a theater and we went to the movies twice a week and what I really enjoyed was the library that was there. I loved to read and they really had a good selection of books. Besides taking care of the air strips the guys had the responsibility of taking care of the whole base, what ever had to be done they did. That is were the phrase CANDO came from. Whenever we had a day off some of us would hitch hike a ride over to the other side of the island to the naval base at Adak and spend the day there. We used to go down to the docks and visit with the navy guys on their ships. In the middle of the bay at Adak there was a pretty good size rock that looked as if the top part of it was painted white. Not so, it was the resting-place of a big flock of American Bald Eagles, and we used to enjoy watching them fly around, they sure are big and have quite a wing span.

The weather at Andrews Lagoon was not to good, lots of fog and wind and it seemed to drizzle all the time. Once in a while we would get a brief look at the sun.  Anything was a lot better that all that snow we had on the Great Sitkin.

The main job for the 510 was to make sure that the runways of the airstrip were always in good condition.  When the Seabees build an airfield runway they would lay down what I think is called Martson Strips. They are flat pieces of sheet metal that are about 4 feet wide and 8 feet long and they would hinge together so you make a solid mat out of them. They had these 6-inch holes for drainage. The airstrips in the Aleutians were built on what they call tundra and the ground under it was very soft and damp all the time so every time a plane landed it would leave groves in the runway. So the guy’s would go out with these bomb buggies that had a winch on them, they would pick up the mat with the winch and drop sand on the mat and sweep it down thru the holes to make the ground level again, and this happened every time a large plane would come in.

One day we got the word that there was going to be a meeting with some U.S. and Russian officials in Adak. They would be landing at the Andrews Lagoon airstrip.  On the day that they landed we all had to get into our dress blues and form up on the side of the road as they passed by. Guess who was with the American delegation?  None other than Franklin D Roosevelt.  As the Americans drove by you could see the President and he was waving to all of us.

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