Sand Bay – A Naval Fueling Station in the Aleutians.
We arrived late that afternoon got off the Yippee’s, put on trucks and were taken to our Quonset huts and then to the galley to have a late supper,. We settled in and went to sleep. The next morning we woke up to see the first snow of the year and we all thought wow this stuff is beautiful, little did we know that this was the beginning of a winter that we would never forget. As usual it did not take long for somebody to come to the Quonset hut and say cooks and bakers report to the galley. This was a call that would follow me around for all the time I would spend in the navy.
The Great Sitkin was the name of the Island but the base was known as Sand Bay Naval fueling station. The island was quite large but the Navy used only a small part of it. The name Great Sitkin referred to the mountain that was on the island. It was a live volcano that was throwing steam out of the top all the time, and every once in a while it would give us a little shake to let us know that he was there. The frontage on the beach was about 3 miles or so long and only went a couple hundred yards or so from the beach to the mountains. it was like a long strip of land and right in the middle of it was this extra long pier that stuck out into the bay. Oil tankers were forever coming in to unload and all kind of ships would come in and get their fuel. One of the main jobs of our unit was to run this operation and what a great job they did.
I do not remember what Seabee battalion built the base, when they moved on they left their area intact and left every thing there. Even their galley and bakery which we had to use one time for a week or so when they were replacing all the equipment in the Navy bakery. There were quite a few Navy Personal at sand Bay so we had quite a large galley and bakery. I guess there were around 450 altogether.
They put us to work right away. It was a well-built galley and bakery and they had all the latest equipment. The bakery had three navy bakers and with me it made four. We made just about every thing you could think of. You could say one thing for sure, the guys got all the sweets that they could handle. One of the things that we used to get there were these five gallon cans that had all kinds of fruit and thickened juice ready to go into the pies and cobblers. That made it easy for use and saved us a lot of time. The baker in charge had a Navy 1st class rating and he really knew his stuff. I do not think that there was anything he did not know how to do. He had been in the navy for 10 years and working in the bakery all that time.
On the base were a couple of very large buildings one they used as a movie house and the other they used for basketball. We used to go to the movies two times a week but when the weather turned bad there was no way that we could get any new movies. Once in a while a navy ship would come in to fuel up and we would exchange movies with them. When we had good weather the Yippee would come in from Adak and we would load up with new film. They had a basket ball league set up and the 510 put together a team. We turned out to be fairly good and ended up in 2nd place at the end of the season.
The weather started to turn really bad, first the rains came and when the weather started to turn cold the snow started to come, and snow it did. I have never seen snow like that. You think of snow coming down in flakes, not at sand Bay. It was as if someone had opened a valve up in the sky and down it came with a fury and vengeance. It would go on like that for days on end; all you could see was snow snow snow. Then you would wake up one morning and there would not be a cloud in the sky, no wind and just the biggest sun you have ever seen. It was cold but we would rather have the cold than all that snow. After a couple of days you would look up into the sky and you would see these thin white lines they looked as someone had painted them and we would say Oh Oh. Here comes Willie and for sure he would make his appearance and he would not disappoint us. It seemed that the storms were getting worse and we were all looking forward to spring.
It was a cold winter and I was really lucky that I was working in the bakery. From our Quonset hut it was about 100 yards to the Bakery and when we had to go to work at 6:00 am we had to put on all our foul weather gear just to go to work. I have to give all the guys that were working in that foul weather thumbs up. They had to see that the whole base was in working order and also fuel all the ships that came to Sand Bay. All the Quonset huts were dug into the tundra so only ½ of showed above the ground and after all the hard snow it looked like we were living in Igloo’s. The only thing you could see was just the top portion of the hut and the smokestack from the oil heater that we had to keep us warm.
Time just seemed to drag on; no place to go and nothing to do. Just work work work. From time to time Navy ships would pull in to fuel and lay over for a couple of days. They would come to eat our galley and their cooks would come into work at the bakery and load up with bread and all the goodies that they could store on their ship. What I liked about this that when they would come to work in our bakery they would take us aboard their ships and give us a guided tour. I really enjoyed that it gave us a look at how the guys at sea were living. There was a Sub that was on patrol along the Aleutian chain and it would come in about once a month to fuel up. They only had one cook on the sub so he would come into the bakery work for a couple of days and would take all the bread, cakes and pies he could handle when they left. I do not remember the name of the sub but I do remember the cooks name it was Lou, can’t forget that. One time when they were leaving I helped him take all the bread and pies to the sub and I was amazed when I saw the size of his galley. It was like working in a closet. I asked him how he could work in such a small space and he said you just have to get used to it.
The winter dragged on and finally it stopped snowing and it started to warm up there was only one problem. The snow was melting and the Quonset huts that were dug in to the ground started to fill with water and we had to have pumps going to get all that water out. Imagine waking up and have to slide into your rubber boots just to be able to get out of bed!
This is about the time that we found out that we had silver foxes on the island, and they were very friendly if you had something to feed them you could get them to eat right out of your hand. We used to get our eggs frozen in small wooden crates that had 2 sections and the sides had openings big enough that you could see the eggs. We used to put them out behind the galley to defrost in the afternoon and the darn little foxes would reach in and pull the eggs to the sides and crack them and then suck all the egg out. We could have stopped them but we got a kick watching them do their evil deeds.
The weather finally turn nice and the snow stopped and we were able to get out and move around a little when the weather turned good. The next problem we had was all the mud. They had some 3 inch and 20mm guns on the side of the mountain and about once a week some planes from Adak would come over dragging some targets and the gunners would let loose. They were pretty good and would hit them just about every time. We all enjoyed watching them.
I guess it was around June when we found out that we were moving again. Scuttlebutt had it that we going to get back together with the rest of the unit. We had to say goodbye to all the good friends that we had made. Within a couple of days we boarded trucks went down to docks, we were thinking that we would take a ride on the Yuppies again but to our surprise we boarded a destroyer escort and had a deluxe ride to Adak. We arrived at Adak and were put on trucks for a long ride to the other side of the Island on the Bering Sea to a place they called Andrew Lagoon.