History of the 556th Signal Air Warning Battalion

SAW in Iceland

PREFACE

LAMBERT STAMMERJOHN

PREFACE


The histories of World War II that I have read had very little to say about the American occupation of Iceland from 1941 to 1945. The purposes of that occupation - to secure Iceland from German aggression, to relieve British ground and air forces that occupied Iceland in 1940, to secure the naval and air bases in Iceland that were critical to the naval warfare in the North Atlantic, and to provide an air base for the movement of large numbers of aircraft from America to Britain - were all accomplished without major incident. There was no ground combat and only a few intrusions by enemy aircraft. From the beginning of the United States Army's involvement in August 1941, the nature of the operation was classified and little information was released to the public. This was particularly true of the aircraft warning units, whose use of radar was a closely held secret. Even now, fifty-five years later, very little has been written. It is generally known that the planes attacking Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941, were detected by an SCR-270-B radar which was not yet operational, but it is not widely known that the same radar was in filll operational use in Iceland before the end of September 1941. My intention in writing this book is to provide a brief history of the aircraft warning units of the United States Army Signal Corps that were deployed in Iceland, the Aircraft Warning Co TF4, which became the Aircraft Warning Co, Iceland, which in turn became the 556th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion, and also to provide a place for reminiscences of any members of that organization who might wish to contribute. I have relied mainly upon the official unit history files that are in the National Archives, but have enlarged upon those accounts with help of the cumulative memories of a few of us who have kept in touch over the years since our time in Iceland. My hope is that these accounts will be of interest not only to my flimily and friends, but to a larger community that may not know much about the time and place. In looking back from the perspective of half a century, I find myself impressed with how much a group of determined young people can accomplish when given the opportunity and purpose that we were.
Allentown, PA, July 15, 1996 Lambert W Stammerjohn

OFFICERS OF THE 556th SAW BN at CAMP ARNOLD and CAMP TINKER 1943

Bottom Stammerjohn, Maglhaes, Lowery, Baldwin, Lenz, Butz

Top ? , ? , ? , Jordan, Schroeder, Wicker, Helfer


History of the 556th SAW Bn in Iceland


The Aircraft Warning Company Task Force 4, which became the Aircraft Warning Comapny Iceland and grew to become the 556th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion, was formed to provide radar coverage and information center service for the air defense of Iceland. Activated in July 1941, five months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, it grew in two years from an initial strength of 14 officers and 175 enlisted men to a maximum of 78 officers, 19 warrant officers and 1374 enlisted men. In this time it installed and operated ten radar stations, took over operation of three more from the Royal Air Force, and built and operated two major and two satellite information centers. In the following two years, three additional radars were installed to replace older equipment, five other radars were shut down, the two satellite information centers were closed, and the main information center was moved a second time in a consolidation of operations. All operations ceased in May 1945 after the surrender of Germany and the battalion was returned to the United States where it was deactivated at the end of August 1945, shortly after the Japanese surrender. To put the mission and accomplishments of the 556th into the perspective of world events, we need to look at the United States position in world affairs before our entry mto World War II, or as the British call it, the 1939-1945 war. After the initial defeat and occupation of Poland in 1939, the war in western Europe between Germany and the allied British and French involved no major campaigns. However, this changed suddenly in May 1940 with the quick defeat and occupation of Denmark and Norway. Immediately after the fall of Denmark, the British, with the consent of the Icelandic parliament, placed an occupying force in Iceland to forestall any German move to establish a presence there. At that time the Germans were known to have small weather stations on the east coast of Greenland. Although the British occupation of Iceland was a small part of the sweeping events in the European war in 1940, Winston Churchili recognized its importance with the quote "Whoever possesses Iceland holds a pistol firmly pointed at England, America, and Canada. 9' With the evacuation at Dunkirk at the end of May 1940 and the fall of France in June 1940, Britain was isolated in western Europe but was widely engaged in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The security of the North Atlantic convoy routes became both more difficult and more important to Britain's survival. In 1939, the United States was aware of the developing situation in Europe but was not prepared for active participation in any conflict. At that time the army had a strength of about 175,000 ground forces with the total in all of the other services being about an equal number. Maneuvers held in the summer of 1939 at Plattsburgh, New York, were described by Lt. William H Vogel Jr who participated in them as lacking in both equipment and manpower. The start of the war in Europe in September 1939 changed our attitude on military preparedness. In November 1939, the Neutrality Act was repealed allowing sale of supplies and materiel on a cash and carry basis. In 1940, President Frankin D Roosevelt declared an unmited national emergency in May, and Congress enacted a peacetime military draft in September. In April 1941, the British established bases for air and naval forces in Iceland to protect a vital portion of their North Atlantic supply route. With bases in Newfoundland and Iceland they were able to cover most of their northern convoy route with sea and air patrols. Also in April 1941, the United States extended its security zone in the Atlantic Ocean eastward to West Longitude 26 degrees and undertook the defense of shipping in the western part of the Atlantic. In June 1941, President Roosevelt decided to establish an American base in Iceland and the American presence m the North Atlantic was flirther extended eastward to include this island which is only about 800 miles from Norway and Scoiland. It was flirther agreed with Britain that American forces would take over the defense of Iceland and relieve the British garrison there. Also in June 1941, Hitler's Germany invaded Russia thereby converting the Soviet Union from a relatively passive bystander in Europe to an active ally and creating an eastern front that would divert major German effort from Britain and the west. It also opened the need to supply this new ally by sea by convoys to Murmansk. On July 7, 1941, U S Marines arrived in Iceland as a first step in our occupation. Task Force 4, including the Aircraft Warning Co TF-4, arrived in Iceland on August 6 to establish an air defense capability there. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was still four months in the future, but the United States Navy was escorting convoys from the States to Reylgavik on a combat basis, and the elements of Task Force 4 were working with haste to achieve a flill combat ready status. At the time of the British occupation in 1940, Iceland was an independent nation giving allegiance to the King of Dennmrk. It had become an independent nation during World War I. It had a long tradition of self government; it was the seat of Europe's first parliament, the Althing, which met in 930 AD. In 1941, Iceland had a population of about 135,000 people. By 1942, American army, navy and air force personnel in about the same number were stationed there. Most of the Icelandic population was in the capitol city, Reyljavik, and in the other towns and villages located nearby in the southwestern part of the island. In addition, there were fishing towns and villages and small land holdings around the entire coast. Iceland is the second largest island in Europe after Great Britain. East to west it measures about 300 miles, and from north to south about 200 miles. The northernmost part of the island lies just north of the Arctic Circle. Due to North Atlantic currents which derive from the Gulf Stream, the temperatures in the southern part of Iceland are surprisingly mild. The annual average temperature in Reykjavik is only a few degrees lower than that in New York City, but the summer average temperature is only about 50 degrees. However the weather is often stormy with frequent high winds of gale and hurricane force. Because it lies above North Latitude 63 degrees, there are several weeks in the surner when it is light for 24 hours a day, and the weather can be very pleasant. And conversely, in the winter the days are only four hours long and the weather is often stormy. The interior of the island was largely barren wilderness. The largest glacier in Europe, the Vatnajokull is in the southeast part of the island. Although there were many hot springs, in the early 1940s none of the known active volcanoes had ni~~jor activity. The major geo-thermal wonder was Geyser which has given its name as a generic term for spouting hot springs all over the world. And a major engineering project brought hot water from some of the hot springs to Reyljavik to provide heating. One of the most striking features of Iceland is its barren grandeur. There are deep woods and the mountains rise steeply for several thousand feet around much of the shore line. The highest mountain in Iceland reaches to almost 7000 feet. The road net was rudimentary and not adequate to handle large trucks and other heavy equipment. And much of it could not be used throughout the year because of weather and flooding. Practical access to most of the coast was by sea. All in all, the geography, climate and state of what is now called the infrastructure presented major challenges to the troops charged with establishing radar coverage and aircraft warning information centers to protect the entire island. Although the Aircraft Warning Co TFA was formed in July 1941, the story of American radar in Iceland begins on June 20, 1941, when 1St Lt Albert J Gilardi, Tech Sgt Henry Sawyer, Staff Sgt John Hipp and Sgt Roy E Irminger of the 1st Aircraft Warning Co, Fort Monmouth, NJ, were selected for a reconnaissance mission to "Indigo". That same day, on telegraphic orders from the Adjutant General's Office, Fort Monmouth, they proceeded by truck and train to Charleston, SC, where they reported to the Commanding General, 1St Provisional Marine Brigade, aboard the US Navy transport USS Orizaba. They sailed on June 22, arriving in Iceland on July 7, 1941, the day President Roosevelt publicly announced the arrival of the United States Marines in Iceland. The directive which Lt Gilardi received in sealed orders enroute to Charleston envisioned the deployment of the 1st Aircraft Warning Co and the 1st Operations Co and the AW Co's seven SCR-270-B radars in "Indigo". The team was to reconnoiter potential sites for the seven radars. Upon arrival in Reykjavik, Lt Gilardi made contact with the Royal Corps of Signals and the Royal Air Force and learned that Mr Ewing, a civilian engineer from the Air Ministry, was in Iceland on a similar mission and that he had made recommendations for sites along the south coast of Iceland. Three of these locations Grotta point, Olfils, and Vik Myrdal, had been approved and construction had started or was imminent. A small Fighter Control Room had been designed for plotting data from these radars. The last two weeks of July were spent in reconnaissance of the southern part of Iceland, the Keflavik, Thingvallvatn and Vik Myrdal areas. The first site chosen was on Thorbjorn, an extinct volcano near the village of (irindavik. With an elevation of 785 feet, it was felt that this together with the British stations already planned would give adequate coverage for the critical Reylgavik area. But it was also learned that only in the Reykjavik - Keflavik area were the roads and bridges capable of modest upgrading to handle the heavy trucks and trailers of the SCR-270-B radars. Elsewhere it would be necessary to construct the fixed station version, the SCR-271. It was also learned that the roads would not pennit the building or supplying of installations in the interior of the island. The first two weeks of August were in reconnoitering the northern, northeastern and eastern coasts of the island. Sites were chosen at Siglunes (north central), Skalar (northeast) and Vattarnes (east). The British had studied and selected a fourth site at Vesturhom (southeast). This reconnaissance was completed and Catherine also was the site for all of the radio transmitters used for communication with the radar sites, and later was the location of the radio transmitter and large rhombic antenna used for communication from the Iceland Base Command to the United States. Although this camp was an excellent site for the radar and the transmitters, it was a difficult location for a tent camp. The ground was rocky and the clay soil when wet would not hold pegs. The camp was exposed to high winds and rain was common. Tents could be kept up only by guying them to the trucks. Quonset huts were issued late in September, and by October 10, all troops and equipment were installed in them. The author commanded thiscamp early in 1942 and can attest to the winds and the rain. At that time, in one storm with hurricane winds it was necessary to go around to all the huts on a continual patrol to iusure that the corrugated sheet metal shells remained nailed in place. That day we saw a number of planes which were anchored in Skeijaijordur, Short Sunderland flying boats and PBY5 Catalina amphibians, that capsized and sank in the high waves. Some Icelandic cottages below us on the ridge were destroyed by the wind. The The SCR-268 was a 200 MHZ radar designed for anti-aircraft gun laying. It had transmitting and receiving antennas mounted on two booms that extended about 10 feet on either side of a central rotating pedestal. The pedestal could rotate through 360 degrees in the horizontal plane and the booms could also rotate to a 90 degree elevation. Designed to track targets and not to search for them, the main antenna lobes were relatively narrow and the range was short, about 25 miles. This made target acquisition difficult and the duration of tracking short. The booms and antennas were also quite vulnerable to high winds, making it necessary to tie them down during the all too common gale winds. A civilian technical representative came to Iceland with us to modify the SCR-268's to extend the range to 75 miles. Unfortunately, this fix did not work and had to be removed. However, the use of the selsyn motors to relay azimuth and elevation information and the removal of the A scopes (or range scopes) to a Quonset hut, made operation possible in the less severe weather conditions. The second platoon that departed Camp Tripoli on August 29, established Camp Sleepy Hollow at Thorkutlastathanes, about one mile east of the village of Orindavik. There they installed an SCR-27~B radar and a tent camp. This radar had good coverage south over the ocean and also to the north over ReyljaV£. The platoon of 33 men was commanded by 1st Lt Willard S Magathaes and the second in command was 1st Lt Robert H Eberle. The initial tent camp was located in a sandy gully with some partial protection from the wind, but it was not suitable for the increasingly inclement weather and was quickly replaced by huts when they became available in late September. The camp was also the base for a platoon of the 21St Engineers under 2nd Lt Frank Kohihoff. They were building a road up the side of Thoii~orn, the extinct volcano chosen as a permanent SCR-270-B site. The road was spectacular, a single straight ramp which rose over 600 feet in less than a mile. Both AW Co and engineer personnel worked on the road, which was completed without a major mishap in December. There was one close escape with only minor injuries. One night, one of the trucks carrying personnel and pulling a 2 wheeled trailer carryng nitro-starch lost its brakes on this downgrade. It was only slowed enough to avoid disaster by one of the men climbing over the tail gate of the truck and setting the hand brake on the trailer. During the last week of August 1941, a temporary Fighter Control Room was set up in a small Nissen hut adjoining the RAF Coastal Command Operations Room at the Reykjavik Aerodrome. Equipped with a plotting table, a BD-72 switchboard and EE-SA field telephones, it was connected to the radar equipment and the radio transmitters at Camp Catherine by 5 pairs of field wire and from there to Camp Sleepy Hollow by radio. Later field lines were laid to Camp Sleepy Hollow by the British Royal Signals. With two radars ready, the Fighter Control Room went into operation on August 31. The radar at Camp Sleepy Hollow became operational on September 1 RAF Olftis came on line on September 5 and RAF Grotta came on line about September 15. On September 16, 1941, a large army force including the 5th Infantry Division arrived in Rey~avik~ And on the night of September 15-16, the radar at Camp Sleepy Hollow reported an echo from the vicinity of Faxafioi of great enough strength to suggest several to many aircraft. This was at a range of about 70 miles from the radar. This occrred just as the Controller and the Filter Officer and the plotters were being relieved. The author was the Filter Officer coming on duty; 1St Lt Newland Baldwin was the officer going off The outgoing shift elected to stay, and being senior remained in charge. The echoes were tracked for several minutes and then disappeared. Because of the presence of the convoy m the harbor and the certainty that no friendly aircraft were in that area, the Controller decided to scramble several P40's. Since it was dark at this time and the fighters were not equipped for night interceptions or navigation, this presented a serious problem in controlling them and bringing them back safely. There were no runway lights, so all available trucks in the area were positioned along the runway with their headlights shining on it. All of the planes landed safely and the radar reported no flirher tracks in that or any other vicinity. The radar return was never flilly explained, but the author suspects from later knowledge that the return was from the mountains north of Faxafloi and was due to refraction, possibly from an inverted thermal. During the months of September and October, 1941, the three RAF radar stations became operational. Telephone lines were completed to RAF Grotta and RAF Olftis and both were reporting data to the temporary information center. Detachments were sent to each of the three stations to study the operation and maintenance of the equipment in anticipation of taking over their operation. The detachment that went to RAF ~ik also set up and operated a radio link to the information center. The author was sent to RAF Olftis in September as part of the initial detachment. The officers and other ranks of the RAF provided excellent instruction and hands on experience. At that time, the commanding officer at Oltus was Flying Officer Douglas Gooderham, RCAF. His second-in-command was Pilot Officer Eric Worthington, RAF. For most of us, it was not only necessary to learn the equipment, but also to learn the mother tongue as spoken by the English, the Scots, the Welsh and the Canadians and to pick up the idiom of the RAF. Detailed planning for the first permanent information center was started as soon as the temporary center was operationaL The site selected was four miles east of Reykjavik on the Alafoss road. The center was housed in a specially constructed Nissen storage hut that had floor space of 48~4 feet and a height of 18 feet. There were two adjoining standard Nissen huts which housed the radio and telephone equipment. The large floor space allowed for a combined filter and operations map table that was about 15x20 feet. On this was painted a map of Iceland and the sea approaches 150 miles east and south and 75 miles north and west, and a map grid for plotting aircraft positions. Around this central table was a two-tiered U-shaped balcony with positions for a Controller (of fighter aircraft), a Radar Officer, an Aircraft Movement Liaison Officer, an Antiaircraft Artillery Liaison Officer, and a Naval Liaison Officer plus their assistants, status clerks and tellers. Plotters connected to each radar station placed pips on the appropriate grid coordinates as they were received. These pips were color coded to agree with the colors of five minute segments on a master clock. This allowed the observers to estimate aircraft speed. A filterer working at the table laid down a series of arrows indicating the most probable direction and position as derived from multiple observations. The center was adapted from the design that was used in the RAF installations in Britain. No photographs of the operating portions of this room were taken due to the highly classified information involved. The security surrounding what we were doing and where we were was careflilly maintained. Lt William L Zapponi was largely responsible for the room design and the design of the telephone layout that was used. Lt Newland Baldwin was responsible for the design and installation of the radio net that supplied tactical and administrative communication. The Hickam Information Center was completed early in December 1941 and replaced the temporary information center at 0800 hours on Dec 7, 194 1. The Radar Officers initially assigned for shift duty that day were Lt Zapponi, 1st Lt Clarence A Lundy, and 2nd Lt Lambert W Stammeijohn. The system, which had grown to five radars reporting in to this center had been in existence just under 10 weeks. At this point, flirther expansion was not possible with the original personnel of the Aircraft Warning Co TFA. The shortage of operating personnel had been foreseen. On Nov 13, 1941, a detachment of the 556th Signal Battalion, AWS (Separate), was formed at Mitchel Field with 11 officers and 189 enlisted men. On Dec 11, 1941, this unit left Mitchel Field and traveled to the Brooklyn Port of Embarkation where it boarded the USA T Chateau Thieny and sailed the same day. Accompanied by two other ships, the Chateau Thieny was convoyed by the battleship USS North Carohna, a cruiser and three destroyers to Halifax, Nova Scotia. There the Chateau Thierry joined a larger convoy which was accompanied by the USS Ar~ and numerous destroyers. Both legs of the voyage were characterized by bad weather (not surprising in the North Atlantic in December). The Chateau Thieny arrived in Iceland on Dec23, 1941. The detachment disembarked on Dec 24. Part of it, 7 officers and 89 enlisted men, went immediately to Camp Hickam. The remainder were housed temporarily at Camp Tripoli. At the arrival of this "second echelon" the Aircraft Warning Co, Iceland, was redesignated the 556th Signal Battalion, Aircraft Warning Service (Separate) per General Orders No 9, Headquarters, Iceland Base Command, dated Dec 23, 1941. With the new detachment, the total strength was 25 officers and 366 enlisted men. The battalion was organized into two companies, the Headquarters Company and Reporting Company A. The Headquarters Company included the Plotting Platoon; Company A comprised all of the radar station operating platoons. Although the names are not recorded inthe official unit history for 1941 (which was written in 1943), the author's recollection is that at this time M~ (later Lt Col) Kenneth F March was the commanding officer, Maj Charles Nellis the executive officer, and Capt Walter E Lotz, 3rd, the commanding officer of Co A. The year closed with the battalion operating two radar stations, Sleepy Hollow and Catherine, and the Information Center at Camp Hickam. The RAF were operating two radar stations, Olflis and Orotta, and were repairing a third at Vik which had been damaged by high winds. The four radar stations reporting to the Information Center provided partial coverage for the critical area of south western Iceland. Two policies which were to characterize all later operations were already apparent. There was a strong medical section attached to the battalion to provide coverage for the remote locations, and a system of rotation of assignments for personnel was in effect. The beginng of 1942 saw the start of the expansion of the radar system to include stations on the north, east and south coasts of Iceland, a growth from four to eleven operatmg radars. Construction of the SCR-271-B site on Thorbjorn, near Grindavik, had started in December, 1941. This unit, named Vail, replaced the temporary site at Camp Sleepy Hollow. The construction included the permanent installation of the antenna mount at the peak of Thorbjorn and the installation of the transmitter, receiver, and operating position in a nearby Quonset hut. The antenna mount was modified by adding a selsyn motor to provide a remote indication of azimuth at the operator's position in the hut. The radar as designed had an azimuth ring at the base of the antenna which the operator read through a window in the operating van. Two LeRoi gasoline-powered engine generators were located in a second hut somewhat below the operating hut and in the crater of this extinct volcano. Since the radar was originally equipped with only one engine generator, some ingenious improvisation was needed to synchronize the two generators and provide continuous power when switching between them. By April, camp construction was under way in the crater. And on April 19, 1942, the Camp Vail radar was operational, replacing the one at Camp Sleepy Hollow. Planning and construction of this site were under the direction of 1st Lt Albert J Gilardi with the assistance of 1st Lt Robert H Eberle. On Jan 13, 1942, a detachment of an officer and 15 enlisted men departed Reykjavik for Heimey in the Vestmanne~ar aboard the MS Eldoi. They were equipped to construct a camp and begin preparation of a site for an SCR-270-B, to be permanently installed in the same fashion as the one at Camp Vail. A second detachment of an officer and 15 enlisted men with the radar equipment departed Reykjavik on Mar 27 aboard the 55 Deame. The radar was sited just outside the village of Kaupstathur. This station became known as Camp Page and was placed in operation on Apr 7, 1942. The first commanding officer was 1st Lt Robert H Eberle. An interesting note about camp names is that Camp Catherine was named by Lt Newland Baldwin whose wife's name was Catherine. Camp Page was named by Lt Eberle whose daughter's name was Page. Sometime in late 1941 we received a directive that camps should be named only after deceased nillitary personnel. The author's recollection is that someone quickly discovered that a Revolutionary War hero named Page was honored in the naming of Camp Page. In February, 1942, the SCR-268 radar at Camp Catherine was shut down and moved to Camp Cornell near Thingvellir to provide radar coverage to the east of the Reykjavik area. This new site became operational on Mar 17, 1942. The initial commanding officer was 1st Lt William H Vogel. Camp Catherine, which was the site of the battalion's radio transmitters and the larger transmitter used for communication with the States, became the headquarters of Reporting Co A. Cooperation with the RAF in planning and operating the radar system was close. A Wing Commander Jackson was assigned as RAF liaison to our radar and fighter control operations. In November 1941, Major March went on several weeks detached service to the United Kingdom to learn more about the operation of the RAF home radar chain. In March 1942, 1st Lt William L Zapponi and 2nd Lt Lambert W Stammeijohn were sent on detached service to the United Kingdom to study the filter and operations centers and the home radar chain. They were placed in the charge of the newly formed Electronics Training Group office at the Embassy in London, and were given carte blanche by the RAF to go wherever needed to obtain this information. The author spent much time at the HQ RAF 60 Group, talking with civilian and service technical people and visiting radar sites, but also had a chance along with Lt Zapponi to visit the big underground Fighter Command Operations Room at Bentley Priory, north of London. In March, 1942, the 556th took over operation of the British ACH radar located at Olfils. This camp was renamed Camp Lee. Using the resources that were at hand, one flirther radar was installed in the summer of 1942. On Aug 6, 1942, 2 officers and 35 enlisted men established a tent camp near the village of Kefiavik and just to the north of the new airfield that was constructed on that peninsula. Since there were not enough personnel in the 556th to man this station, the Signal Corps personnel were augmented by troops from the loth Infantry (security) and the Field Arillery (wire and radio communications). The initial commanding officer was the author, 1st Lt Lambert W Stammeijohn. The other officer was 2nd Lt Joseph Samra, loth Infantry. The SCR-270-B radar was the one that had been installed originally at Camp Sleepy Hollow and was set up at Howard as a field installation. It was operational on Aug 13, 1942. Huts for personnel were erected by the middle of September. This was the total expansion possible with the strength of the battalion in the summer of 1942. Recommendations for additional personnel and equipment had been made by the Commanding Officer and the Commanding General, Iceland Base Command, and had been approved. But flirther expansion and implementation of the plans awaited the arrival of more troops. On July 5, 1942,4 officers and 1 enlisted man (radio operator) accompanied the detacliments of the 5th Engineers which left Reykjavik to construct camps and radar sites at Siglunes, Skalar, Vattarnes and Vesturhorn on the north and east coasts of Iceland. Each of these stations would be equipped with an SCR-271 radar (the fixed station version of the SCR-270-B). On Aug 28, an officer and 6 enlisted men, as a cadre for planned Company D, left Reykjavik for Budareyri to establish a company headquarters and information center there. 1st Lt William Zapponi was the first commander of Company D. The personnel, 31 officers and 687 enlisted men, needed to complete the planned organization of the 556th Sig AW Bn (Sep) arrived in Reykjavik on Aug 31, 1942, aboard the SS Ormondie and SSDutchess ofBe~ord On that same date, the organization of the 556th was expanded to include a Headquarters and Plotting Company, Companies A and B (reporting) and Companies C and D (composite). The additional personnel for Companies B, C and D were in this arriving group. Most of the personnel were disembarked and stationed in existing camps, permanent and temporary, but 4 officers and 137 enlisted men destined for Company D remained on the Dutchess of Bedford to go to Budareyri. On Sep 6, this ship was attacked by a Focke Wulfe 200 off Reydarijordur. Several bombs were dropped without damage. When disembarked, the Company D personnel moved to Camp Myer, the company headquarters near Budareyri. In the latter part of September, 1942, the 1st Reporting Platoon of Co D moved by ship from Budareyri to Vattarnes and Camp Lockwood. The radar at this site became operational on Oct 13, as did the information center at Camp Myer. On Sep 25, 1942, the Headquarters, Filter and 1st Reporting platoons of Company C, left Reykjavik aboard the SS Lochnogar for Siglunes and Akureyri. The 1st Reporting Platoon was landed at Siglu~order and conveyed to Siglunes by tank lighter. The other platoons continued on to Akureyri and occupied Camp Murphy. The first commanding officer of Company C was 1St Lt Robert H Eberle. Camp Ray radar became operational on Oct 22. The information center at Camp Murphy became operational on Nov 2. The author was briefly stationed at Camp Ray prior to the completion of the installation of the SCR-27 1. It is his recollection that he was replaced by 1st Lt Claude W Hiers, who was the first commanding officer of the operational station. The 2nd Reporting Platoon, Company C (2 officers and 44 enlisted men), and the 2nd Reporting Platoon, Company D (2 officers and 44 enlisted men), left Reykjavik on the SS Lochnogar on October 13, 1942. The Co D personnel were landed at Budareyri Oct 15 and temporarily housed at Camp Myer. The Lochnogar then proceeded to Skalar where it landed the personnel of 2nd Platoon, Company C. The 2nd Platoon, Company D, was moved to Camp Evans on Vesturhorn near Hofli in three echelons between Oct 22 and Nov 10. Camp Evans reported operational on Dec 2 and Camp Greely on Skalar reported operational on Dec 6, 1942. It is the author's recollection that the first commanding officer of Evans was 1st Lt William Dixon. The camps at Ray, Greely, Lockwood and Evans were isolated and remote. None were supported by road or trail. All had to be supplied from the sea over relatively exposed beaches. Each of these stations had a resident medical officer assigned. The wisdom of this was borne out when it was necessary for an emergency appendectomy to be performed at Greely. Shortly after the surgery the weather cleared enough for a PBY-5 to land and to evacuate the patient to the base hospital in Reylqavik. Also in October 1942, the battalion took over the operation of the RAF radars at Vik and Grotta, thus adding Camps Freser and Adams to the battalion. The complete system as planned was now operational within sixteen months from the arrival of the Aircraft Warning Co TFA in Iceland. The battalion had its first experiences in hostile action in 1942. On Aug 14, an unidentified aircraft was first tracked by RAF ~ik at 0921 hours heaiag west. At 1000 hours, the Navy reported that an aircraft was attacking a convoy about 30 miles south of Grindavik. At 1030 hours, a track was picked up about 25 miles west of the Kefiavik peninsula headed north. The track then turned east about 10 miles north of Skagafios or Skagi Point as it was called in the battalion history for 1942. The intruder was identified by intercepting fighters and by observers at radars and ground observer posts as a Focke Wulfe 200. It was destroyed by the fighters over the ocean about five miles west of Reyi~avik. The radar track was lost at 1100 hours. The radar officer on duty was 1st Lt William H Vogel. The author remembers this event well because he was at Camp Howard which had become operational only the day before. Despite all of Lt Vogel9s coaching, Howard did not track this plane nor could I get a visual on it. On Oct 18, 1942, the AAAIS reported sighting an aircraft identified as a JU-88 headed southwest from Borgarnes at 1300 hours. It was picked up by gun laying radars at 1331 hours. An interception was made by fighters and north of Thingvallavatn it was disabled by one of the fighters crashing into the tail of the JU-88. All contact was lost at this time, but the wreckage was later found on Mount Esja. The radar officer on duty was Lt Aaron Goldman. On Oct 24, 1942, a visual sighting of a Focke Wulfe 200 was reported by observers at Thingvellir at 0735 hours. This aircraft had previously been tracked by radar. At this time at least one radar was tied down due to high wind. All were ordered back on the air and some tracks were reported, but radar contact was lost again at 0820 hours. Fighters which had been scrambled at 0800 hours were ordered to land. The track was picked up again at 0836 hours about ten miles southwest of Reykjanes. It was tracked east and was lost at 0859 hours about 15 miles south west of Thingvallavatn. The hostile was engaged by fighters at 0910 hours. It was destroyed and crashed near Akranes. The radar officer on duty was Lt Frank C Hesch, Jr. In addition to the aircraft destroyed, Camp Lockwood at Vattarnes reported five sightings and engagements with ground fire in October, 1942. Four of these were Focke Wulfe 200~s. One was aHeinkel 111. In retrospect, it appears that all of these flights were interested in the convoys in the vicinity of Iceland and in the convoys and naval forces in Hval~ordur and Reykiavik harbor. The activity at Vattarnes was probably due to it being the closest point to their base in Norway and an obvious navigational fix. This interest is not surprising since the strategic importance of Iceland in 1942 was the protection of our shipping in the North Atlantic. In August and September 1942, construction was begun on two camps located about seven miles east of Reykiavik on the Kaldadames road. Camp Arnold was planned as the battalion headquarters and Camp Tinker was to house a new Information Center and the personnel to operate it. The battalion was fast outgrowing the facilities at Camp Hickam. By the end of the year, both camps had enough huts to house some personnel and functions of the battalion. During 1942, a smnall number of officers and enlisted men were reassigned to the United States including twelve highly qualified enlisted men who were sent to Officers Candidate School in March. In November an additional 99 enlisted men arrived from the States as replacements for losses to OCS and for medical reasons. With this final increase, the strength of the battalion at the end of the year was 58 officers, 2 warrant officers and 1137 enlisted men. New arrivals had been assigned throughout the battalion, and officers and enlisted men with more experience in Iceland had been reassigned throughout the battalion. By 1943 the role of Iceland in World War II began to change. It continued to be a vital base in the Battle of the Ailantic, but with the German arrnies more heavily involved in Russia and North Africa the sense that Iceland was garrisoned to prevent a Geman occupation was fading. A new role as an important way station for ferrying aircraft and crews to Britain came into play. In the spring of 1942, the only US Army and Army Air Force personnel in Britain were attached the embassy staff By 1943, the US 8th Air Force was growing rapidly there. The movement of bombers, fighters and crews from the United States to Britain was accomplished by flying in stages from Maine to Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and then to Iceland and on to Scotland. A typical flight unit was a heavy bomber, B-17 or B-24, providing navigation for four long range fighters. On several occasions the 556th's radar coverage provided critical navigational assistance. For the 556th Signal A W Bn, 1943 was the year that it reached its greatest strength and the year in which it began a ni~~~or reduction in its tactical role. It was also the year that a major rotation of personnel began and in which modernization of equipment could begin. On Feb 26, 1943, the battalion was reorganized once again with a Headquarters Co, Plotting Co, Filter and Communications Co, Co A Reporting, Co B Reporting, Co C Composite, Co D Composite. This organization provided the changes to facilitate the operation of the new Information Center at Camp Tinker. In the latter part of April the Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Co moved from Camp Hickam to Camp Arnold. At the same time, Plotting Co and the Filter and Communications Co moved to Camp Tinker. The Information Center at Tinker became operational on April 28. And on May 6, the 556th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion (Special) was redesignated the 556th Signal Aircraft Waning Battalion "without change of station, strength or assignment". In May 1943 Lt Col Kenneth F March, who had commanded the unit from \ its inception, was transferred to Drew Field, Florida. On May 21, Lt Col Robert E Lowery assumed command with Major Willard S Magaihaes as the executive officer. On Jun 19, 1943, the last major increase in personnel reached Iceland. This detachment under the command of 1st Lt Max C Jordan consisted of 20 officers and 257 enlisted men who had been trained at Drew Field. The detachment traveled by train to Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts, on May 10. On June 1, they proceeded by train to Boston where they boarded the SS Hawaiian Shipper. They immedditely sailed to New York where they waited five days to join a convoy. With the arrival of this detachment, the battalion had reached its greatest authorized strength, 78 officers, 19 warrant officers and 1374 enlisted men, including 10 officers and 76 enlisted men in a medical detachment and 1 officer and 1 enlisted man, chaplain and assistant. On Aug 5, 1943, one of our fighter aircraft, while in direct radio contact with 2nd Lt Walter C Quednau at Camp Ray, shot down a four-engined enemy aircraft off the northern coast of Iceland. The pilot reported the position of the dQwned aircraft and the fact that there were at least six survivors in a life raft. We quote the report made by 1st Lt Claude W Hiers, Commanding Officer of Company C. On 5 August 1943, approximately 1545 hours, Lt Quednau, Commanding Officer of Camp Ray, received information over the Air-Ground Radio from the friendly fighter planes that a German four motor bomber had been shot down approximately ten (10) miles north of Grirrisey Island. The pilot of the friendly fighter aircraft said there were at least six (6) survivors from the German bomber floating in a life raft and one appeared to be seriously injured. The position of the life raft with survivors was approximately 42 miles from Camp Ray and 30 miles from the nearest point on the main land of Iceland. After receiving this information, Lt Quednau immediately telephoned the Filter Center in Akureyri and asked permission to take their Army MT boat out to capture the German survivors. Permission was granted by the Commanding Officer, Northern Sector. At approximately 1630 hours, 2nd Lt Quedhau, Commanding Officer, Camp Ray; Captain Riley, Camp Medical Officer; M Sgt Prichard, Platoon Sergeant; Sgt Lapsley, Supply Sergeant and TIS ~~illitts, the MT boat driver left Camp Ray or Siglunes to rescue the German survivors. They were armed with Thompson Sub-Machine guns. After the rescue party left Siglunes Point they had to sail by compass as visibility was poor and they could not see Grimsey Island or the fighter plane circling the German life raft. The weather at the time the rescue party departed was very uncertain and could prove very dangerous to a small boat in open sea. The wind was approximately 10 miles per hour from the North-West, sea swell moderate, visibility about 15 miles with a low brQken overcast. As soon as the MT boat left Siglunes, the fighter plane circling the survivors, was contacted by radio from Camp Ray and told to be on look out for the MT boat and direct it to the German survivors. The MT boat proceded to within ten miles of the life raft before the fighter aircraft saw them and directed them to the raft. The rescue party found the life raft and seven (7) unarmed survivors about 2000 hours. The rescue party searched the German survivors and had them board the MT boat. They then proceded back in the direction of Siglunes. At approximately 1830 hours a 50 ft. Navy tank lighter arrived at Siglunes with supplies for Camp Ray. It was immediately dispatched to go out and meet the MT boat and accompany it back to Siglunes. The MT boat and the tank lighter were directed together by the fighter aircraft, and made contact about 1 hour after the MT boat rescued the Germans. The German survivors were transferred to the tank lighter and both the MT boat and the tank lighter proceded on their way back to Siglunes. After approximately 1 hour the MT boat and tank lighter met an English ship "Great Admiral". The Germans were transferred to the English ship and the MT boat and tank lighter proceded back to Siglunes. Both the MT boat and tank lighter arrived at Siglunes at 0130 hours 6 August 1943." For this action, the five members of the rescue party were awarded the Soldier's Medal. As listed in General Orders No 59, Hq US Army Forces Iceland, 29 August 1943, they were: Captain Clarence J Riley, 0499891, Medical Corps, United States Army, For heroism in Iceland on 5 August 1943. Residence at appointment: Providence, Rhode Island. Second Lieutenant Walter C Quednau, 01634240, Signal Corps, United States Army. For heroism in Iceland 5 August 1943. Residence at appointment: Maywood, Illinois. Master Sergeant Harold H Prichard, 6925014, Signal Corps, United States Army. For heroism in Iceland 5 August 1943. Residence at enlistment: Grand Saline, Texas. Sergeant Thomas A Dapsley, 35476649, Signal Corps, United States Army. For heroism in Iceland 5 August 1943. Residence at enlistment: McMee, Kentucky. Technician Fifth Grade Paul Willitts, 32240916, Signal Corps, United States Army. For heroism in Iceland 5 August 1943. Residence at enlistment: Keansburg, New Jersey. The medals were presented by Major General William S Key at a review on Sep 24, 1943. The battalion was represented by two companies passing in review. They were the Filter and Communications Company, commanded by 1st Lt William F Tracy, and the Plotting Company, commanded by Capt Lambert W Stammeijohh. A photograph of the medal recipients taken then shows only four recipients. Lt Quednau was on leave in the United Kingdom. Sometime earlier in 1943, a policy of allowing leaves in the United Kingdom had begun. By September a number of small groups of officers and enlisted men had been granted leave. Rotations of personnel to the United Kingdom and to the United States were also started. In October, 111 enlisted men left the battalion on rotation. During the year, 15 officers left the battalion and were reassigned as follows: AC, Adin (0) OCS, Miami Beach, Florida 1 Chief of Staff; US Army, for subsequent reassignment 2 Drew Field, Florida 1 Eighth Air Force 3 SOS,ETOUSA 2 Army General Hospital 1 Third Air Force 5 The battalion historical report for 1943 does not identity the reassigned officers by name. However, the following is a partial list of the original officers of the Aircraft Warning Co TF-4 that had been reassigned by the end of 1943: 1941 - 1st Norbert C Miller - US - medical 1942 - Capt Walter E Lotz, Jr - US 1943 - Lt Col Kenneth F March, Capt Albert J Gilardi, Capt Edgar M Matthews, Capt William L Zapponi, 1st Lt Clarence A Lundy - US 1943 - Maj Willard S Magalhaes, Capt William Dixon, Capt Robert H Eberle, Capt Lambert W Stammerjhn, Capt William H Vogel - UK In September 1943, the 556th began to close the more remote radar stations and filter centers and to concentrate coverage on the southern coast and the southwest sector of Iceland, where the important naval and air bases were located. Also a program to replace older radar equipment was begun. On Sep 7, 1943, the SCR-271 at Camp Lockwood (Vattarnes) was taken out of service and the camp evacuated. On Sep 10, the information center at Camp Larkhill (Budareyri) was closed. And on Sep 11, the SCR-270-B at Camp Page (Vestmanneyar) was shut down and the camp evacuated. On Sep 15, 1943, an SCR-602 radar was set up at Camp Howard to supplement the SCR270-B. The SCR-602 had previously been used to prove in a radar site in the Khambar Pass region above the Olftisa. On Nov 17, 1943, the two SCR-268's at Camp Cornell (Thingvellir) were shut down permanently and the personnel moved to Camp Harrison in anticipation of creation of a new radar site. On Dec 24, the SCR-271 at Camp Oreely (Skalar) was closed. On Dec 25, Camp Evans (Vesturhorn) went off the air. And on Dec 28, the information center at Camp Murphy was closed and the camp was evacuated. The SCR-271 at Camp Ray (Siglunes) continued to operate until the end of the year, but was shut down shortly thereafter. The personnel from Camp Page were assigned to Camp Cameron (Khambar Pass) where an SCR-271 was being installed. This unit became operational on Dec 31. The personnel from Camps Larkhill and Lockwood in Company D were relocated in Camp Swansea which became a casual camp for personnel being reassigned. At the end of 1943, the battalion was reduced in strength to 74 officers, 3 warrant officers and 1287 enlisted men. The camp closings and evacuations that began in 1943 were continued in early 1944. On Jan 6, Camp Murphy (Akureyri) was evacuated. Camp Evans (Vesturhorn) was evacuated on Feb 20,and Camp Greely (Skalar) on Feb 26. And finally on Mar 7, Camp Ray (Siglunes) was evacuated. All of these personnel were relocated to Camp Swansea. On Mar 31, Company C (11 officers and 202 enlisted men) left the battalion and Iceland. Rotation of personnel continued for the first half of 1944 beginning with the rotation to the United Kingdom of 1 officer (Chaplain), 1 warrant officer, and 191 enlisted men in early January, and ending in July with the departure of4 medical officers and 1 dental officer. During this period a total of 19 officers, 2 warrant officers and 542 enlisted men left the battalion, while replacements in the number of 10 officers and 220 enlisted men arrived. Company C Composite was removed from the table of organization. And in September, "old" Company D was redesignated Company C. At the end of 1944, the battalion strength was 56 officers, 3 warrant officers and 1037 enlisted men. On Apr 20, Major Frank E Herrelko assumed command of the battalion, taking over from Lt Col Robert E Lowery, who was relieved due to illness. The 556th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion was to continue under the command of Lt Col Herrelko with Major Homer E Hornung as executive officer until its deactivation in 1945. Extensive modernization of the radar equipment was carried out in 1944. The SCR-271 at Camp Cameron (Khambar Pass) had become operational just at the end of 1943. On Apr 15, a new SCR-5 88 was put in operation at Camp Harrison (Kefflavik area). On May 8, a new SCR-271-EA was put in operation at Camp Vail (Thorbjorn). This unit was located about half way down the mountain on the southern face. It replaced the SCR-270-B which was one of the oldest radar units in the army. On Nov 8, an SCR-27 1 -EA became operational at Camp Howard (Keflavik) replacing the SCR-270-B which was first deployed at Camp Sleepy Hollow (Grindavik). This was probably the first US Signal Corps radar to be operated around the clock in an air defense mission. On Sep 15, The British CHL radar at Camp Fraser (Vik) was taken out of service and salvaged for usable parts. Camp Fraser was evacuated. On Oct 16, the British ACH radar at Camp Lee (Olfi~s) was shut down and dismantled. Camp Lee was evacuated at the end of the month. Sometime in 1943 or 1944, the baralion took over the additional function of providing radio direction ftnding ([)F) coverage for aircraft operations. DF equipment was operated at Camp Cameron and Cainp Vail, and Camp Cleveland was established near Akranes as a third station. Other units were in operation at Patterson Field and Camp Rising (Kefiavik area). With these units in addition to the radars, the battalion was able to give valuable assistance to friendly aircraft and to provide help in emergencies. On Feb 22, 1944, at about 1530 hours, the radars at Vail and Howard were asked to look in a certain area for a lost B-17. At about 1635 hours, both stations picked up a distress signal in this area and were ordered to track it. At 1655 hours, Adams also picked up this signal and was ordered to track it. Based on the filtered track information, fighters were sent out and intercepted the B- 17. They escorted it to Meeks Field where it landed safely. On Feb 23, 1944, at about 1510 hours, a distress signal was picked up by Fraser and Vail. Vail was immediately ordered to track this target. At 1514 hours, Howard also picked up the distress signal and was ordered to track it. The target was a lost B-17 far off course. With the radar information provided, Meeks Field was able to direct the aircraft to a safe landing there. At about 1830 hours, Dec 18, 1944, Meeks Field reported that they had weak radio telephone contact with a B-17 conting from Goose Bay, Labrador. The aircraft reported only 45 ntinutes of filel remaining. The crew were uncertain of their position and asked for assistance. At 1854 hours Meeks was told that the plane had been stripped and that preparation was being made to ditch. At almost the same time, Vail picked up a distress signal from the area being searched. Upon being given their position by Meeks, the aircraft crew decided to attempt to land there. Using the ifitered radar tracks, the Aircraft Movements Liaison Officer was able to give Meeks headings that were relayed to the aircraft. Directed this way, the aircraft was finally able to sight the cone of searchlights over Meeks Field and land safely with only 25 gallons of tuel remaining. During the latter half of 1944, many of the battalions camps were consolidated near Keflavik and Reykjavik. At 0001 hours Jul 16, a new Information Center at Camp Hopkins ~eflavik area) became operational, replacing the Information Center at Camp Tinker, which closed at 2400 hours on Jul 15. All Tinker personnel were relocated to Camp Hopkins. The battalion headquarters and the Headquarters Company moved from Camp Arnold to Camp Hopkins on Jul 10. Camp Arnold was closed on Jul 31, when the battalion motor pool moved to Camp Monmouth (Reykjiavik area). Camp Swanseen which was occupied by Company D headquarters and had served as staging area for Company C in its move to the United States, was closed on Apr 17, when Company D moved briefly to Camp Curtis and then to Camp Monmouth. At the end of 1944, the 556th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion was oerating five radars, Adams, Cameron, Hairison, Howard and Vail, and an Information Center at Hopkins. During the first five months of 1945, 21 officers and 189 enlisted men went to the United States on rotation. The battalion received 6 officers and 29 enlisted men as replacements. In the same time 11 officers and 277 enlisted men went to the United States on Temporary Duty. And 13 officers and 262 enlisted men returned from TD. The battalion's monthly historical reports for this period contain no operational information but make frequent reference to morale-boosting activity: the opening of an Sergeant's club at Camp Hopkins, dances, ENSA show, skiing, ice skating, four motion pictures a week, basketball, bowling, badminton, the formation of a battalion orchestra. The battalion historical report for May 1945 starts with the following: "Two weeks after Colonel General Gustav JOdI sat down in a dusty old school room at Reims and unconditionally surrendered Germnny to the Allies, the radar stations of the 556th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion went off the air. More than three and a half years of scanning the skies for enemy planes were to the credit of this oldest of overseas radar units when at 2400 hours 21 May 1945 switches clicked on verbal orders from the Assistant Chief of Staff; G-3, Iceland Base Command, and operators scrawled 'ceased operations' on their log books." Steps were taken immediately to consolidate all companies at Camp Hopkins. Operational control of the radar unit at Camp Howard was transferred to the 1386th AAF BU NAD ATC (which the author suspects means Army Air Force Base Unit, North Atlantic Division, Air Transport Command). The DF units at Cameron, Cleveland, Patterson Field, Rising and Vail closed in May. Camp Adams (Grotta) also closed on May 31 All personnel returned to Camp Hopkins. There was a flurry of activity to straighten out personnel and equipment records. The first equipment turned in were gas masks and winter clothing. The "point system" was announced. T5 Charles R Hill, whose World War I serial number 407561 was always puzzling company clerks, died suddenly of a coronary thrombosis on May 3, before he could apply for discharge under the provisions of WD Circular 125, which granted civilian status to those over 42 years of age. In June 1945, the consolidation at Camp Hopkins was completed. The activity there was to keep the troops busy. A ball field was built and the Information Center was converted to a gymnasium. Weapons and helmets were turned in. And in July, the long awaited orders arrived: movement to the USA on or about Aug 5. Twelve officers with technlcal specifications were transferred to the US by air. Movement of personnel in and out within the Iceland Base Command continued. The battalion had in effect become a collection of personnel awaiting shipment to the United States. Camp Hopkins was evacuated at 1300 hours, Aug 6, 1945, by 25 officers, 1 warrant officer and 499 erinl:ed men, who boarded the SSDutchess of Bedford at 1400 hours, bound for the United Kingdom and transshipment to the United States. The battalion commander, Lt Col Frank E Herrelko, was Commander of Troops. Late on Aug 9, the battalion debarked at Liverpool and went immediately by train to Southampton and Camp C-18 arriving there the next day. The battalion stayed in Camp C-18 for about two weeks which allowed time for passes to London and other nearby places. The battalion was in C-18 on V-J Day when the news was announced at midnight. Most walked into Southampton and joined in the celebrations in the streets there. On Aug 23, at 1300 hours, the battalion left Camp C-18 and boarded the British liner Queen Ehzabeth, which sailed on Aug 26. Despite crowding and heavy weather it was a happy trip with few complaints. The monthly report does not detail the arrival in the States, but merely notes that the 556th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion was deactivated on Aug31, 1945. General Order No 48, ARMY SERVICE FORCES, New York Port of Embarkation, Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, dated 31 August 1945, directed that "personnel would be transferred to appropriate Reception Stations" and that "no personnel would be reduced in grade as a result". With these practical directives, the service of the 556th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion was ended, four years, one month and twenty-one days after the Aircraft Warning Company TFA was activated. The official historical reports of the 556th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion end abruptly at this point. They are short and to the point. No attempt was made to summarize or evaluate the contributions made by the 556th. That was left for others to address in the fliture. The Aircraft Warning Co TF-4, the Aircraft Warning Co Iceland, and the 556th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion were always shrouded in secrecy. Their presence in Iceland was public knowledge, but the job they performed, the equipment they used and their accomplishments were all secret. Indeed, the word radar was a classified secret until the end of World War II. It is not surprising that the vision and ingenuity, the dedication and hard work, and the risk and courage that went into creating and maintaining this early radar and fighter control system were not noticed either then or in the histories of World War II. The function of the Iceland Base Command was mostly unknown to the American public. The few news articles filed by correspondents read more like travelogues than accounts of mllitary activity. The initial secrecy was necessary for military security during a critical part of the Battle of the Atlantic. The purposes - to provide a secure base for naval operations, to prevent German occupation, and even to serve as a eastern bastion for the United States and Canada if Britain had fallen - were all accomplished. The progress of the war in Africa and in eastern Europe placed sufficient stresses on Germany that no movement westward was forthcoriing and our forces in Iceland were never severely tested. And with the flow of events, the base in Iceland became additionally a waystation for the movement of aircraft and crews from the United States to Britain. The aircraft warnng units played a vital part both in the air defense and in the air transport role. The work was important, but the nation~s attention was on the more critical and dramatic aspects of the war. It is not surprising that the troops who persevered through four years of difficult weather and field conditions thought of themselves as the FBI - the Forgotten Bastards of Iceland. The importance of the work of the 556th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion goes well beyond its accomplishinents in Iceland. It was one of the first, if not the first, United States aircraft warning organniation to go into the field under combat conditions. It provided sorely needed experience and training in the logistics and details of tactical operations. Several hundred officers and enlisted men from the 556th went on to serve in other theaters and other units. Many served in units of the Ninth Air Force in Operation Overlord and throughout the subsequent campaigns in Europe. Others returned to the United States to provide training and cadres for new units being formed.

RADARS AND INFORMATION CENTERS -1941-1943 CAMP EQUIPMENT OPERATIONAL Reykjavik Aerodrome Info Ctr 31Aug41 Sleepy Hollow SCR270B 01Sep41 Catherine SCR268 05Sep41 RAF Olfus, Lee ACH Sep41 RAF Grotta, Adams CHL Oct41 Hickam Info Ctr 07Dec41 Cornell SCR268 17Mar42 Page SCR270B 07Apr42 Vail SCR270B 19Apr42 RAF Vik, Fraser CHL Oct 41 Howard SC$270B 13Aug42 Lockwood SCR271 13Oct42 Myer-Larkhill Info Ctr 1 03Oct42 Ray SCR271 22Oct42 Murphy Info Ctr 02Nov42 Evans SCR27I 02Dec42 Greely SCR271 06Dec42 Tinker Info Ctr 28Apr43 Cameron SCR271EA 31Dec43 Harrison SCR5S8 15Apr44 Vail SC~71EA 08May44 Hopkins Info Ctr 16Jul44 Howard SCR271EA 08Nov44 Camp Catherine, the eastern white circle near Reykjavik, is not labeled. The RAF Vik CHL was severely damaged by wind and not operational in Dec 41. It became operational again in 1942. Between Sep 43 and Dec 43, the radars at Ray, Greely, Lockwood, Evans, Page and Cornell and the Information Centers at Murphy and Larkhill were shut down and the camps evacuated.
Hosted by www.Geocities.ws

1