The Midway Islands, Sand Island closer and Eastern Island in the distance. Click image for "FULL SIZE" view.
Just in case you have no idea where Midway Island is located... it is in the middle of the "Big Pond" way out yonder! The sign that was posted on Midway gave you a hint how far the nearest land was...
David Perkins' arrival on Midway Island, as I recall it, was in February of 1965. Having the necessary credentials and being an E-2 (read that "cannon fodder") I was assigned as a security guard at the weapons compound at the "far end" of Sand Island. (Near the bottom of the picture above, and enlarged below.)
Yours truly, bottom row, left, as a screaming E-2!
The assignment was not so challenging mentally as it was just to stay "up for it" all the time. The Chief Petty Officer who was in charge often attempted to slip up on us as we guarded the compound. As I remember his deal... "our a__ was his" if he could get to the fence (from over the huge blast walls that surrounded the land locked sides of the compound) before we shot him! I was told that more than once he was sent scampering back over the blast wall with bullets flying in his direction. We were all just extremely lucky that nobody shot him and that he didn't sucker any of us into doing just that... In today's world, instead of doing our "duty" we'd be accused of the "attempted murder" of our supervisor! Go Figure!
Midway's AUW Compound
Duty rotation was 24 hours on and 24 hours off. With an island that's roughly three miles long and a mile wide, it doesn't take long to check out the whole place and once you've done that, then what? Lots of swimming, fishing, scuba diving (I only wish I had learned how to scuba dive back then...), and scouring the beach after storms for the glass fishballs that floated in from Japan. Today they use plastic! Can you imagine that??? Other entertainment included watching the "Gooney Birds" learn to fly... always humorous. One could also watch the various aircraft stationed at the Island Command fly about.
Obviously not "station aircraft" but sometimes they seemed to think they were... especially when they slept on the runways, etc.
If you'll think back to the early 60's, satellite technology was nearly nonexistent and intel gathering on our Pacific Rim "buddies" was gathered by crews of airmen who flew around for hours in huge "Super Constellations" which were converted airliners with four engines and the distinctive three vertical rudders out back and a HUGE radar dome underneath and a smaller one on top.
Before satellites, there were "Willie Victors!"
It was often interesting to see how many of them had gooney birds painted below the pilot's window (much as fighter pilots had their kills painted on during wartime) since the gooney's often did serious damage to these planes, including taking out windows, engines and causing flameouts for jets. There were seasons when the gooney's were really so much in flight that jets were restricted from Midway (as I remember it).
These are Gooney Birds!
And this is a "baby" Gooney too!
Before there were "Space Shuttles," there were space capsules that came back to earth from orbit via parachute. Landing in the water was much "safer" than on land and seeing as the Pacific Ocean was such a large target, Midway was often close to the "landing zone" of a spaceflight. To track these capsules was more tricky "then" since there were no tracking satellites or huge tracking networks as we have today. To compensate for that, ships like the USNS Vandenberg, pictured below, often showed up at the pier. With the equipment onboard, an engineer told me that they could track a golf ball size object at 20 miles. Guess that was good, then?
INTERESTING NOTE: The Vanderberg became the worlds second-largest ex-military ship to be deployed as an artificial diving and fishing reef. Officials originally projected a sink date between May 21 and June 1, 2009 after the Vandenberg arrived in Key West, Florida on April 22. The ship was scuttled about seven miles south of Key West in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The coordinates of the proposed site are 24 27? N, 81 44? W, which is approximately 7 miles offshore from Key West. (Information Source: www.ScubaHerald.com - May 27,2009 Issue)
The USNS Vandenberg, a Missile Tracking Ship visits Midway Island
Other ships that visited were often on other missions. These two Military Sealift Transport Service (MSTS) ships (shown below) were on their way to Vietnam when they stopped off at Midway Island to drop off supplies to us and to refuel. Then they continued on their way to Vietnam with their passengers (Soldiers & Marines headed to war) and supplies. Date of the photo was 12 June, 1965
MSTS Ships refuel and drop off supplies at Midway Island
during their voyage to Vietnam
With not much to challenge me, I wandered into the radio station one day and asked if they had the need for any help. Amazingly enough they just happened to be looking for someone to do a show and since I knew one end of the turntable tone arm from the other, they let me try out. I had, in my civilian life, hung around the local radio station in the little town where I went to college... so I had some concept of what "doing radio" was all about. The military and the Armed Forces Radio & Television Service (AFRTS) "known among the "guys" as "A-Farts" had a totally different concept of how to "do" radio! There were many songs that came out in the 60's that were very "Anti-Military or Anti-War" and AFRTS didn't want them played on their radio stations at all! So, they didn't send us copies of them... And of course, being the resourceful disc jockey's we were, we got copies of them anyway. Occasionally the Boss would comment that he had not seen that record on the list of "approved" tunes and so we'd have to give up that copy (sometimes). In theory, if AFRTS didn't send it, it didn't exist? What a concept!
AM 900 on your dial. 180 miles from tomorrow... with the sounds of tomorrow today!
As the "conflict" and "police action" in Vietnam heated up, ships began to drop by Midway and carry away all the old bombs and explosives that had been stored in the bunkers since World War II. We "heard" that these old bombs were loaded into the B-52's on Guam and dropped over Vietnam, to save $$$ and just to get rid of them. With the heating up of the "Vietnam Conflict" someone wisely closed the "Advanced Underwater Weapons Compound" that I had been a guard for. Wisely? Who could defend it should we be attacked? And, what did Advanced Underwater Weapons mean??? I still don't know and please don't tell me if you know.
Airbrushed logo - by an artist in Honolulu
With my job gone and with the weapons compound closed and nothing to guard, I asked for a new job and was re-assigned permanently to the AFRTS crew.
"Brother Dave" on the air, Sept 16, 1965
And having some 21st Birthday Cheer!
My immediate supervisor was Journalist "First Class" Jim Ferrel who is pictured below.
Prior to my departure from Midway in November of 1966, Jim was promoted to Chief Petty Officer.
Journalist First Class, Jim Ferrel
Jim relaxing at his desk.
Here's Chief Journalist, Jim Ferrel on the Radio!
KMTH Radio and TV was located on the second floor of the Admininstration building. We enjoyed spacious offices that we were allowed to have decorated as if we were a civilian station. From acoustical tiles on the wall to album covers for decorations, we looked the part! My desk below is a testament to that statement...
Not a traditional "looking" NAVY office!
It's a fact that we would not have kept KMTH radio on the air in a 24/7 mode if it had not been for the sometime "near heroic" efforts of a number of "part time" announcers and "disc jockeys." To show them some respect, I'll include photo's of all of them I can... and list the names of all I can remember.
KMTH's PART TIME STAFFClick the photo's for names...
CLICK Here for more photo's of Roger Perkins the "Disk Jockey"
or... Click Here for Roger P at work on KMTH!
Click HERE for photo of Bill Rodert's Departure.
For those of you who watched TV on Channel 4 on Midway Island, this is where it all came from... and if you'll click on the image, you'll see pictures of the folks who brought it to you... and more of the "antiquated" equipment that we used to accomplish that feat!
My "Official" AFRTS operators card!
When we could hear it on the AM radio, this was the station we all listened to (from Hawaii)... to get ideas to use on Midway's KMTH! How many of these tunes do YOU remember? (like it was yesterday?)
Midway's Chapel surrounded by graceful Ironwood trees
The water around Midway was fun and exciting!
This is the Reef Hotel that was built MANY years ago by Pan Am when they owned the island. And YES, people paid the "Big Bucks" to stay out here near the roar of the reef overnight!
Above and Below.
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If you were a diver, the underwater scenes were especially phenomenal. These were taken while snorkeling! Not bad, huh? It always seemed to me as if I could see forever, the water was so clean!
And we had some other things to see and do...
Like play ball...
Or... go shopping...
Or go to "sick call" instead of to work...
It was not the Hilton by any means... but it "WAS" home!
You haven't flown... till you ride one of these, off the water!
Battle of Midway Memorial... with the KMTH Radio & TV tower in the background.
Plaque presented 20 years after the Battle of Midway.
Another view of the gun emplacement at the Midway Memorial.
A Historical "Storyboard" located at the Midway Memorial.
Photo dated OCT 1966.
The Gooney Birds enjoy the afternoon shade of the Ironwood trees at the Midway Memorial park.
Beautiful Boatswain Bird. With their long tail feathers in action, they appeared to fly "backwards."
Here are but a couple of the beautiful sights you could see on Midway in your spare time.
YOu probably would not expect to find a school building here... but in the 60's, military personnel brought their families and DOD provided the school and teachers.
The USO comes to town!
As the Vietnam Conflict escalated, several USO tours came through (on their way back home to the states) and the Tommy Dorsey Band was really good.
These photo's were taken in the Station Theatre which also served as the island's auditorium.
Click any of the images above to see more of the show!
In 1996 the U.S. Navy left Midway Island at the direction of President Bill Clinton who turned management of this beautiful island to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The FWS contracted with the Midway Phoenix Corporation who stayed behind to manage the facilities and allow those of us who had lived there to come back and visit. Watch the video (linked to below) to see how things turned out...
Click HERE to see how the Fish and Wildlife Service has wasted your tax dollars to destroy everything the Midway Phoenix Corporation did to make Midway Island a great place to visit, scuba dive, fish and remember how it was when many of us served there in the military or as civilians and especially those who were BORN there... many years ago.
If this video infuriates you as much as it does me, please write your Congressional and Senatorial representatives and request that they take control of this once beautiful island away from the Fish and Wildlife Service... who OBVIOUSLY have no facilities management skills.
Additional pages or websites to check out:
Midway Island through the lens of Jim Priest's Camera
Airfields of the Pacific
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