SciencePunk

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On January 15, 1961, the US coastguard raced through the darkness toward a tiny point 84 miles southeast of New York City. There, 28 crew members of Texas Tower 4 were waiting desperately to be evacuated from their station. As huge swells and high winds pounded the hull of the ship, their radios picked up a frantic transmission from the tower: “We’re breaking up”. And with that, Texas Tower 4 and all of its occupants were pulled beneath the waves.


Built in 1957, the five Texas Towers were intended to become part of the USA’s advanced early warning system against Soviet bombers. Named for their resemblance to oil platforms found in the Gulf of Mexico, the towers were radar platforms designed to be placed out to sea. Towers 1 and 5 were never built. Towers 2 and 3 were situated on the rocky seabed off Nantucket and Boston respectively. Tower 4 posed a much greater challenge, as it needed to be placed in waters twice as deep and on a soft bed of sand and mud. Nevertheless, engineers described the final design as a “triumph”. The 3,200 ton triangular structure stood on three legs, each 100m long and 4m thick. These were supported by cross braces and were hollow so that they could be used to store fuel and freshwater. It cost $21 million, and would be manned by 50 Air Force officers and enlisted men.

However, floated out to location in 1957, things went wrong immediately. Foreshadowing what was in store, the tugs towing the structure were hit by a vicious gale. During the storm, two of the huge leg braces were torn off. Engineers decided it would be better to fix the rig at sea rather than tow it back to shore for repairs. Divers attached new braces to the legs, but the first crew members found the entire tower unstable, rolling and bucking in the swell. In August of 1959, Hurricane Daisy battered the isolated base, causing severe damage. The crew were evacuated while $500,000 of repairs were carried out.  You can see the modifications for yourself – in the video and illustration three slender legs are above the waterline; while the other pictures show a skirt of metal reinforcements added at a later date. The following year, Hurricane Donna pounded the tower with 130mph winds, weakening the legs further. By this point, Texas Tower 4 had acquired a new name: Old Shaky, told with grim humour. As well as rocking from side to side, the platform twisted and leaned, creaking horribly as it did. The hollow legs amplified the sound of waves slapping against them, creating a constant booming cacophony. Visitors were warned not to shave with straight edged razors lest a sudden lurch cause them to slit their throat. Texas Tower 4 was an unpleasant, scary place to live, with the crew in constant fear that they would be pitched into the freezing ocean.

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In November 1960, all but 14 crew members were evacuated from the tower and 14 civilian workers were brought in to carry out emergency repairs. They attempted to fill the legs with sand and concrete, hoping to stabilise the platform. Conditions worsened throughout winter. The tower bucked and heaved, throwing the airmen and contractors to the ground. The movements were so violent the welders couldn’t work on the damaged legs. Commanding officer Captain Gordon Phelan made repeated requests to have the platform evacuated, in vain. Air Force heads refused to abandon the tower, fearing that nearby Russian trawlers harboured spies eager to steal the radar technology. Commander Sheppard later wrote “you don’t just walk off and leave millions of dollars of radar equipment lying around untended”.

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On January 14, weather forecasts warned of squalls developing with winds reaching 60 knots. On board Texas Tower 4, a deafening crack echoed across the platform, and Old Shaky began to sway horribly – another brace had snapped. An evacuation order was finally granted at 4pm, too late. Coastguard and Air Force rescue helicopters were grounded, waiting for a lull in the storm. Nearby vessels rushed to the stricken tower’s aid. At 6:45pm, Texas Tower 4 made its final transmission. From the bridge of the Navy supply ship T-AKL 17, just a few miles away, Captain Mangual watched the radar image of Tower 4 fade from view as the structure crumbled into the sea. When the rescue ships arrived, just one body was pulled from the water. The remaining 27 had been dragged to the bottom with the remains of Old Shaky.

The regional commanding officer in charge of the Texas Towers faced a court martial but was acquitted. A subsequent Senate investigation found serious errors and lapses in judgement along the entire command chain. To make matters worse, almost as soon as they were built, the Texas Towers had been rendered obsolete by the advent of Soviet long range missiles. Towers 2 and 3 were decommissioned and dismantled in 1963. The wreck of Tower 4 still lies under 60m of frigid water, inhabited by sharks, dolphins, turtles, and the occasional visiting diver. In 1999, a plaque was fixed to the submerged leg of the tower. It lists the names of the 28 victims who perished on that cold January night, victims of military and engineering hubris.

Comments

  1. #1 Katie Lunn
    May 4, 2010

    How tragic and in the end it was just the greed and stupidity of business that caused those 28 to loose their lives.

  2. #2 Cain
    May 4, 2010

    @Katie Lunn
    Umm…What?

    Texas Tower 4 was a US military radar station. Nether the greed nor the stupidity of business had anything to do with it. If I had to guess, the tragedy would be properly attributed to fear of a sworn enemy along with a healthy dose of pride and ass saving from general officers….along with mother nature.

    I would add a link to my source but all you really need to do is read the post you are commenting on.

    : )

  3. #3 Michael Firstman
    May 4, 2010

    Amazing story. What futility. Especially in light of the fact that the towers were almost instantly rendered obsolete by ICBM technology…yet they struggled to continue using them anyway. What a waste of manpower and resources. I can hardly imagine the struggle and hardship of the workers, like the welders, as they attempted repairs in such highly dangerous conditions, ultimately in vain. Another fascinating chapter in the annals of military history.

    Michael Firstman
    Publisher
    http://www.welders360.com

  4. #4 John
    May 4, 2010

    True enough that neither greed nor stupidity of business were at fault. The engineering was flawed and untested for the most part and the military was trying to get it done on the cheap, as the cost increased due to the greater water depth of the site where it was placed. The result was predictable and warnings were most likely unheeded, and after all was said and done, the generals pointed fingers until confusion resulted and the investigations stopped due to the confusion.

    That is the case today with Major Hasan, the butcher of Fort Hood. Neither the Army nor the White House are allowing Senate inquiry as to how Hasan, a known malcontent, was allowed to continue serving, let alone be promoted.

    Basically, when it’s your hind end you’ve got to cover, you and your cronies will point the finger until no one can know what really occurred and the matter can never be sorted out.

  5. “Loose their lives”????
    What is wrong with English education?

  6. #6 John S. Wilkins
    May 6, 2010

    Perhaps they were slackers?

  7. #7 F.M.Chilcott
    January 18, 2011

    There is a record of the congressional investigation of
    the TT4 debacle which makes for great reading and sheds
    much light on the failures of AF high brass. Unfortunately there were several dedicated and honest, and highly capable officers whose careers were ruined by the mistakes of their superiors. I left the tower 368 days before it failed after serving a year aboard it.

  8. #8 Frank the SciencePunk
    January 19, 2011

    @7 F. M. Chilcott
    Thanks for the comment, interested to know what your experiences of TT4 were like. I wonder where the division lay between those who thought it should remain and those (with a first hand experience most likely) who thought it should be abandoned.

  9. #9 Downeasta
    June 29, 2011

    Saw Don Slutsky Lecture tonite at the NAS (Naval Air Station) in Wildwood, NJ. Am glad for those who perished finally got closure from the higher Ups.
    Thank you Sen Kerry

    Downeasta,
    Merrimack River

    PS would like more info on the USCG Cutter W127 that was there; Where did she originate berth from ?? (history lesson)

  10. #10 Donald Rio
    August 4, 2011

    I was in the USAF stationed at Stewart AFB New York when Texas Tower 4 went down. That evening I was in the Communications Center and was taking calls at the telephone switch board. A few days before I knew the tower was in trouble and I would call them via the switch board and talk to some of the Airmen. If my memory serves me right, some of them were from Bristol CT. I was then from New Britain CT and very interested in their problem.
    The evening the tower went down, a call from the Captain came into the switch board asking for Col. Banks. I plugged into Col. Banks port and rang his phone. The Captain asked permission to evacuate. Col. Banks gave him the OK but stated all material and equipment must be destroyed before evacuation. By this time it was too late. A few hours later I was told Texas Tower 4 went down.

  11. #11 Frank Gorman
    March 5, 2012

    Downeasta: The OLD USCGC Alert (W127) was a “buck and a quarter”, i.e. “125 footer” She’s still afloat as a museum! See video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGcnjqV6vMU

    A recently deceased friend of mine was on a CG 95′ Patrol Boat that also responded. The Alert was either homeported in Cape May, NJ or St. George Staten Island at the time.

    Frank Gorman
    MCPO, USCGR

  12. #12 Barry Crawford
    USA
    July 25, 2012

    I was out in that horrific storm that night, very near that area where the tower went down. I was aboard the “Atlantis” out of Woods Hole and we were on our way to San Miguel in the Azores. I was taking a break from college (UNH) and It was my first trip aboard the beautiful old 142 ft Woods Hole Oceanographic sailing ketch. What a baptism for a 20 year old kid from Cape Cod! I was aboard as a member of the deck crew assigned to sail the vessel and we spent that night in absolute fear of losing our own ship. The seas were frightening and the winds were hurricane force with the rain and sleet stinging right through our foul weather gear. The “jumbo”, a storm jib used to stabilize the boat while she was “hove to” (abeam of the seas) , broke free from her clew and in the violent wind, the heavy canvas sail shredded like it was a kleenex tissue. After we managed to get it under control, we saw that the spliced eye on the sail had completely turned within it’s splice 180 degrees! That was one powerful storm!
    There was no GPS, or modern navigation aids or radio contact so we did not know about this tragedy until much later on in the voyage.

  13. #13 Lee Jackson
    Pennsylvania
    September 14, 2012

    I was closely involved with one of the families whose loved one was lost at sea that night and none of the explanations or excuses served to help at that terrible time.

  14. #14 Jerry Sinanian
    shelton connecticut
    January 14, 2013

    Tomorrow marks the 62nd anniversary of the loss of USAF TEXAS TOWER #4 and lives of the airman and civilians lost at sea. May God have mercey on their souls. These men have not been forgotten by the close family of the 4604th Support Sq. families. I had the honor to serve aboard Texas Tower #3 from Jan 1960 to Apr 1961.

  15. #15 Scott Denman
    Belmont, Maine
    March 23, 2013

    I was in the 5th grade when the Texas Tower 4 went down. My neighbor and friend Mark ?? was the son of one who served on that deathtrap. Mark moved away soon after the disaster. I never knew what happened to him and his family until I saw a video about the Tower and Mark’s brother was prominent in the film.

    My mother and father organ ized a fundraising drive by making small replicas of the Towers and distributing them all over Cape Cod at diners, convenience stores, shopping markets, and other places. I remember seeing a picture in the Falmouth Enterprise of myself and my brothers in our Cub Scout uniforms painting the miniature Towers in preparation for the fundraising effort. I think a decent amount of money was raised, but can’t remember how much or how if was distributed to the families of the dead service men and contractors.

    Does anyone know the names of those who died? I’d like to track down my friend even though we are both 60 years old now.

    Thanks,

    Scott Denman

  16. #16 John Hofeling
    Georgia
    May 15, 2013

    I was stationed at Otis AFB Mass. the home of the Texas towers. All of the Airman who worked the towers lived on or near Otis.
    I was on duty as an aircraft mechanic the evening the tower went down. Helicopters did indeed fly that night in a rescue attempt. As was stated earlier, to late. We all knew before we went home that night that it was gone with all hands. One was a good friend and neighbor. I woke the next morning to here his wife scream as she got the news. The Russian trawlers were not the only Russian vessels in the area that night. There was talk at the time it may have been rammed by a Russian sub. It had been reported very close a short time earlier. We will never know, but I will never forget..

  17. #17 Melanie
    Muncie Indiana
    May 23, 2013

    My grandfather was lost at sea in this tragedy…his name was Edward Thomas Robertson and those men never should’ve died…it was pure negligence and ignorance

  18. #18 Joe Ferguson
    Smithfield, Va.
    May 30, 2013

    Otis AFB must have been cursed! In the middle 60’s, three Lockheed Super Constellation 121 planes running radar guard duty over the north Atlantic off Otis were lost in oversea explosions, the third and last being 4-25-67. In these three losses, a total of fifty men were lost. The book, “Fifty Fallen Stars,” by MSG A.J. Northrup, USAF tells the whole sorry story. Our cousin, USAF Navigator Captain Frank R. Ferguson, II, was one of those lost, bodies never recovered. These stories need to be told, now that the Cold War is over. Back then, these things were hush-hush, due to national security. Don’t let it be said that all our military dead died in “War.” We don’t even know how many of our people perished in the “Cold War” defending our American shores.

    I’m grateful a family member of E.T. Robertson, above, found this site, and left us his name to remember. God Bless your family.

  19. #19 Capt USAF-Ret Daryl Gonyon
    Fall River MA
    May 31, 2013

    I was an E-3 at Otis when Tower 4 went down. I was the only enlisted person detailed to duty with the Board of Officers convened at Otis for an inquiry about the collapse of this Tower. I was with Board members daily, doing errands for the 3-Star general in charge, driving officers to and from Board hearings, and driving officer staff to a helicopter pad for takeoff and return from the Carrier Wasp. Many contributing factors leading up to the stark tragedy include engineering decisions proven to be fatal, an unbroken chain of errors and mistakes in judgment by both civilian and military personnel, and particularly bad weather in 1960 and 1961 on the ocean seas. Most disturbing to me were the pleas and prayers by men stationed on Tower 4, “Old Shaky,” that went on for many months and years without critical action being taken by “higher ups.” This entire experience is a classic example of lack of decisive leadership and action by those entrusted with great responsibility. The regional commander in charge of Tower 4 was charged with dereliction of duty in not keeping closer watch on Tower 4. He was found not guilty in a court martial.

  20. #20 Erin
    Maine
    June 18, 2013

    Mark,
    My great uncle,M/Sgt Roald Bakke, was the only body recovered from tower #4. Several years ago his brother, Hans, petitioned the state of MA to have a mountian in MA renamed after Roland….check it out….it’s in the Berkshires….
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakke_Mountain

  21. #21 don c
    massachusetts
    August 12, 2013

    My mother’s brother, Eddie Robertson, was a crane operator on tower 4. His death had a devastating effect on his entire family, especially his wife Rita and their four children. My soon to be 90 year old mother, still weeps for her brother.

  22. #22 Frank Swain
    August 12, 2013

    Once again, thanks to everyone who has shared their personal story here in the comments.

  23. #23 S.J. McMurray, III
    Brooklyn, NY
    August 17, 2013

    Just weeks after this tragic loss, I reported aboard USS PROTECTOR(AGR-11), a Navy picket ship which worked for NORAD, based in Davisville, RI, as Asst. Combat Information Officer and Met. Officer. The loss of the TT was on everyone’s minds and tongues in our whole eight-ship squadron.
    By September, I being now the CIC Officer, with Hurricane Esther approaching, we were on a picket station due East of Boston, due South of Cape Sable, NS (the southwest tip of Nova Scotia), and were about to head South to dodge Esther, which was curving up East below New England. With the outermost winds of Esther already rising, we were ordered to prepare to evacuate the TT just on George’s Bank, due East of Cape Cod’s N-S arm. Over the chart of the area, my Captain asked whether I thought I could radar-pilot the ship into the deep water just West of the tower close enough to launch our whale boat to ferry the tower crew to us but far enough away not to risk hitting the tower. I said I thought I could, but that keeping us in the narrow deep section would be difficult in rising winds, and that I couldn’t see how we could then turn the ship around and exit in water deep enough not to go aground. He nodded and agreed and so informed our command ashore and the Air Force officers at Otis AFB on the E-W part of Cape Cod charged with whether and how to evacuate the tower (PROTECTOR or helicopters based at Otis). The commander of the tower opined that he preferred helicopters, given our evaluation, but said that it wasn’t his decision. After some screwing around, the Otis folks decided to send out the helicopters but had us stand by in case that failed. Flying in some bad stuff, they just managed to evacuate the tower. We proceeded North along the Cape and West and then South into Cape Cod Bay and anchored there in rain so heavy we couldn’t see anything on radar except buoys whose location was questionable. Fortunately, daylight showed we were over the good anchorage the buoys were intended to mark; and the anchor had held. The storm hauled out East below the Cape, then did a 270 and passed directly over us as we headed South later that day and it headed straight North until nearly to Maine, where it made landfall, eventually blowing itself out over Labrador. Both PROTECTOR and the tower and their respective crews survived this time, perhaps in part because of the cautionary events of earlier in the year. I was personally witness to a waterspout about a mile from us, and glad it didn’t wipe out our 42 antennae. And very thankful I didn’t have to radar-pilot the ship in a storm in waters like those off George’s Bank, with tower’s and ship’s crews depending on my radarmen’s and my skills and the Captain’s formidable ship-handling skills for their safety.

  24. #24 Charlie Hopkins
    Shiloh, IL
    September 4, 2013

    I had a supervisor at one of my assignements back in the mid-1970s. I tracked him down after I retired in 2001. He told me a story about TT4. He was the last person to leave TT4 just before it collapsed. He told the commander he wanted to stay and continue to work but said the commander ordered him onto the helicopter to go to the school he was scheduled to attend. He said the commander told him he needed him to get qualified on the equipment and get back to the Tower. He said his departure was just several hours before the collapse. He said it tore him up for years… Had he been allowed to remain he would’ve been the 29th victim. I left his name out of my comment intentionally.

  25. #25 Howard GLEN Huddleston
    logansport, indiana
    November 12, 2013

    i was stationed on texas tower #4. And when i left it About 4 months later it went down with a lot of my friends and my commanding officer aboard it..

  26. #26 Howard GLEN Huddleston
    logansport, Indiana
    November 12, 2013

    nd i believe it should have been abaonded and tore down/.we lost an lot of good men on that piece of junk..and i lost a lot of friends on it…

  27. #27 Howard GLEN Huddleston
    logansport,indiana
    November 12, 2013

    i was stationed on it in the 50s and i was an radar operator on it.i believe i was off of it about 5 months and it went down. and i lost an lot of friends and an commanding officer that i thought was an exceptional man,,u can say all u want to about who was at falt.and u could be right but thats not going to bring all those men back.i just know that i lost an wonderful commanding officer an al nlot of friends..god rest their souls..

    .

  28. #28 Donald Baker
    United States
    November 23, 2013

    I had the miserable honors of riding out two hurricanes at the same time on Texas Tower three. We rode out the first hurricane and had plans on coming to shore before another hurricane hit us in a few days. The first hurricane turned around and hit us big time. We gave our weather report to shore that morning and they told us to stop the jokes. They had no idea of the hurricane turning around. Choppers couldn’t get us because of the winds, our supply boat couldn’t rescue us and was battling the waves getting back to shore. The second hurricane hit us big time. For over 30 hours estimate 78 of us knew we were going to die. We knew once hitting the cold water and high waves, we could only live maybe 5 minutes. Our dear Generals in DC stated we volunteered to ride the storm out, just to save their tails. Many of us had a clause on our life insurance if we volunteer to ride a hurricane out on the towers, our insurance would be invalid. That didn’t help our morale out.
    Anyway, we lived and they closed all the Texas Towers after long discussions in DC.

  29. #29 Donald Baker
    Satanta,ks
    November 23, 2013

    It’s been years and let me correct one thing of the above. We did come back to shore before the first hurricane hit us. Afterwards we came back to our tower. That’s when the first hurricane turned around and hit us. Many fishing boats went down with a lot of fishermen losing their lives. No weather alert was given, because the weather people had no idea of the hurricane turning around.

  30. #30 Kathleen Baird
    Dover DE
    December 1, 2013

    My dad was on the TT in the late 50’s. I wonder if anyone remembered him? Joseph Clancy from Brockton MA. He was a carpenter by trade. He never talked much about his time on TT2 but I do remember he was very affected by the TT4 tragedy.

  31. #31 Wilbur Lww
    Deer Park, Texas 77536
    December 9, 2013

    I was a 22 year old sailor aboard the U S Destroyer Lloyd Thomas DDE 764 that was dispatched along with the rest of the squadron by the USS Wasp to head to TT4 as we were to attempt to lend any assistance needed to rescue.
    A friend was on Radar duty and said they watched the Tower disappear from the scope. The whole disaster still brings tears.
    20 years ago I was in contact with several of the family members of the people lost at sea that day. I still have a Ball cap that was sent to me from members of the TT4 Association.
    52 years later and it is still vivid

  32. #32 Tom Robertson
    Medford,Ma
    December 10, 2013

    From A Grateful Nation

    In Remembrance

    Mr. David W. Abbott

    Mr. Milton D. Leo

    Captain Gordon T. Phelan

    S/SGT. Harry M. Shaffer

    Mr. Vincent G. Brown

    Mr. Raymond D. Martell

    Captain Lewis V. Barker

    S/SGT. John R. Bradstreet

    Mr. Samuel Buccheri

    Mr. Anthony Opalka

    C.W.O. Owen L. Morgan

    A/1C. William E. Krause

    Mr. Chester J. Cudnik

    Mr. Edward T. Robertson

    M/SGT. Roald Bakke

    A/1C. Larry V. Woolford

    Mr. Thomas J. Evans

    Mr. Henry Schutz

    M/SGT. Troy F. Williams

    A/2C. Domenic V. Giurastante

    Mr. Aram Haroutunian

    Mr. William Smythe

    T/SGT. Bishop O. Foster

    A/2C. Leland H. Jones

    Mr. Arsen S. Haroutunian

    Mr. Vincent A. Yavoroski

    T/SGT. Donald R. Wait

    A/2C. Louis M. Laino

    Mr. William C. Ide

    S/SGT. Kenneth H. Green

    A/2C. David K. Parker

    S/SGT. Wilbur L. Kovarick

  33. #33 chet gates
    simi valley ca.
    December 19, 2013

    I was stationed on tower 4 from 58 to late 59 the squadron was based at Otis air force base Cape Cod Mass. I was a s/gt supervisor in the radar dept. that tower was always shaking and we all dreaded going there i also was on tower 2. the squadron was 4707th i knew capt Phelan in fact my dd214 and my promotion to s/sgt were signed by him i still have them. I knew many of the people lost.

  34. #34 Robert Martel
    Biddeford Maine
    January 15, 2014

    It is 53 years ago to the day that Tower 4 went down. My father, Raymond J. Martel (incorrectly spelled as Raymond D. Martell on the underwater plaque) was on the that Tower when it went down…I was 8.5 years old, my old brother was 11.5 years old and my younger brother was 18 months old. My mom was 33.5 years old at the time of his death. It was a life changing tragedy for our family and all the other families whose loved ones perished that cold winter night. My younger brother never new his dad ….he visited the site in the summer of 2013. Our memories of our father will always be present in our lives and the strength and love our mom exhibited and showered upon her three sons without a father.

  35. #35 Tom Robertson
    January 16, 2014

    Hi Robert I wish I could post some pictures .I have a good one of the civilian workers and your Dad might be in it..Never Forgotten

  36. #36 Frank Swain
    January 16, 2014

    Great suggestion Tom – if anyone has photos feel free to add links, or email them to me at scienceblogs (at) frankswain . com and I’ll add them myself.

  37. #37 Robert Haroutunian
    Medford,Ma.
    January 16, 2014

    My father Aram (Rum) was on Tower 4 (old shakey) went it
    went down that dark and stormy night..I just turned 4 years
    old,my sister Gail 6 years old and my mother Alice 35 yrs. old.
    In 1959 I lost my uncle Arsen in an accident on Tower 3.

    It really is too bad there was such lack of communication,
    on Jan 15, 1961 between the Tower and Air Force Base.
    It’s a shame the men were ordered to throw off all the
    technical equipment fisrt before they were even thought of.
    It’s such a shame.

    • #38 Frank Swain
      January 16, 2014

      Robert – do you mean that the rescue was delayed in order to destroy the equipment? That’s not something I was aware of.

  38. #39 Robert Haroutunian
    Medford,Ma.
    January 16, 2014

    ps.
    Thanks Frank Swain for keeping the memory of the 28 men and families alive

  39. #40 (A/2C) Russ J. Haddad
    Greenville, SC
    February 15, 2014

    I was sent to TT2 after TT4’s demise (1961-1962) as a SAGE radar opr. Each time I reread about that tragedy, I’m angered by our own USAF treatment, considering the dangers. We STILL were not evacuated in time to avoid hurricanes and nor’easterns afterwards!! There must still be great incompetence or ignorance among USAF commanders!
    Would love to hear from any of you who served on the towers.

  40. #41 carol frizzell
    Conn.
    February 18, 2014

    My stepfather, Rolland Jaynes was a cook on that tower. Luck was with him as he was ashore when it was lost. He was very upset as you can imagine. He had often called that tower “Old Shakey”. I don’t think the public knew how dangerous it was to be there. As his family we didn’t know.

  41. #42 Smsgt H. Dean Moore (USAF Retired)
    Maynardville, TN
    February 20, 2014

    My first overseas tour – I was assigned to TT3 in Sep., 1956 as an E-2 radio operator. I first went to sea on the famous ice breaker USS East Wind (we spent the night on the East Wind and were lifted at day break the 110 feet from the deck of the ship to the deck of the tower in the scarey “dough nut”, a giant truck inner tube with seats attached). We were the first Air Force personnel on the tower and there were about 60 civilian construction workers finishing up the construction phase. The only equipment on the tower was a BC-610 radio transmitter and an R-3xx receiver, plus a manual type writer. Since I was a Communications Center Specialist I also became the tower administrative clerk.

    It was a stressful year. The system initiated only had two personnel on board for each assigned job which meant we worked 12 hours on/12 hours off, 7 days a week with absolutely no time off – moreover, when we weren’t at our assigned jobs, during our “rest” periods, we also faced several hours of detail work.

    The tower constantly moved and with high winds and seas it was like riding a rocking horse. We had a pool table but it was difficult to play because the balls would roll around.

    Most of our subsequent transportation to and from shore was in a dilapidated underpowered gas engined H-3 “Flying Banana” helicopter which, besides leaking fluids over the passengers, frequently suffered engine failures. On one occasion we had to jettison all of our gear into the North Atlantic in order to limp onto the beach of Nantucket Island – this action was fairly normal.

  42. #43 (A/1C) William M.Young
    Murfreesboro, TN
    April 30, 2014

    I was a radar and SAGE system technician at Charleston AFS in Maine when the tower went down. Communication between the towers and land was by tropo-scatter which did not work well over water because of reflections. Just before I was discharged in May of 1961 a few airmen who had been on Tower 4 at one time were TDY at Charleston and were to appear at a hearing. I have no idea why they were quartered in the wilds of Maine.

  43. #44 Linda Westergard
    New Bedford Ma.
    August 8, 2014

    I dont see many people mentioning the akl-17 that was headed to the tower when the storm hit close, my dad was on that ship ext to sixto manguel, capt of the akl17. Dad was the navigator and they remained in contact with the tower till it went dead andthe tower sunk into the ocean. He knew all the crew aboard the tower, no one thinks about them trying to help, and the horrible conditions they endured. My dad never forgot ever!

  44. #45 Wilbur Lee
    Deer Park, Texas
    October 30, 2014

    I was a bit surprised to find that there were still conversation about TT 4.
    I was there when it went down, aboard the USS Lloyd Thomas DDE 764.
    To this day over 50 years later the tragedy still brings tears.
    I have a book on the tragedy that I put together that included family members of the deceased that were aboard the Tower when it went down.
    I WILL NEVER FORGET!
    AN OLD TIN CAN SAILOR
    W. MM2 (AT THE TIME)

  45. #46 Jeanette Laino
    Edgewater Park, N.J.
    November 13, 2014

    I was married to Louis Laino not quite 2 years when the Tower fell. I spoke to Lou the day before it fell and he was so happy thinking he was getting off the tower the next day. He told me equipment, beds, etc. was being taken off the tower. I never heard anything about destroying equipment before they took the men off. It has been so many years and I remember it like it was yesterday. Lou had asked me that day if I thought I might be pregnant. I didn’t know at the time, but I was pregnant with Lou’s daughter, Louann. I only wish he had known I was. It was such a horrible tragedy that everyone knows should never have happened. The government certainly did not care about human life because they took most of the equipment off before it went down. My husband was only 21 and after he was killed, I received papers stating he had leave during the time the tower fell. He had told me that he had a reason for doing it. He wanted to be home on our 2nd Wedding Anniversary since he was on tower on our First anniversary,. We only lived together after we were married for 9 months. We lived in Manassas, Va. If it wasn’t for being pregnant with my daughter, I really don’t think I would have wanted to live without Lou. It had to be such a horrible and most frightening way to die and what made it worse was it didn’t have to happen. No one cared about those men or they would have been taken off the tower before it collapsed. I took my two grandchildren out to the tower sight when the plaque was placed on the tower and we threw flowers into the ocean where the site was. I know someday my daughter, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren will all be with Lou in HEAVEN!

  46. #47 Susan Stojakovich
    Sicklerville, New Jersey
    November 15, 2014

    My Uncle, S/Sgt Kenneth H. Green, was on the tower when it went down! I was not yet born at the time (I was born a year later) but I have grown up knowing the pain of losing him that my family has endured! I think of him every time I see a morning glory (it was his favorite) and I remember my mom telling me of his last words to my grandfather, ” we won’t see each other again, I have a bad feeling about going back to the tower but it is my duty. Please look after my girls.” He had two young daughters. He had been home for Christmas, one last time. His wife followed him shortly in death, leaving his daughters without either parent. If anyone has pictures of him, please contact me through my email. Thank you. Thank you to all who have kept the memories alive of these brave men who committed their lives to keep us safe! God Bless!

  47. #48 Susan Stojakovich
    Sicklerville, NJ
    November 20, 2014

    Mrs. Jeanette Laino, together we will keep their memories alive! Bless you! Could you let me know where the memorial site is? We took our kids all over the Jersey coast a few years back in search of a memorial and could not find it. Now since I live in South Jersey I will have more access to search. Thank you.
    Mr. Wilbur Lee, you mentioned you have a book of memories. I wonder if you would be willing to share through email? My name is Susan and my uncle Kenny (S/Sgt Kenneth H. Green) was on tower 4 when it went down, his daughters Patty and Kande have grown up without him and I still see the pain in their eyes when we talk of him. I have been pulling old photos of him from various family members to share with my cousins and I know they would absolutely love to be included in the reunions that take place. The girls have sadly been forgotten over the years, perhaps because their mother passed shortly after Uncle Ken and records get lost. I would like very much to give my cousins a small sense of closure by taking them to the memorial site and providing them with the updated information on reunions of families. Please contact me at my email: tetekuma@comcast.net or Facebook me at Susan Stojakovich, thank you so very much. Have a Blessed holiday season.

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