Bluie West One: Secret Mission to Greenland, July 1941: The Building of an American Air Force Base
by William Kray
Merriam Press World War II Memoir
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Paperback - ISBN 978-1470188610 - $7.95
Hardcover not available
In 1940 a decision was made between the U.S. and Great Britain to build an air base in Greenland. The mission for the airbase was to patrol the North Atlantic shipping lanes, to protect the cryolite mines at Ivigtut, Greenland, from German occupation. (Cryolite is a flux used in the refining of aluminum—the only known source in the world), and to act as a rescue station for any Allied planes that encountered trouble along the route.
This is the story of the building of that airbase—codenamed Bluie West One—by 2nd Lt. William Kray, a member of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Aviation Engineer Regiment, which was tasked with building the base.
The trials and tribulations of unloading the ships bringing the supplies and materiel was a mission in itself. The inability to build an unloading dock required a crude but effective improvisation. The problem was sufficiently grave to force the War Department to send a civilian contractor with the proper equipment for the task.
The discovery of the misrepresentation of the so-called gravel surface for the initial runway was a further stunning blow. The original survey stated the surface was gravel. They were told just grade it, lay a surface of Pierced Steel Planking (PSP) and they would be home in three months. The magnitude of the problem is difficult to describe. The gravel turned out to be sprinkled with boulders three to twenty feet in diameter. How they combated this problem is a story of untold heartache and depression. In addition, they simultaneously had to build quarters for themselves and the occupying personnel.
Other projects were added including building a roadway up the mountain to erect a radar station. They were also ordered to build a radio direction finder station on the island of Simiutak, at the mouth of the fjord. Later they were ordered to build emplacements for 16-inch naval guns ten miles down the fjord at a bend, to protect the base from ships sailing up the fjord.
Psychology of Personnel
Flight to the East Coast
Work and Life at Bluie West
96 6x9-inch pages
54 photos from author's personal collection
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