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Author Topic: FAQ: Fate of the Gardner Loran Station  (Read 9247 times)

Jeff Lange

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FAQ: Fate of the Gardner Loran Station
« on: February 13, 2011, 02:15:08 PM »

The posting last week of the link to the aerial photo of the Coast Guard Loran station was very interesting, and brought back to mind questions I had been mulling over for a while.

Information states that the Loran station was deactivated and the equipment stored and secured in the metal quonset huts at the site in 1946. Later discussion mentioned something about the growth of trees among the metal at the station site. My questions are:

-What remains of these buildings at the site? Where they ever intact since TIGHAR has been visiting Niku, or were they already in a derelect condition by that time?

-Did the Coast Guard ever return to retrieve anything, or basically abandon the remaining material?

-Is there any evidence that the colonists made use of the materials left by the Coast Guard at the site?

-How did the Coast Guard secure drinking water for their station? Distillation or shipped in?

Like I said these have been bouncing around in the old cranium for a while and seeing the photo made me decide to bring up my questions.

ltm

Jeff Lange
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Jeff Lange

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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: FAQ: Fate of the Gardner Loran Station
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2011, 04:56:46 PM »

What remains of these buildings at the site? Where they ever intact since TIGHAR has been visiting Niku, or were they already in a derelict condition by that time?

Disassembled, bulldozed over.

Quote
Did the Coast Guard ever return to retrieve anything, or basically abandon the remaining material?

I don't know how much they took away during the cleanup trip.  The bulldozer was driven into the sea, I think.

Quote
Is there any evidence that the colonists made use of the materials left by the Coast Guard at the site?

TIGHAR thinks some corrugated metal may have come from the LORAN station.  There are lots of other small items in the village that are almost certainly from the station.

Quote
How did the Coast Guard secure drinking water for their station? Distillation or shipped in?

I don't remember hearing anything about that.
LTM,

           Marty
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: FAQ: Fate of the Gardner Loran Station
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2011, 05:53:40 PM »

-What remains of these buildings at the site? Were they ever intact since TIGHAR has been visiting Niku, or were they already in a derelect condition by that time?

They were apparently secured and left intact for a while but at some point they were disassembled.  I'm aware of no report that they were bulldozed over but there is no sign of them now.  I think the story Marty is thinking of about the bulldozer being driven into the sea is an incident where the dozer fell into a large groove while pushing a landing craft off the reef. It was subsequently recovered.

-Did the Coast Guard ever return to retrieve anything, or basically abandon the remaining material?

There appears to have been an initial assumption that the CG would return to either salvage the equipment or re-activate the station, but we have found no record of that happening.

-Is there any evidence that the colonists made use of the materials left by the Coast Guard at the site?

Plenty. The abandoned village is dirty with stuff that was obviously looted ...er ... liberated from the station. At first a colonist was hired to live at the Loran site as security guard but it appears that, at some point, it became apparent that the americans weren't coming back and the colonists said, "What the hell." and made off with anything that looked useful.

-How did the Coast Guard secure drinking water for their station? Distillation or shipped in?

Big cistern.  Still there.

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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: FAQ: Fate of the Gardner Loran Station
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2011, 09:32:59 PM »

I think the story Marty is thinking of about the bulldozer being driven into the sea is an incident where the dozer fell into a large groove while pushing a landing craft off the reef. It was subsequently recovered.

I got that impression from Ric Gillespie's post in the old Forum:

Subject: Scuba
Date: 2/24/99

"A visual underwater survey of the edge of the atoll's surrounding reef was conducted by divers during our 1989 expedition, again with negative results. The diving was technically demanding but not suicidal with the proper preparation, and in fact the reef is quite lovely. In 1991 we hired Oceaneering International to do a sidescan sonar survey of the ocean surrounding the island. Once more, no luck. I hasten to add that just because none of these searches found anything doesn't necessarily mean that nothing is there. It's awfully easy to miss stuff -- even big stuff. After the scuba and sidescan searches were over we learned that the coast guard had lost a D6 Caterpiller bulldozer off the reef edge in 1944. Neither the divers in 1989 nor the sonar in 1991 saw it."

Dick Evans then corrected the account:

Date:         Wed, 10 Mar 1999 11:05:22 EST
From:         Dick Evans
Subject:      The dozer that didn't die

You referred to the CG losing a bulldozer off the edge of the reef in 1944. This is not accurate. The incident you refer to happened when a crew came to replace a direct-current generator with two alternate current generators.

Getting loaded landing barges off the reef was always a real problem. Whenever this became necessary our machinist mate would push the barge off the edge of the reef with the bulldozer. Most of the time they came in loaded and when the loads were removed the barge would bob up into the water and could be backed off under their own power.

On this occasion the replaced generator was loaded onto the barge and it would not float.  The machinist, Joe Guerra, tried to push it off. It was so heavy he was having a lot of trouble as the barge kept turning sideways forcing Joe to go around the barge and push from the other side. Slowly he moved it toward the edge of the reef but now the reef fingers became a problem. He came too close to the edge of a finger and the dozer tipped partially on its side lifting the right side tracks off the coral. This meant he had no traction.

At this point the net-tender that was servicing the operation came as near to shore as they could safely get and fired a line ashore. This was attached to the barge and they pulled it off the reef. But the tide was coming in and there was no chance to get the dozer out of the hole.

Next morning I went on duty with the 8 Am watch while the rest of the crew went down to salvage the bulldozer. By the time I came off watch at 12 Noon the dozer was back at the base in operating condition. I was told that they were able to attach a rope to the dozer and pull it with the weapons carrier until the tracks made contact and Joe could back it out of the hole.

Don't bother spending any more time looking for the bulldozer in 2000 feet of water. It ain't there. It probably ended up in Japan as part of a post-war shipment of scrap iron.

Dick Evans


I must have combined that story with some anecdote from some other island to produce the image that the Coasties deliberately abandoned a dozer.  My bad!

Here, for example, is one such story from Espiritu Santo:

Another popular dive in the area is Million Dollar Point.  Million Dollar Point is the ultimate underwater junkyard.  At the end of the war the Americans had vast amounts of heavy equipment spread around the bases.  They built a ramp out to the end of the reef and drove every single bulldozer, crane, truck, jeep off the ramp and into the water.  Why?! There are 2 stories and you can choose the one you believe.

1)  They offered to sell the equipment to the government and the local plantation owners for a very cheap price.  The locals refused to buy because they said they would just collect them when the Americans left.  G.I. Joe said "No Luck Frenchy!".

2)  The Americans had clauses in most of their wartime purchase agreements that required that the equipment would be destroyed at the end of the war rather than end up as surplus and heavy equipment market.  They were obligated to destroy the equipment and driving it into the sea seemed like a good idea at the time.
LTM,

           Marty
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Jeff Lange

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Re: FAQ: Fate of the Gardner Loran Station
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2011, 08:03:33 AM »

Thank you for the replies. Marty- the link you refer to regarding disassemly + bulldozing mentions ONLY the disassembly + storage of the equipment. Nothing is stated about demolition of the huts then or at later date. (I was a good little TIGHAR and searched the Ameilapedia for a-info on the Loran station before I posted my questions, so I had already sen that info.) I guess my major curiosity was if the quonset huts were built on cement slabs that were poured or directly on the ground, and if they just fell apart over the years or were blown down either by winds from storms or were overwashed by tidal surges. I don't recall any mention before of that area having been overwashed by the sea, but I could see a strong storm having rouge waves doing all sorts of damage to aging structures.

I had already figured that after the CG left the island that eventually the colonist would liberate whatever could be deemed useful to them seeing that the CG were no longer present nor likely to return.
Jeff Lange

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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: FAQ: Fate of the Gardner Loran Station
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2011, 09:26:52 AM »

Thank you for the replies. Marty- the link you refer to regarding disassemly + bulldozing mentions ONLY the disassembly + storage of the equipment. Nothing is stated about demolition of the huts then or at later date. (I was a good little TIGHAR and searched the Ameilapedia for info on the Loran station before I posted my questions, so I had already sen that info.) I guess my major curiosity was if the quonset huts were built on cement slabs that were poured or directly on the ground, and if they just fell apart over the years or were blown down either by winds from storms or were overwashed by tidal surges. I don't recall any mention before of that area having been overwashed by the sea, but I could see a strong storm having rogue waves doing all sorts of damage to aging structures.

I've done another search and agree that there are no specific details about how far the "disassembly" went and what the site might have looked like when the May, 1946, visit was over.
LTM,

           Marty
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