Interview With Ronald J. Novak

From the interview with Ronald J. Novak of Sequim, WA conducted by Wendy Los at the Fort Worden History Center on June 13, 2006.  Mr. Novak served in the US Army from 1957 to 1960, during his eight months at Fort Worden he was stationed with the Seattle Air Defense Command at the radar installation atop Artillery Hill as Assistant Section Chief I.  Here he describes life on the post:

“Civilians were not allowed up there, there were a few wanderers that would come up there on occasion and we would escort them off.  The only weapons we had were carbines.  They were the M2 type, which could be automatic or semi-automatic.  Automatic out of these carbines was 650 rounds a minute—this is a fast rate.  We had them partly because they were secret equipment and the operation itself was secret information.  We had Q clearance, Q crypto codes for verifying commands given to us or verifying who we were, cryptic keys to certify that we got the right information from the right commands. The whole site itself, the functional, technical site, was located between the two gun pits on Battery Benson, on its ten inch reclining gun bunker.  The base for the radar antenna is still there.   That block held an antenna that was 11 feet high , 30 to 36 feet wide—it was a big antenna.  That was a 200 mile range radar, operated 23/7.  We had two 15 KW Diesel generators in case the power went out.  Our whole plotting room and our equipment was all located right there on the apron.  The men operated in shifts so four guys could keep  the radar going while the other four were off having their free time.  The guys worked this arrangement out among themselves. There wasn’t a lot of military stuff, although we would get military visitors.  A section where we didn’t cut the grass became a helicopter landing pad for the guys coming in, getting their flying time in from Fort Lawton. We were known to be the best damn coffee people in the district and the defense area, so we had quite a few people coming up. We didn’t take these visitors over to the site because we didn’t know if they were clear or not.  They would come into the area where we made our food or to the barracks.   It was just a casual time for them and it was a nice diversion for us. We did keep the military attitude, the military professionalism as we saw it.  We just weren’t very structured”.

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