Interview With Oran P. DeBois,Jr.

From the interview with Oran P. DeBois, jr. of Sequim, WA conducted by Rae Tennyson at the Fort Worden History Center on November 12, 2002.  Mr. DeBois served in the U.S. Navy at Fort Worden in the Harbor Defense Command during the Korean War era. Here he discusses his duties  at the Harbor Entrance Control Post atop Artillery Hill:

“The HECP was manned 24 hours a day.  Surface and submarine traffic entering or leaving the area was coordinated with the senior command located at naval station Bremerton.  I have a theory about this, because there certainly was no submarine or naval threat during the Korean War.  I think it was all psychological, just to let the people know there was a defense here. We were probably just a show business, but we did train.  We trained the troops –the unit consisted of four officers and eighty enlisted men—and we planted equipment in the water.  We installed cable-connected hydrophones.  We planted some mines but they were drill mines.  We had no explosives in them at all, they were filled with concrete, just for training purposes.  We trained in harbor entrance control post operations and two-way communications.  We had joint exercises with the Canadian Navy at Esquimalt on Vancouver Island.  We did coordinate submarine movements in and out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  When a submarine would be coming or going, we’d get a notification they were going to pass HECP and we would know about it.  That’s all we’d be told.  We’d get a telephone call from Bremerton that would say we have a secret message for you.  I would jump in the Navy car and drive to Bremerton to get the message and come back with it.  By the time I’d get back with it, the submarine was already out at sea.  One day the commanding officer said to me, ‘You know, we’ve got to have a crypto allowance, this can’t go on. You’re the communications officer.’  I was a lieutenant JG and didn’t know anything about crypto.  So, we got a crypto allowance and I locked myself in a closet for two weeks and taught myself crypto.  Then that nonsense was all over and we would get messages that I’d decode and work it out.  There was no bridge in those days, so I took the ferry—it was quite a drive to Bremerton and back.  I’d be gone half the day at least, so you can understand why that submarine was always gone when I got back here.”

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