Camp David Catoctin Mountain, Md.
1,900 ft. (579.1 m)
|Frederick County, Maryland, USA|
+39.648333N -77.466667 W
November of 1965 to Camp David
Camp David was originally built as a camp for federal government agencies and their families, by the WPA, starting in 1935, opening in 1938. About Camp David
On July 5 1942 the President inspected the retreat, which he had named "Shangri-La" in April. Among the names Roosevelt applied to individual buildings were "The Bear's Den" (the main lodge), "The Soap Dish" (the laundry), "The Baker Street Urchins" (Secret Service building), and "Little Luzon" (Philippine stewards' cabin).
|Entrance to the Presidential Retreat (1942)|
Main Entrance to Camp David
Presidents Kennedy and Johnson rarely utilized Camp David. It was President Nixon's favorite retreat when he was in Washington, not only for relaxing and meeting with foreign dignitaries, but also for working. Nixon approved extensive modernization of the facilities at the camp, including major renovation to Aspen Lodge, installation of a helicopter pad, new figure-eight swimming pool, bowling alley, and skeet shooting range. There are now 11 residence cabins, including the main guest cabin, which is presently called "Laurel." The President utilizes a three-room cottage, named "Birch," as an office.
Originally a barracks and mess hall Hickory was renovated in the early 60’s, it is now the center of activities while staying at Camp David. Hickory now contains a lounge and bar, a movie theater, as well as a two lane bowling alley and a game room with two pool tables.Originally a barracks and mess hall Hickory was renovated in the early 60’s, it is now the center of activities while staying at Camp David. Hickory now contains a lounge and bar, a movie theater, as well as a two lane bowling alley and a game room with two pool tables.
|Hickory Lodge (1956)|
|The lounge in Hickory Lodge with dance floor|
|Camp David swimming pool (1966)|
|The pool bath house (1965)|
|Staff Swimming Pool (2014)|
|Aspen Lodge with new swimming pool (1969)|
Camp David is a U.S. Navy installation, commanded by a Naval Commander. Sailors are mostly Seabees and most officers are in the civil engineering field. The Navy Seabee Detachment performs maintenance and beautification. Some of the sailors include: grounds and maintenance personnel, electricians, carpenters, corpsmen, and the President's cooks (culinary specialists). The White House Communications Agency (WHCA) provided all of the necessary voice and data communications and maintains the electronic fence surrounding the facility. The Marine Guard provided all of the physical security
|Army One (1967)|
November 1965 to March 1967 the Camp David Communications Detachment (Cactus)
It was November of 1965 when my experiences with WHCA began, I was assigned to Cactus which was the code name for the microwave installation at Camp David, and I would also work at another microwave location near Mercersburg Pa. This site was known as Cannonball and was a microwave relay station. I would travel to Cannonball for a week at a time and spent a total of eleven weeks there over a year’s period of time. This worked out very well because in March of 1967 I was transferred permanently to Cannonball.
We rented an apartment in Blue Ridge Summit Pa for a short Period of time until Government Housing became available.
|The Homestead Apartments Blue Ridge Summit PA.|
|Don at the kids Christmas party at Camp David|
This was the only time we were ever taken to an army post to qualify with any type of fire arm. It was the only time that I had the privilege to salute Mr. Fontaine because he was in uniform. Two things I can remember happening, first we never qualified with a rifle again, and WHCA returned to a permanent assignment for those who chose to stay.
There was a pistol range at the back of Camp David; we qualified with 38 cal. pistols at that range. When I took over at Cannonball I became the Site Crypto Custodian, which meant that I had to qualify with the 38. Over the years we had loads of fun with the air transport crews and sky marshals all because we were carrying concealed weapons against air travel regulations. With every other flight being hijacked to Cuba, I can understand why they were so touchy.
Shortly after we moved into housing at Camp David, our son Robert was born in Waynesboro, PA on April 28, 1966.
Shortly after we moved into housing at Camp David, our son Robert was born in Waynesboro, PA on April 28, 1966.
We lived in the off-site Quarters at Camp David for over a year in 66/67. We referred to these quarters as the wagon wheel, WHCA personnel consisted of four enlisted guys living there, as well as the CO of DCSU who was Maj. DuGay the rest were all U.S. Navy personnel. They were pretty nice for Government Quarters and fairly new at the time, we lived in unit 6A and at the time there were ten units built in a circle. Only E-5 and above were eligible and you waited for openings based on rank. Foxville Gardens is only about 2 miles from the front gate at Camp David. Just up Manhattan Rd. from the Wagon Wheel used to be a trailer park that was also maintained by the Navy and available to anyone on a space available basis.
|Christmas (1966) Joanne and Don|
|Don and Bob, Christmas (1966)|
While we were living at Foxville Gardens we had legendary poker games with the single guy's on just about every Saturday night that there were no visitors up at the Camp David. Joanne was the only female that was allowed to play, as she supplied all the eats, and I think she adopted Chuck Duval and Dale Anderson, but the guys would bring the beer and we would play into the wee hours of the morning. Funny thing the more we drank the more Joanne (a Pepsi drinker) would win, Go figure! I am sure that everyone thought we were alcoholics by the cases of empty beer cans that were in the trash on Monday morning. The games tailed off when we moved to Le Masters and the guys either got married or were discharged, but the poker games continued in San Clemente and Key Biscayne with the guys and pinochle when we socialized with the families. Cards passed a lot of time for us and it was a very enjoyable way to get to know people that you worked with. They did like to party.
16 Jan 67 to Washington DC -Howard University CBR Training
I was getting ready to relocate to Le Masters PA when I was sent to Silver Springs MD to a training class that was at Howard University. This class was being conducted by the Civil Defense Department to instruct us on the detection, prevention or treatment of Chemical, Biological, or Radioactive (CBR) substances. This training was imperative as I would be responsible for all activities at Cannonball Tower. I did learn how to properly use and maintain Geiger counters, gas masks and the proper ways to decontaminate equipment and personal should we were ever exposed to any of these substances.
The Decon Shower at Cannonball
Cannonball did have Decon a station at the entrance of the tower, where contaminated equipment and clothing could be disposed of and showers for personnel to decontaminate prior to entering.
|Radiation Detection Package|
|Entrance to CD Emergency Ops. Center|
The class also spent a day at the Washington DC Civil Defense Emergency Operations Center operated by the D.C. Office of Emergency Management located at the Lorton VA Youth Correctional Facility. We received a detailed overview of how the WHCA microwave network could accommodate any emergency Presidential address into the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) using Mt Weather as the interface. While I was in class I was notified that I would be assigned to support President Johnson on an upcoming trip to a Conference of American States in Punta Del Este Uruguay in March of 1967.
26 Feb 67 to Washington DC-HF Radio Training
In preparation of the upcoming trip to Punta Del Este I was sent to Cartwheel for a week of operational training the TMC-750 single sideband (SSB) transmitter, and the R-390/CV-157 single sideband (SSB) receiver and converter. This included ancillary TTY and Voice equipment necessary to communicate with Air Force One (AF-1) and other WHCA locations working on this particular trip.
|SSB Radio Console with TTY interface|
|SSB TMC 750 Transmitter|
The Single Sideband (SSB) console was equipped with two R390-A receivers, two CV-157 SSB converters with audio patch panel for all upper sideband (USB) voice traffic with phone patch capabilities and lower sideband (LSB) TTY traffic. All TTY circuits had associated frequency shift keying (FSK) equipment with a DC patch panel and would easily connect to the Cryptographic equip in the Commcenter.
The TMC-GPT-750 was a 1KW transmitter and was installed in all of the towers and used primarily for support on overseas trips.
When I returned home from Punta Del Este in March of 1967 we relocated to PA where I would be assigned to a microwave relay facility known as Cannonball as the NCOIC.
In March of 1967 when I returned from Uruguay we moved to Lemasters Pa where I would be assigned to a microwave relay Facility as the NCOIC.
Experiences at Cannonball
Type Of Activity
Experiences while at Cannonball
Date of Activity
Mar 1967 to Jun 1970
+39.648333N -77.466667 W
17 March 1967 to Cannonball a Remote Communications Facility
In March of 1967 I was permanently assigned to a microwave relay site named Cannonball. It was located on Cross Mountain, near Mercersburg Pennsylvania. Joanne and I initially rented an old farmhouse in LeMasters, Pa .we lived their approximately six months and then moved down the road about mile. Nothing could have prepared my wife, Joanne for the isolation she would have to experience when I was given this assignment. The town we lived near, LeMasters had a population of 26 people, the downtown consisted of a bank, general store and a grain elevator and our next door neighbors were Mennonite. Every Sunday there would be quite a bit of horse and buggy traffic as they went to church. Joanne was a city girl, born and raised in Chicago and never went more than 100 miles in any direction before we were married, she didn't drive because she never needed transportation and you talk about living in the boonies. LeMasters had a population of 26 people and we were four of those people.
LeMasters Pa (1967)
The telephone system utilized at Cannonball tower was a 1A1 Key System since I knew nothing about the 1A1, and I was responsible for the installation and repair of new and existing equipment I attended training at the AT&T Training Center in Lemoyne PA.
The three week course covered the Key Service Unit (KSU), power supply, and various telephone sets used in the system. This training would turn out to be very valuable as I would re-cable or rewire the system several times before we closed the tower in 1970 and the system was removed.
|1A1 KSU Key Service Unit|
Chuck Duval a friend of ours married a girl that he met at that secretarial school in Hagerstown, he and his wife Barbra lived in Blue Ridge Summit right next to the US Post Office. This is where we rented an apartment for a couple of months while we were waiting for housing at Camp David to open up.
The old Post Office in Blue Ridge Summit PA
We were living in Le Masters Pa. at this time. Chuck and Barb had a party at their apartment shortly after they were married and of course Dale Anderson and all of the guy's from Camp David attended, well around midnight we decided to leave the wives who were playing cards and go down to get a drink at the Monterey Tea House. We had to cross in front of the post office in order to get to where our cars were parked, well one thing led to another and the next thing that I knew Chuck had been attached to the flag pole and Dale with some help had raised him to the Top and tied him off. We all had a good laugh and slowly lowered him to the ground. As we were walking to the cars to leave, two cars of men drove in and blocked our retreat. They all belonged to the Blue Ridge Summit Auxiliary Police Department and told us that someone had reported that we were trying to break in to the Post Office. After some fast talking and that Chuck lived next door, they told us to keep the noise down and left. No wonder Mr. Horst felt like he was running a loony bin!
Our neighbors knew that I worked for the Government but never asked where. The people that lived around Mercersburg and Greencastle thought that Cannonball was a water tower. Our families knew that I was with the White House and did visit us but never knew any details of what went on at Cannonball or Camp David. All they ever knew was that I had something to do with communications and that I traveled a lot with the President and VP. Our friendships were pretty much with the Seabee’s (Al Jensen and Bud Evans) both assigned to Cannonball and some of the WHCA people that I worked with from Camp David
Our daughter, Kathie was born in Chambersburg Pa. on Jan, 8, 1969, and because of a flu outbreak the hospital would not allow visitors. I was only able to take the kids as far as the parking lot to see Joanne and wave to her at her room window. We first saw Kathie when we brought her and Joanne home from the hospital!
In the spring of 1969 we decided to move into an apartment in Greencastle, PA., the house that we were living in had only two bedrooms and with the arrival of Kathie we needed more room.
18 May 69 to Norfolk VA for technical training of an HF Radio System
I was sent to the Naval Training Center in Norfolk VA for training on the URT-23, which was a single sideband HF radio transceiver. WHCA was in the Process of adding this system to all overseas packages and needed qualified technicians. I was there for ten days and for the first time since I was assigned to WHCA I was required to wear uniforms. WHCA would widely use these whenever long range communications were required and would be included in the CCT’s standard equipment package!
|We were in the middle of two major construction projects at the Tower that kept us busy the remainder of the year, we also found out that Al Jensen our Navy Seabee was being transferred, Bud Evans would replace Al in July of 1969. Bud and his family would end up renting the apartment directly above ours in Greencastle.|