Friday, March 27, 2015

Vice President Agnew's Trip to New Orleans (1972)

Vice President Agnew’s Visit to New Orleans
Spiro Agnew delivers speech at a Republican Fund Raiser
Type Of Activity
 Republican Party Fund Raiser
 New Orleans LA
Date of Activity
 24-25 April 1972
 29°57'22.7"N 90°03'56.2"W

APRIL 24 1972 Vice President Agnew’s Visit to New Orleans

From the time of his nomination as Richard Nixon's running mate in August 1968 to his resignation in October 1973, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew was the leading administration spokesman for those Nixon called "The Silent Majority" of Americans. His speeches crafted by William Safire and Pat Buchanan spoke repeatedly about the Media, Vietnam, student unrest, campus disorders and integration which were the most controversial political subjects of the time. 

On April 18, 1972 WHCA received information that Vice President Spiro T. Agnew was scheduled to travel to New Orleans arriving at New Orleans International Airport on the morning of April 24, 1972. I was assigned with two others to support the VP and departed the next day for New Orleans. When we arrived we went directly to the Royal Orleans Hotel where the VP would be staying and we had our initial meeting with the Staff advance and the Secret Service to be briefed on the VP’s itinerary for the next two days.

We met with the local Telco and completed a radio coverage survey of the planned motorcade route that the Vice President would travel. We then set up radio base stations at the Airport, and the Royal Orleans Hotel for the USSS CP. The remote keying lines were ordered and installed and we were ready to support the Secret Service as well as the Vice President during their stay in New Orleans.

Aboard AF-2 Speechwriters William Safire and Pat Buchanan with VP Spiro Agnew
The Vice President arrived at noon on April 24, 1972, at the New Orleans International Airport and traveled directly by motorcade to the Roosevelt Hotel where he would give a luncheon/speech before the American Road Builders Association Convention. The USSS Agents at the Roosevelt Hotel reported that there were nine anti-war protesters carrying placards by the front entrance of the Roosevelt Hotel. There were no other incidents or demonstrations reported While we were in New Orleans.

Upon the completion of the speech, the Vice President flew to Shreveport, Louisiana, where he was scheduled to give a speech that evening addressing members of the Ambassador Club at Barksdale AFB, Bossier City, LA and then attending a social function of prominent Republicans later that evening.

The Roosevelt Hotel
The Royal Orleans Hotel
We had set up the Secret Service CP in the Royal Orleans hotel adjacent to the Vice President’s suite and secured the area while the Vice President was in Shreveport.  The suite was on the top floor of the hotel and was easy to seal off from anyone trying to gain unauthorized access. The Secret Service monitored all activity from the CP and was in constant communication with all Agents in Shreveport and New Orleans.

New Orleans International Airport
Site Of  Departure
The Vice President returned to New Orleans that evening about 10 pm and returned to the Royal Orleans Hotel. The next morning Vice President Agnew had breakfast at Brennan’s Restaurant and motored to New Orleans International Airport. Once we received wheels up in the USSS CP at 12 noon on Apr. 25 1972, all that was left to do was to collect all our equipment and return home! We departed New Orleans the next day on Apr 26, 1972.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Cannonball Relay Tower and AT&T Facility Near Mercersburg PA.

The Text Content on Page 1 of The Hagerstown Morning Herald, July 25, 1977 is: 

Cannonball Tower on Cross Mt. PA
That silo isn’t for cattle

To the casual observer driving down Maryland Route 67 southwest of Boonsboro, the distant object on lop of South Mountain looks like a farmer’s silo.

Closer inspection would reveal that it is indeed a silo, but not the kind used to store cattle feed. This particular silo belongs to the US Navy and is one of at least three similar Top Secret Navy facilities in the Tri-State area. Two other silos are located atop mountain ridges in Pennsylvania and in West Virginia. Just what goes on inside the silos the Navy isn’t saying? 

After repeated requests to the Navy for information on silos spokesman Ron Black gave this reply, “No information can be released its classified”.

According to residents of the area the Boonsboro silo was built sometime during the late 1960s. Like the others it is served by a narrow but a small road complete with guard rails. Although the Boonsboro silo is still in daily use the one located on Cross Mountain just inside the Pennsylvania state line north of Mercersburg was open earlier this year. The high chain link fence surrounding it has been ripped down and a heavy steel blast door leading into the silo was ajar recently. The silo is equipped with an elevator to each of its eight floors.  Although much of the equipment inside has obviously been removed, much remains... Heavy air conditioning equipment, air filters and electrical panels are still in place.  In an apparent effort to blast proof the equipment the panels arc mounted on heavy springs with coiled wire lo take up movement. The silo apparently housed offices.  On the ceilings are fluorescent lamps. The floors are tiled.

Whatever goes on inside the silos it is not related to the Alternate National Military Command Center near Blue Summit Pa.?  Sources at the Pentagon responsible for The Rock say they do not know anything about the Navy silos.

AT&T Site on Hearthstone Mt. in MD.

The Text Content on Page 1 of The Hagerstown Morning Herald, July 25, 1977 is: 
Arial view of AT&T on Hearthstone Mt. looking at the ridge line
 to Cross Mt.and Cannonball Tower
Hello, Hello
If there ever is a nuclear war restoring the nation’s telephone network might be one of the first orders of business.
That’s one of the reasons why American Telephone and Telegraph Co has buried a telephone switching station high atop Hearthstone Mountain four miles north of Clear Spring and just two miles from the Navy’s silo on Cross Mountain. 
Although it’s not as secret as some government facilities around the area officials explain that the installation is designed to withstand the effects of a nearby nuclear blast. 
The station which consists of 70000 square feet in a two and a half story underground building is made of concrete.
The delicate telephone gear inside is mounted on shock absorbers and the outside antennas about the only thing visible from a distance are en-cased in concrete pods
Access to the building is gained huge steel blast doors.  Like other hardened sites the station has its own food and water supply.  Filtering would remove nuclear particles from the air in the event of an attack.
 The Hearthstone station is one of 65 around the world that provides routine telephone global com for the US military.
 According to operations manager Bruce Parr the station normally handles only military traffic and in a busy hour it can relay thousands of telephone messages. But the equipment inside the station is standard telephone switching gear and Parr says it could be used to handle emergency or commercial traffic. Two other underground stations are also located in the area. One is at Monrovia in Frederick County and the other at Drainsville, VA near the Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia borders.
Parr says Hearthstone was picked as a site primarily because of its high elevation a, factor vital to reliable microwave communications. The 5.5 million dollar facility was built in the mid-1960s and is manned 24 hours a day by about 30 people according to Parr.
 He says doesn’t pretend that nobody knows where or what the station is but he explains that the facility is not open to the public for “safety and for the protection of the personnel who work here”.                                                                     

Sunday, March 15, 2015

President Johnson's Trip to Dallastown Pa. (1966)

Dallastown, Pennsylvania
 Entering Dallastown

 876 ft. (267 m)
 York County, Pa, USA
 39°54′0″N 76°38′27″W

I was working at Camp David for about ten months before I was assigned to President Lyndon Johnson’s  trip team when he visited Dallastown Pa. as part of  the town's centennial celebration. The president and his wife, Lady Bird, keynoted the Dallastown Centennial Celebration on Sept. 4, 1966.

Since this was my first trip I was teamed up with two other radio guys from the Shop in Washington DC.  CWO Pierre Fontaine was assigned as the Trip Officer he was my CO at Camp David.  Mr. Fontaine and I drove to York Pa. on Aug 28th to meet the radio guys who had driven from the shop in DC with all of the communications equipment. We met with a marketing representative from GTE at the Travelodge in York and advised him of the pending visit and the telephone circuits required for all of the Communication equipment necessary to Support the President, Secret Service and White House Staff during this trip.

The Travelodge in York Pa. 
The GTE Central Office in York Pa.
Our first order of business was to meet with the Secret Service and Staff Advance people to get the Trip Itinerary and to determine the locations that we would use to install the Switchboard, Comm. Center and also identify sites for the FM radio base stations.

The President and Mrs. Johnson would arrive on Air Force One at Harrisburg International Airport and motorcade the 39 miles to Dallastown. After his speech they would then return to Harrisburg International Airport for their departure back to Washington DC.

The Motorcade route from Harrisburg Dallastown Pa.
With only six days to install everything we went to work. We met with the GTE operations people at their central office in York Pa. and obtained spaces for the WHCA Switchboard and Comm. Center in The GTE CO. Once that was taken care of we started our Radio Survey by driving the motorcade route in search of possible radio sites that would insure coverage of the entire route. We would discover two locations with radio towers already in place. These towers were located at the WXQXA-FM Radio station in York and the FAA radio site overlooking Harrisburg International Airport. These sites were ideal because they had direct line of site of Interstate 83, the main route of the motorcade would travel. Once permission and access was obtained to the radio sites, we would drive the entire motorcade route checking radio coverage. GTE was then contacted and the orders were placed for our remote keying lines to be run from the WHCA switchboard in York to each of the FM Radio base stations.

Baker/Charlie (Secret Service) and Sierra (White House Staff) base stations were installed at WXQXA-FM and at the FAA radio tower in Harrisburg; the remote keying lines were installed and tested to the remote consoles at the WHCA Switchboard in York which was now operational.

The 125’ FAA radio site near Harrisburg Pa.
WXQXA-FM Radio Site in York Pa.
By Friday we were finished with installing the radio network and all that remained was to set up the Presidential motorcade just before the arrival of Air Force One the next day.

Early on Saturday morning we headed to the Harrisburg Airport with several Motorola (P-33) radios to be placed inside the vehicles that would make up the motorcade. The Presidents Limo had already arrived from DC and motorcade was complete and ready for the President and Mrs. Johnson.

One final install needed to be completed, the Chopper Pack! Since LBJ took office the Secret Service required a surveillance chopper to be deployed to cover all motorcades that took place. This was to insure that no snipers were on billboards, radio towers, rooftops or any other vantage point. Local law enforcement officers would be positioned on freeway overpasses and at the on /off ramps. The chopper Pack consisted of two Motorola P-33 (B/C) radios to communicate with the USSS agents in the motorcade. Two headphones with push to talk microphones and a connection to the helicopter’s intercom system so the USSS agent on board could talk to the Pilots.

The surveillance Chopper a Huey UH-1
This would be my first flight in a helicopter and I was a little apprehensive about the trip ahead. The chopper that was used was a US Army Huey UH-1, the type used in Vietnam; the pilots were both vets of Vietnam. The Huey has a large door on either side that could be opened during flight with jump seats facing outward. Once I secured the radios, I took my place in one of the jump seats with the Chopper Pack between my legs and tested the radios and intercom.  I then fastened my lap belt and was ready for the flight. The USSS agent strapped himself next to me in a contraption called a monkey belt. This devise allowed him to move around and even stand while we were in the air. He then removed an M-16 from its carrying case, loaded it and sat down next to me. We were ready to go just as soon as Air Force One was on its final approach.
LBJ and Lady Bird arrive at Harrisburg International Airport
LBJ arrives aboard Air Force One
LBJ is greeted by the crowd at Harrisburg International Airport
Shortly after the President and first lady arrived at the airport and was greeted by Congressman N. Neiman Craley Jr. the entourage departed by motorcade.

We were already in the air following the 29 mile route looking out for anything that might present a risk to the motorcade. Now I always thought that Helicopters went up and down, little did I know about their actual maneuverability until the USSS agent aboard spotted someone running across a field toward the highway and with the approaching motorcade told the pilot to turn around to check out the situation? The Pilot made a very sharp turn putting the Huey on its side, here I am looking straight ahead looking at the highway and the USSSS Agent standing in up in the monkey belt. To this day I can’t believe he didn't fall out, I suppose the force from that tight turn was enough! It turned out that the person below never made it to the highway, and we continued on.

The motorcade arrived in Dallastown and president and Mrs. Johnson were greeted by a friendly audience. Congressman N. Neiman Craley Jr. served as grand marshal of a parade to celebrate Dallastown’s 100th anniversary, where President Johnson spoke.
The President addresses residents of Pa. in Dallastown
Read the President’s Speech Here.
The First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson is greeted in Dallastown 
The speech had concluded and it was time to depart Dallastown and return to Harrisburg Airport where we would prepare for the departure of Air Force One, and then collect all of the radio equipment from the motorcade and any staff member that was issued one for the short stay in Pa. 

The President had departed Harrisburg and headed back to Washington DC and we headed back to York to start packing up all of the equipment we had installed over the past week. On Sunday morning it was time to visit the two radio sites and retrieve the base stations Antennas and Coax from these locations and get them ready to return to Washington DC. Once all Of The equipment was inventoried and loaded on a truck. I left York and returned to Camp David. This would be the first of many trips world wide that I would participate during my assignment with the White House.