Camp David Communications Detachment (Cactus 1965- 1967)

 Camp David Communications Detachment
Gov’t housing at Camp David (2009)

Type Of Activity
 Experiences while at Camp David
 Thurmont MD
Date of Activity
 Nov 1965 to Jun 1970
 33°49′26″N 116°31′49″W

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 
I remember back in 1966, when the permanent assignment in WHCA was rescinded and most of the old timers were either transferred or retired, Col Albright the new WHCA CO tried to make it a military organization again. Someone decided that everyone needed to qualify with the M-14.  Now some of these guys had not been on a true military base for years, and I am sure that some were issued brown boots and Eisenhower jackets.  Anyway we were scheduled to qualify at the Fort Meade rifle range.  I have never seen any group of people look so funny in uniform. If you ever wanted to have a good laugh, you should have seen some of the old timers qualifying with the M-14.  Jim Hammond from Copper/Cowpuncher (a great guy) couldn't find all of his uniform, so he wore what he could find.  They wore whatever they could find of their uniforms, if they couldn't find a web belt they wore a leather civilian belt, no chevrons, name tags or proper hat, no problem they wore what they could find! 

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.  

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 Duvall 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.

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