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Free time was spent reading, playing cards, or listening to a few records we had in a small recreation hall. We just about wore out Artie Shaw's "Begin the Beguine." I knew I had a package with some records coming, but we never did get to listen to any of them. I think the package went down with the Dorchester.

Card games were going on constantly. I introduced Pinochle for those who were not interested in playing cards with the "sharks." We did not have a football, baseball or basketball, so there was no team play or just tossing a ball around.

We saw a few movies, maybe two, and a USO show was supposed to pay a visit but that was cancelled probably due to flying conditions and perhaps the risk to entertain so few.

We did try skiing but there really wasn't enough snow and slopes just under the icecap were normally crusted over. Wrecked my knee when a ski tip broke through and since the skis did not have break-away bindings you could get twisted out of shape if you had a spill.

There were no alcoholic beverages available so the thirsty inventive type got a hold of some copper tubing and built a mini still where they could get alcohol out of Lemon Extract. A few others would drink de-icer fluid, which resulted in a few deaths.




Photo by Gerry Harris, 17th TCS, circa 1965



Road from Sondrestrom to the Port


The photo above shows the road, along with curve and slope, that we used leaving the airfield to go to work. Notice the guardrail which wasn't there when we were coming back from the Station, and found a dump truck standing in the middle of that slippery down hill slope. We got by the truck some how but skidded over to the right side and flipped down that embankment. I was in the passenger seat of this open Weapons Carrier so I had a good look at where we were heading. The snow was a blessing and provided a nice soft landing. We didn't have a scratch but the vehicle was quite a mess.  


Col. Bernt Balchen was our Commanding Officer, and he made some daring rescues out on the ice cap when I was there. One was the landing of a PBY on a lake created from melted ice. He picked the crew of a Bl7 and after taking off, the story goes, the lake just disappeared. Another was landing a PBY in the snow with the wheels up to make a rescue.


The PBY apparently became frozen when it came to a stop and the passengers had to get out and rock the plane to get it moving, and then climb aboard. Everyone had the highest respect for Balchen and he was a hero to many downed pilots.

I had the distinguished honor of being in our community shower when he was there. I dried off and bundled up to face the cold and Balchen went outside and rolled around in the snow. He was one tough likeable guy.

Of course, on everyone's mind was the thought of getting back to the States. An opportunity came along to take an exam to go to Weather Forecasting School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Two of us passed the exam and we were on our way back in May of 1943.

Colonel Bernt Balchen



When I was a kid I always liked Jack London's stories about the North so I experienced almost a full year of living that fantasy. Looking back sixty years it was a great experience and one feels a little proud of that contribution to the war effort but it surely does not compare to what those guys in the South Pacific and Europe went through. I guess I can consider myself lucky to have been at BW 8.

Richard A. Rybak
330 Cypress Creek Circle
Oldsmar FL 34677

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