We arrived at Adak Naval Air Station, Alaska, after dark and in severe weather conditions. It was misting rain; seas were very high; gale warnings had been issued, and the winds were gusting to over 60 knots on final approach. Gary Lattin (Aircraft Commander) suggested that I fly the GCA while he looked for the runway. With such gusting winds, it was extremely difficult to hold the glide slope. At around a mile and a half, the navy controller gave us a go around, but Gary now had the airport in sight and took the controls to land the plane. After landing, we were advised that the winds were forecast to gust from 80 to 90 knots later in the night. The C-130 was chained down, and sand bags were placed on the wings to destroy any lift potential.

Upon reaching the housing office and waiting for an inordinate amount of time, we were told that the only quarters available were an older open bay barracks. Around 9:00 p.m., or a little later, we arrived at the assigned barracks and were preparing to "crew rest" when the entire crew from a Greek freighter* suddenly appeared in the barracks. They had just been rescued from their sinking freighter--a casualty of the winds and high seas. Around 11:00 p.m., the Greeks were still yelling, laughing, and making noise to the point that we were unable to sleep.

Bering Hill Wooden Barracks (on right), Adak, Alaska

At this time, Gary Lattin began to make phone calls in an effort to find more suitable quarters. After no favorable response was received from base personnel, a call was made to the director of the project, and Gary advised him that if the crew weren't given quarters which would allow us to sleep, that we would have to declare inadequate crew rest. This would keep Project Long Shot from being accomplished the next day. Shortly thereafter, the crew was moved to the Visiting Officers Quarters. Since all other rooms in the VOQ were already occupied by Long Shot personnel, our crew was placed in the visiting Admiral's quarters--a suite of rooms. Fantastic! We had a television set, "swanky" beds, expensive furniture, carpet "two inches" thick, and a fully stocked wet bar (of course we didn't indulge since we didn't have eight hours before takeoff). There was even a refrigerator with snacks.

Early the next morning, we attended a briefing on Project Long Shot and the procedures to be followed. We were advised that even though extensive seismic studies had been done on Amchitka Island, there was a possibility that an undiscovered fault (remember this was Alaska, which has severe earthquakes) might leak radioactive material. We were told that if a leak should occur, that we (the C-130 crew) were expected to fly all site personnel to a remote base for isolation and decontamination. Needless to say, this was a real confidence builder for the crew. The C-130 was to be in place with engines running, the ramp down...prepared to depart immediately in case of any emergency.

Early on the day of the underground detonation, we left Adak and flew down the Aleutian chain to Amchitka Island. Prior to this time, Amchitka was known mostly for being the home of the highly protected sea otter. On approach to the island, we discovered that the radio beacon was being jammed by an unknown source. The ADF needle was oscillating approximately thirty degrees either side of the approach heading. We advised the controller of the problem and were asked to fly the approach as if the radio aid were not being affected. Sure! A few miles out from landing, we were given coordinates for a nearby island and asked to deviate behind it to check for anything out of the ordinary. We dropped down to low level and visited the "blind" side of the designated island to find a Russian "fishing" trawler dead in the water with no sign of life. After making a 360 degree turn, we flew back over the ship and observed numerous crew members on deck, seagulls flying, nets being spread, and smoke pouring from the stacks. We laughed and said that the Russians must keep seagulls in crates to be released if anyone came to check on them. The Russians were not the only visitors near Amchitka Island. Many of our allies were also "observing" the test...Japan, Britain, etc.

As zero hour approached, we started the engines, lowered the ramp, and sent the loadmaster (Sgt. Smiley) out behind the aircraft to observe the site, as we monitored the countdown over the radio. Moments after the bomb was detonated, we heard a mild expletive uttered by the loadmaster. Naturally, we immediately inquired as to what had happened. Sgt. Smiley then explained that he had observed a mushroom cloud over the underground detonation site. For a few minutes the flight deck was absolutely silent...then we heard an announcement over the radio that no radiation leak had occurred. None of the crew realized that huge explosions would often create a mushroom cloud of dust. I'm sure that everyone that was on the crew will remember those few minutes forever. (Nolan W. Bailey, May 5, 1996.)

Crew members were Gary G. Lattin (Aircraft Commander), Nolan W. Bailey (Copilot), Life N. Dove (Navigator), Ernest O. Williams (Flight Engineer), and Hubert G. Smiley, Jr. (Loadmaster).


October 26, 1965: The Ekaterini G., a Greek steamship, became stranded off the Great Sitkin Island near Adak. Later, it broke up while under tow by the United States Coast Guard. From Adak, using binoculars or a telephoto lens, her hulk can still be seen on the rocky shore.