Fred Jones, the BRIDGE Site in North Norway and a Couple of Sea Stories
By Bruce Rule - September 15, 2013
Upon returning from involvement with the THRESHER Court of Inquiry in late April 1963, the writer was told to be prepared to depart for Norway with zero advance notification. Then-LT Fred Jones, RCN, would be in charge of a team of two: he and I. As previously discussed in the article of SOSUS vs The Type XX! German Submarine, the writer was to handle the technical/instruction/analysis end of the assignment while Fred was in charge of what was expected to be delicate negotiations with the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (NDRE) who had been operating the Project BRIDGE site on the island of Andoya using their own detection system (Lydia) installed prior to the arrival of the FQQ lofar system earlier in 1963. Which system would be pre-eminent would be an issue. As it developed, Lydia had a superior bearing determination capability but did not provide a useful classification capability, which meant that when the site went operational on 1 June 1963, it was as a SOSUS installation.
After we had left for Norway, COMASWFORLANT, upon learning that a Canadian officer would be representing the USN in bilateral discussions with Norway, “registered” objections. CAPT Arch Gordon, then COSL, responded that he had sent the best man on his staff for the assignment and that Canadians on his staff were fully integrated with USN programs. End of discussions. Fred's assured manner, quiet competence and ability to deal with the Norwegian activities and personnel fully justified CAPT Gordon's confidence in him. Fred's nationality was never an issue with the Norwegians, especially because he liked to fish.
In late May, with the expected zero advance notification, we flew to Keflavik and then to Norway on a P2V which made a mail-drop at Jan Mayen while enroute. Jan Mayen, about 450 nm northeast of Iceland, made the Keflavik area look like a tropical paradise. The island is dominated by an 8000-foot occasionally active volcano: nice neighbor. If the ice-line advanced far enough east from Greenland in the winter (as it used to do), polar bears would arrive on Jan Mayen where the only thing ashore to eat were the men who operated the Norwegian weather station. No one went out unarmed.
After 12 hours in the air, we arrived over Andoya but were diverted south to Bodo because of fog. We flew back to Andoya the next morning. “Morning” was a strange term since it had never been “night.” Since the BRIDGE site on Andoya was at 69-15N, the sun had not set since circa 20 May and would not set again until circa 20 July. Nice, but at the other end of the year, you paid a terrible price (more on that later).
The BRIDGE site, a rambling, unobtrusive, one-story building at the end of a gravel coastal road (up against an 800-foot cliff on one side (to the east) and the Norwegian Sea 200 yards to the west) had the village (a cluster of perhaps 20 houses) of Stave as an address. The structure had a large equipment room, several small bedrooms, a living room and kitchen. We stayed at the site and prepared our own meals.
Very early on, NDRE personnel arrived to maintain – and represent their interest in - the Lydia system. LCDR Stig Mylander from the Military Aid and Assistance Group (MAAG) – which served as the in-country USN activity also arrived.
Contentious discussions between USN reps and NDRE personnel were avoided; however, not so among the Norwegians who one day withdrew to one end of the living toom at the site and began arguing among themselves – safely they thought - in Norwegian while the Americans waited at the other end of the room for whatever resolutions the Norwegians would achieve. Then the phone rang and Mylander, being closest, picked it up and responded to a question in fluent Norwegian. From the other end of the room there was dead silence as the NDRE personnel tried to remember what they had been saying about whom. Later, Mylander, who had grown up in Oslo to the age of nine and spoke Norwegian with a slight Oslo-area accent, would always be introduced with a statement: “Be careful, he speaks Norwegian.”
All went well and whatever small issues arose were handled by Fred. The trip was a great success and BRIDGE was launched on the way to becoming an enormously valuable source of ASW intelligence.
Later, in August, the writer returned to the site to provide additional instruction and review data collected since the first trip. Those data confirmed the SOSUS detections made during the Cuban Missile Crisis were NOT an anomaly; they were entirely consistent with the BRIDGE data and characteristic of what we could expect to see. (More trips in 1964 and 1965 added enormously to our data base.) It was in 1964 that I met Ragnar Schaug-Pettersen and, about 1970, Inge Dahl, both of whom came to Louisville, KY with the Commodore last May; acquaintances and events i shall never forget.
On 24 November 1963, two days after the Kennedy assassination, I left again for Norway to evaluate three contacts reported by the site as southbound GOLFs. The timing of those detections – during the weeks just before the assassination – has raised concern. It was a relief when those detections turned out to involve “UNK SURFs.”
The trip did; however, provide more extremely useful data accumulated during the August to early November period. The trip also gave the writer the opportunity to see the “other end of the year” when the sun did not clear the southern horizon for about 60 days; however, if it was clear, there was a strong twilight for 3-4 hours; the sun was only three degrees below the horizon at solar noon. The weather along the coast never got terribly cold – seldom below 20F; however, like Adak, “It didn't snow much but a lot passed through (horizontally).”
It was during that early winter trip that I heard a story about a great Norwegian hunter (GNH) who also was one of the watchstanders. He had been after geese which periodically fed in an open field near the site. One day, when the GNH was getting a few ZZZZZ in the living room before going on watch, another on-coming watchstander, who had just driven by the field and had noted the geese were feeding, burst into the living room to tell the GNH about the geese. The GNH jumped up but rather than getting his gun, which was standing in a corner, he connected two wires together; he had ringed the field with dynamite. There was also a story about hunting snowshoe hare with machine guns but note that the objective of these forays was to put food on the table. They were not “sporting” adventures.
For many of us there have been pivotal events that shaped the course of our entire lives. For the writer, it was being selected to go to Norway with Fred Jones in May 1963, the assignment that was the reason I was hired by the Office of Naval Intelligence and where I remained for more than 40 years. It was a great ride.