Atlantic Command Operations Control Center

Norfolk, Virginia

December 1967 to March 1969

This was very much an interesting and challenging tour of duty. My responsibilities were many and varied, involved some travel... and... oh yes, I got married and started my second family.

My boss was LCDR Hammer. His name was Robert Hammer but everyone called him Mike Hammer after the Detective of books and TV. As it turns out I married Helen Buist, sister-in-law of Bob Hammer. There was much kidding about marrying the sister-in-law of my boss.

One of my primary responsibilities was supervision of the backup power for the War Room. There was power from the city of Norfolk, backup power on site in the form of generators with huge flywheels which would continue rotation when outside power failed until local motors could be started and one other rather strange final backup system.

That final backup system consisted of a huge collection of ordinary car batteries connected together in a crawl space under the deck of the War Room. They were under a trickle charge and were monitored frequently by Chief Harget and his men in the maintenance shop under my supervision. It struck me as bizarre in the extreme. Even at that point in time in history to have such a strange system to back up the communications for the War Room that handled the Cuban Missile Crisis just seemed beyond the pale. However, that is what we had.

Like the assignment aboard the USS Everglades, this tour of duty was rewarding in so many ways. There was much to challenge and stretch me as an Officer. The Skipper was, once again, one dedicated to making all the younger Officers the best they could be. Now it was time to move on to the next experience in the saga of my career to...

Naval Communication Station, Subic Bay, Philippines

Justice for the Telephone Operators

In addition to the less than sophisticated backup battery power the communications system for locating and establishing communications with various high level personnel in an emergency such as the Cuban Missile Crisis rested with the lowest Civil Service level phone operators in a basement switch board room. These ladies were able to find routing paths with their plug-in switch boards and contact all of the needed high ranking officials in a timely fashion for the Missile Crisis.

LCDR Robert "Mike" Hammer (my boss) didn't think this was right and launched a campaign to get them elevated in the Civil Service ranks. Not only did he get them promoted, he got them elevated three levels! When Mike Hammer set his sights on something things happened!

Sabotoge of the Spooks Computers?

One Monday morning I received a report from one of the several facilities even I could not enter. They reported each Monday morning when they came in for work the memory for their computer had been wiped clean. All their data was gone. They were concerned about the loss of the data but also that it seemed that some sort of sabotage was afoot.

Since I could not go into the space my troubleshooting consisted of asking them to do things and tell me the results. Slowly we went through many investigations eliminating one thing at a time until it was finally determined that the only thing done differently over the weekend was they held field day in the spaces, buffing the deck with a heavy duty deck buffer. Well, it turned out that the arcing of the brushes in the motor resulted in an electric static that wiped the memory clean of data. The buffer was no longer allowed in their spaces and no further problems were reported.

A visit to the Pentagon

One of my principal responsibilities was telephone communications, especially for the War Room. In conjunction with that responsibility I made a trip to the Pentagon along with the representative from the Telephone Company that provided our service. We had quite a tour including the room with the "Red Phone" to Moscow. It is not a red phone at all. It is a (grey)Teletype machine with direct connection to Moscow and I learned that both countries would send messages in the language of their country to avoid costly mistakes trying to word something in the other's language.

We sat in on a briefing and toured the War Room there and were given a through briefing on the phone system used in it. We were able to make recommendations for changes in the system in use at the Operations Command Center.

That was a very interesting and informative trip.

A Most Interesting Assignment

There was a project for expansion of the Operations Control Center that had made it's way through Congress years before. In the meantime, the needs had changed and the space was needed but it needed to be modified. I was tasked with doing the drawings for the changes. I would do the drawings according to information provided me and the drawings would work their way through the system and return with additional changes which I would make and off the plans would go for another review. They were finally finalized and the construction begun. I was transferred before completion so I never did see the results based on my work but understand it worked out perfectly. Wish I could have seen how it looked completed.

While stationed in Norfolk I took two weeks leave and camped with my girls from my first marriage, Vickie and Kay. We camped at a KOA Campground near Monticello for one week and relocated to Douthat State Park for the second week.
Riding horses at Douthet State Park
My mother and dad came up to camp with us for the last couple of days at Douthet State Park
As we left Douthet State Park we stopped at Natural Bridge. That was where Mom and Dad had their Honeymoon.
We got to spend a bit of time in Williamsburg before I returned the girls to Washington, DC.
Helen Buist and I were married...
... and Honeymooned by camping at Jamestown Beach. It was bitterly cold and wet so it was a short Honeymoon. We packed it in before the first night was over and I returned the next day to break camp under more favorable conditions.
Our home in Williamsburg until we could find a place in Norfolk.
Our home on Little Bay Ave., Norfolk, VA
Our first son was born at the Navy Hospital, Portsmouth, VA and started early learning to enjoy the outdoors and camping.
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