Operation Solo Turkey

Copyright © 2001-2010, Scott D. Murdock
29 Nov 2002 - Updated style and format. Merged later comments with original report.
11 Jul 2010 - Added additional photos.

Time to visit my brother's family and my dad, near Omaha, Nebraska. Nancy couldn't make this trip due to her work schedule.  (When you're in retail store management during the holidays, there is no rest for the weary!)

Sunday, 18 Nov 2001

Making an 0500 departure from home, I took I-35 north to Oklahoma City, cut west on I-40, then took US 270 north past Watonga and some back roads to Canton.  Here I found the former Canton Comms Site GWEN 661 (DATQ).  This site was operational with the USAF from the 1980s through about 2000.

More back roads to the north and east to Jet, and the active Kegelman AF Aux Fld (MBEB), 36-44-10, 98-07-30.  The gate was locked, so I just glanced at the building compound and the NEXRAD tower from the main entrance to the field.  Back in W.W.II this was a sub-base of Will Rogers Field, and was known as Great Salt Plains Bombing Range.  It's assignment bounced around from Will Rogers to Clovis AAFld, Woodward AAFld, and Liberal AAFld until 1946 when it transferred to Enid AAFld (later Vance AFB).  It's been supporting Vance ever since.  The bombing range part of the installation was disposed of in 1947, but the airfield soldiers on.   It was known as Jet Auxiliary Field and Great Salt Plains Auxiliary Field, officially becoming Great Salt Plains AF Auxiliary Field in 1948.  It took its present designation in 1949.  The NEXRAD is a recent addition, dating only back to 1993.

I headed east and north, and just off US 81 I found the former McConnell AF Msl Site #10 (7828/PRRB), 37-11-05, 97-24-31.  The fence was removed, and there were no gates or signs indicating that the property was posted or restricted in any way.  This was my first time on top of a Titan II site, so I took the opportunity to walk around.  Three concrete pads remained, that looked like floors for Quonset huts.  The silo area had been graded and seeded after demolition.  A few entryway or communications hatches were visible in a line to the west of the former silo.  The parking area at the end of the access road remains.   This site (along with the other 17 McConnell Titan II sites) was active from the early 1960s until the 1980s.  This site, also known as site 532-1, was disposed of in 1991.

US 81 then I-35 north to Wichita and McConnell AFB (1253/PRQE), 37-38, 97-16.  Security precautions were strict, as I had expected.  This base got its start in W.W.II as Wichita Municipal Airport; it was known as Wichita AFB from 1951 until 1954, when it took its present name.  I lucked into a VIP suite, very nice.  In typical fashion, it was created by joining two rooms, which formerly housed two airmen each.

I drove 525 miles in 11 hours today. After catching up on some work email, I called it an early night to be ready for an early departure.

Monday, 19 Nov 2001

Departing from McConnell AFB at 0500, I took I-135 north past Salina, then I-70 west, then some back roads took me to the former Ellsworth GFA, 38-50-28, 98-11-48.  The building seemed reasonably intact, with some modifications, and was in use for farm storage.  The radar antenna tower mounts were still in place.

I-70 east, then US 81 north past Concordia to the Talmo AT&T Site, 39-41-46, 97-41-27.  This was a station on the transcontinental coaxial route.  A fairly small tower with single antenna was in place.  The access building for the underground facility was visible, as was a nuclear blast detector, generator exhausts, and fenced air intake.

US 81 north towards Osceola, and local roads to find Offutt Communications Facility Annex (Survivable Low Frequency) (SGDE).  This site, also known as Silver Creek Communications Annex No. 4 -- or simply Silver Creek -- is at 41-20-46, 97-43-17.  Looks like demolition or construction (maybe both?) are underway.  The administrative building at the entry gate was in poor condition.  The site was acquired in 1965 and operations ended in about 1994.   There was a 1240' antenna here, although it has been demolished.

My path then took me right next to Lincoln AF Msl Site #12.  I just took a quick look from the gate; is that the access portal to the left of the white building?  I couldn't tell for sure.  This is one of 12 Atlas F sites around Lincoln AFB.

Now it was time to weave my way to one of the Lincoln Defense Area Nike sites.  This was the northernmost of the two, LI-01C, 41-01-25, 96-44-50.  Several new buildings have been added, and the site is now a school

A short distance to the northeast, I saw LI-01L, 41-02-10, 96-44-25.  It was gated and locked, but scooting to the north I could see the outer sentry house and the inner security gate and guard shack, and the berms of the launcher bays.  The other Lincoln Nike site is LI-50, and I did not visit it on this trip.

The Lincoln Nike sites were put in place to protect Lincoln AFB (1369/NGCB), my next stop at 40-51, 96-46.  I visited the west side of the current Lincoln airport, which was the main area for the Air Force.  Several hangars and the parachute tower still stand, among other buildings.  Opening in 1942, Lincoln AAFld was home to Basic Training Center #6, and Airplane Mechanics School #5.  After the war it was disposed of, only to be reactivated as Lincoln Air Force Base in 1954.  Closing in 1966, part of the former base was transferred to the National Guard in 1971.

On my way out of Lincoln, I stopped in an industrial park to look for the remains of a short-lived contract flying school from W.W. II.  This was Union Airport, 40-52-30, 96-37-45.  Under contract to the Army Air Forces, Lincoln Airplane and Flying School opened a primary school here; it operated from July 1939 until late 1940 before closing (the school moved to Lakeland, Florida).  The Lincoln Aeronautical Institute did operate a civilian Inspection & Maintenance school for the AAF here until at least 1942.  I noticed one distinctive masonry hangar, which has been modified.  An adjacent building also looks like a hangar, although modified with an unusual roof design.  Just south of the masonry hangar is this rotating beacon -- nice of them to leave that as a landmark for researchers.

Heading east towards Omaha, I followed signs to Offutt AFB (SGBP), 41-07-22, 95-55-04.  I had a reservation, thanks to slow business during the holiday week, and checked into a nice suite.  The parade ground and some distinguished old houses remain from the original days of Fort George Crook, named in 1891.  First aviation use was in 1918, and in 1924 the flying field was named Offutt Field.  The field was also home to the Martin Bomber Plant (Government Owned Assembly Plant #1, later Air Force Plant #1) and Modification Center #8.  In 1948 the base was redesignated Offutt AFB.

I covered 535 miles today, in 11.5 hours.

Tuesday, 20 Nov 2001

This was a day mostly for family and friends. I had lunch with my brother, visited my dad in the afternoon, and had dinner with a friend from high school! But my path did take me past a few places of interest, including both the local GWEN sites.

Offutt Family Housing Annex (SGER). West of the main base, a public road (Capehart Road, even!) passes through the center of this housing area. A small chunk of the property, on the northwest edge, has been declared excess and is for sale through GSA.

Bellevue Comms Site GWEN 667 (BEZG), 41-06-27, 95-50-04. This one has been recently demolished and returned to farming. Thankfully the TerraServer image is several years old and still shows the site. Although the site is behind a gate and a no trespassing sign, it looks like the shelter pad is visible on the south edge of the access road, and the three-phase electrical transformers are still mounted on a nearby pole. This site was also referred to as St. Mary's.

Glenwood Comms Site GWEN 850 (JAGM). This site is still almost intact. Leased in 1988, the site was disposed of in 1999. The "eggbeater" antenna (LF receive) has been removed, but otherwise the equipment and signage look original. This site has also been referred to as Pacific Junction or Omaha.

Wednesday, 21 Nov 2001

Time for a father and son road trip! Dad drove today, so I had the rare chance to play copilot / navigator. We cut a wide loop around Omaha, moving counterclockwise.

OF-60C 40-59-20, 96-04-28. Operational from 1960 to 1966, this Nike Hercules Integrated Fire Control (IFC) site is now home to a religious facility, Camp of the Risen Sun. The radar tower footings were still visible, on a long raised berm. Most buildings were original, and seemed to be in good condition.

OF-60L 40-59-01, 96-05-30. The launcher site consisted of bermed firing positions, without the underground missile storage of earlier Nike Ajax sites. We didn't go past the keep out signs, and could not see the berms from the public road. I had seen the other Offutt Nike site, OF-10, on the "Thanksgiving in the Heartland" trip.

Nebraska Ordnance Plant. There are many munitions storage magazines on the former ordnance plant. This type is the Richmond Magazine, a wartime for the standard igloo-style magazine when concrete was in short supply. After the war, the plant property was home to a few other military uses. In fact, the next four paragraphs all describe facilities superimposed on the property of the former ordnance plant.

Offutt Communications Annex #1, 41-09-41, 96-24-58. Located on part of the old Nebraska Ordnance Plant (NOP), this short-lived site was activated as Offutt Globecom Annex #2 in July 1961. It was redesignated Omaha Globecom Annex #2, then offutt Communications Annex #1, and was disposed of in October 1964. The distinctive building, located in the center of the one-mile square property, was used as a minimum-security prison for a time after its Air Force service, before serving as an agronomy research center for the University of Nebraska. I had driven right along the edge of this property two years ago, without realizing the communications site was here. Researcher Ron Plante recently shared a layout plan of the ordnance plant, which showed this USAF communications site.

Another site plan, believed to be from earlier in the 1950s, shows two receiver sites and a transmitter site that are separate from the Globecom site described above. Research is underway to validate those locations; preliminary information suggests there was a temporary Globecom facility here, called the Mead or Wahoo site, as early as 1950 using existing buildings on the ordnance plant. The locations on the plan were Receiver Site 1, 41-11-10, 96-24-45 (shown here looking to the east); Receiver Site 2, 41-08-12, 96-25-14 (shown here looking northwest); and Transmitting Site, 41-09-10, 96-29-40 (shown here looking northwest). If you can confirm the use of these locations, I'd like to hear from you. I saw no clues from aerial imagery, or in person, to confirm if these sites were ever built or used.

Offutt Air Force Missile Site No 1 (SGFD). Also referred to as Offutt Missile Annex A, site 549-A, or simply Mead, this site was home to three aboveground concrete launchers each holding an Atlas D missile. It is now used by the Nebraska National Guard as a training site. There was no one present to ask for permission to enter, so we just looked from outside the property. (For more photos see the "Thanksgiving in the Heartland" trip report.)

Our last stop on the old Nebraska Ordnance Plant was the former Nike G.M. Field Maintenance Shop and Allied Support Facility. Ron Plante also supplied the information on this one, via a drawing updated in 1959. The G.M. stands for guided missile. Based on the location, this facility may have supported both the Omaha and Lincoln defense areas. It is still government property used by various Army Guard and Reserve units.

Offutt Communications Annex #2 (GLOBECOM) (SGDJ). Assigned to Offutt AFB in the 1950s as Offutt Comm Annex 2, later designated Offutt GLOBECOM Annex #1, then Offutt Comm Anx No 2 GLOBECOM. Commonly known as the Elkhorn Transmitter site, or Aircom Relay Center, it is still in active use.

Omaha Communications Annex 41-21-26, 96-04-42. Visible from the air as a GATR site, this facility supported the nearby Omaha AFS. We respected the signs and went no farther than the access road.

Omaha AFS (3242) 41-21-37, 96-01-30. Two years ago most of the former radar station was open and accessible. Today we found the gates closed, and stern No Trespassing signs in place.

Offutt Missile Site #2. This one was also called Missile Annex B, site 549-B, or simply Arlington. Gated and locked, we really couldn't see much detail from the road. The launch operations building and the power & pump house were visible, as were remote rate antenna buildings, and other buildings unrecognizable from a distance. The inner security gate was visible, as was this HF antenna to the east of the main site.

Offutt Communications Annex #3 (GLOBECOM) (SGDK). Acquired in the mid 1950s for Offutt AFB, this site was known for a short time as Hooper Ionospheric Sounding Site. It is also referred to as the Scribner Receiver Site, or as Hooper Communications Annex. This receiver site is still in active use, and you pass through the property on your way to Scribner State Airport (SCB).

This airport is the former Scribner AAFld, 41-37, 96-37, which served Second Air Force during W.W.II. Part of the airfield is currently used for a drag strip. We didn't find the spectator entrance, but we did stumble across the racer entrance.

I looked for Offutt Comms Anx A1, also known as the Wisner site, but couldn't find it.  Tthis was one of three Blue Scout Junior launch facilities in the first Emergency Rocket Communications Site (ERCS) laydown.  More research on this, and the companion sites at West Point and Herman/Tekamah, is needed to verify the precise locations. If you know the specific locations of these ERCS sites, I'd like to hear from you!

Lyons AT&T Site 42-00-17, 96-24-50. This site looked empty and unused. It was a switching station on the transcontinental coaxial cable (L-3) route. It also hosted Ground Entry Point (GEP) antennas for the USAF, which may or may not still be in use. Much like the Fairview, Kansas, site there are two soft antennas and one hardened antenna in the GEP compound. This site also had blast detectors, both the overpressure detection type and the Gamma ray detection type. The access building and air intake for the underground facility were present. This site had turbine generators that produced a 500-degree exhaust, as evidenced by the warning sign on the exhaust vent structure. I have a clear paperweight, labeled Lyons, Nebraska, with a section of L-4 coaxial cable inside it. The cable section is about 2.75" in diameter.

Offutt Missile Site #3. Also known as Offutt Missile Annex C, site 549-C, or simply as Missouri Valley. The concrete launch structures have been demolished, and the site appears to be in use as a private residence.

This was a great day, on the road with Dad, getting some fresh air and adventure. Quality time!

Thursday, 22 Nov 2001

Okay, today was Thanksgiving. So I had to set aside the base hunting for some family time. Well, maybe after a couple of quick stops.

Red Oak AT&T Site 40-54-55, 95-14-15. There were signs indicating the coaxial cable route ran north-south along the west edge of this facility. No blast detectors, GEP antennas, or underground air intake/exhaust were seen.

Thurman W.U. Tower 40-48-36, 95-42-44. I include this tower because of anecdotal reports that during the 1960s, Western Union leased space on the tower to the USAF for microwave relay gear. I would like to hear from anyone aware of this program.

Friday, 23 Nov 2001

Making a leisurely start from Offutt AFB at 0620, I took I-29 south to St Joseph's municipal airport, Rosecrans Field, 39-46, 94-55. This field served Air Transport Command during W.W.II, occasionally known as St. Joseph AAFld. Immediate post war use is sketchy; but in 1960 the Army transferred 50.9 acres of Rosecrans Army Airfield to the USAF, and it was designated Rosecrans Memorial Airport for Air National Guard use. The Missouri ANG continues to be the largest presence on the airfield, flying C-130s.

Taking I-29 south then I-70 east past Topeka, I found Maple Hill Communications Site GWEN 842 (PCGF). Also called Topeka, this site served from the late 1980s until about 2000. The tower, equipment shelters, and signage are still in place.

I-70 west to Fairfield, then meandering south on state highways, took me to Wilsey GFA, 38-40-00, 96-44-10. This one is for sale, although the condition is pretty rough. The exterior looks better than the interior. I couldn't see the antenna supports, but I believe they are under this brush at the northeast corner of the facility.

Then it was only a short drive west to the former Herington AAFld, 38-41-30, 96-48-30. This was a Second Air Force bomber training field during W.W.II. Now, it is Herington Municipal Airport (HRU) with very little aviation use. Some hangars, and a concrete water tower, remain from the wartime days. The concrete portion of a Norden bombsight storage building stands next to a Norden bombsight storage vault. Hogdon Powder owns much of the former base.

US 56 and US 77 took me to McConnell AF Missile Site #2 (7426/PRQT), 37-55-29, 96-50-37. This site was fenced. Just to the north is the water system site, 37-55-38, 96-50-37.

US 77 then I-35 south took me to Wichita and McConnell AFB. I stayed in a "regular" suite this time. Cheaper, and not quite as luxurious as the last one. This suite was in the main lodging building, and I believe it was originally a BOQ suite.

Wow, a short day! Only drove 460 miles, in 9 hours, 40 minutes.

Saturday, 24 Nov 2001

From McConnell AFB, I made my way southeast to find McConnell AF Missile Site #8 (7748/PRQZ), 37-15-43, 96-51-14. This site had the only theodolite mounting post I saw on this trip, located where the access road met the public road. I noted at least two concrete pads. Two water system sites were across the road, at 37-15-22, 96-51-15, and 37-15-14, 96-51-15.

Going west on US 160 and weaving north, I located McConnell AF Missile Site #9 (7430/PRRA), 37-17-36, 97-13-37. It looked like this one was in use as a residence. Its water system site was about a mile to the north, at 37-19-05, 97-13-24.

Backtrack south to US 160, then west to I-35, south on I-35 to Pauls Valley, exit 70 to Pauls Valley Auxiliary Airfield, 34-42-39, 97-13-23. It is now the municipal airport (F61). This was an auxiliary field during W.W.II, possibly to Ardmore AAFld although I have not confirmed that.

From Pauls Valley I rejoined I-35 and headed south to home. Traffic was heavy from this point on, making for the only uncomfortable part of this whole excursion. Another short day, 436 miles in 7 hours, 35 minutes. The entire trip covered 2,320 miles, over seven days. (That's not including the 400 or so miles Dad drove us on Wednesday.) The Forester averaged 24.7 miles per gallon.