UDT 2 Makes "Ice Cubes Out of Ice Bergs" in Operation Blue Jay
Fire In The Hole, UDT/SEAL Museum Assoc. Fall 1996 - Editor's Note: The following story was written for FITH! by the late George H. Grantham shortly before he became very ill. It was submitted by his wife Yvonne when she established a memorial account in his honor. George joined the Navy in 1946 and was stationed at Little Creek, Virginia. He successfully completed his UDT Training in 1948. He was extremely proud of having served his country during the Korean War. He earned several awards, including the Bronze Star.
UDT 2 personnel conducted operations at Thule, Greenland, in 1951. This was a pioneer operation during Operation Blue Jay to construct a strategic air base. The UDT mission was to assist in clearing harbor ice prior to the arrival of the U. S. fleet transporting the materials, machinery, etc. necessary to construct the base.
The Unit consisting of six enlisted men and one officer arrived via Air Force transportation in late May. Our support was the small Air Force detachment that operated the existing station and landing strip. Their duty was to house and feed us until the fleet, due about June 1, arrived. We were not very welcome in Air Force territory.
The only thing we had to operate with was some two-year-old dynamite and a hell of a lot of imagination. To avoid chopping holes to plant explosives in the harbor ice, we found the frame of a portable prospector's boiler that was non-functional. As luck would have it, the only Boiler Tech in UDT was a part of the unit. So with a quick rebuilding using materials stolen from the Air Force, the boiler was in operation. It enabled us to penetrate the ice and keep the holes open long enough to place charges in an effort to soften up the ice mass for the Coast Guard ice breakers escorting the supply fleet.
We were assigned a Sea Bee barge so we could keep the small ice bergs blown in by the wind at high tide blasted out of the harbor. We remained in the "land of the midnight sun" doing a good job, making ice cubes out of ice bergs and continuing to uphold our reputation as the misfits of the Navy.
Our parting good deed was to recover the bodies of four U. S. Army Supply Corps members who had tried to navigate a glacier lake in a weasel with the bilge plug out. They made it halfway before sinking. Water temperature and heavy clothing prevented them from saving themselves.
Our plane back to Westover, Massachusetts, carried the four dead soldiers, engineers from North Atlantic Construction Company, and the UDT unit. About 20 miles past the point of no return between Thule and Goose Bay, Labrador, we lost an engine and had to dump fuel. Thirty minutes from touchdown in Goose Bay, we were notified of zero visibility. Fog socked in the field, so the tower wished us luck on our way to Westover AFB.
The civilians were quite worried because the fuel supply didn't look promising. So, in UDT form, we tried to cheer them up by discussing rather loudly among ourselves the old military omen related to flying with dead bodies aboard. But it didn't seem to help. Since the only parachutes aboard were ours, we took a nap using our chutes as pillows, and awoke during a straight-in, no-nonsense approach to Westover. Upon touchdown our remaining three engines decided to rest. We were towed to the terminal. The pilot said our Creator had furnished us with a 50 MPH tail wind for the last 30 minutes of the flight. The Thule expedition of UDT 2 ended on that note.
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