Kagnew Station’s Final Days

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Kagnew Station Patch

Kagnew Station’s Final Days
by John Morris

Patch

NewBee Kagnew Station 1972 till 1974

That was the beginning of the most dangerous times. I married a local Italian 1975. US Navy SpeComm 1971-’74, US Navy Shore Patrol after the MPs left, Civilian with CISCO – PAE – CISCO ’74-’77 the closeout in 4 days.

The base shell was divided to give the Power Plant and PA&E’s space plus everything north to the NavComm Unit. Officers Club, old Vet clinic, Guest housing across from the O’Club, almost any thing else was Ethi-2nd Division under Brig. Gen. Getachew Nadew.

The original plan was for a teaching Hospital complex be formed around the buildings in the south to be run by an international charity that escapes me right now. I think Hope International maybe it. We had a big old welcome party and cookout to get to know the newbies and less than a month later the whole project fell apart for reasons I’m guessing where security related or maybe bribe rate was to high.

Stonehouse got next decline with closure soon to follow. We took RPG and armor-piercing AK-47 rounds while I was on site doing survey of the left behind containers of food and supplies. The Frags I got and turned over to the Diplomatic types were Soviet made RPGs and I had people in Asmara tell me the EPLF,ELF, etc… mostly got Chi-Comm made units, but who knows for sure. Place was looted.

In the end the best thing we had was Clark Hill “Sunshine”, he had been there before in the USN and kept our security paramount. When the DERG finally seemed to be wanting the US out he was in the States prepping for closure and came back to make it happen quickly and with all personnel accounted for. We had one on R&R in Massawa, I believe two were being held by Rebel forces.

“Sunshine” was there when one Saturday morning, I had to go to Tract D for inventory on the consumables and power plant stuff (fuel tanks, oil supply, filters) and I decided to take my 500 CC Matchless motorcycle because of such a nice day, not the shift vehicle. Life altering choice.

When we got to the “vehicle crash” of our shift vehicle, #55 International yellow Carryall van, heading back toward Asmara the visual was heart breaking. We lost two really wonderful guys that day (Bill and Dick) and Clark Hill used his experience to get us out of there, with our comrades, safely. Then the Tract D was attacked and we pulled the Collins transmitters and switch gear out of there and put it to use in the reciever site near Kagnew.

I guess “we turned it over to them”, but leaving was quick and well protected. A Marine Task Group in the Red Sea with orders from the White House to use all necessary force. I had friends downtown who told me the DERG wanted to keep Us around for political reasons but the Soviets and Cubans (see Angola-Uganda) really didn’t want the expansion or escalation because the Soviet’s wanted to see what was still at Kagnew for Intel value.

Our guys prepped it all for them! I wanted to stay and help “close” the base ops areas, being married to a local ended that idea. The first plane out for Greece came in under extreme security so the Rebel and unhappy Ethi-soldiers had no chance to muck-it-up.

Front half of the MAW C-130 was seating for the people and the back was ramp ready for Priority “materials” and the Embassy armored cars stuffed with as much as they could hold. The Civilian Dress AF crew readied everything and warned the 2nd Div. leaders their troops were in danger when the C-130 needed to move away from the terminal area. As the engines increased troops stood their ground until a good number became blurred rolling items on the apron by the terminal. Our Pilot gave us confident dialog you don’t get on American Airlines. And warned us of the JATO packs getting ready to assist our vertical climb rate?

WOW, end of the runway was a loud roar with a quick lift into maybe a 45 degree angle and just to add to the entertainment value, a wide corkscrew until we reached 5-10K feet altitude at which time we got our escorts off the forward and rear wingtips. US Flags all over them and some guys ready make anyone looking to ruin our flight to Greece a very bad idea!

Except for the emotions and worry for our friends who still had to follow us it was the best flight I’ve ever had. And that was the end of military at Kagnew (1943-1977), some of the best INTEL operations from WW2 to Viet Nam closing and Entebbe?

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