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=> Grand Bahama AAFB, Tracking Station #3 <=

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    This page was updated 12 MAY 2012

    -->Look way down near the bottom of this page
    as I have some news about Sterling Peiffer<--



    This is a working page for information about the ETR Range Tracking Station #3, Grand Bahama AAFB (GBI AUXILIARY AIR FORCE BASE), and I will be adding info received as time permits. You as a former Radio Corporation of America (RCA) or Pan American Airways (PAA) down range employee (rangerats) can share information with me. If you have info. about your time on Grand Bahama AAF Base please send it to me. (Other employeees who worked at the ETR Grand Bahama base are also welcome to submit information).

    Click on the yellow box below to go back to the main page of the Range Rat Introduction page where you will find information about downrange people, where they worked, where they are now, their email address (if they wanted it published), what stations/ships they worked on, and news about those who have died etc etc.

    I now have a Range Rat Sign-in book, to be used exclusively by Range Rats (and their famlies) that you can leave a comment of your experience on the range, where you worked, etc, etc. (See the other entrys in this book for examples, if you leave a comment or message not relating to the range the entry will eventually be deleted, for instance a "Howdy" does not qualify as an entry!). You can give your email address (its not required but its requested) so that other range rats can contact you.

    Please do NOT use my "GUEST BOOK" to sign in, that book is for collectors who visit my website, and that is why I made a seperate book for use by Range Rats, called the Range Rat Sign In Book.

    Perhaps you are looking for someone who you used to work with that you lost contact with, you could include it in your message in the sign-in book, or better yet send me an email and I can include it on this page.

    Range Rat Sign-in Book

    If you worked on the Grand Bahama AAF Base, I would like to hear from you.
    Send Email to Joe



  • 12 MAY 2012, IT'S BEEN A GOOD WHILE SINCE I UPDATED THIS PAGE, PREVIOUS ENTRY WAS WAY BACK IN FEB 2011 ! :
  • 12 MAY 2012, I LEARNED THAT THE ARMY HAD SOME RANGE WORK AT GBI IN LATE 1950's AND EARLY 1960's:
    • Last Feb 2012 Jim Sawyer of Double Oak TX, wrote this in the RR Sign-in Book:
        "I'm glad I found this site. I was in the army and spent '59 to '61 on the range, mostly on GBI but also considerable time on San Salvador and on the Cape. We manned the radar sites that monitored the inosphere in conjunction with the IGY, but also supported the shots by providing inospheric info to Central Control before, during, and after each shot."

    • Well this was all news to me, not having heard any of this before. It was interesting to learn this and so I wrote back to Jim for more information as I wanted to get first hand info., this is what Jim emailed back:
      • > "I was in the army, usually a contingent of about 8 people on GBI, 2-3 people on San Salvador, and 2-3 people on the Cape. We rotated, normally 2 months at GBI, 1 month at San Salvador, and 1 month at the Cape.
        > Our radar site on GBI was about six miles from the AAFB toward West End. It was about two thirds of the way to High Rock. We had two radar systems. One was a Barker and Williams set that used a big half rhombic antenna outside strung up on a telephone pole (which had to be dismantled when hurricanes were immenent. I think they called it an ionosphiric sounder.
        > It monitored staight up and monitored every fifteen minutes normally. We had to phone in ionosphiric conditions every fifteen minutes for two hours prior to the shot. The set would start monitoring continuously for two minutes ?? before each shot until fifteen minutes past the shot.
        > Our primary purpose was to provide the routine data to the National Bureau of Standards at Boulder, Colorado in conjunction with the International Geophysical Year (IGY) so they could develop a better understanding of what the relative high activity of sun spots does to the ionosphere.
      • > We also had a unit called the Backscatter Radar System that was always broke down. It was something Princeton University initiated."

    • Jim goes on to tell about his experience on the Cape, and I will be adding that information to the Range Rat Introduction page as it really doesn't have to do with GBI. It's also quite interesting and you might get a chuckle out of it too.

  • 15 FEB 2011, ANOTHER RR VISITS, DAVE ZEHMS STOPPED BY IN JAN 2011:
    • Dave and I worked in telemetry at GBI during the mid-60s and early 70s. He was a whiz on the TAA-2 tracking antenna which he maintained and operated. After Dave left GBI and the range in 1970, we lost contact.
    • It was only in Aug. of 2009 that he found my RR webpages and contacted me in and corresponded by email off and on since then. Dave and his wife Judi have a big RV and they have been to all 49 states (with the exception of Hawaii) and are starting all over again on the east coast of the USA. While they were in Florida this year Dave paid me a visit, coming down in his monster diesel cab that hauls his RV, and we got caught up on whats been happening in our lives since we last saw each other 41 years ago. I took some pictures while during his visit and eventually some will be posted here.
    • You can read his interesting and detailed RR Sign-In Book entry by clicking here and looking for his entry dated 12/31/2010.

  • 15 FEB 2011, CHARLIE WRIGHT REMINISCES ABOUT THE GBI BASE:
    • The below account from Charlie, who lives in Mico FL, was originally put in the RR Sign-In Book way back in July 2009 and is now entered here since its all about GBI.
      • "When the pad was poured for the Rendezvous Club beach annex - SurfSide-3 - Woody Bozart stepped into the damp cement and left impressions of his flip-flops his hands, name and date. When I last visited GBI in 2001 the pad and imprints were still there. The area was being kept up by the Freeport Pilot Club & looked so neat - those big Casurinas, that perfect beach and it still echos of those long ago weekends of beer and sun. I understand it is all gone now. The film company that shot the Pirates of the Carib series destroyed the entire area along there. I always wished we had placed a marker there or at the main base before we shut down in '87. It is a historical place & too soon all will be forgotten of "what went on there"."

    • Thanks Charlie for that info. If anyone else visited, or plans to visit, the old GBI base or any of the outlying sites, send me a report, and I will post it here. Photos are welcome too.

  • 15 FEB 2011 UPDATE: FORMER GBI BASE COMMANDER BRIAN KEARNS EMAILS ME.
    • In Apr 2010 Kerns, who emailed me from Arlington VA, wrote the following info:
      • Joe,
        I stumbled on this page thru Google. I was the Commander at Grand Bahama from June 81 to June 82. Had a great tour.
        I retired from the Air Force in 1989 and started a second career. Currently work in the Pentagon for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency - an activity that uses some of those satellites (or at least their current day replacements) we sent up. During my time at GBI the 2nd and 3rd space shuttles were launched, as well as first Trident from a Trident sub (USS Ohio. I remember many of the Pan Am and RCA staff - definitely a colorful lot. Sorry to see that Harry James (Pan Am) passed on. He was a very interesting fellow and a great manager.
    • I suggested to Kerns that he should also sign the RR Sign-in Book, but so far he has not done so.

  • 15 FEB 2011: LIST OF GBI BASE COMMANDERS UPDATED:
    • 15 FEB 2011: Joe Frasketi (that's me) located some tracking station envelopes (covers) from GBI that listed the names of two base commanders: Kaisler and Tipping, and their names have been added to the below list, I dont know how long their stay at GBI was, am only listing the postmark dates on the envelopes.
    • 15 FEB 2011: GBI Base Cmdr Brian Kearns informed me by email in June 2010 of his duty at GBI, as well as who he replaced and who followed him after he left the island. So to the list below I am adding:Lt. Col. Wayne Penley, Major Brian Kearns and Major Terry Egan.
    • 18 JUN 2010, Dick Heintzelman sent me the name of the Base Commander at GBI for September 1960, and so I have added Captain Hugh May to the below list.
    • 27 APRIL 2009, Maj. Mandeville wrote me in March '09 confirming his time at GBI. He also said he frequently flew ARIA Aircraft into Ascension Island from 1972 through 1977. He retired from the Air Force in 1984 and remarked that he always found the "Rats" to be the greatest, friendly and truly professional people that he's ever met!
      NOTE TO MAJ. MANDEVILLE: the email address that you signed in with didn't work, if you read this please email me again.
    • 25 MAY 2008, John Gladden added the base commander for 1969 when he was there, he thinks Major Ted Wendell, (spelling?) was a captain when he came and left a major.
    • FEB 2008, Maj. Dominick R. Martinelli, who signed the RR book, and was the Base Cmdr. at GBI in 1978-79 sent me part of this list below of other GBI Base Cmdr's and the years he knew they were stationed there. Since then I've added other names that have been reported to me:

      • BGen William King, Jr. 195?
        Major Robert Pittman, ??? - ???
        Captain Hugh May, 1960
        Captain Henry A. Tipping, 21 Aug. 1965
        Kenneth L. Kaisler, 03 June 1966
        Major Ted Wendell, (spelling?) 1969
        Major Ed Zabka, ??? 1977 - May 1978
        Major Dominick Martinelli, May 1978 - Jun 1979
        Major Maurice J. Mandeville, 1979 - 1980
        Lt. Col. Wayne Penley, June 1980 - June 1981
        Major Brian Kearns, June 1981 - June 1982
        Major Terry Egan, June 1982 - ???

    • I would like to add more names to this list, to make it more complete, if you can remember who the base cmdr was when you worked at the Grand Bahama base, send me an email, with the years that you can remember.

  • 05 DEC 2010, KARL NEHRING COMES TO VISIT ME IN APRIL 2010:
    • Gads! Its taken me this long to put his and my pictures here on this page. Folks, I am just slowing down more and more.
    • Karl and I were good friends and worked at GBI telemetry, he worked in the analog section (tape recorders and RF stuff) and I worked in the digital section. This was in the mid 1960s thru to 1971 when I left GBI for ASC. Karl was a "brown-bagger" most of the time, living off base with his wife Brenda who I also knew. We always kept in contact with each other over the years, at one point we exchanged cassett tapes for a while (he still owes me a tape!), then either by snail mail, phone and now emails. I went to visit him once after I left the range in 1972. I was visiting NYC once (what year that was I can't recall) and took the commuter train out to his home on Long Island for an enjoyable time.
    • In early 2010 Karl contacted me about coming down for a visit, and so in April he started a round trip tour visiting me and a few other range rats. He left Orlando and went to the west coast of Florida to visit Bruce Birkman, another range rat, I think from GBI in the mid 60s. The next day Karl drove down the west coast for a very enjoyable visit with me in Fort Myers FL. Karl only stayed a few hours then he drove across the state and up the east coast to visit John "Jake" Moore, who we both knew from our GBI days, and now lives in Merritt Island FL with his wife. Jake doesn't have a computer. I think on account of poor eyesight.
    PICTURES THAT KARL NEHRING & I TOOK WHEN HE VISITED APRIL 2010.
    THEN KARL WENT AND VISITED "JAKE" MOORE, IN MERRITT ISLAND FL.
    #05.Karl arriving at my home. A beautiful sunny day in SW Florida.
    #03.Karl with his laptop at my home, showing me old range photos from the 1960s.
    #KFN02. Joe Frasketi, (ol' sourpuss) picture taken by Karl.
    #KFN03. Picture of Joe's house Fort Myers FL, taken by Karl.
    #KNF03. John "Jake" Moore and Wife, Merritt Island FL, pix taken by Karl.
    #KNF14. Karl and "Jake" Moore, Merritt Island FL, pix taken by "Jakes" wife.
    Anyone who wants to see larger uncropped views of these photos,
    send me an email.

  • 05 DEC 2010, JOE SCHOEBERT ARTICLE FOUND IN MTP NEWS, June - July 1965 ISSUE:
    • I found the article and scanned it for all to read, its about Joes remarkable story of his 31 months in the Philippine jungles, evading capture by the Japanese in 1942. you can read it by clicking here .

  • 18 JUN 2010, JOE SCHOEBERT AND THE EARLY DAYS OF GBI:
    • Going thru my notes on GBI I found this bit of info. from Speedy Collier, although he didn't give any dates, it had to be early days of the range before Schobert became an RCA instructor. As I recall, Speedy was on GBI when the Air Force ran the base and he told me about the AF troops saluting the flag every morning. This is what Speedy wrote:
        Joe: Do you remember one of Joe Schobert's first jobs? He was the telephone operator at GBI for a while. I know because I also was the PABX operator there for a couple of weeks. The PABX system was in Central Control. In those days, communications was often sent by Morse Code, the faster operator in those days was named Jules Bary. Jules also played a violin and played with several orchestras in his earlier days. He had also been a code operator with the Canadian Pacific Railroad and knew the old Canadian Railway Morse Code. Speedy sends.

  • 18 JUN 2010, LARRY CUSTER, GBI TLM, IS ALIVE AND IN CRIPPLE CREEK CO:
    • In Jan 2010 I received an email from Larry Custer (GBI TLM during the 1960's) saying that Evelyn and he had been searching for informatiom about the 2010 RCA Get-Together. First time I heard from him since the late 1960's when we worked together at Grand Bahama Telemetry. His email was from Cripple Creek CO, using his step-son's email address. I supplied him with the info. but have not heard from him since. Also suggested he sign the Range Rat Sign-In Book but so far nothing. If anyone saw him at the RCA Get-Together, or has been in contact with him please send me an email.

  • 18 JUN 2010, INTERESTING SHORT STORIES OF DOWNRANGE AT GBI AND OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST:
    • I'd like to bring to your attention the short stories of actual life at GBI and other stories of interest witten by Jerry Blackerby, such as "Going To Grand Bahama Island", "Life With My Family on GBI", "Any Excuse for a Party", etc. You can find them by going to his webpage titled My Stories (Scroll down to find the section: "Pioneering Downrange -- Tracking Missiles, 1958-1960").

  • RON HAESLY, GBI TLM ENGINEER HEARD FROM:
    • Here is another GBI troop you might remember from 1969... I received this email from Ron a few days ago, and this is what he had to say:
        Joe
        Yes I am your old telemetry friend from GBI.
        I will soon visit your Range Rat sign-in Book and put in some info. I will also gather a picture or two and send them to you directly.
        We are near the SW corner of the Smoky Mountain National Park. National Forest on two sides.
        We still have a boat :) Doris and I are going to the boat for a couple of weeks and then back to home in the mountains for about 4 days and then we are going to Texas where we are going to pick up a travel trailer we just bought and travel the southern edge of the continent for the winter.
        I am a very poor emailer but I do try. Please feel free to email me.
        Bye for now. Type with you later.
        (signed) Ron and Doris

    • Ron and I worked together in the digital Telemetry section at GBI. Ron had a 19 foot inboard/outboard boat that he used to go out on weekend day trips with many of the TLM troops for fishing or visiting the nearby islands. Ron had always talked about taking a longer trip to visit more of the out islands. One day he finally made up his mind and I expressed my desire to go too, so in April of 1969 Ron and I took off on a 2-1/2 week vacation in his boat that was called "The Boat". We toured the out islands of the Bahamas on a 750 mile round about voyage. While on this trip I kept a daily log and took many pictures. Later I made a photo album that included hand drawn pictures of Bahamian life and picturesque scenes that accompanied my daily notes of the trip of what places we visited and what we saw and did. I made one album for Ron and kept one for myself. It wasn't completed until after Ron had left GBI but I was able to send it to his parents who eventually gave it to him. When Ron left GBI he set out on a motorcycling trip across the US and eventually all the way to Alaska. He had sent a few detailed letters back to us GBI troops telling of his adventures.
    • So far Ron hasn't signed the Range Rat sign-in Book yet, (I don't know why, but there are a few who just don't sign in altho I receive emails from them). When he does sign in he will more than likely give his email address. I purposely left it out from the email message above, as some RRs are particular about giving out their email address.

  • 10 AUGUST 2009, DAVE ZEHMS, GBI TLM TROOP FROM THE LATE 60'S AND EARLY 70'S CONTACTED ME:
    • Do you remember him? here is his email, hopefully he will be signing the Range Rat Sign-In book soon.
    • Hi Joe
      Judi and I recently visted Ely, Nev where I finished my range employment. I was looking for info on missile tracking ranges when I came upon your site and said I remember the stamp collector at GBI. I operated/maintained the TAA-2 antenna from 1966 to early 70. Thanks again for the FDC stamp on my Apollo 11 support certificate. I still have it framed on the wall. We retired in 2004 and now are full time RV'ers. Freightliner FL-60 towing a 40 ft 5th wheel. Our goal is to spend some time in all 50 states. Still have the East coast to do. Do you still have contact with Karl Nehring? I want to send him a picture of the 65 Mustang I bought from him, now fully restored mint condition. Glad to hear you are still out and about. I guess a lot of the range rats are no longer with us. Drop a line when you get time. I will be glad to hear from you and I will also sign in on the range rat sign in site.
      Thanks for the web site. Dave

  • 27 APRIL 2009, DO YOU REMEMBER A DOWN RANGE SONG ABOUT GBI?
    • In March 2009 Jerry Blackerby wrote in the Topica Message Board wanting to know if any GBI range rats remembered the song that someone down there wrote. He said everyone was singing it in the old club when he got there in 1958. He can only remember the first couple of lines which went something like:

        I came down range about a year ago,
        Thought I'd save a little dough....

      And it had other lines in it talking about GBI and mentioned West Palm Beach, he think.

    • Jerry said when he was working as a technical writer in Maintenance Engineering under Charlie Sharp in about 1963/64, he wrote a little newsletter called Maintenance News and can remember putting a verse or two in one issue of that. He kept copies of everything, but unfortunately the family's moving van burned in 1968 when they moved back to the Dallas area and he lost everything.

    • Can anyone remember the words? He sure would like to get a copy of the words, and I sure would like to publish it here.

  • UPDATE: 27 APRIL 2009, BELOW PIX WAS ADDED 05 NOV 2008, CAN YOU IDENTIFY THESE RR'S IN THIS CARTER CAY PHOTO?

  • Who are these RR's?
    • 05 NOV 2008, Carl Abbott (better known as "Barney Oldfield" on Grand Turk) who also worked at Carter Cay, sent in this photo, which was taken in late 1962 or early 1963, while working on the phone system there. (It looks like they are taking a beer break!). Can anybody give names to the faces, Carl says he is 2nd from the right.
    • 27 APRIL 2009: Chuck Hoffman from Salem MO, who worked the Cay sites from '63 till the '90's with a lot of time spent at Carter and Marsh Harbour, said the second from left is W. James Mclaughlin RCA Comm Center operator, and the 3rd from left is, he believes, Manny DeCosta PAA.
    • Still need help in identifying the other troops, and a confirmation of DeCosta....

  • 01 JUNE 2008, WATCHING A 1950's MOVIE AT GBI.... CAN YOU IDENTIFY ANY OF THESE RR's?

  • Click on above image for an enlarged view
    • This photo was sent in by Don Sklar who said it was taken in the time period of 1956-58 Please help identify any of these Range Rats. (Maybe one of them is U!) Click on the photo for an enlarged view, then click it again. Don was on GBI Aug. 1956 to June 1958 and worked for RCA as a photographer.
    • INFO ABOUT THE ABOVE PHOTO, 05 DEC 2009: At long last I am publishing what info I have received, A question was raised about where this picture was taken and an answer was provided. See the last entry below by Lee Northrup.
      However only one person came forth identifying himself in the photo.
      • Jim Edwards wrote: Joe - reference the photo of guys watching a movie at GBI. Something isn't right. GBI had an outdoor movie area when I arrived there in April 1958. When the new Club Rendezvous was built (1963-64 ?) a covered movie area was built in back of the club. This photo above shows an inside movie area. Cant think of where it would have been. One of the people looks a lot like Lee Northrup. Maybe we can get some input from him.
      • John Herron wrote: To answer to the big question about the screened-in movie room, yes, it was screened and I did run the movie projector for almost the full time from 1954 - 1958. My subtitute was a man named Holly, I don't remember his last name. I am in the photo, I am the guy on the lower right front corner.
        I remember that when the road runner cartoon came to GBI and it was so funny that we kept the film for two weeks and got the other down range stations mad as hell. We just could not turn it loose it was so damn good. One night the projector broke down and everyone became very unhappy, they started chanting "We want Holly" to the point that I just shut down the projector room and left everyone sitting there in the dark wondering what was not happening. I went on to bed and left them sitting there. They really got to me. They never bugged me again. GBI was a good duty station - great memories.
      • Lee Northrup wrote: Hello Joe: When the Air Force built the Mess Hall they included the movie area on the northeast side of the building. It was in that location when I arrived on December 5, 1955. I don't remember the date ('57 or '58) when they built the outdoor movie theater, but it was beside the Club Rendezvous.
    • It sure would be nice to identify more of the troops in the above photo. CAN ANYBODY HELP??

  • 06 JULY 2007, FUN ON THE BEACH AT GBI (AFTER A FEW BEERS!), CAN YOU IDENTIFY ANY OF THESE RR's?
  • Grand Bahama AAF Beach Party
    • This photo was taken at the GBI base beach in the 1960s (if I remember correctly), the only person that I can recognize is my ol' buddy & boss Len Mashburn who is in the white tee shirt standing up. Please help identify the other Range Rats. (Maybe one of them is U! and maybe you can remember when this picture was taken.)
    • 01 AUGUST 2007, Additional info to the picture above: On 20 July Bill Bailey sent me an email with this info: "The guy getting wrestled down is my friend Jim Velia, he and Len Mashburn were on San Sal when I was there in 1959/1960. I recognize the guy in the long pants and the one on the ground, but names escape me. I'll bet Jim will remember. I sent him a copy of the page." (Perhaps Jim Velia will be able to furnish names of these other RR's).
      27 APRIL 2009, So far I haven't heard from Jim Velia, if you are in contact with him, send him a note and this URL page please and maybe he will be able to identify anyone in the photo.

  • A list of Range Rats Friends from GBI that I have contacted by email long before I started this Range Rat Information Page, plus a few I've added since then, if you would like your name added to this list, send me an email,
    • GBI - Grand Bahama Island
      • Dick Berger
      • Bob Johnson
      • Karl Nehring
      • Russ Slye
      • Danny Sylvester
      • Bob Olsen (his son contacted me)
      • James (Jim) R. Lane

  • 27 APRIL 2009, Another range rat who I knew from GBI from the mid 60's signed in on 17 April 2009 by the name of Sterling Peiffer. He and I worked in digital tememetry and he says he is still working, currently at the Eglin Test Range in Fla. Unfortunately in 2009 he left no email address.
    • 12 MAY 2012 UPDATE, However on 12 JAN 1912 Sterling signed in again and gave his email address (perhaps he read this part of the page), he said in his latest entry: "Would like to hear from any of the guys I worked with at Eleuthera, Antigua or GBI."


  • INFORMATION OF INTEREST:
  • (If I find something of interest pertaining to Grand Bahama AAF in the RR Sign-in Book that I think will be of interest to other RRs I will add it to this page as information.




    If you've gotten this far down the page take a look at some special
    Gemini Program envelopes signed by GBI Telemetry Range Rats,
    click on this link: GBI Gemini Tracking Station Covers
    Do you recognize any of the names?


    The left stamp issued by the USA on the day Astronaut John Glenn successfully splashed down in Grand Turk waters.
    The middle stamp issued by the Bahama Islands shows a radar antenna. Grand Bahama Island, Station No. 3, had a radar station.
    the right stamp issued by the Dominican Republic shows the Mercury capsule orbiting earth. There was a tracking station (No. 8) in the Dominican Republic, at Sabana de la Mar, in 1956, however (DOM) closed in 1957 long before the Mercury flights of 1960-63.

  • Click here to go back to the
    Range Rat Introduction Page.



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