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An RCA engineer on a cliff overlooking Wolstenholme Fjord, Greenland, ca. 1962. Gift of Harold Grundy.
Cold War in a Cold Climate
September 19, 2015 - January 10, 2016
Hubbard Hall foyer

Harold Grundy of Bath, Maine, spent the early 1960s working in Northwest Greenland, where he supervised construction and maintenance of the massive radar installation at the US Air Force Base at Thule, Greenland. At the height of the Cold War, the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) was designed to give advance warning of missile launches from the Soviet Union. This exhibit features a selection of the photographs recently donated by Mr. Grundy’s, which document his time in Greenland.

<p><b>Cold War in a Cold Climate</b></p> Harold Grundy, of Bath, Maine, traveled the world for over 50 years. A merchant mariner during the Second World War, he later worked as a highly qualified technician constructing a variety of major installations for the United States military. In the early 1960s he spent a total of three years at the Thule Air Base in northern Greenland working for the RCA Service Corporation on the construction and maintenance of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS).  Harold was an avid photographer and took many of the photos on exhibit. Others were taken by his friend and colleague, the official photographer for RCA. The photographs were assembled in albums by Harold’s wife Barbara, who traveled throughout the world with him, though not to the far north.<br><br>  Unidentified Photographer,<em> Harold Grundy in a parka</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1963. Gift of Harold Grundy.
<p><b>Thule Air Base</b></p> The United States Air Force established the Thule Air Base in 1951 as its northernmost outpost. Ten thousand men were stationed there at the height of the Cold War. Thule was a key element of the US defense plan with the capability to launch nuclear missiles as well as to intercept missiles launched by the Soviet Union. In 1960 RCA began construction of the BMEWS to enhance the Air Force’s ability to detect Soviet missile launches. Other BMEWS facilities were constructed at Clear, Alaska, and Fylingdales, England, to ensure complete coverage.<br><br>  RCA Photographer,<em> Aerial view</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1963. Gift of Harold Grundy.

<p><b>Plane on Tarmac</b></p> A massive Douglas C-174 Globemaster on the tarmac at Thule seems to be of little interest to an Inughuit hunter and his dogs. Inughuit and their ancestors had lived near the site of the Air Base for thousands of years. After the base was constructed the small settlement was forced to relocate some 65 miles north. Inughuit families continued to visit the base, however, when they traveled along the coast, and some found employment there. <br><br>  Harold Grundy,<em> Inughuit man and dog team on the tarmac</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1963. Gift of Harold Grundy.
<p><b>Life on Base</b></p> Initially, RCA contractors lived in a group of Quonset huts. Each small, semi-circular building housed two men and had a central oil-burning stove for heat.<br><br>  Harold Grundy,<em> RCA quarters exterior and interior</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1963. Gift of Harold Grundy.

<p><b>Life on Base</b></p> Initially, RCA contractors lived in a group of Quonset huts. Each small, semi-circular building housed two men and had a central oil-burning stove for heat.<br><br>  Harold Grundy,<em> RCA quarters exterior and interior</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1963. Gift of Harold Grundy.
<p><b>Life on Base</b></p> The men ate in a mess hall where the food was filling and included fresh fruit and vegetables from the south.<br><br>  Harold Grundy,<em> Mess hall</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1963. Gift of Harold Grundy.

<p><b>Life on Base</b> </p>   Arctic foxes, called “Archies” by the men, seem to have enjoyed the scraps. Feeding wildlife is no longer permitted on the base.<br><br>  Harold Grundy,<em> RCA quarters exterior and interior</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1963. Gift of Harold Grundy.
<p><b>Dangerous Weather</b></p> In addition to the routine cold and dark of an Arctic winter, Thule is known for hurricane-force winds, which combine with blowing snow to create dangerous whiteouts. On the base such strong storms were called “Phases”. Weather instruments on this tower collected data until the tower blew over in one such Phase.<br><br>  Harold Grundy,<em> Man at a weather station</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1963. Gift of Harold Grundy.

<p><b>Dangerous Weather</b></p> During the worst of the winter storms all personnel were confined to whatever building they happened to be in when the storm struck.<br><br>  Harold Grundy,<em> Man walking by a chain link fence after a storm</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1963. Gift of Harold Grundy.
<p><b>BMEWS</b></p> An Inughuit man and his dog team stand in stark contrast to the massive BMEWS installation at Thule. The BMEWS was made up of four detection radars, each with a stationary antenna and a scanner building to house the radar and other equipment, and one tracking radar, housed in a huge dome. The buildings were linked by a two-mile-long tunnel, which allowed the men to move around the site even in bad weather and protected them from the energy of the radars.<br><br>  Harold Grundy,<em> Inughuit man and dog team in front of the BMEWS</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1963. Gift of Harold Grundy.

<p><b>Antenna</b></p> Each detection radar antenna was larger than a football field. The radar itself was located in the scanner building in front of each antenna. These radars sent a constantly scanning beam across the antenna, which broadcast it in an arc toward Soviet airspace, and received the return signal. Computers inside each building processed the return signals. <br><br>  Harold Grundy,<em> Detection radar antenna</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1963. Gift of Harold Grundy.
<p><b>Radome</b></p> The 84-foot diameter tracking radar dish was enclosed in a radome (radar dome), which protected it from the weather. The radome was constructed of panels made of two layers of fiberglass with corrugated paper and plastic between them. Inside the dome the powerful radar dish was mounted so that it could continuously track incoming missiles.<br><br>  RCA Photographer,<em> Radome</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1963. Gift of Harold Grundy.

<p><b>Power Ship</b></p> The radar array required a huge amount of electricity, more than the existing power plant at the base could provide. A power ship was docked at the base and enclosed in a pier. As a floating generating station the vessel had no trouble providing power to the radar array. In doing so it generated enough heat to keep the water around it free of ice year round. Harold Grundy was responsible for overseeing the maintenance of this installation as well as parts of the BMEWS itself.<br><br>  RCA Photographer, <em> Power ship in North Star Bay</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1963. Gift of Harold Grundy.
<p><b>Maintenance</b></p> In 1965 Harold Grundy returned to Thule to oversee maintenance of parts of the installation. Workers inspected and repaired the antenna installation.<br><br>  Harold Grundy,<em> Men working on detection radar antenna</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1965. Gift of Harold Grundy.

<p><b>Maintenance</b></p> Greenland winters take a toll on all structures, and BMEWS was no different. Workers coated the radome with specially formulated paint.<br><br>  Harold Grundy,<em> Men painting the radome</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1965. Gift of Harold Grundy.
<p><b>Recreation</b></p> Harold Grundy photographed one of his colleagues, an engineer for RCA, as he took in the spectacular landscape of Wolstenholme Fjord. The men at Thule (there were no women there in the 1960s) worked long hours, but found some time for recreation. Grundy is an avid photographer and captured images both of his work and the amazing landscape around him.<br><br>  Harold Grundy,<em> Man looking over Wolstenholme Fjord</em>, Thule Air Base, ca. 1963. Gift of Harold Grundy.