Greenland, Fall 1957

This article was scanned from the “Sikorsky News – September 1958 The photos are official photos from the Dept of Defense, USAF.

(The following was submitted by A3/C W. F. Fitzgerald, USAF, who is stationed at Ethan Allen AFB, Winooski, Vt and describes an operation in Greenland in which a major transportation role was played by an H-19 helicopter. -Ed.)

She may not be as trim and sleek as the Air Force fighters and bombers that streak the stratosphere but she's every inch a warrior of the skies. She is "Hovde's Hover Bug," a Sikorsky helicopter named after Col. William I J. Hovde, base commander at Ethan Allen Air Force base, and she's been called everything from "chopper" to "whirlybird".

Hovde's Hover Bug is the heroine of Operation Look-See, an Air Defense Command mission that brought aircraft, pilots, crewmen, civilian engineers and contractors to the rocky coasts of Greenland to complete final surveys of Distant Early Warning radar sites. Operation Look- See took three months and 675 helicopter flights transported personnel and equipment from ship to shore off the coast.

Lt. George W. Dayhoff, Jr., Lt. Frank R. Jochimsen, pilots, and Sgt. Donald N. Rivers and Sgt. Charles A. Marsh, crew- men, tell the story of Hovde's Hover Bug that begins with her shipment from Ethan Allen to Pepperell AFB, Newfoundland, by C-124 transport. There, the copter was uncrated and re- assembled, The very nature of Operation Look-See's locale, barren, rocky and precipitous, precluded a land-based operation. Arrangements were made for the use of a converted seal hunting vessel, Arctic Sealer. For the next three months she was to be the home of the helicopter crew and an assortment of ship's crew, contractors and engineers. Hovde's Hover Bug got the plush treatment. She rested on a specially-built flight deck on the stern of the Arctic Sealer.

All phases of Operation Look- See were conducted from the deck of the sealing vessel or on Greenland shores. The helicopter made almost daily flights from ship to shore. During the 675 flights, Dayhoff and Jochimsen logged 90 hours of flying time. On the ship, heavy seas and high winds often made helicopter launching extremely hazardous. On shore, the rugged terrain made landing a dangerous feat. Very often the two pilots were forced to heights of 6000 feet to accomplish a single mission. Yet, all flights were made without incident or accident.

Snow and storms were added hazards that impeded the operation. One storm, reported Lieutenant Jochimsen, lasted 48 hours and the people aboard the Arctic Sealer literally lashed themselves to their bunks to prevent injury from the ship's pitch and roll. Snow removal from the deck of the ship was a daily chore so that the copter's rotor blades would not cause snow to hinder visibility on takeoff. Aircraft maintenance on the flight deck was a problem, too. Small working space, biting winds and sub-freezing temperatures made any sort of maintenance unpleasant.

Life aboard a sealing vessel for three months in Arctic waters was anything but favorable, but three months and 675 flights later Operation Look See came to an end. Sealing ship, copter and all personnel returned to Newfoundland.

The following excerpts and photos are from the article “A New Chore for the Arctic Sealer” by Jackson L. Morton, Lt. Cmdr, USN., which was published in the Spring 1958 edition of the magazine “Ships and the Sea”.

At Dartmouth, N. S., the helicopter pad is finished and the radio room added forward of the pilothouse.

A helicopter practices landings and takeoffs at St. John's before departure of the Arctic Sealer.

"LOOK at the baby flat-top," cried an alert boy on the waterfront of St. John's as the Arctic Sealer steamed through the Narrows. This ship was a familiar sight in this Newfoundland port that had seen the start of the sealing season for over 100 years. Only last spring she had discharged her catch of sealskins across the harbor on the south side and then paid off her Newfoundland crew. Scarcely had the sealing captain's command of "Double up and secure died out, however, than U. S. Air Force and the Navy's Military Sea Transportation Service representatives from St. John's were looking over this sturdy vessel in Halifax' They wanted to determine her suitability for carrying a helicopter and supporting a survey operation scheduled for arctic waters in late summer. Because of her large open fantail and ice-strengthened constructIon, it became readily apparent that she was well qualified for conversion, which is why she now looks like a baby flat-top. The Arctic Sealer was built for the U. S. Navy during World War II by Snow Shipyards of Rockland, Me., along the lines of a heavy auxiliary net layer, but without the long bow horns and open hawseway typical of the net tenders and cable ships. Her construction was of wood, sheathed with greenheart and ironbark, two of the hardest woods known to man. Her bow and stern were given an extra heavy reinforcing of steel plate that was to serve her well while working in ice sealing in the years to come.

Her reliable diesel-electric power plant m took her far into the Pacific conflict as a Navy auxiliary ocean tug, ATA 215. After towing duties during the war, she took Finn Ronne to Antarctica on a two-year surveying expedition for the Navy With her south sea operation over, she was sold by the Navy in 1948 to the highest bidder - Shaw Steamship ii Company of Halifax. Because of her rugged construction and excellent condition, Shaw soon had the largest, fastest and most powerful sealing ship s sailing from St. John's. In 1951 she docked with 37,339 pelts, the high 1 liner for the year. She was written up in the March 1952 SHIPS AND THE SEA. (then called SHIPS AND SAILING). Now, in July 1957, the MSTS had a. new job for her to add to her already colorful history - carrying a survey party to the Arctic after constructing a helicopter pad over her fantail. In order to get the operation under way by early August, conversion and fitting out had to proceed at top speed. Under the experienced direction of John Patterson of the Dartmouth Marine Slip, the Arctic Sealer's profile was changed considerably.

The after mast was removed; a 40 x 59-foot landing platform for a 3 ½ ton helicopter was then constructed of steel stanchions and girders with a planked deck. The "pad" was painted the new international orange with a black circle to mark the landing point. A hinged safety net of steel cable and woven manila was made in a sail loft in Halifax and installed for extra protection. Directly over the hatch, a removable 6 x 6-foot section was built so that the after hold could be used for small cargo and to give access to the helicopter from below for fueling hoses. Shaw himself suggested building the pad in sections so that it could be removed and used again.

The following photos and remarks were submitted (in 2009) by George Dayhoff, one of the Look See pilots.

The picture shows the H-21 making a courtesy visit to the MV Arctic Sealer

The third and last site we were to do was about 90 miles west of SondeStromfiord, Greenland.  It had the highest elevation (5000-6000’) of the three sites.  The weather forecast for that site at the time of our scheduled arrival was bad and closing in so it was decided to do that site earlier than planned.

An H-21 was to meet us there and do the high work.  The H-21 was to work out of the AFB at SondeStromfiord.  However, the Air Force could not provide the H-21 earlier than the original planned date.  When it did arrive the H-19 had already done the high work and most of the low work.  The arrival of the H-21 did allow us to take the H-19 to SondeStromfiord  for some much needed maintenance.


The black stripes on the helicopter was preventative material to help fight corrosion caused by the sea water.The skin and other parts of an H-19 was made of magnesium and salt water can really do a number on it.

Greenland visitor

The Crew

My suite abroad the MV Arctic Sealer

(George Dayhoff)

Rainwater got into the blades and froze resulting in a bad out of balance condition.  We had to take each blade off, wrap it with blankets and pump hot air to it in order to melt the ice – it worked.

The ship ran out of fresh water.  The captain beached the ship and the crew hung a 55- gallon drum along with

firehoses and filled the water tank with glacier water – good water.  Look closely and you can see the drum and the hoses.

(The following is submitted by K.V. Hall, who was one of the pilots TDY from Goose)

During the summer of 1959, two H-21’s from the 22nd Helicopter Squadron, Goose Bay, Labrador, were TDY to SondreStrom AB to support the construction of Dye 1 site.  From April to October, they carried over a half million pounds of materials to the construction site. (http://www.usafhpa.org/22heliron )

Construction supplies were hauled by truck over a rough switchback 19 mile road from base camp to the site location on top of a 4750 foot high mountain. Water was supplied via a 40,000 foot pipeline from a fresh water lake.

Above: H-21B at SondreStrom air base.

Left: 22nd HeliRon H-21 at base camp for construction site of Dye 1.

Dye 1 site - operational

Final Approach to runway at Sondrestrom AB