07 December 2007

Operation Skywatch


This friend and I would try to find obscure-out of the way places to visit during summer breaks from college. He suggested we find some strange tower outside of Lafayette....something that people used to stand guard at, identifying any low-flying enemy aircraft. This sounded like a strange place indeed....so we drove to Cairo, Indiana to find Delta-Lima 3 Green or the DL3-G post. A recreated tower and a monument to the men and women, and evidently children, who participated in "Operation Skywatch".

A product of the Cold War, Operation Skywatch found its roots during WWII when folks in the states would be on watch for enemy aircraft. The program evolved and in 1952 President Truman renamed and expanded it to Operation Skywatch, calling on all red blooded Americans to participate. Now, I didn't grow up with atomic bomb drills, but I always was suspicious of the Soviets.....remember them? So this did sound a bit foreign to me.

Evidently Indiana was a hot spot for guard duty. It was felt that the Soviets would fly their aircraft at low altitudes, over the north pole and across Canada and down Lake Michigan undetected, to power station targets in Tennessee. I wonder how many other of these towers existed across the Hoosier heartland? In a project I am involved in, in our tallest building downtown that served as a Lodge, I found records of airplane activity and aircraft identification charts.........appeared to date to the early 1950's. Maybe the Lodge's members participated in Operation Skywatch from the roof of the three-story building? Cool.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting. This might shed some light on a couple of strange towers I've seen in Porter County between Valparaiso and Lake Michigan. They are approx. 5 story, concrete towers out in the middle of no where. They almost look like silos, but they are rectangular instead of round. From the road they look to be about 50' x 50' square and there are doors to enter them. Of course today they have wireless communication antennas on them. But by the looks of them, they could be old enough to be early cold war era.

Anonymous said...

Well after more research, I guess these towers aren't in fact part of Skywatch. They are late 1940's era AT&T microwave relay towers. I found this:

"Part of the NY to Chicago AT&T Long Lines relay tower system built in 1949(?)

Type 4D Concrete Tower. Tower height 191 feet.

Originally relayed between Chicago, IL and Valaparaiso IN. (another Type 4D Concrete Tower, height 191 feet. at Valpo)

Also believed to have served as part of Civil Defense Radio network."

Here area some pictures of similar towers:
http://long-lines.net/places-routes/LeeIL/index.html

And another that talks about how they are harden against atomic blast:
http://www.drgibson.com/towers/#towerlist

Anonymous said...

I've seen those towers too....always wondered. If you do a little searching on Operation Skywatch-the Cairo site will come up. I want to get my hands on the cards & identification material I found in the downtown building, it would be interesting to see if our town had some Cold War connection.

Hoosier Reborn