SMDC History: 50 years ago this month Kwajalein Test Site Post of the Month

By Sharon Watkins Lang (SMDC/ARSTRAT Command Historian)December 8, 2016

U.S. Lady cover
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Fifty years ago in December 1966, Kwajalein Test Site was highlighted as the Post of the Month in U.S. Lady -- the Service Family Journal. The article describes the unique features of island living -- from the highly technical mission to the informal community life.

Published between August 1955 and April 1968, U.S. Lady was marketed to wives of service members, who were unofficial ambassadors in host nations around the world.

After a short description of Kwajalein Island, or "The Rock" as it was popularly known, Lady presented a dramatic description of the unique mission of the Kwajalein Test Site -- as the splashdown down point for American intercontinental ballistic missiles, where nosecones "[come] screaming out of space at a speed upward of 18,000 miles per hour, streaming a long fiery tail."

A discussion of the facilities elaborated upon the Test Site's mission. Meanwhile Kwajalein commander COL F.C. Healy, was identified as a representative of "today's technical military men," one who is equipped with a master's degree in electrical engineering and a military background in "'special weapons' -- military lingo for nuclear armaments."

"Strange and complex technical facilities may make Kwajalein seem closer to Dr. Strangelove's laboratory than a normal Army post at first glance, but looks are deceiving." From there the article focused upon the relationship between the American families and the local nationals and life in general in this remote location. Kwajalein was described as an ideal place for the approximately 3,000 Americans, including 800 children, who called it home.

Although private automobiles are banned, the U.S. Lady noted that "Kwajalein [was] not lacking in modern facilities and conveniences." For example, working mothers can take advantage of public and private nurseries for their children. The Kwajalein community also included a fully accredited school, a modern hospital, a bank, two barber shops, a beauty parlor, a marina with power and sail boats available, bus and taxi service, a "department store," a library, a daily newspaper, a golf course and a wide variety of clubs.

The magazine describes "the wonder" that is "Macys" department store and the exotic finds at the Kwajalein commissary or "Miller's Market" that allow "Kwajalein housewives [to] buy more groceries, entertain more and do far more outdoor cooking than their counterparts in 'the land of the great PX.' As the States are often referred to."

Although there was no television, island entertainment included a movie theater, a radio station, and the popular hobbies of tape recorder dubbing and short-wave radio network. Then of course the community enjoyed the annual Kwajalein carnival, a variety of sports activities with water sports and "shelling" among the most prevalent.

The U.S. Lady article concluded with the note that "there is always a long line of personnel anxious and willing to take a tour … to "our island paradise."

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