Veteran Stories:
Otto Hemmerling

Air Force

  • Otto Hemmerling, October, 2009.

    Historica Canada
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"We were told that apparently the Japanese had U-boats in the area and they were watching everything that was happening on this island."


As a young fellow, all my buddies at the time had all been in some kind of a branch of the service and so I could hardly wait until I became old enough. I was 18 before I could join. And my dream at that time was I wanted to be in the air force, I wanted to fly or you know, have some control. I soon found out after I joined the air force that, I had a measure of being colour blind, that washed me out on a lot of the things that may I have been eligible for to be, take part in it. I suppose my main posting was Queen Charlotte Islands are west of British Columbia out in, west of Prince Rupert. And west of the Queen Charlotte Islands, there was an island called Marble Island that the Canadian government decided to build a radar station on Marble Island. The radar was fairly new technology at that time and so the Canadian government built this radar station so they also built a camp on there. There were a small island and they established a radar outlook right on the very top of this little island. And they needed people there to look after generators that had been built for the, provide water for the camp that we were housed in and also bring in supplies. And a lot of the generators themselves are actually run with diesel engines that would generate electricity for the camp and for the radar station. The supply ships would come in as close as they could to the only bit of a beach that there was on the island and they would drop these barrels of diesel fuel off and then we would have to get them in and then get them ready to go to where they would be needed to run the generators as well. That was my main posting. It was an interesting posting. You were kind of bushed there, you didn’t do anything but I enjoyed having that experience, especially it was good. You felt that you were doing something good. During the period when they were building the station initially, we were told that apparently the Japanese had U-boats in the area and they were watching everything that was happening on this island. So they were pretty concerned that they wanted to make sure that we would be ready if there was a Japanese attack on our continent at that time. The people that were trained with radar and pretty well kept to themselves. Most of them were commissioned officers and they had a responsible job to do. And we were told later that if there were an attack, equipment was so set up that they could blow up the equipment there without the enemy getting any information on that. My job for part of the time was, we had to watch the generating station, I think there were three generators, diesel motors that would generate electricity for the entire camp and I felt we were doing an important job.
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