UNITED STATES NAVAL AIR ACTIVITIES, PORT LYAUTEY, MOROCCO
1949 - 1951
Gene Richardson joined the Navy in November of 1943. Boot camp in San Diego followed by Radio School. He was assigned to ComPhibTraPac at Coronado, San Diego. His next assignment was the LSM-15 where he participated in the Luzon landings, January 9, 1945 followed by the Okinawa Landings starting March 31, 1945. His next assignment was to go to Tokyo prior to the war ending waiting for the rest of the fleet to arrive.
After leaving a load of Jeeps with Admirals and Generals names at Yokosuka Naval Base it was time to retire to calmer quarters. On October 9, 1945 his ship, LSM-15, was sunk by typhoon Louise and he had a lengthy swim until the following day when the AR USS Vestal picked him up. He returned to the states for a 30 day survivor leave and then was assigned to the USS AKA Suffolk. This was followed by discharge and later, re-enlistment. He applied for and was accepted to Electronic school in Corpus Christi. The school moved to Memphis and while waiting for the school to restart he asked to be allowed to go to Aviation Radio preferring this over picking up paper to kill time. At Aviation Radio School, Richardson's code transmission abilities came to the forefront and for the next year, he taught code at all levels until the school staff realized he had been assigned TAD Temporary additional duty and had to return to his original base at Oceana, VA.
When he arrived at Oceana, the Captain of the base ( an officer he had met earlier) asked him if he wanted to attend Ground Control Approach (GCA) school. Richardson agreed and he was immediately sent to school. Upon graduation he was sent to Atlantic City for a short period of time for further transfer to Port Lyautey. At this point in his Naval career, he had attained three diplomas from Navy Schools and no interest to get a rating.
Gene Richardson at Port Lyautey
When Richardson first arrived at Lyautey there was nothing for him to do. Being on the base and no work required at the GCA site made it very difficult. He did not want to sit and do nothing so he began browsing around the welfare recreation department and found an extremely large cache of transcription discs, many thousands. These had been left from a previous AFRS station during the early occupation.
Because there was no equipment available to play these records, he began to build the equipment to play the discs. A Lt. Irving Zolo after seeing the building of audio and other peripheral equipment asked Richardson if he could run a TELEX cable to his quarters? Richardson said he could and did allowing Zolo to also to hear the discs. Within a very short time many other people had spliced into this cable and a larger amplifier had to be built and installed.
It reached a point where audio feed to the quarters was not the answer so Richardson built a small oscillator and used this on the TELEX wire asking everyone to remove their speakers from the wire and turn on their radio. If a radio were within ten feet the radio worked very well. As time passed, more and better equipment had to be made. He had been promised 10 cents an hour for running the station but never got a penny. When he requested his earned money the story was simple, Ships Stores did not have that much in the fund. After two years at Lyautey building and operating the station, he was transferred to Patuxent River Maryland. After seven and a half years of attending six Navy Schools,i.e., General Service Radio, San Diego. Electronics School, Ward Island, Corpus Christi, TX. Aviation Radio School, Millington, TN. AM1 School, Oceana, VA. AD1 School in Oceana, VA. GCA at Olathe, Kansas. After building the radio station and maintaining the GCA at Port Lyautey, he was assigned to be the personal driver for the Captain of Military Air Transport Services where he received another commendation for his work and then discharge to civilian life.
WNAA, the Port Lyautey radio station
Gene Richardson at work
The operation of the radio station was for the benefit and pleasure of the men, their wives and children who were in a foreign country with no easy means of listening to current news, music and information about their homes. It was Gene's hope that WNAA made it easier for the listeners. The only problem operating the station though was the daily request for Stan Kenton's Slaughter on Tenth Avenue which would play for five minutes and thirty seconds. Gene mentioned that as he was not a jazz man, it hurt to play it. It was a lot of noise to my ears but the men liked it so it was played. They didn't however like the Metropolitan Opera each Saturday afternoon. Pay back time!
The gentleman at the last console built was a dentist who would stand in for Gene Richardson while he went to the chow hall. Richardson relates he wishes he could remember his name. If any visitor to the website should know, please forward the information to the website.
Gene Richardson (in the middle) receiving a commendation from the Base CO, Captain F. N. Taylor. The commendation was for conceiving, building and operating the base radio station WNAA with no help.
Base inspection: Gene Richardson to the extreme right
Executive Officer and family at the terminal
Overhauling the Ground Control Approach (GCA) Radar Unit
And as a remembrance, the type of license plate that adorned each Navy vehicle
An interesting true story that might have caused multiple deaths at Port Lyautey, by Gene Richardson
Many of your ex-Lyautey men will remember the time the base was closed for a couple of months because the tank farm was loaded down with water instead of fuel. There was a part in this played by me.
An old scooter frame was found back in the boonies. It was the type dropped with para-troopers made by Cushman. It was void of all things except the frame. I borrowed a two cylinder engine from a generator set and two rear wheels from a DC3 (they are much larger than you would think!). A little work and a few purchased parts in Kenitra and I had transportation. Needing gas, I went to "Operations" and asked for a gallon of aviation gas and was told to get it out of the water drain petcock. I proceeded to drain and drain and drain. Nothing but water came out of the petcock and not feeling too good about being teased this way, I entered operations and asked what was so funny about letting me have water and not gas?
The men jumped fast, ran out and saw the large amount of water I had drained and they immediately called the tower. Too late! A plane was in the process of taking off. The word was sent to return immediately. Urgent!
The plane made a 180 and landed downwind. The engines cut out on the runway. There were no more flights for almost two months. Because I was going to borrow a gallon of gas a few people did not die. No one ever told me how the fuel in the millions of gallons vanished and river water was pumped in. If you know, let me in on the secret.
PS: The Statute of Limitations is over :-).