February 23, 2010

Murphy Dome – From Someone Who Was There

Filed under: Interesting Things — Susan Stevenson @ 7:45 pm

In my last blog entry, I posted a few photos I took while up on Murphy Dome with my friend Lori. The information I posted about the radar station, was found online. While the internet offers us the opportunity to expand our knowledge base, not everything we read online is accurate.

Mr. Henry (Hank) Brand, a gentleman who actually served on Murphy Dome, commented to my last entry with additional information and corrections to what I found online. I am quite appreciative of this, and wanted to share his information in this blog entry, along with several photos that Hank took while he was stationed up on Murphy Dome.

Here are the comments he left on my last entry:

Susan…I continue to admire your work. Murphy Dome! 744th AC&W Squadron (Murphy Dome Air Force Station) Was stationed there 1963-64 when it was much larger with 250 Air Force and some Army personnel (Nike Hercules Missile). To find much more images & stats, check out http://www.radomes.org/museum/ insert 744 for the Unit/Squadron search and then you can search for photos of the Radar Station, as well as rosters of personnel stationed there. I have a number of images posted from my stay and my visit in 2002. Included are photos I shot ‘63-’64 of Mt McKinley 154 miles in the distance.

I drag some out there, dragging & screaming, to come and rejoice in your imagery. Beautiful!

Hank Brand


Parting shot….I worked on the old (1963) equipment inside the tower you portray in your photos of the Dome.


Here is information he sent me via email:

I am making a few corrections here to your comments. Murphy Dome was not named for a Capt Murphy (I believe Murphy was actually a LT), rather, for a gold prospector by the name of Murphy, who also is the namesake of a 2 foot wide creek in the valley on the north side of the Dome. Also Murphy Dome AFS was not an actual part of the DEW Line, the DEW Line was primarily radar stations along the US and Canadian shores of the Arctic Ocean, including the Aleutian Chain.  We had about 250 personnel on the site with some Army who supported a Nike Hercules Missile Battery a few miles closer to Fairbanks on the (Old Murphy Dome Rd).


There were several thousand of us who served on that Dome over the years. The basic tour of duty there was 365 days….exactly. It is owned by the Air Force and operated by the FAA. It is scheduled to receive a FAA webcam sometime this year.

Regarding Lt Murphy, I was led to believe, while I was stationed there, that indeed he was the sites’ namesake. I was corrected by a History of the Alaskan Air Command website at Elmendorf. The site was very important as the back-up command center for the Alaskan Air Command, and served as the AAC Command Center for a period during 1964 with the Good Friday Earthquake (while I was there). I am not sure, but I think the Army Nike Hercules Missile Site down the road was known as “D Battery” attached to Ft Wainwright.

Unfortunately, I did not see too much of the Northern Lights, although I did take some photos with Ektachrome 200 and Anscochrome 500 film (Ansco left the long-exposure images with a brown cast). I would go outside during my midnight shift to capture the images. Many of the images were damaged due to improper storage over the years.