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Shari Parkhill

Ascension Island South Atlantic Ocean

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Greetings, I'm Shari Parkhill......I live on Ascension Island, South Atlantic Ocean, a British Off-shore territory. I live and work on the USAF base here. Ascension is a small (34 sq mile) rocky island, halfway between Brazil & Africa and just south of the Equator. On March 30th, 1942, the men of the 38th Engineer Regiment, Combat, arrived at Ascension. It was a top-secret mission (even the men did not know their destination) code-named "Agate" with instructions to carve an airstrip out of the volcanic rock, a seemingly impossible task. They did, in less than 3 months! This was a spectacular achievement considering the environment and the problems and privations they had to deal with. When complete the 38th departed to build more airfields in Africa, leaving behind an off-shoot, the 898th Engineer Aviation Company, to maintain the airfield and the base. Thousands of planes transited through Wideawake Airfield on their way to Africa and beyond. The airfield served a vital role in the success of the Allied mission, but even today, its existence and importance are barely known. I am the president of the Ascension Island Heritage Society, and my special mission since I joined in 2007 is to increase the awareness of the contribution of the Americans. The island was first inhabited by the British when they exiled Napolean to St. Helena, 700 miles to the SW. No one wanted Ascension prior to this due to its rocky terrain and lack of water. Even today, it is a closed island, the 850 people who inhabit the island are only here to work on either the USAF and RAF bases, or for the local government. For a small island with a very diverse history (it was also very important in communications - and remains so to this day) it is fascinating. The Americans left in 1947, but returned in the late 1950's as a downrange tracking station for the missile program, then as a NASA base. We remain a tracking station for the 45th Space Wing, and are a detachment of Patrick AFB in Cocoa Beach, FL. We have amassed a considerable amount of information about the history of the Americans here during WWII if anyone is interested! My father was a veteran of the Canadian Army & my Grandfather as well! I am currently hoping to organize a 70th anniversary of the arrival of the 38th for next March 30th. These brave men deserve to be recognized, remembered and honoured for their efforts! If anyone would like to touch base! Thanks.

 

Marion's note: removed email addy from post. If anyone needs to reach her, please post or send a private PM after you login.

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Fascinating post Shari. I loved reading about all the units you never really hear about. And love hearing what's going in present day too.

 

Thanks for all you do. The men appreciate it immensely.

 

How long have you lived on the island, and how did you wind up living there?

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