The Pacific Barrier (DEW LINE)
DE 387 Destroyer Escort
WDE 487 Coast Guard Destroyer Escort
DER 387 Destroyer Escort Radar Picket

The DEW Line

The Pacific Barrier, What, Why and When?

Immediately following World War Two, America realized that some of her allies in that conflict were now her enemy.  Attack, over the North Pole by Enemy Nuclear Bombers and Missiles was a Real Threat to the Continental United States.  To provide early detection, hence, Early Warning of such an attack, the “Distant Early Warning System” (DEW Line) was established across the frozen tundra of Northern Greenland, Canada and Alaska.  The DEW Line consisted of Radar Stations with “over lapping” radar coverage and the ability to detect Aircraft and Missiles within their respective coverage.  Military Strategists were very concerned however, as the DEW Line had some flaws.  Namely, the Enemy Bombers had the ability to fly an “End Around” the DEW Line, across the Northern Atlantic and Northern Pacific without being detected by the DEW Line Radar.  Another factor was that the “Jet Stream”, over the Northern Pacific, flows from West to East.  This 200+ mile per hour Jet Stream would provide an asset to any attacking aircraft. 

In January, 1956, AIRBORNE EARLY WARNING WING PACIFIC was established, comprised of three (3)  Squadrons, VW-12, VW-14 and AIRBARSRON TWO.  The Aircraft, 34 Lockheed Super Constellation “Warning Stars” (Navy Designation WV-2) and 5 Lockheed Super Constellation “Cargo Version” (Navy Designation R7V) were assigned to AIRBARSRON TWO.  Airborne Early Warning Squadrons Twelve and Fourteen (AEWRON 12 or VW-12 & AEWRON 14 or VW-14 ) were squadrons of flight crew personnel only, and were assigned no aircraft.   On July 01, 1958, BARRIER PACIFIC (BARPAC) became fully operational, closing the 1,500 mile gap that existed in the DEW Line between the Aleutian Islands and Midway Island, in the Northern Pacific.  Destroyer Escort Radar Picket Ships (DER’s) were part of this mission and were stationed along the inside of the Barrier Track.  The DER’s provided additional radar coverage, and most important, navigational check points and Search And Rescue (SAR) assistance in the event an aircraft had to ditch (semi-controlled Crash Landing on the surface of the Ocean).  

The Pacific Barrier Aircraft provided complete Radar Coverage of this 1,500 mile gap, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  In its first year of operation over 11 million air miles were flown by the Aircraft and Crews.  The normal mission consisted of a three (3) hour preflight, taking off from Midway Island and landing back on Midway, 15+ hours later.  The Flight Crews were rotated, 18 days flying their assigned missions out of Midway Island, then spending the remainder of the month back at the Squadrons Home Base, Naval Air Station (NAS) Barbers Point, Hawaii.  

Late in 1959 it was seen that a more compact organization than the WING was needed.  So on February 01, 1960, VW-12, VW-14 and AIRBARSRON TWO were combined into AIRBORNE EARLY WARNING BARRIER SQUADRON PACIFIC (AEWBARRONPAC) and it was placed under the command of the COMMANDER BARRIER FORCES PACIFIC (COMBARPAC).  

With the advent of Low Frequency Radar, ( Radar that could follow the curvature of the Earth)  the Squadrons days became numbered.  On April 30, 1965, AEWBARRONPAC was decommissioned, thus ending one of the most successful Naval Aviation Missions.  To this date it remains the Navy’s Largest Squadron, EVER!  

NOTE: During its commissioned life the average Flight Hour cost to the tax payer was $100/hr.  A very low cost for protection, indeed. 

John B. Lukasiewicz
Copyright by John B. Lukasiewicz 1998
This article used with John's kind permission 

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