The DEW Line

by Capt. Ian Adamson

Italicized comment by Capt. John Bilotta, editor of the newsletter

With DC-4s, Seaboard & Western took part in the building of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Radar Line along parallel 69 North across the Canadian wilderness. It was to provide an alert of Soviet bombers coming in over the North Pole. The job consisted of transporting materials from Mont-Joli, Quebec, to the building sites of the radar stations. we landed on frozen lakes that the ground people assured were thick enough to take the weight of a loaded DC-4; usually with helpful advice such as: "make your left turn in over the crashed C-46!" Sometimes an extra circuit had to be made because a dog-sled team was traversing the landing line.

Seaboard's HQ was at the Mont-Joli Hotel, under the supreme command of the legendary Capt. Paul Mlinar. Paul was of the generation that made aviation the transportation necessity of this century. To Paul, the job at hand was everything. His dedication inspired everybody to do their utmost. Moreover, it was best to do so, so as not to be the target of one of his acerbic judgments; one of the slightest of which could be: "Each time the sonofabitch looks out of the window he loses 200 feet!" Paul was the kind of pilot modern technology had to develop hundreds of sophisticated instruments to replace. Apart from the job, little mattered and it showed. At every departure and arrival, day and night, Paul was on the ramp. You could not miss him. The old gray S&W topcoat hanging open on his large frame; the uniform jacket undone, revealing the old S&W maroon tie - at half-mast, the pant legs stuffed into gaping undone mukluks. And on top, a Canadian beaver-fur hat, the earflaps of which are supposed to be tied under the chin or on top of the head; but not now. The flaps were out at a 90 degree angle, the strings hanging straight down. And of course - the cigar stuck in a tough, formidable countenance. With a rasping voice he would shrink the ground time down to a minimum. V. Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, whom he had flown many times during the war, must have thought: "He looks like one of ours".

Ian, what a masterful job you have done in showing that no chomped-on cigar, nor loosened tie, nor unkempt clothes could dim anyone's admiration for the man and his ability.

Originally published in SPAR newsletter, December, 1996


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