Willy Victor Era

Photos In This Section Were Collected From Various Contributors Over Many Years

1957  A $40 million construction program begins as Midway becomes a home for the Pacific Airborne Early Warning portion of the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW), known as the Pacific Barrier or DEW Line.  Navy construction units (Seabees) complete an 8,000-foot runway for the heavy aircraft landing on Midway and build an aircraft hangar large enough to hold six aircraft. During this construction, the Hawaiian Dredging Company completes new housing, reconditions the station theater, and builds a new chapel in a modern “A” frame design.  Construction work employed over a thousand men. The channel between Eastern and Sand Islands was deepened to allow the largest US tankers to enter.

July 1958  The first flight from Midway, of the Airborne Early Warning Carrier, was made this month. Midway became the refueling and jumping off point for squadrons of 3,000-mile-long round-the-clock patrols of Super Constellation Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star airplanes. Their objective was to extend early warning coverage from land-based antenna arrays and radar picket ships to detect surprise Soviet bomber and missile attacks. The flights continued through 1965. Warning Stars were nicknamed “Willie Victors” by naval aircrews, based on a slang version of the phonetic alphabet and the naval version of the aircraft’s pre-1962 designation of WV-1, WV-2 or WV-3.

January 22, 1961 – A WV-2 (Willy Victor) aircraft was returning to Midway Island, after completing a Distant Early Warning (DEW) Mission.  In the final stage of touching down at Midway, the aircraft came into contact with a small pile of coral on the approach end of the runway.  After a hard landing, the aircraft veered to one side of the runway.  It then hit a crash truck that was routinely parked to the side of the runway in the event of an emergency and broke apart.  A fire then started, killing six crewmen aboard the aircraft and three Navy men on the crash truck.

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