Lecce Detachment D History
Det B, 600th USASA Company lasted about 4.5 years as an operational AN/TRD-4A direction finding site before being closed and operations transferred to the Air Force's San Vito operations site.
Det B was located at a vacant Italian air base near San Vito, (San Pancrazio-Ed. Note: Also an American B-24 base during the 2nd World War (376th Heavy Bombardment Group). about 15 miles from Lecce. We stayed at the Motel Selgas in a little town called Borgo Pace, (actually a suburb of Lecce.)
Motel Selgas was owned by Antonio Collita and family. We frequented the Air Force base in San Vito for PX, Class 6 and medical support. --McKusick
Here is a copy of John Rhuark's convoy march order moving the detachment from Vicenza to Lecce, Italy.
The following is from John Rhuark and pulled verbatim from Det A history page as it apples in part to both Detachments:
For most of the year of 59/60 Myself, Pfaff, and Olshinski were on the road taking ground conductivity tests on possible sites at Ravenna, Ancona, San Vito De Normani (later to be an AN/FLR9 Site), just south of Pizza, and San Pancrazzio In Salintino (Lecce A WW2 B24 Base).
I Was on that convoy to Ravenna and nearly froze my ass off if it were not for a bottle of grappa that the brigadiere had . He was riding in My Deuce.
I was at Ravenna for only a little over a year and took the group to Lecce to set up that Site. When I had about 5 Months to go John Cummings came down as my replacement and I returned to Vicenza and Benny Sutton and I and two fast radio operators manned the NCS.
John (Hoop) T. Rhuark
I landed at Aviano in December, 1959, fresh out of Devens. As things happened, I volunteered to take the original detachment down to Lecce, and I got the job. For a young Lt looking for adventure, this was it at the time. We had to clear everything w/ Italian authorities, embassies, and then hook up with a Carabinieri detachment assigned to us from Roma. We formed a convoy in Vicenza with all of our equipment, personal gear, and set out to go 600 miles to Lecce, never having reconned it ourselves.
We had Italian motorcycle escort, armed and ready, with an Italian officer riding with me in our lead deuce and a half. We spoke Italian in the morning, English in the afternoon. After that, we could speak whatever we wished. We stayed overnight at Italian army casernes all the way down. We kept one of our people on the deuce hut where we had the key lists, etc, all night as security. In the morning, at about 6AM, we'd hit the road again. One morning, our Italian co-leader, stopped the motorcycles, and sent a rider back to the hotel he had stayed in to pick up a bottle of local wine that he had stowed in the kitchen. There's mission, then there is vino! It's good we keep our priorities straight!
During the trip our escort Caribinieri had to fire off their weapons to make sure we had the passage thru a Communist leaning village. Not often, just enough to keep us from sleeping thru the long passage south. Brindisi at that time was just a sight off to the east with the watering stations for the Knights as they moved to the embarkation points for the Crusades.
When we found the site in Lecce, much as the same in Ravenna, it was a stunner. As you know, it was an abandoned WWII B24 USAF base with the big, long runway. Grasses growing up thru its cracks and crevasses. There was a small radio shack left pretty well untouched, the walls inside with graffiti of the operators doing their nights and days. Even a "Kilroy was Here" cartoon. It reminded me of the opening scene of "Twelve O'Clock High", where the XO pedals back along the English countryside to the overgrown airfield where he had lived and felt life so intensely during the war. Now all he heard was the wind and the voices of times gone by.
For us, it was a hot, lonely, unknown little piece of real estate where we had to be up and running in 24 hours.
As for the Lecce detachment, we only tried to keep it administratively tied in, as the mission always came from you know where. But, for me, that was a last hurrah, and I soon was ready to return to the US in July, 1962. I'll always cherish the chance, tho, to head thru a part of Italy that had not seen the US flag since 1945 and plant a new one, you might say. We were blessed with excellent men who took up the challenge and did an outstanding job.
THAT IS A GREAT COMENTARY OF THE MOVE SOUTH. THE ONLY THING YOU LEFT OUT IS THAT IN THE SECOND DEUCE ON THE FOURTH NITE OUT JUST BEFORE THE STOP IN ANCONA THE BRIGADIERE AND I HAD A BOTTLE OF GRAPA IN THE TRUCK. I WAS PLAYING MALAGUNIA AND AN AMERICAN IN PARIS ON MY HARMONICA , DRINKING GRAPA OUT OF THE BOTTLE, AS WAS THE BRIGADEIRI, AND DRIVING, QUITE A FEAT WOULDN'T YOU SAY? ANY WAY WE GOT THERE OK BOTH DRUNK AS SNOTS. YOU BETTER PUT THAT IN ALSO.
Excerpted from Jim Sessoms email:
In Jan 65, I went TDY for 3 weeks to the USAF FLR-9 Site in San Vito, Italy, to do a hearability test to determine whether or not we could close the Army DF Site at San Pancrazio and use a dedicated position in San Vito to take its place. Both of those actions happened. TO READ JIM'S COMPLETE EMAIL REGARDING BAD AIBLING Direction Finding
Comments from Gene Carver, during trip to area in 2010:
Modest point of clarification. We arrived in Lecce in October, 1961 and settled into Motel Selgas and began preparation for the site at San Pancrazio, which was in a grape vinyard adjacent to an old deserted air strip used by the Germans during WW 2.
We moved to San Pietro Vernotico for several weeks in December of 1961 but, returned to the motel because all of us were freezing our butts off in that paese. We drove to San Pancrazio for each shift, which was a drive of approximately 20-25 kilometers.
As I indicated earlier, Anna and I are in Lecce at the moment and will be here until November 9th. The motel is still there and I plan to visit the site in San Pancrazio within the next several days. We flew into the airport in Brindisi on September 22nd and you would not recognize the place if your memory of the terminal is from the 60's. It is brand new and stretches approximately 2 00 meters inside.