James Boyd Midlothian

The following is my recollection of Friday, March 27, 1964.

It was 5:30 pm and I had just finished my shower. I was planning a night out on the town since I had turned 20 yrs. old three days earlier. I was sitting in the barracks at the Kodiak Naval Base reading the week old Oklahoma City Times. I barely got through the front page and noticed a little shaking of the paper in my hands. I dismissed it, thinking it was one of the sub hunters revving its engines at the nearby hangar. Suddenly the closed and latched doors of the lockers in front of me sprang open. I and one other seaman yelled simultaneously “it’s an earthquake”.

The barracks and showers were full of Seabees and Marines getting ready for the weekend parties. Most were partially or completely naked. It was very hard to remain on your feet as we all headed for the stairs at the same time. We pretty much went down in a pile. I remember standing on the bottom step of the doorway to the barracks and watching lightning on the ground. The ground was alive. All around you and as far as you could see the ground was splitting with cracks from as wide as an inch to hairline cracks. The power poles were all swaying in unison. Water and Gas lines were breaking underground all around. And at the same time you felt like you were standing on a giant vibrator.

The one thing I remember most while I was standing there in my shorts was where did all the girls come from. We rarely saw a female on base. And there must have been 8 or 10 screaming girls and women within a few yards of our barracks. Never figured out where they came from. Of course liberty was canceled and we were ordered to muster. The Seabees were in charge of the Motor Pool on base. We provided services to the base in all phases of transportation. As well as snow removal and road repair on the Island. My first assigned task was to transport a squad of armed Marines to the town of Kodiak. The first wave had hit and took out the town. It took about an hour and a half to get there because of the condition of the roads.

Rock slides had blocked many areas and we had to clear the road before proceeding. When we arrived I couldn’t believe the destruction. The streets were littered with everything from rifles to cash. Looting was already taking place. The buildings that were on the waterfront were all displaced and in the middle of what used to be the streets. Over the next 24 hours, the tides became increasingly higher and higher. Soon the base power plant was under water and we lost all power to the base.

Our entire Company spent the next two weeks working 12 to 15 hour days doing whatever we could to help anyone that needed it. I remember when the C130 arrived from Seattle with the replacement power plant. Word was that it took over two days to get it loaded and secured on the plane and we had it unloaded and operational in about 18 hours.

When my tour of duty was finished I was able to spend some time in Anchorage while on the way back to the States. I have since been in another earthquake while visiting California. Two is enough. I ‘m glad I live Texas. I am now 63 years old and I plan to drive the Alcan Highway next summer. Sure hope the ground ain’t shakin’.

Thanks for the opportunity to share this experience, James Boyd Midlothian, Texas

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