Cowboy: interpreter, warlord, one more casualty


PBY Catalina at Bluie West One
PBY Catalina amphibious patrol bomber on the steel-mat runway at Bluie West One, with Quonset huts in the background, in 1943 or 1944.


Gary at BW-1

In the nature of things, I no longer receive email from men who served at BW-1 during the Second World War, when the frigid outpost in Greenland was the great stepping-stone to Europe for the US Army Air Forces. But the other week I got email from Gary Boutz , who as a boy lived at Narsarsuaq with his family. (At right: Gary in front of his brother's bunk.) He writes:

"I just finished your book about Bluie West One. I found the book quite interesting, because I was one of those dependents that you mentioned, that went to school in one of the old hospital buildings.... I did go into the Officers' Club many times, even played the slot machines in the bar there. No one said a word to me. I was 8 or 9 at the time. I even won a pressure cooker at Bingo, there in the club.

"I have a lot of good memories of that time in Narsarsuaq. For a young boy, there were many adventures, and good friends. We were there from 1949 to 1951. My dad, Lt Col (later Col) Boutz, was, I believe Deputy Base Commander, under Col Henry Dittman." All the brothers graduated from the military academies; one died in the crash of an F-102; and Gary became a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force and afterward flew for American Airlines.

Cover of BW-1 BW-1 was a U.S. Army airfield from 1941 to 1947, and as Narsarsuaq Airbase a U.S. Air Force installation from 1947 to 1958, when it was turned over to the Danish government of Greenland. I was enchanted by the name (why One? why West? and above all, why Bluie?) from the day I first heard it. So in August 2005 I flew to Reykjavik in Iceland, thence to Narsarsuaq in Greenland, to investigate the place for myself. This is what I found out. Read the story as an e-book for Amazon's elegant Kindle reader or on your computer, smartphone, or tablet. A $2.99 download from Amazon stores in the United States and other countries. (The link will take you to the right store for your region. Prices may be higher outside the U.S. because of sales taxes or other government interventions.) Also for sale on Apple - Barnes & Noble - Kobo - and Scribd. And here's some background stuff on BW-1:

Remembering Bluie West One (the magazine article)
The legend of Hospital Valley
'Phooey on Bluie' (the poem)
Rescue on the Greenland ice cap (James Robinson)

Layout of Bluie West One
Here is Bluie West One at the height of its powers, with the east-west runway now hard-surfaced, a secondary runway at an angle to it, and a full quota of buildings. Not visible is Hospital Valley, off the top of the photo beyond the the end of Runway 27. This photo would have been taken about 1950.

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Flying Tigers
3rd edition

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