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Monday, Nov. 24, 2014
I was a what???Posted Monday, June 1, 2009, at 3:36 PM
While serving in the U.S. Navy in the mid-1950s I was once called in before some high-ranking officers I had never seen before and was wondering what I had done wrong.
One officer informed me they had checked into my background, noted I had very high clearance at a previous assignment and found I was qualified to do an important job.
I was serving abaord a ship for the first time in my Navy career and had less that one year remaining before discharge.
What important job was I qualified to perform? I was a medic (HM2). The ship was ready to head out and would be making numerous ports in the South Pacific.
Another officer took over and said I used my camera often. Ha! I sure had used my camera often. It was a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. A child could have used it. Then he told me that I had used and was familiar with some x-ray equipment. That was true.
A third officer opened a box and took out device roughly the size of a shoe box. Then he removed a lot of dental x-ray film from the box. He asked if I knew how to develop it. I informed him I knew how to do that.
The top officer then informed me, "You are going to be a photo densitometer technician. My first thought was, I'm going to be a what?
I was then told I was to mention none of this to anyone. Only the captain of the ship had been informed of what was taking place. The device, known as a photo densitometer measuring device was to be kept in his safe.
North Korea's recent nuclear tests have made me recall those days.
I was given the unexposed dental x-ray film and small magnetic holders for each piece of film.
The good part was I was to have unlimited liberty in the various ports of call. My assignment was to quietly and without attention place the holders and film in various locations and to make a note of where each had been placed.
Some were placed on U.S. military bases, others in places around various cities.
Some were placed in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Macau and other locations. Each one looked like a small gray attachment and hopefully would draw no unusual attention. I even placed one in Tiger Balm Gardens in Hong Kong while pretending to be taking pictures of the area. One or two were always placed around the harbor areas.
The idea, if called on to do so, was to go back and collect the film, take it to the captain and in his presence turn on the photo densitometer device and record the reading it would show. Obviously it was to measure radiation. I imagine this crude method was one of the few things available way back then.
I was never called on to go back and collect the film and magnetic containers before returning to the United States.
Did anyone ever take my notes and go back and collect the magnetic holders and film to take readings? I have no idea.
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Bo Melson is a retired sports and police beat editor of the Times-Gazette. He passed away November 15, 2014, at age 81.