[Photo: View out of my window on Dec. 26 2006….I prefer the more natural-looking roundness of the new “radar station” to the flatter, pan-cakey version I used to see out of my window (see photo below) I could do without the electric wires.)
In the fall of 1981 I interviewed El Granada resident, Frank Millione, then a 41-year-old professional bowler, who, when, not working at Pillar Point Radar Station, traveled the country to participate in championship bowling contests.
Rumors of flying saucers launced from Pillar Point–that peninsula of land that juts out into the Pacific Ocean at the northern end of Half Moon Bay–circulate from time to time. The 80-foot radar dish, which sticks out like a sore thumb high atop Pillar Point, helps to stimulate fertile imaginations.
But 41-year-old Frank Millione, who has worked as a “special tech” at Pillar Point Air Force Tracking Station for 17 years, denies the flying saucer rumors.
Pillar Point Tracking Station–a division of ITT, tracks the flight accuracy of missiles launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County. Millione told me that “There has never been anything around here that can honestly be called unexplained phenomena.” He explained the UFO sightings as being mistakes for missiles launched from Vandenberg in the evening or early morning when they can be seen near Half Moon Bay.
“It looks like a big white object streaking through the sky,” Millione said. “But people don’t recognize it, so they say, ‘I saw a flying saucer’.”
Vandenberg on the West Coast (California) is the equivalent of Cape Kennedy on the East Coast (Florida). “At Vandenberg,” Millione said,” when they look up at a missile, they’re looking at the back end. Due to heat produce at take-off time, they can’t see through it, so somebody must look at it from the side which is what we do here.”
Missiles launched from Vandenberg either go south or west. “The missiles that go south,” Millione told me, “are put into orbit and used for navigation and communication. The ones that go west are testing for inter-continental ballistic missiles, like the Minutemen–they’re targeted at cities.”
Besides two telemetries and two radars, there is a fifth system at Pillar Point. Frank Millione is in charge of the fifth system called command control. “Once a missile is launched,” he said, “it’s an object that’s not controlled, like a bullet in flight. While missiles are not externally controlled, they are internally controlled by a guidance mechanism that enables signals to be sent from Pillar Point to the missile and back.
“If something goes wrong with a missile, endangering the safety of lives, somebody must get rid of it. That’s oen of the things I do. Blow missiles up.”
Frank Millione said he last blew up a missile about a year ago (1980).
Although several sites on the West Coast have the ability to blow up missiles, only Pillar Point ia allowed to do it. Two other stations act as back-up sites.
A new system recently installed (1981) at Pillar Point enables the station to move satellites. I “We can fire their engines up,” Millione told me, ” and move them from one position to another.”
[Note: Please read Parts I & II below]
Upon returning to Half Moon Bay, Roma T. Jackson, the Coast Advocate reporter, punched out an unfriendly story, once again pointing out the poor condition of the cemetery fence at Pescadero–going so far as to predict that the Pescaderans would never replace it. He also tossed in a cruel barb, aimed at the young ladies who planned to raise money for a new fence by sponsoring a dance.
The article incensed the Pescaderans who said Jackson’s article had not reported all the facts.
To present their side, “A and B”–the pseudonym for two Pescadero writers, penned a letter to the San Mateo County newspaper, the Times-Gazette.
Referring to Roma Jackson, “A and B” wrote, [Jackson] “knew that money was being raised for the purpose of building a new cemetery fence. He also knew that the ladies have been working day and night for the [cemetery] fence, and it is an insult to them and to the town…to infer that they care nothing for their dead.”
Later it was revealed that the dance had been canceled when money for the fence suddenly materialized– gifts from generous villagers.
“The new fence was raised,” reported the Coastside Advocate, “…an artistic and stately fence gladdens the eye of the passer.”
But that wasn’t enough…as the Half Moon Bay newspaper editor (as official spokesman for the special group that had visited Pescadero) continued to complain about this and that–now it was the less than friendly reception endured while staying in the tiny Coastside village.
Once again there was a retort from the writers “A and B”. “As for hospitality,” they said, “we must confess that we were very lax in that regard, because we did not know we were expected to show any more courtesies to Half Moon Bay than Half Moon Bay has to us upon former occasions.”
That statement by “A and B” speaks volumes, doesn’t it?
Clearly the trip to Pescadero was a public relations disaster for everybody. While the Half Moon Bay crowd clung to their civic superiority, the crusty Pescaderans (“A & B”) closed the door on the affair with a final statement in the Times-Gazette: “…we wish to say that Pescadero, the gem of the coastside of San Mateo County, invites the people of other places to come and visit us. The hotels are kept by hospitable persons and the townspeople stand ready with open arms to welcome the strangers, but ask that when you leave you tell the truth concerning us, and not cast slurs upon the characters of our young ladies, or upon the town in general.”
“The Good Shepherd” was a longer movie than I anticipated but I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. There was so much to see, hear and think about as the characters accompanied me through the very well written, adult script.
Movies tell their story using visual images and there aren’t many words spoken (as opposed to a novel). In either format it’s difficult to bring full dimension to a writer’s characters, to make them human rather than cardboard representations –but the characters in “The Good Shepherd” felt like real people that I got to know in more than two hours. I could feel what their daily lives were like–and in the case of Mr. Wilson, played by Matt Damon, how he came to make his difficult choices–be it love with a woman and/or love for his country.
If you’ve read anything about “The Good Shepherd”, you know that it’s about the birth of the CIA–but it’s much, much more than that.
By the time the credits rolled (and the cast is impressive; wait ’til you see) I had felt a lot of fear, learned that even though I was born the same year the CIA came into being, under certain political circumstances I might just be considered a visitor in the USA– and, most of all, the movie’s message to me was that I (just an ordinary person) should never ever trust anyone. Not anyone.
“The Good Shepherd”–a movie not to be missed.