Make A Joyful Noise

Not gettin’ caught.

The Noisemaker

Q: What do you do with a Cherry Bomb?

A: It depends on how bored you are.

I was walking from my home (lower left H) on Elmendorf AFB to (C) the Base Cafeteria (aka the snack bar) to get a burger, fries, and a chocolate shake when my friend Eddie _______________ caught up with me and said, “Look what I’ve got!” as he opened his left hand to reveal a bright red ball with a long and equally bright green stem sticking out of it – A Cherry Bomb.

“What are ya gonna’ do with it?”, I asked and he replied, “I dunno. Whaddya think we should do?” So, it went from what HE had in his hand to what could WE do with it in less than 60 seconds. I had no idea and just shrugged my shoulders and we headed on over to the snack bar.

But, I had first to take a leak and the closest rest-room was in the (HQ) H-shaped Alaskan Command (ALCOM) Headquarters building known then as “The Green Latrine” and therein the plot materialized.

Have you ever been in a fully-tiled rest-room which has the weird characteristic of amplifying any sound? You know – speaking normally and hearing it like you were in an echo chamber?

Well, this was one of those and we came out pondering how we could capitalize on that, given that Cherry Bombs are in and of themselves extremely loud.

Having decided to exploit that acoustic quirk, we had to figure a way to place the thing and not be anywhere near the building when it exploded. I mean, after all the Green Latrine was the beating heart of ALCOM and it was highly unlikely such an act would ever be taken as a forgivable teen prank.

We needed a time delay fuse.

At the time, Lucky Strike was my cigarette brand of choice and everybody knows that cigarettes are dangerous in part because once lit they will smoulder for a while. That’s why smoking in bed can be fatal if you drop off while you’re smoking and the cigarette lands on your mattress.

With a little testing, we found that a Lucky Strike would take 7 minutes to burn down to a point at which the butt would be about 1/4 inch in length. So, all we had to do was insert the fuse into a lit cigarette about that far from the end and in the 7 minutes it would take to burn down to the fuse we could be well away from the building.

Hiding the thing within the rest-room was also simple. The rest-room trash can had 3/4 inch feet which allowed us to slip the device under it. Normal air movement would disperse the smoke and since this was in the days before smoking was banned in any facility, the odor would not be suspicious.

So that’s what we did.

Once it was in place we wandered casually out of the building over to the snack bar, which was about 100 yds. from the Green Latrine, bought ourselves chocolate shakes and took a table right next to the jukebox, which was always in use.

What happened next was completely unexpected – Over that distance and despite being seated next to the jukebox that was playing at near full volume, Eddie _________ and I, along with everybody else in the place, heard the report. And when we left the snack bar about 15 minutes later, the Green Latrine was on what we would today call full lock-down.

Cherry Bomb
H is my home, HQ is the “Green Latrine”, C is the Base Cafeteria, M shows location of Military Police guards and investigators

The facility occupied an entire block and had two u-shaped driveways with each leading up to a major entrance and there were teams of (M) heavily armed men at every intersection, at both ends of the two u-shaped driveways, and standing guard at both entrances while a group bearing only sidearms and using under-car search mirrors was looking into and under every vehicle in the main parking lot, which was between the building and the snack bar.

Holy Shit!

Of course, that was enough for me and Edde ______ immediately to decide this was an adventure which could never be related to anyone else on the planet.

But for me that wasn’t the half of it.

At dinner that evening, my father told my mother about the incident. His Squadron Commander had gotten drunk the night before and commandeered a C-47 to take him to Seattle. So my father stood in for him in a staff meeting headed up by then USAF Chief of Staff 4-star Gen. Curtis Lemay about troubling events in Cuba when the thing went off, but there had been no damage and no evidence about whatever had caused it had been found…