Capt. Pore Tells How Storm Hit Army Marchers
By Jerry Bowkett, Times 5/16/62
"I'd never seen anything like it before - even the people who were all right couldn't fight against the wind and those who tried to carry or drag others were exhausted after 100 yards at the most. And the wind was going all the time."
From his Air Force Hospital bed today, 26-year-old Capt. Stanley C. Pore recalled how his infantry company had fought its way over a blizzard - swept 4,000 foot-high pass in the Chugach mountains late Monday and how three men had collapsed from exhaustion and subsequently died.
Company C of the 1st Battle Group, 23rd Infantry, with a strength of 113 men, was airlifted by helicopters from Ft. Richardson to the head of Ship Creek Valley on Monday afternoon.
The unit planned to move over a ridge at the head of the valley into the Campbell Creek watershed and hike down to the Campbell Airstrip.
It was planned as a three day exercise - to be carried out in easy stages. Army mountain training experts had laid out the route and described it as "an easy-trip to start the summer training program," Pore said. "The only thing no one figured on was the storm."
Company C. was to cross the ridge late Monday and bivouac in a small bowl-like valley on the other side for the night.
At about 5 p.m. one platoon had crossed over and was descending to the bivouac area "when this thing started - in about an hour it grew from nothing to full force," Pore said.
"I was at the end of the column trying to move the stragglers along. At about 6 p.m. the last three men had crossed over," he continued.
The wind was blowing at the soldiers' backs, at an estimated 50 knots, whipping along a heavy snowfall that lowered visibility to about 100 yards. It was at this point that the first man collapsed.
"We put him in two sleeping bags but we couldn't carry him in the wind," Pore recalled. "The wind knocked me off my feet."
A snow trench was dug and the unconscious man placed in it. Two others dug in beside him and stayed with him on the slope above the camp area.
Another soldier collapsed farther down the slope. He also was put into sleeping bags and two soldiers remained with him.
A third soldier fell unconscious near camp and was carried in. Others were exhausted or near exhaustion.
"All of these were put in sleeping bags near fires with people sleeping on each side of them," Pore recounted. Lt. Bob Gragg radioed for assistance at about 7 p.m.
"We knew a chopper couldn't come and we called for tracked vehicles," Pore said.
At about 3:30 a.m. the next day it was discovered that one of the unconscious men had died. His body and others suffering from exposure were placed aboard the first tracked vehicles to reach the area at about 4 a.m. The two other unconscious men also died on the mountain. One of them "an hour before he collapsed was joking and helping other people along."
Company C was not a unit inexperienced in Alaska operations. "Most had spent at least one winter here." Pore said. Pore himself has been in Alaska for two years. He took command of the company on April 23.
Of his decision to continue on the bivouac area, Pore said, "There wasn't any other way - you couldn't go back."
The way to the camp was "the shortest way - the easiest way," he said. The unit would have had to move against the wind and hike 15 or 20 miles down Ship Creek Valley.
"If we had worn full arctic clothing it may have helped, but no one appeared to suffer cold injury," said the captain.
The deaths were attributed to exhaustion resulting in heart failure, not to the cold.