image linked to paafs1.jpg
This photo was taken from a plane by an unknown photographer. The negative was stored in the site's photo hobby shop, located underneath the NCO club. The negative was an 8x10 glass negative, so this print was a contact print from that negative. Click the image to see this at full-size (2885x2283, 300dpi, 6MB). Sadly, I barely remember which buildings were which.

About the 776th

Point Arena Air Force Station, aka the 776th Radar Squadron, was a small US Air Force installation located about 8 (straightline) miles from the town of Point Arena, California. If you stick to the road, it's more like 11 miles from the intersection of Highway 1 and Eureka Hill Road. Point Arena is located on the northern California coastline, about 150 miles north of San Francisco. This was a cold-war era radar site, whose mission was to look for hostile air traffic coming at us from over the horizon. As part of the SAGE system, there were height and search radars there, as well as radio gear to communicate with military aircraft in the area. With the end of the cold war came the end of the site's mission, and between 1980 and 1998, it became less and less a part of the big picture. It was finally decommissioned in 1998. The nearest Air Force Base was Hamilton AFB, near Novato CA, about 120 miles to the south.

It was considered a remote assignment, but if you were married, your family could accompany you there. Children went to the elementary school located in the town of Point Arena. I really don't recall where older kids went. Because of its remoteness, the site itself had many recreational amenities onsite. If you wanted to leave the hill, you had to have a car.

The drive to get there remains one of my favorite drives on the planet. From San Francisco, you travel north across the Golden Gate Bridge on Highway 101 to Santa Rosa. At Santa Rosa, you head west, on Highway 116 following the Russian River, one of the California Viticulture areas. Highway 116 ends at the town of Jenner By the Sea. Head south and you encounter the town of Bodega Bay, site of the Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Birds. The schoolhouse used in the movie still stands today.

Head north on Highway 1, about 50 miles, to the town of Point Arena. This is a twisty, windy road, with many switchbacks and tight turns. There are places where you can actually hit 60mph for a short time. Mostly it is 30-40mph, with many 15-25mph turns. If you see an arrow sign, be prepared to make a 90-degree turn in the direction of the arrow as the road follows a fjord in the coastline. In many places, the road hugs the coastline and it's redwoods on one side, Pacific Ocean on the other. In the right car, this is heaven on earth. In 1968, however, it was somewhat clogged by underpowered pickup truck-mounted campers and people dragging bulbous Airstream trailers up or down the coast. People were a bit less aware that they were impeding traffic then and I remember several hair raising moments trying to dodge one of these moving roadblocks. It seems better today, or maybe I've become more patient.

Today the site is deserted, and a civilian caretaker lives onsite to try to prevent the remaining buildings from crumbling completely and as a deterrent to vandalism and squatting. Many of the buildings, such as the barracks, orderly room, and chow hall are already gone. The radars have been dismantled, although their structures remain. Some of the other buildings, such as the bowling alley are crumbling under their own weight.

My Time At the 776th

I was stationed at the 776th between 1968 and 1969, The standard tour there was a year. This was my 2nd assignment after basic training. From Point Arena, I went to Blaine AFS,  in Washington state. 1968 was a long time ago, and a lot of what I remember of the site is quite hazy now. In particular, the assignments then of various buildings is quite fuzzy, and your help in identifying them is appreciated.

I was not particularly disposed to staying on base when I wasn't working, so I really didn't avail myself of many of the amenities there. The truth is that I was passing time (even though I was less than halfway thru my enlistment) until my DOS. I worked at the GATR (Ground Air Transmitter Receiver) site, which diminished my understanding of the rest of the site even more. I had relatives in San Francisco, and I met a crazy Hawaiian guy, W. C. Lake. We quickly became good friends. He got out in late 1968, got married, and lived in the city. I would leave the site anytime I had a couple of days off to visit him.

With the commander's blessing, I got a job repairing amplifiers at a music store in San Francisco, Don Wehr's Music City, on Columbus Street, just up the hill from the orignal Tower Records store at Columbus and Bay streets. I was able to work there anytime I wasn't needed at the radar site. Realistically, because of the distance, this really required a weekend, Friday through Sunday. I was a shift worker, so my weekends weren't always mine, but I could work in the city any time I had enough off time, and shift workers had longer breaks. We worked a combination of all three shifts, with a long break between day shift and mid shift, and a shorter break between mid shift and swing shift.

On Wednesday, October 1, 2008, I met my old friend, W.C. Lake (we're both getting old now, as well as having known each other for a long time) in Point Arena and drove up to visit the old radar site. I learned who the caretaker was, and with his blessing, we were able to wander the old site. It was cool and clear, which you can see in the pictures.

I have visited the site in other years, but aside from driving up the hill, was never able to visit inside the gate. Not so this time.

image linked to gatr.htm
Left to right: rear: A1C Rick Chinn, A1C Ron Tietz, A1C Steve Clift, Sgt Bob Buthod (white jacket), unknown, Tsgt Phillips (black jacket), Msgt Maurice Carpenter (NCOIC), Tsgt Bob Dupont, A1C Les Ritzman (holding Samantha, AN/K-9, site mascot). Front row, kneeling, A1C Rodriguez, A1C Jim Eyles, unknown, Sgt Charles (Chick) Gibbs aka Froggy. Photographer: Tsgt Victor Oder.

The Future

The Government still owns the site, and they'd love to find another government agency that would take it over, but the site's remoteness limits its marketability.


Most of the time I use a free image editing tool called xnview. I find it works really well, has a good feature set, and you can actually get work done with it. Best of all, it is free. I have Photoshop for when the going gets tough, but I find xnview easier and faster to use. 
For panoramic photos, I use a program called Panavue Image Assembler. It stitches multiple photos together to make a single large composite frame. You can download a free demo version. I liked it enough to pay for it. 

Contact Me

If you have comments, corrections, etc... you can contact me via email:

I still live in the Seattle metro area.

Panoramic Photos

These images were taken by using my wide angle lens, taking successive shots while rotating the camera around the axis of my body. I then use an image stitching program to assemble the pieces into much larger images.

These initial views are scaled and highly compressed so they fit your browser while still downloading quickly. Clicking on any of them brings up the full-sized image, which is huge (9-14mb). It was saved at highest resolution so you can go looking "inside" the image for closer details. If you have 2 screens, you can "stretch" the image across both of them.

If you hover your mouse pointer over the image, you'll see, either in the lower left status area or as a tooltip, the size of the full-sized image.

Don't click on these images unless you have a high-speed connection or a lot of spare time.

Bridge_us101.jpg Panoramic picture of the bridge being contructed on Hwy 101 at Confusion Hill to bypass a slide-prone region. This is near the 101/Hwy 1 junction at Leggett. (2.7mb) CalTrans site describing the project.  Google Earth KMZ file download  Wikipedia 
The Elizabeth Jane Rosewarne  Memorial Bridge (north) is now open, as is the Mignon "Minnie" Stoddard Lilley Memorial Bridge (south). (June 2009)

Normal Sized Photos

Click on any image to enlarge it. The enlarged images are 1280 x 675. In the interest of saving space on my webserver, these have been reduced from camera resolution (Canon EOS-10D, 3072 x 2048 pixels, Nikon D40X, 3872 x 2592 pixels). Some have been processed in Photoshop or its equivalent and some are raw (unprocessed). The full-sized images are around 3-4mb, but the enlarged images are in the 200-400kb area. If you're on a dialup, it may take a minute or two to download. The enlarged images should display pretty large, and if there's one that you'd like to see at camera resolution, please send me the filename in an email.

Picture page, from October 2008 trip. These pictures mostly from the site. 
Picture page, from 2004, 2006 trips. A few from the site, more from the surrounding area. 

Main Site - Google Earth

Download the KMZ file from the link, then launch Google Earth and then load the KMZ file to see the site, with some features called out.
Google Earth KMZ file 

GPS Coordinates

GATR Site 38° 54' 32.56"N 123° 33' 39.16"W
Family Housing Area 38° 53' 37.97"N 123° 32' 28.91"W
Main Site 38° 53' 24.98"N 123° 33' 0.34"W

Main Site - Google Maps

View Larger Map

GATR Site - Google Maps

View Larger Map


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Pictures and text copyright © 2008 by Rick Chinn and W. C. Lake. All rights reserved. Permission granted for private non-commercial use.

Last modified 04/14/2014 22:08:54.