Feb, 13, 1987: I’m Ray Kania and I didn’t really have any choice at the time since I was already airborne over the lagoon. In fact I was already about to land on Illeginni Island with my partner, Bonificio Infante. We were police officers in the Marshall Islands.
The Island’s electricity plant was destroyed by two unarmed nuclear warheads fired from California, about 5,000 miles away. When my chopper landed on the north end of Illeginni Island, I saw a lot of business, even more when the sight seers and nice looking secretaries from headquarters flying back, after seeing the damage.
A crew of several workers were bringing in another power generator. And there were a few nice secretaries, etc, so they could also have a nice time, too. It was OK, since HQ said they were allowed to see it.
When the chopper touched down, work crews were busy bringing in equipment to repair. When I and Bonificio were walking south to my trailer on the south end, I saw a large 20 foot wide hole made from the ICBM. When we passed it, we saw the completely destroyed generator for the island. A crew of electricians were planning to hook up another generator, which would take up to 2 days to repair, working day and night, 24 hours a day. The electric crew would be underground, working below the road.
A captain greeted me when I stepped in our trailer and gave us a low down of what we already saw. It seemed like everything was going to turn out to be a nice evening. A little mist, seems like a peaceful night will be just what we needed.
However, when I entered my trailer for my first look into the trailer, I saw two large buckets of metal pieces next to my bed. They came from two damaged metal nuclear warheads from California. Those were items that the Russians were looking for. They also had video units that could be valuable to the Russians, among other items.
We also had night video to pick up info that we might find out valuable and other techniques they may have. Our mission was to take any video you can.
Illeginni is one of 93 islands and islets on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. This coral reef is some 2000 miles southwest of Hawaii, enclosing the lagoon. It’s also home to the United States Army at Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA), where strategic weapons systems are tested. Mostly it means having ICBMs launched from Vandenburg AFB, California at targets in the lagoon or Illeginni. These intercontinental ballistic missiles carry unarmed nuclear warheads (aka RVs, reentry vehicles) some loaded with depleted uranium in order to track them. Stars War testing was in its early stages (late 1980s) at Meck Island, midway up the eastern reef.
When I arrived at Kwaj in August of 86, the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse. The government, though, continued to pour resources into intelligence gathering operations at America’s premier test in the Central Pacific. Up to two surface ships (nicknamed Brand X) and six submarines gathered signal intel and occasionally sent Russian Spetsnaz units ashore. Our contract police of 100 officers and 20 Marshallese constables were stretched thin as we tried to keep the islands free of unauthorized personnel and electronic devices. (Russian Spetsnaz).
The chopper Lt. Jack Killgress and officer Bill Moss, met me on the road. Bill, a 58 year old retired army airborne, had the trim build as the day he signed up to serve in Korea. Both men suffered from the effects of years of hard living. Both had done tours in Vietnam.
It was at HQ that Lt. Killgress and Bill Moss were also sent from HQ to Illeginni Island for more forces and a briefing. Minutes later Bill Moss and Lt. Jack Killgress had dropped down from their chopper flight on the northern tip of the island. Killgress and Moss met us on the walk to our trailer for a briefing.
After a meeting, Officer Bonificio was located on the southern part of Illeginni. Lt. Killgress and Bill Moss set up in an abandoned concrete building over looking across at the damaged power plant. Bill Moss set up a video on top of the concrete building and put bags in order to have a study base. I was told to set up in the jungle facing the damaged electric power plant, about 10 feet south of the plant in a deep part of the jungle.
Minutes late we were sitting at a table in the center room with both doors and all the windows open but the air refused to circulate. Jack leaned against the wall.
‘We were sent here by the army on orders from Washington.” (By orders of President Ronald Reagan, Feb. 13, 1987)
Angel gave me a puzzled look. He was 64, retired with ten children and a ton of grandchildren back in Los Angeles. The most excitement he wanted was found at the end of a fishing line.
“Now, according to an intelligence report received earlier today, the Russians plan to send a security team ashore tonight. They’ll be armed with automatic weapons. We are to observe only. I have the night vision camera to catch them on film. We are to avoid any confrontation. Don’t initiate any firefights. Washington doesn’t want an international incident. Any question?”
“This security team. They’re spetsnaz, right?”
“You got it.”
“Well, where are the M-16s?”
I reminded him that the only weapons we had were our sidearms and that at 42 I was the youngest of the group and we just might be the slight underdogs if it starts to go downhill.
“I know, the colonel turned down my request.This is voluntary since you weren’t notified before coming up here.”
“No. I’m in. Just bringing up a few facts.”
Angel spoke quietly. “I’m too old to fight. I fought the Japanese. I will stay here tonight here tonight.”
Angel was well past his prime and no one expected the Russian to show up and we let it drop.
We had an American naval intelligence ship tracking Brand X. They intercepted the message from the Russian commander to HQ, translated it and sent it with a Flash priority to NSA HQ in Ft. Meade, Maryland. The White House (President Reagan) was notified, and, after meeting with his advisors, ordered this operation. Not exactly a brilliant idea.
While two electricians continued to work on the generator problem in a nearby manhole, the lieutenant and Bill set up the camera on top of a concrete structure which may have held classified documents at one time. A low block wall on three sides of the roof provided cover and concealment with a clear view of the northern half of Illeginni.
I set up an observation post on the hill at the south end of the island. I thought the moon would provide significant light when it appeared and watched the islands grow dark and finally disappear into the night.
The red light from the microwave tower on Legan Island provided the only reference point for me as I scanned the ocean. A light mist began to fall, and as I stared at the tower light I noticed a white light, about the same height, separate from the tower.
I checked my watch. 2024 hours.
“51. Go ahead.”
“Coming at you.”
I watched the light as it moved up the reef, then go out. I stared walking down the circular drive, trying to figure out a place for concealment in the trees near the crater behind the generator building. I made my way up the road, dehydrated and not optimistic about the outcome. Then I looked up and saw a light shining in the distance. The lights were back on on Illeginni I called up HQ and announced the lights are on. And the ship went on by.
“52-51.” That takes care of that. You can stay up with us if you want some OT.”
I couldn’t sleep anyway. The adrenalin flowed and all night the same question kept repeating in my head: What if?