Tropical paradise meets Cold War technology in this loose but entertaining collection of good-humored anecdotes and memories.
Jacobson recounts, in no particular order, the special events and daily routines that made up life on Kwajalein, one of the largest atolls in the Marshall Islands and where Jacobson spent three tours as an engineer working at a U.S. missile test-range facility from 1964 through 1972. Due to the extreme geographic isolation—the closest population center of any real size was Guam, over 1,300 miles away—and the financial advantages of working there, Kwajalein was the center of a tightknit but often eccentric community. Many of Jacobson’s stories revolve around the inherent conflict between the heavy U.S. military presence and the more maverick community of scientists and engineers. As an engineer, Jacobson’s sympathies are clear, but his humor and affection for his time there prevent his demonizing any particular group. The book doesn’t follow a linear progression; instead, it skips around within Jacobson’s tours. Still, a lucid impression emerges of the culture of the U.S. defense apparatus. Using unaffected, often witty prose, Jacobson easily brings his tales to life, whether he’s describing his adventures diving as a nearsighted novice who fails to see the sharks around him or a test radio call to check a transmitter repair that inadvertently puts the military on alert status. As a bonus, Jacobson includes numerous photos and hand-drawn illustrations. Life on Kwajalein might not have been paradise, but as Jacobson makes apparent, it was definitely amusing.
A witty, cleareyed, and comprehensive memoir about life and work on the Marshall Islands.