Camp TUTO Sixty Year Anniversary

Posted by William Colgan on September 30, 2014
Applied Glaciology, Cold War Science, Glaciology History

Sixty years ago this month, in September 1954, the US Army Corps of Engineers completed its first summer of construction at Camp TUTO, Greenland. Camp TUTO was tucked against the Greenland ice sheet east of Thule Air Base. The gently sloping ice sheet adjacent to the camp, earmarked for vehicle access to the ice sheet interior, was named Thule Take-Off (or TUTO). Over the summer of 1954, some of the one hundred soldiers stationed at Camp TUTO built a gravel road up the first 1500 meters (4700 feet) of TUTO Ramp. Although that got them above the sometimes bare ice and slush of the lower elevation ice sheet melt zone, it still proved difficult to drive over the soft snow of the higher elevation ice sheet accumulation zone.

In official reports, the US Army Corps of Engineers tested “every off-road military vehicle (probably not excepting Hannibal’s elephants)” in the search for a suitable over-snow vehicle. The M29C Weasel, originally designed as an amphibious vehicle late in the Second World War, had proved disappointing in swampy terrain, but exceptionally nimble on the ice sheet. Although the Weasel was out of production even before construction started at Camp TUTO, it became a beloved backbone of US Army logistics on the Greenland ice sheet for almost two decades.

Constructing TUTO Ramp and adopting the Weasel opened up the interior of the Greenland ice sheet for a wide array of military engineering activities, including the construction of ice sheet runways and under-snow stations, as well as civilian science activities, including recovering the first “deep” ice core and wide-ranging snow and accumulation surveys. An auspicious anniversary of a ground-breaking project in applied glaciology!

(skimmed from my upcoming Cold War science project.)


The view up TUTO Ramp, from the ice margin at Camp TUTO, on to the Greenland ice sheet in 1954. (from Nate Galbreath at


Modified M29C Weasels in convoy (left) on the Greenland ice sheet in 1954. (from Nate Galbreath at

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14 Comments to Camp TUTO Sixty Year Anniversary

  • Im glad you contacted me. I’ve got to find somewhere to archive the website, I’m in my 80’s and not in the greatest of health. Maybe the Library of Congress. I had my own International orange
    weasel left with by a British
    expedition that had been on the cap for sometime with 6 weasels. They got back with only the one. I was a lowly 2nd louie, and one of our maintenance Captains got so jealous he slipped by and cannibalized enough parts that it no longer ran. I had been driving from the barracks to my warehouse. My capt. got me appointed a driver on the huge Le Tourneo {sp?} swamp buggy. We followed one of our sled swings 250 miles out on the cap to the radar base. A guy called me asking ,e of I was a driver on the Buggy. he was calling me from the LeT” museum and asked me to set up a time for a phone interview for the museum. Then he called me back and said he found a log Mr. LeT had made when he came up to Thule to check on how we were treating his buggy. My unit brought him out on the cap with our choppers. He also sent me a picture the old man took of the buggy with the 4 drivers, including me.

    Thanks for the memories,


  • I believe my father was stationed at the US Army base at/near Camp TUTO in the late 60’s. I was looking for some memorabilia, specifically a flag that may have been flown over the base at that time. Does anyone know if such an item exists or a picture that I can use to have a replica made? please email me if you can help. . Thank you!

  • hello –
    some years ago I saw some fotos in the net, showing
    the burning down of the buildings of Camp Tuto after the Camp had been abandoned.
    I canĀ“t find pictures any more. Who could help me????

  • I was with The US Army Polar Research & Development stationed at Tuto/Camp Century Sept 1961 – Jan 62 & Sept 1962 – Dec 1963. Worked on the Heavy Swing hauling cargo from Camp Tuto to Camp Century.

    • Hi Charles,
      I am writing a book on the LeTourneau Overland Trains and the Sno-Buggy. I would love to hear more about your time at Camp Tuto/Century. Would you be open to a conversation? My email is Thank you in advance.
      Mark Moore, Tacoma, WA

  • I was at Camp Tuto in th is summer of 1959, 1960 and Winter of 1960….I work with the food supply….every day I would to Thule to get Milk and Bread…..the Post Office for mail…..on Monday we would get 5 Tons of food for the week….

    • I was in Tuto six times between June 1957 and July 1959, going to and coming back from Camp Fistclench (Site II) on the Icecap, 220 miles to the east. I got my Greenland Driver’s License (good for all vehicles, apparently, through a driver’s test in a weasel at Tuto.

  • Bob Orantes–Did you know Henchcliffe during your stay at Tuto? I remember the first sgt. there was a terrific guy. He brought me books to stay out of trouble while, as a 19-year-old college student I was awaiting transport to the Icecap.

  • I spent 6 months in Camp Tuto in 1964 and another tour in 1965, both Summer tours! I worked in the Repairs and Utilities Section, under Captain Britton and Lt Comer! It was a ‘Grand Adventure’ for this California surfer boy! The ‘Tuto Crew’ were all wonderful people and we had a great time fighting the elements! Now look what’s happening to the Ice Cap!

    • Laurence, My name is Rich Haney. I was at Tuto and Century in summers of 64, 65, 66. Lt. Comer was out camp commander in 66 at Camp Century. I was a mechanic on the LGP’s and also generator mechanic at Tuto. My NCO’s were Kropelnicki, Hale, Wagner and Huggins.

  • Did anyone know my Dad, Garey Mead? He was stationed there I believe around 63/64. He was in radio communications. It was the best time of his life! He recently passed, and if anyone has any stories or pictures, I would be more than grateful to hear and see them. I am planning the difficult journey to Greenland to spread some of his ashes. Thank you, Heather (Mead) Essmeier

  • My father Hugh Sheeks worked at Site 1 – Fist Clench May – Sept., 1953, was in Ice Tunnel Jamesway. They built the 1st air strip on the ice cap at 10,000 ft. He was a diesel mechanic with the 1st arctic engineering task force – US Army. Often spoke of working on and running the Weasels. There was a Colonel (or Lt. Colonel) Clark that would always have my father accompany when in a weasel because of my father’s diesel expertise. When we were kids we would watch his slide show every year, not sure where the slides are now. However, it was quite an amazing operation and group. I am writing this from notes I took discussing with my father in 2012 a year before his passing. If anyone has any pics of that time frame or remember my father it would be great to hear from uou.

  • Mike Harpin here:
    I was stationed at Camp Tuto and Camp Century, Greenland out of Ft. Belvoir, VA. I arrived at Ft. Belvoir, VA in Sept. ’62 and my 1st 6 month plus trip was from December 25th through July ’63 at Camp Tuto. I was the Welder/Blacksmith having completed and qualified as such at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD. I made my 2nd trip 6 month trip in fall of ’63 to Camp Century and the last trip was in the spring of ’64 to dismantle the PM2A reactor that was to be shipped to Dugway Proving Grounds, UT. I remember the last name Weaver (don’t remember his first name) who was our “hutch” lead due to his rank E-5. Another person was Sargent “Poops” Diesel Mechanic and an Edward Peck. Would like to get in touch with anyone stationed in VA, Camps Tuto and Century during my time there and of course while I was there in Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD. Thank You for allowing me be “long winded”. MH

  • Laurence A. Lavers and Richard Haney – Do either of you remember me? I worked in the BIG tractor repair building outside the tunnels and in the small shop located at the maintenance tunnel. I was at both Tuto and Century and I due remember those NCO’s you mentioned Richard. If I remember correctly Wagner married Huggins sister; and if memory serves me correctly wasn’t Huggins RED HEADED? I’m on Facebook if you wish to see me – friend me and we can chat. I’m originally from RI, lived in CA for 40 plus years, and now reside in SC. Thanks and hope to hear from you both. MH

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