Misconceptions and Fabrications of John Cardoulis
John Cardoulis was one of several people who used the 50th anniversary of the American presence in Newfoundland as an opportunity to publish books. He wrote A Friendly Invasion and A Friendly Invasion II: A Personal Touch and, in both books, he presented his version of what had occurred over the previous half century. In those books, he had chapters dedicated to the various places in Newfoundland where the U.S. military had bases, radar installations, and communications sites. It was because Cardoulis had been a fireman at Fort Pepperrell U.S. Army Base in St. John's that most people mistakenly assumed that everything in his books was factual. As for the sections pertaining to Argentia in both books, there were numerous errors that gave readers false impressions about important aspects of Argentia's History.
Since it would be extremely lengthy to address every piece of misinformation contained in Cardoulis' books, we will present a few of the most blatant. On page 32 of A Friendly Invasion, Cardoulis fueled the misguided beliefs of several former Argentia residents by printing the following aerial photograph with a totally false italicized caption:
Submarine net, Little Placentia Harbour. This photo shows the area where President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill met and shared views on the world situation. The Atlantic Conference took place at moorings just off Virgin Point and between Argentia and the Issacs [sic].
The irregular-shaped piece of land at the 12-o'clock position above Isaac's Point is Point Roche. The section of land to the left of Point Roche, at the 11-o'clock position, is Virgin Point. In August 1941, that stretch of water, or mouth of the inner harbour, had not been dredged and the HMS Prince of Wales could not have passed through. The site of the Atlantic Meeting was Argentia outer harbour, which was actually the mouth of Ship Harbour. That area was almost a mile to the right of the anti-submarine/torpedo net, toward the 5-o'clock position and not shown in the photograph. That picture was an official U.S. Navy photograph and Cardoulis did not include an appropriate credit for it. His use of “the Issacs” in the photo caption was a misspelling in reference to the two conical hills near Fox Harbour called The Isaacs.
The harbour in the photograph is Argentia harbour, not “Little Placentia Harbour.” However, the Americans and many Canadian-produced marine maps referred to it as such.
This photo of the map, which was produced by the U.S. Coast Guard in October 1941 to show the positions of the two primary vessels at the Atlantic Meeting, leave little doubt as to where the famous meeting took place. It is obvious that the U.S. Coast Guard who drew up the map used information from the pre-1901 era, because he/she identified Argentia inner harbour as “Little Placentia Harbour.” Had he seen this map, John Cardoulis would not have made the false claim that he did in his book. From the archives of former U.S. Naval Station, Argentia.
In the first paragraph on page 45 of A Friendly Invasion II: A Personal Touch, Cardoulis put a new twist on the well-documented history of Newfoundland's floating x-ray clinic, the MV Christmas Seal by writing “The former M.V. Christmas Seal was originally the PT 107 crash rescue boat operating out of Argentia.” He did not include a photo of the “PT 107” in A Friendly Invasion II: A Personal Touch. However, he included a photo of another vessel with the caption, “The P-162 Crash Rescue Boat crew operating on Gander Lake, 1942. Use of that photo was rather strange, since it had nothing to do with the subject contained in the text below it.
His statement in A Friendly Invasion II: A Personal Touch was completely different from the one he made in A Friendly Invasion. In the second paragraph on page 156 of A Friendly Invasion, he wrote, “…the PT-107 (This was the sister boat to the PT-105 commanded by the late US President, John F. Kennedy, during the war.).” On the top of page 157 of A Friendly Invasion, he published the following photograph and caption:
Top left: The PT-107 coming into Argentia after a short voyage in winter seas. The PT-107 was assigned to Argentia Naval Station in 1942, and was responsible for the rescue of many aircraft crew members who crashed in the vicinity of Argentia.
In A Friendly Invasion, Cardoulis referred to the PT boat commanded by John Kennedy as the “PT-105,” but, in A Friendly Invasion II: A Personal Touch, he correctly referred to it as the “PT-109.”
Crash boats — also referred to as crash rescue boats — were not like those of the PT (Patrol-Torpedo) class of boats. They were much larger vessels. They were Fairmile (B class) Motor Launches used as emergency response vessels for air-sea rescue operations. MV Christmas Seal was formerly the USCB Shearwater, a crash boat assigned to U.S. Naval Air Station, Argentia. The Shearwater was not sold to the Newfoundland government for $1, as stated by Cardoulis on page 156 of Friendly Invasion.
USCB Shearwater was the largest of the fleet of crash boats that operated out of U.S. Naval Air Station, Argentia. The smaller crash boats measured anywhere from 63 to 75 feet and displaced 54 to 64 tons. They were classed as Type PTC and Type RPC vessels. They did not have the same stability that the larger Fairmile vessels had in the open ocean, especially when it was rough. Actually, at least 12 such boats were built by Electric Launch (Elco) at Bayonne, New Jersey for the British and turned over to them in 1941. While at least 12 of those were built for Britain, not all of them ended up in England. They were used by Allied forces in various places. Three of them ended up at U.S. Naval Operating Base, Argentia because the British Royal Navy and Air Force had support bases within the U.S. military facilities there. Although their designations at the time of construction could not be determined through available records, they were referred to as PTC-1, PTC-2, and PTC-3 in Argentia.
The boathouse at Argentia, as seen in June 1945. The USCB Shearwater is in the right berth. The smaller boat in the left berth was the PTC-1. From the archives of former U.S. Naval Station, Argentia.
The MV Christmas Seal, as seen leaving Port de Grave on its last trip as a floating x-ray clinic in October 1970. Courtesy of the Lung Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Newfoundland government had no part in procuring the Shearwater; negotiations for the vessel were between the Newfoundland Tuberculosis Association and the U.S. Navy only. The U.S. Navy sold the USCB Shearwater to the Newfoundland TB Association for $5,000 on Wednesday, September 10, 1947. It was then converted into a floating x-ray clinic and re-named MV Christmas Seal.
As for the PT-107, it was never in Argentia. Actually, that vessel was in existence for only a couple of years … from 1942 to 1944. The PT-107 was an 80-foot ELCO type motor torpedo boat was assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 5 in the early part of July 1942. Following training and defensive duty in the Panama Canal Zone area, it was transferred to the Solomon Islands for front-line service in the war against Japan . In July 1943, Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 5 moved to the new base at Rendova in the Central Solomons. For the remainder of 1943 and part of 1944, the PT-107 took part in operations around the Central and Northern Solomons and the Bismarcks. On Sunday, June 18, 1944, after participating in a patrol off Japanese-held New Ireland, the PT-107 was destroyed in an accidental gasoline fire at Hamburg Bay, Emirau Island.
The primary construction period was a major epoch in Argentia's American military history. Unfortunately, a substantial amount of what has been told and written about it is not factual. The incorrect information about the construction period that has been in circulation for a number of years is based on pure conjecture … perpetuated by people who surmised, rather than actually know, what was going on in Argentia.
Between 1991 and 1994 — after the announcement that the United States would be closing its facility in Argentia — numerous articles commemorating Argentia's history appeared in The Evening Telegram, The Newfoundland Herald, and The Express. Much of the information in those articles was incorrect because it was based on the same erroneous information that was published in the four books previously mentioned.
At the top of page 51 in A Friendly Invasion II; A Personal Touch, Cardoulis published the following photograph and caption that is very misleading for anyone who has little or no knowledge about Argentia.
Dennis O'Reilly's store in Nfld. Railway warehouse, after he was forced to move from Argentia in 1941. Note his truck, in the left foreground, with his name on it.
The preceding caption is not only deceptive, it is a complete fabrication. First of all, there were no trucks in Argentia prior to the first one that was brought there by the Americans in December 1940. The only vehicles in Argentia prior to that time were cars owned by Father Adrian Dee, Philip (Long Phil) O'Reilly, Anthony Smith, Frank Cleary, Denis O'Reilly, and Joachim Murray.
Argentia historian and researcher Edward Lake met with Cardoulis and asked where he got the photograph and the information he used in the caption. Cardoulis told him that he got the photo from Patrick (Paddy) O'Reilly of Freshwater. He stated, 'I had a nice long chat with Paddy when I was writing my book, and he was a great help. He gave me that picture and identified the building and truck for me. He was Dennis O'Reilly's son, you know, so he should know all about it.'
The dump truck in the photograph arrived in Argentia on Wednesday, December 18, 1940 ... aboard the freighter SS Ascot. It was part of the first of many cargos of building materials and heavy equipment to arrive from the United States. It was the first truck to ever travel on the roads in Argentia. Initially, American civilian John (Tiny) Noonan drove that dump truck in Argentia, before he started operating bulldozers and cranes. As of the second week of January 1941, Richard (Dick) Phippard of Southeast, Placentia became the driver of that truck.
The U.S. Navy kept impeccable records of construction at Argentia in written, photographic, and moving film form. Each and every negative was imprinted with “official historical data.” In reality, the preceding photo was a copy of an official U.S. Navy photograph, which had the original identification plate cut off. The following photo is a copy from the original negative and the identification label has not been cut away:
The U.S. Navy's “official” caption at the bottom of the photograph is self explanatory. Here is the history behind that photo.
As can be seen in photo, the dump on the truck has a section extending over the cab. Such extensions, which were made of reinforced steel, were designed for the safety of the driver, in case a rock should fall from the shovel of an excavator when loading the truck. There is an identification plate attached to the front of that extension and, although it cannot be seen in this smaller version, there are two lines of writing on it. The two-line inscription reads: “George A. Fuller Merritt-Chapman & Scott,” which was the name of the primary American civilian construction company that built the bases at Argentia and Quonset Point, Rhode Island.
The 1941 Chevrolet station wagon — commonly called a “Woody" because of its real wood-paneled sides — was known as the “Paymaster Car.” Paymaster Jack Stanson of Lowe, Minnesota used that vehicle when he delivered pay cheques to foremen at the various construction sites. Stanson was at the wheel when the photo was taken, but the identity of the man cleaning the passenger-side of the windshield is not known.
The building was not the “Nfld. Railway warehouse.” It was the herring factory that was owned and operated by North American Fisheries Ltd. Along the south wall of the building, there is a framework containing eight stalls. Water and sewage pipes were stacked in those stalls, according to size and intended use. The large wooden box in the right corner of the photograph was used to store the various kinds of fittings that were used when connecting the 12-foot lengths of pipe.
As can be seen on the ID plate, that photograph was taken on Wednesday, March 12, 1941. In the center of the photograph, just above the roof of the herring factory, the top of another building can be seen. That is the dormer section on the roof of Argentia Cottage Hospital, which was located on a higher section of land, several hundred yards to the north of the herring factory.
On page 24 of A Friendly Invasion, Cardoulis published the following photograph and italicized caption:
Taken around 1941, this photo shows some of the dwellings at Argentia. Part of the Newfoundland Railway wharf can be seen, centre left. The large wooden structures to the right are temporary barrack-type buildings for civilian and military personnel.
The area in the photograph is Sandy Cove and, as anyone who is familiar with Argentia can tell you, the photo was printed backwards. When questioned as to why by Edward Lake, Cardoulis — rather than admit a mistake had been made — absurdly replied, 'That's because it was the way they printed pictures back then. They made them backwards so the place couldn't be identified if the Germans got hold of them.'
Only the official U.S. Navy photographer was allowed to take photographs in Argentia during the war years. Most were placed in flies as official records. Those that were passed for distribution and publication were never printed backwards. If photos were of a “sensitive nature,” they were neither declassified nor released.
The following photo is the original of the previous one; it is printed in the correct orientation and the caption bears more specific information.
Sandy Cove, as seen in May 1941. The seaplane tender USS Albemarle (AV-5) is in the center of the harbour and Argentia Cottage Hospital is on Black Point, just left of the Albemarle. The four two-story houses in foreground belonged to members of the Healey family … Richard (Dick), John (Jack), Ellen, and James (Jim). That area was exempt from expropriation because it was part of the railway system that remained in Argentia. Those houses were not demolished until the railway ceased to exist in 1984. The small peaked-roof building in the right lower foreground was the morgue. It was located on vacant property leased from Margaret Davis, owner of the Davis Hotel, by the Commission of Government. It was built in an area to itself so residents could avoid any odors if a body had to be placed there in warm weather. The large buildings to the left — on Murphy's Hill — were part of the temporary quarters that George A. Fuller Merritt-Chapman & Scott built to house 10,000 construction workers. The Isaacs — two prominent hills nicknamed “Mae Wests” by American personnel — are at the center-left of the photo. The vessel closest to the house at the lower-center of the photo was the USS Richard Peck. From the archives of former U.S. Naval Station, Argentia.
The version that appeared in A Friendly Invasion was obviously doctored because a section of the left side — right side in original photo — was cut away and the clouds in the sky were altered. The photograph was taken on a very dull and overcast day with dense cloud cover.
On the top of page 47 in A Friendly Invasion II; A Personal Touch, Cardoulis published the same photo again, but in the correct orientation. He had been inundated with complaints about the inverted version that appeared in his first book. However, he still failed to get the caption right. Instead of saying the houses in the photo were the only ones in Argentia exempted from expropriation, he wrote, “Some of the many houses that had to be destroyed to make way for the construction of the giant U.S. Naval Base at Argentia.”
It was easy to identify some of the sources for much to Cardoulis' misinformation. Most notable was that of Brother Francis Foran. Pages 46, 47,48, 49, and half of page 50 consisted of a long quote of all the information Brother Foran had given him … the same misinformation he had been passing around for several years. Refer to Misconceptions and Fabrications of Brother Francis Foran for more details.
On page 204 of A Friendly Invasion, John Cardoulis claimed that on January 28, 1941 the “first construction work began at Argentia.” That was a fabrication. By Tuesday, January 28, there were 47 different projects well under way, the most notable of which was George A. Fuller, Merritt-Chapman & Scott's huge construction camp. By the last week of January, the majority of construction equipment had already been delivered to Argentia and was in operation.
Construction work first started on Sunday, December 29, 1940. The residents were shocked because the newcomers were “working on the Lord's Day” … an act that was contrary to the belief of the predominantly Roman Catholic community.
Probably the most blatant false claim — consisting of text and a photograph — was published on page 60 of A Friendly Invasion II: A Personal Touch. The photo and italicized caption appeared as:
Raising the first U.S. Flag in Newfoundland at Argentia on February 13, 1941.
First of all, the photograph was printed backwards. Secondly, the photo was not taken at the raising of the first U.S. flag in Newfoundland. John Cardoulis got that photo from the same erroneous source that the group of students who produced the error-riddled booklet Argentia for the Placentia Area Historical Society in 1979 had obtained it. Refer to Misconceptions and Fabrications of Local Sources and Misconceptions and Fabrications of Ron Young of Downhome Inc. for more specific details.
John Cardoulis made one correct statement when he wrote the American flag was first raised over Newfoundland soil at Argentia on February 13, 1941. That is where any similarity to the facts ended. While that historic event was well documented, there is no photographic record of it.
Below is the original correctly-orientated version of the photograph that appeared inverted in A Friendly Invasion II: A Personal Touch. The event in the photo was the first flag-raising ceremony over Fort McAndrew U.S. Army Base in Argentia, and it occurred at exactly 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 31, 1941.
The first American flag-raising ceremony at Fort McAndrew U.S. Army Base in August 1941. The house in the center of the photo belonged to Joseph (Joe) and Anne (Annie) Sampson of Marquise, at the foot of the harbour. From the archives of former U.S. Naval Station, Argentia.