Anyone who has visited Nome has seen the iconic White Alice antennas atop Anvil mountain. The White Alice Communication System (WACS) once connected with the remote Air Force sites, the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line and also served to enhance and expand telephone service in Alaska. The primary use of the system was as an early warning and communication network to guard against potential Russian nuclear or aerial attacks.
Technically speaking, the four billboard-like structures at the Nome site are “parabolic tropospheric scatter antennas.” Construction of the site started during the Cold War in 1955 and the system was commissioned in 1958, having been built for the U.S. Airforce by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and civilian employees. In 1970 the Air Force transferred the sites to RCA Alascom and they were used for civilian communication until the late 1970s. Satellites now perform the security and communications duties that the WACS and DEW line facilities once fulfilled.
Beginning in the 1990’s a debate occurred in Nome concerning whether the antennas should be removed or be left standing. The area immediately surrounding the antennas contained various contaminates, and the sheathing on the back of the structures contained lead paint and asbestos. Mitigation and cleanup occurred over many years and the antennas remain atop Anvil Mountain to this day. When low fog obscures the coastline and low-lying land near Nome, the White Alice site still serves as a navigation aid for mariners.