Post War

Artifact PW2-27: A Large Birthday Gift

Provided By Mr. Craig McPhee

Totem Plaque Copy

With USAFE’s arrival in 1973, Ramstein Air Base entered a period of expansion. The 316th AD and 86th TFW brought the average population of Americans to 110,000; outnumbering the German population in the nearby City of Kaiserslautern. As part of its NATO commitments, Canada also had Air Force personnel and their dependents stationed at Ramstein.

If you have ever had problems finding the ideal birthday gift, imagine the problem facing Canadian personnel stationed at Ramstein on the occasion of the US 200th anniversary in 1976. The answer – carve a Totem Pole and present the 30 foot symbol of Canada/US friendship to the American community in Bicentennial Square as s part of their July 4th celebration.

This unique gift was the brainchild of WO Craig McPhee, an Intelligence Operator at 4 Allied Tactical Air force HQ at Ramstein. Craig was the main driving force behind the project. Under the code name operation ‘Tee Pee’ the project began in February of 1976 with the selection of a suitable tree. While most of the work was done by a local woodcarver, everyone in the Canadian community was encouraged to ‘add their Chip to the log’ with local Scout and Guide groups becoming enthusiastic carvers as did many Canadian military personnel and families.

The Pole was to be placed in the forefront of a 13 tree island on the base Bicentennial Square. These trees represented the original 13 states and were to become part of the project to plant a tree for all 50 states. The finished pole weighed over 700 kg and stood 8 m high.

In recognition of Craig’s leading role in the project he was presented with a miniature copy of the Totem Pole and a plaque from the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing.

Totem Plaque Copy
Miniature Totem Pole and Plaque

After retirement from the Air Force, Craig enjoyed a long and successful career in sales. On his ‘final’ retirement, Craig became the founding father of ‘Wreaths across Canada’ an organization dedicated to remembering and honoring Veterans who now rest in cemeteries across Canada by the annual placing of wreaths.

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