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Ground Observer Corps (GOC) Tower - Mahoningtown PA

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The Ground Observer Corps (GOC) was a Cold War civil defense program established by the U.S. Air Force in early 1950. It was based on a similar World War II program in which civilian observers scanned the skies with binoculars along our coastlines and reported any aircraft sightings to the military authorities. During the early 1950’s a series of GOC posts were established in Mahoningtown, New Wilmington, Bessemer, Harlansburg, and Ellwood City. A crude GOC tower was erected in Mahoningtown at the end of West Madison Avenue in late 1952, but it was replaced with a new tower (shown above) in December 1954. The new tower, designed by the W. G. Eckles Company, cost $3,500 total of which the city paid a share of $978.48. The volunteers at this post were supervised by Mrs. Myrtle Blasdell of #606 West Madison Avenue. (2014) (Photo courtesy of Judie Stodolak) Full Size

The U.S. Air Force program known as the Ground Observer Corps (GOC), established in early 1950, soon evolved into Operation SKYWATCH. Eventually as many as 16,000 posts were established across the country, most of which were manned 24 hours a day by civilian volunteers. The posts reported any airborne sightings to regional command posts manned by U.S. Air Force personnel. The volunteer program was ended in late January 1959 with the advent of a modern air defense system under NORAD.

During World War II a small observation tower, manned by volunteers led by Lee Hanna, was utilized on West Clayton Street. That tower was abandoned by late 1944. Beginning in July 1952 a GOC observation post was established in the roof of Jameson Hospital. By late 1952 it was replaced with a crude GOC tower, donated by the Penn Power Company, located at the end of West Madison Avenue in Mahoningtown. It was replaced with a new GOC tower (shown above) directly across the street in December 1954. The older tower was relocated to the town of Bruin in Butler County in April 1955. The former GOC tower on West Madison Avenue is still standing and now situated on private property. (Aug 2015) Full Size

This photo reveals the exact location of the old GOC Tower in Mahoningtown. (c2014)


  1. Spent a lot of time in the tower, scheduled and unscheduled, the early 1950’s.

  2. Hi I am doing research in the Ground Observer Corps in the VA/MD/DC/PA area. Could you tell me if this tower was a part of the World War 2 system (1942-1944) or built as part of the Cold War Sky Watch system

  3. (EDITOR’S NOTE) Chuck, The GOC tower still standing on West Madison Avenue in Mahoningtown was dedicated in December 1954 and was part of the Cold War SKYWATCH program. It replaced an earlier tower across the street that was established in late 1952 or early 1953. There was a WW2-era tower as well and it was located at the end of West Clayton Street Street. I will be updating and expanding the captions soon. Hope this helps. Jeff

  4. Thanks for the great website!
    As a teenager in the 1950s I spent one summer with the GOC standing watch in Mahoningtown. I wrote an article ( along with photos) about that summer and how the GOC worked for my Flying Club’s Newsletter and will send you a PDF of it that you can place in this section.

  5. I remember working at the original GOC shed before it was moved to the site next to the Mahoning River. it must have been around 1952. I would accompany my grandmother who had volunteered for duty. It was only two or three lots away from our home. As I recall the paperwork included recording number of aircraft engines, flight direction, etc. Info would be called in to someone I think in Pittsburgh. There were some interesting Soviet aircraft indentifcation profiles that we could use. Retrospectively, it was a quaint idea that we could monitor military aircraft that deep in the US that even the technology of those days would not have been able to locate way before Mahoningtown. But in 1952 I suppose it made sense. About 15 years later I would be doing that job for real in Germany. Thanks for the memories.


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