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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan N277, June 15, 2014

Historic Note: The Voice of America on the Air in Australia! - 2

Plans were laid for the construction of a new international shortwave station in Australia, and site work commenced on a 600 acre property near Shepparton in Victoria in 1942. The new transmitter building was completed in 1943, though no transmitters were yet available for installation in this new facility.

And that's where we left this story two weeks back. In our program today, we present part 2 in this three part story under the title Historic Note: The Voice of America on the Air in Australia!

Through the intervention of General Douglas MacArthur, an American-made RCA 50 kW transmitter was made available for installation in Australia under their Lend-Lease program. Under this Lend-Lease agreement, Radio Australia, or Australia Calling as it was known back then, was required to broadcast American programming on behalf of the Voice of America, beamed to the Philippines.

The first official broadcast from the new 50 kW VLC Shepparton took place at 7:00 pm on Monday May 1, 1944, with the opening announcement: "This is General MacArthur's Headquarters Australia presenting the Philippine Hour." Callsign VLC2 on 9680 kHz carried this inaugural broadcast.

This new part-time relay for the programming of the Voice of America was identified on air as "The American Broadcasting Station in Australia", ABSIA, and the only location that was listed in radio magazines for this new shortwave station at that time was "Australia." The American magazine, Radio News for September 1944 showed the location for VLC as "somewhere in Australia."

This thinly veiled wartime cover-up for the location of transmitter VLC was hardly necessary any more as there was no longer an enemy threat to the Australian continent. Most international radio monitors in Australia knew where the transmitter was located, and it was inaccessible to a belligerent attack.

Interestingly, when listener monitoring reports in the Australian radio magazine, Radio & Hobbies, showed VLC with American programming, the location was listed simply as "Australia." However, when VLC was carrying Australian programming, the listing showed "Shepparton." From October (1944) onwards, this radio magazine dropped the security cover-up and showed all listings for VLC as "Shepparton."

The DX column in the competitive magazine Australasian Radio World was edited by Mr. L. J. Keast, who served the American OWI-VOA in their Sydney office from 1942-1945, and in his column he adopted the same dis-information procedure for the same time period. Mr. Keast issued at least one QSL verifying the American usage of VLC and this was sent to a listener in New Zealand, Owen Rogers of Onehunga.

An American cargo ship, the "Apache", was retrofitted in Sydney in 1944 with two Australian made transmitters at 10 kW each; the shortwave unit was manufactured by AWA Australia at its factory in suburban Sydney, and the mediumwave transmitter was manufactured by Transmissions Equipment Ltd. in its factory in suburban Melbourne.

Interestingly, the 10 kW mediumwave transmitter was tuned to 880 kHz and it was originally intended for installation at some unstated ABC location. It is possible that this unit was originally intended for installation as 6GN in Geraldton, Western Australia. A subsequent 2 kW transmitter tuned to a nearby channel 820 kHz was installed at Geraldton a few months later, early in the year 1945.

Traveling alone along the east coast of Australia, the Apache arrived on schedule at the edge of Humboldt Bay on the northern coast of New Guinea, on October 11 (1944). For the first time, test broadcasts were made from the two transmitters. Just before noon on the next day, Friday, October 13, 1944, power was applied successfully to the mediumwave transmitter. This unit was then powered down, and then power was successfully applied to the shortwave transmitter. Next in this sequence, power was applied to both transmitters simultaneously; and then there was a loud pop, and the system closed down automatically.

Following the quick replacement of a blown large capacitor, the system was again activated, and voice contact was made on shortwave with San Francisco. Radio silence was imposed at 3:00 pm on all ships in the flotilla that was bound for the Philippines that afternoon. The Apache went silent now for a whole week.

At 9:00 am on Friday, October 20, 1944, the "Apache" arrived at Leyte Gulf, and there was already action on shore. Radio silence officially ended at 10:00 am on that day, so the engineering staff began to implement the procedure to activate the shortwave transmitter half an hour earlier, at 9:30 am. Right on time at 10:00 am, the shortwave transmitter was used for voice communication with the USS "Nashville" in waters nearby, and with Hollandia in New Guinea, and with Honolulu in Hawaii.

Next day, the "Apache" began a series of radio broadcasts beamed to all of the Philippines under the title, "Voice of Freedom" on the shortwave channel, 7795 kHz. Soon afterwards, additional relay broadcasts from VOA, the Voice of America, and from AFRS, the Armed Forces Radio Service, were included in the daily program schedule.

Two days after arrival, on October 22, 1944, the "Apache" relayed to the world the famous "I Have Returned" speech from General MacArthur who was ashore at the time, speaking into a microphone in a mobile radio vehicle.

In addition, the shortwave transmitter was also in use for the forwarding of voice reports to the United States & Australia. Initially these reports were forwarded to Hollandia on the north coast of New Guinea, and then to the American army station WTO at Hemmant near Brisbane, though later these reports were beamed directly to KKR at the RCA receiver station near San Francisco in California.

New Year's Day 1945 was slated as the last day for onward forwarding of live news reports from the "Apache" to the United States, though on some additional occasions the ship was called on to carry press releases beamed back home. When Press Wireless in the Philippines was re-activated, news reports to the United States were carried from this land based station.

In March (1945), the broadcast of the American program, "Philippine Hour" was transferred from the "Australia Calling" transmitter VLC in Shepparton, Australia and it was then taken on relay by the shortwave transmitter WVLC on board the "Apache." The American callsign, WVLC, had a double application. WV callsigns indicated American army; and WVLC was reminiscent of the Australian shortwave callsign VLC, which had previously carried American programming at the request of General MacArthur.

In March 1945, the Apache moved to Manila Harbor, and a long wire antenna was suspended between two damaged buildings close to the waterfront. Station WVLC mediumwave, with 10 kW on 880 kHz, was on the air for just a few weeks with local programming and announcements for MetroManila. A crane accidentally tore down the long wire antenna, and that ended the only occasion in which the mediumwave transmitter was on the air with program broadcasting.

In the middle of October 1945, another American radio ship, the "Spindle Eye", arrived in Tokyo Bay and this ship took over the broadcast and communication services formerly carried by the "Apache", though the "Apache" was monitored in Australia & New Zealand occasionally after that date.