"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 N305, December 28, 2014
Focus on Asia: The Philippine Radio Story-8: Press Wireless Returns to the Air
As the opening feature in our program today, we make a return visit to the Philippines. This is the final feature in our year long series under the title Focus on Asia. Next year, we are planning to present a year long series of topics under the new title, Focus on the South Pacific. Even so from time to time, we will still present interesting topics regarding the fascinating historic backgrounds of other radio stations, large and small, in other parts of the world.
On this occasion, we pick up the Philippine story towards the end of the Pacific War at the time when American forces made a return visit to the Philippines. That was towards the end of the climactic year 1944.
But first though, let's go back to the year 1929, and that was when the American news and radio organization, Press Wireless, Inc., PWI, was formed. At that time, a powerful group of news organizations in the United States established PWI in an endeavor to improve the flow of news information into and out of the United States.
At the time, radio was quite young, and the concept of international broadcasting on shortwave was just beginning. Thus it was that PWI began to establish their own network of communication stations around the world; in some countries they installed their own shortwave communication stations and in others they utilized the facilities of already established stations. PWI also began to manufacture their own transmitters and associated electronic equipment.
The first communication station established by PWI was licensed under the callsign WJK and it was established at Needham in suburban Boston in 1930. This station at this era operated as a longwave station and it communicated with a longwave station in Halifax, Nova Scotia that was receiving a news flow from a longwave Post Office station in England.
It is probable that the London end of this news link wireless network was at Rugby, with either of the two longwave transmitters, GBT or GBY. It is known that the Halifax station was operated by the American Publisher's Committee and it was installed at the British cable station at St. Margaret's Bay. An earlier temporary station had been located at Dartmouth, across the bay from Halifax.
Station WJK, with its receiving and transmitting facilities, circumvented the expensive landline costs from Nova Scotia into the United States, and it also overcame the usual delay in transmission over the landline system. In addition, there were occasions when longwave WJK was able to communicate directly with London, thus making the relay of news messages via Halifax unnecessary.
Then in 1932, PWI began construction of their massive shortwave station located near Hicksville on Long Island together with their nearby receiver station at Long Neck. At the height of its activity, PWI Hicksville was operating a total of 28 shortwave transmitters ranging in power from 1/2 kW up to 100 kW, together with a bevy of antenna systems beamed on Europe and Latin America.
It would appear that the lone station WJK at Needham in Massachusetts was a temporary unit that closed when Hicksville became fully operational. Hicksville itself was closed in 1957 when another more modern station at Centereach was inaugurated.
The first PWI wireless factory was opened in the late 1930s at West Newton in Massachusetts. Then, in 1941 a new and additional factory was opened at Hicksville in association with their shortwave communication station. During the war years, their famous 40 kW PWI shortwave transmitter was manufactured in quantity and these units were installed at many different locations in many different countries around the world.
Press Wireless entered the Philippines in 1933; they opened an office in downtown Manila and they installed a shortwave station on the edge of Manila. Two years later, PWI Manila was amalgamated with two other international news agencies and the combined organization was registered as Globe-Mackay Cable & Radio with offices and a studio building in Manila.
The entire facility in the Philippines was shut down in late December 1941 as Japanese forces began closing in on Manila. American forces deliberately destroyed all of these press radio facilities in Manila on December 26, 29 and 30.
Three years later, Press Wireless returned to the Philippines with a contingent of personnel and equipment at the time of the MacArthur return invasion. Two PWI sub-units, identified as PZ & PY, had been formed at Hollandia on the north coast of the island of New Guinea and they were shipped into the Philippines as part of the massive invasion fleet.
The PZ party installed a radio communication facility at what was described at the time as a secret location, though subsequently it is known that it was located at Tacloban on the island of Leyte. The studio for PWI station PZ was installed in a warehouse just opposite the MacArthur headquarters, and the transmitters were installed in a nearby sandbagged bunker, together with MacArthur's military transmitters.
The PWI shortwave transmitter PZ with 400 watts was voice capable, though usually it was on the air with high speed Morse Code transmissions via a Boehme speed sender. Callsigns in use at PWI Tacloban ran from PZ1 up to PZ9, according to frequency.
The inaugural news transmission from PWI PZ took place on November 14, 1944 and it was received by the new PWI shortwave station on the edge of Los Angeles in California. Station PZ also acted as an intermediate relay for the transfer of news reports in Morse Code from the auxiliary ship FP47 for reception in Los Angeles.
The PWI shortwave station at Tacloban was not a mobile station installed in a group of army trucks, though it could be removed and re-installed at another location quite speedily. On February 28 of the following year (1945) PWI PZ in Tacloban was closed down, and the equipment was then transferred to Manila; and that's where we pick up this story on the next occasion.