"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 319, February 4, 2001
American Navy Station NAA
The huge wireless station NAA in Arlington Virginia was one of the most celebrated wireless stations in the world, stated the American radio magazine Popular Communications back a few years ago. It was also a very old station; it was established before World War I under the original callsign NAV.
Station NAV-NAA was located at Fort Myers on the edge of Virginia, and the super tall towers were visible for many years overshadowing Arlington National Cemetery where Presidents William H. Taft and John F. Kennedy lie buried. Many different postcards from the era before and after World War I picture the huge antenna system at NAA from different angles.
NAA was in use as a massive spark gap transmitter communicating by Morse code with naval vessels at sea, with other American wireless stations at widely separated locations, and with similar stations in Europe. One of the major stations in Europe that was in frequent communication with NAA was station FL on the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
It was through the use of radio signals between FL in Paris and NAA near Washington, DC that the exact distance between Europe and the United States was measured with an accuracy of just a few yards. Station NAA was also famous for the accuracy of its time signals, which were broadcast at hourly intervals, and these time signals were used to establish the exact boundary between two states down under, South Australia and Western Australia.
During the early part of World War II, station NAA was also in voice communication with FL in Paris as one of the earliest regular forms of voice communication by wireless.
One of the massive towers at NAA Arlington stood 600 feet tall, and the two others were 450 feet high. The transmitter building was located in the middle of the triangle of towers, and several feed lines went up to the antennas suspended between the towers.
During World War II, the usage of station NAA as a naval communication station was phased out and taken over by NSS at Annapolis in Maryland. The antennas were dismantled, the callsign was taken over by a station in Maine that is used for communication with submarines, and the property is now in use by the Defense Communications Agency.
Thus all that is left of the huge NAA facility is a few postcards that depict the station from various angles. You can often see some of these cards at postcard exhibits, and you might want to buy one or two as a perpetual reminder of this famous and historic old wireless station.