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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 350, September 9, 2001

Japanese Radio Stations in Vietnam

The first wireless transmitter destined for installation in Vietnam became a non-event. It was a French made 150 kw. spark transmitter which was orginally intended for installation in Saigon for communication with ships, and during the hours of darkness with station FL on the Eiffel Tower in Paris. However, at the time, World War I was brewing in Europe, and instead the transmitter was diverted for installation in Lyons, France, where it carried communication traffic under the callsign YN.

The first wireless stations in Vietnam were low powered units erected around 1920 by the French as communication facilities, and they were located in Hanoi, Saigon and several regional cities. The allocated callsigns for these units all began with the letter F. 

A powerful 500 kw. spark wireless station was erected in Saigon in 1925, with eight towers standing nearly 500 ft. tall. This unit was given the call HZA.

Soon afterwards, a 9 kw. valve transmitter was installed at this location under the callsign FZS. At times, this station also carried program broadcasting which was heard in Australia, New Zealand and occasionally in the United States.

Another shortwave station was erected at Chi-Hoa on the edge of Saigon by the French in 1930 specifically as a broadcasting station. Less than two years later, this station, "Radio Saigon," left the air due to financial constraints.

At the beginning of 1939, this facility was re-located to Phu-Tho and re-activated on April 1. Note the rather strange identification announcement in English from this station: "This is a special broadcast for the United States. We do not expect that many listeners in that country will hear our transmissions, but we would appreciate reports to be addressed to P.O. Box 412, Saigon."

This station was heard with identification announcements as "Radio Saigon" and "Philco Radio," and signal strength on several channels was reported in Australia as being excellent. The transmitter was a French unit rated then at 10 kw.. Another French transmitter at the same power rating was installed shortly afterwards.

Around this era there were also two other shortwave stations on the air in Saigon, and these identified as "Radio Boy Landry" and "Radio Volante." Hanoi was also on the air from its communication station as "Radio Hanoi."

It was at this stage that the political scene changed. In June 1940 over in Europe, France surrendered to the German army and Japan claimed French Indo-China, including the territory we now know as Vietnam. The Japanese army invaded Vietnam on September 22, 1940 and immediately took over the administration of the shortwave station "Radio Saigon."

Two years later, in October 1942, Radio Saigon began to include POW news in its broadcasts, and these reports were closely followed by government authorities in Melbourne Australia, and also by the legendary Arthur Cushen in New Zealand. Arthur noted that "Radio Saigon" was heard throughout this period of two and a half years with generally a good signal on 11770 kHz.

In addition to their own locally produced programming, "Radio Saigon" also carried a relay from "Radio Tokio," taken off air shortwave. On one occasion, "Radio Saigon" was heard calling Tokyo and asking for hints on how to produce broadcasts directed to Australia.

On March 10, 1945, Japanese personnel themselves took over the on-air activities of "Radio Saigon," and they dropped POW broadcasts at the end of the following month. Some six months later, the Japanese administration installed Viet Minh personnel in Radio Saigon, who hastily abandoned the station when the British army arrived shortly afterwards.

After the declaration of peace in the Pacific and Asia, "Radio Saigon" again resumed its role as a French radio station on September 26, 1945. However, a few months later, on April 8 in the following year, there was a massive explosion at the ammunition dump just opposite the studios of "Radio Saigon" and the facility was completely destroyed. Studio operations were transferred to a private house, though the transmitter installation out of town was not affected.

The whole facility was upgraded soon afterwards, and it was on the air shortwave as "Radio Saigon" and "Radio France Asie." The first issue of the World Radio Handbook in 1947 informs us that the station was on the air immediately after the war with two shortwave transmitters at 12 kw., the same two units that were in use before the Pacific-Asia War.

Late one night soon after the end of the war, in my childhood home in a country area of South Australia, I happened to hear Radio Saigon on mediumwave, the first DX report of this revived station. This highly prized QSL-card was my first from Southeast Asia.