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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 396, July 28, 2002

World War II Memorabilia - California on Shortwave

At the time when the Pacific War flared up to an international conflict in December of 1941, the United States government did not own nor operate any shortwave broadcasting stations on the west coast for coverage into Asia and the Pacific. However, by the end of hostilities a total of a dozen different transmitter locations had been pressed into broadcast usage during that dramatic four year period.

A spate of intensive research into the available radio publications of that era indicates that the programming of the Voice of America (VOA) and the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) was on the air during that dramatic time period from as many as 50 different shortwave transmitters at the dozen shortwave locations, all in California. This is the story.

The only shortwave broadcasting station in California at the time was KGEI, a General Electric facility that was launched as W6XBE in 1939 at the World's Fair on Treasure Island. After the fair was over, the station was renamed as KGEI and transferred to Belmont, a little south of San Francisco.

In 1942, this station, along with many others along the eastern seaboard and in the mid west, were all taken over by the government for use with OWI-VOA programming. In order to secure adequate coverage into Asia and the Pacific, the government contracted the usage of several utility transmitters that were already on the air with communication traffic.

Most notable of these station were the following: RCA station at Bolinas, AT&T station at Dixon, and Press Wireless station near Los Angeles.

The RCA station at Bolinas was a long established facility, and it had often been heard in pre-war days with the relay of radio programming to and from Hawaii and other countries on the Pacific rim. Over a period of time, several of the Bolinas transmitters were noted with OWI-VOA programming.

Early in 1942, an additional 50 kw RCA transmitter was installed at Bolinas and this was noted with radio broadcast programming under the callsign KRCA. A sister unit was installed three years later, and this was allocated the callsign KRCQ. QSL cards were issued to verify several of the Bolinas callsigns, including KES2, KES3, and KRCA.

The utility station at Dixon was owned and operated by the telephone company AT&T, and this was on the air with OWI-VOA programmmng under six different callsigns, four of which were verified with the now famous red, white and blue QSL cards. The callsigns on these cards are KMI, KWU, KWV and KWY.

The Press Wireless facility was located near Los Angeles, and two of its transmitters were in use with wartime prgramming, one of which was verified with a QSL card, station KJE8.

Additional shortwave transmitters in California also carried the VOA-AFRS programming, though little is known about these stations. The U.S. navy wireless station at San Francisco was noted with the relay of AFRS programming, as were also station KZH and KNY, the specific locations of which are unknown.

At the same time as contract radio coverage was taken out over these many utility transmitters, plans were laid for the quick installation of additional shortwave transmitters at already established locations specifically for broadcast coverage. The first of these new units was station KWID.

The 100 kw transmitter for KWID was co-located with a mediumwave station, KSFO, at Islais Creek, and the studios were installed in the Mark Hopkins Hotel on the seafront edge of San Francisco. A 50 kw sister transmitter, KWIX, was installed at this same location during the following year.

Another utility station was the Mackay facility located at Palo Alto, and two new transmitters at 50 kw were installed here under the callsigns KROJ and KROU. These units left the air forever after the end of the war.

In addition to these smaller units, two large shortwave stations were built specifically for trans-Pacific broadcast coverage, and these were the CBS station at Delano and the NBC facility at Dixon. The Delano station was inaugurated in 1944 as KCBA, and the Dixon station was inaugurated in 1945 as KNBA.

Interestingly, only one of these many historic radio stations is on the air today with broadcast programming, and that is the very large Voice of America station located in a country area near Delano, north east of Los Angeles in southern California.

During this hectic four year period when all of these many shortwave transmitters were in use with radio programming, they were heard far and wide throughout the Pacific rim, as well as in Europe and elsewhere. Many thousands of QSL cards were processed for these stations, and the AWR collection in Indianapolis contains a large album with nearly 50 of these neat red, white a blue QSL cards, each with its own distinctive callsign.

This Week in Radio History - First Music Broadcast from a Ship

The July issue of "Radio & Television News" for the year 1954 tells the story--a very unusual story, actually--of what they claim is the first broadcast of music from a ship. The item was written by Charles G. Cooke, who heard the broadcast. This is what he says:

Here is the story of what was probably the first instance of a music broadcast by wireless.It was in the spring of the year 1906, and all of the navy vessels in the American Atlantic Fleet had returned to their home base at Hampton Roads in Virginia at the end of winter maneuvers in the Caribbean.

Officer Cooke was the wireless operator on one of the navy vessels, and while he was on duty he heard a spark transmitter changing its pitch and playing the first line of the song, "Home Sweet Home". In those days, wireless apparatus was quite primitive, and Officer Cooke was listening in on what is described as an electrolytic detector.

Amazed and curious at this strange wireless broadcast of music, he made enquiry from all of the wireless operators in the American fleet. He finally discovered that the strange music was coming from the US Navy vessel, "USS Missouri".

The ingenious wireless operator on board the "Missouri" was using an 80 volt DC generator feeding a mercury turbine interrupter through a large spark coil. The operator had calibrated a sliding rheostat with the correct positions for the musical notations C D E F G A B C. All that was necessary to transmit the musical tones was to slide the rheostat to the desired notation and the spark transmitter changed its tone accordingly.

Officer Cooke concluded his unusual historic item with the comment that in those days, that is, back in the year 1906, there were no wireless traffic controls and virtually no interference, so it was possible to play around with wireless equipment, sometimes in quite novel ways.