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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 502, August 15, 2004

The Story of Radio Broadcasting on Enewetak

The island cluster that is known as Eniwetok, or Enewetak, is a large isolated coral atoll in the north western corner of the Marshall Islands in the Central Pacific.  Enewetak is made up of 40 small, low sandy islands with a total area of a little more than two square miles.  The very large lagoon in the middle of all of these small islands covers almost 400 square miles.  The island of Enewetak itself is just two miles long and a quarter mile wide.

In the early era of European exploration, Enewetak was technically a Spanish territory, as one of the Marshall Islands.  However, Enewetak was unknown to Europeans until the English merchant ship, "Walpole" visited the island in 1794 and named it "Brown's Range." 

In 1885, Germany assumed control of the Marshalls including Enewetak; and in 1914 it was captured by the Japanese and re-named "Brown's Island."  The League of Nations mandated this island to Japan in 1920.

Enewetak was captured by the Americans on February 20, 1944, and it was used twelve years later for the world's first test of the awesome hydrogen bomb.  In 1977, the island was declared to be free from radio-active contamination.

The story of radio broadcasting on the island of Enewetak goes back to the year 1944 at the time when American forces were flooding into the Pacific.  On July 15 of that year, station WXLE was launched with 50 watts on 1330 kHz.  This new station was listed as the second AFRS station in the Pacific, with WVUQ on Guadalcanal as the first.  Initially, station WXLE was a member of the Jungle Network and subsequently it was listed with the Pacific Ocean Network.

When this station was first heard in Australia and New Zealand, the on air announcements identified the station as AFRS1, American Forces Radio Service Station 1.  A few weeks later, the on air announcements identified the station as AES, American Expeditionary Station, and soon again, the regular callsign was noted, WXLE.

One report states that station WXLE was transferred to Oro Bay in the Philippines in May 1945.  However, it should be stated that Oro Bay is in New Guinea, not the Philippines.  Station lists at that era continue to show the station on Enewetak with 50 watts on 1320 kHz.  Another report states that WXLE on Enewetak was closed on March 4, 1947.

Seven years later, station WXLE on Enewetak was reactivated, apparently using the old equipment, and shortly afterwards the station was rebuilt.  It was closed again in 1969 and the entire facility was transferred to Canton Island, a distance of some 3,000 miles.  The station went on the air at its new location under the old callsign, and thus on Canton, there have been two callsigns in use, both WXLE and WXLF.

A lot of other equipment on Enewetak Island was also transferred to Canton island, including the vehicle that leads aircraft along the tarmac.  Pilots at that era report seeing the sign on the back of the truck ahead of the airplanewhich read, "Welcome to Enewetak," even though they had just landed on Canton.  Enewetak is 3,000 miles away.

The only known QSL from station WXLE while it was located on Enewetak before it moved to Canton was issued to a listener in New Zealand.  At the time, the station was on the air with 250 watts on 1385 kHz.  The QSL letter is best described as a duplicated form letter with the QSL details filled in afterwards.

Thus, as we mentioned in our program back a few weeks ago, there has been a lot of interesting confusion regarding the radio stations located on the Pacific islands known as Tarawa, Enewetak and Canton.  Tarawa and Canton both had radio station with the same callsign, WXLF; and radio station WXLE was on the air at two different locations, Enewetak and then Canton.