A Broadcast Engineer in Korea - 1950s
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A Broadcast  Engineer in Korea

What it was like, bouncing around the Korean Hills 
with the Armed Forces Radio Service

Transmitter Engineer
WCOL, Columbus, Ohio
 ©Radio. TV and Recording "Technician - Engineer" : June 1957  
(Thanks to Al Quaglieri for cleaning up the images )

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UPON my arrival in Korea early in 1952 as an enlisted man in the U. S. Army, I was processed and forwarded to the 25th Infantry Division, which was at that time assigned to combat duty on the line.

I served with the infantry for about one year before I was transferred to the Armed Forces Radio Service.

Radio broadcast engineering was my business before I was sent to Korea, and I was anxious to get back into it, and AFRS as it turned out, was that possibility.

The headquarters of the then Far East Network in Korea was in Taegu, South Korea, where EUSAK (The Eighth Army Headquarters) was located, and consisted of five stations. Later, the network was renamed the American Forces Korea Network and was increased from five to nine stations.

Of the original five, one was in Pusan, on the Southern most point of the peninsula, the headquarters station in Taegu, a station in Seoul, the country's capital, and two in North Korea at Kumwha and Inje.


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The author tuning a Gates BC-IF transmitter at "Homesteader," Pusan.

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Above: A view of the headquarters station, Taegu, showing the two operation vans, the headquarters tent on the far left, and the administration tent on the extreme right. LEFT: A closer view of a "Kilroy" operations van at Taegu, which contains two BC-610 transmitters, two Gates CB-11 turntables, a Gates 52-CS consolette, and two radio receivers for Tokyo newscasts.
The stations were not identified by call signs as we know them, but rather were assigned proper names, such as : VAGABOND, GYPSY, TROUBADOR, HOMESTEADER, etc. The Far East Command (FEC), in addition to calls, also assigned the operating power and frequencies for the different stations in the standard broadcast band, however, all were above 1 megacycle per second.

This was done, primarily, with the fact in mind that many of the stations would have to operate the BC-610 communications transmitter as a broadcast rig, even though each AFRS radio station was authorized a broadcast type transmitter, many times supply channels were overloaded to the point, particularly in a combat zone, where acquisition of a broadcast transmitter was not consummated for some time.

The middle of 1952 saw the war going much better our way, and the establishment of four more radio stations, these last four with an operating power of 1 kilowatt each. The principal one was at Chunchon, North Korea, installed with the Gates BC-IF broadcast transmitter.

Of the nine stations in the AFKN, six were equipped with the Gates 1 kilowatt broadcast transmitter, and the remaining three used the BC-610 in a static situation until 1953, when I was relieved of duty and shipped back home.

The majority of our personnel came to us through their own request for transfer, hence they usually had previous experience in the broadcasting industry, as announcers, engineers, administrators, etc.

Turnover was somewhat of a problem inasmuch as some of the men had seen combat duty before coming to us, and there were times when we were extremely short of experienced personnel, particularly in view of the fact that we operated all stations in the net on a 24-hour-a-day basis.

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ABOVE LEFT: Inside a van at "Troubador," located at Inie, North Korea. At left is a Gates CB-11 turntable; at right, a Gates 52 CS consolette. An RCA 88A mike was used; time was synchronized with FEN and WWVH, Hawaii, on message center clock. Another turntable and two receivers are above the console on shelf with a cueing amplifier.

ABOVE RIGHT: The control room van at "Vagabond" in Seoul. Installed here were two Presto 64A turntables, a WE 23C console, a Magnecord PT6-P tape recorder, two radio receivers-a BC-1004 (Hammarlund Super Pro with BC band) and an RCA 91 A-plus the station's record library.


Our news broadcasts came to us through the shortwave transmitters of the Far East Network (FEN)-JKI, and JKL, operating in the 19 and 25 meter bands out of Tokyo. All news releases had to go first to the Far East Command in Tokyo for clearance and release to us, via SW, and the three major American News Services of the AP, UP, and the INS.

Our 2400-hour operation was in line with the fact that our entire sphere of operations took place within a combat zone, with AFRS electrical transcription programming constituting approximately 12 hours of the broadcast day.

The Armed Forces Radio Service has been a valuable service in the conduct of war, not only as the immediate voice of the area commander to which it is assigned, but as the bridge between the lonely GI in a strange faraway land and his home in the States.

EDITOR'S NOTE: John D. Harmer, author of this article, was first associated with the Armed Forces Radio Service as a staff engineer. Later he became chief engineer of the American Forces Korean Network. As a transmitter engineer at WCOL, Columbus, Ohio, Harmer is now a member of Local 1300, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The story of his experience in Korea came to us in a letter with the pictures on this and the accompanying pages. If you have had a broadcasting or recording experience to pass on to our readers, send a letter and pictures to Albert O. Hardy, Editor, TECHNICIAN-ENGINEER, IBEW, 1200 Fifteenth Street, N. W., Washington, D. C.


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This was one of the later arrangements at "Kilroy," after moving from the temporary vans to quonset buildings. Here are two RCA 700 turntables, and RCA 91 A radio, Gates 52 CS consolette, Hammarlund SP 600 radio, and a Magnecord PT6-P tape recorder.


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ABOVE: Looking up the 18S-foot radiator installed at "Vagabond" in Seoul, across the base insulator and the Austin tower lighting transformer.

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LEFT: After moving to permanent buildings the GI broadcasters installed these two BC-610 E transmitters, modified slightly for continuous service broadcasting.

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LEFT: An example of the ingenuity of the engineering department of the AFKN where some of the newer stations that were established didn't even have the basic requirements of transcription turntables.

This turntable and others like it were designed and constructed under Harmer's direction using little GI 10" turntables and adapting them with a 16" table platter, installing them in cabinets constructed with the RCA MI-4875G pickup kit, with a two-speed shift and handle mechanism designed by Harmer. The panel, key switch and attenuator were part of a testing circuit.

Even though not broadcast quality to the standards of the industry, these were entirely adequate for our purposes and with a little care were satisfactory. Adequate or not, they had to be used.



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