Somewhere in the Pacific
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ISLAND PROGRAMS  Notes on the Army-Operated Network in the Pacific BattleZones 
By LAWRENCE LADER December 17, 1944 New York Times

Contributed by Jack Saddler Appeared in SMEC ( now SMECC) "Vintage Electrics", Volume #2 Issue #1 December 1990

 
SOMEWHERE IN THE PACIFIC.
Down below the equator in the far-flung islands of the south Pacific, among
the numerous qualifications which might entitle you to be called "island
happy" is hearing voices like the voice of your girl whispering to you in
the evening. On the other hand, if you heard the velvety tones of Dinah
Shore, or Frances Langford, you would be perfectly normal. All through the
day, seven days a week, thousands of troops in the South Pacific hear not
only Dinah Shore and Frances Langford, but every well-known voice in the
entertainment world.

Mrs. Anopheles

But last month the men holding down the palm-fringed islands heard the
impossible. Far up north, coming over the transmitters of the American
Expeditionary Station at Guadalcanal, they heard the voice of an announcer
from "AES Noumea," which is in New Caledonia. They heard the same voice over
"AES Espiritu Santo" in the New Hebrides and over "AES Auckland" in New
Zealand.

The whole south Pacific couldn't be "island happy." Last month the
headquarters of Armed Forces Radio in the south Pacific announced that they
weren't. The four stations had done the impossible. Without telephone lines
or "point - to - point" pick-ups they had rebroadcast one program picked up
from a central transmitter.

It had started almost by accident. Twirling the dials of his receiver one
night, an engineer at "AES Noumea" happened to tune In on "AES Espiritu
Santo," which lies 350 miles to the northeast. The station's engineers
scratched their heads. If Espiritu Santo could hear the New Caledonia
station, why couldn't Guadalcanal and New Zealand? They decided to try a
series of experiments, and, after weeks of tests, managed to establish the
"Mosquito Network."

The Mosquito Network, as with all other armed forces radio stations around
the world, receives much of its program material in the form of records of
shows written and produced by the AFRC headquarters at Los Angeles. But a
good part of the broadcasting day is programmed in the field by the staffs
of the individual Mosquito Network stations. At Guadalcanal, which is plunk
in the middle of the Pacific's mosquito belt, the station went to bat for
the malaria control men. To sell the troops painlessly on the idea of taking
their daily dose of Atabrine (one of the main malaria preventatives),
program men whipped up a special musical show called the "Atabrine Cocktail
Hour," featuring the "Quinine Quartet" and an announcer who cried the
wonders of insect repellent: "Are you repellent? Yes? Then use Toujours Gai;
it keeps the mosquitoes away. Remember, rub it in your delicate skin each
evening as the sun goes down. Thank you."

The idea clicked so well that Mrs. Anopheles (the scientific name the
malaria mosquito goes by) became the station's mascot, and soon the name
Mosquito Network was adopted by all the rest of the stations in the South
Pacific.

Although the Mosquito Network stations are run for the benefit of the armed
forces, there's no law to may that civilians with radios can't tune in. At
New Caledonia the French have become devotees of United States music, and
often write in to request special numbers. Groups of natives cluster around
the loudspeakers at Guadalcanal- . But of all the stations, "AES Auckland,"
in New Zealand, is the only one with a completely English-speaking civilian
audience.

Going on the' air for the first time with the usual programs of United
States jazz, the station's switchboard was suddenly flooded with phone
calls. Practically every woman in Auckland was calling the station to place
their requests. It seems that the regular New Zealand stations hadn't
received new jazz records in years and had been trying to satisfy their
listening audiences with the 1940 vintage.

Grocery Orders Too

Also offered are other programs indigenous to the locale of the network's
outlets. On the Solomon islands you 'can hear -a 'Guadalcanal native chorus
singing hymns in pidgin. The natives are devout Christians and excellent
singers, and quickly caught on to the technique of the microphone under the
instruction of Capt. Spencer Allen, formerly of WGN, Chicago.

There are the man-in-the-street interviews in the manner of radio back at
home. Only the title is different: "Meet Me in Noumea," for instance. The
correct time is also provided, coconut shells hit with a hammer providing
"chime" notes of which NBC might be proud.

It cannot be said, however, that the day-today operation of the Mosquito
Network is always free from troubles. There are some things in the South
Pacific that no one can reckon with. Once, when "AES Noumea" had to
broadcast an important "remote" the engineers found that they could not run
their own lines to the spot. They contacted the local French Telephone
Company and asked to borrow one of its lines for an hour. Certainly, said
the manager.

Everything was arranged, and the program went on the air with clockwork
precision. But in the middle of it another voice, a woman's voice, suddenly
interrupted.

"Alors," said the voice, "donnezmoi du pain et deux douzaines d'oeufs et * *
*"

A French housewife was telephoning her order to the grocer.-NYT
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