Star Spangled Radio
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A SHARPE REPORT  

By Ivan Saddler

Copyright 10/2001 SMECC

Before reviewing the book Star Spangled Radio by Kirby and Harris, I want to establish my credentials.  The two aspects are 'Electronics in my Genes' and 'Military Experience'.  By hindsight, I want to add a third section to this part of this saga.  It will deal with the part of the South Pacific  war not usually told in books of history.  It will deal with the personal side of war.

 

Electronics In My Genes. 

I donít really know whether there is such a thing as genetic propensity to electronics.  My father was always employed in electrics and electronics.  The earliest work I know of  for him was the installation of AC to DC rotary converters in theaters for operation of the arc lamps used in early movie projectors.  He later owned a radio repair shop in Calexico CA.  He also built one of the earliest metal detectors to search for gold.  Imagine lugging around a tube operated detector with itís three dry batteries. 

I had built a crystal radio when I was eight using the proverbial Quaker Oats box as a coil form.  Still using a crystal, a variometer was the next more sophisticated tuning device.  That was bought with profits from selling Liberty magazines in downtown Dallas.  The first major construction project came while in high school.  In 1934 I had gathered enough parts to build a tube radio.  The coils were wound on four-prong tube bases.  The major problem was a rectifier within my budget-basically zero.  My lifetime mentor was Gray Moore, the chemistry teacher at Forest Avenue High School in Dallas TX..  He and I built a system of rectifiers consisting of prescription bottles containing dilute boric acid and two dissimilar metals.  I believe they were copper and silver wires.  The tube was one of the first cap grid vacuum tubes. It was a 22A.  Remember this was 1934.  It was a banner day (night, really) when I picked up WGN broadcasting on short wave, test television pictures.  The announcer would say the next picture will be of Felix the Cat.  All I would hear was a series of buzzes.  This was early black and white sequential TV.  Soon that was topped by reception of broadcasts from Madrid, Spain.  I was hooked.

Getting married and making a living shoved electronics into the background for a time.  On Sunday December 7th 1941, I had been working to catch up.  While driving home I heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. All of my friends and I knew major changes were in store.

I had yearned for further education in electronics but college was too costly and time consuming.  I chose to attend evening school at Dallas Technical High School.  The electronics course was taught by a man named Durward Tucker.  He was the chief engineer of the Dallas Municipal Radio Department.  That organization installed and maintained the radios in police cars, then receiving on approximately 1700 KHz and transmitting at 30 MHZ.  The police base station transmitter was a Western Electric 10KW unit which had been retired from broadcast service and converted to the slightly higher frequency.  The other service was a commercial broadcast station, WRR.  The studios were located at the State Fair Grounds while the transmitter was located on a hill outside of Dallas and overlooking White Rock Lake.  Mr. Tucker decided I would make a good technician and invited me to work for him.


 

 

At that time anyone who touched a transmitter was required to have a license from the FCC.  After some cramming I did pass the test and obtained a First Class Radio Telephone Operators License.  All of the radio equipment was the responsibility of the small crew of technicians.  Soon I was also working at the control console for the radio station to fill in on Sunday mornings.

After a year or so, the war was becoming more intense and the services were needing more radio/electronics types.  To relieve the shortage, the government instituted a training program called Engineering Science Management War Training (ESMWT).  Six months training in San Antonio was followed by Pre-Radar School at Southern Methodist University.  That was fun, getting paid to be trained.  We were supposed go to Florida for Radar training next.  Somehow, the wheels fell off and I found myself in boot camp at Mineral Wells, Texas for a short time.  Then came basic training at Camp Koehler near Sacramento, Calif.  It no longer exists, having burned before the war was over.  Next came Specialists School at what was then called Cal Aggie, now UC Davis.  Most of my school mates ended up in repair stations on Oahu.  Not for me.

A bulletin was posted one day which announced that an organization was being formed and named Armed Forces Radio Service.  There was a requirement for people with broadcast experience.  After a hastily filled out application, I soon found myself train-bound for Hollywood.  That assignment seemed more to my liking than trouble shooting equipment at Oahu.  And by hindsight, it was an unusual experience.

At that time AFRS was just forming.  It and the First Motion Picture Unit under Frank Capra and AFRS were co-located on the 20th Century Fox Studio movie lot at Sunset Blvd. and Western Ave. in Hollywood.  That was a most unlikely military base.  Most of the enlisted men who would form the Pacific crews were housed at the St. Francis Hotel on Hollywood Blvd..  Rudy Rubin from Midland, Texas and I shared a room there.  Col. Tom Lewis, True Boardman, Billy Bardy and a few others were there occupying offices.  Our First Sgt. was Bob LeMond.  The only other enlisted man was Paul Masterson.  Both has been announcers in the Los Angeles area.  As the crews began to form, we knew from rumors that one group was headed for CBI, another to Espiritu Santos, one to Guadalcanal and headquarters would be at a station in New Caledonia.  Of course many others followed.  The major delay was gathering a full complement of equipment and gear with spare parts before we left for wherever. That wait was both good and bad.

While most of the time we sat around playing poker, we were supposed to be training.  For what?  We were already pros at what we were supposed to do.  Instead, we watched movies being made,  went through military vehicle driving school at Santa Anita Race Track, and survived Survival School.  It was a real shock to crawl along through a live mine field, with pigs guts all around and live machine gun fire not more than six inches above your butt.  The last indignity of the day was having to go into chambers with war gases and to take off the gas mask just before leaving.

 

Brass Button Broadcasters details most of the innovations made by AFRS.  The use of vinyl for transcriptions was one.  C.P. McGregor did much of the production with Radio Recorders doing the rest.  I remember a fellow named Eddie Della Pina who made everything work there.

But there were some fun times, too.  We as a crew went to a place in the desert near Barstow and Indio.  It was called Camp Young, The Desert Training Center.  It was there that troops trained for North Africa.  We set up and operated an AFRS station for a week.  The highlight was having Dinah Shore come down to perform.  She and several members of our crew had worked together before.  A real lady.

The other fun time wasnít long in coming.  The equipment had been assembled and it was time to go.  We decided to have a farewell party for our crew at Brittinghams, a then famous restaurant close to the CBS studios on Sunset Blvd.  To the surprise of most of us, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Jerry Colonna joined us and entertained with a few gags.  Tell me about real people.

To Angel Island for shots, tropical uniforms and boarding of a solo merchant marine zig-zagging trip to, ultimately, Guadalcanal.  There wasnít anything there.  We built our transmitter house, our quarters and most of our studios.  And yes we installed our equipment.  Our transmitter was an RCA 1 kilowatt unit. And like Trent Christman, I climbed the palm trees to erect our receiving antennas.  I was elected because it somehow leaked that I had been to Signal school and knew how to use climbers and a belt.  The first time was exciting.  I was about half way up the tree when I put my hand on a wasp nest.  If I hadnít had on the safety belt, the story might have had a different ending.  From then on I took some newspaper and a cigarette lighter on such trips for burning off wasp wings.

My military occupational specialty (MOS) said I was a radioman, first class.  Things worked well after a time.  The GIs began to complain that there was little or no western/ hill billy music on our Mosquito Network Station.  You know the result, Ivan became Texas Jack.  You also know that after Polly and I were married we moved to El Paso to attend what was then Texas Western College, now UTEP.  We paid our way through college by being disk jockeys on a program called the Jack and Polly show.  Yes, it was hillbilly/western, patter and mail-in requests.

 

Many of the stories worth telling are in Brass Button Broadcasters.  After some time, life became routine.  I applied for Officers Candidate School as did Rudy Rubin and George Dvorak.  Rudy and I also applied for direct commissions.  Signal Officers were needed in the Philippines.  I donít know how it happened so fast but in a few days we both were lieutenants.  Rudy used to kid me about outranking me.  We were sworn in alphabetically (the Army way).  Yes, he outranked me by five minutes.  George Dvorak chose OCS and was shipped to Ft. Monmouth.  The war was over shortly thereafter.  He played solitaire until he was discharged.  Several folk who were later well known came through the Guadalcanal station.  One I recall was Jack Kruschen.  After the war he was well known as an actor.  He and a writer named Norman Korwin joined forces for many successful shows.  Another later well known was Eddie King.  Others passed through but after 50 years, their names fade into the past.  Dick Sinclair with whom I spoke recently and I are the last two of our crew.  He is only 76 so his memory is better.

 

AFRS Espiritu Santo


Console at WVTR - Santos


I belive this to be Eddie King.


Collins Transmitter - WVTR Santo


The AFRS building in Santo


Another shot of the WVTR 
Console in Santo

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Record Lathe used for recording Transcriptions


 

AFRS and USO Scenes in New Caledonia

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Caption on the back of the photo reads: Julie Gardner, member of a colored USO Troupe is shown during a performance on the stage of the 130 QM Bn Theater (US A. SC Photograph 16 May 44)
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Printed Caption on the back of the photo reads:: Ann Lewis Member of a colored USO Troupe is shown during a performance on stage of the 130th qm BN theater (US A. SC Photograph 16 May 44)
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Capt Joe Thompson, manager of AES Radio Station, left, and Kenneth Spanner, are shown on the stage of the 130th QM Bn theater during a broadcast of a colored USO Troupe.  (US A. SC Photograph 16 May 44)
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Harbor, Noumea New Caledonia
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After the war was over, it was still necessary to entertain the troops.  As things were winding down, I was transferred to New Caledonia as were most of the Guadalcanal group.  There we were joined by Jack Parr, Jackie Cooper and Jack Carter.  Another couple of guys whom you might have heard were also there, Ed Reimers (youíre in good hands with Allstate) and Bruce Collier.  After the war Bruce was with WGN in Chicago as was Spencer Allen.  More about Bruce later.

My return to civilian life was much less exciting but just as satisfying.  It didnít last long, though.  A short time with an electronics company in Dallas and time out to get married to Polly (53 years ago) were a hiatus.  The fellow who was last in charge of AFRS in the Pacific after cessation of fighting with the Japanese was Capt. Clifford Frink who remained with AFRS as an officer for some years..  One function of AFRS after the war was known as the Bedside Network.  BBB mentions this on p. 60. The unit was headed by then Major Frink.  That organization was to provide wired systems in military hospitals and to perform just like the out-of-the-country broadcast AFRS.  Major Frink leaned on me and asked me to set up the system for William Beaumont General Hospital in El Paso.  Itís specialty was burns and reconstructive plastic surgery.  That was much more fun than installing and operating the sound system at the Texas State Fairgrounds.  

The system at Beaumont was, with lots of competent local help, soon up and running.  El Paso had long supported two AM radio stations.  An upstart group, Griffith Broadcasting, planned to compete in that growing market with a 10 KW four tower phased array designed to protect a station in the same frequency (700KHz) in Independence, KS. The call letters were KEPO (now KHEY).  I decided to help build and operate the station under a really good chief engineer E. Louis (Louie) Gemoets.  And later came the Jack and Polly Show mentioned elsewhere along with college at UTEP.

 

 

Military Experience

Just as electronics was inbred, so was the military.  My father was in the Cavalry and my step-father was in the infantry during World War I.  While I was in high school I was in Junior ROTC as were most of the studs.  At the same time several of my friends and I joined an Army National Guard Unit while it was being formed.  It was A Battery, 133rd Field Artillery, 36th Division, Texas National Guard.  Yes we were called Saturday night soldiers, but it was fun.  In the summer we would pack up and go to Camp near Palacious TX.  Our guns were 155 Millimeter howitzers.  Man, you have no idea of the sound volume when those babies were given the maximum charge.  My job was aiming the guns so I was always behind them and near.  It was possible, from that position, to see the shell travel.

I have already in the previous section mentioned my military experience during World War II.  When being ordered off active duty, it was normal to sign up for inactive reserve-mistake.  The Korean conflict came along just as I was completing my degree work.  I was called back to active duty with my last final and physical for return to active duty coming the same day.  The Pentagon was home for that war but my job was heading a crew of young guys with degrees and little experience install radio stations all over the world.  These were point-to-point stations for communications, not entertainment.  I did whenever possible visit local AFRTS stations.  The world had changed a lot.

 

Personal Stories (In no particular order)

 

The rain at Guadalcanal was legendary.  I seem to recall the total was about 100 inches per year.  That amount called for deep ditches for runoff.  Between our studio and quarters there was just such a moat.  It was spanned by a rough cut plank about ten inches wide with enough thickness to support several persons.  Blackout conditions were still in effect because of the possibility of air raids or naval attacks.  One evening after we shut down the station, Dick Sinclair, Hy Averback and I were making our way to the quarters.  It was a moonless night.  As we were crossing the ditch, Hy Averbach slipped and fell into the ditch.  With much cursing and pulling we managed to get Hy out of the ditch.  Once inside the quarters, we could turn on the light.  What we saw was the original of the creature from the black lagoon.  With black mud and green slime all over him, it was impossible to keep from laughing.  To Hy it wasnít funny.  I believe at that moment he decided that war was hell and he wanted no more of it.  He soon was in New Caledonia, a much more civilized place.  You may recall much later he was the producer of M.A.S.H.  Iíd bet some of the sequences of that program still in syndication came from such experiences.

 

As the war island-hopped north, Guadalcanal became a supply base and a place for TDR&R (Temporary Duty for Relaxation and Recuperation) for troops.  Even those of us stationed there found time to relax.  Special Services often thought up fun things to do.  One day, several of us deicded to go salt-water fishing for tuna.  We trolled back and forth in the harbor between Guadalcanal and Tulagi, among ships be loaded with supplies for the war effort north of us.  It didnít even occur to us to be wary of an ammunition ship being loaded as we passed.  We caught several nice fish.  Even at that time, blackout conditions prevailed.  We often fretted about the inconvenience.  That night was one bright moonlit night.  The station was off the air for the night, and we had eaten the fish.  Dick Sinclair, George Dvorak and I were going to our quarters.  We stopped to urinate in a ditch before turning in for the night.  We were speculating about whether Guadalcanal would become a tourist destination after the war.  The palm trees were romantic and we could visualize wide paved highways for cruising with the top down.  About that time we saw a huge column of flame shoot into the air with a lazy smoke ring around it.  The harbor was about a mile away.   That was where the flames originated.  We could see the palm trees bending in our direction and knew that blast was headed our way.  We all jumped into the ditch without a thought of the urine.  the blast destroyed our quarters but it was the shrapnel that we knew was more dangerous.  It sounded like doves flying near.  We didnít know it at the time but it was reported that a Japanese submarine had sent a torpedo into that just loaded ammunition ship named the Surpens.  There was only one survivor, who had been blown out of an open hatch.  Two hundred and sixty were not so lucky.

Rudy Rubin and I became officers at the same time and were room mates in the batchelor officers quarters.  We soon discovered that officers could get what were known as rations.  Not the usual kind but booz.  The theory was that we could order a specific dollar amount of whiskey each month and the orders would be loaded as cargo in the next available ship from San Francisco.  That was neat.  As enlisted men we had only beer or jungle juice.  The latter was brewed up by enlisted men in the Quartermaster Corps.  They could liberate fermentable things, usually raisins, which would be fermented, distilled and sold.  Rubin and I could order a maximum of two rations of whiskey per month.  That was adequate, if not too much.  The problem was that for several months no supplies arrived.  Officers were leaving often and would sell their expected rations for pennies on the dollar to recover any thing.  Fortunately or unfortunately all those supplies came in at once.  We had so much booz that we stored it under our beds and any place else which was secure.  Word was out that we owned the whole supply of whiskey on the island.  Before I left, I owned a command car, a sub machine gun, and almost anything else which didnít have a permanent home.  I soon left for New Caledonia.  Rubin inherited the whiskey stash.  He ate high on the hog until he had to leave.  I have often wondered what happened to that stock.  Rudy Rubin isnít around anymore but he was a west Texas horse trader.  I imagine he left Guadalcanal with stuffed pockets.

New Caledonia was never in any danger of Japanese invasion.  It was too far away.  The islands had been owned by France for many years and had developed a colonial, genteel way of life. The island was of strategic importance to France. It had one of the largest nickel mines in the world. Noumea was the largest city. It surrounded a very good harbor in a large cove.  Several miles out in that harbor was an infamous French Penal Colony located on an island named Ile Nou.  The most hardened French criminals were sent there.  Because of sharks, very few prison breaks were attempted.

 

In Noumea there had been a long-standing house of prostitution named the Pink House.  It was, before the war, a place of convenience for visiting sailors.  With typical french logic, it was tolerated because it kept visiting sailors away from the local french ladies.  When the island became headquarters for the South Pacific Base Command (SOPACBACOM).the place became a semi-official house of convenience.  By mutual agreement, the place had on staff a U S Medical Officer.  His job was doing inspections on U S military personnel and on the prostitutes so that venereal diseases werenít spread in either direction.  The officer with the longest tenure there would on occasion visit our radio station.  We had quietly set up, decorated and stocked a four man tent which was named Duffyís Tavern.  It was our job to lubricate the poor guy.  His main concern was what he was going to tell his kids he did during the war.

 

Directly behind our radio station was the residence of the Island Treasurer, a long time French civil servant.  He and his family were really genteel folk.  They had a very attractive daughter named Arlette.  You can imagine her mother and father watched over her like hawks.  Too many young American soldiers were there.  A young engineer at our station named W.H.A. Cole (Bill) and Arlette fell madly in love.  He proposed to marry her and take her back to the romantic city of  Los Angeles.  Things were at an impasse for some time because of immigration issues as well as the passion of youth.  A big family conference resulted in an agreement.  Bill was to return to Los Angeles alone.  If, after six months,  they still felt the same way, Arlette would be allowed to emigrate and they could marry.  Distance or time didnít chill the romance.  Arlette did come to California and she and Bill lived a long married life as he worked in the broadcast industry..

 

Other romances werenít so permanent.  Our secretary at the radio station was a beautiful young lady from New Zealand named Faith Helen Keller Black.  The shortage of trained secretaries in that part of the war zone caused the U S Civil Service people to recruit such help in Australia and New Zealand.  Faith was courted by many young U.S. GI swains.  Iím sure she was tempted to think of greener pastures in the U S.  As her boss I tried to caution her that there were many obstacles to such international romances.  When she left New Caledonia for New Zealand , she had decided that a bucolic life as the wife of a sheep rancher would suit her fine.

 

At the New Caledonia station we had three mascot dogs, Muck the mother, Melvin and Satchmo, her sons.  Satchmo was a real ball catching hound.  When Bruce Collier was going home, he wanted to take Satchmo.  He was going on a merchant ship and the answer was no.  A complete radio/entertainment kit disappeared from our property room but did solve the problem.  As the ship sailed the Pacific, the merchant marine guys discovered Satchmoís skill and produced a tennis ball.  It became a daily routine to bounce the ball to Satchmo for retrieval.  One day the ball went down a scupper.  So did Satchmo..  There was a real uproar and almost mutiny until the Captain stopped the ship.  A life boat was lowered and Satchmo was retrieved.  The ship landed at New Orleans and Bruce and Satchmo took a train to Chicago.

 


AFRS Mobile Broadcasting  Station
Guam Air Depot Harmon Field
Star on door states: 
 'US Army KU5Q1' and  'US Navy KU5Q'

 

 

August 7, 2001

 

Ed, you asked me to review the book Star Spangled Radio by Edward Harris and Jack Kirby.  This will not be a traditional review.  What I want to do is review the book by section and chapter. Where I have experience or recollections pertinent to the written material, I will interject.  Recall, I asked you to look at a similar book titled Brass Button Broadcasters by Trent Christman.  These books often cover the same eras.  They were, however, published in 1948 and 1992 respectively.  Christman had the advantage of working with and for Armed Forces Radio Service for most of the period between 1942 and 1991.  The books do not always cover the same material nor do they seem to have the same objective.

 

Star Spangled Radio seems to have as itsí main focus, work by the broadcast media to report the news to help morale of civilians back in the US.  The authors stray from that objective at times and when they do, it detracts from the book.

 

Brass Button Broadcasters is a light hearted history of Armed Forces Radio and later Television Service.  AFRTS was originated to help the morale of the troops.  Any benefit to civilians was incidental, but popular.

                     

Both of these books depend heavily on oral history.  Such history has a way of becoming enhanced with time.  That same problem affects this reviewer at times.  You do have as a separate document some of my history.  Hopefully, that hasnít been self-aggrandized.

 

STAR SPANGLED RADIO

(by sections)

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The names of those mentioned as contributors are mostly well-known to me.  Spencer Allen was my Commanding Officer from Hollywood to Guadalcanal and later.  That said, the inclusion of his name and remarks has no place in the general theme of the book.  There will be more comments when Chapter 5 is discussed.

 

FOREWORD

You are certainly aware that I worked for RCA for 10 years.  After leaving active duty during the Korean war, I worked for RCA Defense Electronics in Washington, D. C. for several years.  We used to met with General Sarnoff on occasion.  That was the time of the big battles over which Color TV system would be adopted for the US.  General Sarnoff never wrote anything much beyond his signature.  There was always someone around to do the drafting.  Make no mistake, he read everything he was supposed to have said.  I donít know whether this section was drafted by Kirby or Harris.

 

 

 


CURBING THE KILOCYCLES            CHAPTER 1

This chapter is very well written and contains much historic information.  Hopefully, we wonít ever have to repeat the experience.  From an entirely different point of view, the more important lesson which stands out is that it is possible and likely that people voluntarily living in a democratic society are capable of self-restraint for the more important good of the whole population.  I would like to see such information taught in secondary and higher schools.  And a question occurs to me.  Have we gone too far toward the ďme firstĒ society, or given the same set of facts, could we again rise to the same greatness?  I hope it doesnít take a war to discover the answer.

 

MANEUVERS WITH A MICROPHONE    CHAPTER 2

The point of this chapter is to show that because there was no radio during World War I, techniques had to be developed for reporting newsworthy events while not giving aid and comfort to the enemy.  In addition some perceptive military personnel saw the genesis of psychological warfare.  Successful experiments led to good use of such techniques later.  There is one glaring error on page 18.  In the Louisiana maneuvers a private was supposed to have shot General Ben Lear with his ďimitation GarandĒ rifle.  The Garand rifle now called the M1 was adopted as the standard in 1936 but I doubt that it was available even as an imitation.  We in the National Guard, at that time were still using the 1903 Springfield rifle developed for World War I.  In the Field Artillery, though, the standard side arm was the 45 caliber automatic pistol.

 

THIS IS THE ďARMY HOURĒ          CHAPTER 3

I heard only a few of the Army Hour broadcasts live.  They were very well received and believed.  This chapter is well written and does record most of the highlights of the early days of the war.  Only one or two terms used would require researching to make the language speak to people today.  As an example on p. 35 the phrase ďthe Darlan-Clark negotiations,Ē is not explained.  Such omissions do not take away from the value of the reporting on this program in keeping abreast of the war.  

 

COMMAND PERFORMANCE, USA     CHAPTER 4

I liked this chapter very much.  It shows the dedication and graciousness of folk in the entertainment world..  However, to me, one of the best thing about this section is that the authors give credit to the many , usually unnamed, people in the background who really made the whole thing work.  They are named and their work celebrated..  On a separate note, it begins to become clear that entertaining the troops had to be done where the entertainers were, in Hollywood.  Most of the talent needed was there, not only those at the microphones, but those behind them.  The authors have identified technical talent, the writers, producers and all that needed to be in the infrastructure.  Whether by gravity, a stroke of luck or a stroke of genius, Hollywood was where troop and civilian morale boosting potential lived.


THIS IS THE ARMED FORCES RADIO SERVICE     CHAPTER 5

The authors do a dis-service to the unique organization, which developed into the AFRTS, started during the early days of WWII and continuing to this day.  It is worthy of a whole book such as Brass Button Broadcasters.  Most of the information in this chapter is correct but incomplete.  For example, on p. 61, an account is given of one popular broadcast from Guadalcanal, The Atabrine Hour.  That opening was written by Hy Averback.  On p. 64 the account of the weekly news hour in pigin- english never happened.  We did often broadcast the native chorus but not by recording at their location.  You have photos of our studio.  The Presto recorders were delicate and weighed a ton.  There were no portable recorders available at that time.  And as if I havenít complained enough about this chapter, there is one more beef.  New Zealand was not a part of the ďMosquito Network.Ē  The station there is mentioned on p.65.

 

BY AIR, BY SEA, BY RADIO     CHAPTER 6

In this chapter, the authors go back to what I feel is their basic thrust.  They return to chronicle   activities of news gatherers.  In addition they report on why radio became so popular as a tool for keeping the ranks of the service filled.  When I was much younger and before the war, I remember admiring the organ music of Eddie Dunstedter.  I recall the program came from Chicago.  It was good to read of his success working for General Hap Arnold.   His work is mentioned on p. 68.

 

SOMETHING FOR SOMERVELL     CHAPTER 7

When I became an army private early in WWII, I was in the Signal Corps.  Later when commissioned at Guadalcanal I was again in the Signal Corps and wore the crossed signal flags on my uniform.  General Somervell was our fearless leader.  Some of his duties were unenviable.  Other organizations were responsible for procuring manpower.  Supplying them with weapons and all other needs was Somervellís job.  In addition the terrible job of bringing home the maimed and dead was his duty.  He wisely used radio to help assure high levels of morale for those producing war materiel.  Radio was also used to inform folk at home and prepare them for the realities of the results of war.  This side of the value of broadcasting has not been well told before this book.  Again the authors are to be applauded for naming those who helped in this largely unsung work.

 

THE DEAD END KIDS OF CBI      CHAPTER 8

Of all the theaters of the war, the China India Burma was in my opinion the most difficult for news correspondents.  Those adverse conditions are detailed in this chapter.  I am familiar with glass based transcription blanks.  They were the standard before the war.  They were coated with dark purple lacquer with the surface polished flat.  That was the surface which was lathed away during recording of a transcription.  The usual method of field  recordings was from inside out.  This avoided the problem of the cut strips of lacquer from interfering with the recording of succeeding grooves.  The other main problem was keeping the recording head at a constant height above the blank.  Modulation of the recording groove was lateral.  Professional recorders used the same blanks but recorded from the outside in.  Removal of debris from the grooves was accomplished by having near the recording head a small vacuum which removed the chaff.  These masters remained in this state if they were to be used only once or twice.  Those which were to be real masters were vacuum coated with gold and electroplated on the back with nickel.  These became with further processing the stampers from which vinyl reproductions were made.

 

One of the AFRS crews formed at the same as mine for Guadalcanal, left about the same time for CBI.  The few reports we heard from them confirm those in this book.  The only member of the crew I remember by name was a fellow named Holt.  He is mentioned in BBB.

 

PACIFIC PATCHWORK      CHAPTER 9

By the time General Mc Arthur had moved his headquarters from Brisbane, Australia to Hollandia, the Chief Signal Officer was General Spencer Akin, and of course, my fearless hero.  We never met until many years later.  It was his job, though delegated, to provide all communications.  The military needs came first but a makeshift broadcasting system was set up.  The island-hopping nature of the war in the Pacific called for an unusual solution to the problem of supplying correspondents with a way to file their observations.  A small boat, formerly a Coast Guard Ice Patrol, named Apache, was stripped and outfitted as a floating broadcast station. It was to do yeoman duty as the war rapidly advanced north to the Philippines and beyond.  In this chapter, again the authors celebrate the often nameless guys who made the whole thing work.  They are named here.

 

HERE COME THE MARINES    CHAPTER 10

In this chapter, the authors retell what has often been demonstrated.  Itís the ďCan Do.Ē attitude of the Marines.  Most of the news broadcasters in this chapter, mostly in Marine enlisted uniforms, were known before the war and many became famous after.  The did so by overcoming obstacles.  This book has a copyright date of 1948.  How well they were to become known was moot then.

 

I have been at most of the islands mentioned in this chapter.  Acceptance of a commission in the field required an agreement to remain overseas for one year.  That was my case.  From AFRS headquarters on Oahu, I was assigned to solve problems on the islands of Guam, Saipan, Tinian and others.  Among the thrills were almost getting killed on Guam, a typhoon on Saipan and some gory sights on Tinian.

 

RADIO: WINGS OF THE SIGNAL CORPS     CHAPTER 11

This chapter brings to mind much of my military experience, primarily during the Korean War.  The writers of this chapter were dealing with 1947 conditions.  I was back in service in 1950, only two years later.  Not much had changed in the intervening time.  I was stationed at the Pentagon.  As mentioned in another document attached, my job was the installation of communications stations to supplement the already existing extensive system.  The statistics listed in this chapter were increased in the few years after the book.  The chapter gives details    about military communications few outside government know.  And the reporting here is accurate.  By the way, my office was in the basement of the Pentagon.  In the winter, some days I didnít see the sun.

 

One change taking place in the 1950s was conversion from encrypted teletype traffic to encrypted voice.  One of my jobs was to dismantle the first encrypted voice facility, also located in the basement of the Pentagon.  The system had been configured and installed by Western Electric.  It had audio equipment which would make any audiophile drool.  And it was surplus.  The method used was quite sophisticated.  The human voice was split into multiple bands.  Some bands were inverted .  Others were not.  Which, how many and in what order was changed often and instantaneously.  Semiconductors changed all that.  I am not a historian about communications but do know this chapter is accurate.  General Stoner must have cooperated in itís writing.

 

CONQUEST BY WIRELESS                        CHAPTER 12

In earlier chapters there was mention of psychological warfare by use of radio.  With the invasion of the continent nearing the Allies found the most powerful psy war weapon-truth.  The news bulletins and analyses were always sanitized to prevent giving help to Germany.  The people who read the news were well-known and trusted.  Radio materially shortened the European part of the war.

 

The story of the impact of news on morale, our citizens, allies and the enemy, Japan was best told in this chapter.  It concerned the mass raids on Yawata by B-29 Super fortresses.  It isnít mentioned in the text but the bombers took off from Tinian Island in the Marianas.  That was the closest island to Japan which had two mile long runways.  That island was also the place where the Enola Gay took off to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.  You may recall that ship is now in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

 

The story of the planning for the announcement of the raid is a tribute to the thoughtful process necessary to accomplish the surprise.  Remember this was in the time before broadcast satellites were even a gleam in anyoneís eye.  Again the names of those who accomplished the feat are memorialized. 

 

HOW TO DEVELOP ANGLO-AMERICAN FRIENDSHIP DESPITE THE BBC CHAPTER 13

Listening to the BBC has been an occasional pastime since my first short wave receiver.  In my opinion the tradition there has always been maintenance of the gentryís way of life.  The lack of cooperation and attempts at control of what was heard through BBC facilities was a real eye-opener for me.  Several business and pleasure trips to England didnít prepare me for what I read. The present-day BBC is somewhat different.  There is some commercial television in England now.  The monopolistic situation in the normal BBC programming does still uphold the traditional British view of the world.  And, yes, the British still have different view of whatís humorous.  The local ASU TV Channel 8 does regularly show some BBC programs such as ďAre You Being Served.Ē  To summarize my reaction to this chapter, I wonder how the US newsmen could cope with that situation.


THE A B C OF D-DAY                             CHAPTER 14

If any chapter of this book describes the difficulty of broadcasting news to this free nation, this one is it.  Any broadcast journalism student will find a dose of reality here.  This, too, should be required reading for anyone hoping to make a career in this field.  The authors accurately depict, in this chapter, the somewhat organized chaos of conflict reportage.  This chapter, too, is well written.

 

CORRESPONDENTSí NOTEBOOK               CHAPTER 15

This chapter is about the human side of the correspondents and their problems of reporting the war.  Unfortunately, they had no status, no rank and had to overcome many obstacles to get close to the action.  They suffered the same fears of death or injury as did the military.  So this chapter has gathered the personal notebooks of some of the well-known correspondents in one place.  It is easy to empathize with their problems and to be proud that there were such.  Some of the descriptions are even today quite realistic.  I liked the tale of the climbings of Mount Vesuvius while it was erupting.

 

RADIO REPORTS THE VICTORIES                CHAPTER 16

The achievements and difficulties of communicating the defeat and surrender of both Germany and Japan are reported here.  The events werenít widely separated by time, however, the relative ease of reporting the Japanese surrender shows how quickly methodology can be learned.  Two observations may be pertinent.  Most of us who were closely involved with the Pacific war referred to General Mc Arthur asĒ Dougout DougĒ, not a very nice appelation.  We did grudgingly, admire the Generalís communication expertise.  He did have a flair for self-aggrandizement.  The details of the arrangements for both announcements are well reported here.  It is nice to have the history of the events.  When so many of the important details were not under control of the communicators, itís a miracle that the announcement ceremonies worked.  By the way, among the photos I am supplying with this review are two from Saipan.  There was located the transmitter which broadcast the surrender arrangements to Japan.  It was a technically beautiful setup.

 

 

STARDUST AND CHEVRONS                           CHAPTER 17

Like Chapter 15, this one reports on the personal side of the war.  This time, it concerns the stars who so generously and graciously gave of themselves during the war.  Even at this late time, more than 50 years ago, the humor is still there.  The poem ďEnglandís a Lot Like IllinoisĒ appealed to my wife.  We recall standing where Vick Knight did.  She asked me to make a copy for our scrap-book.

 


The concentration of the anecdotes about Europe is natural. Thatís where the authors were.  There are many similar stories from the Pacific theatre.  Most of the celebrities mentioned in this chapter, also performed here also.  I recall one incident involving Jack Benny.  Many comedians such as Bob Hope were stand-ups and could ad lib about most any subject.  Not so, Benny.  His material was always carefully rehearsed.  He and his troupe were to perform at Guadalcanal.  We wanted to broadcast the show for the benefit of soldiers who couldnít physically get to the island theatre.  Benny was reluctant until someone assured him that the receiving range of our station was limited.  The transmitter was a one killowatt unit and easily reached Tulagi, about 25 miles away.  That was where his next performance was.  When he returned to Guadalcanal, he called the station to complain that he had bombed there because everyone had heard his jokes.  Unfortunately it was I who answered the phone.  After a couple of minutes of tirade, I realized no response was worthwhile or needed.  He only needed to dump his frustration on someone.  I guess I canít blame him too much.

 

BEAMED TOWARD THE FUTURE             CHAPTER 18

This last chapter is a plea for voluntary preparedness.  And itís strange to look back over what has happened since this book was written.  Strangely enough, many of the recommendations have been followed not once but at least twice.  Until quite recently, the first Saturday of each month was the day for testing emergency sirens on fire stations.  And one radio broadcast station in each major city would issue practice emergency broadcast announcements and a recognizable emergency tone. Sadly, we forgot what history taught and will sometime have to repeat the lessons learned from World War II.  Apparently the broadcast industry is now better prepared to communicate emergency situations to civilians.  Satellites are most helpful for that purpose.  This capability exists not only locally but nationally.  The same can be said for military communications.  In my military experience, I have seen elaborate point-to-point ground stations I built replaced by satellite systems.  The military and the broadcasters at least have some semblance of preparedness.  I doubt that the general population is equally ready.

 

APPENDICES

The six appendices will provide valuable data for historians.  The names of most of those who provided information and entertainment during the wars and those who worked behind the scenes are listed here.

 

SUMMARY - mine

It ainít perfect but the communications industry would be much worse off without this record.

 

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