Friday, January 16, 2015

The Philippine Radio Story: Press Wireless Returns to the Philippines

In our continuing story about the return of Press Wireless to the Philippines towards the end of the Pacific War in the middle of last century, we begin with the PWI events in Hawaii a decade or two earlier.  Press Wireless was founded in the United States in 1929, and they began to develop their own worldwide network of shortwave stations for the two-way flow of news information and reports. 
            It is stated that PWI was serving 62 countries worldwide in the 1930s; and at the peak of their international development they operated 100 transmitters in their own shortwave stations located in North & South America and in the Philippines.  Some news transmissions were by high speed Boehme in Morse Code, and others were voice reports for rebroadcast on network radio stations in the United States.
            An official government listing for June 30, 1930, shows that a total of 13 shortwave frequencies were registered for a new PWI station located 

near Honolulu in Hawaii.  This new shortwave station was designed for communication with PWI at Belmont, south of San Francisco in California; it was constructed in 1932; and it was allocated the callsign KDG.
            Soon after station KDG was inaugurated, PWI lodged a complaint with government authorities in Washington DC stating that a European station, FYR located at Lyon in France, was causing interference to the reception in California from their Honolulu station.  Station KDG was transmitting on its allocated frequency of 11640 kHz, and the station in France was allocated the neighboring channel 11650 kHz, though it was putting out an unstable signal a little lower in frequency.
            There are no known monitoring reports of the shortwave station in Honolulu KDG, probably due to its apparent low powered operation, and also to the fact that its news transmissions must have all been in high speed Morse Code.  At the end of ten years of on air service, that is early in the year 1941, Press Wireless abandoned its Hawaiian shortwave station, due no doubt to the availability of other stations that were in use for the transmission of news information.
            However some three years later again, on April 14 1944, PWI filed an application with the FCC for a new shortwave station in Hawaii.  The transmitter for this station was planned for installation at Ewa, on the south coast of the capital city island Oahu, on the western edge of Honolulu.  There is no further information regarding this projected shortwave station, and it is presumed that it was never installed, due to wartime shortages of equipment and personnel.  Perhaps also, PWI was aware that difficult financial times were ahead of them.
            Around this same time, another PWI project was on the ascendancy, and this was the wartime venture of a training project in Hicksville in association with their large superstation and the nearby electronics factory.  The massive shortwave station was located on Cantiague Raod Hicksville, and the manufactory was located a quarter mile distant in two large buildings on the other side of the roadway.
            The High Power Transmitter School was conducted by PWI at Hicksville in co-operation with the American Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth in neighboring New Jersey.  Training exercises were conducted on a 40 kW PWI shortwave transmitter.  Among those who underwent training on this transmitter was Terry Sandford who wrote a book on his wartime experience with the American/Australian radio ship Apache; and others also, who served with PWI in Europe and the Pacific.
            In 1944, under the direction of General Douglas MacArthur, a team of PWI personnel was assembled at Hollandia on the north coast of New Guinea, just across the border on the Dutch side of the island.  Two sub-teams were formed: one team with a 400 watt high speed shortwave transmitter PZ established their facility at Tacloban on Leyte Island, and the other team with a 10 kW voice transmitter PY established their station in Manila.
            After MacArthurs forces entered the Philippine national capital city, the PWI personnel established a radio studio in the Soriano Building in downtown Manila, and the transmitter was installed several miles out in the country.  In advance, the American army had selected a building for the PWI transmitter, but it was soon discovered that the retreating Japanese had destroyed it.  Another building two miles further out was chosen, and equipment was unloaded into it.  However, due to Japanese infiltration, PWI decided on a third location and this became the semi-permanent home for their shortwave transmitter.
            Press Wireless International PY in Manila made its inaugural transmission to the United States on February 25, 1945.  Three days later, station PZ in Tacloban was closed, and soon afterwards it was  reinstalled with PY in Manila.  Then, during the following month March, PWI Manila took over the transmission of news back to the United States that was previously sent from the radio ship Apache.
            On many occasions, PWI Manila was heard by international radio monitors in the United States, New Zealand and Australia.  Callsigns were announced on air and they ran in a series from PY1 to PY19, according to whichever frequency was in use.  The Manila station communicated with the somewhat mysterious new PWI shortwave station that had just been built on the edge of Los Angeles in California. 
            As with other PWI stations, Manila sent out transmissions of news in high speed Morse Code as well as voiced messages for retransmission over the American radio networks.  As part of their identification announcement, Press Wireless, PWI was often identified on air as PreWi (PREE-WHY).
            Early in the new year 1946, shortwave PWI in Manila was noted with occasional relays from the Armed Forces Radio Station WXOI.  This mediumwave station WXOI was on the air under an apparently official American AFRS callsign, though little else is known about  this entertainment radio broadcasting station. 
            Due to the fact that no other shortwave communication station was on the air in Manila immediately after the end of the war, the President of the Philippines, Sergio Osmena, issued an Executive Order, granting approval for PWI Manila to transmit all forms of radio information back to the United States, not only just media news information for use on radio and in newspapers, but also business and personal communications.  

            This Executive Order, No 104, expired on June 24 (1946), after which PWI Manila quietly disappeared.
(AWR/Waescan-NWS 307)