Thursday, April 23, 2015

Focus on the South Pacific-New Caledonia

(euroboatcharters-New Caledonia)
French Radio in the South Pacific - New Caledonia, Another American Radio Station

In this edition of Wavescan, we complete our four part story of radio broadcasting in New Caledonia, the French Island in the South Pacific.  In particular, we present the brief story of another American radio station in New Caledonia, together with information about the various QSL cards and letters that were issued over the years, beginning with the original shortwave broadcasting station FK8AA way back before the middle of last century.

            With the influx of American personnel into the South Pacific during the Pacific War, many American shortwave communication stations were established in many different locations.  All of these stations were installed at temporary locations and most were moved with the forces as they moved northwards.
It was in the year 1942 that an American shortwave communication station was installed in Noumea, the capital city of the French colonial administration on the island of New Caledonia.  This station, which was located in suburban Anse Vata, was allocated an American army callsign, WVJN, and it was inaugurated for communication service on May 14 (1942).
            At that stage, General Douglas MacArthur had established his headquarters in Brisbane Australia and his station WTO communicated in high speed Morse Code with the army station in Hawaii WTJ, and also with the new Noumea station WVJN in manual Morse Code.  However, the sophisticated army communication station WVY at the Presidio in San Francisco expressed difficulty in Morse communication with Noumea WVJN and at one stage refused to accept messages in manual Morse Code from them. 
            During the years 1943 and 1944, army station WVJN in Noumea was noted by international radio monitors in both Australia and the United States with the broadcast of radio programming for nationwide relay on mediumwave in the United States.  According to the monitoring reports, the signal was heard at a low level, indicating that the transmitter power must have been quite low.
            For example, South Pacific Headquarters New Caledonia was heard on 15410 kHz with a program insert for the NBC Army Hour on November 28, 1943.  Another similar broadcast was noted on 15490 kHz a couple of months later; and again on 17785 kHz in August (1944). 
            The original (1942) transmitter site for American army radio WVJN was located in suburban Noumea. but it is understood that the transmitter station was moved to the American air force base at Tontouta a year later.  The station was closed in 1945 or 1946 when American forces left New Caledonia and moved north.
            The noted American radio historian, Jerry Berg of suburban Boston, advises that the CPRV QSL Collection holds a QSL letter from the American Expeditionary Station in Noumea, verifying the reception of a shortwave broadcast on 15460 kHz in April 1944.  It would seem that the programming was produced in the Red Cross studios of the AFRS station WVUS and that it was broadcast over the American army communication station WVJN.  The QSL letter was signed by the American serviceman Paul Masterson who, it is known, was on duty with WVUS in Noumea at the time.
            We should also mention that a radio unit was operated in New Caledonia by the National Broadcasting Service of New Zealand during the Pacific War.  This unit was stationed in Noumea from April 1943 to August 1944 and it produced programming for local broadcast and also for re-broadcast back home in New Zealand.
            During its year and a half service in Noumea, this NZNBS radio unit produced a daily program, the Kiwi Hour, which was broadcast by Radio Noumea.  Another regular program was prepared in Noumea under the title With the Boys Overseas and this was forwarded by plane to New Zealand twice weekly for re-broadcast over the NZNBS mediumwave network throughout New Zealand.  
            In August 1944, the radio equipment was donated to Radio Noumea, and the personnel returned to their homeland, New Zealand.
            We come now to the story of other QSL cards and letters from the radio stations in New Caledonia.  The amateur radio broadcaster FK8AA issued its own QSL card that was suitable for verifying both amateur QSO contacts as well as radio program broadcasts.  This QSL card presented a simple QSL text, and international radio monitors in the pre-war era complained that it was just as hard to obtain a QSL card from the station as it was to actually hear the station.
            The communication stations FZM, operated by their PT&T department, and FUJ operated by their navy, have been known to sign and rubber stamp a prepared QSL card.  Then also the government radio station Radio Noumea has issued at least three different QSL cards during its more than half a century of radio program broadcasting. 
            The early cards in the 1950s were a plain text card, in two consecutive printing styles; and in the 1970s, a more elaborate card was issued showing a tower with radiating circles.  In more recent time, Radio Noumea verified with a form letter showing a map of the island with a list of their mediumwave and shortwave transmitters.
            Back in the 1980s, international radio monitors in Australia and New Zealand noted that an AWR program was on the air from the shortwave station in Noumea, New Caledonia.  According to reception reports regarding these broadcasts, this program was produced in the La Voix de lEsperance radio studio in Paris France, the same studio that produced programming for broadcast by Adventist World Radio.
            The programs broadcasts from Radio Noumea on 3355 kHz & 7170 kHz were not under the direct oversight of Adventist World Radio, though the content and programming was just the same.  Several courtesy QSL cards were issued from the AWR office in Southern Asia verifying these Pacific Island broadcasts.
            The Indianapolis Heritage Collection contains two of these QSL cards, dated November 5 and November 23, 1982.  The QSL card itself showed the orange colored world map that was issued by the original AWR-Asia in Poona India.  The QSL information was neatly typed, and the cards were neatly signed by Jose Jacob during the time when he was serving as a volunteer with Adventist World Radio in Poona.
            That concludes our four episodes on the story of radio broadcasting on the French island of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. This complete story included information on the amateur radio broadcasting station FK8AA.  Around the same era, there were two other shortwave stations with similar callings; FO8AA in Tahiti in the South Pacific and FG8AA in Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.  Coming soon here in Wavescan, we plan to present the story of both of these unique amateur shortwave radio broadcasting stations, FO8AA & FG8AA.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 321)