Tuesday, September 08, 2015

On the Air in Tokyo Bay

USS Missouri flyover in Tokyo Bay (wikipedia)
Tokyo Bay is an expansive and well-protected bay on the eastern side of the main Japanese island of Honshu.  Several areas of inner Tokyo Bay have been dredged, and several small and ornate islands have also been formed.  Some of Japans largest cities extend inland from the shoreline of Tokyo Bay, including Yokohama, Kawasaki and Chiba, as well as Tokyo itself. 
            Back on September 2, 1945, one of the worlds largest and most concentrated assembly of ships and airplanes was staged in and near Tokyo Bay, with the participation of nearly 300 large and small ships, and a flight of some 1,200 planes.  This is the radio story associated with this majestic display of technical might and grandeur.
            In order to provide widespread news coverage of the international events in Tokyo Bay, several different shortwave radio circuits were established.  This procedure ensured a flow of electronic news from the ships to the nearby shore, then across the Pacific in various hops, to California in the United States.
            The official signing ceremony, that ended the hostilities in the Pacific and Asia and ushered in a new era of peace, took place on the open deck of the American navy vessel USS Missouri, callsign NCBL.  At the time, the  Missouri was at anchor in Tokyo Bay, flanked by numerous other seagoing vessels, and with the shore in sight on both sides.
            At 8:00 am on this auspicious day, Sunday September 2, 1945, military and political dignitaries from Japan, the United States, and several other Pacific and European countries began to arrive by boat.  An American destroyer conveyed many of these dignitaries from Yokohama to the side of the Missouri.
            The official ceremony began with prayer, followed by the National Anthem, and a speech by General Douglas MacArthur.  After the signing of the peace document, an enormous flight of planes numbering 1200 flew over the area. 
            President Harry Truman in the White House also made a speech by radio that was spliced into the official program.  This entire international event began soon after 9:00 am Japan time, and it lasted a little less than half an hour.
            It is generally presumed that the events aboard the Missouri were broadcast live throughout the world, but this was not the case.  In order for the multitudes of news media personnel to process the news adequately, with still pictures and newsreel pictures, newspaper items and radio items, all that were sent by radio, there was a planned delay of 1½ hours.
            On the shortwave scene, several different relay routes were established, from navy vessels in Tokyo Bay, to the nearby shore and onwards to Guam and Okinawa and Honolulu and to the American mainland in California.  Two different electronic recordings were made, and the information upon these was transmitted via different radio routes.
            Original planning for the ceremony in Tokyo Bay suggested the usage of the American navy vessel USS Iowa NEPM-KU1M, though ultimately the Missouri was chosen.  Radio facilities aboard the American communication ship, the USS Ancon NTVP was the primary mode for shortwave coverage, though the Iowa was ready for possible usage if needed.  In addition, more than 100 media personnel from the services were observing the events on board the nearby Missouri.
            Additional back up transmitters if needed were also available for the relay of the special programming aboard two other navy vessels, the USS New Jersey NEPP and the USS Catoctin NKUA. 
            On shore, the four shortwave transmitters at 50 kW each at Nazaki as used by Radio Tokyo were available; as was also the navy shortwave station on Guam NPN-KU5Q, with two transmitters at 10 kW & 3 kW.  In addition, the navy radio station at Okinawa, perhaps the USS El Dorado at anchorage nearby was also available, and like wise, navy and commercial relay stations were available in Honolulu if needed.
            In advance, test broadcasts between Asia and the United States were made in order to ascertain the most suitable relay routing on the day of the broadcast.  A total of 17 shortwave channels were established to ensure adequate redundancy in case of variable weather and propagation conditions.
            Earlier on the day of the ceremony, the go ahead cue was broadcast on 18020 kHz from KQJ, a shortwave transmitter at RCA Bolinas in California.  This signal was received at KU5Q on Guam and retransmitted on 17820 kHz and this was picked up at multiple locations in the Tokyo area.
            On board the Missouri, a varied assortment of electronic equipment was hurriedly assembled and placed on tables under a shelter just behind the main signing desk on the day of ceremony, Sunday September 2, 1945 (in Japan).  Much of this equipment, already showing signs of wear and tropical deterioration, had been flown in from the Philippines.
            Initially the main amplifier malfunctioned though it was quickly repaired.  Recordings of all of the procedures in the ceremony were made on two different recording machines: one of the new fangled and cantankerous wire recorders for use on the Ancon, and an acetate disc for broadcast by Radio Tokyo.  This acetate disc was taken by destroyer back to Yokohama, and then by an unofficially commandeered Jeep to the studios of Radio Tokyo, now under American control.
            Although several different radio circuits were available for the relay of the programing from Asia to the United States, yet the one that was chosen for broadcasts on the mediumwave networks in the United States and on the Voice of America was as follows:-

* Wire recording of ceremony on USS Missouri; no suitable transmission facilities on the Missouri
* Small motor boat took the recording to the USS Ancon nearby in Tokyo Bay
* Shortwave radio from Ancon NTVP to Radio Tokyo receiver station
* Shortwave radio from 50 kW JLT3 at Nazaki on 15225 kHz to KU5Q receiver station on Guam
* Shortwave radio from KU5Q Guam on 13360 kHz to RCA Point Reyes receiver station in California
* Nationwide distribution for radio broadcast, mediumwave networks in USA and Voice of America

            These events all happened in the middle of last century, just 70 years ago, on September 2, 1945.

(AWR-Wavescan/NWS 341)