Thursday, May 10, 2018
General Douglas MacArthur’s Favorite Shortwave Callsign
It was back on August 5, 1944, during World War II in the Pacific, that Corporal William Becker at an American weather station at Northern Samar in the Philippines, sent a radio message in Morse Code to General Douglas MacArthur at his headquarters in Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea. As part of his radio message, he asked: Where is your radio station KAZ located? Corporal Becker inserted into his question, a touch of mild profanity, which we have removed.
Quite unexpectedly as far as Colonel Becker was concerned, he did receive a reply from
General McArthur about other matters that were in the colonel’s radio message. However, MacArthur did not respond to the inquiry about radio station KAZ, and he did not reveal to the colonel the actual location of radio station KAZ.
So then our question would be: Where was MacArthur’s radio station KAZ located? In
response, we could ask another question: Which presidential aircraft is Air Force One? The answer to that question is quite simple: In whatever airplane the president of the United States happens to
be a passenger, that is Air Force One.
Likewise, whatever radio station General MacArthur chose for the transmission of an official wartime message, that station was at that time station KAZ. However, that answer is not totally
accurate either. This is the story of radio station KAZ; before, during, and after World War 2 in the
middle of last century.
It was back in the year 1924 that RCA, the Radio Corporation of America, established a regional office in the Philippine capital, Manila. Two years later (1926), work commenced on the construction of their first shortwave radio station in the Philippines at a location nine miles south from Manila.
According to a contemporary article in Time magazine, this large new radio station was established by RCP, the Radio Corporation of the Philippines, which was a Philippine subsidiary of American RCA, the Radio Corporation of America.
The article in Time magazine goes on to state that this new radio station in the Philippines was one of the largest stations in the Far East, and it was constructed specifically for communication with San Francisco in California. At that stage, the RCA communication station at San Francisco was in reality their large station located near Bolinas, a little north of San Francisco.
During the following year, 1927, four radio transmitters were activated at RCA Manila, two on medium wave and two on shortwave. The twin medium wave transmitters, rated at 1 kW each, were
inaugurated on February 12, 1927 under the callsign KZRM with a programming service from the city studios. The first two letters in the callsign KZ indicated the Philippines back in that era; and the two final letters RM, indicated Radio Manila. Quite simultaneously, a preliminary RCA communication circuit to Bolinas California was also inaugurated.
Three years later again (1930), it was during the month of May actually, test broadcasts from RCA Manila were noted on shortwave in the United States and in Australia under the experimental
callsign K1XR. Programming was a relay from the mediumwave station KZRM, and these test
broadcasts continued spasmodically for a period of some six months. After that, the new shortwave communication service was officially dedicated, on November 26 (1930) under the callsigns KAZ and KBK.
Exactly one month later (1930), a special Christmas broadcast was relayed from KZRM back to the United States on two shortwave channels; KAZ on 9900 kHz and KBK on 18750 kHz. Over the
following months, many other notable program broadcasts from KZRM Manila were relayed by RCA shortwave and they were heard in the United States and in the South Pacific.
In the early 1930s, additional shortwave transmitters were installed at RCA Manila, with
apparently at least one at 40 kW and another at 20 kW. At the same time the KAZ channel was
adjusted from 9900 kHz to 9990 kHz
Over the next decade or so, RCA shortwave communication transmitter KAZ on 9990 kHz was often logged in the United States, New Zealand and Australia. However, with the Japanese military
advances in the Philippines beginning on December 8, 1941, and the impending threat to the city of Manila itself, American personnel began the destruction of major facilities in the capital city area.
On the very last day of the year, December 31, 1941, the RCA medium wave and shortwave station just nine miles south of Manila was deliberately destroyed. The 40 kW KAZ was dead, gone forever.
Nearly three months later: It was at 7:45 pm during the evening of March 12 of the following year (1942) that General Douglas MacArthur left Corregidor Island in Manila Bay, bound for Australia at the orders of the President of the United States, President Harry Truman. It was indeed an
adventurous, though harrowing journey by small boat, plane and train that took them from Manila in the Philippines to Melbourne Australia where they arrived nearly ten days later.
A total of 23 people traveled in four PT boats from Corregidor island in Manila Bay, running the blockade of Japanese navy vessels along the western coasts of the Philippine Islands. Initially this squadron of four navy boats traveled in a diamond pattern, though they all soon got separated in the darkness and the stormy night. It was such a threatening storm, the weary travelers described the journey like traveling in a cement mixer; almost all of the people were seasick.
They arrived at the pineapple plantation owned by the Del Monte Corporation on northern
Mindanao Island two days later, only to find that a plane load of refugees had already been evacuated to Australia on the plane that was actually schedule to carry MacArthur to Australia.. The Australian government had sent a flight of four Boeing Flying Fortress B17 bombers from Darwin on the north coast of Australia to pickup the VIP contingent on Mindanao, though only one plane arrived, due to technical problems with the other three, one of which crash landed out of fuel in the ocean near the island.
Two days later Darwin on March 16 (1942), another flight of three Boeing Flying Fortress B17 bombers flew out from, though one turned back. The two remaining planes landed on the dirt airstrip on Mindanao Island by the light of burning flares.
Next day in the early morning darkness, the two bombers took off from the Del Monte plantation for the nine hour flight back to Darwin. General Douglas MacArthur himself sat in the Radio Operators seat in his plane; the plane was under radio silence and no radio operator was therefore needed.
However, as the planes approached Darwin, word was received that Japanese planes were bombing the city, and so the planes were diverted to the Batchelor Airfield, forty miles to the south. However, no sooner had the American planes landed at Batchelor, then word was received that
additional Japanese planes were on their way to bomb Batchelor. Hurriedly the MacArthur party, now aboard two ANA Australian National Airways passenger planes, the reliable Douglas DC3, took off for Alice Springs in the center of the Australian continent.
Interestingly the daily newspaper, the Adelaide Advertiser, stated in a front page news item on Wednesday March 18 (1942), that the Japanese made their 19th bombing raid of Darwin “yesterday”. On that occasion, the newspaper reported, the Japanese planes bombed Darwin and Katherine, though not Batchelor. MacArthur and his party were part of the melodrama on that dramatic occasion.
In Alice Springs, MacArthur and some of the staff boarded a special narrow gauge train that took them to Terowie, in country South Australia. Thence to Adelaide for another train, the Melbourne Express, which conveyed them to the Spencer Street Station in Melbourne, where they arrived on Saturday March 21 (1942). The MacArthur family were then ensconced in the ornate Menzies Hotel at 140 Williams Street where they took over the entire third floor in the new hotel wing.
And so that’s where we leave the story of General Douglas MacArthur’s favorite shortwave
callsign KAZ for today. Thus far we have observed that the American callsign KAZ was applied to
several different transmitters (1 kW, 20 kW & 40 kW) usually on 9990 kHz at the RCA shortwave station located nine miles south of Manila in the Philippines from 1930 to 1941. When we continue this topic in a few week’s time, we will observe the usage of the American callsign KAZ as it was applied to American shortwave stations in Australia.