Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Focus on Asia: The Philippine Radio Story

General Douglas MacArthur Lands at Leyte Gulf  Philippines (photo via wikipedia)
General Douglas MacArthur Returns to the Philippines: The Radio Story

In May 1944, American personnel on service in Australia commandeered an American ship, the Apache, that was under modification in Sydney Harbor and it was fitted out with two transmitters and associated equipment, including two power generators.  An AWA shortwave communication transmitter in storage in Brisbane was modified for voice capability, and two American made International Harvester power generators, each at 50 kW, were taken from American army stores already in Australia and these items were all installed in the Apache.
            Back at that time, the construction of a 10 kW medium wave transmitter was nearing completion at a radio factory near Melbourne in Victoria.  This transmitter was originally intended for installation by the PMG Department for use as an ABC medium wave station on 880 kHz at an unstated location. 
            It is possible that this 10 kW unit was originally intended for installation at 6GN at Geraldton in Western Australia on 880 kHz.  A few months later, a 2 kW transmitter was indeed inaugurated as 6GN in Geraldton, though on 820 kHz. 
            Traveling alone along the east coast of Australia, the Apache arrived on schedule at the edge of Humboldt Bay on the northern coast of New Guinea, on October 11, 1944.  However, at this stage, the Apache broke down and it had to be towed into the bay area at Hollandia, where repairs were quickly carried out.
            For the first time, test broadcasts were made from the two transmitters.  Just before noon on
Friday October 13, 1944, power was applied successfully to the medium wave transmitter.  This unit was then powered down, and then power was successfully applied to the shortwave transmitter.  Next in this sequence, power was applied to both transmitters simultaneously, and then there was a loud pop, and the system closed down automatically.
            Following the quick replacement of a blown large capacitor, the system was again activated, and voice contact was made on shortwave with San Francisco.  Radio silence was imposed at 3:00 pm that afternoon on all ships in the flotilla that were bound for the Philippines.  The Apache went silent now for a whole week.
            Another innovative radio ship that joined the flotilla that was bound for the Philippines was the little ship that was identified as FP47.  This ship, just 125 feet long, was also built in the United States originally for freight and passenger traffic with Alaska.     
            The FP47 was also taken to Sydney in New South Wales Australia, where it was completely rebuilt and re-outfitted with radio equipment that included two American army Morse Code transmitters at 500 watts each and two power generators.  The FP47 also sailed alone from Sydney to Hollandia in readiness for the return invasion of the Philippines.
            The Hollandia contingent of ships set sail at 4:00 pm on October 12 and they were joined by many additional ships from several American bases along the northern coast of New Guinea.  The total invasion force numbered more than 750 ships that made the week long journey of 1400 miles from New Guinea to the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.
            Included in this massive flotilla were several radio ships, most of which were fitted out with radio equipment in Sydney or Brisbane.  There were five major radio ships in the invasion fleet, in addition to a fleet of smaller and temporary radio communication ships. 
            The Apache was intended mainly for the transfer of press and radio information to the United States, as well as for the transmission of American radio programming to listeners in the Philippines.  The FP47 was used occasionally for the transmission of news and information back to the United States in Morse Code, though its main purpose was for the communication and the coordination of invasion information and tactics.       
            Three radio communication ships that were in use for tactical invasion information were identified as PCER848, PCER849 and PCER850.  These American ships had each been taken to Australia where AWA transmission equipment was installed before they were deployed up north.  We could also mention that there were as many as a dozen additional small radio ships, some American and some Australian, that were in temporary usage for invasion events and activities. 
            The massive fleet arrived in Leyte Gulf, Philippines during the evening of October 20, 1944;
the Apache made a series of radio broadcasts on shortwave on October 21; and MacArthur announced to the world on October 22, his famous I have returned speech.
            At the time of this broadcast, MacArthur was ashore at Red Beach, north of Palo on Samar Island.  An American army vehicle, a weapons carrier, had been fitted up as a mobile communication station, and MacArthur made his speech from this location. 
            This mobile broadcast was picked up on a navy vessel off shore, the light cruiser USS Nashville, which was the command ship under General Douglas MacArthur for the return invasion of the Philippines.  From the Nashville, MacArthurs famous words were flashed on shortwave to the Apache nearby, and thence across the Pacific to New Guinea, Australia, Hawaii and the United States.

            A location map giving the radio circuits in use for this historic broadcast shows that the radio signals from the two ships, Nashville & Apache were received and retransmitted by MacArthurs radio stations at Hollandia in New Guinea and Brisbane in Australia, and thence by RCA and army radio in Honolulu, to RCA and AT&T San Francisco.  In addition, shortwave station KGEI at San Francisco in California relayed the MacArthur speech for shortwave listeners throughout the Pacific. 
(AWR/Wavescan-NWS 301 via Adrian Peterson)