Category Archives: Nostalgia

World War II Radio Letters: a real-life shortwave story – Part II

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:


World War II Radio Letters: a real-life shortwave story – Part II

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

That so many people have been moved by Part I has been heartwarming. Since writing it, there have been further developments. Tecsun Radio Australia asked (and was granted) permission to reproduce the article for Anzac Day (April 25), when all fallen personnel in all wars are remembered in Australia.

In addition, I became aware of two books – World War II Radio Heroes Letters of Compassion and Waves of Hope (thanks, Bill Hemphill!) – that are all about World War II radio letters. We’ll get to those books in just a bit.

But first, I wanted to tell you something you might find surprising: I did not set out to write about how shortwave listeners had reassured my Mom that my Dad was alive during WWII. Not at all. In fact, in my 50 years as a writer, I found the process of how this came to be written, well, a little strange.

The night before, I had drifted off to sleep thinking about a radio and antenna comparison I had been fooling around with during the day (and which I plan to write up in the future). But in the morning – Holy Smokes! – completely out of the blue, my mind was seized by the following thought: Wasn’t it a shortwave listener in New Jersey that first informed my Mom that my Dad was a prisoner of War? (It turned out that wasn’t quite correct.) It’s in a scrapbook in the basement . . . go find it!

Now, I had not thought about those old scrapbooks in at least two decades, maybe more, but I could picture a particular scrapbook in my mind. Rooting around in the basement, I found it, but it didn’t contain anything about my Dad going missing in action or my Mom being informed he was still alive. Maybe I was wrong, I thought.

Back upstairs in my easy chair, the thought would not leave me alone, kept nudging me: Go find it. More digging in the basement produced the right scrapbook with the right information. Reading it, I found tears running down my face at the kindness of strangers.

As I completed writing World War II Radio Letters Part I and sent it off to Thomas, it struck me as curious that, in all my years writing about radio subjects, I had ever seen an article, or even a mention, of the shortwave monitors of WWII. I thought perhaps no one had ever written on the subject, but I was wrong.

I was poking around the internet and came across World War II Radio Heroes: Letters of Compassion Second Edition by Lisa Spahr. It is a 212-page 10-inch by 7-inch book that details her discovery of her grandfather’s WWII trunk, which contained dozens of letters and postcards from shortwave listeners who wrote to Spahr’s great-grandmother to let her know that her son had been captured and was a prisoner of war.

The book, which contains photos of the original correspondence from the SWLs, chronicles her attempt to contact those shortwave listeners or their families, her discovery of the Short Wave Amateur Monitors Club – which turned the monitoring for POWs names into an organized effort – and a lot else besides. If you enjoyed my first post on this subject, I am pretty sure you will enjoy this book.

The other book – Waves of Hope by Ronald Edward Negra – is about how his mother, Agnes Joan Negra, was a shortwave monitor during WWII who sent out more than 300 letters and postcards to families to inform them that their loved ones were captured and still alive. This is a larger format book (8.5 inches by 11 inches) running to 124 pages that reproduces the letters that Agnes received back from grateful families after receiving the news from Agnes. At the time of this writing, Agnes is still alive, about to celebrate her 102nd birthday!

I found Waves of Hope to be a moving and compassionate book, and I think any SWL will appreciate having it on his or her bookshelf.

Finally, you will find a great deal of additional information here: https://www.ontheshortwaves.com/history-III.html#POW

At the end of it all – the strange process of writing the story, the response of the readers, the books telling the story of WWII radio letters – I come back to the place I started as a grade school boy. It was then that I discovered monitoring the radio can be an almost magical activity . . . and you never know when something you heard may touch another’s life in a profound way.

So keep listening!

Spread the radio love

Radio Waves: Border Blaster Early Days, Resistance on the Radiowaves, Towers With Flared Skirts, and Palau Restores AM

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!


In border radio’s early days, psychics and mystics ruled the airwaves (Mexico News Daily)

Charlatans originally built powerful ‘border blaster’ stations to evade scrutiny by US authorities

In radio’s early decades, among the oddball attractions found on the airwaves from 1920 to 1940 included a husband-and-wife team of psychics broadcasting from the U.S.-Mexico border under the stage names of Koran and Rose Dawn who became so popular that their extensive following helped them create a secondary income source: an organization called The Mayan Order.

Those who applied for membership and received its periodicals, the founders suggested, could harness the ancient Mesoamerican civilization’s secrets.

The pair were just two of the many psychics and other broadcasters of questionable integrity on the airwaves along the Rio Grande during radio’s beginnings. These characters built “border-blaster” stations of such epic size and scope that they could transmit from the Mexican side of the border into the United States.

Author John Benedict Buescher’s new book, Radio Psychics: Mind Reading and Fortune Telling in American Broadcasting, 1920–1940, unearths Koran and Rose Dawn’s forgotten story, as well as those of about 25 other border-blaster radio personalities on the Rio Grande who were heirs to a longtime American fascination with the occult.

“I was surprised how really dominant this stuff was in the early days of radio,” Buescher said. “Radio historians typically have just waved it off, not really focused on it, didn’t really take it seriously.” [Continue reading…]

Ukraine’s resistance on the radiowaves (DW Video)

Ukraine is fighting with more than weapons. The airwaves are also a frontier. Ukrainian computer specialists and radio operators have managed to jam Russian communications or intercept them. revealing some shocking details of the war’s brutality.

Click here to watch the view at DW’s website.

Why Well-Dressed Towers May Wear Flared Skirts (Radio World)

Cox, Dawson explore the benefits of umbrella-spoke feed for MW towers

Ben Dawson and Bobby Cox will talk about flared skirts at the NAB Show.

“A flared skirt is a set of symmetrically spaced cables around the tower, which attach electrically near the top of the tower, extend outward from the tower along a path similar to the top guy cables, and then turn back in toward the tower base at a point roughly halfway down the tower,” said Cox, senior staff engineer at Kintronic Labs.

“Insulators at this midpoint insulate the cables from ground. The cables terminate on an insulated feed ring encircling the tower base above ground level, similarly to a conventional skirt feed. The antenna is driven between this feed ring and RF ground. The resulting flared skirt takes the shape of a diamond, looking rather like umbrella spokes.”

These systems are used to provide a feed arrangement for grounded towers that is mechanically simple but has certain attractive aspects.

“The wide bandwidth characteristics of the flared skirt make these antenna designs extremely useful for multiplexing several AM stations onto a common antenna,” said Dawson, consultant engineer at Hatfield & Dawson. [Continue reading…]

Palau restores AM radio service (RNZ)

After erecting a new tower Palau’s state broadcaster has restored its AM radio service.

The previous AM tower was destroyed during Typhoon Bopha, in 2012.

Rondy Ronny, head of programming said that the new AM tower and radio service will benefit all the 16 states of Palau.

“A lot of the outlying states are not able to connect into the internet and just don’t have that capability or have very high tech phones like how we do here in Koror. People don’t expect people from Angaur, from Babeldaob to be on their phones all the time.”

Ronny said that the new tower will be crucial to Palauans during natural disasters. [Continue reading at RNZ…]


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love

Radio Prague: 1965 20th Anniversary of the Liberation of Czechoslakia 7″ record

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Barraclough, who shares the following partially in response to Sam’s search for the Radio Prague’s Forward Left interval signal:


In 1965 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the liberation of Czechoslovakia Radio Prague offered their listeners a free copy of a 45rpm record they’d produced. There were 5 versions issued with commentaries in German, English, French, Italian and Spanish. Information and images here, at the time of writing there are two copies of the French edition for sale from record dealers.

https://www.discogs.com/artist/463619-Radio-Prague-2

I’ve digitised my copy of the English one I received.

Side One

Side One Recording

Side One has a recording of their interval signal at the time and the Communist Anthem Forward Left it is taken from.

Side Two

Side Two Recording

Side Two The Road to Freedom has an account of the liberation of Czechoslovakia in early May 1945 and the role of Radio Prague during it with recordings of their broadcasts, including one in English, at the time.

I’ll be submitting a slightly expanded account of this to the British DX Club for next month’s bulletin as picking up Radio Prague and other English language stations from abroad on mediumwave such as Radio Moscow was the reason I bought a shortwave receiver. Living on the East Coast of the UK I could pick up AFN Bremerhaven daytime as well as a Dutch station Radio Veronica playing pop records all day as an alternative to the BBC. Radio Luxembourg, which you’ve most likely heard of, for nightime listening. Will check, think it would be early 64 when I bought my first shortwave receiver.

Spread the radio love

WWII Radio Letters: A real-life shortwave story

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:


A real-life shortwave story

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

On July 25, 1943, a Royal Canadian Air Force Wellington bomber took off from England to fly a mission over Nazi-held territory in Europe. It never returned to base.

A Wellington aircrew getting ready.

On board was an American Lieutenant, tailgunner on the aircraft. He had flown at least 19 missions, and now his status was unknown.

The office.

On July 30, a letter was sent to his wife. It began:

Before receiving this letter you will have had a telegram informing you that your husband, Lieutenant John Chapman Elliott, is missing as a result of air operations. I regret to have to confirm this distressing news.

John and the air crew took off on an operational sortie over enemy territory on the evening of the 25th July and we have heard nothing of them since. However, it is decidedly possible that they are prisoners of war or are among friends who are helping them to make their way back to this country . . .

Status unknown . . . “we have heard nothing of them since.” An agonizing psychological limbo. Do you mourn or do you hope? How do you live in that middle space?

The exact timing of what happens next isn’t clear, but in September two things happened.

A telegram arrived:

Mrs. J C Elliott =

Report received through the International Red Cross states your husband First Lieutenant John C Elliott is a prisoner of war of the German Government . . .

Notation in the scrapbook above the telegram (in my Mother’s hand) reads:

The finest Telegram and the loudest words in the life of Phyllis Nancy Elliott

On or around the same time, postcards and letters arrived from around the country. From Northville, Michigan; Green County, New York; Grand Rapids Michigan; Auburn, Maine; Burlington, Iowa; Chicago, Illinois; Boston, Massachusetts, shortwave radio listeners wrote to Mrs. Elliott to tell her that they had heard – on a broadcast from Berlin, Germany –  First Lieutenant John Elliott is a prisoner of war, and offering words of comfort or explanation:

Wishing you best of luck in his safe return to you,

I am a patient at the above sanatorium and as I have a quite powerful radio receiver I am taking this means of doing my bit for the boys in our armed services,

Hoping this may comfort you in knowing that he is alive and alright,

Hope this cheers you up.

Hope this will relieve your worries . . .

Words cherished and pasted into a scrapbook.

My Dad later told me what happened. Their Wellington bomber was badly shot up, and the pilot informed the crew that it was time to bail out.

My Dad cranked his tail turret around so that the door opened into the air. He flipped backward out of the aircraft. For a little while, one of his electrically-heated flying boots caught on the door frame. Hanging upside-down, he kicked the boot off, pulled the ripcord on his parachute, and landed with green stick fractures in both legs. He hobbled around Holland for three days while trying to avoid the Germans. He was captured and spent two and one-half years as prisoner of war.

Lower right: My Dad.

When the war ended, he was repatriated, and in 1946, your humble correspondent showed up. The photos are of actual postcards and letters in an 80-year-old scrapbook kept by my Mother and passed down to me.

And so, dear reader, never belittle your hobby of listening to the airwaves, because you never know when something you heard may be able to offer comfort in times of trouble. I know it certainly did for my Mother.

Spread the radio love

Sam searches for the Radio Prague Forward Left interval signal

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Sam Ward, who writes:

I am looking for a nice studio version of the old Radio Prague Forward Left interval signal that they used during their communist days. I just like that interval signal very much, and I’d really love to have a nice clean copy of that famous sixties and seventies interval signal.

I know Arthur Cushen had a really nice studio version of that interval signal and I should have asked him for a copy, but we lost touch with each other, and then he passed away. What a truly amazing fellow he was.

Post readers: If you have a nice studio copy of the Radio Prague Forward Left interval signal, please comment. I would be happy to amend this post with the audio, share it with the SRAA, and make sure Sam gets a copy. Thank you!

And, Sam, you’re right: Arthur was an amazing fellow.

UPDATE 19 April 2022: Check out this post and recordings by Mike Barraclough which contain the interval signal.

Spread the radio love

Inches Per Second: Bob’s massive collection of archived reel to reel recordings

Very recently, Bob Purse reached out to me through the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive. Bob is the owner and curator of the excellent Inches Per Second audio archive and blog.

Bob’s archive is all about sharing what essentially amounts to lost and found sound: reel to reel recordings he’s discovered at thrift stores, estate sales, in junk piles, etc.

One of Bob’s shelves chock-full of reel to reel recordings

Bob describes his passion for collecting these recordings in this post on WFMU’s blog.  I can say that he’s truly a kindred spirit as we both love taking recordings that would otherwise be lost forever and making them freely available online for everyone to enjoy.

Bob has kindly offered up the off-air shortwave radio recordings he’s collected and digitized over the years. We’ll be slowly adding these to the SRAA.

Many thanks, Bob, for sharing your recordings with the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.

Post readers: I would highly recommend checking out Bob’s numerous recordings and notes on Inches Per Second!

Spread the radio love

Can you identify John Lennon’s mystery radio?

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Robert Yowell, who writes:

Hi Thomas – you might recall several years ago I found a photo of a Sony ICF-2001 in the New York studio where John Lennon was recording his final album “Double Fantasy.”

Well I just recently found this photo of John Lennon which I believe is dated to the late 1970’s [correction: the photo was actually taken in November, 1980, just a few days before his death] tuning an unknown brand of portable radio. Do you think your readers might be able to identify it?

All the best,

Robert

Thanks for sharing this, Robert! No doubt, this will be a difficult radio to ID since we can’t see the front of it. Then again, we’ve some savvy radio enthusiasts here in the SWLing Post community! If you think you can ID this radio, please comment!

Spread the radio love