Tag Archives: Radio History

White Alice Communications System: a precursor to USAF sat comms

The St Lawrence Island site. Author: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual Library (via Abandoned Spaces)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Steven Crawford, who writes:

Came across this article about a communications system that was a precursor to sat comms for the Air Force and thought it may be of interest to your followers.

(Source: Abandoned Spaces)

Equipped with up to 80 radio stations, this remnant of the Cold War once served as a tropospheric scatter communications system using microwave relay. Its location, Alaska. It was initially constructed during the 1950s.

The United States Air Force saw great benefit from this communication system for it improved their communication tremendously. Years before this system was installed, Alaska had only the essentials when it came to communication systems.

It wasn’t until Bell Systems came up with their design for the U.S.A.F. that Alaska would receive proper communications links. The name White Alice Communications System in itself is an acronym made up of the following words – White, for it was used in the snow-covered land of Alaska, and Alice, that stands for Alaska Integrated Communications and Electronics.[…]

Continue reading at Abandoned Spaces.

Many thanks for sharing this, Steven!

WTPF’s former site: A “Time Capsule from the 1940’s”

(Source: ABC11.com via Mike Hansgen)

Photo source: WTPF.com

The distinct Art Deco style clearly defines the WPTF radio station as a 1940’s classic.

With rounded windows and curved edges, the building looks tiny on the outside, but cuts deep underground into a shelter that allowed announcers to broadcast through wars and hurricanes.

Today, it’s hidden behind tall shrubs, a chain-link fence, and a set of train tracks – it often goes unnoticed, a relic from a long past era of Raleigh history.

Decades ago, this station was staffed 24-hours a day, which means it provides amenities like a kitchen and shower. However, this enticing building has been closed to the public, mostly forgotten, for decades. Nearly 80 years old and sealed to most of the outside world, it harbors dust-coated secrets that time forgot, like a living time capsule.[…]

Click here to read the full article and view photos of the site.

Also, check out the following photos of WTPF courtesy of this imgur.com account:

Former WPTF 680 AM art deco studio – Cary, NC

Wading River: WWII FBI covert radio station listed on the National Register of Historic Places

(Photo: Camp De Wolfe)

(Source: Riverhead Local via Mike Hansgen)

A house on the bluffs at Camp DeWolfe in Wading River, covertly used as an FBI radio transmission station during World War II to gather military intelligence, has been added to the state and national registers of historic places.

FBI radio operators impersonating German agents used the Wading River Radio Station to communicate with the German intelligence service, according to the site’s registration form with the National Register of Historic Places.

Information covertly gathered by agents at the radio station was critical to inspiring the United States’ development of an atomic bomb.

The station was also involved in the Operation “Bodyguard,” which used counterintelligence to confuse and mislead the Nazi government about the upcoming Allied invasion of Europe.

The radio station operated from 1942 to 1945.

[…]In January 1942, FBI engineers installed radio equipment in the house, hid a large antenna in the woods, and built a diesel-powered generator using an automobile engine to avoid local suspicion about electricity consumption at the house, which was far greater than what was then the norm due to the radio operations. An FBI agent assigned to manage the operation moved in with his family — and two or three radio operators. The first floor was maintained as the agent’s family home, while the second and third floors were used for the FBI operation, according to the national register registration narrative. They remained there for the duration of the war.

[…]The FBI had been looking for a spot to locate the transmission station for the spying operation and were attracted by the home’s cliffside location and the site’s remoteness. According to the national register registration document:

“By January 1942 [an FBI radio engineer] had stumbled upon the Owen House located in the tiny fishing and farming hamlet of Wading River, New York. Located eighty miles east of New York on Long Island’s North Fork the spacious three story building sat on a cliff bordered on one side by Long Island Sound and acres of dense trees on the other three sides, and the only approach to the station was a bumpy, rutted quarter mile path. Even by today’s standards the house is not easy to find. In 1942 it would have been nearly impossible.”

An FBI agent’s inquiry took the Owen family by surprise. They were sworn to secrecy.[…]

Click here to read the full article at the Riverhead Local.

“Air Waves”: A WWII era film about the art of broadcasting at NBC

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Hansgen (K8RAT), who shares the following film by RKO Radio Pictures via YouTube.

Click here to watch on YouTube.

Here’s the film description:

Made during WWII by RKO Radio Pictures, AIR WAVES gives a brief history of the radio, and shows the development of the technology as it progressed from a crystal set novelty to an indispensable part of American life. Radio City Music Hall and the Rockefeller Center are seen at the 2:00 mark, with the largest radio studios in the world. At 2:30, the NBC studios are seen and at 3:10 a demonstration is made of how sound effects are made using cellophane, wooden blocks, and rubber spheres. At 4:10, a studio is seen with actors rehearsing their lines, and an engineer working with the actors to make sure everything is technically okay. At 5:41, announcers Milton Cross is seen with Jack Costello and Calvin Keach. “Twin gods of radio broadcasting are the clock and the conference…” says the narrator, and at 6:00 you’ll see the discussions that lead up to the broadcast of any network show on radio (and today, on TV). At 7:15, records are played on the air, scripts are produced on steno and mimeograph machines, and all sorted… The music library is seen at 7:48 with sheet music laid out. At 8:06, all stations are notified of the latest information with the new program and a dress rehearsal undertaken. The stopwatch commands the attention of everyone, and the program is finally on the air at the 9:10 mark.

At 10:00, the film dramatically shifts to show December 7th in Hawaii, and speaks about the work of NBC to sell war bonds and promote national defense and “do its share unflinchingly”. The war effort is shown with men and women working on the air to help people working “at war” and boosting their morale. Lowell Thomas is shown at the 11:30 mark, keeping the public informed of the latest developments.

Thanks for the tip, Mike! It’s truly amazing to see the amount of effort that went into live radio broadcasts.

“Generation Radio”: A short documentary about the evolution of broadcasting

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Hansgen, who shares the following documentary film about the evolution of broadcast radio. This film was actually created for a senior thesis presentation at St. Michael’s College. The film “includes interviews from BBC World Tonight & Joe Reilly (Former President NYS Broadcasters Assn), Empire Broadcasting The Jockey, Clear Channel, WEQX, ESPN, SirusXM, VPR, Skidmore College, & more.”

Click here to view on YouTube.

Impressive film especially considering this was created as a senior thesis!