Tag Archives: WWII Radio

David Vaughan on Czech radio and the role of propaganda leading up to WWII

Czechoslovak Radio in the mid-1930s, photo: Czech Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John Palmer (KC8RZM), who writes:

Was listening to Radio Prague yesterday evening, there was a very interesting item where author, David Vaughan, was interviewed and talked about his most recent book “Hear My Voice” a novel which deals with the lead-up to WWII and in which Czech Radio plays a part:

Click here to view on Amazon (affiliate link).

The play, on which the novel is based, was commissioned by Czech Radio and was awarded the Czech Book readers’ award for 2015. In the interview the importance of this then new technology called radio was discussed and its influence, for good or bad, in the world at large, an interesting parallel to today’s discussion on the role of the internet and social media. From the capsule bio on the book cover his background is in languages and radio (BBC and Czech Radio).

I’m sure his other book, Battle of the Airwaves: Radio and the 1938 Munich Crisis, will be of interest to shortwave listeners:

Click here to view on Amazon (affiliate link).

From the Amazon description:

“1938 was a turning point in the histories of Europe and the media. When Hitler annexed Austria and then turned his attention to Czechoslovakia, radio was at the heart of events. Battle for the Airwaves looks at the Munich crisis as it was played out on the radio stations of Czechoslovakia, Germany, Britain and the United States, and reveals just how central a role radio played in the run-up to the Munich Agreement and beyond. It is a story of propaganda and counter-propaganda, censorship and self-censorship. It is also a story of courage and innovation. Munich was a fateful step in the road to World War Two; it also marked the beginning of the age of the electronic media. Published in English and Czech in a single, illustrated, hardback volume, Battle for the Airwaves is accompanied by a CD recording of key British, Czechoslovak, German and American radio broadcasts from 1938.”

Anyway, just thought the above might be of interest to others at the SWLing Post. I’d like to learn more from him on the role of radio in those early days on the events leading up to WWII. I’m probably going to check out his novel.

Thank you so much for sharing this John! I received an Amazon gift card and have already put Hear My Voice in the cart. I look forward to reading it!

I missed the live broadcast, but did find Pavla Horáková’s interview with David Vaughan on the Czech Radio website. Here’s the introduction and audio:

Earlier this year the Czech Republic marked the 80th anniversary of the Munich Agreement, signed in September 1938 by the leaders of Germany, France, Great Britain, and Italy, resulting in the annexation of the Sudetenland by Nazi Germany. Radio Prague’s David Vaughan recently published a book in the UK titled “Hear My Voice”, most of which is set in Czechoslovakia in the months preceding the Munich agreement. Its narrator is an interpreter for the international press corps in Prague and he watches the events of 1938 unfold in Central Europe as the atmosphere is getting tenser ahead of the outbreak of the Second World War. Pavla Horáková spoke to David Vaughan and their conversation begins with a few paragraphs from the book.

Click here to download the MP3 audio of this interview.

Check out the full story and listen to the interview via Czech Radio/Radio Praha.

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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.

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The Minerva Tropic Master: a portable WWII era morale radio

If you’re a regular here on the SWLing Post, you’ve no doubt discovered that I’m a fan of vintage radios.

Lately, I’ve been attempting to let go of some of my vintage gear to give my favorite rigs proper shelf space and dedicated antenna time. To keep temptation at bay when I visit flea markets or hamfests (like Hamvention and the one in Shelby, NC) I now focus on WWII era radios; specifically “morale” radios that were used for troop entertainment. I’ve two morale sets: the Scott Marine Radio Model SLRM (technically, a commercial version of a Navy set) and the Minerva Tropic Master.

I purchased this Minerva set off of eBay a couple years ago. I got it for $50 or $60, if memory serves (the seller originally wanted $180 + shipping!). He claimed it worked, but after I asked him a few questions prior to making an offer and learned that “working” meant the speaker prodeced a noise and the backlight worked. I made a low offer and he accepted.

Last year, I took Minerva over to my buddy, mentor and boat anchor doctor, Charlie (W4MEC). Charlie discovered the radio had many issues and several poorly implemented repairs. Still, in a few short weeks, when parts arrived he brought the girl back to life.

With front cover closed.

The Tropic Master is a portable eight tube receiver that covers both the AM broadcast band and shortwave bands from 5.5-18 MHz. It can be powered by AC or DC. It was “tropicalized” to withstand extreme heat and humidity. The internal speaker produces mellow, full-fidelity audio and the volume can be increased to room-filling.

To give you a taste, this morning I tuned the Tropic Master to my in-house AM transmitter on 1570 kHz which was being fed audio from The UK 1940s Radio Station (my favorite Internet radio station). This particular clip features Jay Lawrence’s excellent show, From Stateside:

Click here to view on YouTube.

The Tropic Master is portable and even has a fold down handle on top of the chassis. Though substantial, it must be the lightest of all of my vintage metal chassis radios.

Tuning isn’t exactly precise, but it does the job and is a pleasure to use. It’s quite sensitive on both shortwave and mediumwave. Last night, she was tuned to the Voice of Greece on 9420 kHz–I probably listened to two hours of Greek music while her eight tubes warmed the shack.

Who could turn down a radio with this speaker grill?

If you ever find a Minerva Tropic Master at a flea market or hamfest, I say adopt one! It’s a beautiful receiver and like all good vintage radios has a story and history of its own.

Post readers: Any other Tropic Master owners out there or do you have a morale radio? Have you ever spotted a Tropic Master in the wild? Please comment!

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WWII Radio: Truman and the Scott Radio Labs RBO-2

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kim Elliott, who recently shared the photo above of President Harry S. Truman via @RealTimeWWII.

If I’m not mistaken, that is a Scott Radio Labs Model RBO-2.

I’m guessing that’s also the speaker mounted on the wall directly above the receiver.

Scott Radio Labs marine receivers were shielded to the point that they had very low local oscillator radiation. This design prevented detection of the ship via the enemy’s use of radio direction finding gear.

I have a commercial Scott Marine Radio Model SLRM–it is my favorite receiver and I use it daily.

Post readers: Anyone else have a Scott Radio Labs receiver in their shack? Please comment!

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KGEI’s role in WWII

(Source: The Daily Journal via Richard Cuff)

KGEI: A forgotten WWII radio story

Sometimes history is hidden in plain sight or site — as is the case of a blockhouse-shaped building located, appropriately, on Radio Road in the Redwood Shores area of Redwood City.

There is no plaque to remind the few visitors to the area that the two-story building played an important role in World War II: It housed the transmitter for shortwave radio station KGEI, which was the only voice from home for GIs fighting from island to island in the Pacific.

Among other accomplishments, the station broadcast Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s “I have returned” speech that fulfilled his promise to return with victorious American troops to the Philippines, occupied by Japanese forces since 1942.

Today, the building of about 7,000 square feet is owned by Silicon Valley Clean Water, the wastewater plant operated jointly by Redwood City, San Carlos and Belmont. The plant is adjacent to the KGEI building, which itself is right next to a much larger transmitter building used by KNBR. Ground was broken in late 1940 for the KGEI structure made of reinforced 3-foot thick concrete walls designed to withstand bombing.[…]

Continue reading the full article at The Daily Journal…

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The RAAF No. 4 Wireless Unit: Never to march, never to be mentioned

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Neil Bolitho, who shares the following story in reply to our post yesterday Australian Codebreakers in WWII. Neil writes:

Never to march, never to be mentioned.

Since the end of the Second World War, many thousands of returned service personnel have marched at Anzac Day services throughout Australia.

My father never marched.

My father served in RAAF No 4 Wireless Unit, Central Bureau.

Central Bureau was under the direct command of General Douglas MacArthur, and was set up to detect, record, and translate all messages transmitted by Japanese forces in the Pacific.

Central Bureau was headquartered in Brisbane, but its Wireless Units worked in the field, moving forward with MacArthur, constantly intercepting and deciphering enemy messages.

As the war progressed, the units became so efficient in their work that they were monitoring all enemy radio traffic, and in fact frequently knew the Japanese intentions before the messages reached their intended destination.

The Wireless Units served throughout the Pacific islands providing vital information about enemy strengths and positions.

RAAF No 4 Wireless Unit was formed as a highly mobile unit, and served at Hollandia, Morotai, Labuan Island, and at Luzon, Philippines.

The U.S. High Command highly praised the Wireless Units of Central Bureau, stating that their work effectively shortened the War in the Pacific by at least two years.

At the end of the war, Central Bureau was dismantled. All personnel signed a lifetime secrecy order to not speak of their wartime activities.

No promotions applied. No evidence of their Central Bureau service was recorded, including overseas service. No medals were struck.

Family members, including children, were not told in any detail, of their father’s war experience.

It was only in the late 1990’s that the Australian government allowed information to be released.

In the early 1960’s, my father mysteriously went on an unexplained visit to Brisbane.
It was not until over thirty years later that I found out that he attended a twenty-year anniversary of his unit’s graduation.

I write this on behalf of the children and grandchildren of those Central Bureau personnel that served diligently and efficiently when called upon, and who, when the job was done, quietly went home. They are our heroes.

Indeed. Thank you so much, Neil, for taking the time to share your father’s story. We’re honored to post it here.

If you’re interested in WWII signal intelligence, here are a few fascinating posts from our archive:

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Australian code breakers in World War II

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ian P, for sharing the following from the radio program, ABC Overnights:

The crucial role of Australian code breakers in World War 2

Thanks to the recent film, The Imitation Game, you may be familiar with the story of how British intelligence, led by mathematician Alan Turing, cracked Nazi codes during WW2. Did you know there were also two secret organisations in Australia working to break Japan’s military codes?

These were staffed with brilliant cryptographers, including some who had studied mathematics and the classics, and others who had lived or grown up in Japan. By patiently and carefully unravelling the codes in Japanese signals, their intelligence played a crucial role in the battles of Midway and the Coral Sea, as well as the push into the Philippines.

Trevor Chappell interviews Craig Collie, author of the book Code Breakers – Inside the Shadow world of Signals Intelligence in Australia’s two Bletchley Parks.

Duration: 36min 36sec
Broadcast: Mon 10 Apr 2017, 1:00am
Published: Mon 10 Apr 2017, 4:43pm

Listen to the full program/interview via the embedded player below:

Click here to download the MP3 or click here to listen on the ABC website.

I’ve also noted that you can pre-order Code Breakers – Inside the Shadow world of Signals Intelligence in Australia’s two Bletchley Parks at Amazon.com. There is no expected delivery time yet, however.

Code Breakers is available directly from the publisher in Australia–click here to view.

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