Archives:History of Naval Radio: Amateur Radio at Sea


About the Transcript

July 16, 1952
History of Naval Radio
Rear Admiral S.C. Hooper
Continued from Reel 101 on the Navy first tests amateur radio at sea in comparison with long-wave radio for long distance communications
[Reel #103]

Transcript #103


In 1922 and ‘23 the Navy observed the amateur’s work on the high frequencies, or very short-waves, between 0 and 200 meters with increasing interest to the point where in the latter part of 1922 I directed that our district representatives in Hawaii, and San Francisco particularly, to observe the amateurs’ work very carefully and make reports on same. And in the previous reel I read extracts from an article prepared by me and published in Popular Radio in the fall of 1923 listing the results reported by the Navy representatives at that time, and hazarded a guess that this new type of communication might become very important in the near future. And during that time the Naval Research Laboratory got in touch with amateurs far and wide, and through the cooperation of the American Radio Relay League in Hartford, Connecticut, arranged many tests between amateurs and the Research Laboratory under Dr. A. Hoyt Taylor, who as time went on analyzed this communication, found out its difficulties, and with his staff was able to design equipment and lay down rules which made this communication possible.

About that time, on the request of Dr. Taylor, the Bureau authorized the construction of several of what you might call “soap-box models” of high frequency radio transmitters and receivers for experimental tests and service use. One was sent to the Canal Zone and installed there, and the regular tests between Washington and the Canal Zone held to see how the high frequency compared with the long-wave on the arch sets for regular traffic with Panama. Another set was used for broadcasting the nightly traffic to our embassy in London and that proved to have remarkable results. The frequencies used were usually between four and six thousand kilocycles.

In 1923, in the fall, I was transferred from the Bureau of Steam Engineering to duty as the Fleet Radio Officer of the United States Fleet on the USS Seattle Flagship, on the staff of Admiral Coontz; C-O-O-N-T-Z, Rear Admiral Cole, Chief of Staff, and served the next two years in that capacity.[1] I relieved Lieutenant Commander T. A. M. Craven, who had been there for about a year, prior to that having been first on the Columbia and then on the Seattle during which time Commander Craven installed the first duplex; distant control receiving rooms, on the Seattle. About that time Admiral Ridley McLean; M-C-L-E-A-N, became Director of Naval Communications and he took a very great interest in the high frequency and was very aggressive in pushing the experiments with it and service trials. He performed a very distinguished service for the Navy due to his interest in this subject. During the period of 1924; the latter part of 1923 and ‘4, the Fleet cruised between the West Coast, the East Coast and Hawaii - the fleet flagship - inspecting the other units of the Fleet and holding major joint exercises between the Army and Navy.

In 1925 we made a cruise from San Francisco to Australia, returning to San Diego in the fall of 1925, and this offered up an excellent opportunity to make a service test of high frequencies compared with long-wave. And Admiral McLean was quick to see the opportunity and on his own initiative arranged that the Research Laboratory send a high frequency transmitter and receiver to the flagship Seattle for installation at San Francisco. He also invited the amateurs to designate an amateur to go onboard the Seattle to conduct short-wave tests with other amateurs during the cruise in order that we might find out just exactly how suitable this new form of communication turned out to be. Mr. Schnell was enrolled as an amateur - as a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve - and reported onboard the Seattle just before our departure from San Francisco.[2] Actually he was a little disappointed that he was not on a separate ship from the Seattle because the Seattle handled so much radio traffic, and he felt that it would be preferable that he be onboard one of the ships of the divisions; a non-flagship which handled less traffic, especially less long distance traffic, in order that they wouldn’t have the constant interference of the sending by the flagship. And Admiral McLean was of that same feeling but I was very strong for having Lieutenant Schnell on the Seattle, the flagship, because I felt that if he did perform these experiments on a ship that I wasn’t on, I wouldn’t keep in touch with him and I would be unable to make responsible recommendations in the name of the Commander-in-Chief as a result of the service tests at the conclusion of the cruise. Also I felt it very important that I know all about high frequency. I knew practically nothing about it before the end of that cruise because I would probably be ordered back to Washington and have administrative duties involving the adoption of this new form of communication in case it was successful. So for those two reasons primarily I insisted that he be on the Seattle.

He reported onboard, and with his small amateur transmitter, not as big as a suitcase - it was perhaps 25 or 50 watts - we installed him up in the upper deck in the Radio Compass Shack, as we called it, so that there wouldn’t be any unnecessary interference due to other metals below deck and he’d be able to get the very best results in that position. Actually we were never able to get the high frequency transmitter, which the Naval Research Laboratory built for us, operating because there was some trouble with it which we were unable to remedy onboard. So we relied entirely on Lieutenant Schnell’s amateur set during the entire cruise, so it was very fortunate he brought it along. Another reason that I wanted this amateur onboard the flagship was so that I could keep control of his communication. It wasn’t a very good idea in a military organization where all of the radio communication was tightly controlled by the Commander-in-Chief, right under the eye of the Fleet Radio Officer, to have a civilian unfamiliar with military regulations and military procedure on some other ship communicating at will with his friends all over the world. And that was a third reason why we wanted him on the Seattle. It turned out to be a very good thing because he and I talked for an hour, or two or three hours every day on this subject and I was able to teach him about the military requirements and he was able to teach me about the high frequency, so that in the end it was to our mutual advantage.

The first leg of our cruise, of course, was from San Francisco to Honolulu, and during that time we had a shakedown of the high frequency and Mr. Schnell was able to establish contact with many amateurs and get them lined up for regular scheduled dates nightly for the rest of the cruise. And also I was able to get a little time with him and get some sort of an idea of what he was able to do and what his problems were. We spent some weeks in Honolulu and during that time together we made up a plan for a comparative test of the long-wave and the short-wave during the cruise from Honolulu to Australia. I had decided that if the short-wave was any good at all and could do what they claimed it might, we’d let the short-wave set operate direct with Washington and San Francisco during the entire voyage. On the other hand, we knew pretty well the range of the long-wave and the medium-wave apparatus as we’d had that for some time, and I knew that, at best, we would have to relay to the Pacific coast via Samoa high-power arc set after the flagship got west of the 180th Meridian in order to carry on communication reliably, that the arc couldn’t possibly work direct with Honolulu from Australia, and our best hope was to use Samoa as a relay. So immediately at arrival at Hawaii we started having day and night drills between Samoa Naval Radio Station and the arc set on one of the cruisers which was to be used as a relay ship during the cruise, the cruiser being with the flagship in Hawaii. These nightly drills gave the operators in Samoa, and on the flagship, practice in intercommunication so that by the time the Fleet passed Samoa they would be well established and used to this communication and the schedules and be able to get the very best results. And now on the other hand, Mr. Schnell practiced nightly direct with Washington and San Francisco and many other points, especially amateur stations in the United States. Also Schnell had many amateur; friends of the air, in Hawaii and was able to contact them personally during our visit in Hawaiian waters and to arrange that they listen in to the Seattle’s high frequency signals also.

This matter of having Lieutenant Schnell located on the flagship, to me, was a very vital thing. And I had still another reason for wanting him on there. We had found in the past, when I was Fleet Radio Officer the first time in 1912 and also when I was in the Bureau, that inventors got up new ideas for applying radio and electronics within the Fleet and in the naval communications system, and although their ideas, and even their apparatus, was suitable, it just wouldn’t fit in on shipboard and in the Fleet with all of the other things that we had to do; the shipboard interferences and the wavelength arrangements and the maneuvering signals going on simultaneously with the point-to-point and various other communications. Those things all had to be fitted together. And if an inventor didn’t try his scheme out under the Fleet Radio Officer’s eye he was very liable to be on the wrong track and the Bureau might buy apparatus that would not fit in at all. One very important example of this was when Mr. John Hayes Hammond Jr., first got up his ideas of radio control of torpedoes. That was back in the early days and will be covered in a separate chapter. But he wanted to have a radio set on every battleship to control torpedoes by radio control. At that time it wasn’t possible to have any more than one radio channel occupied at a time on a ship in close formation, otherwise the interference would be so great using several channels that we couldn’t possibly . . . nobody could communicate. We couldn’t get any signals through whatsoever. Of course we were using spark sets then. And I realized all of that, so I stepped hard on the plan that the departments had of equipping torpedoes with radio control at that time. It would be easy to imagine the bedlam that would have occurred if 16 battleships and some cruisers all firing torpedoes at once, all the radio signals interfering, not only with each other but with the communications during the battle and battle practice. Probably very little communications would have gotten through and the control signals for controlling the various torpedoes would have gotten mixed up with the communication signals and with each other and we would have had torpedoes going in all of the wrong directions at once.

So having Mr. Schnell aboard the Seattle I was able to instruct him in all of that sort of thing and let him see what the problems really were practically, and to observe very carefully, day after day for the whole two or three month’s cruise, exactly how this high frequency could fit into the whole system without being interfered with or causing interference which would be very hampering to other services which came first. As a matter of fact, we would have preferred not to have any long distance communication at all than we would to have had it interfere with the tactical and strategical use of radio. On the other hand, of course the arc sets interfered with the communications very seriously themselves. It turned out that they interfered much more with the radio reception than other communications within the Fleet than the high frequency did, but that had to be established and watched very closely. And long before that it was our custom, because of the interference by these arc sets, not to have the flagship itself do the long distance transmitting on arc sets but to hand that task to one of the cruisers or another battleship in the column which would not cause interference with the flagship’s work. All those things had to be carefully coordinated. And in making my recommendations about the final adoption of any new system, recommendations which would be signed by the Commander-in-Chief and largely approved by Washington, it was very important that I personally know exactly what was going on and what I was doing. And because of the fact that Mr. Schnell was on the flagship, that’s exactly what happened. By the time we reached Australia a month later I knew exactly what Mr. Schnell knew about high frequency and how it would fit into the Fleet program. And when I went back to Washington on duty a few months later I was able to take these recommendations that the Commander-in-Chief himself had signed and proceed with the program without any hesitation whatsoever, knowing full well its ability and its limitations.

Another preparation we made for this cruise for preparing high and medium, and long-wave communication on the Australian cruise was to get permission from the Bureau of Steam Engineering for Mr. Schnell to purchase parts to make another amateur high frequency set for installation on the hospital ship Relief, which would work on a much higher frequency; about 20 meters or 15,000 KC. One of Schnell’s friends was on the Relief, was an operator there, and Relief was not a ship that carried on very much communications during the cruise, very little inter-Fleet work, no long distance work. She had no cage mast or top hamper, and was an ideal ship for radio. So it was decided we’d try out the very high frequency on that ship and see how it compared with the six and seven thousand kilocycle bands used by the Seattle. The purchase of the parts was approved by the Bureau and the apparatus was completed shortly after the ship left Honolulu. It had had some degree of success on the trip but the operator told me that the main difficulty was to get the cooperation of the officers of the ship themselves; such was easy to get on a flagship but difficult to get on a single ship of that nature, in case he needed any help or any repairs made and so on and so forth. But he did show that during the cruise to Australia he was able to communicate by day, especially around the mid-afternoon hours of local time, was able to communicate by day a very long distance with the United States in hours when the Seattle found it absolutely impossible to raise anybody in the 7,000 meter band. So that test was worthwhile, although it wasn’t very well prepared for.

It bothered me a little that Lieutenant Schnell worked so hard, he never would go ashore and get any sunlight or exercise to divert his mind from this work of his, and he was going to have a long hard cruise. So one day I sent him ashore and he had lunch with some pals of his, mostly amateurs over in Honolulu, and after the lunch they went over to the zoo. Well I was worried when I heard his story when he got back because he was almost removed from us for the cruise. When they were over at the zoo they were feeding peanuts to the elephants there and Mr. Schnell made friends with this big elephant and he would throw peanuts over the fence for him. One of the peanuts dropped just inside or outside of the fence and the elephant couldn’t seem to dig it out. So Schnell reached down inside the fence to shove the peanut where the elephant could get it and the elephant thought he was trying to get the peanut himself, and he reached out his long tusks and put it around Mr. Schnell’s waist and picked him up and threw him over his back. So all of amateurs had a big laugh out of that and I did too, but it might have been very serious and might have caused a delay of super-high frequency for the Fleet for I don’t know how long [chuckle].

Frequency on the Seattle; fifty-five, ten, and seventy-five hundred kilocycles and the 15,000 kilocycles on the Relief for long-distance work representing high frequency communication with Washington, Honolulu, San Francisco, and amateurs, and the 76 kilowatt arc set on the cruiser Marblehead to relay long-distance through Samoa; messages which would be repeated to Honolulu on the main arc, and from Samoa, and then from Honolulu to the United States on the Honolulu high power arc station. We also had to make provision for some ship to communicate with Apia, British Samoa, where the cable touched so that any cable messages might be ended on the cable at that point. The California, Lieutenant Commander Ruble; Battle Fleet Radio Officer, was designated to do this on intermediate frequency 315, and they handled a few messages everyday for that purpose without interfering with the 76 or the high frequency.[3] Then the Seattle of course had to handle a great deal of traffic inter-Fleet work and we had a small arc we used for some of our long-distance work and we used our ordinary intermediate frequency transmitter.

From various _______ the flagship transmitters to be in use a great deal of time for inter-Fleet work and also for receiving long-distance intercepts, schedules, press, weather reports and communications with other ships and shore stations. The regular Fleet communications carried on at high speed and without interference by the other work. Also the intercept stations; Honolulu and San Diego, were copied for broadcast messages all the way across the ocean from the United States to the ships of the Fleet. A ten-day test period was carried out before we left Honolulu; a dress rehearsal, and it took about three or four days to begin to shakedown, to get the traffic through, and by the time we left, this great armada of 77 to 100 ships and the entire communications system; high, low, and intermediate frequency, was mobilized and working smoothly.

About the Transcript

Reel # 104
July 18, 1952
Continued from previous reel: Short-Wave Radio
The Navy first applies short-wave radio to the Fleet experimentally.

Transcript #104


Little did we think when we squeezed the amateurs down to the new band; 0 to 200 meters, that they would make such a great contribution in the development of short-wave radio as was proved in the service tests of the U.S. Fleet in its cruise across the Pacific in 1925. When the amateurs were first restricted to 0 to 200 meters, they felt the days of their long distance communication contacts between the amateurs themselves over several hundred miles were about ended and that they might have to restrict their contacts to almost ranges of single cities or towns, or adjacent cities. But again, necessity was the mother of invention and the youthful enthusiasm caused them to try harder and harder until they finally became successful. Naturally when they were shoved down to 200 meters their experiments were as close to 200 meters as they could be for the time being. But they found that in that vicinity; 2,000 to 3,000 kilocycles - speaking in kilocycles - they didn’t have very much success except locally, so enthusiastic and ingenious amateurs began to experiment between three and four, and even five thousand kilocycles and they began to make some remarkable records. And I reported in the previous reels how the Navy was attracted to these records in 1922 and how, by 1923 and 1924, we had actual apparatus at naval radio stations in the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, in our Canal Zone naval radio station, and listening station in London, testing out frequencies of the nature of five or six thousand kilocycles, and that these tests, especially at night, turned out to be very successful. Also I related how in 1924 when I went as Fleet Radio Officer, the Director of Naval Communications; Admiral McLean, arranged to have an amateur accompany the Fleet with his high frequency radio set and demonstrate to the Navy exactly what could be done in service by using high frequency and that we could compare it with our long-wave shipboard apparatus to see which was most suitable or exactly where the place for high frequency would fit in, in the Navy. And in Reel 103 I have just described how the amateur; Lieutenant Fred Schnell, arrived on the Seattle with his small 25 or 50 watt radio transmitter, and was installed in the upper deck with a small single-wire aerial, and allowed to experiment contacting amateurs on the first leg of the Fleet cruise to Australia, the first leg between San Francisco and Hawaii, and how, while we were in Hawaii, I got up a dress rehearsal so that the comparison between the 76 kilocycle arc sets and the high frequency in the 5,000 and 7,000 kilocycle bands, and the ordinary medium frequencies on spark tube sets might be compared during the cruise. And for the first few days in Australia before we sailed we actually started to handle traffic simulating what would be the way it was handled on the cruise. And then during the trip from Honolulu to Samoa; 2,000 miles, beginning July 1st, 1925, for ten days all traffic was handled exactly in accordance to the plan as that would be used after the great armada set out from Samoa for the long two-week’s cruise to New Zealand and Australia.

In general the Seattle, with Lieutenant Schnell’s high frequency transmitter on 5,500 kilocycles and on 7,500 kilocycles, would be used to handle all traffic it could between the Flagship and Honolulu, or San Francisco, or Washington, or any other way that it could, in order to see what could be done. The hospital ship Relief with a small homemade built amateur set used by one of the operators on 15,000 kilocycles was to assist in this and see what its place; the place of 15,000 might be as compared with the 7,500 or 5,500 frequency, especially in daytime. Also one of the cruisers; the Marblehead, with the Fleet, would be given the messages by inter-Fleet radio from the Fleet flagship on intermediate frequency and would act as long distance arc relay ship using 76 kilocycles, long-wave, with Samoa the entire journey, and Samoa would pass the messages on to Hawaii for transmission on the regular Navy high power system. In that way we’d make a comparison between the long-wave and the short-wave. And by the time we reached Australia we would have a pretty good idea of exactly where the different systems fitted in.

To give you a general idea of the length of the cruise; we left Honolulu on the 1st of July and arrived at Samoa the 10th of July, spending one day there, and then the next two weeks were from Samoa to Australia with the short stop en route in New Zealand. Then we remained in Australian waters - half the ships at Sidney and half at Melbourne. The flagship Seattle, which I was on, was at Melbourne most of the time - we remained there for two weeks and then sailed from Australia on our homeward voyage on the 4th of August, arriving in New Zealand August 11, remaining there one week during which time parts of the Fleet were at Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin and Littleton, and during which time we carried on our communication between the flagships at each place on the usual Fleet intermediate frequencies. Then on the 24th of August we sailed for Samoa, arriving there on August 30th, after which time the ships of the Fleet divided up in groups and singly and proceeded to either Hawaii or to different West Coast ports, or Panama, as will be described later.

The cruise on the way to Australia gave us a wonderful service test of the high frequency versus low frequency and we had many difficulties but were able to gradually remedy them. And when we were in Australia we were able to get new parts as needed, especially for the high frequency. And then the return cruise was really a fine service test of all three systems of radio, especially with the ships diverging over great distances to different ports on the trip back. Lieutenant J. R. Williams was the Radio Officer of the Seattle and of course the Radio Officer reported direct to the Fleet Radio Officer, which was myself during that cruise, and Lieutenant Schnell, of course, looked out for the high frequency. During the cruise the purpose was to determine the adequacy of the existing naval communications facilities ashore to handle to and from the Fleet on a complete trans-Pacific cruise to Australia and return without interfering with internal communications in the Fleet. And second; to test the ability of experimental super high frequency sets on the flagship Seattle for handling long distance traffic in comparison with standard equipment. The fact that the two separate channels were to be given daily use, and with stations not equipped to use both simultaneously, made it necessary to use schedules for this long-distance work. I might add that we also had . . . when we were in Australia we made other little high frequency sets on three on four of the ships so that we were able to make additional tests on our return trip, and at the same time high frequency sets were growing up like trees around and we were beginning to contact different ones in the Navy and out. I remember, for example, the Starr Isabel out in China station; it was able to communicate very well with us during that time. Lieutenant Frank Lofton was on the ship at the time. He was a communicator and he took a great interest in this subject. Also the naval station at Cavite built a small high frequency set and we communicated with them. Morris Eastman; E-A-S-T-M-A-N, was the Radio Officer, I believe, who did that job. He was a Chief Radioman at that time, a very good operator. Then we noticed a little station spring up at Guam and one at San Diego, California. The light cruiser Marblehead with a 20 KW arc on 76 kilocycles, long-wave, was used on four schedules daily for its communications between the Fleet and Samoa. And on the return, the light cruiser Memphis took the place of the Marblehead and they were able to communicate successfully 1,200 to 2,500 miles daylight during the entire cruise.

The Seattle, at the same time using the so-called “super high frequency sets” on 55, 10 and 7,500 KC, communicated regularly with Honolulu on two schedules nightly; a maximum distance of 5,000 miles, also with certain other stations on schedules such as Washington, D.C., 10,000 miles, and then Guam, and also various other ships. We had regular schedules with the Canopus in China, and also with Cavite. At first many of these schedules were not successful and we found that the work on those frequencies was mostly of value only after dark. The schedules with Honolulu were successful 30 days out of 48 and only occasionally with Guam and Cavite, and with Washington 14 out of 48. It was the aim to use every possible available station for traffic while en route to Australia, particularly Honolulu and Guam as they were nearest, and to extend more distant stations on the return cruise, particularly Washington, D.C.

Of course we had no idea about skip distance in those days and we were very much disappointed because we couldn’t raise Guam and Honolulu very often as compared with some of the stations much more distant such as on the West Coast or even in New Orleans, or Hartford, Connecticut and Washington. We thought that the operator at Guam, and maybe the operator at Honolulu, wasn’t complying with his schedules, wasn’t careful about listening in on the appointed times. I had quite an exchange of messages with the Commandant at Guam, of course signed by the Commander-in-Chief, where I reported that the operator at Guam wasn’t on schedule. Then we found that he was on schedule and we questioned whether he was using the right local time of communications. Of course now we know that the skip distance was the trouble and the nearer we got to Guam the less chance we had of raising him on those particular frequencies unless we selected times when those frequencies would be heard at Guam, and of course we knew nothing whatsoever about that. Of course Dr. A. Hoyt Taylor at the Naval Research Laboratory had organized all of the amateurs to listen for the station from the Naval Research Laboratory every hour of the day in different parts of the country and he was able to analyze the results and to get up the theory of skip distance and to predict at exactly which time of day and on which frequency a ship would be able to communicate over a certain distance east and west. We knew nothing about that. The only thing that we knew; that some days we’d get on high frequency we’d be able to raise a station 10,000 miles away, we couldn’t raise one two or three hundred miles away, and that seemed to be a very serious thing at the time. Of course after we got back from the cruise from Australia Dr. Taylor began to crystallize all this information and he was able to tell me a lot which would have helped me during the cruise, but of course the information wasn’t yet available so how could he tell me [chuckle]?

At the same time that the Seattle was having her nightly schedules on high frequency with Lieutenant Schnell’s set, the Seattle, using a 5 KW tube transmitter, was communicating with passing islands which had radio stations and ships, and in due time it established communication with Australia on 111 kilocycles. Both the naval stations at Sydney and Melbourne; we worked with them about a little over 2,000 miles at night and over 400 miles in the day time on the 111 frequency, and while this was going on the California using the 5 to 10 KW spark tube set; the Model TL it was called, on 500 kilocycles. It was one of the spark sets that had been converted to tube sets without putting in an oscillating circuit. And they were able to communicate at very great distances with that set on 500 kilocycles or medium frequencies, and even at 1,200 miles by day fairly regularly and 3,000 miles by night. That was due to Lieutenant Rick Ruble; the Fleet Radio Officer of the battle fleet, who was a Radio PG and very active and energetic in trying to make records superior to those of other ships. Then of course at the same time I already mentioned the hospital ship Relief using 15,000 kilocycles, was communicating by daylight with amateurs in the United States, Australia, and Hawaii at rare intervals in daylight. He was the only one that was able to communicate at very long distances of thousands of miles by daylight and his success was unespismatic, as he stated that he had many other duties and there wasn’t any radio officer on the hospital ship to take interest in his work, so he was unable to devote enough time to it and to use his apparatus when the hospital ship commander thought he should be doing other things.

At the same time, of course, we had to look out for incoming traffic and most of that was naturally received on the intercept schedules. I believe they’re now called “Fox Schedules; “F Schedules, from San Diego, Honolulu and Guam, for principally the latter after passing the International Dateline; the 180th Meridian. The daily average number of messages from the Fleet to the naval communication system was approximately 32 and the daily average of the Fleet from the correction there was approximately 27. The average to the naval communications is 32. These figures are taken from the report the Commander-in-Chief at the end of the cruise, which was prepared by me and dated September 25, 1925. I should say also that all of the messages outgoing were given to both the high frequency and the long-wave apparatus so that the competition would be real. Quoting from this report further, I notice a paragraph stating conferences between fleet radio officers and communication officers were held at the various stops. This relates particularly to Pago Pago, Samoa, to review the results obtained thus far during the cruise and to carefully examine future plans. Slight changes and schedules were made in order to permit Samoa to meet its local obligations, all of which were necessary to be carried out in some manner. In order not to interfere with shore radio stations, radio silence was in effect in the Fleet and when we were in port, except of course in high frequencies. The unit high frequencies were used for all inter-Fleet work draining traffic in and out of the Seattle on 515 kc, the Seattle using messenger-delivered traffic to shore stations in order not to interfere with the latter. Samoa reported all-clear with Honolulu upon departure of the Fleet. Of course there’s confusion there where I say unit high frequencies were used for inter-Fleet. Those are what we called high frequencies before the amateurs got up into the very higher high frequencies, or super high frequencies.

Quoting further from this report; after we left Samoa it states that incoming traffic from Honolulu became difficult to receive, reliably after passing 180th Meridian at about 23 degrees south latitude; about 1/3 the distance between Samoa and Australia. It was necessary to have Guam repeat all intercept schedules twice at night broadcast, separated by a period of six hours in order to absolutely insure 100% reception. Guam was also relied upon for a considerable portion of the press that we received in the Fleet. For the outgoing; the Seattle/Honolulu super high frequency schedules were fairly successful at night after leaving Samoa for Australia. Honolulu was cleared, or partially cleared, with the exception of three nights averaging 34 messages per day, which the average of 12 was by super high frequency, 22 by low frequency. Intermediate frequency was not used except for test schedules on that circuit. Low frequency arc schedules, night and day, were reliable between the light cruiser and Samoa up to 1,900 miles, after which they were of no value by day and little value by night. It was not understood why the Marblehead was able to communicate reliably day and night with Samoa from Honolulu 2,200 miles, whereas it was only able to communicate 1,800 miles reliably under the watch grid of Samoa and the latter in high latitude. That was one of the problems. Although the communication was getting more and more difficult between the Marblehead and Samoa on long-wave, we managed to get messages through up to 2,500 or 3,000 miles occasionally. But a day or two before we reached Australia we lost all contact by long-wave and had to secure the apparatus. And the night before we arrived in Australia the Seattle, on Lieutenant Schnell’s high frequency set on 7,500 kilocycles, was able to clear 46 messages direct with the high frequency stations contacted in Hawaii and on the West Coast.

So the battle had been won by high frequency, although it was only reliable at certain times and during the night over those very long distances. The low frequency was much more reliable in daytime but it couldn’t span the distance from Samoa to Australia. And the very last night before we arrived in Australia the high frequency motor generator burned out so when we got in there we were back to using the ordinary medium frequency apparatus. But by the time we left Australia two weeks later all was in good shape and we were ready for the final service test and comparison on the return cruise. Mrs. Hooper accompanied about eight or ten of the wives from Hawaii to Australia and our trip was made on to Samoa. They had to leave a week before we did because ships only ran over that route occasionally, and we lost all communication with them and wondered what had happened to them when we got to Australia. But when the Fleet came in I guess half of Australia was down on the dock to greet us but there was a reserved space for about ten big automobiles, a cabinet, and each cabinet officer had one wife who he and his wife were looking out for. And sure enough there was my wife waving at me as she came alongside the dock.

About the Transcript

Naval Radio
Rear Admiral S. C. Hooper
Reel #105
July 27, 1952
Continued from Reel #104

Continued on the history of the first service test of high frequency radio in the United States Fleet during a trans-Pacific cruise of the Fleet in the summer of 1925, together with the test of the entire Pacific communication system for its readiness in war.

Transcript #105


I described the service test of the first high frequency and amateur set of about 50 watts output power in the U.S. Fleet on the cruise between San Francisco and Honolulu in the summer of 1925, also in competition with the 20 KW arc low frequency set on 76 kilocycles on one of the cruisers on the flank of the Fleet flagship, and with a small shipboard home-made high frequency set on 15,000 kilocycles on the hospital ship Relief, also in competition with ordinary intermediate frequencies. We had arrived at Australia and by the time we arrived there the apparatus had been pretty heavily loaded. A motor generator of the high frequency set on the flagship was burnt out. The arc set on the cruiser needed overhaul after very complete use. And both of those sets were secured during our two week’s stay. The ships of the Fleet had dispersed to Melbourne and Sydney, Hulbert, Brisbane and other ports, and although the Australian regulations didn’t permit the use of radio in harbors, they were very courteous and permitted the exchange of messages between the flagships at the different ports, even by high frequency if we so desired, not to interfere with the broadcasting. We had two weeks of wonderful entertainment by the people of Australia; social and sightseeing. The sightseeing was very much like our own country, and the people being of their own race made us feel that we were right at home. They outdid themselves in their entertainment and brought the United States and Australia very much closer together.

The Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand belong to the British Empire. The British Fleet had never sent a big fleet like ours out there. They’d sent maybe a division or two at a time on occasions, and the people of Australia especially appreciated the goodwill gesture where the entire United States Fleet made the cruise to Australia in 1925. In Melbourne, on the Seattle, we had all the apparatus in good shape again and the new high frequency generator in good shape, and Lieutenant Schnell represented the amateurs on the Seattle who accompanied us on the cruise, was able to handle a large number of personal messages which had accumulated on the Flagship during our stay there direct with Washington. We left for the return trip from Australia and proceeded to New Zealand where we arrived about three days later, where we remained three or four days visiting several of the most important ports in New Zealand; Auckland, Wellington, Littleton and Dunedin. The Fleet divided up between these ports and was able to keep in direct with communications.

The super high frequency kept the Fleet clear with Washington and Honolulu. We continued to receive intercept broadcasts from Guam on four schedules daily. We weren’t able to receive the intercepts direct from Hawaii until after we left New Zealand and then they came in very nicely. One thing about the intercepts; we noticed that the Kahoka [phonetic] station on the northwest corner of the island of Oahu came in stronger when sending intercepts than the naval radio station at Pearl Harbor. I would say about 20% stronger. All the time we were able to receive press from various stations, not only our own naval radio system but from stations from in Australia such as Sydney and stations in New Zealand.

A better chance to make our service comparisons of these different frequencies used in the radio; 76 kilocycles, 315 kilocycles, 5,510, 7,500 and 15,000, because various ships left the Flagship and our paths diverged until we arrived in the United States. For example, the Seattle, with one other cruiser - I believe it was the Trenton, headed directly for French Samoa, which is about 4,500 miles in a south-westerly direction from San Diego, California, and most of the battle fleet under Admiral S. S. Robinson,[4] Lieutenant Commander Ruble; Radio Officer, went on to Hawaii and then headed for San Diego from Hawaii. Two ships sent on from Hawaii to Panama directly; the West Virginia and Marblehead, and one cruiser; the Omaha, proceeded direct to Seattle. So there was a very good opportunity to not only test our high and low frequencies direct with Hawaii and the United States, and other stations, but to test between the ships themselves on diverging courses.

High frequency set 7,500 KC on the Seattle and 15,000 on the hospital ship Relief. Other ships had collected together various parts and made homemade high frequency radio transmitters and receivers, some of which were used on this homeward bound cruise.

The Trenton left Melbourne with us but left the Fleet a few days later and proceeded to the Marquesas Islands and direct to Panama, and that also permitted another service test between the Trenton, the Seattle, the Omaha, California, and others which had been designated for this purpose. I was kept there on the 7,500 kilocycle super high frequency the first five or six days en route. The arc guard ship on the 76 kilocycle was again in reliable communication with Samoa; about half way between Samoa and New Zealand on the return trip. There were about 20 or 30 messages each night handled by each system.

Some strange things happened which we couldn’t account for at the time. It was impossible to communicate with Washington reliability by super high frequency on 7,500 or 5,520 after we left New Zealand. The schedules were carried out faithfully but Washington reported the signal was either unreadable or inaudible. At the same time we were able to communicate very well with Honolulu on various occasions and San Diego, California, or amateur stations in the United States. Of course this was due to the skip distance and we didn’t understand it.

. . . a long time at sea and exercised three days at calibration of radio compasses, or radio direction finders. For this exercise a light cruiser circled the Fleet formation at distances varying five and ten miles and transmitted test letters for calibrating on continuous waves and on alternating continuous waves. And calibration was conducted, of course, on 375 KC; the direction finder frequency, also on 315 kilocycles. An elaborate schedule of sonar or sound test was carried on all of the way from Honolulu to Australia, and return, by the commander destroyer squadron’s battle fleet but with very discouraging results after we got into depths of greater than 200 fathoms. That was another thing we couldn’t understand. We had made very careful and thorough tests of the sound apparatus before it was put on the destroyers, particularly for that cruise, and it operated beautifully, but on the trans-Pacific cruise there was very little effective results. And after our return to the United States we checked our original results and found they’d all been made within 100 or 200 miles of the coast; on the East Coast of the United States, and there the water was all of depths not greater than 200 fathoms, as compared with thousands of fathoms in the Pacific. So we learned after that when we formed any conclusions for echo-sounding, or sound waves, we must make the tests, not only in deep water, as you generally know it, within a few miles of the coast, but also in the very great depths such as encountered in the very middle of the ocean. We carried out tests everyday with the sound, one ship testing on another, as well as the test by arc tube and super high frequency radio, and we really did learn a great deal.

Now a quote from my report signed by the Commander-in-Chief made at the conclusion of the cruise from Australia to San Diego dated September 25th, 1925:

Super high frequency has a much greater distance at night than low and medium frequencies and should be used on flagships and at high-powered shore radio stations for night and day if found to be satisfactory for long distance communications. Its efficiency on shipboard is variable, depending on personal efficiency, ether conditions, and the bearing of the station being communicated with relative to the ship’s head if capable of equal daylight range up to 20 KW arc sets, it should replace them.

We hadn’t found it in any way capable of replacing them at that time because of the skip distance and the noises that came due to the rigging and other ship noises. Although if we got great distances with the super high frequency, they were only good at night as a general rule and it took a great deal of time trying to establish communication.

Naval communication stations in the Pacific have sufficient range to reach naval ships by intercept method – they call that “Fox Method” now - anywhere in the Southwestern Pacific to the latitude of Tasmania. Naval ships east of the 180th Meridian and north of 20 degrees south latitude can rely on reception of San Diego/Honolulu intercept schedules. Naval ships in southern Australia cannot receive Cavetti, San Diego, or Honolulu, with any degree of certainty, but can receive Guam reliably at night and often in the daytime.

The reliable range of 20 KW arc sets on 75 KW - 75 kcs on a light cruiser - is 1,000 to 2,300 miles day and night - that is 1,000 minimum in day and 2,300 minimum at night - depending upon conditions and locations. During this cruise it was reliable up to 1,700 miles in daylight when communicating with Samoa. The reliable range of a ten KW tube set on a battleship is 500 to 1,200 miles day and night, depending on conditions and location, with Honolulu or San Francisco this range is about 700 miles, with New Zealand and Asia, 1,200 day and night, and Australia, 300 miles day and night.

Frequencies greater than 9,000 kilocycles are not yet practical for ships owing to interference of non-radio noises onboard.”

Now that was a very serious thing because we were very anxious to have an apparatus that would work up to about 12-18,000 kilocycles in the Fleet and for long distance daylight communication, which was not possible by the high frequency sets in the band 5,000 and to 8,000.

“But when we tried to use high frequencies above 8,000; up in the 15,000 kilocycle band, we found that there were so many noises and squawks in the receiver due to the rigging interferences, every time the ship rolled the operator would just throw up his hands. It would be impossible to receive. Of course all of these noises are eliminated today. After our return from that cruise the laboratories got busy on the thing and in a few years they had no trouble at all receiving very much higher frequencies aboard ship. Continuous waves must be used for shipboard super high frequency transmission in order not to interfere with its own ship reception. Naval ships in New Zealand can receive Cavite better than Guam. In Australia, reception of Guam is better than Cavite. New Zealand and Samoan stations have a better range than the United States stations, probably due to geographical or climatic conditions. For extreme range super high frequency communications schedules are necessary; at least three stations widely separated to copy of beginning of schedules of the Fleet flagship until the flagship determines which is satisfactory, chooses one and releases the other two.”

Now that sounds very foolish today because we know about skip distance; all our trouble in trying to raise the station; we’d call and call and call on the schedules, was due to using the wrong frequency for that particular station at the wrong time. So as an answer to that I thought the only thing to do was to have at least three different stations in different locations of the United States, widely separated, listen on the flagship schedules, and then when one heard the flagship it would answer and the flagship would release the other two.

“The importance of observing schedules and starting them exactly on time cannot be overestimated. If operators are sluggish in starting the schedules due to non-completion of other schedules, the entire personnel becomes careless and disorganized. Schedules should start on-time, even if necessary to discontinue other schedules without completing them.”

Now that recommendation was due to the fact . . . it turned out it was due to the fact that the frequency was so variable on super high frequency that the operators had to call and call and call before the operator’s listening would finally hear the calling operator. With just a hair of change either way, which would be enough to sometimes pick up the flagship calling, whereas the operator listening might think he was on the proper frequency to listen to the flagship, and yet he might be just a hair off and that would cause very great delay.

“Radio School should give operating instructions in super high frequency; a practice circuit between Great Lakes, San Diego, New London and Hampton Rhodes is suggested. The average number of messages in the Fleet daily was about 30 from the Fleet and about the same number to the Fleet during the cruise. About 50% of the traffic was personal messages. In wartime there would be at least twice if not six times the number of ships and practically no personal messages, so the traffic would be very much greater. It is impossible to estimate the extent of traffic in event of war in the Pacific. Most of the messages would be to and from the nearest base. Messages concerning spare parts or failures, and so on, would probably be between 50 and 100 per day each way for the Fleet itself."

The Naval Communications Service would be expected to handle considerable traffic in the way of information for the Commander-in-Chief and for convoys, which is not necessary during peacetime on an overseas cruise such as the one between the West Coast of the United States and Australia.

. . . frequent collaboration between all of the radio officers of the Fleet, but daily and almost hourly contact between Lieutenant Schnell and myself, and the report I prepared was gone over paragraph by paragraph with Lieutenant Schnell and we filed our joint report. And on the 21st of December, 1925, the Commander-in-Chief; Admiral Harry Coontz, signed a letter to Lieutenant Fred M. Schnell, U.S. Naval Reserve, with appreciation.[5] And he enclosed a copy of the report for his information, stated that upon departure from San Francisco the Fleet had had no experience in super high frequency radio, and on completion of the cruise, six months later, the successful application of these frequencies for Fleet long distance work had been thoroughly tested and proved.

“You; Schnell, have labored tireless for the success of the venture. The Commander-in-Chief takes pleasure in acknowledging the effectiveness of your work and in thanking you for your efforts. The work you are doing to endeavor to make the amateur organization ready in an event of national need is an exceedingly important one. Through you may I express my wishes for its happiness and success.”

As an acknowledgement to that Lieutenant Schnell addressed me immediately and stated that he realized what success had been obtained was due in large measure to cooperation he had been accorded. He stated that:

“The entire cruise has been a splendid education for me, thanks to your kindness and thoughtfulness in sending me to the critical places at the right time. Through your efforts I have seen more and learned more than if I had gone along on my own. I have acquired a deep respect for the Navy and I love it more than ever. The things I have seen and learned are sufficient to enable me to make a stronger appeal throughout the radio amateur field. I wish you would assure the Commander-in-Chief that we will leave nothing undone to make the radio amateurs more proficient along such lines as would best fit them for military duty in the event of a national emergency.”

We’ve seen how, with the aid of the amateurs and the Naval Research Laboratory under Doctor A. Hoyt Taylor of the Navy, made its first service tests of high frequency in the Fleet, and proved its use, and within a month after our return to San Diego I was detached, ordered back in charge of the Electronics and Radio Division of the Bureau of Steam Engineering and fell heir to the job of carrying out, again, my recommendations made from the Fleet.

. . .[Lieutenant Commander Craven] whom I had relieved on the Seattle as Fleet Radio Officer two years previously was then with the Bureau of Steam Engineering in charge of the Design Division under Captain R. W. McNeely; Head of the Radio Division.[6] And he not only had all of the reports that came from the Fleet on these service tests of high frequency and low frequency and so on, but he was in very close touch with our Naval Research Laboratory; Doctor A. Hoyt Taylor, and he knew things I didn’t know. He knew about the skip distance. And he was adding that knowledge to the experience we had in the Fleet to alter our recommendations somewhat so that we might have super high frequency for day and night use, and all frequencies necessary supplementing the system already involved for long distance Fleet communication.

Note for editor: some blanks in this reel. Please fill in. Lieutenant Commander Craven’s name appears to be omitted toward the very end, as in charge of the design section of the Radio Division under Captain R. W. McNeely.

Correction: the letter I quoted from toward the latter part of the reel was dated September 20, 1926 instead of September 25th.

About the Transcript

History of Naval Radio Rear Admiral S. C. Hooper Reel #106 Continued from Reel #105

Subject: describes the Australian-San Francisco service tests of a high frequency radio in 1925 as compared with the low and intermediate frequency for possible adoption to naval requirements.

Transcript #106


The last reel we completed the description of the service test between high frequency, low frequency long range, and intermediate frequency on the trans-Pacific cruise of the United States Fleet en route from Australia to the west coast of the United States, and we reported the conclusions of the cruise; namely that high frequency was recommended for adoption on all flagships and at high power radio stations; district center radio stations, so that we could have the advantage of high frequency for very long distance communication, for the low frequency would not extend over 2 or 3,000 miles, especially at night, and the high frequency was very good for night. We also reported that 15,000 kilocycles at high frequency was better in the daytime than the 7,500. We reported that the high frequency was very erratic as compared to the low frequency, which was reliable over ordinary distances, but that sometimes we’d be able to raise a station thousands of miles away and not be able to make contact with one just a few hundred miles away even if they were on schedule, and we couldn’t understand why that was, because we ascertained that the operators were standing very careful watch. Of course we did not know what skip distance was with high frequency in those days. One of the conclusions we made was that high frequency reception on a ship, which rose in pitches, was almost impossible above 9,000 kilocycles because of the electrical disturbances in the rigging with such motion. Of course that later on was overcome.

Now there are a few notes on this to be appended to this description of the high frequency/ low frequency tests as follows. During the cruise from Australia to the West Coast Mr. Schnell was able to communicate from the leg between Australia and New Zealand; a distance of several thousand miles, to an amateur station in Chile about 4,000 away. And at least five amateur stations in England were contacted direct at night, a distance of over 12,000 miles. One was a radio phone station in England. And the amateur there had played music from records during the test. Another was to North Greenland, another to France, and one to Argentine. Lieutenant Schnell kept a little notebook of his contacts and it was very interesting to see each night how he almost circled half the globe, or even greater, on the high frequency radio. It was really quite a game. I used to go up every night to his little set in the radio compass shack and sit and talk to him while he tried to establish contact, which often took hours, and I would try myself occasionally. Sometimes I would unload the whole batch of messages when he finally contacted somebody in the United States.

Another interesting thing to look back on in view of the present day, 1952 - when this is nearly 30 years later - is to see which young officers were then becoming prominent to radio and to the Fleet as compared with now where they’re all high ranking officers; admirals or captains, and have made great records of achievement in communications and electronics, which started pretty much back at that time. For example, the Battle Fleet Radio Officer under Admiral S. S. Robison was Lieutenant Commander W. J. Ruble; R-U-B-L-E, on the battleship California, flagship of the Battle Fleet. Then there was Lieutenant Joseph R. Redman; Radio Officer on New Mexico for the Battleship Divisions of the Battle Fleet. He did exceptional work on there. I recall that he entirely made over the battle radio system of the battleship New Mexico and that later was used as a model for all of our battleships of that type. Then there was Lieutenant Commander Paul H. Bastedo; B-A-S-T-E-D-O, who later . . . he was Communications Officer with the Battleship Divisions under Admiral Wiley[7], although he wasn’t directly associated with radio he worked in cooperation with Lieutenant Redman. And on one of the battleship divisions was Lieutenant J. B. Dow - he might have been an ensign [phonetic] now - Jennings B. Dow; D-O-W. He made great contributions in radio, both during that cruise and later on, and occupied the most prominent post during the Second World War. He piloted the Electronics Division of the Navy through the entire war with the assistance of Lieutenant . . . in those early days, or Ensign Dave Hall who was a little junior to him. In Hawaii the District Communication Officer was Lieutenant Gray; G-R-A-Y,[8] and in the utility course the Radio Officer was Lieutenant E. K. Jett; J-E-T-T, who did very fine work during his entire career. He had to resign from the Navy when he came up for Lieutenant Commander, but he went as Assistant Chief Engineer of the Federal Communication Commission under the chief engineer who was former Commander T. A. M. Craven of the Navy, and later he became Chief Engineer and later Commissioner. He’s now Vice President of the Sun Papers Television and Broadcasting. Lieutenant Redman, by the way - then Lieutenant - is now Vice President of the Western Union Telegraph Company. And Lieutenant Dow, or Ensign Dow then, is now Executive Vice President of the Hazeltine Corporation; one of the greatest manufacturing corporations for electronics and material. So we see how this training fitted these young men so that they rose rapidly to do great deeds for the Navy and later to occupy very prominent positions in civilian life. That’s true of a great many of our young officers who specialized particularly . . . I could name two or three dozen of our radio officers who came along a little later who are now in very prominent positions in different industry and in high positions in the government.

We had some rather humorous things happen on these tests and they’re interesting to make record of. While Lieutenant Schnell was working with amateurs one evening during the night watches I happened to go up into the radio shack and I found him working with a station in Japan; an amateur station. I said, “Why you should not do that Schnell”. I said, “That’s a Japanese station.” I was rather taken aback when I found him communicating with a Japanese station, some amateur over there. He might have been at a military station, or not. The reason I was quite surprised was because Japan was one of our great potential enemies and we weren’t a bit anxious to have them know about our plans and development work, and certainly if they saw that we were interested in long distance high frequency communications, that would be a signal to them that they ought to study the same thing. Of course Mr. Schnell being a civilian, actually he wouldn’t think of that. But I gave him orders not to do that anymore. It didn’t require any orders as a matter of fact. He understood the point right off. These foreigners are especially keen to watch the greatest powers in their development work like that, and even if they don’t understand what we’re working toward, if they see us doing something they will immediately put a lot of experts on that particular subject to try to develop it, sort of copying us. I remember very well after the First World War a book was published giving interesting experiences of radio intelligence and security during the First War by a former State Department employee who had been in that work.[9] The book was very well written and gave away all the secrets in that line that we had during the war. The author thought they were no longer secret. But I learned afterwards that as soon as the Japanese Navy got a copy of that book they raised a number of employees in that line of work from three or four to over 100. So of course, the very publication of that volume was of great damage to us potentially, and that’s true in other lines of activity when you let nations know what you’re doing in a military way.

One time we received a communication from an amateur in Johannesburg, South Africa; some mining territory there. He was an American and he had a short-wave set, a homemade set, and he took a great interest in the amateur work, because he was lonely up in his mountain habitat there and it seems that he picked up our Fleet signals pretty regularly, and he thought we would be interested in hearing of this. So he communicated with Lieutenant Schnell in some way and told him that he was copying those signals every night. I suppose he read about it through the bulletin we had put out to the amateurs asking them to report on our signals. So I thought it would be a pretty nice thing to do and would certainly knock him out of his chair if we addressed the message direct to him some night at the time that I knew he was always listening and sign it by the Commander-in-Chief. So sure enough, I prepared a message and the Admiral okayed it to this amateur out in Johannesburg, Africa, halfway around the world in his little habitat there, and I could picture him copying away on our messages; he just copying for intercept, then all of a sudden hearing a message addressed directly to him; an official message from the U.S. Flagship Seattle stating that we had appreciated very much the information he sent us and extended our very best wishes, signed R. E. Coontz, Admiral, U.S. Navy, Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet. Well he appreciated it alright because the Admiral had a very nice letter for him, and he was very faithful. He sent us all sorts of information about his high frequency work from then on.

I believe you will find a complete record of Mr. Schnell’s contacts in a report of same in one of the amateur QST magazines probably dated in 1926 or 7, at about that time. I got a letter from the Director of Naval Communications; Rear Admiral Ridley McLean, in 1925 while we were on this cruise. He was very much interested in this high frequency test. In fact I doubt if we’d ever brought the thing about at the time we did if it hadn’t been for his great interest. I quote from this letter:

“We are all very much interested, and I must say somewhat elated over the high frequency tests. Last night we exchanged about 400 words on regular traffic schedules, and when you think that the distance from here to Honolulu is approximately the same as from the China Coast to Honolulu, that means we have already a method in sight by which the Commander-in-Chief can, to some extent, communicate across that expanse of water from onboard ship without relay, even in case the Cavite station and Guam should both fail in the early days of the War in the Pacific. I confidently hope that with continued use we will very much improve the record obtained thus far.”

Then he goes on to worry about the fact that they had to put Lieutenant Schnell and his high frequency set on the Flagship because he thought that he’d get so much interference on the flagship as compared with one of the unimportant ships in the columns, and also there’d be so much official work that Mr. Schnell wouldn’t be able to make the tests he wanted. But of course we put him on the Flagship, as I told you in the previous reel, because we wanted to see for ourselves just what this high frequency could do and to actually operate it ourselves and find out all of the difficulties and all of the advantages and so on. And it turned out just as I had thought. We learned more by having it on the Flagship, even though we didn’t get half as much traffic through. And when I finished that cruise and went, again, in charge of the Electronics Division of Bureau of Ships, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and didn’t have to try to work it out from some long report made on some other ship. And more important yet, I knew perfectly well that those deficiencies we found, such as not being able to receive on 9,000 would be so impressed on me that I would go back to Washington with a determination to overcome them rather than just let the matter drift on, come what may. And those deficiencies had to be overcome for all types of ships, not only battleships, non-flagships, or unimportant single ships that didn’t do very much radio work, but flagships and planes and everything else that had the maximum difficulties to overcome. And immediately Dr. Taylor and his staff at the Naval Research Laboratory and the Bureau turned to and with crystal control, and dividing up the wavelengths so that we would know which wave to use in the daytime and which one to use in the middle of the night, and which one to use in between; we would always be able to establish contact. And that was pretty well solved within the next year or two.

After our cruise on the Seattle, why an article was published in the monthly Radio Sound and Radio Report, Serial Number 101 in September 1925, which was a summary of the conclusions by the Naval Research Laboratory on the so-called “Difficulties of High Frequency” and what they were caused by. The article was on page 42 and entitled “Wave Propagation Phenomena and High Frequencies”, by Dr. A Hoyt Taylor; our radio superintendent at the Laboratory, and Dr. E. O. Hulburt; H-U-L-B-U-R-T, our light man. And in that article it is explained that the Heaviside layer where the atmosphere becomes very, very rarified between one and three or four hundred miles above the earth’s surface, actually reflected certain waves back to the earth. With these high frequency waves; instead of following the curvature of the earth they went up to the upper atmosphere, and if they were vertical enough they would go right through the heavy side layer, but if they hit it at an angle they would bounce back toward the earth. And the distance from where the wave was transmitted to where it finally hit the earth again was bisected at the point in the heavy side layer where the wave hit the Heaviside layer. And Dr. Taylor and Dr. Hulburt were able to work out, from all of the data that we sent in and all the data they obtained from the amateurs, and find out why these waves behaved as they did. Some wouldn’t come back at all and go right through the upper layer. Others would come back at very great distances from the point of transmission and there was a difference in between. But these distances depended entirely on the time of day and the frequency used for transmission. And the reason the time of day had such a great influence on it was because the height of the heavy side lay varied with the time of day, and also in summer and winter, so that the distance that the wave skipped over not only varied according to the time of day but it also varied according to season. So if you wanted to be sure and have communication between any two ships you had to have one frequency, say between 5 and 8,000 for daytime use and another one for nighttime use, shorter than that. And with extreme distance you’d have to have a frequency up around 12 or 15 or even 20,000. So that was all wonderful work done by our amateurs and our experts at the Naval Research Laboratory under the Laboratory Radio Superintendent.



  1. Admiral Robert E. Coontz; Admiral William C. Cole.
  2. Frederick H. Schnell.
  3. Wilbur J. Ruble.
  4. Admiral Samuel S. Robinson, USN.
  5. Admiral Robert E. Coontz, USN.
  6. Robert W. McNeely, USN.
  7. Likely Admiral Henry A. Wiley.
  8. Unclear.
  9. This is a reference to Herbert Yardley and his book, The American Black Chamber (1931).