During the Pacific War in the middle of last century, the American forces operated a massive fleet of more than 50 radio communication ships. Some of these ships were indeed floating radio stations, whereas others were ships that were performing other wartime duties, and they were also in use permanently or temporarily as radio communication units as well.
It should also be stated that the American forces also utilized a score or more of cable ships during the same events in the middle of last century. It was the specialized duty of these cable ships to lay underwater cables, short and sometimes long, between points of importance in the Pacific arena. However, most of these cable laying ships were equipped with radio communication capability for their own specific needs only, but not for use in wide area communications.
Of specific interest in the area of radio communication in the Pacific was a series of 4 ships that were constructed in Chicago, Illinois. These ships were designated as PCER units, Patrol Escort Rescue vessels.
All 4 of these PCER radio ships were hurriedly constructed by the Pullman Standard Car Manufacturing Company in Chicago, a railway vehicle manufacturer, towards the end of the year 1943. They were quickly taken down the Mississippi River and commissioned in New Orleans, Louisiana, from where they sailed across the Pacific to Brisbane in Australia.
It was in Brisbane that General Douglas MacArthur requisitioned 3 of these PCER ships, and had them converted into floating radio stations with the installation of shortwave communication equipment manufactured by the well known Australian company AWA. For example, one of these ships, later renamed as the “Fairview”, was fitted with 4 shortwave transmitters, each rated at .75 kW. Similar radio equipment was loaded into the other two ships also.
When completed, these 3 ships, designated as PCER848, PCER849 & PCER850, sailed from Australia up to Hollandia on the north coast of New Guinea, where they joined the massive flotilla of more than 600 ships that made its way to the Philippines in October 1944. These 3 radio ships replaced other smaller and older radio ships, such as the “Harold“, “Argosy Lemal” & “Geoanna“.
We take a look at just a few of these more notable radio communication ships, in alphabetic order.
The “Ancon” was originally a passenger liner constructed in Quincy Massachusetts in 1938. Five years later it was converted into a floating radio station, and it served alongside the navy vessels, “Iowa” & “Missouri” as a press radio ship sending news reports back to the United States for use on radio & in the newspapers. The “Ancon” served in both the European and the Pacific theaters.
The “Eldorado” was another ship that was specifically designed and constructed in 1943 as a floating radio station. This ship saw service off the coasts of Iwo Jima & Okinawa and it was in use for the shortwave transmission of news reports back to the United States.
The “Eldorado” carried a group of news reporters serving as the Combined American Network, and their reports were broadcast nationwide over the Mutual Radio Network and the other news networks also. These forwarded news reports from the “Eldorado” were logged by international shortwave monitors in both the South Pacific & the United States. The callsign in use by the “Eldorado” was KG1K.
The “FP47” was an American coastal freighter that was loaded with radio equipment in Sydney Australia and then taken up to the Philippine campaign in 1944. The “FP47” was often found in association with the also well known “Apache”, and its usage was for Morse Code communication, including the direct report of news back to the United States.
In subsequent years, the “FP47” was found in Canadian waters, and it was rescued by the husband & wife team, Michael & Donna Lowry. They restored & renovated the “FP47”, renamed it the “Cape James”, and used it in local tourism.
The “Francois Henebique” was a floating concrete barge and it served in the Pacific as a mobile radio repair ship. This ship was later deliberately sunk at Newport, Oregon, where it serves as the foundation for a shipping dock.
The “Geoanna” has a considerably longer history. It was constructed at Long Beach, California in 1934 and it was a schooner owned by the 7UP bottled drink company. The “Geoanna” was requisitioned by the American army, and then taken over by the navy in 1942. During the following year, it was turned into a floating radio station and sent into the Pacific.
Towards the end of the year the “Geoanna” got lost in the Admiralty Islands, and the world went on without it for several months. When it was finally re-located, it was then replaced by more modern ships with more modern radio equipment. Many years later, somewhere around January 2000, the “Geoanna” was taken to the Philippines where it was renovated for local cargo & passenger usage.
It is known that the ship “Henrico” operated in European & Pacific waters, and it was allocated the callsign NKIG.
The ship “Lock Knot” was in use in Asian waters as a floating spare parts barge, containing all sorts of radio parts & equipment. The “Lock Knot” was later renamed “Restoration”.
The USS “Nashville“, with callsign NABG, was used by General MacArthur as his command ship in the Philippine campaigns, and it relayed news reports & broadcasts back to Hollandia, as well as to Brisbane and also to the United States.
The older navy vessel, USS “Nevada” operated under the callsign NADK; and the USS “Pennsylvania” carried 24 radio transmitters & 41 radio receivers. The “Rock” was another floating concrete barge, and it was in use as a radio repair ship. In 1945, the USS “Teton” was on the air at one stage in Tokyo Bay as the mediumwave AFRS entertainment station WVTX.
We should also mention two other American radio ships that were in communication usage during that era, though these were not on service in the Pacific. The USS “Augusta” was a radio command ship off the coast of Casablanca in Morocco and on November 8, 1942, its radio equipment was disabled when the big guns began to bombard the coast. It can be remembered that a similar circumstance disabled the radio equipment on board the USS “Texas” at a nearby beach near Rabat on the same day.
And finally, we mention the “Catoclin” which was launched in 1943 and converted into a floating radio station. This ship served as the shortwave communication facility under President Franklin Roosevelt when he attended the Yalta Conference in Iran with Winston Churchill & Joseph Stalin in February 1945. The specially installed shortwave equipment aboard the “Catoclin” communicated directly with the specially installed 100 kW transmitter WRX in the AT&T shortwave station located at Lawrenceville in New Jersey.
In 2 week’s time, we are planning to present the story of Australian radio ships in the Pacific.
From: Wavescan N192 – Oct. 28, 2012