November 1942 QST
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
QST, published December 1915 - present. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
My Uncle Brian was a radioman in the U.S. Navy
during the end of the Korean War era. A great story teller, he used to talk about his
Navy experiences and later times as a United Parcel Service (UPS)
tandem semi trailer driver when he and others from my Buffalo
side of the family would come to visit during summers when I was a kid. He spent most
enlistment on a gravy assignment at the U.S. embassy in Australia, relaying messages
between self-important bureaucrats at the Pentagon and self-important bureaucrats at
the U.S. embassy in Down Under. His favorite saying about his time in the service is,
"I joined the Navy to see the world, and all I saw was the sea." I laugh every time I
The Navy Trains Radio Technicians
Radio Hams Prepare to Learn a Fascinating New Art
Hams in the current Navy RT class at Grove City College: First row,
I. to r.: Lt. Comdr. W. F. Grogan, US R. ex.W4QY. Commanding Officer; W3FGA.W3HYL; W8PGM;
W8TTK; W3DYM; W2LWS; W8QZO; W2NPH; W8VYM. Second row; W8SC; W3JMO.W3JWL; W1ELR; W1EQG;
W2AFM; W3JIX; W1EII; WIDZB. Third row: W200U·W3IAY; W1LTR; W80ST; W80TO; W3GYY; W1JTG;
W1NCQ. Fourth row: W3EJA; W3HHY; W8LWV; W8NNW.W8SAA; W3CTS; W3GCI; W8KWA. Fifth row:
W7HKW -ex·W2IDO; W8VZK; W3IQO. ex·AD47; W2HEO-ex.WIAZK.
Veteran or neophyte, all primary EE and RM students are taught radio
principles and practice from the ground up - and learn a lot about fundamentals they
passed up in earlier training. These photos show Grove City students in typical lab sessions.
Top - Making a study of the factors affecting the performance of a Class. A resistance-coupled
amplifier, Front, D. F. Burdett; rear, R. Spencer, ex.W2DEG. Second from lop - Lt. Comdr.
W. F. Grogan, ex.W4QY, explaining the construction of one of the "bottles" from the
1-kw. ham transmitter. The 100-watt college transmitter is visible at the right. L. to
R.: R. W. Somers, RT2c, W3RRY; Lt. Comdr. W. F. Grogan; T. S. Austin, W8RDJ, and R. J.
Parker, RT2c, W8NNW. W8SAA. Second from bottom Obtaining data for saturation and magnetization
curves of shun t and series wound genera tors. Note the terminals and meters visible
in the background; these are on the main switchboard in the college electrical engineering
laboratory. L. to R.: W8VJV; W2LOK; unidentified; T. S. Anstin, W8RDJ, and G. M. Vrooman.
Bot/om - An experiment on tube characteristics, obtaining data for families of curves.
Reading from L. to R.: W8KWA; W8LWV; W3IQO; W3JIX; W3JMO. W3JWL, and T. S. Austin, W8RDJ,
Shop work starts with bending sheet metal chassis, cutting holes,
etc., carries on through construction of 5-tube superhet. Top - Students operate all
types of machine tools in Bliss Electrical School's well-equipped machine shop. Below
Drilling, punching and soldering chassis in Grove City's third-month radio lab. L. to
R.: W. B. Stryker; A. M. Pontus, W3FCR; F. L. Pratt, and P. H. M. Tippin.
Through classroom lab and shop the Navy's radio technicians get a
thorough grounding in basic electrical principles, as well as radio, u.h.f., cathode-ray
tubes and all the rest. Left - Measuring the characteristic impedance of a telephone
line at Grove City. Front (hand on dial) W8KWA; standing, Instructor Smock, chief operator
WSAJ, owned and operated by the College; center, two Marine privates; right, W3GCI. Center
- Typical classroom scene at the 190 N. State St. school. At left in the laboratory are
Instructors William Kunz, W8SNS, and Stanley Osterlund, W9TJL, inspecting a 20-inch Cathode-Ray
Oscillograph, one of the three now in existence in the country. At right, A. H. Brolly,
ex-W6RG, chief instructor lecturing from a drawing of a triode crystal oscillator and
the E.-I. curve of a triode tube. Right - For fifty years Bliss students learned about
electricity in this testing lab, now used exclusively in teaching Uncle Sam's sailors.
Completely equipped for all types of power and physical measurements, his work here equips
the student to handle testing and measurement problems.
Students work in groups during lab and shop sessions. Left - a Grove
City group making measurements on an amplifier. L. to R., back row: W8LWV; Marine Pvt.
Merriam; W8RUJ, instructor. Front row: Marine Pvt. Mazzeo; W3JMO-W3JWL. Right - Atop
the Balaban & Katz building in Chicago a group of 190 N. State St. students investigate
performance of equipment in frigid February weather.
No more hen-scratched circuit diagrams - the Navy wants the job done
right! Drafting class at Bliss, where students learn time-saving methods for turning
out neat, accurate mechanical drawings and schematics.
Left - Main entrance to the Administration Building at Bliss Electrical
School, near Washington, D. C. In this building are the general offices, reference library
and reading room, lecture hall, drafting and conference rooms, machine shop and electrical
testing laboratory. Below - Memorial Hall, one of the dormitory buildings, at Grove City
College. now used as barracks for the Naval and Marine Personnel.
This is the story of a radio technician. He's one of the lads who, sooner or later,
will be found out in the front lines - the first line, in fact, of America's defense.
On the front line of battle - and on the front line of science, too. For his job it is
to run one of the important new scienti1l'c developments that in the end will win the
Not that we're going to be able to tell you just what he does, of course. That's a
deep dark secret - and we'd better all pray, fervently, that it remains so. Even he himself
doesn't know, in all probability - yet. His present job is to train himself to the point
where he will be fit to find out.
For he is a student at one of the Navy's primary EE and RM training schools.
There are seven of these schools scattered around the nation. There's one at Grove
City College in Pennsylvania and another at Utah State Agricultural College, Logan, Utah.
There are two in Texas - one at the University of Houston and another at A&M College
of Texas. Oklahoma A&M College at Stillwater has one, too, and the Bliss Electrical
School at Takoma Park, Maryland, is now devoted entirely to this training.
Then there's the school at 190 North State Street in Chicago - except that instead
of being last on the list it should have been first, since it was the first to start
instruction and its commanding officer, Lt. (jg) William C. Eddy, USN (Ret.), did a
great deal of the work in setting up the curriculum for the uniform course taught at
all the schools.
Which of these schools does our hero attend? Any - and all. All you have to do is
to look for a fellow with a trim white uniform, a collection of books and papers under
his arm and a look of concentrated absorption "on his face. It won't be hard to find
him, either - there are hundreds of him at each of these seven schools, and hundreds
more coming and going every thirty days or so.
Let's hear from some of his buddies speaking from the campus of the Utah State Agricultural
College at Logan, Utah:
"The Battle of Logan"
"In a sparkling green valley tucked between the mountains of Northeastern Utah, far
from the whine of planes and the roar of guns, several hundred sailors and marines are,
as they call it, fighting the Battle of Logan.
"The Battle of Logan? You've never heard of it? Well, probably not. It isn't heralded
in the press or broadcast to the firesides. It is, however, far more important than the
average American will realize for some time to come.
"Who are these sailors and marines? Where are they from and what are they doing?
"Most of them held ham radio licenses or were engaged in radio repair service in their
respective home towns. Towns that ranged from the East Coast of New England to the West
Coast of California, from the plantations of Louisiana to the rolling prairies of the
"Swapping white collars and work shirts for the blues of the U. S. Navy and the forest
green of the Marine Corps, these fellows are taking advantage of the chance of a lifetime,
learning more about u.h.f. than they ever would have learned elsewhere - and with all
expenses paid, plus a" salary.
"At present the Battle of Logan has its campaign of action raging at the Utah State
Agricultural College, Logan, Utah, where the men, under the command of Lt. (jg) Carlos
J. Badger, USN (Ret.), are undergoing an intensive 12-week course including mathematics,
electricity and radio. There one may hear the peculiarities of the fundamental laws set
forth by Ohm and Kirchhoff thoroughly cussed and discussed by a dark, drawling, soft-spoken
former cattleman from Louisiana and a blue-eyed ex-highway patrolman from Iowa.
"An ex-newspaper reporter finds that learning the 'five Ws' of the u.h.f. presents
several new angles. Those who are fortunate enough to be hams and are more or less familiar
with the work - well, they begrudge even taking time out to eat.
"Available to the men for their work are the well-equipped laboratories of the College,
containing more than $250,000 worth of equipment for use in radio experiments.
"During the intensive 12-week course, each man will build a u.h.f, superhet. Another
important phase of the course includes thorough drilling in the fundamentals of a.c.,
d.c. and resonant circuits, motors and generators. Such a background is necessarily required
before the men are qualified for advanced training in the operation and maintenance of
the u.h.f. gear which is so vital to the Navy.
"Most of the hams attending the school are Navy men. The Navy offers men with ham
and repair work experience the opportunity to learn the secrets of u.h.f. work which
will be doubly useful to these men when: they return to civilian life. The training alone
which they are now receiving would be prohibitive in cost to them as civilians.
"In addition to this training the Navy offers men ratings that mean the equivalent
of $200 or more per month in civilian life, All that the Navy asks in return for this
training is the willingness and cooperation of the men.
"So once again this little Mormon Valley awakens to the same fighting spirit that
was exemplified by their own pioneer ancestors, as the Battle of Logan rages on!"
Those were the words of Marine Corps Pvt. D. E. Giersdorff and RM2c F. M. Viles.
They could as well have been speaking from the sultry plains of Texas or the noisy
bustle of Chicago's Loop or even the Nation's capital; the words might have been different,
but the thought would be the same.
For, apart from the external details of structures and climate and topography, the
spirit and training at each of these schools is very much the same. And geography doesn't
seem so important in the mind of a fellow who may - and probably will - find himself
serving on the seven seas, on coral strand or frozen reef, in the air and along the shores
and on the sea.
At the Corner of State and Lake
Suppose you were talking with a student from 190. North State Street, Chicago. "Odd
sort of name for a school," you'd say. How did it get that name? Well, here's the story.
You've probably heard of Lt. (jg) William C. Eddy, USN (Ret.). There was a Saturday
Evening Post piece about him some months ago - one of those yarns featuring extraordinary
combinations of American genius and success. Lt. Eddy is the former submarine commander
who, upon retirement from active duty, promptly began one of the most amazing inventive
careers on record. The tale of that career is far too long even to hint at here; let
it suffice to say that a couple of years ago Lt. Eddy left NBC and took a job as television
director of Balaban and Katz, operators of television station W9XBK - which is located
in the State-Lake building in downtown Chicago. That W9XBK, wholly staffed by hams and
built much like a ham rig, quickly forged into the forefront of television research is
now certainly no secret.
When the war came along B & K - as symbolized in the person of Lt. Eddy - found
there was a job to be done. The Navy needed trained men for the operation and maintenance
of its special equipment. So they turned over to the Navy a substantial part of the space
devoted to their television laboratories in the State-Lake building at 190 North State
Street - whence came the name of the school. Lt. Eddy participated in the work of preparing
the curriculum to be specified by the Bureau of Naval Personnel for this and subsequent
Radio Materiel schools. They devised a standard examination designed to disclose the
qualifications of men seeking enlistment in the new branch. And along about the first
of this year the school got going - although it wasn't until May that the Navy made public
announcement of the fact.
Now men from all over the country and from every walk of life, ranging in age from
17 to 50, assemble daily on the top floor at 190 North State Street.
The school utilizes a wing of the television station, including three large classrooms
with the necessary secondary study halls, a reception room and the administrative offices.
Roosevelt Hall, the laboratory section, is equipped with something like half a million
dollars worth of u.h.f. transmitters, antennas, c.r. oscilloscopes, oscillators and other
special equipment. Washington Hall, with its lecture rooms, is equipped to handle the
non-technical subjects such as mathematics and radio theory.
There the V-6 reservists go for twelve weeks of intensified training. Those who make
the grade go on to receive advanced instruction.
At Grove City
The Naval Training School at Grove City College, Grove City, Pa., was the first of
its kind to be organized in the East.
Authorization for that school was given in early February, 1942, when the second semester
of the regular college course was already under way. To it as commanding officer was
assigned Lt.- ' Commander William F. Grogan, ex-W4QY, one of the original staff at Noroton
(see August QST).
In less than one month, with the unstinted aid of Dr. Weir C. Ketler, president of
the college, and Russell P. Smith, educational director, the training program was organized
and under way. It was the Noroton story over again; in that brief time it was necessary
to vacate a dormitory to provide barracks for the students, organize an instructional
staff and equip laboratories and classrooms.
On March 1st the first hundred RT2c reservists started training; by May 1st the full
complement had arrived. On this same day a Marine training detachment was authorized,
and from then on the school was jointly occupied by a mixed group of marine privates
and naval personnel.
Apart from the major business of training, each of the Navy's primary schools has
its own special attractions. Grove City is no exception. The college gymnasium and athletic
field are available to the enlisted men of the school, and various forms of athletics
- tennis, basketball, swimming, horseshoes, softball are available under the direction
of a Chief Specialist of the Navy, Wolf Creek, which separates the college into an upper
and a lower campus, is dammed, affording an ideal skating pond in winter,
The college is located in the pleasant community of Grove City, whose six thousand
inhabitants have warm feelings toward the uniformed men in their midst. Every Sunday
the local community swimming pool is reserved for the men of the naval school. The local
churches and homes welcome the sailors and marines. The local USO provides varied entertainment
- dances, picnics, lounges, reading rooms and many other thoughtful aids to the maintenance
of student morale in their few brief hours of relaxation.
And that's the way it is at all the schools. The circumstances may differ, but the
pattern is the same. Our information on the Texas and Oklahoma schools is not first-hand
- but we refer you to the letter from Oklahoma A&M naval station graduate RT2c George
Bird, W5HGC, on page 78 of August QST; his report of the spirit there is sufficient evidence
of the fact.
At the Nation's Capital
At venerated Bliss Electrical School over half of the initial class were hams or former
The Bliss School was established in 1893, when electricity was just coming into widespread
use and the first need arose for trained men to make installations and supervise operation
and maintenance. Its founder, Louis Denton Bliss, who began his engineering career with
the original Edison Company in the pioneer days of electric lighting, is still its president
and active head,
There, in an atmosphere hallowed in electrical annals, the students live in comfortable
dormitory bedrooms, usually two to a room, and make their daily treks over tree-shaded
walks around the oval grounds between the various buildings, the dormitories and the
One of the interesting features of the Bliss school is an 8-room frame house which
each year was completely wired as a practical shop project by the current civilian class,
now converted for use in special phases of the RT training.
As usual, there is a liberal sprinkling of hams on the instruction staffs of most
of these schools. For example, there is Lt.-Commander W. F. Grogan, the commanding officer
of Grove City College. As W4QY he was an active ham for many years, having been SCM of
Florida for about as many terms as there are fingers on your hand. Joining the NCR as
a ham when it was first formed in 1925, he soon moved up to command of the Fort Myers
unit. When the Noroton school was founded in the autumn of 1940 he was ordered to join
the staff there, remaining until the end of last year. On December 22, 1941, he was transferred
to Philadelphia as assistant District Communications Officer, and on February 8th he
was ordered to take command at Grove City.
As another example, take the training staff at the 190 North State Street school.
Among the instructors who are amateurs or ex-amateurs at this school are A. H. Brolly,
chief instructor, exW6RG; William Kunz, W8SNS; Stanley Osterlund, W9TJL William Kusack,
W9QEE; H. E. Crow, RM2c, USNR, W9FHI; E. B. Hensley, RM2c, USNR, W9HUW; R. L. Martin,
RM2c, USNR, W9CTQ; Richard Mueller, RT3c, USNR, ex-W90HZ; and Alvah Rogers, RM2c, USNR,
A Look at a Radio Technician
Having seen where our radio technician lives and studies, let's look at the man himself
a little more closely. Remember, of course, that he is a composite figure - resembling
no one individual, but typical of all.
There's more to being a Navy radio technician than just learning radio,
and the primary schools also teach Navy ideals and the Navy way of doing things. Here
a Grove City group is being instructed in the correct method of lashing a hammock. preparatory
to departure from the school. Included in the group are WSTJH. WIDSJ. ex-W2AMM and W2NJW.
First of all, he's somewhere between 17 and 50 years of age. If he is 21 or over he's
been given a rating as Radio Technician Second or Third Class, depending on his qualifications.
He is probably - but not necessarily - a high-school graduate. He has, however, completed
at least two years of high school mathematics; the more he knows about algebra, geometry
and trigonometry, the easier the course will be for him. His knowledge of physics will
be helpful, too - and of course he has a genuine, deep-seated interest in radio, with
experience either as a ham or serviceman.
When he enlisted at his nearest navy recruiting station he was given a qualifying
examination, consisting of elementary questions on mathematics, physics, shop practice,
electricity and radio. After he passed that exam he was given the regular Naval Reserve
When it was all over he found himself in the Navy. His pay - which with allowances
runs as high as $130.50 per month - began the day he enlisted, and on top of that he
was supplied with uniforms, food, quarters, medical and dental care, and of course with
textbooks and training, all free of charge.
The first stage in his training began at the indoctrination station. There he learned
the rudiments of Navy life - and quickly found and almost as quickly lost a bunch of
new buddies, For in a very short while he was on his way again this time to the primary
training school to which he was assigned.
At the school he found some hundreds of other sailors or marines much like himself,
divided up first into classes and then into sections. The sections, each consisting of
some 30 or more men, are the basic instruction units. Each section has its own instructors
- usually three - and goes through the course as a unit.
He found that he was required to put in a minimum of a 70- to 8O-hour week, 7 days
a week - half of the time being spent in class and shop, the remainder in supervised
study. He found that he spent 4 hours of each day in lecture and 4 hours in the laboratory,
the actual periods being two hours long minus a 10-minute rest period at the end of each
He found, too, that it was to his own advantage to attend every period in an alert,
receptive frame of mind, and to get in his outside studying faithfully, as well. For,
because of the intensive nature of the three-month course, every step interlocks with
the next and all study assignments are carefully chosen and coordinated. And when a subject
is covered it's finished - there's no backtracking.
Here is the program for a typical day:
0600 Reveille. Bunks are made and rooms cleaned by 0620.
All hands assemble for 30 minutes of setting-up exercises and drill.
0800 Classes and laboratory; two 2-hour periods.
1300 Classes and laboratory; two 2-hour periods.
1830-2000 Athletic program and study period.
Course Stresses Math and Theory
As the training gets under way he finds that it is divided into four main headings:
D.c. theory, and mathematics, a.c. theory and radio. The first two months are devoted
to intensive math drills, physics, direct current and mechanical drawing.
And if he thinks that he already knows enough about these subjects to get by, he is
in for some stiff disillusionment. Regardless of how good his earlier training may have
been, he'll find there's plenty he didn't know. There was one graduate electrical engineer
from Ohio State we were told about who - well, there's no need to go into details, but
by the time he realized how far behind he was, it was almost too late. Even veteran hams
with years of practical and theoretical background find they have to give the course
everything they have.
Besides the study of textbooks and the art of the slide rule and drawing pen, there's
plenty of shop work, too. The text and lectures are supplemented in the laboratories
with experiments on series and parallel circuits, generator characteristics, Wheatstone
bridge measurements, vacuum tube construction and many others.
The students are given intensive courses in the fundamentals of radio construction
and operating principles. There are lessons on oscillators, detectors, amplifiers, coupling,
transmitters, antennas and all phases of radio.
Here is Lt.-Commander Grogan's description of the final month in the course as given
at Grove City:
"The course in alternating currents includes a detailed study of the principles of
a.c., various series and parallel circuits, resonance, polyphase voltages and currents.
"The theory of the construction and operation of a.c. machinery, rectifiers and transmission
lines is taken up. A trip is taken through the local light and power plant to study this
machinery in actual operation.
"It is in this third month that the hams are in their glory. During the first three
weeks, four hours per day are devoted to radio and electrical experiments. There are
experiments dealing with resonant circuits, tube characteristics, Class A, Band C amplifiers,
frequency response of transformers and amplifiers and many others. The wellequipped
college electrical and radio laboratories are extensively used. In the electrical laboratory
there are all types of single and polyphase a.c. and d.c. machinery, transformers and
a large central switchboard.
"The radio laboratory offers many opportunities for the ham. The college owns a 1
kilowatt ham rig (W8NXW) and a 100-watt broadcast station (WSAJ) on 1348 kc., also a
complete Western Electric loading panel and line-test apparatus. The latter setup allows
the men to test the frequency response of from 1 to 60 miles of telephone line. Oscilloscopes,
vacuum-tube voltmeters, signal generators and beat frequency oscillators all aid in making
the experiments vivid and complete.
"The last portion of the third month is spent in receiver construction. Then the ham's
true nature comes to the front. He aids the instructors in teaching those with little
or no previous radio training; he advocates his pet type of detector or oscillator, and
bets his partner that his own set will have the greatest selectivity and sensitivity.
"When completed, these sets are tested with the 'scope and analyzers, To more fully
explain the construction and theory, demonstrations are given on the RCA dynamic demonstrator
in conjunction with the 'scope, signal generator and audio oscillator.
"Finally, the third month ends. The hams leave with a more complete understanding
of the whys and wherefores of their work. To some come dreams of new and better receivers
and transmitters; to others the future holds the promise of a new thrill building a rig
and having many QSOs, with their new-found friends and associates."
Graduates Go On to Secondary Schools Of more immediate importance, however, is that
- if he has made the grade - the new graduate is transferred to a secondary school for
advanced training. He may, too, be advanced to a rating of Radio Technician First Class
or even Chief Radio Technician, with a base pay of $126 a month plus substantial allowances.
His primary training alone, however, will ensure him an education equivalent to that
given by electrical engineering courses in commercial schools, plus the special u.h.f.
and cathode ray training he receives. In other words, he'll have a good grounding for
a career in commercial frequency modulation and television as well as the more commonplace
uses of radio and electricity when the war is over.
The radio world of the future is going to hear a lot from these naval radio technicians.
Some, of course, will return to their original fields when it's all over - for they come
from every niche in life. A good percentage of the students are hams and ex-hams, of
course. Many are radio servicemen, d.c. station operators, commercial announcers, remote
control men, oscilloscope experts and electrical and chemical engineers. Others are lawyers,
chiropractors, accountants; we even found an undertaker in one of the schools (and he
was near the top of his class, too!).
The ham is the nucleus, though. "We think highly of the amateurs," said Lt. Brady
F. Dayton, resident officer at the Bliss school. " Amateurs throughout have made unusually
good students," is the judgment of Lt. Eddy.
And those without amateur background quickly become inoculated with the bug - even
though they can do nothing more right now than scratch the itch. "It is interesting to
hear the remarks of those graduated, those going into a more advanced and specialized
training," Lt.-Commander Grogan commented, "They say, 'We'll be seeing you on the air
after this job is done,' or, 'I've never been an amateur or had a rig, but I'll sure
have one after the war.'''
They will - you can be sure of that. But in the meantime they have a lot to learn
and a whale of a big job to do. They'll do it, too - you can be equally sure of that.
Posted November 28, 2018 (original post 4/4/2011)