The Navy Trains Radio Technicians
November 1942 QST Article
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 UPS semi hauler when he and
others from my Buffalo side of the family would come to visit during
summers when I was a kid. He spent his enlistment most on a gravy
assignment at the U.S. embassy in Australia. He couldn't tell me
what he did there, 'cause then he'd have to kill me ;-)
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.
The Navy Trains Radio Technicians
Radio Hams Prepare to Learn a Fascinating New Art
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 war.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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"
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, instructor.
"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
"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.
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.
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
"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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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 hams.
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.
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
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 dining hall:
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, W90ZE.
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
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 physical
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.
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 hour.
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.
0630 All hands
assemble for 30 minutes of setting-up exercises and drill.
0800 Classes and laboratory; two 2-hour
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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."
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