July 1944 QST
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
QST, published December 1915 - present (visit ARRL
for info). All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
"The United States Maritime Service,
abbreviated as USMS, was established in 1938 under the provisions of the Merchant
Marine Act of 1936. The mission of the organization is to train people to become
officers and crewmembers on merchant ships that form the United States Merchant
Marine. Heavily utilized during World War II, the USMS has since been largely
dissolved and/or absorbed into other federal departments, but its commissioned
officers continue to function as administrators and instructors at several maritime
Check out the size of that D/F (direction-finding)
...and what the heck is a pelorus?
If you have ever been onboard a sea-faring ship, you would be amazed at the
capability of the machine shop - prepared
to fix or replace virtually anything.
QST Cruises with the Maritime Service
Life Aboard a Liberty Ship
By Clinton B. Desoto, *W1CBD, * Editor,
Are you between 16 and 17½ or between 26 and 35 and not in uniform? Are you
1-C or mildly 4-F or otherwise ineligible for military service? Are you interested
in a radio operating job in direct support of the war effort?
Then there's a place for you in the U. S. Maritime Service. If you hold a
commercial radio-telegraph second or higher-grade license, so much the better.
But you don't need a ticket to start with; in fact, you don't need any previous
radio training whatsoever. The Maritime Service will train you. It will make
a proficient merchant marine radio operator out of you at one of the nation's
finest operator schools - with pay!
This is an opportunity described several times before in QST. It is time
now for the story to be told again. For today the merchant marine is in greater
need of men - and particularly of radio-men - than ever before.
You may have read recently that U. S. production of merchant shipping is
being raised to new highs, with ever-increasing numbers of new bottoms leaving
the ways daily. These ships are needed to carry the gargantuan cargoes of global
But ships alone don't move cargoes; it takes men to make the ships move -
seamen, carpenters, oilers, cooks, enginemen, machinists and, particularly,
Yes - particularly radiomen. Effective July 1st, new regulations require
practically every merchant vessel sailing the seas to carry not less than three
qualified radio operators. Up to now, such ships had only one or two operators
aboard. This requirement alone has more than doubled the number of civilian
radio operators needed to man the merchant fleets. Coupled with the increasing
number of ships being commissioned and the usual quota of replacements, the
demand for new operators is tremendous.
So tremendous, in fact, that right now there simply aren't enough qualified
men available to meet it. Even by lowering the license requirements - even by
taking men out of the training schools before they have completed their courses
and sending them to sea, letting them acquire the remainder of their training
by apprentice methods - still the WSA manning offices are having difficulty
keeping the operator berths filled.
Shown on this page are miscellaneous views aboard the Ameri-can
Mariner as recorded by W9AA's persistently snapping "minnie" camera.
Framed in the mechanistic circle of the d/f [direction-finding]
loop, the receding Empire State building appears as a lonely vestige of shore
As the tug comes along-side the deck crew prepares to cast
off, hauls aboard the mooring lines.
The signal flags flying from their halyard and the ship's
name emblazoned on the main cabin both mean the same thing - identification.
The signal flags display the assigned code identification of the ship for the
benefit of harbor and coastal patrols.
This picture illustrates the kind of work that a radio operator
on shipboard does not do. But swabbing isn't bad duty, at that!
Here again, looking aft on the main deck from the bow, the
elaborate multiplicity of detail is apparent. Behind the row of windows is
the wheelhouse on the bridge deck, with the boat deck below and the flying
bridge above. Hooded objects in this and in other views are guns.
This view from the stern, looking forward on the main deck,
suggests the complexity of the gear and fittings which are required aboard
a 10,000-ton freighter.
From his vantage point under the ship's bell a "talker"
keeps a sharp early-morning look out passing through the Cape Cod ship canal.
A trainee takes a
reading on a distant landmark on ashore. Partially concealed behind him is
the radio d/f loop
The navigating officer takes a directional bearing on the
radio direction-finder. One hand operates the hand-wheel controlling the rotatable
d/f loop above the deck while the other adjusts the magnetic balance control.
Inside the radio room aboard the Liberty ship. Both side-by-side
operating positions are shown in these two views. At the left end of the operating
table is the high-frequency transmitter, with the low-frequency transmitter
and the emergency set (visible only in the right-hand view) beside it. The
auto alarm is on the bulkhead beside the telephone.
(Above and below)
Deep below-decks is a large and magnificently equipped machine
shop capable of producing any repair part required on shipboard.
"Abandon ship!" As the ship's whistle screams the danger
signal in shrill urgency, all hands instantly drop work and run to their lifeboat
Following a carefully organized plan, two men remove the covering from their
boat while it is still in davits.
Meanwhile their shipmates all have assembled at their respective
lifeboat stations. The officer in charge calls the roll to make certain that
non one gets left behind.
Leather-lunged officers hurrying them on, the trainees swarm
down the scramble nets into the boat.
In the Lundeen boat, the seamen vigorously pump the handles
which drive the screw propeller.
It was only a practice drill, after all. At the "Return
to Ship" signal the boats head for the ship.
If the smiling faces above seem incongruous in view of the
evident fact that there's morning chow on the table, the explanation lies in
the excellent fare served aboard all merchant craft.
Service is cafeteria style, direct from cooking utensil
to plate, around the rim of the clean and efficiently arranged galley.
The Maritime Service, although a highly essential part of the nation's war
machine, obtains its manpower not from selective service quotas but through
direct recruiting. Merchant mariners aren't drafted; they are volunteers.
Right now, therefore, the War Shipping Administration is asking for more
volunteers. But it isn't the usual kind of arduous and difficult volunteering
assignment they offer - not unless taking one of the country's finest radio
training courses under ideal conditions and being paid while in training is
difficult, or unless living and working on shipboard at $180 a month or more
and all found is arduous!
Earlier issues of QST have presented a picture of the kind of radio operator
training given by the U. S. Maritime Service1. There's no need to
repeat the details of that side of it here. The purpose of this story is to
show, as viewed through landlubberly eyes, the other side of the picture - the
kind of life that is led on shipboard. It's the side of the story that comes
after the fledgling radio operator has finished his training at the shore station
and, crisp new ticket in hand, steps over the rail into his first seagoing berth.
That story is told here at first hand - from actual, if brief, personal experience.
At the invitation of the War Shipping Administration, Cy Read, W9AA, and the
writer shipped on the USMS training ship American Mariner out of New York in
middle May. Aboard her we lived the life of the regular crew - sleeping in the
triple-decker bunks of the seamen, standing in the chow line in the crew's mess.
The American Mariner is a Liberty ship - a 10,000-ton 440-foot freighter
of the kind now cruising the sea lanes of the world by the hundreds. Instead
of munitions or GI provisions, however, her usual cargo is men. Aboard her trainees
from Sheepshead Bay and from Gallups Island and the other USMS training stations
make training voyages as a preview of life at sea - the culminating phase of
For this purpose her superstructure has been somewhat modified and the cargo
holds have been converted into classrooms, additional quarters and messrooms
for the trainees. While the normal crew on a Liberty ship numbers 68, the American
Mariner has a permanent complement of 138 men. On the shakedown cruises as many
as 400 trainees can be accommodated aboard - quartered, fed, and given a thorough
dose of actual shipboard experience.
The early morning air was clammy and chill along the New York waterfront
when we embarked, presaging an unseasonal late-May frost that was to blacken
New England Victory gardens. Mist lay low and gray over the East River as the
armed guard passed us through the iron-barred gate to Pier 73.
We clambered up the sharply slanted gang-plank to the deck. There the master-at-arms
checked our credentials, logged us aboard, and handed us a key ring with two
keys and a numbered metal tag. Then, trailing a petty officer assigned as our
guide, we filed down a complicated series of companionways into what seemed
the bowels of the ship - an intricate maze that resolved itself into a memorizable
pattern only hours later.
That, in fact, was the most striking initial impression of the interior of
the ship. So complex is its arrangement - with every foot of space utilized,
the whole divided into innumerable interlocking compartments any one or all
of which can be isolated by "W.T." (watertight) doors - that learning one's
way around is an habituating process resembling orienting oneself in a strange
Arriving at the trainee's quarters, we were assigned lockers and given our
choice of bunks -"sacks" or "bags" on shipboard. There was ample space, we found,
for all wardrobe and personal effects in the 6-foot lockers, which include a
separate locked compartment for stowage of valuables.
Our gear stowed, we traced our way back up to the main deck. The deck crew
was making preparations for shoving off. Near the stern, booms and winches transferred
boxes of supplies from the dock to the dry-cargo hold. Trainees dressed in work
dungarees which evidenced the toil their wearers already had performed at the
training stations scurried around the ship - stowing cargo, coiling lines, arranging
gear, and carrying assorted buckets of white and red and the ubiquitous blue-gray
paint which covers all of the visible exterior of the ship.
Industrious though they were, some of the trainees were not unwilling to
pause for a moment's rag-chew. Many had never been to sea before. To most of
them, we learned, the ship was an unexplored novelty. Some of them had never
before been aboard an ocean-going vessel of any kind, much less a Liberty ship.
The majority -as we already knew from recruiting statistics -were dry-land recruits
having their first taste of salt water.
To them this was the Great Adventure - or the first leg of it, at least.
There was the red-cheeked railroad fireman from Ohio, filled with pride at the
edge his shore trade gave him over his mates in the engine room - a pride undimmed
by a subsequent slight seasickness. There was the filling station attendant
from New Jersey whose erstwhile ambition to be a garage mechanic had faded in
the light of a new love - a 20-mm. antiaircraft gun. There was the well-bred,
likeable lad from Pennsylvania who was wholly content in the menial role of
wardroom attendant. And there was the tough kid from South Chicago who wrestled
cargo all the more vigorously while growling about how hard he had to sweat.
Overhead the sky began to lighten. Gradually the mist rolled back along the
river. By two bells (0900) there was enough light for a Weston reading of 25
on W9AA's light meter. From then on the day brightened rapidly - a full stop
every few minutes.
At 0950 a rope ladder was lowered and the harbor pilot climbed aboard. Soon
a tugboat came puffing down the harbor. It veered sharply and pulled alongside
near our bow, and a weighted line called a "heaving line" was tossed aboard.
This line was bent to a heavy hawser. The deck crew pulled up the hawser and
made its huge eye fast to a deck bitt. A few minutes later a second tugboat,
churning up from the lower harbor, plowed over to Pier 73 at the head of an
iridescent path of wake.
The next twenty minutes were -filled with the mysterious maneuverings characteristic
of tug-boats and harbor pilots, always inexplicable to the landsman. Finally,
as though all the preliminary false starts, shifting of hook-ups and backings
and fillings had been only to kill time, the tugs eased the big ship out into
the channel and headed her upstream. The engine-room telegraph clanged cheerily;
the big triple-expansion steam engine engaged the 200-foot propeller drive shaft
located in the shaft alley deep down near the keel, and we got under way.
One tugboat scuttled off to an-other job. The other, captained by a one-armed
salt with Popeye cap and pipe, convoyed us up the river, chugging along near
our stern like a happy puppy at heel. Farther up the river, where the channel
narrows, the tug came up amidships on the port side and a hawser again was fed
up to our main deck. Thereafter the tug, its own propeller idle, caught a free
ride snuggled against our hull - serving as a sea anchor against the pull of
the outgoing tide until we had passed through the Narrows.
A Seagoing Community
It was time now to get acquainted with our temporary new home afloat. We
explored the ship from stem to stern - a proceeding occupying the remainder
of the day.
By comparison with shore-borne structures, the ship could be described as
a combination warehouse and office building seven stories high. The main deck
is, of course, the largest; those below become narrower and shorter with the
taper of the ship's hull, while those above are stepped back like the upper
stories of a skyscraper.
Under the main deck are several huge cargo compartments, the fuel and fresh-water
tanks, engine room, canteen, trainees' quarters, messrooms, kitchens, etc. Above
the main deck rise, in order, the boat deck, the bridge deck, and the flying
bridge - the "roof" of the ship.
Distributed throughout the enclosed portions of these upper decks are the
quarters and messrooms for the officers and permanent crew. There are four classifications
of quarters on the ship - apart, of course, from those of the captain, who occupies
private quarters. The officers have individual private rooms, the CPOs (chief
petty officers) have smaller single rooms, the ratings (specialists 1st, 2nd
and 3rd class) are quartered in groups of two to four to a room, and the seamen
-ordinary and AB (able-bodied) - occupy triple-tier bunks stacked two wide and
three deep. These bunks are basically iron-tube frames from which flat springs
and mattresses are slung.
Members of the radio crew aboard a Liberty ship, incidentally, have private
quarters of their own. The chief ordinarily has a room adjacent to the radio
shack up on the boat deck - just down the passageway from the captain's quarters,
in fact. The other two operators usually share a comfortable room in the section
assigned to "ratings."
Housed on the main deck is the varied miscellany of other establishments
required in a self-sufficient seagoing community. There is a row of general
offices for the extensive administrative and paper work required - including
a separate mimeograph room. There are the sick bay, the doctor's and dentist's
offices and laboratories, a photographic darkroom, a barber shop (haircuts 25
cents), a tailor shop and a cobbler's shop (no shines!). There is even a spacious
auditorium where recreational activities are centered - feature-length movies
being shown every night. Also in the line of recreation, space for athletic
sports activities is provided in the hold for ping-pong tables, a boxing arena
and even a basketball court.
Forward on the bridge deck is the wheel house, with its large windows, windshield-wiper
equipped, facing toward the bow. There the wheelsman on watch manipulates a
large central steering wheel which, through a hydraulic system, controls the
main steering engine - a small reversible steam engine in the stern whose spider-leg
connecting rods actuate the huge spring-balanced quadrant gear on the rudder
post through step-down gears. Alongside the wheel-man, a standby helmsman is
also on watch at a smaller auxiliary wheel. This wheel controls an electric
motor which can replace the hydraulic control. While this auxiliary system may
be used manually if the hydraulic system fails, the electric rudder drive also
connects to the "iron mike" or automatic pilot. In conjunction with the indicating
gyrocompass it can be used to steer the ship fully automatically, keeping her
headed exactly on any predetermined course.
The instrumentation on a Liberty ship is elaborate and comprehensive. Apart
from the gyrocompass and the usual magnetic compasses, peloruses and other devices
commonly associated with maritime navigation, there are ink-graphic recorders
maintaining continuous records of data ranging from engine r.p.m. to depth soundings.
Even the ocean temperature is recorded, and a complete outfit of meteorological
instruments is provided in a cabinet on the flying bridge.
In the wheelhouse a large pigeon-holed rack holds a complete set of international
signaling flags, all neatly rolled and ticketed. In addition to the helmsman
and his alternate, this room normally is occupied by a petty officer in charge
of the wheel detail and, of course, the ship's officer on watch. Also present
is a " talker ' - a seaman equipped with headphones and breast-mike connected
to an interphone circuit which links the bridge, the crow's nest, and all gun
positions. There are talkers constantly on duty at each of these positions while
the ship is under way.
In addition to the interphone system, two other methods of intra-shipboard
communication are provided. One is a regular magneto-ringing wall-type telephone
circuit, with" subscriber's" positions liberally distributed throughout the
ship including several convenient points on deck. The other is a general loudspeaker
call system used to announce general orders, ship's time, mess calls, watch
changes and the like. Speakers attached to this system infest the ship from
the holds to the flying bridge, including the wardroom and all messrooms, ensuring
that no hand aboard can fail to hear an order.
Directly aft of the wheelhouse is the navigator's domain. Here the radio
compass installation is located, its d/f loop projecting up into the open overhead
on the flying bridge. In this room also are additional recording instruments
and the control board for the degaussing system. A large switch- and meter-panel
is required for the degaussing apparatus alone. In a smaller adjacent room is
located the fire-protection control equipment - an intricate arrangement incorporating
two complete thermally operated automatic systems and the associated manual
The protective equipment provided is impressive in its scope and comprehensiveness.
Coupled with the extensive compartmentation, the fire-protection systems make
it possible for a ship to suffer incredible damage and still remain afloat.
Tales are told of freighters which have suffered two or three direct torpedo
hits, with holes below the waterline big enough to drive a car through, and
yet have sailed back across the Atlantic under their own power.
Further aft, still other separate rooms are used for specialized functions
- among them the chart-storage room, the hydro room and, of course, the radio
The Radio Shack
The most notable impression on an initial viewing of the radio shack is one
of neatness, convenience and comfort. Compactly arranged, as is everything aboard
a Liberty ship, all units- even the auto alarm and the power-input panel - are
arranged for maximum accessibility from the main operating position.
The radio room is approximately eight feet wide by twelve long. The operating
table extends throughout the length of one side, divided up for the two operating
positions with built-in type-writer wells. The transmitters are wall-mounted
above the table, the high-frequency unit at the far end and the low-frequency
rigs at the center. The auto alarm and the power-input panel are installed on
the end wall. Comfortable office-type swivel chairs are provided for the operator.
Opposite the operating table there is a comfortable leather-upholstered couch
- obviously, a welcome accessory during long-watch vigils.
Aboard the American Mariner the radio equipment is RCA throughout. The basic
layout is entirely standard, corresponding with that aboard other Liberty ships
in actual cargo service. Three transmitters are provided - a 200-watt ET-8010-
CA, optionally m.o.p.a. or crystal-controlled, with eight pretuned frequencies
in the 355-500 kc. range, an ET-8019-A covering 2 to 22 Mc. in eight bands,
also of 200-watt rating, and an auxiliary emergency battery-powered transmitter
for the 375- to 500-kc. range.
The dual receiving equipment at each operating position consists of an AR-8503
- a 4-tube t.r.f. receiver covering 15 to 600 kc. in four bands, switch selected
- and an AR-8505 for 540 kc. to 30 Mc. - a transformerless 7-tube superheterodyne
closely resembling the National NC-44.
Also aboard is an AR-8600 automatic radio alarm. Used when the operator is
off watch or listening on another frequency at the alternate operating position,
the auto alarm rings a loud bell and lights warning lights notifying whenever
an international distress signal is received. Its installation aboard all merchant
marine craft is required by FCC regulation. The auto alarm consists essentially
of a superheterodyne receiver with two 1100-kc. wide-band-pass i.f. stages designed
to produce uniform response from any 500-mv. or stronger signal of a frequency
within plus or minus 12.5 kc, from 500 kc, (the international distress frequency).
Associated with this receiver, is a timing circuit employing three sequence
relay tubes and a stepping selector designed to operate only when a series of
dashes of a certain length and interval - the prescribed auto alarm signal,
transmitted along with an SOS - is received.
There is, of course, nothing new about the auto alarm; it has been in regular
use for more than a decade and has greatly enhanced the cause of safety at sea.
But even the auto alarm, effective though it may be, does not equal the effectiveness
of an actual operator on watch. In time of war, of course, the need for infallible
guarding of distress frequencies is vital - and this emphasizes all the more
the need for additional radio operators to sail in the vast fleets of Liberty
and Victory ships.
In the first dangerous years of this war more than five thousand merchant
seamen gave their lives for their country. Now, of course, sinkings at sea,
even in the most active theaters, are comparatively rare. The U. S. Navy's intensive
anti-submarine campaign and the present patrolling and convoy operations have
vastly reduced the danger from the submarine menace.
Even when unescorted, our merchant ships are far from defenseless. They bristle
with stingers calculated to discourage any enemy attacks, whether by sea or
by air. Liberty ships literally are speckled with guns. On the American Mariner
there are gun platforms everywhere, carrying weapons ranging from .50-cal. machine
guns to deadly 20-mm. Oerlikon antiaircraft cannon and murderous 3-inch guns
which can throw twenty-five 10-lb. shells per minute at ranges of 10,000 to
A convincing demonstration of the speed and safety of modern "abandon ship"
technique was staged during our cruise on the American Mariner. It was a part
of the regular training given every Maritime Service trainee, at first in school
as a simulated exercise, later employing actual lifeboats, and culminating with
the surprise lifeboat drill on the shakedown cruise.
The surprise drill we witnessed was entirely unannounced and unrehearsed.
At exactly 0912 one morning the ship's whistle blew a series of short blasts
followed by a long one - the " Abandon ship!" signal. Promptly all hands came
running to the main deck from their usual duties everywhere in the ship and
assembled around their assigned lifeboat stations, each man grabbing a fluffy-cushioned
orange-colored life vest from an adjacent locker as he arrived topside. Within
seconds the main deck was covered with shifting clusters of orange-festooned
While the officer in charge of each contingent checked off his roster, designated
men climbed from the higher boat deck into the lifeboats slung high in their
davits. Swiftly they stripped the boats of coverings and lashings. Below, other
groups manned the hoists, inserting the large cranks and releasing the brakes
holding the cables. Still others unrolled the scramble nets, ready to lower
them over the side for the men to swarm down into the waiting boats.
The men above signaled "clear" and the command was given: "Lower away!" Hoists
clanking, the bluish-gray boats were swiftly lowered until their keels hung
suspended just beyond reach of the lapping waves. Heaving the scramble nets
over the rail, the seamen promptly clambered down into the boats.
When all were aboard except the hoist crew and the officer in charge, the
boat was lowered down into the water. As the last man scrambled down the net
the releasing hooks from the davit falls were cast loose from the shackles.
In this practice drill the first boat was in the water and clear of the ship
within less than five minutes after the alarm whistle blew. The remaining crews
followed in varying brief intervals after. For inexperienced lads, many of them
afloat on salt water for the very first time, it was an excellent performance.
Two types of lifeboats were used ill this drill - one the accustomed oar-propelled
35-man surf boat, the other the 70-man manually driven screw-propelled "Lundeen"
boat which now is also standard equipment. This boat, which is driven by the
backward and forward manipulation of two rows of vertical wooden shafts connected
by a ratchet linkage to a central shaft driving a screw propeller, has displaced
the older oar-pulled boats. Its prime advantage is that no special rowing skill
is required, a desirable feature in choppy seas when inexperienced oarsmen would,
by catching crabs or rowing in the air, waste a substantial portion of their
energy. After all, no special skill is required to push a lever back and forth.
Another advantage is that, depending on the number of men in a boat, from one
to four men can operate a single lever.
Also aboard the American Mariner, although not used in the drill, was a self-bailing,
self-righting power lifeboat larger even than the Lundeen boats, equipped with
a 4-cylinder Diesel engine, and the still-larger captain's gig - the latter
actually a good-sized power yacht with a 6-cylinder Diesel engine and a speed
of better than 15 knots.
In anyone of these craft a seaman could abandon ship with full confidence
in its seaworthiness and security. He might get cramped and weary and sunburned
and seasick, and even hungry and thirsty - but he'd survive.
One minor observation in connection with that lifeboat drill was the surefootedness
with which the trainees swarmed down the scramble nets draped down the sides
of the ship. They behaved as though they'd lived all their lives in rigging.
Actually, as we ourselves discovered, that kind of skill is acquired quickly
on shipboard. Remember that a ship is equivalent to a seven-story building -
with no elevators. (Technically it has no "stairways," either - and that's approximately
as true in fact as it is from the standpoint of nautical terminology! To conserve
deck space, many of the companionways more nearly resemble wide-stepped ladders
than they do stairways.) Consequently, on shipboard you seem to travel as far
vertically as you do horizontally in the course of a day's activities. And,
even though iron-runged ladders have replaced the traditional rope rigging,
their use engenders a high order of agility and surefootedness.
Eat, Sleep and Be Healthy
At the outset, of course, it's a. bit rigorous. But that quickly passes as
unused muscles harden. It's wonderful body-building exercise - and a wonderful
And when it comes to sleeping ... well, no one rebels when, at four bells
on the evening watch (2200), the loudspeaker blares: "Secure the decks! All
hands in your bunks. Lights out!"
The combination of sea air and hard work makes that sack look mighty inviting.
And it's even more inviting when you slide between the clean white sheets. The
slung mattress is-soft and accommodating - more comfortable by far than an Army
cot or a hard-drawn hotel bed. By comparison with a Pullman berth, travel on
a Liberty ship is rare luxury. Missing are the bumps and jerks, the rattle and
vibration of the train; the functioning of the powerful triple-expansion engine
is apparent only as a low, pleasantly pitched background bum that reassures
rather than disturbs. And even in moderate seas the big ship keeps a steady
deck; its rocking, combined with the threnody of the engine, is no more than
The adage about salt air inspiring ravenous appetites is proved whenever
chow time comes around. Fortunately, the mess standards in the Maritime Service
are more than equal to the occasion. The food is surprisingly diversified and
ample. By any standard - at sea or ashore - it is well-prepared, savory and
During our explorations aboard the American Mariner we invaded the refrigerated
meat storage chamber. A large room fully twenty feet square, it contained meat
stores in quantities many a large wholesale distributor would covet these days.
Sides of beef hung in closely spaced rows - dozens and dozens of them. Lockers
were filled with assorted cuts and prepared meats of every variety and description.
Vegetable bins and other staple food storage was on a similarly abundant - not
to say gourmandish! - scale.
And those desserts! For W9AA and W1GBD, both with an already decided tendency
toward fullness of figure, they were as irresistibly insidious concoctions as
galley alchemy ever produced. The pastry chef aboard the American Mariner was
a lad only twenty years old, but he must have lived all his pre-maritime life
in intensive training at his mother's kitchen stove. That time at evening chow
we wangled three pieces of chocolate pie . . . !
All in all, the life of a radio operator in the U. s. Maritime Service is
a mighty attractive proposition for anyone who knows (or is capable of learning)
how to read the code and write up a log and maybe send a little. Travel, adventure,
healthful and rewarding living, good companionship - and, above all, a real
wartime job of first-line importance.
What to Do
Are you interested - or do you know of someone who would or should be? Here's
what to do:
If you've had no previous radio experience, apply at the nearest U. S. Maritime
Service enrolling office or U. S. Employment Service office. If your preliminary
background includes an operator's license, or if you cannot locate one of the
USMS or USES offices in your vicinity, write directly to the War Shipping Administration,
Training Organization, National Theater Building, Washington 25, D. C., stating
your qualifications and experience. If you are among those who hold an expired
or unexpired marine operator's license, you may wire the Recruitment and Manning
Organization, War Shipping Administration, Washington 25, D. C., collect. And
you can expect immediate action, mate!
Of course, if you're in the lower age bracket from 16 to 17 1/2,you have
no draft status. Requests for selective service deferments for men 26 to 35
are made directly to local boards by the Maritime Service for men accepted for
Upon acceptance, as fast as, quotas can be made up you'll be ordered to school
- and your training pay ($50 a month) will begin. Six weeks will be spent at
a Maritime Service apprentice seaman training station where the seagoing knowledge
necessary for all shipboard ratings will be learned. Then you will be assigned
either to Hoffman Island or Gallups Island for the last twenty-one weeks of
If you can qualify for a temporary limited second- class operator license,
you will probably be sent right out to sea. (This temporary second, all previously
noted in QST,2 is the easiest class of commercial license to get.
In fact, it is less difficult in some respects than a Class B ham ticket. The
code test is the usual sixteen code groups per minute, but only a 50 per cent
passing mark on the regular FCC second-class radiotelegraph exam is required.
If you've ever ,before held a first- or second-class radiotelegraph ticket,
only the code test without written examination is necessary.)
Base pay starts at $180 a month, plus a bonus. Considering that living quarters
and food are provided, this pay is easily equivalent to a shore job at $300
a month or more. And don't forget that radio operators are ship's officers and
wear uniforms with appropriate insignia.
Bon voyage, OM - and smooth sailing!
1 Rodimon, "QST Visits Gallups Island," QST, June. 1941, p. 9.
DeSoto, "QST Returns to Gallups Island," QST, May, 1943, p. 14.
2 Happenings of the Month, QST, June. 1944, p. 25,
Posted February 15
(updated from original post on 7/17/2011)