The Naval PeriodRADIO REMINISCENCES – A HALF CENTURY by A. Hoyt Taylor
Published in the book: RADIO REMINISCENCES: A HALF CENTURY by A. Hoyt Taylor
Published by U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Washington. D.C. First Edition 1948, reprint 1960, Pages 50 – 60
Web editor notes Thanks to Linda Norton of the Naval Research Laboratory Library for providing a copy of Dr. Taylor’s out-of-print book.
Dr. A. Hoyt Taylor, the father of Naval radar, was in charge of the Marconi Belmar station during WWI. The Navy had taken over the station under the authority of the radio Act of 1912. In 1922, just a few years after leaving Wall Township, Dr. Taylor would begin his quest for radar. When WWII ended on August 15, 1945, the Daily News would list Dr. Taylor among the “Scientific Pioneers” responsible for radar, in an article with a photo from Camp Evans and a photo of Dr. Taylor at the Naval Research Laboratory.
This information gives us primary source evidence that Camp Evans, the Marconi Belmar station, was a significant communications control point and research site during the United States involvement in WWI. It was part of the Belmar-New Brunswick link to Europe. A site of early electronic countermeasures and suspected enemy message collection for decoding. The site hosted significant persons during this period who contributed to the advance of radio technology. The site also dispatched some of the most important diplomatic radiograms for President Wilson during the war.
To learn more about Dr. Taylor read the chapter on Dr. Taylor from RADIO’S 100 MEN OF SCIENCE by Orrin E. Dunlap
- Dr. Taylor given the title of Trans-Atlantic Communications Officer – TCO
- Communication to Eifel Tower and first direct exchange with Rome by President Wilson
- Alexanderson alternator installed at New Brunswick
- System of wires buried in Shark River inlet to improve reception
- Staff at Belmar
- 2000 Foot trench servers as a radio version of Army ‘KP -Kitchen Patrol’ duty
- German submarine messages and suspected spies
- French radio experts visit to help improve reception
- Lots of gadgets tested at Belmar, Hoxie photographic recorder, Vreeland – audio frequency filter, and G.E receiver.
- Alexanderson gets zapped while working in a hotel basement
- Roy Weagant continues his work on balanced loops, which had been underway before the Navy took over the station. Weagant’s theory was that static originated from overhead
- Asbury High School closed to provide coal to keep the station running.
- Other stations are directly connected to Washington
Dr. Hoyt Taylor is given the title of Trans-Atlantic Communications Officer – TCO
It also appeared that the Navy plan was to set up a receiving and control center at Belmar, N. J. This was the very beautiful sight of a radio receiving center which had been set up by the American Marconi Company in 1913-14, though not yet much used. The American Marconi Company was under the guidance of President Nally, assisted by Winterbottom and other men who are now well known in the present RCA hierarchy. The Navy had taken over this station, had a rapidly increasing complement of necessary personnel, and had started the installation of private Navy leased wires to Washington and to certain high power stations capable of doing trans-Atlantic work. These stations were also in the hands of the Navy. I was given the title of TCO (Trans-Atlantic Communications Officer). As far as I know, I am the only Naval Officer who held that title. I was also Commanding Officer of the Belmar Station, with the general supervision of the trans-Atlantic network. I was given my pick of any men I wanted to pull into this work, as the Navy considered it of the most urgent importance. I had a number of the best men at Great Lakes immediately ordered to Belmar, including Young, Gebhard, and Meyer. Some of them actually arrived before I did. Meyer was, and is, one of the most interesting men I have ever known because, starting as a Yeoman 3/c of the Navy, with absolutely no knowledge of radio, he ultimately became a high-grade radio engineer who is well respected by everyone who knows him. He has for years been in charge of the Transmitter Section of the Radio Division at the Naval Research Laboratory and is now Head of Systems Integration Section of the Ship and Shore Radio Division of the Naval Research Laboratory. Mr. Meyer had been yeoman for me at Great Lakes and became, for a number of years, a confidential secretary and an all-around right-hand man, although he didn’t begin to take on technical duties until about 1920. As for Young, who was the best man technically, we have been closely associated for thirty years.
Crossley was left at Great Lakes, to proceed shortly to Norfolk to install an underground receiving system. Later he was attached to the Radio Division of the Bureau of Steam Engineering and still later to the Naval Research Laboratory.
I might say, in passing, that the word “Steam” in the title of this Bureau was a matter of Navy tradition and history and an anachronism. Engineering in the Navy really began with the advent of steam, so it was natural that the word steam should appear in the name “Bureau of Steam Engineering”.
When I first entered the Navy we had no Bureau of Aeronautics, or even a Department of Naval Aviation, although we did have an interest in aviation. We had a Bureau of Ordnance, a Bureau of Steam Engineering and a Bureau of Construction and Repair, which had to do with the design, building, and repair of ships. The Engineering Bureau had the machinery and gadget end of it; the Bureau of Ordnance had to do with the guns, torpedoes, mines, etc; the Bureau of Yards and Docks had charge of all shore construction and buildings. We had a Medical Corps, a Dental Corps, a Corps of Civil Engineers and a Chaplain’s Corps. Now the organization is very different; the Bureau of Steam Engineering, very shortly after I first knew it, became the Bureau of Engineering. During this war, the Bureau of Construction and Repair and the Bureau of Engineering were merged as the present Bureau of Ships. Organized Naval Aviation started as Department of Naval Aeronautics and was graduated later into the present Bureau of Aeronautics. Engineering Officers who do only engineering work are simply known as line officers, EDO (engineering duty only) regardless of what branch of service they are concerned with.
Communication to Eifel Tower and first direct exchange with Rome by President Wilson
Coming back to the plan for Belmar, it appeared that it was to have control of the high power transmitters taken over from the Germans sometime before we declared war on them, namely, the station at Tuckerton, N.J., and the station at Sayville, L. I. We had also taken over the Marconi Station at New Brunswick. Our wire connections with Washington terminated within the Office of Naval Communications: Outgoing messages for Europe were sent to us over our leased wire system and then forwarded by radio to Europe. Received messages were sent by wire to Washington. First, all of our traffic was with France, working with the Eifel Tower, but soon was handled by the newly completed high power station at Lyons. A little later the new Rome station opened up. I transmitted the first radio message direct from this country to Rome and received the reply. These messages were an exchange between the Minister of Communications in Italy and President Wilson. The German transmitter stations at Tuckerton and Sayville had been operated with high frequency alternating current generators which, I believe, were of the Goldschmidt type. We never did get the one at Tuckerton to operate satisfactorily. By the time I arrived on the scene, we had replaced it with a 60 K.W. Poulsen arc. This operated into an umbrella-like antenna whose center support was an insulated steel tower 800 feet high. The ribs of the umbrella were supported by a circle of smaller towers. The station was located on what was practically marshland, a few miles back from the ocean. Warrant Officer (Radio Gunner) Hessler was in charge of the Tuckerton station. The very good ground connection was obtainable at Tuckerton but at Sayville, L. I., the dry sand under the antenna presented so high a resistance that the Germans had erected an extensive counterpoise, about twenty feet high, underneath the antenna; this was used in place of a ground connection.
We operated the alternator at Sayville for some time but had a great deal of trouble with it, largely on account of variations in transmission line voltage of the sixty cycle supply system of the station. This alternator operated at about 11,000 cycles or 11 K.C. It was a reflection type alternator, with a complicated system of very carefully tuned low-loss circuits, creating a strong third harmonic at 33 K.C. which was approximately the frequency used in the antenna. It was impossible to keep these reflection circuits properly tuned if the speed of the drive motors varied even a small amount, due to the supply voltage variations. We therefore finally installed a 350 K.W. Poulsen arc.
Mr. Haraden Pratt, who is now one of the leading men in the International Telegraph and Telephone Company, was, at that time, Expert Radio Aide for the Navy and our specialist on Poulsen Arcs. He certainly was one of the most competent civilian engineers that the Navy ever had in the Service. I have always had the greatest respect for him, both as an individual and as an engineer. I well remember visiting the Sayville Station after receiving notice that they were about to turn the power on the Poulsen arc; this was probably some time in the late fall of 1917.
The usual method of installing the Poulsen arc was to connect the water-cooled terminal to the copper strip leading to the ground, since the circulating water more or less grounded this terminal in any case. The other terminal was then connected, through suitable tuning coils of very large cross-section, to the antenna. The adjustment of these tuning coils deter-mined the wavelength, or frequency, of the emitted wave. We found it impossible to get more than about 20 amperes into the antenna, in spite of the fact that we had connected the counterpoise to the ground terminal. Since we knew we should have more than 300 amperes, considering the power available, it was evident that something was radically wrong.
Fortunately, before I went up to Sayville I had taken the trouble to study the use of the counterpoise in connection with antennae. I told the engineers that it would be necessary to tune the counterpoise as well as the antenna. This required a tuning coil that would carry a very large current, but the need has only a very small inductance. We had no such coil but found a copper strip about 3/4″ in thickness and 3″ wide. We hurriedly built this strip into a spiral by simply nailing it to a couple of planks in the form of a cross, in order to hold it in shape. We didn’t need any better insulation since the voltage of the counterpoise would be Very low, although it might rise to well over 100,000 volts on the antenna.
After soldering the heavy leads from the counterpoise to one end of this strip, we fixed up a heavy flexible lead to the arc terminal, with a large copper clip which could be slipped along our spiral, thus permitting a crude, but a very effective, form of tuning.
Starting the arc at low power, we adjusted this clip until we found the resonance point. I then ordered the power pushed up to the maximum. The current in the antenna went up to 400 amperes, which was more than anyone had seen in an antenna at that time. I am sure that Mr. Pratt will remember this incident, and how astonished our helpers were when we had finished adjusting this crude contrivance.
I knew about counterpoise action because of my experience at New Brunswick. New Brunswick had originally been equipped for the American Marconi Company with a huge 300 K.W. rotary spark gap installation. I wish I might have seen this installation in operation; it must have been quite a sight, provided you had plenty of cotton in your ears to shut out the noise.
Alexanderson alternator installed at New Brunswick
By the time I arrived, the first practical Alexanderson alternator was in operation at New Brunswick. The invention of the Alexanderson alternator, to my mind, was another milestone in radio progress. This has been well recognized by the fact that Dr. Alexanderson has received many honors for this and other notable contributions to the field of radio engineering. It was here that I first met “Alec” and started a warm friendship, based not only on our common interest in radio matters but on the fact that we would both rather sail in any kind of craft than do anything else. Alexanderson had his famous multiple tuned antenna connected to this 50 K.W. alternator. This antenna, instead of having one vertical down lead, or connection to the transmitter, had six of them, and each lead was separately tuned, not only to a ground connection directly beneath it but to its counterpoise. Thus all of the six down lead currents, after proper adjustments of counterpoise leads had been made, operated in phase, and the equivalent antenna output was actually six times as great as the feed current from the alternator. This current was of the order of 300 amperes. It was the war-time experiments with this alternator on daily traffic that encouraged the development of the much larger 500 K.W. alternator which has been the backbone of RCA long-distance telegraphic communication for many years. The alternator itself is a marvelous piece of mechanical and electrical engineering. It was this alternator that handled the first communication with Rome. So evidently, before I helped to tune up the Sayville Station, I knew how to tune a counterpoise.
An interesting thing about the New Brunswick Station was the fact that due to its fairly high power and the relatively low antennae, there existed a very-powerful electrical field under the antenna. Since this antenna installation was nearly a mile and a half long and the reservation not very well fenced, the Commanding Officer of New Brunswick had continuous patrols, especially during the night hours, under this antenna; to protect against possible sabotage. At first, the sentries were armed with rifles with bayonets, but on a dark night, you could see blue sparks coming out of the tip of the bayonet a good deal farther away than you could see the sentry. In the winter, when the sentries wore gloves, they suffered no great inconvenience, but in the summer when they were bare-handed, the induced currents burned their fingers in a very annoying fashion, and we were forced to substitute sidearms for rifle and bayonet.
The gasoline filling station was almost under the antenna, so all automobiles had to be grounded when parked at the filling station. The nozzle of the gasoline hose had to be grounded as well. There would have been serious accidents, had these precautions not been taken.
The Navy planned to erect another station to supplement this high power coastal system. This was to be an arc station. It eventually became the Annapolis high power station but was not in operation prior to the Armistice. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Navy undertook the construction of a gigantic station at Crois D’Hins, near Bordeaux, France. This was equipped with a pair of 1200 K.W. arcs and, as I recollect, eight 800-foot towers. When we laid these plans before the French, they threw up their hands and said “my heavens, you expect to erect the equivalent of eight Eiffel Towers”. The work was done largely with the aid of German prisoners of war but was not completed until several years after the Armistice. Commander Sweet, who was an officer of long experience in radio and an expert on Poulsen Arcs, planned this work.
System of wires buried in Shark River inlet to improve reception
Our receiving center at Belmar was assisted by two other receiving centers; one, a Marconi receiving center on Cape Cod, at Chatham, which was in charge of Radio Gunner Burke, and the other the Navy Bar Harbor Station, under Lieutenant Alessandro Fabri.
When I arrived at Belmar, reception was being carried on with a few small elevated antennas, but we immediately started installation of a system of buried wires laid in the Shark River inlet, pointed away from the receiving station towards the northern part of Europe. The receiving house was located on the verge of the Shark River, which was a broad estuary at that point, only a few miles from the ocean, and very shallow. This was just right for our underwater wires because the water was fairly salty. If the wires had been put at a much greater depth than two feet, the signals would have been too weak to receive, even with considerable amplification. We ran into this very difficult situation at Chatham, because there we had to lay the wires cut to the sea, and when a four-foot tide came in, the signals got so weak that they were unusable.
The layout in the rugged country around Bar Harbor Station was not suitable for ground wires so reception there was usually most satisfactory with some form of loop antenna. Radio Gunner Raymond Cole did some remarkably good work with loop antennae combined with elevated antennae. A number of other antennae, some of them long low wires, were also ineffective use at Chatham and Bar Harbor.
These stations were connected by leased wire to Belmar, so that whenever we had difficulty in receiving from France or Italy, we would call on Chatham, and particularly on Bar Harbor, for help in the reception. Bar Harbor not only had the advantage of being several hundred miles nearer to Europe but due to high latitude, was much freer from atmospheric disturbances (static). Bar Harbor location was for years most valuable for handling European longwave signals.
Too much credit cannot be given to Lieutenant Fabri and his aides for developing this station and especially to Fabri for contributing, out of his own pocket, many things which added to the efficiency of the operators at this place. His principal aide was Warrant Officer (we called them Radio Gunners in those days), Raymond Cole. He is now a commander in the Navy, has had a long and distinguished career in radio, and has done magnificent work as the Head of the Radio and Radar School at the Naval Research Laboratory, which work has been recognized by his receipt of the Legion of Merit medal.
In addition to taking the French and Italian code messages, we had to run a continuous intercept on the high power German alternator station at Nauen. This station spent most of its time broadcasting propaganda in English, much of it undoubtedly designed to influence the German population of the United States and stir up trouble in Mexico. It usually transmitted on a wavelength of 12,600 meters, (about 24 K.C.) but at certain periods of the day, for about twenty minutes, it would suddenly go off the air. We often wondered what the Germans did during this interval, so I ordered a receiver man to go on a search and explore all possible bands to see if he came upon any other frequency, and particularly to look for the double frequency, which would be at 6300 meters, or somewhat less than 48 K.C. Sure enough, we found Nauen broadcasting a very queer four-letter code for twenty minutes during these intervals. There was no question but that this was a special code directing the operation of submarines. We copied thousands of code words and forwarded them to Washington, but I am of the impression that this particular code was never broken, although other German codes certainly were.
The fact that we had to copy so many messages in a very difficult code meant that we had to have extremely high accuracy on the part of our receiving operators. True, we could call on Chatham and Bar Harbor for corrections, and occasionally on Tuckerton and Sayville, when they were not busy transmitting and could stand receiver watch, but this took time. The result was that we picked our operators with great care. We had our choice of the best men from each graduating class of the Harvard Radio School. Men who weren’t careful and didn’t show signs of speed and accuracy were promptly transferred, either to sea or to the armed guard, in New York. To ensure the copy on especially important messages, at times when the static was heavy, we usually doubled the operators on a given watch.
One very great advantage of the buried wire system of reception is that wires thus buried will not resonate, but rather are aperiodic and can be simultaneously used on a great many different frequencies. Thus for the first. time the Navy had multiple receptions. We were able to put as many different receivers, on as many different frequencies as we wished, on one of those underground or underwater wires. A further advantage lay in the fact that we had no fear of making copy during violent local thunderstorms, whereas the elevated antenna would usually have to be grounded and cut off from the receiving set to prevent injury to set or to personnel. In fact, the local thunderstorms never caused us any serious interruption.
Staff at Belmar
Some particularly outstanding operators I would like to mention by name: Miller was perhaps the best because he could copy forty words a minute on a typewriter and carry on a conversation with a bystander at the same tune. Pfeifer, Snell, Heberling and Stokes were all good. After the Belmar Station was closed up, Snell and Pfeifer remained in the Navy, on duty at the Naval Communications Center, Navy Department, Washington. They both became officers in the Naval Reserve; Snell served as a captain during the late war, and Pfeifer as a commander. Meinholz, now with the New York Times, was head of our wireline department. Irving Vermilya, who claims to be the No. 1 amateur in the United States, was also in this department. Woods, now deceased, later became the Manager of RCA Radio Central, in New York. “Pop” Weaver and Bill Taylor also joined RCA and were on duty at the same office. Many others ought to be mentioned, but the list can’t go on indefinitely.
I found early in my stay at Belmar that good radiomen could usually be separated into two groups; first, expert operators, second, material men who were mainly interested in the technical side of the radio. It is not efficient to try to make an operator out of a technical man and it is usually impossible to make a technical man out of one who is primarily interested in operating. Snell was an exception to this – he was equally at home in either field. We found it best not to burden the operating people with the adjustment and upkeep of the equipment. I appointed a permanent material watch, headed by L. C. Young and L. A. Gebhard and assisted by Dutton, Jeffries, Bartsch, and L. M. Clausing, to.look after equipment. One of these material men was on watch at all times, day or night. They tuned in signals at the beginning of the watch and periodically plugged in head telephones, listening to the quality of the signals, making minor adjustments, or changing batteries without interrupting the copy.
2000 Foot trench servers as a radio version of Army KP (Kitchen Patrol) duty
After things were running smoothly, we decided to try a 2000 foot long underground wire, in line with the sea wires but pointing in the opposite direction. This required the digging of a narrow trench, 7 feet deep, and 2000 feet long. By this time we had 100 operators, a marine guard, and various other ratings on the station. When we had some infractions of discipline, most of them, fortunately, rather minor infractions, I would hold a deck court and sentence the unlucky,- personnel to dig so many days on the trench. Still, the trench proceeded very slowly. Thereafter, instead of sentencing a man to so many days on the trench, I designated so many feet the sooner they dug it, the sooner the sentence was over and they were back on regular duty with their usual privileges. Thereafter the trench was very rapidly completed.
Had we known what we knew shortly afterward about the action of these buried wires, we wouldn’t have dug this trench. The whole advantage of the buried wire lies in its directivity and its lack of resonance, but since the trench wire, of necessity, pointed in the wrong direction for the signals in which we were primarily interested, it gave very poor results on European copy. It was pretty fair for making a copy from San Diego, but this was only test work and not a regular job.
German submarine messages and suspected spies
At this time, German submarines had appeared off the coast, not far from the station, and had sunk several ships and barges. We used to get a lot of anonymous calls from various shore resorts telling of strange lights seen at sea. When our men arrived with night glasses in hand, there was never anything to see. However, we did get a little excitement at one time, when Snell discovered strange signals on a considerably higher frequency than any we were normally receiving, and coming at very irregular and very brief intervals. These were pure continuous wave signals, yet could not be connected with any of the harmonics from our own or any other nearby stations. We could not help but feel that some of these might have been an attempt to communicate between German submarines and spies onshore, because everyone felt at the time that the German subs were being refueled, or at least given food, from our side of the Atlantic.
I dispatched Young on the motorcycle, with a portable receiver, and he cruised all of that part of New Jersey in an attempt to find where these signals came from, but couldn’t pin them down. After coming back, he built a portable loop direction finder with an attached receiver, mounted in an old truck, and located the source of the trouble at our own station at New Brunswick. They came on only when the Alexanderson alternator was working and was relatively weak. We never found out just what caused them, but decided it had something to do with the speed regulating mechanism on the alternator, which kept it exactly on the same frequency. Young got a broken arm out of this business while he was attempting to crank the old truck. This direction finder was probably one of the first Navy portable radio direction finders.
French radio experts visit to help improve reception
At this time the French complained about our reception of their station at Lyons, so General Ferriet sent over Lieutenant Paternot, assisted by Sergeant Deloy, and a trunkload of French amplifiers to show us how to receive their stations. Both of these gentlemen were able radio engineers, especially Deloy. He was the son of a French family that was able to finance early amateur experiments before he went into the French Army. These gentlemen lived with us for some weeks in the naive belief that a six-stage French amplifier would solve all of our troubles. The amplifier certainly was good and did give us unusually strong signals, but unfortunately, it built up the static, or atmospheric disturbances, just as fast or faster than it built up the signals. Lieutenant Paternot finally threw up his hands and said they never realized what static was until they came to this country; they had nothing like it in Europe. The difference in latitude explains a good deal. As I have already pointed out, the static level at Bar Harbor was very much lower than at Belmar, and the receiving centers in France and England, in higher latitudes, were very much better off in that regard than we were at Belmar. Nevertheless, we were very grateful for their visit and made a lot of interesting and valuable experiments with the amplifier. The French were pioneers in the field of radiofrequency amplifiers.
Lots of gadgets tested at Belmar, Hoxie photographic recorder, Vreeland – audio frequency filter, and G.E receiver.
During this period we had a number of interesting visiting engineers or scientists who had gadgets that the Navy Department thought might help reception. Hoxie brought his photographic recorder, which made a record of the incoming signals on moving film which was developed as it ran along. This was really an interesting instrument, ‘permitting good discrimination between signals and static, and permitting higher speed of reception than you could possibly get with the human ear. But it had a bothersome defect, inasmuch as it took some minutes to develop the film. It also took a separate set of operators to read the film, because such operators, or film readers, had to be specially trained for the job. Ordinarily, in such work, if the operator loses a word he “breaks” the transmitting station. This is done by opening up one of our own transmitters at the touch of the key and sending a prearranged signal which causes the distant transmitting operator to stop his transmission and listen. We then tell him to go back to the last intelligible word we have correct, and continue on from there; thus errors in reception can be corrected at once and filled in, whereas with the Hoxie recorder this was impossible because we had to stop and read the film. By that time the transmitting station had gone many words ahead. Nevertheless, the Navy bought some of these recorders and we learned a lot from them; they had their good points.
Another device to improve reception was brought down by Dr. F. K. Vreeland. This consisted of a very sharply tuned audio frequency filter or the equivalent of it at least: Since continuous wave reception involves listening to the pure tone, and since the ear hays considerable power of discrimination against the rough noise of static, a filter such as this would favor the tone against the static and would seem at first glance to be very valuable. When Vreeland’s device was first connected to a receiver, to the casual listener there seemed to be a marked improvement, but when I brought two of our best operators to copy fifteen minutes, first without the device, and then with it, we found that both made a better copy without the device. The difficulty was due to the fact that the static caused the filter to “ring” so that the static had a musical note of the same approximate pitch as the signal. The ear was not able to distinguish well enough between these two things. I think we all found out, a few years later, that this filter device had to be applied with considerable caution. The filter should not be too sharp, or ring too easily, else it will do more harm than good.
Alexanderson gets zapped while working in hotel basement
Another interesting device was brought to the station by Dr. Alexanderson. This was a resistance coupled amplifier, with specially made G.E. tubes which had extremely high impedance. The amplifier didn’t help much, although it gave good signals, because it was too microphonic and would amplify static just as much as it would the signals. I am not likely to forget the time Alexanderson and I were testing it in the basement of the main building. We had brought out a lead to the 2000 ft. ground wire buried 7 ft. deep. I chose that wire because it would have plenty of static, as well as plenty of signal on it. In the middle of our experiments, a violent thunderstorm came up. One of the 450 ft. towers, a few hundred feet from the building, was struck by lightning. If anyone thinks that a wire 7 ft. underground cannot pick up a violent surge of current, they are very much mistaken; sparks four inches long jumped out of the lead wire coming into the basement, although it was shielded almost to the receiver. I had just put the receivers down, but Alexanderson still had the receivers on his head. He got a pretty lively shock. Even this didn’t cause him to quit the experiment.
Roy Weagant continues his work on balanced loops
This had been underway before the Navy took over the station. Weagant’s theory was that static originated from overhead. During the period when I was on duty at Belmar, the Bureau of Steam Engineering had made arrangements for Mr. Roy Weagant to continue his work on balanced loops, which had been underway before the Navy took over the station. Weagant’s theory was that static originated from overhead, while signals came pretty much along horizontal paths, and that it should be possible to set up two large loops, suitable for long waves, at a considerable distance apart and balance their outputs in such a way as to cancel out the atmospheric disturbances, or static, and yet permit reception of signals. Really, what Weagant had was what should be more properly known as the binocular loop system. In the opinion of most engineers, his theory of the origin of static was quite erroneous, but the system did show definite advantages in reception which could be traced to the high directivity which a binocular loop system possesses over and above the directivity of a single loop.
Weagant was a man of great ingenuity; a clever and able experimenter. He filed patents on his system of reception, while I filed patents on what we called the Belmar balanced ground wire system, wherein I combined in balancing arrangements, the advantages of both loop and buried wire. This system of balancing buried wires, or balancing a buried wire against a loop, was described in a paper which I published in December of 1919 in the IRE. It followed up the paper published in August of the same year. The filing of my patent, at the suggestion of the Navy Department, precipitated an interference with Weagant; as a matter of fact, there was triangular interference involving Weagant, John V. L. Hogan, and myself. This dragged out for a number of years, but I am happy to say that it never involved any acrimony or rupture of friendly relations between the three engineers involved.
The issue was finally settled by a compromise, wherein the patent was issued to me and was purchased by RCA. RCA then licensed the Navy for all rights to manufacture and use apparatus under this patent and under related RCA patents. The Navy obtained this privilege for a small sum of money. Everyone was satisfied with this except the lawyers, who were getting good fees and would have been glad to continue the fight indefinitely.
We did not do much high speed-work with Europe, but now and then we got good transmission conditions and stepped up, with automatic senders, operated by punched tapes, to fifty or sixty words a minute.
Asbury High School closed to provide coal to keep station running.
We did not do much high speed-work with Europe, but now and then we got good transmission conditions and stepped up, with automatic senders, operated by punched tapes, to fifty or sixty words a minute.
During the Winter of 1917-1918 along in February, I think, we ran out of coal, on account of some misunderstanding about our coal deliveries. As this happened at the same time the temperature went down to 13 below zero, we were in a tough spot. I had to keep that station going, as it was the nerve center of the trans-oceanic system. I went down to Belmar and Asbury Park and bought a supply of kerosene and all the kerosene heaters I could locate, plus a large number of saws and axes. I practically commandeered these things; since I had no paymaster on the station, accounts being carried in New York, and I couldn’t wait for red tape to unroll. Every man on the station not on watch, marine or gob, had to get out and chop wood to feed the furnaces in order to get up enough steam to run our main power plant so that we could keep the generators going. Since it takes about four cords of wood to equal one ton of coal, and we were normally burning four to six tons of coal a day, it was a sizeable order. At the end of four days, we had sawed all of the dead timber on the reservation. I then commandeered a carload of forty tons of coal, intended for heating the schools in Asbury Park. I called the Mayor and told him what I had to do. He said, “I guess it is more important for you fellows to keep going than to keep the schools open”. The bills for that forty tons of coal followed me personally around the country for years before the Navy finally O.K.’d my action and paid for it. In the meantime, I had gotten some action in Washington, and 600 tons of coal was on the way by Pennsylvania Railroad. I was calling up the station master each day, and finally, he said “You can’t get it, because the Bill of Lading hasn’t arrived”. I said “Look here, the Railroad is in the hands of the government and I am working for the government – furthermore, we are freezing here. Will you give me that coal, or do I have to send the marines down to get it?” He finally agreed to give us the coal, but I had, the Marines go down anyway, just to make sure.
Other stations are directly connected to Washington
By the middle of the summer of 1918, we were definitely certain that reception on all trans-Atlantic frequencies was entirely satisfactory at Bar Harbor. The proper thing to do was to put the received signals straight through to the Navy Radio Center in Washington. We did this over our leased wires and hooked up all transmitting stations with the Washington desk in the same way. Thus we eliminated delays in forwarding outgoing messages to Belmar and incoming messages to Washington. Everything was centered in the Navy Department, Washington, D. C.
By this time I had been promoted to Lieutenant Commander. In July of 1918, I received a dispatch asking me to report to the Chief of the Radio Division, Bureau of Steam Engineering in Washington, as soon as possible. At that time I had unlimited travel orders; that is to say, I could travel on my own initiative, on these orders, without waiting for a command from anyone, to any point in the United States, if my duties and interests so required. I grabbed my travel orders and hopped a train to Washington to find out what I had done wrong. I found out that I had merely worked myself out of a job. Lieutenant Commander LeClair told me that the aircraft radio program at Hampton Roads was not progressing as it should. He wanted me to go down and take charge of it. Orders were written up promptly. I returned to Belmar for two days, to turn over the rest of the work to subordinates, and proceeded to the Naval Operating Base, Hampton Roads, where was located the air station then under the command of Lieutenant Commander P: N.L. Bellinger, now vice Admiral Bellinger.
Page created September 02, 2000
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