Collecting Military Equipment -- Part 1

BY HANK BROWN -- Web Edition

This article grew out of Hank Brown's report on the third annual Military Radio Collectors Group gathering in May 1998. The accompanying photos suggested to us the possibility of a larger article, and Hank quickly supplied us with even more photos and information.

Part 1 is a report on the 1998 meet, a preview of the 1999 meet and cameos of several of the military sets seen at the meet. Part 2 will be a follow-up article on additional pieces of military equipment and will appear soon in A.R.C.

For those of you familiar with the terms AK-20, Philco 90 and Regency TR-1, these articles should expand your vocabulary into such terminology as SCR-536, TCS-9, AN/GRC-9 and other military jargon.

For past A.R.C. articles on World War II military equipment, see November '89, June '91, and November '94. Military equipment collecting is alive and well and ready for your participation. (Editor).

The Military Radio Collectors Group (MRCG) is comprised of collectors, historians, operators, and traders who gather once a year at Camp San Luis Obispo, about five miles from the city of San Luis Obispo, California. On Friday afternoon and Sat urday, May 1-2, 1998, the MRCG held its third annual meet. Participants set up close to the NCO Club with field radios operating on batteries. Activities included a swap meet of military gear and a formal program of discussions, demonstrations, talks, and seminars. A glimpse of the swap meet is provided in Figure 1.

The MRCG is an informal group. Each year, participants select a program chairman for the following year, and a hat is passed around to finance the cost of the NCO Club use and a huge Santa Maria-style BBQ lunch. The group has no dues, officers, registration fees, or other types of organizational details at this time.

The May 1998 program was put together by Andy Miller, and participants came from Washington, Oregon, California, Oklahoma, and Virginia. In addition to several AN/GRC-9 and PRC-47 units working in the field, we had a complete T-195/R-392 in operation, a Wireless Set #19 (Russian tank set) demonstration, and an AN/ARC-5 VHF, a Navy-TCS-8, an AN/GRC-7, and some BC-611HTs, all working.

Several BC-611s were in operation at the meet on a frequency of 3885 kHz. Owners used home-built battery packs using modern 9V batteries in series. To demonstrate sets, such as Bjorn Forsberg's Wireless Set No. 19, during the presentations, Handie-Talkies were used outside to talk back and forth. Signals were loud and clear.

The TCS-8 on display by Hank Brown was running on 12 volts DC with a remote control unit. A second TCS operated by Anthony Felino, shown in Figure 2 (see print version), was used to make several contacts on the ham bands, and ran off a dynamotor supply and an automobile battery.

An AN/GRC-9 ("Angry 9") radio, operated by Dick Dillman, used an inverted V antenna and a dynamotor power supply. Jay Coward also operated an AN/GRC-9 using a whip antenna.

Two PRC-47 radio sets were in operation at the meet. Bob McChord operated with both whip and inverted V antennas, while Dave Ross used a whip antenna.

More information on several of these sets is included in the boxes accompanying this article.

Operating frequencies included 220 MHz, 2 meters, 6 meters, and 75/80 meters. Power was supplied by 120 VAC lines, batteries, and large 28 Vdc, 50 amp power supplies. Several other items on display included an GRC-109, a SCR-300, entertainment or military morale radios, and others.

SCR-536 (BC-611) Handie-Talkie

BC-611 Handie-Talkie

The BC-611 Handie-Talkie, the main unit of the SCR-536 set, is probably what you see when watching an old World War II movie of troops in the field. This was one of the earliest small radios developed and used from the middle of World War II to the Korean War.

The radio is self-contained and uses AM modulation on any one frequency between 3.5 and 6.0 MHz. Both the transmitter and receiver are crystal-controlled. Five tubes are used for communications over approximately a 1-mile range. Power is supplied by BA-37 and BA-38 batteries.

A modified BC-611 was used as an airborne radio in gliders in World War II. The complete radio weighs about six pounds. To turn the radio on and off, the operator pulls out or pushes in the antenna on the top, which operates the main power switch in the radio. A folding loop antenna, AN-190, could be used with the radio to provide direction-finding information. This photo shows Richard Mullberg operating the BC-611 Handie-Talkie at the May 1998 meet.

These are fun sets since they can be set up on the popular 75-meter AM ham band used by many other sets.

AN/GRC-19 Army Vehicle Transmitter & Receiver


The AN/GRC-19 consists of a rackmounted T-195 transmitter and a R-392 receiver plus accessories. The high-power, long-range, set operates on both phone and CW for Army use. The transmitter output is 100 watts.

The equipment was usually mounted on a vehicle. The R-392 receiver is a mobile version of the popular fixed station R-390 and R-390A receivers.

Shown above is the AN/GRC-19 at the May 1998 meet. It is owned by Mark Blair and was powered on 28 Vdc from a large power supply.

 Fourth Annual MRCG Meet Plans
April 30-May 1, 1999

Plans for the fourth annual MRCG meet at the Camp San Luis Obispo NCO Club are well underway. The regularly scheduled activities will be held on Saturday, with Friday a time for operating equipment in the field and setting up equipment in the NCO Club.

Field operations will be conducted by each individual operating with his own call sign. We suggest that "MRCG" be used after the call sign to identify the operation. Suggested frequencies are 3885 and 3970 kHz, 7290 kHz, 51.1 and 51.5 MHz, 146.52 simplex and 146.20/.80 SLO repeater. Tom Horsefall will be the volunteer frequency coordinator.

The equipment expected to be operating in the field includes the following: a BC-611 Handie-Talkie, a PRC-6 HT, two EE-8 field telephones, a Navy TCS, an Army RT-70 and Army GRC-9, a Special Forces GRC-109, an Army Air Force SCR-274-N (2TX and 3RX sets), an Air Force ARN-6 direction finder, a Navy ATD transmitter, an Army VRC-18, an RS-6 (spy set), and an Army PRR-9/PRT-4 helmet radio set. There will also be a 1942 Ford GPW Jeep with GRC-9, running and working.

Wireless Set No. 19 Russian Tank Set

Wireless Set. No. 19

The Wireless Set. No. 19 originated in Canada before World War II. Many were built for lend-lease to our allies in Europe. Sets were intended for use in tanks and other vehicles. The dial and panel markings on the set were in both English and Russian; thus, the set is often called the "Russian Tank Set." There also are reports of sets with English and Italian markings.

Power for the set is from a 12V battery. To the left of the main unit is the dynamotor supply which powers both the transmitter and receiver.

Two radios are included in the main unit. A small super-regenerative receiver and transmitter operates on UHF at 220 MHz and is used for short-range communications. The larger AM and CW transceiver operates from 2 to 8 MHz and is utilized for long-range communications. The transmitter runs about 15 to 20 watts output. Antenna loading and tuning are via a round variometer on top, left of the set.

Spare parts and spare tubes are stored in the two cases on top of the unit. There also is an audio amplifier for intercom use. The set shown, with Bjorn Forsberg at the operating position, includes the original microphone, headset, junction boxes and cables.

After the war, many WS No. 19 units were available new in packing crates as surplus. Now, they are difficult to find and putting a complete set together is a challenge. There are several sets in operation on ham bands, and long- distance contacts are made on a regular basis.

At 6:00 a.m. Saturday, the military gear swap meet will start. This activity has proved to be very popular and well received in the past. The impressive equipment expected to be available includes the following: an ARC-2; ART-13 transmitters and connectors; BC-348, ARB, and RBB receivers; ARC-5 and SCR-274-N transmitters/receivers/racks/plugs; ARC Type 12 and GF/RU components; an R-390; an ARR-15 receiver; a PRC-68; LM frequency meters; BC 221 frequency meters; test equipment; and over 200 military manuals.

At 10:00 a.m., the formal program will get underway with the first speaker, Bart Lee of San Francisco, speaking on "World War II Radio Intercept Work and Spies." The second speaker, Dennis DuVall, will discuss "East Coast Military Radio Activities," and Bjorn Forsberg, is expected to present an interesting program on "Pre-World War II Trench Radios." He will demonstrate several working sets.

Breaks between programs will provide time for having personal meetings, examining equipment, and trying operations in the field. An hour will be scheduled for open discussion and questions about or comments on the activities so far.

Around noon we will have an excellent BBQ (cost about $8) behind the NCO Club, during which we pass the hat for contributions to fund the event.

On passive display in the NCO Club will be a French BC-611 HT, a PRC-10 (backpack configuration), an ARR-2 receiver with rare original signal generator, a TBY-2 with power supply, and a BC-791 McElroy tape inker and puller.

On active display will be a SCR-274-N (2TX and 3RX), an R-100 receiver, a BC-610 transmitter, a GRC-8, a PRC-10 (vehicle configuration), an RMCA R-203A/SR receiver, a C-131/ARC-5 automatic selector mechanism and possibly late solid-state SSB military gear.

Navy Model TCS-8 Transmitter & Receiver

Navy Model TCS-8

The TCS-8 consists of a transmitter and a receiver, each weighing 40 pounds, plus various power supplies, remote controls, antenna loading coils and cables.

The unit illustrated is from the 1998 meet and is in light gray paint. Most of the TCS units are found in black. The transmitter is on the left and the receiver on the right. The remote control unit with speaker is in the foreground, and the antenna loading coil is on top of the transmitter.

Both AM and CW operation is provided from 1.5 to 12 MHz. The transmitter can be tuned to any frequency in this range or can be crystal- controlled by one of four installed crystals. In addition, the receiver can be tuned to any frequency in this band and also has provisions for four crystals.

Transmitter power for CW is up to 40 watts while AM is about 20 watts. Audio output from the receiver is about 1 watt.

Various power supplies were available to allow operation from 12, 24, 32, 115 and 230 Vdc and from 115 and 230 VAC, 60 Hz.

The complete TCS can be controlled from the front panel of the transmitter and receiver. A small remote control unit allows for control of ON/OFF, Phone/CW, keying and speaker levels. All other functions must be set on the main units.

Just about every type of Navy ship had a TCS on board. They were used in landing craft, PT boats, submarines and Navy jeeps.

The rig is heavy but fun to set up and operate.

(This equipment information is taken from "NAVSHIPS 900.575-1B," March, 1945.)

Radio Set AN/GRC-9 "The Angry 9"

Radio Set AN/GRC-9

Quite often one will hear of the "Angry 9." The AN/GRC-9 was developed in the late 1940s and used by Army units up to the mid-1950s. This popular set has been used on ham bands for a number of years since the 1950s.

A complete AN/GRC-9 is a group of items that provide CW, MCW (modulated CW) or AM operation from 2 to 12 MHz in three bands. According to the 1956 manual (TM 11-263), the expected range was 30 miles on CW, 20 miles on MCW and 10 miles on voice. Shorter ranges are expected when the unit is operated in a vehicle. Much longer ranges are common when used with a good antenna on the ham bands.

One feature that makes this radio a popular item is the different power supply features that can be selected to allow operation on 6-, 12- or 24-volt batteries. The dynamotor DY-88/GRC-9 operates from 6-, 12- or 24-volt batteries and the DY-105/GRC-9 operates from 24 volts only. The PE-237, a vibrator power supply which operates from 6, 12 or 24 volts, also was available. Finally a small hand-cranked generator, the GN-58, and a gasoline engine- driven power unit, PE-162, were on hand. The receiver can be operated from dry batteries or one of the above power supplies.

Most owners have constructed 110 VAC power units to permit operation at home. It is believed that the military had a 120 VAC power unit, but it is very rare.

A complete set consists of the above units, plus various bags, antenna masts, straps, a T-17 microphone, J-45 telegraph key, HS-30 head- set and LS-7 speaker. The receiver-transmitter unit is called RT-77/GRC-9.

Military manuals list a number of vehicles into which the radio could be mounted, including jeeps, 3/4 ton trucks, 21/2 ton trucks, half tracks, landing vehicles and amphibious cargo carriers.

The AN/GRC-9 was, and is, a very popular set.

(The technical manuals for this set are Army TM-11-263 and Air Force TO 31R2-2GRC9-1.)

We usually conclude the formal program with a short business meeting at which we select someone to take on the task of organizing the next meet. This organization obviously has no formal trappings -- we just get together and do it.

A Ladies Meet has been scheduled on Saturday by Jeanne Reed. The ladies will meet at 9:00 a.m. in the Holiday Inn parking lot, 1800 Monterey St. An interesting day exploring San Luis Obispo has been planned. For details, call Jeanne at (805) 943-2027.

Bring your camera, bring your sets and parts, bring your want list, and join us in returning to a good time when surplus was king!

Bob Heusser tapes the events, and Don Jeffrey duplicates the tapes. The tapes run from 2 to 3 hours and are $10 ppd. To order a tape or to join the group, contact Hank Brown, Program Chairman, 4141 West L-2, Lancaster, CA 93536. (805) 943-2027. Our e-mail contacts are Don Jeffrey, at boallan@aol.com, and Ed Zeranski, who handles the mailing list, at ezeran@cris.com

Photos by Hank Brown, Dick Dillman and Anthony Feline.

(Hank Brown, 4141 West L-2, Lancaster, CA 93536)

Hank Brown's interest in radio goes back to a childhood gift from his father --a Tom Swift book on adventures with wireless. Now retired from Hughes Aircraft, Hank's career includes working in broadcast stations in Tampa. Florida, and as a sailor on tankers and cargo ships; a stint in the Navy as a Second Radio Officer on a troop ship; and a hitch in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. His current radio work focuses on older tube-type gear.

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