Collecting Military Equipment -- Part 2


Military radios are a growing interest among collectors, as indicated by this report on the fourth annual Military Radio Collectors Group (MRCG) Meet. As with his report on the third annual meet in the March 1999 A.R.C., Hank Brown has included much additional material on individual sets, enough, in fact, for a Part 3 to be published in a later issue. For the uninitiated, these articles help, not only to open up a special category of radio history and its jargon, but also to introduce us to a highly participatory aspect of radio collecting.

For other past A.R.C. articles on World War II military equipment, see November '89, June '91, and November '94. (Editor)

Collectors, operators, historians and others interested in military radio and electronics gathered for the fourth annual MRCG meeting in Camp San Luis Obispo, California, on Friday and Saturday, April 30-May 1. Georgia, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, Arizona, and, of course, the West Coast were represented. We even had attendance from Canada. Perhaps we could call ourselves an international group now!

The gathering was blessed with great weather conditions for outdoor, as well as indoor, activities. This meeting was planned to be our first 2- day event but 12 participants arrived to set up equipment and camp sites on Thursday. Several sets were on the air, including a complete BC-191 transmitter with a BC-312 receiver operating on batteries and dynamotors.

Friday Events

Friday, April 30, saw about 45 participants setting up radios, trying different antennas, cranking hand generators, testing handie-talkies (HTs) on foot and comparing notes on circuits, batteries and other accessories. Most of the activities were conducted in and around the NCO club. However, with the RV and camp site only a few yards away, we had people at both sites and in between.

The first day was planned as an informal day of operating and setting up equipment for display in the NCO club. In the afternoon a low power (-45dBm), 51 Mc, FM signal transmitter was placed on the air, as 8 contestants with PRC-77, PRC-25, PRC-6 and helmet radios gathered to try their luck at distant reception. The transmitter was manned by Tom Horsfall who read five group-coded messages. Participants who copied the message groups correctly, as determined by two field judges, then moved to another designed spot away from the site. A second message was read, and those who copied were moved even farther away.

Forest Ogan, W7VQH, calling for assistance on 51 Mc FM
Forest Ogan, W7VQH, calling for assistance on 51 Mc FM after running into a tank. The battery operated HT is a single channel PRC-6 that puts out about 1/2 watt of RF.

A fourth message finally determined the winner. Field judges Dennis DuVall and Larry Godek announced that Cameran Ogan with a PRC-77 and Dick Dillman with a PRC-6 were winners. Their final position was some hundreds of feet away from the transmitter. 

Ted Young, Lynn O'Connell, Richard Molsberg, Jay Coward, Paul Thekan, Andy Oxenreider and Mike Oxenreider vowed to return next year and challenge the winners of the contest.

Some of the individual tests produced results of about a mile distance for communications between two PRC-6 HTs on 51 Mc and similar results for an RT-70 mobile in motion. Two BC-611 HTs on 3885 Kc made contact 1.9 miles apart. A contact between two TBYs on 29 Mc was established at three quarters of a mile. It should be noted that one of the TBY transceivers was operated back-pack fashion while the operator was walking around.

Andy Miller, KD6TKX is planning an operational TBX project for next year's meet. Andy was also seen cranking a field generator for his SCR-284 while operations were being run by another operator.

Other equipment running Friday was a beautiful and complete R-395/PRD-1 DF set covering 100 Kc to 30 Mc in seven bands. Automatic DF bearing on a variety of signals between 100 Kc and 1750 Kc were taken on an AN/ARN-6 ADF operating in a truck. There were a couple more RT-70 FM sets on 6 meters (about 1/2-watt) working out to a mile or more. An RT-68 was also running in the camp site. TBY-8s and GRC-109s were set up and on the air, as well as the popular GRC-109 CW and AN/GRC-9 sets.

Dick Dillman, W6AWO, kept the bands alive with his "Command Post" in the RV Camp area.
Dick Dillman, W6AWO, kept the bands alive with his "Command Post" in the RV Camp area. The RT-68 (left) is on 6 meter FM and the GRC-109 CW rig is on the table at far right.

One of the larger operations was set up in the grass behind the NCO Club by Phil Epstein, K0XI. Phil had three BC-610 transmitters on the air powered by a gasoline engine generator set. Wire antennas were strung up in the trees to nearby buildings. The stations were pretty complete with speech amps and other accessories. 

Inside the NCO Club, a complete and operational PRC-1 suitcase spy radio was running on 40 meters at about 30 watts. Keying was verified by an R-203A/SR receiver on the other side of the room.

The 1999 MRCG T-shirt with a B-17 radio station on the back and a man-pack on the front, priced at $11, was on display. Unfortunately, the shipment of shirts did not arrive in time for the meet. Those wanting a shirt were urged to contact Ed Zeranski.

A little 1942 Ford GPW Jeep with AN/GRC-9 on 3885 Kc and RT-70 on 51 Mc provided photo opportunities, as well as a chance to drive around the area. Late in the day, the jeep's transmission locked up in first gear, but it still proved to be a lot of fun running around in first gear only.

Hank Brown, W6DJX, working an AN/GRC-9 on 3885 Kc
Hank Brown, W6DJX, working an AN/GRC-9 on 3885 Kc from a 1942 Ford GPW Jeep at the 1999 MRCG Meet, Camp San Luis Obispo, California.

Late Friday afternoon, those still in the area were treated to a 45-minute battle by troops in training. The action took place across the street from the NCO Club and included rifles, machine guns, bombs, smoke, mortars and a lot of noise. During the battle action, one of our friends arrived in a World War II "deuce and a half" (2 1/2 ton truck) with camouflage paint, antennas up in the air, and lights on.

Saturday Swap Meet

Early Saturday morning the NCO Club was again opened and various vehicles began to arrive for the swap meet. There were about 35 sites selling, trading and otherwise disposing of equipment. Everything from early World War I gear to late model, solid-state units was available.

More people began to arrive Saturday, and the equipment display in the club began to grow. The number of active units operating on the air seemed to be much higher than last year. Among the 27 tables set up, some had two or three displays. A complete 3-receiver and 2- transmitter SCR-274-N was running on 28 volts DC. On passive display was a well-crafted, 1943 Japanese Navy frequency standard with 100 Kc and 1 Mc crystals and VFO. Dick Dillman's RS-6 spy set attracted much attention. This 10-watt CW set operates from 3-26 Mc CW and dates back to the late 1950s.

From the Vietnam era was a very nice Hallicrafters HT-1E "Village Radio" on 35.025 Mc AM. This small HT-size, solid-state radio was used to provide communications to and from remote sites.

The ladies interested in the San Luis Obispo (SLO) area gathered about 9 a.m. and had a great tour of the Dallidet Adobe and Gardens. They had lunch at the Modanna Inn, and then stopped at the Apple Farm Inn and Court and the Garden Festival at Charro Park. They also enjoyed attending the Quilt Festival in SLO.

About 9:30 a.m., the meeting room was full, and Bart Lee presented a most interesting talk on World War II Radio and Spies. He showed slides of equipment in operation, sites used in World War II, details of circuits and much more. One of the suitcase spy radios referred to -- the PRC-1 -- was in operation in the next room.

Following a short break, Dennis DuVall showed over 100 slides of East Coast activities, equipment, preserved ships -- large and small -- with great views of the radio room. This proved to be of interest to all present.

Dave Ragsdale and Art Plummer prepared their great noontime BBQ of chicken, beef, salad, bread, drinks, and all the trimmings for over 50 participants. Hank Arney surprised us with a donation of delicious Portuguese sausage.

Bjorn Forsberg with his presentation of pre- World War II trench radios was next. Bjorn had a complete display of equipment and accessories, such as the wind-driven generator for early biplanes to power a small transmitter. The sets he described were equipped with single loops about three feet on each side. The loops were used for communications purposes (CW) only -- not for DF work. In addition to the USA equipment described -- the BC-148 -- several foreign sets were reviewed.

A Johnson & Phillips Mark III, London, 1916, receiver was on display in the next room and fitted well into the presentation. The receiver was used for artillery spotting, and it received information from air to ground. Two detectors were provided -- a Perikon and Carborundum -- to operate in the lower portion of the BC band. The World War I biplanes used a spark transmitter for one-way communications.

The final hour of the meet was devoted to an open program of various subjects. One item brought up was the availability of a rather simple and easy conversion project to put the popular BC-1000 (SCR-300) on 6 meters. Schematics were available to all wishing to perform this work.

Bart Lee described a proposed 1899 demonstration of early wireless to be conducted in August of this year at the Presidio, near San Francisco.

The FCC low-frequency proposal for more power and more frequencies was discussed. The ARRL and FCC are moving forward on this subject. Perhaps some of the LF military gear could be used on the new proposed frequencies around 136 Kc and 190 Kc.

Several letters from museum groups were distributed. Some solicited equipment information, while others wanted historic information.

We started to assemble a "Have/Want" list of names and addresses. Mike Brown will compile the information and the list will be distributed in the future. The plan is to get similar ideas and desires for equipment, information and history together.

This year's 2-day event was great fun for all and we expect next year's event to be even bigger and better. We are already working on plans for another 2-day event. Dust off your gear, prepare your displays and make plans for Friday and Saturday, May 5-6, 2000. Camp San Luis Obispo and the NCO Club will again be our site of choice. Our theme is "MILITARY" which means anything, any time period and any origin. We hope to have something for everyone.

Information on the MRCG can be obtained from: Dennis DuVall, 1524 Princess Dr., Glendale, CA 91207; Ed Zeranski, 4712 Coronado Ave., San Diego, CA 92107)

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

Hank Brown's interest in radio goes back to a childhood gift from his father of a Tom Swift book on adventures with wireless.Now retired from Hughes Aircraft, Hank's career includes working in broadcast stations and as a sailor on tankers and cargo ships, a stint in the Navy as a Second Radio Officer, and a hitch in the U.S. army Signal Corps. He currently focuses on older tube-type radiogear.

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