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History of Communications-Electronics in the United States Navy, Captain Linwood S. Howeth, USN (Retired), 1963, pages 227-235:


Operations  and  Organization  of  United  States  Naval  Radio  Service  During  Neutrality  Period


In addition to handling Government radio messages, the Naval Radio Service maintained continuous watches at all naval shore radio stations on the international calling frequencies of 500 and 1,000 kc. for the purpose of guarding distress signal transmissions and handling press and commercial traffic in areas not adequately serviced by commercial companies. To aid in the safety of shipping, periodic time, weather, and hydrographic broadcasts were made by the several stations on each coast. Ships, passing within radio communication range of a naval shore radio station, could obtain direct weather and hydrographic information upon request. The stations at Arlington and Key West broadcast press daily at 2030 zone plus five time. This was provided through the courtesies of the Associated Press, which compiled it at New York, and the Western Union Telegraph Co., which transmitted it simultaneously to Arlington and Key West. Merchant vessels at sea could report their positions to the nearest naval radio station, and naval vessels were required to do so. Reports of these positions were compiled and furnished daily to the leading newspapers of the country.1


The immediate effect of the war upon the Naval Radio Service resulted from this country's determination to maintain its neutrality. Upon the outbreak of hostilities in Europe, President Wilson issued a proclamation on neutrality as relates to wireless, dated 5 August 1914. This proclamation, the enforcement of which was delegated to the Secretary of the Navy, prohibited radio stations within the jurisdiction of the United States from transmitting or receiving for delivery messages of an unneutral nature and from in any way rendering to any one of the belligerents any unneutral service. The Secretary further delegated this responsibility to the Superintendent of the Radio Service.
    Instructions for enforcing the Executive order were issued to all Government, private, and commercial radio stations, and to all radio operating companies. Censors were stationed at the stations at Sayville, South Wellfleet, Siasconsett, Belmar, and Miami. District commandants were charged with insuring that private stations understood the contents of the Executive order. In one naval district all amateur stations were closed to the transmission of messages of any character for a time sufficient to impress upon their owners the necessity of keeping their transmissions to a minimum.2
    The "Censors' Instructions" prohibited the transmission or receipt of cipher or code messages between radio stations in the United States, its territories or possessions, and stations of a belligerent, and the relay of such messages through a station of another neutral. No messages could be handled which contained information relating to the operations, personnel, or material of the armed forces of a belligerent, except enciphered messages between U.S. Government officials.
    All operating companies except the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. of America accepted the conditions imposed upon them and many issued supplementary instructions. On 12 August 1914, John W. Griggs, president and general counsel of the American Marconi Co. addressed a telegram to the Secretary of the Navy questioning the validity of the "Censorship Instructions." The Secretary replied the following day:
If you will send representatives to Washington will be glad to take up before Attorney General questions of law relating to the censorship of wireless messages by Navy Department under Executive order of the President dated August 5th.
Griggs replied on 19 August declining to discuss the issue before the Attorney General, but he included in his letter a brief stating his company's position against censorship.
    On 2 September the Marconi station at Siasconsett accepted and forwarded, without referring it to the censor, a message from the British Cruiser Suffolk, addressed to an individual in New York, requesting supplies be delivered off Sandy Hook. The Navy Department considered the handling of this message by a station in the United States an unneutral act and requested an explanation on the same day the message was transmitted. Mr. Griggs replied on 9 September, stating that he was advised that the message in question was not in violation of any law of neutrality; that he did not consider the Navy Department had legal authority to prohibit such traffic; that the censor violated the Communications Act of 1912 in forwarding a copy of the message to the Navy Department; and that the Navy Department "had no right nor power" to close the station.3
    The Marconi interests then endeavored to test the validity of the authority vested in the Secretary by the President's Executive order by seeking an injunction in the U.S. Court preventing the Secretary or his agents from interfering with the transmission of messages through any of their stations. This suit was dismissed by the court because of lack of jurisdiction. No attempt was made to bring the matter before a higher court, and with the company's persistent refusal "to recognize the right of censorship" and failure to provide explanation for accepting and forwarding the H.M.S. Suffolk message, the Navy Department, on 24 September 1914, ordered its censor to close the Siasconsett station to the transmission of all radio messages. The station remained closed until 16 January 1915, when authority was granted to resume business.4
    On 1 January 1915 the restrictions, which were working some hardships upon those sending purely business or personal messages, were relaxed by the issuance of new instructions. This was made possible by the Government taking control of the commercial station at Tuckerton, N.J., and requiring that all questionable messages be handled by that station.
    Ships of belligerent countries were prohibited from using radio while in United States waters and the radio apparatus of such ships was sealed by customs officials, and in some cases antennas were lowered and disconnected.
    After the SUFFOLK incident, no further violations of neutrality by commercial companies occurred. However, there were many reports, from all parts of the country, of unauthorized radio stations, established solely for the violation of neutrality. Investigation of each individual report failed to indicate the existence of a single such station.5
    The final report upon neutrality censorship, which ceased upon our becoming a belligerent, stated ". . . it is gratifying to report that owners of commercial stations have during this fiscal year, generally cooperated loyally with the Government in maintaining the neutrality of the United States."6


Early in the war the British severed the cables to Germany and that country was forced to rely upon radio communications in the conduct of commercial and diplomatic business with other nations. To provide a U.S. terminal for a circuit with European countries, the station at Tuckerton, N.J.,7 was taken over and operated by the Navy for the U.S. Government.8 The operation of this station was limited to transmitting or receiving messages from shore stations in Europe and the United Kingdom. Official messages of United States and foreign government officials were given priority over commercial or press messages. No messages in code or cipher were transmitted or received for delivery unless the Navy operating personnel were provided with the means of decoding or deciphering them. No messages in unintelligible terms or foreign languages were acceptable unless translations were provided which satisfied the official censors. The naval censors at the station were responsible for insuring that no messages of unneutral character were handled. Addresses were required to be in plain language and to be at least four words in length with a signature of at least two words. No message could be transmitted or delivered until countersigned by a censor. The Navy accepted no responsibility for delivery. The station charge was 25 cents per word, cable count, without minimum.9
    Although available for operations with any European or United Kingdom station the only one with which traffic was exchanged was Eilvese, Germany. The Homag Co., was allowed to maintain the station and was duly paid for this upon certification of expenses by that company's agent and the naval officer in charge. All revenue in excess of maintenance was held in trust by the Navy Department pending adjudication of rightful ownership. Between 27 October 1914 and June 30, 1915, 13,789 paid messages were transmitted for which Tuckerton's net income was $38,929.47.10
    On 9 July 1915 the Navy took over the Atlantic Communication Co. station at Sayville, Long Island, and commenced operating it under the same conditions as prescribed for Tuckerton. This station operated on schedules with its sister station at Nauen, Germany. Since there was no question of ownership, revenues received were given over to the owners who performed the accounting, forwarding copies of all messages and accounting forms to the Superintendent, U.S. Naval Radio Service, for comparison and checking.11 Figure 19-1


On 4 February 1915, the Germans issued a proclamation declaring the high seas around the British Isles an unrestricted war zone and warned neutral vessels of the dangers of entering the area. On 7 May 1915, the S.S. Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk, 10 miles off the southern coast of Ireland, with a loss of life of 1,198 men, women and children, 128 of whom were Americans. Repeated exchanges of notes revealed the adamant attitude of the German Government. The clamor for increased preparedness raised by the American public resulted in enormously increased military appropriations. In March 1916, the French S.S. Sussex was sunk in the English channel with loss of two American lives. President Wilson immediately notified the German Government that diplomatic relations would be severed unless she immediately forswore and abandoned her methods of submarine warfare against neutral shipping. This brought forth a German promise that it would not sink merchant ships without warning and without attempting to save lives.
    The Sussex incident increased the efforts of the Navy Department to ensure that, among other things, the U.S. Naval Radio service be brought to a peak of readiness and efficiency. To determine the wartime capabilities of the United States, a mobilization of communication facilities was ordered. Mr. Theodore N. Vail, President of the American Telephone and Telegraph Co., in a letter dated 19 April 1916, stated, ". . . we would take a patriotic satisfaction in placing our system at the service of the Government in any time of need . . ."12
    This mobilization was ordered for a 40-hour period which began at 1600, Saturday, 6 May 1916. Telegraph and telephone connections were made between the Navy Department and all navy yards and naval radio stations in the United States. A radiotelephone transmitter that had been installed at Arlington for long-distance radiotelephony tests was still at that location. Another smaller transmitter and one of the receivers used during the above-mentioned tests were installed in the U.S.S. New Hampshire, Capt. Lloyd N. Chandler, USN, commanding. The New Hampshire was to be in the vicinity of Hampton Roads during the mobilization tests. Another one of the receivers was installed at the Norfolk Naval Radio Station.
    Two-way radiotelephone communications were established immediately upon commencement of the test and were maintained at will with the New Hampshire via wirelines to the Norfolk Naval Radio Station, thence by radio to the ship, and by radio from the ship to Norfolk, thence by wireline to the Navy Department or other stations. On 7 May Captain Chandler, at sea off the Virginia Capes, talked with Capt. Frank M. Bennet, USN, Commandant of the Mare Island Navy Yard,13 with officers in the Department, and with his wife at their home in Washington.
    During a telephone conversation with the Naval Radio Station, San Diego, instructions for the U.S.S. Raleigh then at Corinto, Nicaragua, were issued and relayed via radio in a total elapsed time of 4 minutes.14
    Connections with various yards and stations were exceedingly rapid for the telephone system of that time.
Pensacola, 45 seconds    New York, 27 seconds
Great Lakes, 52 seconds   San Diego, 28 seconds
    The undertaking was completely successful, and upon its completion Daniels sent his congratulations to Vail and to the Bell System which had gratuitously provided the services.
    In reporting the results of the mobilization The Telephone Review, in its issue of June 1916, with justifiable pride, took some license in reporting the conversation of the Secretary to Captain Chandler as being the following:
I will be in my office in the Navy Department at ten o'clock tomorrow morning. I will ring you up then and have another conversation. I can hear you as well as if you were in Washington, Captain Chandler. It will not be long before the Secretary of the Navy will be able to sit in his office and communicate with vessels of the Navy all over the world by wireless telephone. That is something the captains may not like!15
    Hooper, who was present, in later years, when a rear admiral, gave another version of the Secretary's use of the radiotelephone and his conversation with Captain Chandler. The handset which contained both the microphone and receiver was identical with that now so common to the telephones in our homes, except it had a little button that one pressed to talk and released to listen. The use of this button had been carefully explained to the Secretary. In the excitement of the moment, he not only pressed the button when he talked, but he continued to press it when endeavoring to listen. "Hello, hello, Captain Chandler," he said. Hooper, listening in on another phone, heard the Captain reply but not the Secretary. Again he shouted, "Hello, hello, I can't hear you. Speak louder!" The Captain dutifully obeyed, but he could not bridge the open circuit. Finally, realizing he was having no success and that he could not "spoil the show" with the newspapermen and cameramen about him, the Secretary still grimly pressing the button, conducted an imaginary conversation with the captain. "I heard you fine. How is the weather at sea? That's fine. Glad you have such nice weather there. We have a fine day here, too." When others, perhaps less excited, took the microphone, two-way conversation was immediately established much to his never-admitted chagrin.16
    Bullard strongly recommended that negotiations be entered into with the American Telephone and Telegraph Co., for permanent telephone and telegraph connections between the Navy Department and important yards and stations in time of peace. He closed his recommendation with the statement: "The desirability of such permanent circuits has been manifested on numerous occasions."17


With the expansion of radio communications during 1915-16, personal shortages were acute. The Bureau of Navigation, charged with procuring and training personnel, managed to provide a sufficient number to man the fleet and shore stations. It was obvious that it would be extremely difficult to provide those with the necessary training should the country become embroiled in the war.
    In December 1915 Bullard wrote the commercial operating companies letters suggesting that they should lay before their operators a letter from him suggesting they enroll themselves for Government service in the event of war. The companies, especially the Marconi Co., which was the only sizable one of that time, supported this idea wholeheartedly.18
    At the same time, he wrote the National Amateur Wireless Association requesting the addresses of all persons who had enrolled in that organization.19 The officers of the association responded to this request and offered all possible assistance. By March 1916 the amateurs in the 1st Naval District were thoroughly organized. This was followed quickly by similar action in other districts.
    The Annual Report of the Director of Naval Communications for 1916 stated:
It is desired to make special mention of the commercial and amateur radio operators who have volunteered their services in time of public peril. Through the cooperation of commercial radio companies, 200 applicants have offered their services in time of war and additional applications are being received regularly. Similarly amateur radio organizations have cooperated with this office and the amateurs have been organized by districts throughout the United States, such organizations being under the immediate supervision of the district radio superintendent of the district concerned.20
    Following the successful organizations of the amateurs, the Bureau of Navigation, early in 1917, created the Class 4, United States Naval Reserve. This was the beginning of the Naval Communication Reserve which has been of untold assistance from that time until now, in war and peace, and during disasters resulting from earthquake, flood, or wind. The requirements for enrollment in this reserve group were American citizenship, ability to send and receive at the rate of 10 words per minute, and the passing of the usual physical examination. Upon enrollment, members received an annual retainer fee of $12 until they were able to pass qualifying examinations indicating their ability to replace regular naval radio operators. Upon qualifying, they received annual retainer pay equal to 2 months pay of their corresponding grade in the regular Navy. Additionally, they were paid travelling expenses to and from the place of training and the same pay as their corresponding grades while under training. Uniforms were provided gratuitously. During peacetime a member could be discharged at any time, upon his own request. Active duty was not compulsory, except in time of war.21 The success in organizing this Communication Reserve Force was due to the enthusiastic support of the amateurs and their organizations.


By a precept, dated 6 December 1914, the Secretary of the Navy established a board to review the naval communications situation and to make recommendations to bring the Naval Radio Service up to a satisfactory state of war readiness. This Board was composed of Capt. W. H. G. Bullard, USN, Superintendent of the Naval Radio Service, the senior member; Commdr. S. W. Bryant, USN, Bullard's senior assistant; Lt. E. H. Dodd, USN, Pacific Coast Radio Superintendent; and Lt. S. C. Hooper, USN, who had just returned from the European war zone where he had served as an observer. Hooper also acted as the recorder. The initial report of the Board, dated 20 February 1915, recommended changes in responsibilities, organization, and administration of the system. Some of these changes were approved and instituted.
    On 1 May 1916, the Secretary directed the Board to reconvene, review the situation, and submit a supplementary report.22 The final recommendations of the Board were approved and implemented on 28 July 1916 by the promulgation of Navy General Order No. 226. This order established the Naval Communication Service, under a Director of Naval Communications, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and abolished the Naval Radio Service under the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation.
    No written mission, as such, was assigned the Naval Communication Service, but it may be inferred from the duties of the Director as contained in the "Communication Regulations of the United States Navy," 1918 which states:
The officer in charge of the Naval Communication Service is attached to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and is known as Director Naval Communications. He is responsible for the efficient handling of all radio, telegraph, telephone, cable and signal work, including submarine signaling, and shall be in general charge of all dispatch work between the Navy Department and the fleet, and throughout the Naval Service outside the fleet. He will have charge of . . Radio Censorship . . .23 In the administration of all means of communication, he will have general charge of their operation, personnel, organization, administration, etc., and in fact everything which has to do with the Communication Service of the Navy, except material.
    He shall be charged with:
The preparation of communication regulations, all books for radio communication including . . .24 calls, and signals, commercial traffic regulations, etc., issue of detailed instructions for the operation stations in accordance with military efficiency, international agreements in force, and the laws affecting the operation of naval radio stations.
    Control of the commercial work handled by naval radio stations, including issue of accounting and operating forms, auditing commercial accounts, traffic agreements, and accounting with commercial and other government managements involved.
    He shall keep the Bureau of Steam Engineering advised of all matters within his cognizance requiring work of a technical nature, and annually on July 1 will notify the Bureau of proposed changes in the general radio organization which would in any way affect the material.
    He shall correspond directly with the naval service in accordance with the procedure laid down by the regulations in the case of bureaus and other offices under the Navy Department in regard to all matters in which he is authorized to take action. He shall correspond directly with private and commercial concerns upon matters of reciprocal interest relating the commercial operation of naval radio stations in questions of interference, traffic arrangements, proposed change of rates, and accounting, and such matters as from time to time may be necessary in connection with the operation and efficiency of the Naval Communication Service.
    He shall co-operate with officials designated by the Secretary of Commerce in reference to the location of proposed commercial stations, the licensing of operators, the control of the operation of commercial stations under the law, and the assignment of wave lengths for use by commercial stations which will comply with the law and prevent interference with the operation of the Naval Communication Service.
    He shall co-operate with officers designated by the Secretary of War, when necessary, in all matters pertaining to naval communications of which he is in charge.
    He shall submit to the Chief of Naval Operations, with his recommendation, a statement of all matters that require department action.
    He shall submit such reports in regard to the naval communication establishment as may be called for by the Secretary of the Navy.
    The necessary expenses of the office of Director Naval Communications will be borne by the Bureau of Steam Engineering.
    He shall be charged with assignment to duty of all enlisted personnel of the communication service in accordance with instructions, issued by the Bureau of Navigation.
    He shall be charged with the preparation and necessary revision of list of names of competent operators outside the Navy whose services can be obtained for the Navy by enlistment or employment in the event of the United States being engaged in hostilities. In order to obtain this list he is authorized to communicate, as may be necessary, with the officers of the Naval Reserve and Naval Militia organizations, commercial radio companies, and operators, and take such steps as may be necessary or advisable to arrange the lists mentioned above.25
    Bullard and the personnel of the disestablished Radio Service were ordered to report to the Chief of Naval Operations, and the new service was established. Originally there were five assistants with the following titles:
Assistant Director Naval Communications with additional duty as Atlantic Coast Superintendent.
    Pacific Coast Superintendent.
    Philippines Communication Superintendent.
    Assistant for Commercial Traffic.
    Communication Officer, Navy Department.
    Outside the Navy Department the Naval Communication Service was organized following the recently established naval district system. All stations in a district transmitted their traffic to the district center station which relayed it through the various district center stations to its ultimate destination. This organization was as follows:

1st District
        Boston, District Center
2nd Division
        Newport, District Center
        Nantucket Lightship
3rd District
        New York, District Center
        Fire Island
        Fire Island Lightship
4th District
        Philadelphia, District Center
District of Columbia (independent)
        Indian Head
5th District
        Norfolk, District Center
        Diamond Shoals Lightship
6th District
        Charleston, District Center
        Port Royal
        St. Augustine (arbitrarily placed)
        Frying Pan Shoals Lightship
7th District
        Key West, District Center
8th District
        New Orleans, District Center
        Heald Bank Lightship
        Point Isabel
9th, 10th & 11th Districts
        Great Lakes, District Center
Guantanamo District
        Guantanamo, District Center
        Navassa Island
        Haitian Stations San Juan District
        San Juan, District Center
        Porto Rican Stations
        Virgin Islands
15th District
        Balboa, District Center

12th Naval District
(a)    San Diego District
        San Diego, District Center
        Point Arguello
(b)    San Francisco District (to Lat. 44° N.)
        San Francisco, District Center
13th Naval District
(a)    Puget Sound District. (from Lat. 44° N. to Canada)
        Puget Sound, District Center
        North Head
(b)    Cordova District (Alaskan Stations)
        Cordova, District Center
        Pribilofs (St. Paul and St. George)
        Dutch Harbor
14th District
        Pearl Harbor, District Center
        Tutuila (Samoa)

CAVITE,  MAIN  STATION  (District Center)
        Peking (For delivery of ALNAV, etc., messages only; station administered locally.)26


On the evening of 2 April 1917, President Wilson addressed the Senate and the House of Representatives, met in joint session, and asked that they declare that a state of war existed between the United States and the Imperial German Government. Immediately thereafter, resolutions to that effect had been introduced into both Houses. The Senate passed the resolution on 4 April. The debate in the House lasted through the following day and night and at 0300, 6 April the resolution was passed The time set for delivery to the President for signature was shortly after 1300 of the same day.27 At 1245, 6 April, the Radio, Virginia, station transmitted the signal directing all stations of the primary system of naval communications to "Cease all radio work and listen for rush signals." Every operator knew why and strained, listening for the historic message which would shatter the silence and which would embroil us in the largest scale conflict the world had known. Standing in a window of the Executive office, Comdr. Byron McCandless USN, Acting Director of Naval Communications,28 watched and, as the President completed his signature, signaled an assistant standing in a window of the old State, War and Navy Building, across the street from the White House grounds. With the signal the silence ended and in seconds the fleet, the shore stations, and most of the entire world, knew that we had entered the war on the side of the Allies.29

    1 Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1915, (Washington, Government Printing Office. 1915), p. 282.
    2 Ibid., p. 272.
    3 The Wireless Age, Sept. 1914, pp. 964-966.
    4 Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1915, op. cit., p. 273.
    5 Ibid.
    6 Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1916, (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1916), p. 27.
    7 Infra, ch. XVIII.
    8 Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1915, op. cit., p. 265.
    9 Ibid., p. 290.
    10 Ibid., p. 266.
    11 Ibid., pp. 266-267.
    12 The Telephone Review, (house organ of the American Telephone and Telegraph Co.), May 1916.
    13 Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1916, op. cit., pp. 146-147.
    14 "Radioana," Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass., G. H. Clark, "Radio in War and Peace," p. 250.
    15 The Telephone Review, op. cit., June 1916.
    16 "Radioana," op. cit., Clark, "Radio in War and Peace," pp. 230-231.
    17 Letter, dated 31 May 1915, from W. H. G. Bullard to the Secretary of the Navy, files, Secretary of the Navy National Archives, Washington, D.C.
    18 Multiple address letter, dated 14 Dec. 1915, from Director Naval Communications to various commercial radio companies, files, Naval Radio Service, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
    19 Letter, dated 15 Mar. 1916, from W. H. G. Bullard to National Amateur Wireless Association.
    21 The Wireless Age, May 1917, p. 596.
    22 Letter, dated 1 May 1916, (N-31/W 624-109) from the Secretary of the Navy to W. H. G. Bullard.
    23 The full sentence read "He will have charge of Cable and Radio Censorship, with the title of Chief Cable Censor." The responsibility for cable censorship was added on 28 April 1917.
    24 "Codes" have been deleted since they did not become a responsibility of the Director Naval Communications until October 1917.
    25 "Communication Regulations of the United States Navy, 1918," (Press, Navy Recruiting Bureau, New York), article 201.
    26 "Communications Regulations, U.S. Navy, 1918," op. cit., Article 105.
    27 David Saville Muzzey, "A History Of Our Country" (Ginn and Company, Boston 1943), pp. 665-666.
    28 Bullard had completed his tour of shore duty and had been ordered to sea. McCandless was Acting Director until Comr. D. W. Todd, USN, ported for duty as Director.
    29 The Wireless Age, June 1917, p. 614.
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