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History of Communications-Electronics in the United States Navy, Captain Linwood S. Howeth, USN (Retired), 1963, pages 253-259:


Procurement  and Installation  of  Radio  Equipment  During  World  War  I


Prior to the adoptance of the type number system,1 radio equipment had been modified by the whims of individuals and installations had been made on ships without thought of standardized plans. When operating and maintenance personnel were transferred from one ship to another it was necessary for them to familiarize themselves with completely different installations.
    Prior to 1917 the Radio Division had developed standard radio equipments for the various types of naval vessels. These had been assigned SE type numbers for convenience in assembling the various components required for a complete installation.2 In fitting a ship with radio equipment it was only necessary to provide the type number of the several complete assemblies, such as antennas, transmitters and receivers, comprising the complete installation. No modifications to equipments were permitted except by a change order issued by the Bureau. This was the beginning of a complete standardization which would eventually cover the elements of each individual component and tremendously decrease the number of spare parts required to be carried in stock. For many years progress toward this goal would be slow because of the constant improvements in newly purchased radio equipment combined with the economic necessity of retaining older equipments despite the availability of more modern types.
    Following the standardization of equipments, standard installation plans were drawn up for each type and class of vessel. There were necessarily numerous modifications of these standard plans due to the variations in individual ship construction. These modifications required Bureau approval, thereby limiting them to those absolutely essential. Later, as the construction of the various types of ships became more nearly uniform, these modifications were materially decreased, especially in the smaller vessels. All ships under construction at this time and thereafter had specially designed radio spaces. Whenever possible, separate receiver and transmitter spaces were provided, with the latter usually being below the main deck. However, material improvements resulted in numerous departures from the standard installations.


The mobilization requirements for military radio equipment were enormous. The Army required field sets to equip a planned force of approximately 2 million men. The Navy requirements for fitting new construction and augmenting the communication facilities of existent ship and shore stations amounted to a staggering total of over 10,000 sets. To avoid competing for manufacturing facilities, Gen. George O. Squier, Chief Signal Officer, USA, and Hooper established procurement procedures wherein each service had priority in contracting with specified companies. The Army with its large requirement for field apparatus and voice communications controlled the output of the Western and General Electric Cos., while the Navy controlled the output of the numerous small radio manufacturing companies.3 These procedures prevented the skyrocketing of prices and the assignment of contracts to companies for equipment in excess of their production capabilities.
    The Radio Division determined its requirements and made allocations to the various companies in accordance with their manufacturing capabilities and experience in order that each would manufacture the type of equipment for which it was best fitted and tooled. In general, this list was made up to provide two or more sources of supply for each item. This necessitated abandonment of established competitive bidding procedures. The first list of allocated equipment was taken by Hooper to the Contract Division, Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, with a request that the Bureau of Engineering be given a free hand in ordering the material. The Chief of the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, doubting his authority to depart from established procedure, took the list, the request, and Hooper, to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roosevelt who quickly approved and endorsed with the initials, "FDR."4
    Hooper's next step was to give the manufacturers 2 days in which to submit prices for the items allocated them. When these were submitted, at reasonable costs, the companies were awarded contracts. In cases where there was evidence of attempts to profiteer, companies were directed to manufacture the equipment on a cost-plus-10-percent basis. To cover the cost of expansion of its Aldene, N.J., plant the American Marconi Co. was allowed an additional 10 percent.5
    Immediately upon the issuance of the contracts and orders, there was a hurried effort on the part of several companies to procure radio engineering talent. This could have resulted in some companies losing the people necessary for the satisfactory completion of their orders. The Bureau immediately countered this by informing the proselyting firms that their actions were not in the best interests of the Government and that further effort in that direction would result in cancellation of their contracts.6
    There were some items for which a second source of supply was nonexistent. In these cases the supplying companies were directed to provide a second firm with the necessary information to enable it to produce the item. A few companies demurred but the mere suggestion that the Government would take over and operate their plant provided sufficient incentive to evoke compliance.7
    Quickly, a steady and sufficient supply of standard equipment, manufactured under Navy specifications and in many cases from Navy supplied plans, became available. During the entire period of the war, not one ship was delayed in being put into operation by the lack of radio equipment.8


In late August 1916 Congress passed the Ship Purchase Act, creating the U.S. Shipping Board which was given authority to build, purchase, or lease vessels "suitable for use as naval auxiliaries" and to operate them for a period not to exceed 5 years following the termination of the war. By late 1917, ships constructed under this act were nearing completion.
    Hooper convinced the Shipping Board authorities that they should request the Navy Department to procure, maintain, and operate the radio equipment on their newly constructed vessels. This was done ostensibly to prevent the Shipping Board requirements for this equipment from interfering with other military procurement. Actually, the motive was to weaken the communication position of the British-dominated American Marconi Co., thereby strengthening Daniel's position in seeking a Government radio monopoly. The Secretary, an announced proponent of Government ownership of all radio facilities, approved Hooper's action and the Shipping Board request.9
    The Bureau increased the existing contracts by the amounts necessary to provide the equipments for the newly constructed Shipping Board vessels. These were installed in specially provided spaces by the builders under the supervision of the radio engineers of the nearest navy yards. In wartime these ships sailed in convoys under escort protection and did not require longrange transmitters. Their operators were relatively inexperienced necessitating the use of the least complicated equipment. The standard installation, which met the requirements of Public Law 238, 13 August 1912, consisted of 2-kw. quenched-spark transmitters and a crystal detector-receiver with the necessary ancillary equipment. Maintenance was provided by the various navy yards and overseas naval bases.10
    After our declaration of war, the Shipping Board made plans to commandeer all vessels under U.S. registry in excess of 2,500 tons displacement. This was done on 1 November 1918 by transferring registry to the Government and then turning the ships back to their previous owners to be operated by them for the Government. Hooper's next action was an endeavor to convince the Shipping Board authorities of the desirability of purchasing the leased radio equipment of these vessels and having it maintained and operated by the Navy. Before final decision was made, Hooper was ordered to sea in command of the U.S.S. Fairfax and was relieved by LeClair.
    LeClair, busy with wartime administrative duties, the responsibility for augmenting transatlantic communications, bolstering the aircraft radio equipment program, and improving shipboard apparatus, did not concern himself with the communications political situation. However, during his year in this office, he did arrange for the purchase of the patents and shore stations of the Federal Telegraph Co. in order to block the purported effort of British Marconi to obtain control of the arc patents.11 LeClair's action was based upon the necessity of protecting the continued use of this type of transmitter. The Secretary's approval of the purchase was readily obtained since the sole ownership of the American rights to the Poulsen patents would increase his chances of establishing a Government radio monopoly.
    Hooper returned in August 1918 and relieved LeClair. One of his first acts was to renew his efforts to convince the Shipping Board officials that they should purchase the leased installations. Shortly thereafter the Navy Department was instructed to purchase the installations of 267 vessels against the Shipping Board account. Similar action was taken by the Railroad Administration which was operating 63 ships with leased installations.
    American Marconi interests were unwilling to sell their ship stations unless their coastal stations were also purchased. This was acquiesced to and readily approved by the Secretary. The transaction was consummated on 30 November 1918, 19 days after the signing of the Armistice. For the time being, the Government owned most of and operated all radio stations in the United States and on vessels registered thereunder. Upon the termination of the President's wartime powers there would be few stations to be returned to commercial interests.12


The rapid expansion of personnel and the limited training which could be given them in technical fields, especially in the recently developed electronic circuits, made it necessary to expand the radio facilities of the navy yards and to establish additional ones at all oversea bases.
    Equipment was fitted in the newly constructed ships at the navy yards after delivery by the builders. The installation of additional sets, and repairs and modifications to or replacement of existing ones in the older vessels were accomplished either at the yards or oversea bases. Radio direction finders required calibration after installation. Whenever circumstances allowed, this was done while ships were at the yard by special teams, based at the Boston Navy Yard, travelling the entire east coast to accomplish their work. In many instances it was necessary to install this equipment overseas after which it was calibrated by personnel of one of the several naval bases.
    Radio repair facilities were established in 1917 at naval bases in Queenstown, Ireland; Gibraltar; and at Brest, Lorient, and St. Nazaire, France. Additional bases in France were established during 1918 at Rochefort, La Pallice, Gironde River, Le Havre, and Marseille.13


In June 1917 six of our battleships, under the command of Rear Adm. Hugh Rodman, USN, joined the British Grand Fleet as the 6th Battle Squadron. The remaining capital ships were retained within the protected waters of the Chesapeake Bay as an augmenting force in the event the German Fleet escaped from Wilhelmshaven, where it was being contained by the combined fleet. It immediately became evident that the radio installations of the two navies were incompatible. British men-of-war had been designed and fitted primarily to operate in close formation in the restricted waters to the north and east of the British Isles. Their radio equipment was highly selective and insensitive. The U.S. Navy had been designed and fitted to fulfill its mission which, as the country's first line of defense, was to meet and defeat an enemy on the high seas, distant from our shores. This mission necessitated the scouting of immense sea areas by ships widely separated on a scouting line. Our radio requirements were diametrically opposite those of the British. This posed quite a problem. No one could foretell the duration of the war nor whether the Germans could continue their advance and possibly force the Allies to fall back and fight the war from American shores. The radio equipment installed in any of our scouting ships could not be supplanted by shortrange apparatus.
    In accomplishing maximum selectivity in receiving, the British utilized an acceptor-rejector14 circuit consisting of special coils and condensers so placed in the antenna circuit that two signals of different frequencies might be received on one antenna without mutual interference or loss of energy. Nodal points15 were artificially produced in the antenna by circuit arrangements and from these very low impedance shunts were tapped off and used to eliminate, soundlessly, all signals except those on the exact desired frequency. The device for producing a nodal point in the antenna circuit was a series coil and condenser which formed the acceptor circuit. The shunt trap or rejector circuit consisted of a number of fixed condensers and a single-turn variable loop. The numerous adjustments required, the exactness with which each had to be made, and the necessity for positive contact resistance, made the successful use of this device extremely difficult. In addition to this, all parts of British receiving equipment were carefully screened to eliminate electrically generated noises and their receivers were placed in soundproofed, screened and grounded booths. Their transmitting keys were enclosed by heavy brass containers grounded to prevent their acting as miniature transmitters.16 They continued to use the inefficient open spark gap transmitters which created much more local interference than the U.S. Navy quenched gaps. For shortrange communications they replaced the spark gaps of their transmitters with motor buzzer sets.17 They also used a 2-kw. arc which was small and dainty but highly efficient in comparison with ours. Their transmitters were normally located below decks with the antenna leads brought up through screened trunks. Break keys were standard equipment.18 Whereas we had continued to use frequencies below 1,500 kc. they utilized one of about 2,380 kc. for intrafleet communications.19
    The immediate problem was solved by replacing the radio equipment of the ships of the 6th Battle Squadron with British-type apparatus. A similar system was designed by our radio engineers and installed in the remaining battleships.20 This consisted of Models E, F, and "R" receiving equipments. The British acceptor-rejector circuit was adopted as a component of these equipments. The Model E system consisted of one low and one medium frequency receiver so arranged that either or both could be used simultaneously on one antenna. The Model R system consisted of a single medium frequency receiver. The Model F system was the same as the Model R except that it was provided with additional features permitting its use for double reception by utilizing one of the receivers of the Model E system. The transmitters were not relocated below decks and no changes were made to them except the adoption of the British motor buzzer sets as a substitute for the spark gap for low-powered purposes. Although these installations were not as complete or as good as the British installations they did provide improvement for tactical uses.21
    We learned much from the British and adopted many of their manners of usage such as the broadcast method of delivering orders and information to the fleet, the necessity of maintaining radio silence until enemy contact was established, and the need of strict radio discipline.

    1 Supra, ch. XVII.
    2 Because of the confusion that resulted from the assignment of type numbers to components and to assemblies of components, a model designation was later assigned a complete equipment.
    3 Clark in his unpublished manuscript, "Radio in War and Peace," p. 319, infers that the two companies controlled by the Army performed no work for the Navy. This is incorrect. The contractural records of the Navy and lists of radio material provided by them during and after the war show that they manufactured thousands of radio components. Likewise, the National Electric Supply Co., a Navy controlled firm, produced thousands of sets for the Army.
    4 "Radioana," Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass., G. H. Clark, "Radio in War and Peace," p. 321-325.
    5 Ibid.
    6 Ibid.
    7 Ibid.
    8 "History of the Bureau of Engineering, Navy Department, During the World War," Washington, Government Printing Office, 1922, p. 91.
    9 "Radioana," op. cit., Clark, "Radio in War and Peace, p. 326. Clark claims that the protection of the contracts was the primary reason for Hooper's action but that the desire to break the Marconi monopoly was more deeply seated in his mind.
    10 Ibid.
    11 Gleason L. Archer, "History of Radio to 1926," (American Book-Stratford Press, Inc., New York, 1938), p. 137 states:
    "Early in the summer of 1917 there were rumors that the Federal Telegraph Company was in negotiation with the Marconi Company in regard to a consolidation whereby the latter would take over the patents and physical assets of the Federal Company. Whether these rumors were fed to the Navy Department as a means of stimulating a hoped-for sale to the Government is by no means dear. The probabilities are that there was a basis of fact for the report. Subsequent disclosure, however, indicates the sale to the United States Government was engineered under suspicious circumstances. A scandal of major importance was averted by the suicide of one of the chief actors in the transaction and the resignation of suspected officials."
    12 Infra, ch. XXX.
    13 "History of the Bureau of Engineering, Navy Department, During the World War," op. cit., p. 125.
    14 The acceptor-rejector circuit is described briefly in Appendix M.
    15 A nodal point exists wherever the potential in a circuit with respect to ground is zero.
    16 "Radioana," op. cit., Clark, "Radio in War and Peace," pp. 340-345.
    17 The motor-buzzer set is described briefly in Appendix M.
    18 "Radioana," op. cit., Clark, "Radio in War and Peace," pp. 340-345.
    19 Ibid.
    20 Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1918 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1918), p. 28.
    21 United States Navy "Manual of Engineering Instructions" (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1921), p. 31-148.
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