TOC | Previous Section: Chapter XXXIV | Next Section: Chapter XXXVI
History of Communications-Electronics in the United States Navy, Captain Linwood S. Howeth, USN (Retired), 1963, pages 403-416:


Post  World  War  I  Radio  Modernization


With the discovery that the three-element vacuum tube could be made to oscillate, radio engineers were provided with a device which could perform all the necessary electronic functions. For almost three decades following discoveries of all its characteristics, its use was almost completely limited to communications. However, following the advent of radar, the proximity fuze, and other applications with their enormous military propensities and public appeal, communication equipment ceased being of sole importance in the electronic field. Notwithstanding its having been supplanted as the most important electronic development of the age, communication remains the nerve center of all war operations. Without adequate means of conveying enormous volumes of intelligence and commands, operations would be almost paralyzed. Figure 35-1
    Between 1925 and the outbreak of World War II development of communication equipment had been primarily confined to the spectrum between 15 kc. and 30 mc. Between 1925 and 1929, with the radio boom in full swing, the Navy was almost entirely dependent upon its own research facilities for the development of radio equipment suited to its needs. The radio industry as a whole was far too occupied providing millions of receivers for American homes and in the development of improvements which might increase sales in this highly competitive market. Apparatus designed by Naval Research Laboratory personnel was manufactured for the Navy by the Radio Corp. of America, the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co., the Western Electric Co., the National Electric Supply Co., and other smaller companies. Practically no research or development of Navy equipment was performed by any of these companies during this period.
    With the limited funds available for research and development of communication equipment, for example, $25,000 in 1939, only a few of the technical staff of the Radio and Sound Division were able to concentrate on the development of new equipments. Other personnel of that section concentrated on projects which would produce modifications to existing equipments to meet changes required by the fleet.1
    As a result of this, when the United States was thrust into World War II, the Navy's need for radio equipment was so dire that it was necessary to reclaim receivers used during World War I and to convert them to the use of tubes and alternating current. Stopgap equipments were made available by modifying commercial designs to make them adaptable to ship installations. Once the immediate needs were filled, this proved more of a blessing than might be supposed. With no war reserve equipment available, new and vastly superior equipment was developed to meet the requirements of our rapidly growing fleet. New techniques in handling large volumes of traffic were developed, and higher frequencies were utilized. New designs, dictated by operational requirements, revolutionized the standard functions of communication equipments. Advancements in electronic techniques influenced modification of the existing systems and further permitted the development of new devices having wide and varied applications.2


Following the reorganization of our naval forces in 1923 and the completion of Fleet problem 1,3 the Commander in Chief of the newly organized U.S. Fleet submitted a comprehensive statement of the communication requirements of his command, based on its operation in modern naval warfare with its complex cruising and battle dispositions.4 His recommendations were approved by the Secretary of the Navy.
    Following World War I the Bureau of Engineering, with Hooper in charge of the Radio Desk, had placed great emphasis and expended considerable funds in an unsuccessful attempt to develop satisfactory vacuum tube transmitters and radio equipment which would afford reliable communications between aircraft and surface vessels. Some thought had been given the problem of multicircuit operation aboard ship, but the envisioned requirements fell far short of those established by the Commander in Chief. His report contained the first complete statement of radio requirements which had been received by the Bureau prior to the beginning of World War I.5 Immediate action was essential to provide sufficient reliable secure channels of radio communication to permit full efficient operation of a large group of vessels in a restricted area and to maintain communications with scouts hundreds of miles distant.


The Bureau immediately commenced formulation of a plan of modernization and instituted stopgap measures to alleviate the unsatisfactory conditions pending final development of a modernization plan. One of these stopgap measures included the modifying of many of the old spark transmitters by replacing the spark with an alternating current vacuum tube circuit in accordance with a scheme developed by Mr. A. C. Speaker, a naval radio engineer. Other measures included the substitution of the spark in low-powered sets by motor-buzzer sets and the modification of the CW 936 transceivers to provide for low-powered tactical communications, the improvement of the arc transmitters to eliminate mush and harmonics, and the installation of acceptor-rejector systems to eliminate interference between different radio communication channels and to make possible dual reception on a single antenna.6 These modifications improved the situation, but they were complicated and unreliable and could be considered only as interim measures. Hooper was ordered to duty as Fleet Radio Officer in an endeavor to bolster radio communications within the Fleet. He reported for this duty in July 1923 after having been relieved of his duty in the Bureau by Capt. R. W. McNeely, USN.


Previous to this time, the Naval Research Laboratory had developed the Model TO tube transmitter of 100-watt power, covering the frequency band 500-1500 kc. Concurrently, the Western Electric Co. had been provided a contract to develop Model TP of 50-watt power covering the frequency band 75-600 kc., and the General Electric Co. had been provided a contract for the development of the Model TU of 2-kw. power operating in the frequency range of 195-565 kc. All of these, controlled by rigid Navy specifications, were satisfactorily developed and contracts for their manufacture were negotiated as follows:
No.    Model    Contract
21    TO        1923    Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co.
1    TO        1923    Washington Navy Yard.
23    TP        1923-25    Western Electric Co.
5    TU-1        1923    General Electric Co.
8    TU-2        1923    Western Electric Co.
The Model TO were purchased for installation in battleships for tactical communications and the Model TP for fleet and force flagships and battleships for general communications.
    In addition, the Western Electric Co. developed, under contract, a loading inductance for the Model TL transmitter of 6-kw. power which permitted its use at the frequency of 75 kc. Two of these were purchased in 1923 for installations on the flagships of the Fleet and Battle force commanders.7 By early 1924 a few of these equipments had been delivered and installed in the more important flagships.


Prior to and during 1924 improved transmitters for shore stations were placed under contract as shown in table below.
Station    Contractor    Year    Power    Frequency range
Arlington    Washington Navy Yard    1923    10      64-118
Arlington    Washington Navy Yard    1924    20      86-112
Arlington    Washington Navy Yard    1923    3    100-500
San Diego    General Electric Co.    1924    80      25-35  
Cavite    Navy Yard, Mare Island    1924    6      56-355
Hawaii    Navy Yard, Mare Island    1924    6      56-355
    These transmitters were used for broadcast schedules with the fleets.8


McNeely proceeded with the development of the radio modernization plan. Immediately, things began to occur which necessitated changes to the requirements submitted by the Fleet. The Interdepartmental Radio Advisory Committee agreed to vacate the 500-1500-kc. band, used for fleet tactical communications, except on a noninterference basis. The Navy was forced into reluctant agreement. Hooper did not concur in this. This decision forced the Navy to commence the design of models TV, TW, and TX transmitters covering the frequency band 2-3 mc. A few months later, in February 1924, the Commander in Chief's comments upon receivers combined with the necessity of providing a receiver covering the 2-3-mc. band resulted in the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory being directed to develop models RE (10-100 kc.) and RF (75-1000 kc.) series of receivers. At this time, Taylor, at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, was obtaining spectacular results in the use of higher frequencies at low power for long-distance communications.9


On 27 March 1924 the Bureau of Engineering submitted the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, a tentative technical solution of his radio requirements. Concurrently, it sought and obtained an appropriation of $1½ million for fiscal year 1925 to carry out this proposed plan. Unfortunately, this appropriation was obtained before full realization of the magnitude of the modernization program was fully appreciated. Some of it was utilized in the purchase of transmitters covering the 2-3-mc. band for aircraft transceivers, and newly developed low- and medium-frequency receivers. The amount was far in excess of that which could be spent. Although the research activities of the General Electric, Western Electric, and Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Cos. were engaged in developing tube transmitters and the Naval Research Laboratory was developing a high-frequency receiver, these were not yet ready for manufacture. In fact, the use of high frequencies had not yet entered the plan.10
    It had been planned to utilize some of the fiscal 1925 funds for duplexing the radio installations in many of the major ships. Failure to coordinate this with the Bureau of Construction and Repair resulted in that Bureau not requesting the necessary funds for ships' alterations. Additionally, attempts to obtain allocations of space to separate receiving and transmitting equipment met with failure. Only a small portion of the appropriated funds was utilized for radio. Foreseeing this would occur, Hooper expressed his opinion of the situation in a critical and sharply worded letter to McNeely.11


By the end of 1924, Taylor's success in the use of high frequencies had convinced McNeely and McLean, who was then the Director of Naval Communications, of the feasibility of utilizing this portion of the radio spectrum for intrafleet, ship-shore, and point-to-point long-distance radio communications.
    In early 1925, a naval communications frequency plan utilizing frequencies from 15 kc. to 19 mc. had been drawn up, approved, and the necessary allocations requested and obtained. Then, on 25 February 1926, the Interdepartmental Radio Advisory Committee approved the recommendation of its Subcommittee on Technical Problems. This recommendation stated:
The frequency allocation proposed by the Navy for its use is a scientific and systematic allocation. The plan permits an economical utilization of the ether.
    For peace use it gives consideration to the requirements of Government and non-Government activities and is in accord with the band allocation approved by the Fourth National Radio Conference.12
    During the summer and fall of 1925, advantage was taken of the U.S. Fleet cruise to Australia and New Zealand to test the use of high frequencies for ship-shore communications. These tests, conducted under the supervision of Taylor, demonstrated the superiority of low-powered, high-frequency transmission for long distances. On 5 November 1925, final decision to include high-frequency equipments in the radio modernization plan was made.13


This decision necessitated an almost complete revision of the Bureau's plan submitted in March 1924 and which had finally been approved by the Commander in Chief, with some reservations, in July 1925.14 The problem confronting the Bureau was analogous, yet more complicated, to that which existed in 1912, when it was discovered that 30-kw. arc transmitters gave results comparable to those of 100-kw. spark transmitters. Similarly, the recent development of 20-kw. low-frequency vacuum tube transmitters with a performance equal to the 100-kw. arc transmitter, gave indication that the latter type, in which the Navy had invested approximately $1 million, would soon be obsolescent. If high-frequency vacuum tube transmitters requiring much less power could be utilized for many of the naval communication requirements, much money and weight and space could be saved. Figure 35-2
    The problem was further complicated by a general lack of understanding of the nature of the shorter waves, although some progress had been made by scientists and amateurs in studies of their characteristics. It was thoroughly realized by many of these that in using the higher frequencies the skywaves were utilized for long-distance communications and the groundwaves for short distances. It was also known that there exists an area beyond which the groundwave carries, yet short of the distance where the first reflection of the skywaves returns to earth. This skip-distance area varies with the frequency used and with atmospheric conditions which cause variations in the height of the ionospheric levels. The lack of understanding of the fleet radio personnel is evidenced by the Commander in Chief, US Fleet, Adm. R. E. Coontz, USN, in a letter of 16 September 1925 wherein the recommendation was made that no frequencies higher than 9000 kc. be utilized.
    Spark transmitters were to be eliminated from future consideration. The Bureau had to determine: Whether low-powered, high-frequency transmitters would render service ashore and afloat, equal or superior to that rendered by the high-powered, low-frequency, vacuum tube and arc transmitters then installed; whether high powered, low-frequency, vacuum tube transmitters should be used to replace the reliable, rugged arcs which were still capable of rendering service to the fleet, especially with the great improvement in their emanation characteristics brought about by recent current transformer and inductive coupling modifications; and whether, presuming that the vacuum tube transmitter was to become standard, the arcs be still further refined to render them capable of meeting the requirements of standby transmitters.
    The large number of communication channels in operation necessitated the continued use of low and medium frequencies for other than long-distance traffic, but these transmitters required little power since they were for intrafleet purposes. However, scouting vessels, fleet submarines, and aircraft required longer range communications which could be afforded only by the use of low-powered high-frequency or high-powered low-frequency transmitters. Decision was reached that the Bureau must proceed immediately with the development of high-frequency equipment to avoid unnecessary future expenditures and to improve the efficiency of the Naval Communications System.15 The Naval Research Laboratory was directed to develop the necessary transmitters and receivers.
    It is of interest to note that, at this time, the Bureau shipped 15 of the old reliable CW 936 transceivers to the Asiatic Fleet with instructions and kits for modifying them for use on 3750 and 7500 kc.16 In comparison with a practice soon to be adopted, which prohibited modifications to radio equipments except by specific direction, radio personnel, afloat and ashore, were encouraged to construct high-frequency equipments for naval usage.17
    The problem of providing duplex radio installations in major ship types was resolved by the approved report of a Ship Control Board, convened in 1924, which specified locations for radio installations in all types of naval vessels.18


On 8 March 1926, the Chief of the Bureau of Engineering advised the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commanders in Chief of the United States and Asiatic Fleets of the details of the Bureau's radio modernization program.
    This plan was based upon the following factors:
The use of a selective non-interfering system permitting the simultaneous use of the required number of communication channels.
    The character of individual ship installations to be such as to permit efficient handling of battle and strategic communications.
    The equipment installed to be such as to permit the required expansion necessitated by aircraft, long-range firing, and increase in size of the fleet with its consequent decentralization of command.
    The location of radio spaces and the installation of interior communications for radio to be as prescribed by the report of the Ship Control Board, 1924.
    The provision of accurate means of equipment calibration and frequency measurements in order to maintain the reliability of the selective system.
    The provision of rugged, reliable, operationally simple equipment which will maintain, within a small percentage, stability under the adverse conditions encountered on board ships.
    The standardization of installations, making for increased flexibility, economical purchasing, and maximum intercommunications between the various types of vessels.
    The utilization of high frequencies wherever possible in order to save weight and space and for economy.
    A scientific fleet radio frequency plan which reduces interference to a minimum and requires a minimum of channel shifting with changes in cruising and battle dispositions.
    That the plan will be carried out in annual stages consistent with congressional appropriations and the ability of manufacturers.
    A study of the type installations shows that the plan included providing high-frequency equipments to all fleet and force flagships, battleships, first-line aircraft carriers, heavy cruisers, first-line light cruisers, first-line fleet submarines, and large patrol vessels.
 HeterodyneReceivers     Transmitters
 FrequencyRE   RF   RG   TU   TV, TW, TX1   XA2   XC
Battleships  1818      18 (3)   18 (2)       18   2
Cruisers  161 (2)   3 (3)   3    10   11   3
 16      10 (2)   10 (2)
Destroyers1031 103      103    38    4 5 50   95
Minelayers   88      6
 2 (2)
Aircraft carriers   33      1 (2)   2 (6)   2   2 (2)
 2 (6)
Auxiliaries  1891      17 (3)   18    6 18   8   2
 37    1 (2)
Fleet submarines   44      4    4    6 3   4
Gunboats   66      6    6            1   8
        Total5176251      311    139    83   140   8   8
NOTE.--Number in parentheses indicates number of sets if more than 1.
   1 Basically, these 3 transmitters were identical and should have been designated TV, TV-1, and TV-2.
   2 All ships in this column are fleet and force flagships.
   3 This was later changed to provide 1 for each destroyer squadron and division leader.
   4 3 previously equipped.
   5 50 additional TU transmitters to be purchased during fiscal year to complete installations in 3 destroyer squadrons.
   6 1 previously equipped.


Having promulgated the plan, the Bureau lost no time in beginning its implementation. All previous improvement instructions were canceled, and additional equipment installations listed in the following table were directed:
Frequency Bands
    RE    10-100 kc.
    RF    75-1,000 kc.
    RG    1,000-20,000 kc.
    TU    195-565 kc.
    TV-TW-TX    2-3 mc.
    XA    4,000-4,525 and 2d and 3d harmonics
    XC    4,000-4,525 and 2d harmonic.
    In addition to the above, this ambitious program included:
Duplexing the radio installations in seven battleships, three cruisers and eight auxilliaries.
    Installation of break keys and the improvement of radio direction-finder installations and the provision of auxiliary power source for emergency transmitters on all destroyers.
    Fitting all submarines with coil antennas.
    Provision of field strength and antenna measuring instruments to all ships.
    Provision of battery-charging equipment to all ships.
    Service tests of experimental 5-kw, high-frequency and 5-kw. continuous-wave intermediate-frequency transmitters on designated ships.
    Provision of trap units for receiver installations on all duplexed ships.
    Provision of crystal-controlled frequency indicators for models TV, TW, and TX transmitters and model RF receiver.19
    The program rejected the recommendation of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, concerning the upper limitation of frequency usage to 9 mc. Equipments capable of working on frequencies up to 19 mc. were made part of the requirements. In support of this program for the fiscal year 1926, Congress appropriated $550,000.20 This sum was far more in keeping with the amount which could be spent than the previously appropriated $1½ million, much of which lapsed. The equipment in the above table was placed under contract.
    Hooper had been relieved as Fleet Radio Officer by Comdr. H. P. LeClair, USN, in late 1925, and had been assigned temporary duty in the Office of the Director, Naval Communications, to assist McLean in preparation for the forthcoming Fourth International Radio Conference to be held in Washington in 1926. In March 1926 he again became Head of the Radio Division, Bureau of Ships, relieving McNeely. By this time the radio modernization program had advanced considerably as compared to its condition in June 1924 when he wrote the previously mentioned terse letter to McNeely. However, he believed it should proceed at a faster rate. He was not so adverse to the use of the higher frequencies as he was to abandoning the low frequencies until the use of medium and high frequencies had proved reliable.


One of his first actions was an investigation of the radio research situation. He found that the Naval Research Laboratory was engaged in the construction of 11 XA high-frequency transmitters and was operating several high-frequency circuits for the Naval Communication System. He objected to this departure from research to manufacture and operation. On 27 October he directed the head of the Research Section to transfer all operating equipment from the Laboratory to the Naval Radio Station, Arlington, and to direct the immediate cessation of all manufacturing except design models by the Laboratory. He directed that all conferences on designs, research and development, and contracts be held in the Bureau, and prohibited the Laboratory from handling publicity on Bureau radio research projects. To control the work on radio research he established a priority list and required the Laboratory to make monthly progress and expenditure reports. Exchange of information with other Government and private laboratories was made mandatory.21 In order to accomplish the latter, Hooper arranged for a conference with the responsible heads of the Radio Corp. of America, the General Electric Co., and the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co., which was held in New York on 11 November 1926. Representatives of the Naval Research Laboratory were not present at this meeting. In this conference the Radio Corp. of America and its corporate partners were unable to arrive at a method of exchanging research information because the Navy allowed its research personnel to patent and sell their developments in all cases where security was not violated. The commercial companies took the position that their developments would be endangered. As a result a committee was established to find a cross-licensing basis for cooperation.22 Several years passed before this was accomplished.
    Another of Hooper's initial actions upon returning to the Radio Desk was to recommend a change which limited the installation of high-frequency transmitters in the fleet to the following ships:
Flagships of units requiring long-distance communications.
Light cruisers, first line.
Minelayers, first line.
Destroyer leaders.
Fleet and minelaying submarines.
Large patrol vessels.
Vessels on special service, when authorized.
This policy was approved on 31 March 1927 by the Chief of Naval Operations.23
    In a lengthy letter to LeClair, dated 20 July 1926, Hooper summed up the fleet communications situation and advised him not to adopt a fleet frequency plan, which would require ships to shift frequencies during tactical evolutions, because of the prohibitive costs of crystals which would be required by such a plan and also because it would endanger the reliability of communications by increasing the likelihood of unit and force commanders losing contact with their ships.24
    He continued, stating that equipment necessary for vacating the broadcast bands would be available during the year for surface ships but not for spotting aircraft, since the problem of receiving through ignition noises in the 3-4-mc. band was still unsolved.
    In commenting on the high-frequency transmitters for the five major flagships, he stated that they should be delivered within the next few months and recommended that they be used for communications between the Commander in Chief and his four major force commanders, for intercommunication between these four force commanders when widely separated, and for communications between those flagships, and the Navy Department and naval districts. He urged that the operation of these transmitters be developed as early as practicable in order that it might be determined whether the use of high frequencies should be further expanded within the U.S. Fleet. He reexpressed his grave and persistent concern over the ability of some ships to receive above 9 mc. because of internally generated disturbances.
    Continuing, he explained his reluctance in supporting the use of high frequencies, stating that an enemy quickly could build, at distant locations, low-powered high-frequency transmitters capable of creating sufficient interference to disrupt fleet communications. Further, Hooper reminded LeClair that only low frequencies carried, by day, the distances required by the Navy General Board, and that should high frequency not be satisfactory during daylight, it would still be necessary to install low-frequency vacuum tube transmitters in flagships and cruisers. He deplored the misinformation circulated about the marvelous feats accomplished in long-distance communications on high frequencies and the fact that radio personnel had been encouraged to construct "haywire" high-frequency transmitters which at best worked only under ideal conditions.
    After completing this expostulation, he admitted that the performance of the Naval Research Laboratory XA transmitter installed in the U.S.S. Memphis indicated that high frequency is a desirable asset for flagship long-distance communications, and for that purpose the installations in the U.S.S. California and U.S.S. Texas should proceed without further delay.25
    The Laboratory personnel did not take kindly to Hooper's intrusion. In early 1927 they forwarded a memorandum of complaints to the Chief of the Bureau of Engineering which was routed to Hooper for comment. On 20 March 1927 he replied to their complaints by memorandum. This stated that in March 1926 he had thoroughly analyzed the work necessary to complete the radio modernization program and had reached the conclusion that there was little hope of completing it unless more technicians were made available to the Laboratory and two-thirds of the problems contracted for solution with private companies. All design problems and the money expended on them must be carefully scrutinized. He suggested that the Chief of the Bureau direct the Director, Naval Research Laboratory, to indoctrinate his personnel with a spirit of understanding and loyalty and to plan to insure that there be no continuance of the feeling of disloyalty and lack of confidence evidenced by their memorandum. He reiterated the instructions given his subordinates, and closed with a scathing denunciation of the manner in which the Laboratory was being conducted.
    One of the main objections made by Laboratory personnel was the requirement that they exchange information with engineers of commercial companies, since this would reduce the possibility of financial gain by the individual for his work. Hooper agreed that this was a natural fear and objection, and that if the Bureau desired to retain the highest type of research personnel it was necessary to countenance the existent patent-selling system or to obtain funds from Congress for raising their salaries to a point compatible with that paid by industry.26
    Much can be written about both sides of this "revolt." Later events prove that the loyalty of the Laboratory personnel was unquestionable. Under McNeeley, undoubtedly, they had had too much hand in the establishment of policy and had worked almost exclusively on what they considered best for the Navy. The dedicated ones had remained with Laboratory despite the fact that they, like all other Government personnel of that period, were underpaid. Most of them could have found more gainful employment. Following the war, the Government had encouraged them to patent and sell their inventions, and they took advantage of this to augment their salaries and thus provide their families with a living income.
    Hooper, however, was not one to seek or take advice upon radio matters as they concerned the Navy. To himself, he constituted final authority on such matters. Insofar as he was concerned there was no "court of appeal."27 There can be no doubt that a firmer control over the work of the Laboratory was necessary.
    The records indicate that Hooper was able to maintain his position. The Bureau began the actual assignment of projects and priorities, and the Laboratory made monthly reports, of progress and expenditures. Laboratory operation of radio circuits and manufacture of equipments were discontinued.28
    Despite Hooper's pessimism, rapid strides were made in improving the radio installations in the Fleet and at the shore stations during 1927 and 1928. Many new low- and intermediate-frequency tube transmitters of both low and high power were developed by the three major electric companies, and the Naval Research Laboratory developed several low-power high-frequency transmitters for various ship types and shore stations. The latter required crystal control of the basic frequency and frequency doubling or tripling for the harmonics. This limited the numbers of frequencies available, depending upon the number of crystals provided. Satisfactory multiplexing was developed and installed to permit a great reduction in shipboard antennas. By the middle of 1928, almost all of the major ships had been duplexed, and the old arc and spark transmitters had become museum equipments. The models RE, RF, and RG receivers were still standard Navy equipment because of their ruggedness and simplicity, although rapid advances in the art of receiver design and construction had been made by the commercial companies in the endeavor to dominate the enormous demand for home receivers for broadcast purpose. There were requests from the Fleet for more modern receivers powered by alternating current, but the more immediate demands for other equipments necessitated the retention of these types, of which over 1,000 were in use.29
    At this time, with the modernization program proceeding as rapidly as funds would permit, Hooper became the Director of Naval Communications. He was relieved of his Bureau of Engineering duties by Comdr. E. C. Raguet, USN. His contemporaries have given him the major credit for the efficiency of radio communications in the Navy. In a large measure they are correct, but great credit is also due McNeeley. Prior to going to sea in 1923, Hooper only partially understood the magnitude of the program and understood it more fully only after facing the problems as they existed in the Fleet. McNeeley developed an excellent plan under rapidly changing conditions and was responsible for its initial execution.


Fleet demands for communication channels steadily increased causing a demand for more and more equipment. This in turn, called for more compact design and the utilization of lighter weight materials. Recognizing the necessity of modifying the 1926 modernization program to meet the increased requirements, the Bureau of Engineering began revising it early in 1929, giving consideration to the following:
Fleet requirements for communication channels;
    Individual ship requirements for communication channels;
    Intercommunication requirements between all types of naval ships and aircraft and naval shore radio stations, foreign radio shore stations, U.S. Army, and merchant marine;
    Wartime utilization of the regular merchant-ship radio installations;
    Standardization of equipment to facilitate maintenance and for economy in providing spare parts;
    Probable grouping of ships in task forces and groups;
    The fleet radio frequency plan;
    The report of the Ship Control Board;
    National and international laws and regulations and treaties pertaining to radio, navigation, and safety of life at sea;
    U.S. Army and Coast Guard radio plans;
    Space, weight, and personnel limitations aboard ship;
    Technical design limitations; and
    The use of radio by foreign navies.
    This revision was approved by the Chief of Naval Operations on June 1929 and, with modifications due to improved equipments, remained the primary guidance for ship's radio installations until the beginning of World War II. The necessity of providing high-frequency radio communications to all combatant vessels of the Fleet was recognized for the first time.30
    Again, as in 1926, an ambitious program in support of the revised plan was immediately undertaken. During fiscal year 1930 the following were completed:
50 models TAF-2, TAO, TAR, TAR-2, and XF-1 high-frequency transmitters were installed in battleships, aircraft carriers, light cruisers, fleet submarines, and destroyer tenders;
    119 models TU-4, TAH, TAJ-1, TAP, TAQ, and TAQ-1 low-frequency transmitters were installed in battleships, aircraft carriers, aircraft tenders, light cruisers, destroyers, submarines, survey vessels, and various types of tenders, tankers, and supply vessels;
    44 models TAD-1, TAD-2, TAP, and TAT medium-frequency transmitters were installed in battleships, aircraft carriers, destroyers, minesweepers, tenders, and other supply vessels;
    49 models TAV and TAV-1 medium-frequency portable field transmitters were issued to major units of the fleet;
    20 RO-RP low-, medium-, and high-frequency receivers were fitted in submarines;
    15 RQ (15-20,000) kcs. receivers were fitted in minesweepers;
    30 DG radio direction finders were installed in battleships, light cruisers, and auxiliaries; and
    Major fleet units were provided with Model LB heterodyne frequency indicators and crystal-controlled calibrators.
    In addition, the duplexing or modernization of the radio installations of the U.S.S. California, Oklahoma, Nevada, Tennessee, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Vestal were completed. Complete radio installations for 34 "S" type submarines, direction-finder equipment for 82 destroyers and auxiliaries, and Model TAK transmitters for 8 battleships were installed. Fifteen TAQ-2, 1 TAR-1, 33 TAR-2, 30 TAT-1, and 3 XP-l transmitters were purchased during the fiscal year for ship's installations. Other projects were completed to improve efficiency and flexibility.31 The replacement of the destroyers of two squadrons by destroyers from the reserve fleet facilitated the modernization of their radio installations. More was accomplished toward the provision of adequate, flexible, reliable fleet communications during the 1930 fiscal year than during any other like period of time.
    The annual report of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, for the fiscal year 1930, acknowledged the great improvement in radio communications. It stressed the need of new receivers and requested their provision as soon as practicable.
    A study of the Bureau's contracts for receivers indicates that improvements in these equipments were lagging those of transmitters. Following the development of the models RE, RF, and RG receivers only models RO, RP, RQ, and RT had been developed for shipboard usage. The situation was recognized, and in 1930 the Naval Research Laboratory was directed to design and develop the RAC low-frequency barrage receiving equipment for short stations. Following the completion of the design and development of the RAC, the Radio Corp. of America-Victor Co. was, in fiscal year 1931, given a contract for the design, development, and manufacture of 227 Model RAA (910-1000 kc.) and 163 Model RAB (1-30 mc.) receivers. These were the Navy's first alternating current receivers and were of the superheteroydne type with single-dial tuning and were purchased for usage afloat and ashore. They were installed during fiscal year 1932.
    While fleet radio equipment was being modernized, a similar program was carried out at the shore radio stations. Models TAB-3, TAD-2, TAF-2, TAJ-1, TAL, TAQ, TAQ-1, TAS, and TAT were installed as required in these stations. In fiscal year 1930, 9 TAB-4, 2 TAW, 10 TAY, and 13 XJ-2 were purchased specifically for shore stations.
    Following delivery of the models RAA and RAB receivers and the concurrent issue of models TAU, TAZ, TBA, TBB, and TBC transmitters which were purchased during the fiscal year 1931, the U.S. Navy possessed the most modern and efficient radio system of any navy. In the following years there was development of automatic high-speed equipment, but too little was done toward continually improving the system, with the result that when World War II began our transmitting and receiving equipment was rapidly becoming obsolete.

    1 "An Administrative History of the Bureau of Ships During World War II" (First draft narrative prepared by the Historical Section, Bureau of Ships) vol. IV, pp. 268-269.
    2 Ibid., pp. 270-271.
    3 The following excerpt from a letter of Rear Adm. Robert E. Melling, USN (retired), is quoted to provide insight of the existent communication conditions.
    "In Fleet Problem Number One, held in February 1923 the Black Fleet, under Admiral E. W. Eberle, had the mission of destroying the Panama Canal. The Blue Fleet, under Admiral John D. McDonald, had the job of preventing it from doing so. The Commander-in-Chief, Admiral H. P. Jones, did not like the idea of "constructive" forces, but as the U.S. Navy had no aircraft carriers nor bombing planes, the Black Fleet was allowed to use two battleships to represent carriers. The New York and Oklahoma were the "carriers," each with 15 bombing planes, 90 knots, 9 hour radius. This action all took place on the Pacific side. Vice Admiral McDonald said, in his Estimate of the Situation, "An attack by bombing planes on the eastern approaches to the Canal has not been considered, as such a plan would be entirely academic . . . Such an attack is impossible with bombing planes as developed at the present time. The mountain ranges necessitate high altitudes." He rightly assumed that the Black Fleet would enter some harbor in Central America from which to launch the air attack on the Canal, as bombing planes could only take off from smooth water (or an airfield). The Black Fleet entered Culebra Bay and the problem ended. It lasted only four days, but it should be remembered that in 1923 the Navy had been practically without funds since the end of World War I, the ships were in poor condition and the crews were skeleton in more ways than one. Engineering casualties were numerous. Leaky condensers in many destroyers caused salted boilers. On the trip from San Diego to Panama three destroyers ran out of fuel and a collision put one destroyer out of the problem. Steering casualties in the battleships kept everyone jittery. The radio equipment consisted primarily of spark transmitters. The battleship flagships had low frequency arcs, which occasionally set fire to the rigging. The destroyers, in addition to a spark main transmitter, had a bulkhead mounted radio telephone transceiver of 5 watts power. As the destroyer captains did not like the radiotelephone, they had been converted to keyed CW, which also permitted written copies of the messages handled. Competition for promotion was brutal in those days, and each skipper in endeavoring to keep his nose clean demanded everything in writing.
    "The Black Fleet maintained radio silence, relying on visual signals and submarine oscillators for their necessary tactical signals. Commander Black Fleet sent two K-boats under the command of Bert Rogers to the vicinity of Cape Mala to act as radio decoys. They were given a number of call signs, shifted to various wave lengths, varied their power, and kept the air full of dummy code messages all through the problem. Unfortunately, the Blue Fleet failed to hear any of their transmissions! The visual communications in the Black Fleet were very poor. Some of the destroyers in the outer screen reported getting change of course signals several hours after they had been executed. They weren't left too far behind if on the wrong side, because fleet speed was eight knots. The submarines were deployed way outside the outer destroyer screen, and were not heard from during the problem. One morning the Oklahoma (constructive carrier) was ordered to catapult her airplanes for reconnaissance, but the Captain thought the wind was too strong and delayed launching until afternoon. The effort was all in vain, as no reports were received from the plane--the radioman didn't know how to work the radio.
    "The Blue Fleet used radio excessively, although Commander Blue Fleet had prescribed minimum use. Pandemonium reigned, although this was not primarily the fault of the communicators. Many false contact reports were originated. The Blue Fleet destroyers making contact with the constructive carriers reported them as battleships, which they actually were. The contact reports took two hours to reach the Blue Commander. The Blue air patrol, consisting of F5L planes with their tenders Sandpiper and Teal, intercepted the contact and information of enemy reports, but couldn't decode them as they didn't have the books. However, the flagship Wright decoded the reports and passed along the plain language translations.
    "After radio silence was broken by the Black Fleet, near the end of the problem, they found that in some cases both Fleets were using the same frequency. The Black Fleet used these:
Protective Screen (Submarines)    444.4
Outguards    375
Pickets    277.8
Bombing Detachment    250
Supports    209.1
CinC Long Wave      76
    "Among the complaints--the submarines had only one radioman and most commanding officers thought they should have more. Commander Blue destroyers said there were too many radio messages, his flagship sent, received or intercepted 95 messages during the problem."
    4 Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet, Annual Radio, Sound and Pigeon Report, Apr. 1923.
    5 Letter, dated 6 Mar. 1926, Bureau of Engineering to the Chief of Naval Operations and Commanders in Chief United States and Asiatic Fleets.
    6 Supra, ch. XXXII.
    7 Bureau of Engineering Radio and Sound Bulletin, July-December 1931, pp. 96-101.
    8 Ibid., p. 99.
    9 Supra, ch. XXXII.
    10 Supra, ch. XXXII.
    11 Letter, dated 24 June 1924, from Hooper to McNeely.
    12 Letter, dated Mar. 1926, from Chief of the Bureau of Engineering to the Chief of Naval Operations.
    13 Bureau of Engineering Monthly Radio and Sound Report, December 1925, January-February 1926, pp. 1-16.
    14 Letter, S67 (5), dated 10 July 1925, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, to the Chief of the Bureau of Engineering with Chief of Naval Operations endorsement, dated 11 Aug. 1925.
    15 Bureau of Engineering, Monthly Radio and Sound Report, December 1925, January-February 1926, pp. 32-34.
    16 Ibid., p. 11.
    17 Ibid., p. 26-27.
    18 Ibid., March-April 1926, p. 10.
    19 Ibid., May-June 1926.
    20 The Washington Star, 10 Jan. 1925.
    21 Memorandum, dated 27 Oct. 1926, Hooper to Research Section.
    22 Minutes of meeting, dated 15 Nov. 1926, between representatives of the Navy Department, the Radio Corp. of America, the General Electric Co., and the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co.
    23 Bureau of Engineering Monthly Radio and Sound Report, July-August 1927, pp. 18-19.
    24 Hooper was correct in his opinion of that time. Later, such a fleet frequency plan became necessary, but this was after transmitters could be kept on frequency without crystals. The great weakness in such a plan at that time was in the failure of the officer of the deck to inform the communication officer or his assistants that an evolution had been directed which would change the ship's position in the cruising or battle disposition. From experience in the several years prior to and at the beginning of World War II, the writer found it necessary to keep close by the conning station when evolutions were probable. This resulted in his becoming, as did the communication officers of many large ships, the ship's tactical officer. Still later, when the ship's organization was changed to include an operations division, of which communications became a part, and the installation of the combat information center through which all information flowed, this problem ceased to exist.
    25 Letter, dated 20 July 1926, S. C. Hooper to H. P. LeClair.
    26 Memorandum, dated 20 Mar. 1927, Hooper to the Chief of the Bureau of Engineering.
    27 "In my opinion Hooper adapted the policy of making communications the whipping boy for all that went wrong in the fleet, and he did this deliberately . . . I could never do anything right when I worked for him, and put in many long hours doing letters over and over until he finally signed them. He never gave me an unsatisfactory Report on Fitness, but they were surely mediocre ones. In spite of this, I still think he was the outstanding person in the business." Letter, dated 22 Jan. 1959, Rear Adm. R. E. Melling, USN (retired), to the author.
    28 Bureau of Engineering Monthly Radio and Sound Reports subsequent to June 1927.
    29 Ibid., July-August 1927, p. 24.
    30 This did not apply to small patrol and other craft operating under the commandants of naval districts.
    31 Bureau of Engineering, Monthly Radio and Sound Report, July-August-September 1929.
TOC | Previous Section: Chapter XXXIV | Next Section: Chapter XXXVI