Category Archives: World War 2

Archie Banks, 9AGD, Radio Amateur & Beekeeper

1917 Archie Banks 9AGD

A hundred years ago, American amateur radio operators were off the air for the duration of the war. All stations, both receiving and transmitting, had to be dismantled, and antennas lowered to the ground. But the July 1917 issue of Electrical Experimenter detailed the activities of 24 year old Archie Banks of rural Delmar, Iowa. Banks lived on a farm about a mile out of town, and when he was sixteen, he developed an interest in electricity. He had the house wired with electric lights powered by batteries, and within two years, he was dabbling in wireless. He reported that his first set didn’t work well, and he could only communicate the one mile to Delmar.

But his second station was considerably more successful. He was licensed as 9AGD, and among other things was able to reliably copy the twice daily news and weather reports sent by the stations at the Illinois State Agricultural College in Springfield, and the Iowa State Agricultural College at Ames.

Rather than keep these important bulletins to himself, Banks took it upon himself to share the information with neighbors. Initially, he shared the information with anyone who desired to phone him, and the service was popular. Area farmers had access to immediate weather reports, rather than having to wait for the daily nespaper to be delivered by the R.F.D. carrier.

But Banks decided to carry it a step further, as shown by the sign here. In addition to his labor on the family farm, Banks had a side business consisting of about a hundred hives which he used to raise honey. The honey was advertised by a roadside sign. He added this sign, encouraging passers by to stop and read the news and weather reports. Initially, the sign was placed as a public service. But Banks soon noticed that those stopping to read the weather would be in a good position to buy some honey.

Banks had his beekeeping-wireless enterprise in operation as early as 1913. In that year, he had a paper read at the state bee convention, published in the Report of the State Bee Inspector, an essay entitled, “The Art of Selling Honey From a Producer’s and Retailer’s Point of View.” This paper reveals that the wireless was but one advertising mechanism he employed. He recommended advertising which included a few recipes. “This will make the housewife anxious to try them out just the same as one is to try a new car.” He recommended giving out samples, since they “create an appetite for more and the neighbor or friend will probably purchase a case or more the next time he sees you.”

His main sign (not shown in the Electrical Experimenter article” was eight feet by two feet and “hung across the road,” which was a main highway. It read, in large red letters, “Eat Honey,” with the phrase “for sale here by the section or wagon load” in large black letters. He states that he also had “a large signboard on which is printed the weather report which I receive daily by wireless. Passerby stopping to read this report get a view of the honey sign also–thus killing two birds with one stone.”

Banks is also described in an article in this 1917 issue of The Country Gentleman.

According to this link, Banks was born in 1892, the son of B.D. Banks and Hannah E. Banks. According to this 2016 obituary of his son Harlan Banks, he later married Edna Bowman and had multiple children. At some point, he moved to California, since the son’s obituary shows him graduating from high school in Santa Barbara.

Archie Banks Santa BarbaraAccording to this site, in 1925, Banks was one of five hams in Santa Barbara when an earthquake struck the town on June 29, 1925. The city was completely cut off from the outside world, prompting the hams to patch together a CW station to send out an SOS. Help was summoned when an operator aboard a Standard Oil Tanker heard the SoS and summoned help. This photo, appearing in a Russian language book, shows Banks operating from Santa Barbara after the earthquake.

According to the Social Security Death Index, Banks died in October 1984 in Santa Barbara. According to his gravestone, he served in the U.S. Navy both World War I and World War II.

Banks is listed as 9AGD in the 1916 callbook with an address of R.F.D. 2, Delmar, Iowa. He doesn’t appear to have a listing, either in California or Iowa, in the 1922 call book.

DelmarIowaStreetViewInterestingly, I think I found the location of Banks’ 1917 honey sign, which would be this Google street view.  According to the Electrical Experimenter article, Banks’ station was about one mile from Delmar and eight miles from Maquoketa.  This farm house is about that distance from the two towns, and seems to match the house shown in the article, assuming the magazine photo below was taken from the rear of the house.  The location is on Iowa Highway 136, just west of US Highway 61.

1917JulyElectExp



1942 One Tube “Beginner’s Special” Receiver

1942JulyPMSeventy-five years ago this month, the July 1942 issue of Popular Mechanics carried the plans for this simple one-tube regenerative receiver. The set was designed with wartime parts shortages in mind, and most parts were non-critical, and could be found in most junk boxes.

Future issues of the magazine would carry improvements, and most parts would be reused. In addition, the suggested breadboard layout was such that there would be room for more advanced designs to be built on the same board.

The set used a single 1Q5GT tube. It used one flashlight battery to run the filament, with four in series to provide the 6 volts B+. A battery eliminator was promised for the next issue.

Coils were wound on the cardboard tubes salvaged from D cell flashlight batteries. The article called for an external antenna and ground. Tuning was accomplished by setting regeneration to maximum, and then tuning until a squeal was heard. At that point, you would turn down the regeneration control just enough to listen to the station.

1942JulyPMschematic

 

Electrocuting the Enemy: 1917

1917JuneElecExp

A hundred years ago this month, the cover of the June 1917 issue of Electrical Experimenter shows Hugo Gernsback‘s idea for “shooting with electricity.” In response to the German flamethrower (flammen werfer, or “liquid water”), Gernsback proposed a system inspired by a hapless firefighter who sprayed water on the third rail of an electric train. That fireman was knocked out, but not injured fatally, by the resulting shock, but Gernsback suggested that the same thing could be done in reverse. And if a more conductive fluid were used, then the results would be more lethal.

Gernsback proposed a solution of diluted sufluric acid (or chlorid of zinc or even ordinary salt water) in a tank on a soldier’s back. Another chemical is added to increase the pressure, resulting in enough pressure for a stream to reach the enemy line. The system is completed with a 10 HP gas engine driving an AC generator, whose voltage is stepped up to 10,000-15,000 volts. One side is hooked to the stream of liquid, and the other to ground (apparently through spikes on the soldier’s boots). The stream is directed at the enemy soldier. Assuming he is in contact with ground, “the enemy will almost certainly be rendered unconscious.”

As to the friendly soldier, Gernsback points out that “it is self-evident that his equipment must be such that he himself will not be electrocuted.” He suggests that this problem is easily solved by the simple expedient of his wearing a “special ‘high-tension’ rubber shoe, capable of withstanding 20,000 volts,” along with rubber gloves.



Bombardment of Fort Stevens, 1942

Shell crater resulting form Japanese shelling on Fort Stevens. - NARA - 299678.jpg

Servicemen examining a shell crater after the attack. Wikipedia image.

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Bombardment of Fort Stevens,
the only instance during the war of a U.S. military installation within the continental United States being attacked.

The fort, which dated to the Civil War, was on the Oregon side of the mouth of the Columbia River. On June 21, 1942, the Japanese submarine I-25, which had been assigned to attack enemy shipping, entered U.S. coastal waters and followed fishing boats to avoid mines.

Late that night, Commander Tagami Meiji ordered the crew to surface at the mouth of the Columbia. The sub then fired a total of seventeen 5.5 inch explosive shells.

Upon the first sign of the attack, the fort’s commander had ordered an immediate blackout. Furthermore, he ordered his men not to return fire, since doing so would reveal the base’s location.

The strategy proved effective, and the only real damage done was the severing of some telephone cables. Most of the shells landed in a nearby baseball field or a swamp.

The sub was spotted by Army Air Corps planes on a training mission, and they called in the sub’s location for a bomber to attack. The bomber spotted the sub, but the sub was able to dodge the bombs and submerge undamaged.

The fort remained an active military base until 1947.  It is now part of Fort Stevens State Park.



Cooking With Sugar Rationing

1942JuneRadioMirror

Sugar rationing took effect in the United States in May 1942, and the next month, CBS radio personality Kate Smith stepped up to the plate in the June issue of Radio Mirror with recipes with which the housewife could conserve the commodity, but still prepare deserts.

Smith knew that her readers would accept rationing for what it was–“an emergency method of making quite sure that everyone gets all the sugar he needs and that no one gets more than he really needs.” She also knew that her readers wanted to make sure that they didn’t use their portion wastefully.

Therefore, she presented these recipes showing how delicious deserts could be prepared with other sweetening agents such as corn syrup, prepared pudding mixtures (which used dextrose), molasses, and honey.

Her sugarless layer cake used corn syrup, and the molasses cake used molasses along with a bit of brown sugar. She suggested that an easy and delicious filling for either cake could be made with a package of chocolate pudding mix and milk, following the package directions, but with a bit less milk. Instead of frosting, the cake could be covered with nut meats, currants, or raisins, or a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar could be used.

She also included a chocolate souffle recipe using a packaged pudding mix, and baked stuffed oranges using corn syrup or honey.

For glazing a ham, she included a recipe with a corn syrup glaze.

 



Mirrorphone, 1942

1942JuneNationalRadioNews

Shown here on the cover of National Radio News, June-July 1942, is the Mirrorphone from Western Electric. The magazine noted that the magnetic tape recording device was being used by radio announcers, actors, and in speech classes as an aid to speech improvement.

It recorded the subject’s voice onto a steel tape, which was presumably in n endless loop. A switch provided for immediate playback, allowing the speaker to detect and correct errors of pronunciation, emphasis, or tone.

The recorder automatically erased previous recordings.

The magazine noted that the device was in use by a number of radio stations, dramatic groups, and speech classes to train thousands of new telephone operators and secretaries in government agencies and war industries.

More information about the Mirrorphone, along with photos, can be found at this link.



Lidice Massacre, 1942

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Lidice Massacre, June 10, 1942, at Lidice, in the current Czech Republic. In retaliation for the assassination of Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinhard_Heydrich
Hitler and Himmler ordered the destruction of the village of Lidice. On this day, the 173 male residents over 15 years of age were executed by shooting. The 184 women and 88 children were deported to concentration camps, where they were gassed.

Unlike most atrocities, the Nazis bragged about this one. The German radio station, received by the Associated Press in New York, reported “all male grownups of the town were shot, while the women were placed in a concentration camp, and the children were entrusted to appropriate educational institutions.” A total of 340 died in the reprisal.



1942 Air Raid Alarm

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 12.06.34 PM

The June 1942 issue of Service magazine carried this ad for an air raid alarm to be added to any radio.  It noted that the first sign of an air raid would often be local radio stations leaving the air, lest they serve as a beacon for incoming bombers.  If you were listening to the radio during the day, you would know immediately.  But at night, with the radio off, you would be caught unaware.

With this home alert, you would leave the radio on standby, and if the station you were tuned to left the air, this would be the sign of a possible air raid.  The ad noted that during air raid alarms in Los Angeles, radios equipped with this device sounded the alarm from six to ten minutes before the sirens sounded.

The unit sold for $5, and could be installed by a local service shop.



Recording a Record for Servicemen, 1942.

1942June8ChiTrib75 years ago today, the June 8, 1942, issue of the Chicago Tribune carried this ad from the Marshall Field department store.

So that customers could express their gratitude to the men in the service, the store had a “canteen” on the second floor containing 576 different gift ideas that were, after “consultation with the War Department and the boys themselves,” were guaranteed to please the serviceman. The ad invited customers to “spend very little, or quite a lot, but send the boys something regularly.”

The store’s prices included free shipping by railway express to any military or naval post, station, camp, or ship.

One suggestion to include in the box to the boys was a phonograph record. For just a quarter, you could record five minutes on two sides of a 6 inch phonograph disk so that the boys could hear a voice from home.



1942 Portable Aircraft Detector

1942JunePMcover

Seventy-five years ago this month, the cover of Popular Mechanics, June 1942, pictured this aircraft spotter with the latest in portable listening equipment. This plane detector featured a parabolic microphone worn as a headpiece. The spotter would listen for the low-pitched hum of an approaching aircraft, and turn his body until the sound was the loudest. He would then be facing the source and could use his binoculars to swiftly and accurately focus in on the plane.

The amplifier, featuring miniature tubes, was worn in a carrying case slung over the shoulder, which also included batteries and accessories. The magazine noted that the set could be used in places where more elaborate units were not available.

For another aircraft detector, see our earlier post.