Category Archives: World War 2

1943 One-Tube Combination Code Oscillator/Regenerative Receiver

1943FebPSSeventy-five years ago this month, the February 1943 issue of Popular Science carried the plans for this one-tube combination receiver and code practice oscillator. The construction article, by Arthur C. Miller, noted that thousands of young men and women were learning code for civil defense purposes or prior to enlistment in the Signal Corps. A code oscillator was then impossible to buy.

A single switch changed the set from receiver to code oscillator. As a radio, the set ran on 45 volts, but the code oscillator required only 4.5 volts.


The Immortal Chaplains: 1943

Stained glass window, Pentagon. Wikipedia image.

  Stained glass window, Pentagon. Wikipedia image.

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the troop carrier SS Dorchester, February 3, 1943.

The ship, constructed in 1926, originally carried cargo and passengers between Miami and Boston. She was put into wartime service in 1942 and was converted to a troop carrier. In January 1943, she left New York in convoy bound for Narsarsuak, Greenland. She was torpedoed in the early morning hours of February 3 by a German submarine, which caused severe damage, and the ship sank in about 20 minutes.  672 died, many of hypothermia.

Sinking of the Dorchester. Wikipedia image.

Sinking of the Dorchester. Wikipedia image.

Four relatively new Army chaplains were aboard, First Liuetenants Reverend George L. Fox (Methodist), Reform Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Roman Catholic priest Father John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America minister the Reverend Clark V. Poling.  Collectively, they came to be known as the Immortal Chaplains.

As the ship was going down, they helped other soldiers board lifeboats. When the supply of life jackets ran out, they gave up their own. They joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.220px-Four_Chaplains_stamp1


1938 Helium Controversy

1938LifeJan31Eighty years ago today, the January 31, 1938, issue of Life magazine carried the feature shown above regarding the proposed sale of U.S. helium to Nazi Germany.

In the wake of the Hindenburg disaster earlier in the year, the Germans realized that for their lighter-than-aircraft industry couldn’t recover if they continued to use hydrogen.  Unfortunately for them, the United States was the sole source of the gas.  They ultimately prevailed upon the Roosevelt administration to supply it, and the president ushered a bill through Congress to allow the export of the strategic material.

1938LifeJan31aOf course, sale of helium to Germany meant sale of helium to the Nazis.  And the very next page of the magazine (probably not a coincidence) had something to say about Nazis.  The magazine’s “Movie of the Week” was a newsreel, an edition of The March of Time, entitled “Inside Nazi Germany-1938.” Some of the scenes of that movie are shown here. The magazine noted that the film was initially banned by the Chicago Police Board of Censors, on the ground that “it might offend a friendly nation.” But after a press outcry, the ban was lifted.

Some additional scenes from the movie are shown below:



Harold Ickes. Wikipedia photo.

The helium sale never went through. Germany annexed Austria on March 12, 1938.  Notwithstanding this event, most of the Roosevelt administration was keen on proceeding with the sale.  However, since the helium originated on federal lands, the power to go forward was vested in Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes.  After the annexation, he vetoed the sale, despite opposition by both the President and Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

Ultimately, the Solicitor General sided with Ickes, ruling that the Secretary of State had the ultimate power to allow or decline the sale.

An excellent history of the controversy can be found at this 1964 University of Arizona Master’s Thesis by James Walsh.



Three 1943 One-Tube Receivers


The January 1943 issue of Radio Craft magazine contained the plans for no less than three one tube receivers, the first of which is the unusual looking set shown above, dubbed by the magazine as the “Simplicity 1.”

In addition to being designed around the concept of simplicity, the set dealt with parts shortages. In particular, variable capacitors were hard to come by. Therefore, tuning was accomplished with a “capind,” a component which combined capacity plus inductance. In other words, it was a combined variable capacitor and variable inductor, all in one component.

The “capind” consisted of a coil carefully wound over a wooden dowel, covered by an extremely thin paper sleeve. That was covered by a piece of tin foil, which served as the capacitor. The assembly is shown below:


1943JanRadiocraft3The set was regenerative, and the young woman in the photo above is adjusting the regeneration by adjusting the “throttle” condenser, which is a homemade tubular capacitor.

With the use of these homemade parts, the cost of the set (not including 1G6G tube and batteries) was said to be less than a dollar.

1943JanRadiocraft4The second set featured by the magazine, shown at right, is slightly more advanced, contains a conventional tuning capacitor, and was capable of tuning the short wave bands through the use of four plug-in coils.

This set employed the same 1G6G tube, and used a variable resistor to adjust regeneration.  The use of a 35-75 foot antenna was recommended.





Finally, in response to requests by “several readers,” the magazine reprinted the schematic of the “Pigmy Receiver” which had originally appeared in the magazine’s June 1940 issue. This set used a single 117L7, one half of which served as rectifier, with the other half serving as detector.

You will note that only one wire is connected to the line cord, which the magazine describes as a “Safety First” method of plugging it in. The other power connection is through the thoroughly grounded chassis. With the cord plugged in the wrong way, the set would not light. Of course, this circuit would trip a modern ground fault interrupter circuit, but it would be a relatively safe way of operating a radio directly off the line current.



1944 Toy Phonographs

1944SearsToyPhonoI was a little bit surprised to see these phonographs for sale in a wartime catalog, but they are shown here in the 1944 Sears Christmas catalog.

They’re surprising for a couple of reasons.  First, they’re an interesting juxtaposition of an acoustic phonograph with an electric motor.  I assumed that acoustic phonographs were wind-up models, and that electronic phonographs had an electric motor.  But there’s no reason why there can’t be some overlap..

But I was more surprised to see phonographs for sale, despite the fact that the manufacture of phonographs had ended by order of the War Production Board (WPB) on April 22, 1942.  It’s unlikely that there was much old stock left in the Sears warehouse at that point (although it’s not at all unlikely that there were electric phonograph motors left over when the ban went into effect).

Interestingly, these are not being sold as phonographs.  They are being sold as toy phonographs.  I’m not aware that the WPB made an exception for acoustic phonographs.  But apparently, they did make an exception for toy phonographs.

The model on the right looks like a toy, especially with the decorations.  But the model on the left doesn’t really look like a toy.  It looks more like just a low-end portable phonograph.  I suspect that more than a few were sold, not for the kids, but because it was the only new phonograph people were able to buy.

The video below shows a similar instrument manufactured, surprisingly, as late as 1974:

GE Shortwave Stations, 1943

1943Jan11LifeThis full-page ad by GE appeared inside the front cover of Life magazine 75 years ago today, January 11, 1943, and told the importance of the GE shortwave stations, KGEI, WGEO, and WGEA.  In addition to being a link to home for the armed forces, the stations broadcast “from a free people to men with freedom in the hearts” in Asia and Europe.

1942 Radio Troubleshooting

1942DecPM75 years ago this month, this father, shown in the December 1942 issue of Popular Mechanics, engages in some troubleshooting of the family’s radio receiver while the kids look on admiringly.

He didn’t let wartime shortages of test equipment hamper his efforts. As the magazine suggests, he’s using a neon lamp with clip leads to trace the circuit.  For checking continuity, the lamp can be used with a 22.5 volt battery.

Despite the high voltages (as evidenced by the power transformer on the chassis), there’s no evidence to indicate that the kids got zapped by poking their fingers into the wiring.  And chances are, they both turned out OK, despite the exposure to secondhand smoke.

Peace Light 2017


This cartoon marking the 1st anniversary of Pearl Harbor appeared 75 years ago today in the Pittsburgh _____, Dec. 7, 1942.

This cartoon marking the 1st anniversary of Pearl Harbor appeared 75 years ago today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dec. 7, 1942.

Pearl Harbor Anniversary

Today marks the 76th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, marking the entry of the United States into World War II.


The Peace Light

As a symbol of peace, we show the flame above, which has been burning for hundreds of years.  This flame was burning throughout the Second World War, the First World War, the U.S. Civil War, and every other war in modern history.  It’s shown here in my living room, but it originates from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where it has been continuously tended for hundreds of years.  The exact date that some monk struck a flint to ignite it is not known, but it is believed to be about a thousand years ago.

Each year during the Advent season, it is transported from Bethlehem to Europe and North America, courtesy of Austrian Airlines.  This year, it was brought to Kennedy Airport on November 25.  From there, volunteers fan out across the country to distribute the flame.  Most of these are connected with Scouting in some way, and Scouts and Guides in Europe participate in similar activities.

As I did last year, I played a small part in the distribution.  Prior to my getting it, the flame traveled to Indianapolis, and then to Chicago.  From there, it went to Des Moines, and I met an Iowa Scouter in Albert Lea, Minnesota, to transfer it to St. Paul.  From me, it was picked up by others who took it to Wisconsin and North Dakota.  From there, it will travel to Winnipeg, and probably to other points.  Meanwhile, others are taking it to other parts of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

You can read more about the Peace Light at the U.S. Peace Light website or the Peace Light North America Facebook group.  If you’re close to St. Paul, Minnesota, and would like to receive the Peacelight, feel free to contact me and we can make arrangements.  In other areas, you can find a local source on the Facebook page.



One common question is how the Peace Light travels on two international flights from Israel to Austria, and then to North America.  The flame is transported safely in an antique blastproof miner’s lamp.  On the ground, it is walked through customs by airline employees to the airport chapel.



On the ground, the most common way to transport the light is with a lantern such as the one at the top of the page.  These are rarely used these days, since mantle type lanterns provide considerably more light.  But in the 19th century, the cold-draft kerosene lantern was something of a revolution in lighting, since it provides a fairly bright flame and is also relatively safe, since it will self-extinguish if tipped over.


A good history of the lantern can be found at this site.  Prior to such lanterns, the best available option for camp lighting was the candle lantern.  As the name implies, it was just a ventilated enclosure in which a candle was inserted.


The ad at the left, from the June 1916 issue of Boys’ Life, shows both types of lamps.  Interestingly,  in addition to providing more light, the kerosene lantern is actually less expensive.  Candle lanterns start at $1.50, but the cold-blast lantern is only 75 cents.


Both types of lanterns are readily available today.  The cold-blast kerosene lantern can be found at Amazon at any of the following links:


You can also obtain the lantern at WalMart with this link or this link.  The fuel is available at this link.  You can order the lanterns and fuel online with these links, and then pick them up the same day at the store.

And for those who want to be even more retro in their camp lighting, these candle lanterns are also available at Amazon:

The lantern shown below is very similar, or possibly identical, to the 1916 candle lantern shown in the ad:

How to Transport the Peace Light

If you need to transport the flame only a short distance, one good option is to use a votive candle at the bottom of a coffee can. For longer distances, I place the lanterns at the top of the page inside a 5 gallon bucket similar to the one shown at the left, wtih sand or cat litter at the bottom.

Carrying it in this manner is very stable, and I have never experienced it tipping.  If it does tip, the entire lantern is safely contained, and the lantern will self-extinguish.

It should be noted that because there is an open flame, you should not refuel the vehicle with the Peace Light in the car.  Fill up your gas tank before picking up the light.  If you need to buy gas before you reach your destination, it will be necessary to leave the lantern at a safe location before driving to the pumps.  And while the combustion of these lanterns is very complete, it is a good idea to keep a window of the car open slightly.

Plans for a more a elaborate carrier are also available at the site.



Wartime Radio Log

1942Dec5RadioGuideSeventy-five years ago today, the December 5, 1942, issue of Radio Guide included this listing of all of the broadcast stations in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Numerous other such listings are available, most of which can be found at  This particular listing is handy since it takes up only two pages, and provides an interesting snapshot of the broadcast band during the war years.

An alphabetical listing by call letters can be found in the December 19 issue.

1942 Coffee Rationing

1942Nov30Life75 years ago, the war had hit the home front, as shown by this article in this day’s issue of Life Magazine, November 30, 1942. It wasn’t tires or gasoline or even sugar. This time, it was serious. German U-Boats were sinking freighters coming from Brazil, and as a result, the United States was about to adopt coffee rationing. Coffee addicts would be limited to one pound of coffee every five weeks, and Life magazine showed them how to cope.

In the illustration above, the magazine notes that boiling is the most efficient method of producing coffee, followed by percolating, followed finally by drip methods. The magazine discussed methods of conservation, the simplest being not filling the cup all the way. It noted that adding a small amount of chicory would stretch the yield about 30% without affecting the taste very much. And while not advised by experts, the magazine even touched on the possibility of “double dipping.”

To prevent hoarding, some retailers were breaking the seal on vacuum packed cans of coffee, insuring that the contents be consumed promptly.