Category Archives: World War 2

American POW’s in China, 1942

1942Sep14LifeSeventy-five years ago today, the September 14, 1942, issue of Life magazine carried some of the first photographs of American prisoners of war, both military and civilian, held by Japan.  The photographs appeared in an English-language magazine published in Japanese-occupied China with the unlikely title of “Freedom,” which detailed the supposedly benevolent intentions of the Japanese toward the Asiatic people.

The photographs of the American prisoners were published to show the supposedly humane conditions the prisoners were experiencing.  Included were the photos shown below, which supposedly depicted the prisoners receiving radio receivers for entertainment during their confinement.

1942Sep14Life2This first photo shows the gift of the receivers to three representatives of the prisoners, standing at attention while they accept the alleged gift.  The recipient on the left is not identified.  Shown in the center is U.S. Marine Maj. James Patrick Sinnot Devereux, who later served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland.  At right is civilian engineer Raymond R. Rutledge, who was working on a construction project at Wake Island when it fell to the Japanese.  The military-style hat he is wearing is actually an American Legion cap.  In another photo in the magazine, the cap is visible and reveals that he was a Californian.  The photo below shows Maj. Devereux (seated at right) with his unenthusiastic men allegedly listening to the radio in their barracks:


Despite the upbeat text of the Japanese propaganda article, most of the photos depict obviously unhappy men such as those shown below, in which they are shown signing phonograph recordings which were later broadcast in POW broadcasts from station JOAK in Tokyo:





How to Unplug Appliances, 1942 or 2017

1942SepPMToday, as a public service, we bring this illustration from the September 1942 issue of Popular Mechanics, which is just as relevant today as it was 75 years ago.

The drawing, which is clearly labeled “WRONG,” shows the housewife unplugging the radio by yanking on the cord.  The illustration in the lower left corner, shows the correct way, namely, by firmly grasping the plug.

The artist perfectly captures what appears to be a cavalier attitude on the woman’s part.  While she was probably otherwise the pinnacle of efficiency, the magazine pointed out that bad connections and broken power cords were the result of such treatment. It was a particularly bad idea in the case of the table radio, since it probably had a “curtain burner” cord, which would withstand few such jerks before causing the receiver to develop crackly noises or simply refuse to work. But even with plain line cords, then or now, the plug was easily damaged.

veracruzflagThe magazine even noted that rubber-covered plugs were not plentiful, so this woman’s treatment of the strategic material was practically unpatriotic in wartime.

As far as we’re concerned, it’s still unpatriotic.  If you love your country, then you should unplug appliances by firmly grasping the plug.

1942 Radio Census


Seventy-five years ago today, the September 7, 1942, issue of Broadcasting magazine included a supplement with the radio figures from the 1940 census, as well as a complete log of all U.S. broadcast stations as of 1942, and figures showing the numbers of radio retailers and sales figures. The map above shows the percentage of radio homes in 1940. Since there was a freeze on new stations during the War, and since no new radios were being produced, the issue provides an interesting snapshot of radio in the United States during the War years.

Massachussetts led the nation with 96.2% of its homes being equipped with a radio. Within that state, the county with the highest percentage of radio households was Norfolk County, with 98.1% of the households having at least one radio. The last place honors went to the State of Mississippi, with only 39.9% of homes having a radio, despite twelve broadcasting stations in the state. Within that state, the county with the lowest percentage of radio households was Issaquana County, where only 320 households out of 1779 had a radio, or only 18%.

Of Minnesota’s 728,359 households, 664,296 had at least one radio, for a percentage of 91.2. Lake of the Woods County had the lowest penetration of radio receivers, with 1150 radio households out of 1501 total, for a percentage of 76.6%. Minneapolis and St. Paul had very high percentages of radio households, 96.6% and 96.7% respectively. They were edged out, however, by Rochester, with 96.8% of the households having a radio. The other city included in the listing of cities over 25,000 was Duluth, with 95.7% of the households having a radio.

1942Sep7BC2The station listing shown here reveals that during the War years, Minneapolis and St. Paul were served by seven stations. Both KSTP, 1500 kHz, and WCCO, 830 kHz, had 50,000 watt signals full time.

Three stations had 5000 watt signals during the daytime: WDGY on 1130 kHz, reduced its power to 500 watts at night, but the hours were determined by local time in Albuquerque, since it protected a station there. WLB, which later became KUOM, was daytime only, and also shared time on its 770 kHz frequency with WCAL in Northfield, an arrangement that continued in later decades. WTCN reduced its power on 1280 kHz to 1000 watts at night.

WLOL on 1330 kHz was licensed for 1000 watts, and WMIN ran 250 watts at 1400 kHz.

Duluth was listed as the home to KDAL on 610 kHz and WEBC on 1320 kHz. The other station serving the Twin Ports, WDSM, was licensed to Superior, Wisconsin, and appeared in the Wisconsin listings.

Cities with 250 watt stations included Albert Lea (KATE, 1450 kHz), Fergus Falls (KGDE, 1230 kHz, with 100 watts nighttime power), Mankato (KYSM, 1230), Moorhead (KVOX, 1340), Rochester (KROC, 1340), St. Cloud (KFAM, 1450), Virginia (WHLB, 1400), Willmar (KWLM, 1340), and Winona (KWNO, 1230).

Another station covering Minnesota but not listed was WDAY in Fargo, which corrected the oversight by purchasing two full-page ads, one in the Minnesota listing and another in the North Dakota section, pointing out that it had a large service area in both states, and including a story, that must have seemed just a bit risque in 1942, about a traveling soap salesman and a farmer’s daughter.



Radio Constructor, 1947-1981

1947AugRadioConstructorSeventy years ago this month, August 1947, the first issue of the British magazine Radio Constructor rolled off the presses, with the matshead bearing the names of editors Arthur C. Gee, G2UK, and W. Norman Stevens, G3AKA, and business manager C.W.C. Overland, G2ATV. According to the introductory editorial, postwar Britain was seeing a boom in short wave listening almost as big as the boom in broadcast listening after the first war.

1947AugRadioConstructor1The first of many receiver plans to be published by the magazine was a four tube (or three tubes, plus selenium rectifier) AC-DC broadcast set shown here. The first issue also carried a few theoretical articles, as well as the plans for one transmitter.

The magazine continued until September 1981, when the final issue was published.

1942: Last of the Prewar Radios

1942Aug27ChiTrib75 years ago, many consumer products, such as radios, stoves, and vacuum cleaners were no longer rolling off the assembly lines now devoted to war production. Civilian radio production, for example, ended on April 22, 1942.  But these items remained available, as retailers sold the last of the remaining stock.

This ad appeared in the August 27, 1942 issue of the Chicago Tribune and shows some of the last prewar versions of these items.

The model number of the Silvertone radio-phono is not shown, but according to the ad, the set was an $89.95 value selling for only $68.88.  It featured an automatic record changer which could accommodate up to ten 12″ records or twelve 10″ records.  The six-tube radio tuned both standard broadcast and shortwave.

1942 Mallory Wood Condensers

1942AugServiceWith wartime material shortages, replacement radio parts were hard to come by. And even when parts were available, the manufacturers had to adapt to wartime conditions.

This is illustrated by this ad from the August 1942 issue of Service magazine, showing the Mallory “Wood Neck” condenser (what we would call a capacitor these days).  Instead of an aluminum case and base, the capacitor had an impregnated paper case and a threaded wooden base.  The ad noted that “they are designed for the emergency but we predict they will be popular long afterwards.”

Think It Over, 1942


This RCA ad, which appeared 75 years ago in the July 27, 1942, issue of Broadcasting, shows the warning label affixed to radios in Nazi Germany.  It contains this warning:

Think it over. Receiving foreign broadcasts is a crime against the German State. By order of the Fuehrer, it will be severely punished.”

The ad goes goes on to say that most will think it over. And perhaps, like a sensible Nazi subject, the radio’s owner will take the warning to heart.

And maybe you don’t. Maybe there’s a hunger for truth in you, that no threats can suppress. Maybe you still retain some sense of the inalienable rights of a decent human being.

Maybe you tune in far-off America: to RCA-NBC International Shortwave Stations WRCA and WNBI, hearing truths that are flashes of light in a world of darkness and despair.

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.


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.



Electrocuting the Enemy: 1917


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.