Ham Radio Nostalgia


During my stay in Scotland I did some traveling during my off duty time.  After acquiring my british drivers license in early 1971, I explored the highlands of Scotland, visited Edinburgh several times and visited England and France.

In the spring of 1971 I visited Paris for a week with a few of my Navy buddies.  I re-learned a lot of the french that I had learned in high school and acted as a translator for my buddies who were interested in the "culture" of Paris's female population.  The photo below-right shows yours truly at the Eiffel Tower.  I spent the entire week walking all over Paris taking pictures of all the tourist attractions during the day and ventured out to the local pubs with my buddies during the evening hours.  The photo below-left was taken during one of my road trips to London in the spring of 1972.  While in London, I stayed with friends, the brother of a girlfriend, and was shown parts of London that the typical American tourist never saw.  I let my host do most of the driving.  Once I got lost driving in London at night but evenutally found my way back in the wee hours of the morning.

Feeding the pigeons in London The Eiffel Tower

After I returned from my second trip to London in late March 1972, I received orders transfering me to Fort Meade Maryland not far from home.  This seemed too good to be true.  As it turned out, it was too good to be true and my orders were changed as a result of events that took place while I was away.

After leaving Navy boot camp in December 1969, I was trained to be a Communications Technician in Navy 'A' School, and had I served in that capacity during my 25 months in Scotland.  When I graduated from 'A' school, CT was a critical rating due to the shortage of CTs in the field and the Navy was offering CTs a $25,000 re-enlistment bonus.  By 1972 all of that had changed.

When I returned from London in March 1972, I learned that due to an excess number of personnel in the Communication Technician (CT) rating, the Navy had decided to convert the ratings of a select group of CTs.  I was one of the unfortunate ones who fell into this group.  As a result of this, my orders were amended and my rating was changed from CTR to Yeoman (YN).  My new orders sent me to a ship, the USS Grand Canyon whose home port was in Newport, Rhode Island.  Before I left Scotland, I was given the opportunity to re-enlist for an additional 6 years and avoid this "mess".  By that time, I knew that serving in the Navy was not being to be in my future, so I turned the offer down.

During my 25 month stay in Scotland, GM5ASI made 2184 contacts in 191 countries, all 50 states, and 38 zones (never worked zone 19 or 34).  All of my operating was "casual", with no contesting (this was before I became interested in contesting), no DX bulletins, and long before PCs and packet DX spotting networks.  Sometimes casual operating was a difficult thing to do, espically when the band was open to the U.S.  As a result I received some impromptu training in handling pileups of U.S. stations.  Even though I was (and still am) a CW operator, I made twice as many contacts on SSB.  Looking back on it, I think this was due to the "novelty" of operating phone, my home station at the time was CW only, and I had to send CW with a hand key (a lot of work when handling logging by hand and sending by hand when working a pileup).  The two tables below summarize my activity.

QSO breakout 

BAND

CW

SSB
BAND
TOTAL
80
136
259
395
40
126
54
180
20
298
725
1023
15
233
323
56
10
3
23
26
TOTAL
796
1384
2184


Zone, State, and Country breakout

BAND

ZONES
STATE
STATE
TOTAL
COUNTRY
COUNTRY
TOTAL
CW
SSB
CW
SSB
80
17
16
8
19
34
49
62
40
17
13
1
13
51
14
57
20
38
29
47
48
83
122
153
15
32
36
36
45
47
75
100
10
7
1
8
8
3
8
10
TOTAL
38
43
49
50
111
170
191

I left Scotland and returned home for 30 days of leave in late June 1972.   The photo below shows my station in the early seventies, after my tour in Scotland.  To run phone (AM), I added an Eico 730 plate modulator and a Drake 2B receiver  which I purchased shortly after returning home from Scotland in June 1972.  By this time, I was in need of a real operating table!  In July 1972, while home on 30 days military leave, I returned to the Custom House in Baltimore and passed the extra exam.  The hardest part of the exam was sending morse code at 20 words per minute with a hand key.  In those days, you had to send and receive the code at 20 words per minute for one minute error free - no multiple guess questions. You were also required to have a general or advanced class license for at least 2 years before you were eligible to take the extra exam.  Because of my Navy tour of duty overseas, I had to wait an extra year before I could take the extra exam.

WA3KOC 1972


After leaving Scotland, I finished up my Navy duty in Newport, Rhode Island from July 72 to August 1973.  I was stationed on the U.S.S. Grand Canyon, a World War II destroyer tender which had been converted to a repair ship.  The ship had just returned from a 6 month deployment in the Mediterranean Sea.  During most of my time on board ship, it was under going extensive overhaul.  We spent a few months in dry dock in Boston and several months at the Todd Shipyard in Brooklyn New York.  In February 1973 the ship left Brooklyn to return to it's home port in Newport, Rhode Island.  During my off duty time in Newport, I KG4AN QSL operated from the base club station WA1EXP.  The station consisted of a Collins S-Line and a dipole antenna for 40 and 80 meters.   My radio activity from Newport was somewhat limited.  I did not have open access to the station but had to make arrangements ahead of time to use the station.

In March 1973, the ship left Newport for Guantanamo Bay Cuba to undergo sea trials.  The trip to GITMO took 5 days, two of which I was sea sick.  By the third day at sea I had acquired my sea-legs.  Immediately upon arriving in GITMO, I searched out the base ham radio club station, KG4AN who I had contacted from Scotland.  After checking with the Officer on watch, I was told I could not obtain permission to use the station because I was not permanently assigned there.  

During the 6 weeks in GITMO from March to April 1973, we conducted sea trails/war games during the week days and had free time in the evenings when not on duty.  I visited KG4AN several times and got to know some of the operators.  Most of their on-the-air time was spent running phone patches back to the states.  Above-left is a photo of a large QSL card that was on the club station's shack door and below is a photo of the radio shack and antennas and an interesting sign I saw on the base.  

KG4AN's radio shack and antennas and an interesting sign on the base...... some things don't change.

KG4AN Radio Shack Gitmo Sign

The USS Grand Canyon at Todd Shipyard in Brooklyn, New York circa late 1972.... early 1973.
USS Grand Canyon AR-28


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