This is NOT a "sea story", it really happened...
(see below for more)

Navy Destroyer Saved by Morse

Here's another Navy related story, also completely true.

I've finally written about what I did on the air in high school...

1969, White Bear Lake, Minnesota  -  I had just gotten my General class ham license and was 16 yrs old, and a CW fanatic.  I was using an old home-made tube-type keyer that some older ham gave me with a pair of straight keys bolted back to back for a squeeze paddle.  I had a Johnson Ranger 2 transmitter and HQ-110 receiver and a 40m dipole in the back yard of my parents home.  Late at night when the ham band got empty I would tune around below 40m and discovered the Russian ship-to-shore traffic nets.  The net control station was usually zipping along at 30 wpm or faster and it was fun to listen to the ships check in.  I figured out that it was Russians from the ITU assignments of the callsigns.  When there were no hams on 40m to work, I wanted to see if the Russians could work me, nice DX with 40 watts!  So I would listen to the QTC tape and then break them and check in with the call of one of the ships they had traffic for.  Sure enough, they always heard me in Minnesota and sent me down freq to get the traffic.  But it was almost always below the range of the Ranger VFO, I couldn't meet the op and after a few minutes of calling me the net control would call again on the main freq.  I'd answer, he'd speed up a bit and be annoyed and send me down freq again, and by the third time they would finally ignore my signal.  But at least I knew I could work DX !  I did this off and on for a couple of years.

I graduated from high school, went to college for a year, and in 1971 enlisted in the Navy in the Advanced Electronics Program.  I was selected for a security clearance and became a CTM (Crypto Tech, Maintenance) and went to ET school on Treasure Island, then schools for KW-7 Crypto at Mare Island and Mod 28 TTY in Norfolk.  After 2 years of duty in Rota Spain (see above article) I ended up at the Navy HFDF site at RAF Edzell in NE Scotland.  The building we worked in was inside the huge Wullenwebber antenna array.  There were about 14 Navy HFDF sites around the world linked by real-time encrypted Teletype circuits.

1976 - I was on CW on the ham bands a lot from Scotland in my off duty time and could copy 45 plus wpm.  At work (still in the Navy) I repaired teletype equipment and we worked in some areas of the receiver building where they copied all TTY signals, and other areas where the CTR ops (the ones taught to copy CW) monitored the Russian ship-to-shore CW nets.  When a ship checked into the net, they would copy the callsign and get a DF cut on the signal, which would then lock in all the other HFDF sites around the world to the same frequency to all get a DF cut on the signal, if it could be heard.  Every 3 months the Russians would change the frequencies they used as the bands opened and closed each day, to confuse us, so the HFDF ops would be really busy for a while figuring out all the frequencies  again (every Russian ship, cargo ships and even fishing trawlers, were considered possible military vessels and were kept track of).
  One night on a mid-watch a Mod 28 printer broke at the HFDF CW posit and I replaced it.  I asked the op working the posit when there would be some traffic so I could be sure the printer was working, and he said we just had to wait until one of the HFDF sites heard a new CW signal and the spot came over our secure TTY net.  So I stood around for a while, listening to the CW net he was monitoring.  The Russian shore station net control was being a real jerk, not slowing below 30 wpm, no matter how slow or ragged the shipboard operators were.  One poor guy on a ship, probably bouncing around in the North Atlantic, could barely send and the net control rudely chewed him out on the air.  I turned to the CTR and said "man, that net control sure is being an asshole".  Wow, our op turned to me and half way fell out of his chair, he was so shocked that a Matman (what they called us Maintenance techs) could copy CW.  "You can copy that in your head?  He's doing 40's ?! (Navy term for going 40 wpm) You've been copying the whole thing?!".  I told him sure, I'm a ham and I only use CW, 40 wpm isn't really that fast...

  Well, once I had listened to the HFDF ops for a while I realized what they had been doing every day and night on the radio for the last 15 years, and I hoped they got a laugh from my messing with the Russians :-)   I was surprised that the FBI never showed up at our door in Minnesota, asking why I was using a Russian callsign, but of course to ask that question would give away that someone knew, and our HFDF capabilities were Top Secret for many decades.

Glenn AE0Q (ex WA0VPK, GM5BKC, ZB2WZ)
NSGA Rota, Spain
Edzell, Scotland

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