History Related Amateur Radio Special Event Stations for August 2019

A recurring theme of History related special events for August seems to be Manifest Destiny, the 19th Century American belief that the American people were destined to expand westward across the North American continent (and for some, southward into Central America and the Caribbean as well). The special event stations related to the telegraph, railroad, and the Pony Express commemorate events or entities that played a key role in the American settlement of the west. Other special events in August honor the United States Coast Guard and commemorate the only refugee shelter operated in the United States during World War II. Related to the Coast Guard (they absorbed the US Lighthouse Service in 1939), the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend is the weekend of 17/18 August.

229th Birthday of the United States Coast Guard

From 4 August at 1400 UTC to 5 August at 0400Z, K1CG, the Coast Guard CW Operators Association in Port Angeles, WA will be operating a special event station commemorating the 229th birthday of the United States Coast Guard. K1CG will be operating on or around 21.052, 14.052, 7.052, and 3.552. Several different operators will work the event. All CW contacts with K1CG during the event will receive a QSL card directly from the operator they worked.

USCGC Eagle approaching Fort Jackson, Coast Guard Auxiliary Vessel 578 is in the foreground, Coast Guard Vessel 29200 is in the background

The United States Coast Guard occupies a unique position as both a Federal agency and an arm of the United States Military. On 4 August 1790, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton to form the United States Revenue Cutter Service, charged with enforcing customs laws. Since there was no United States Navy at the time (it wasn’t re-established until 1798), the Cutter Service also took on additional duties (some of which they still carry out today) such as coastal defense, rescue, government transport, and mail transport. In 1915, the Cutter Revenue Service was merged with the United States Lifesaving Service to create the United States Coast Guard. In 1939, the Coast Guard took on additional duties when United States Lighthouse Service was brought under its control. In 1942, the Coast Guard picked up more responsibilities when the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation was put under their control. As a result of these mergers and transfers, the Coast Guard became a multi-role agency with search and rescue, regulatory, and law enforcement duties. Because it can be transferred to military control during wartime, the Coast Guard is also considered one of the nation’s armed forces. During both World War I and World War II, it was transferred to the control of Navy Department and transferred back to the Treasury Department after the wars. After the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the Coast Guard was transferred from the Treasury Department to the Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard has a significant presence in coastal Georgia, with stations in Savannah and Brunswick, at the port facilities in Savannah and Brunswick, and with Coast Guard Air Station Savannah at Hunter AAF in Savannah.

Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter

From 1000 UTC to 1600 UTC on 5 August, W2CXV, the Fulton Amateur Radio Club will be operating a special event station commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter. They’ll be operating on or around 14.260, 14.280, 14.330, or 14.340. QSL for a certificate via the Fulton Amateur Radio Club, 2359 ST RT 48, Fulton, NY 13069.

Women and children registering for the Fort Ontario Refugee Camp, August 1944. (image from Wikimedia Commons)

The Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter is something unique in the United States’ World War II History: it is the only refugee shelter operated in the United States during World War II. Fort Ontario, located in Oswego, New York, has a long history as a military installation; it was established and used by the British during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution and by the US military from the War of 1812. During World War II, it was used to shelter refugees from the European Theater. Opened in June 1944, the shelter received its first refugees from Europe in August 1944. The 982 refugees housed at the shelter were predominately of Jewish descent and mostly came from Eastern European countries. Initially, conditions at the shelter resembled that of a prison camp surrounded by barbed wire. For a time, they weren’t allowed to leave the camp but were eventually issued passes to visit Oswego. Between meeting the refugees through the fence and when they visited the town on passes, Oswego began to develop a relationship with them. Although they had signed agreements to return to Europe after the war, public pressure from the citizens of Oswego along with other groups convinced to President Truman to allow them to stay in the United States in 1946. While some did return to Europe, many found sponsors in the United States and remained here.

World War II Navajo Code Talkers

From 14 to 18 August, special event station N7C will be honoring the Navajo Code Talkers. N7C will be operating on or around 14.265, 7.265, and 18.133. QSL via Herbert Goodluck, PO Box 06, Chinle, AZ 86503; for a QSL card send a SASE, for a QSL card and certificate, send $5.

Navajo code talkers, Saipan, June 1944 (image from Wikimedia Commons)

The idea of using Native Americans as “code talkers” in the United States military didn’t originate in World War II; instead it began in World War I when the US Army utilized Cherokee and Choctaw speakers to pass coded traffic. In 1942, A Los Angeles City Engineer, Philip Johnston, the son of missionaries who worked on the Navajo Reservation suggested to the USMC that they use Navajos to send coded messages in World War II much as other Native Americans had done in World War I. A test in simulated combat conditions proved that the Navajos could pass a coded message in their language quicker than an automated system could. The Navajo language proved particularly good for the task at hand because of its complexity and the few non-Navajos that were proficient in the language. The addition of code words for military terms made the Navajo’s code even more complex and it remained unbroken at the end of the war. After the Battle of Iwo Jima, 5th Marines signal officer Major Howard Connor stated that if it wasn’t for the Navajo Code Talkers, the Marines wouldn’t have taken Iwo Jima. The Navajo code continued in use after World War II; it was used during the Korean War and during the early part of the Vietnam War. It is said to be the only spoken military code never to have been broken.

The First Train Dispatch by Telegraph

From 1400 UTC, 17 August to 0200 UTC, 18 August, the Orange County NY Amateur Radio Club will operating special event station K2T in commemoration of the first train dispatch by telegraph in 1851. K2T will be operating on or around 3.540, 3.573, 3.920, 7.040, 7.074, 7.255, 14.040, 14.074, and 14.250. A QSL certificate will be downloadable; contact W2HO@ocarcny.org or www.ocarcny.org

Dispatcher’s Office display. at the Folkston, GA Train Museum

In September 1851, Charles Minot, a Division Superintendent with the Erie Railroad developed the idea of coordinating trains by telegraphed while stopped at a station waiting on another train to pass. He telegraphed ahead to see if the oncoming train they were waiting on had passed; it had not, so he ordered that train to be stopped at the station and ordered his train to proceed. He would later develop this further into a dispatching system that would be used instead of timetables; instead of trains waiting on each to pass, the trains’ movements would be coordinated by dispatchers using telegraph. Minot’s system, later expanded upon, resulted in a more efficient use of the railroad. This combination of the telegraph and the railroad was a fusion of two of the most important technologies that came about between the War of 1812 and the Civil War and contributed greatly to increased and quicker communications and transportation across an expanding nation.

The 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad

On 17 August, the Utah Valley Amateur Radio Club in Orem, UT will be operating special event station K7R in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the First Transcontinental Railroad. K7R will be operating on or near 14.336, 14.075, and 7.268. QSL for certificate via the Utah Valley Amateur Radio Club, PO Box 1288, Orem, UT 84059-2188. 

From 1500 UTC on 24 August to 0300 UTC on 25 August, the Sweetwater Amateur Radio Club in Green River, WY will be operating special even station WY7U, also in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the First Transcontinental Railroad. WY7U will be operating on or near 14.320, 7.270, and 3.925. QSL for certificate via the Sweetwater Amateur Radio Club, 50140 B US Hwy 191 S, Ste 106, Rock Springs, WY 82901.

Map of the route of the First Transcontinental Railroad. Crossing the Western United States to/from California. Built in the 1860s, and opening in 1869 (image from Wikimedia Commons)

The first Transcontinental Railroad in the United States entered service on 10 May 2019 when the ceremonial “golden spike” was driven at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory where the two ends of the railroad met. Three railroad companies built out the railroad: The Western Pacific Railroad built 132 miles from Alameda, CA to Sacramento, CA while the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific Railroads built the out much of the line. The Central Pacific built 690 miles from Sacramento, CA to Promontory Summit, Utah Territory and the Union Pacific built 1085 miles from Council Bluffs, IA to Promontory Summit, Utah Territory. The Central Pacific began work in January 1863 and the Union Pacific began in July 1865. Both had to contend with problems caused by the Civil War and the Central Pacific had to further contend with shipping equipment to the West Coast from the East Coast around Cape Horn or over Panama. The route from east to west, went through today’s states of Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. The Transcontinental Railroad prove to be a significant part of United States History; it connected the sparsely populated west coast with the more populous east coast (the northern states in particular) and made possible further expansion west by making transportation of goods and people less costly, quicker, and safer than it was by ship or wagon train.

The 158th Anniversary of the Pony Express

On 25 August, the Crown Amateur Radio Association in Hanover, KS will commemorate the 158th anniversary of the Pony Express with special event station K0ASA. K0ASA will be operating on or near 14.285, 14.045, 7.045, and 3.545. QSL or a certificate are available via the Crown Amateur Radio Association, 11551 W 176th Ter, Overland Park, KS 66221.

Illustrated Map of Pony Express Route in 1860 by William Henry Jackson ~ Courtesy the Library of Congress ~ The Pony Express mail route, April 3, 1860 – October 24, 1861; Reproduction of Jackson illustration issued to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Pony Express founding on April 3, 1960. Reproduction of Jackson’s map issued by the Union Pacific Railroad Company. (image from Wikimedia Commons)

The Pony Express operated from April 1860 to October 1861 providing a fast mail route between California and Missouri. It followed a similar route to the future Transcontinental Railroad; from east to west, it went through the modern states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. Operated by the Central Overland California Company and the Pike’s Peak Express Company, the Pony Express used mounted riders traveling in relays between 184 stations and 157 relay stations that covered the 1900 mile route. By utilizing the relay stations and changing horses, the Express was able to transport mail between California and Missouri in 10 days. By October 1861, however, the Transcontinental Telegraph had been established and was sending messages electronically.

For more information on how the telegraph and the railroad were instrumental in not only the westward expansion of the United States during the 19th Century, but also helped shape the country’s political and social landscape, I would suggest reading Daniel Walker Howe’s volume of the Oxford History of the United States What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848.

Categories: Amateur Radio, History, Special Event Station

1 reply


  1. KF4LMT's History Related Amateur Radio Special Event Stations for August 2019 - KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog

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