History Related Amateur Radio Special Events for October 2019

While there is no apparent theme to discern in October, there is plenty of variety in the month’s History related Special Event Stations. W4D and K4RC will honor events in US Military History. A number of Special Event Stations will celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary. WW0WWV will celebrate the centennial of a most useful radio station, WWV. K7T will recognize the Columbus Day Federal holiday.

Little David

On 5 October 2019, from 1330 to 2200 UTC, the Trident Amateur Radio Club of Charleston, SC will be operating special event station W4D to commemorate the attack of the torpedo boat CSS David, also known as the Little David, on the USS New Ironsides in 1863. They’ll be operating on or near 14.320, 14.262, and 7.262. QSL via Trident Amateur Radio Club, Attn: John Satterfield, PO Box 60732, North Charleston, SC 29419. QSL’S send SASE; Certificates please remit $5.00 More info can be found at www.tridenthams.org

Profile drawing of the CSS David (image from Wikipedia Commons)

Before the CSS Hunley, there was the CSS David. The David was a semi-submersible torpedo boat operated by the Confederate States Navy in the harbor of Charleston, SC during the Civil War. The David-type torpedo boats sat low in the water, with just their open cockpits and smokestack sticking out of the water. Additionally, their boilers burned anthracite coal; in combination, it gave them a low profile that made them almost as hard to detect at night as a submarine would have been. They were armed with a torpedo (explosive charge) on the end of spar on the bow of the boats. On the night of 5 October 1863, the CSS David, also known as the “Little David,” got underway in Charleston Harbor with the intent to attack the USS New Ironsides, an ironclad steamer that was part of the US Navy force blockading Charleston. The crew of the David was successful in exploding their torpedo under the New Ironsides, but the water thrown up by the explosion extinguished her boiler and she went dead in the water. After temporarily abandoning ship, the crew was able to re-fire the boiler and steam away. The David’s commanding officer, Lt. Glassell, and a crewman, Seaman Sullivan were captured. The New Ironsides was damaged, but not sunk; one member of her crew was killed and two injured. Subsequent attempts by the David or her sister boats were unsuccessful. What ultimately happened to the David is uncertain. Several David-type torpedo boats were captured when Charleston fell to the Union, but it’s unknown if she was one of them. It is possible that she lays underneath Charleston’s Tradd St, where two of the boats were abandoned and covered up as Charleston filled in low areas to expand. A post-war letter by the David’s construction supervisor stated that she was abandoned in that area, so one of the two could quite possibly be the David.

USCG Auxiliary

Over the weekend of 18-20 October 2019, a number of special event stations from all over the country will be celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the United States Coast Coast Guard Auxiliary. For details of each, take a look at their entries in the ARRL’s Special Event Station listing.

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

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is an organization of uniformed civilians that supplements the United States Coast Guard in support off all Coast Guard missions except those requiring direct law enforcement or military engagement. If you’re familiar with the Civil Air Patrol’s role with the US Air Force, the USCG Auxiliary’s role is much the same with the US Coast Guard.  The Coast Guard Reserve was formed by an act of Congress on 23 June 1939. Congress mandated that the Coast Guard utilize civilians to promote safety and sea and other navigable waters, increase the efficiency of American civilian boaters, assist the boating public with laws and compliance, and support the active-duty members of the Coast Guard. As the United States grew closer to World War II, the Auxiliary would conduct safety and security patrols as well as assist in the enforcement of the 1940 Boating and Espionage Acts. On 19 February 1941, the Reserve was reorganized by the Auxiliary and Reserve Act of 1941. The Auxiliary and Reserve Act changed the Reserve created in 1939 to the Coast Guard Auxiliary and made the Reserve a military branch of the active Coast Guard service. After the United States entered World War II, some members of the Auxiliary and their boats were absorbed into the Coast Guard Reserve and the arming of some boats and Auxiliarists was authorized. In 1942, Auxiliarists were authorized to wear military uniforms. In early World War II, Auxiliarist and their boats performed anti-submarine patrol duties along the US Coast until the United States Navy was able to construct enough warships to take over those duties. The Auxiliarists never sank a U-Boat, but they did rescue many crewmen of ships sunk by U-Boats. Throughout the war, along with Reservists, the Auxiliary would serve on port security forces in US ports. After World War II, the Auxiliary heavily promoted boating safety, including sponsoring National Safe Boating Week at the beginning of June. In 1966, further Congressional legislation expanded the Auxiliary’s role to assist in any Coast Guard mission except for direct law enforcement action or military action. In 2003, when the Coast Guard was moved from underneath the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Homeland Security the Auxiliary, too, became part of the Department of Homeland Security. Both the Savannah and Brunswick areas have active Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotillas, Flotillas 10-2 and 10-10 respectively and Auxiliary boats and crews from both flotillas can regularly be heard on Coast Guard and Marine VHF frequencies training with and supporting Sector Charleston, Station Tybee, and Station Brunswick.

British Surrender at Yorktown

On 19 October, from 1400 to 2000 UTC, the Williamsburg Area Amateur Radio Club of Williamsburg, VA will be commemorating the 238th Anniversary of the British Surrender at Yorktown VA in 1781 with special event station K4RC. They’ll be operating on or near 7.265 and 14.265. QSL via QSL Manager, PO Box 1470, Williamsburg, VA 23187. For more information, see www.k4rc.net

This painting depicts the forces of British Major General Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis (1738–1805) (who was not himself present at the surrender), surrendering to French and American forces after the Siege of Yorktown (September 28 – October 19, 1781) during the American Revolutionary War. The central figures depicted are Generals Charles O’Hara and Benjamin Lincoln. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

In August 1781, General Charles Cornwallis, Earl Cornwallis moved his Army into Yorktown, VA at the orders of his superior, General Sir Henry Cornwallis. In Yorktown, Cornwallis was to build a defensible deep-water port. Upon learning of Cornwallis’ move, General George Washington ordered American forces, numbering approximately 5,000 troops, under the Marquis de Lafayette to block Cornwallis’ approximately 9,000 British and Hessian troops from leaving Yorktown. At this point, American forces under Washington and French forces under Comte de Rochambeau had united in New York. With the decision of the French fleet commanded by Comte de Grasse to sail to Chesapeake Bay, Washington and Rochambeau decided to move on Cornwallis at Yorktown, at the same time using deception to give the British the impression that they would be attacking in New York. The American and French forces would move 200 miles in 15 days while the French fleet established naval superiority in and around Chesapeake Bay. On 5 September 1781, a British force under Admiral Thomas Graves attempted to reinforce Cornwallis but was turned away during the Battle of the Virginia Capes. With the British reinforcements turned back, de Grasse moved Washington’s and Rochambeau’s forces to Yorktown to join Lafayette and complete the encirclement of Cornwallis. 3,000 more French troops from de Grasse’s fleet would join Washington’s 2,500 troops and Rochambeau’s 4,000 troops plus more than 3,000 American militia. Cornwallis was surrounded by the American and French Armies on land and by the French Navy at sea. He was unable to fight his way out and the French fleet was able to keep reinforcements and supplies out. In early October, Washington’s forces began advancing trenches toward the British works and on 9 October 1781, artillery bombardment of the British began. Trenches were dug closer and closer to the British works and on 14 October, the assault began. By 16 October, it had become obvious to Cornwallis and his officers that it was over; and a request for a truce was sent to the Americans and French on the morning of 17 October. Over the next two days, negotiations were held and the British forces surrendered on 19 October 1781. Cornwallis refused to attend the surrender, claiming he was ill, and instead sent Brigadier General Charles O’Hara, his deputy commander. O’Hara attempted to surrender not to Washington, but to Rochambeau; Rochambeau pointed him to Washington and Washington, in turn, directed him to surrender his sword to General Benjamin Lincoln, his second in command. 8,000 troops, 214 artillery pieces, 24 ships, plus muskets, wagons, and horses were surrendered. Although the war wouldn’t end for another two years, Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown effectively ended land combat in the former Colonies during the Revolutionary War; the War would continue at sea, but there be no more major battles in former Colonies. The American and French victory at Yorktown, for without the French Navy and French manpower, the American’s wouldn’t have been able to do it, helped seal Britain’s fate in the former colonies and helped lead to the Treaty of Paris, signed on 3 September 1783.

For more on the surrender at Yorktown and its legacy and effects, I would suggest reading The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 by Robert Middlekauff and American Crisis: George Washington and the Dangerous Two Years After Yorktown, 1781-1783 by William Fowler Jr.


From 0000 UTC on 28 September 2019 to 2359 UTC on 2 October 2019, the WWV ARC in Fort Collins, CO will be celebrating the centennial of the NIST radio station WWV with Special Event Station WW0WWV. They’ll be operating on or near 7.038, 7.238, 14.038, and 14.238 with operations also planned on 160 to 6 meters except for 60 meters and 12 meters. QSL via WWV ARC, 1713 Ridgewood Rd, Fort Collins, CO 80526. For more information, see WWV100.com or @WWV_100 on Twitter.

1940 QSL card for WWV (image from Wikipedia Commons)

WWV is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)’s radio station in Fort Collins, CO. WWV is used to broadcast the time in UTC, timing signals, standard frequencies, and geophysical information. Beginning in 2019, it also began broadcasting Department of Defense (DOD)/Military Auxiliary Radio Service (MARS) exercise information for Amateur Radio operators. WWV was first licensed to the NIST’s predecessor, the National Bureau of Standards in 1919 and they began test transmissions consisting of musical performances in at 50w on 500 kHz in May 1920. The station was located in Washington, DC and these first transmissions could be heard over about a 25-mile radius. From December 1920 to April 1921, WWV broadcast the Daily Market Marketgram to farm bureaus and agricultural organizations for the Department of Agriculture. Transmitting with a 2kW spark gap transmitter on 750 kHz from Washington, DC, those broadcasts could be received over an approximately 185-mile radius. In 1922, the National Bureau of Standards decided that the primary purpose of WWV would be transmitting standard frequency signals; by May 1923, WWV was transmitting signals from 75 kHz to 2000 kHz at 1kw from Washington, DC. Over the next decade, improvements would be made to frequency accuracy and the station was moved twice, first to College Park, MD in January 1931 and then to Beltsville, MD in 1932. By 1935, WWV had become close to what we are familiar with today, transmitting on 5, 10, and 15 MHz at 20kW. In 1940, WWV was destroyed by a fire, but the standard frequency equipment was salvaged, and it would resume operations after 5 days. In 1944, a 2.5 MHz transmission was added, followed by 20, 25, 30, and 35 MHz transmissions in 1946. Over the years, the 25, 30, and 35 MHz transmissions were dropped. Over time, several features were added to the WWV transmissions, including a 440 Hz musical tone in 1936, a telegraphic standard time announcement in 1945, and a voice standard time announcement in 1950. Geophysical alert messages were added in 1957. After the LF station WWVB was activated in Fort Collins, CO in 1963, the National Standards Bureau decided to move WWV to that location in 1966 with transmissions switching from Beltsville to Fort Collins in December. In April 1967, the Bureau changed the time announcements from Eastern Standard Time to Coordinated Universal Time (at first using the name Greenwich Mean Time). In 2018, it was feared that WWV would fall victim to Federal budget cuts, but WWV was eliminated from cuts and continues in operation to this day, providing standard frequency and time information among other information to a wide variety of users including amateur radio operators.

Columbus Day

On 12 October 2019, The Oro Valley Amateur Radio Club in Tucson, AZ will be recognizing Columbus Day with Special Event Station K7T. They’ll be operating on or near 14.250 and 7.200. QSL via email at qsl@tucsonhamradio.org for a certificate. For more information, see www.tucsonhamradio.org.

Columbus’ first voyage. Modern place names in black, Columbus’s place names in blue. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

On 3 August 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail with three ships from Palos de la Frontera with three ships, the Santa Maria, the Santa Clara (nicknamed the Nina) and a ship nicknamed the Pinta (actual name unknown) on an expedition, funded by King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Spain to discover a western route to Asia. On 12 October 1492, the expedition arrived off an island in the Bahamas that Columbus named San Salvador (there is some disagreement about exactly which island it was), believing that he landed somewhere in Asia. The first people the expedition encountered were peaceful and welcomed but Columbus noted that they seemed servile and wrote that they should make good servants and that they should be easily conquered. Columbus went on to explore present-day Cuba and then Hispaniola; present-day Dominican Republic and Haiti before returning to Spain via Portugal. The Santa Maria was run aground off Hispaniola; the expedition would salvage the wreckage to build a settlement named La Navidad. They would also fire cannon at the wreckage to awe the native population. The expedition also encountered hostile natives at Hispaniola; they captured a group of them and took them back to Spain. It is unclear when Columbus understood that he had arrived not in Asia, but somewhere else. While some places in the west would be named after Columbus, the American continents would be named after Amerigo Vespucci.

I try not to editorialize in these posts, but I’m not a fan of Columbus Day as a holiday and celebrating Columbus as the explorer who discovered America. He didn’t. Columbus was beaten to the Americas by Vikings in the 10th and 11th Centuries and possibly by the Chinese earlier in the 15th Century. At any rate, if anyone discovered the Americas, it was the peoples who migrated into the continents during the Paleolithic era. Columbus benefited from timing and over subsequent voyages would leave settlements and begin to colonize the west. While that colonization is something to be recognized, it’s nature and legacy is not something to celebrate with a holiday; it’s something that we should instead study and learn from. I’m not trying to turn anyone against the holiday and I’m not advocating that we do away with it (although I wouldn’t be opposed to it), I am suggesting that while we enjoy our day off, we take some time to contemplate the legacy of Columbus and what followed his “discovery” of America.

Categories: Amateur Radio, HF, History, Special Event Station

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