This post has been updated with some events in Amateur Radio History that occurred during the month of December; it’s a new section that will be included in each month’s History related special event post.
December is a slim month for special event stations, much less history related special events, but the three historical events being recognized with special events this December are significant. These events are the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the Battle of Trenton on 26 December 1776, and the 80th Anniversary of the Sikorsky VS-300.
Before we get into the History related Special Event Stations for the month, let’s take a look at some events that occurred in Amateur Radio History in December:
- 1 December 1915 – The first issue of “QST, An Amateur Wireless Magazine” was published in December 1915 “to help maintain the organization of the American Radio Relay League and to keep the Amateur Wireless Operators of the country in constant touch with each other”
- 7 December 1941 – Amateur Radio Operators are ordered off of the air after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the beginning of World War II.
- 12 December 1901 – The first transatlantic radio transmission is claimed by Marconi, but it is unconfirmed and his claim remains controversial.
- 13 December 1912 – The Radio Act of 1912, signed into law by President Taft on 13 August 1912 takes effect. It was the first time Amateur Radio in the United States was regulated by law.
- 17 December 1902 – The first confirmed transatlantic radio transmission is made from a Marconi Station in Nova Scotia.
From 1-8 December, the Amateur Radio Club of the National Electronics Museum in Baltimore, MD will be commemorating the Attack on Pearl Harbor with special event station W2W. They’ll be operating on or near 14.241, 14.041, 7.241, and 7.041. QSL via W2W – Pearl Harbor Special Event, PO Box 1693, MS 4015, Baltimore, MD 21203. Operation on 80M (3.541 & 3.841) and digital modes are possible during the event.
From 5-10 December, Club KC5NX in Cleburne, TX will be commemorating the Attack on Pearl Harrbor with special event station W5W. They’ll be operating on or near 14.225, 14.045, 7.225, and 7.045. QSL via Club KC5NX, 9200 Summit Court West, Cleburne, TX 76033-8212.
On 14 December, the USS Midway Museum Ship in San Diego, CA will be commemorating the Attack on Pearl Harbor with special event station NI6IW. They’ll be operating on or near 14.320 and 7.250, operating PSK31 on 14.070, and will be on DSTAR REF001C. QSL via USS Midway Museum Ship COMEDTRA, 910 N Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101.
On the morning of Sunday, 7 December 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Kido Butai, or 1st Air Fleet, struck the US Navy Base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii with over 300 aircraft launched from six aircraft carriers in two waves. The attack came before there was a declaration of war by Japan and while negotiations between the United States and Japan appeared to be ongoing. Intended to prevent the US Navy from acting against the Japanese in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, it was part of coordinated attacks on the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. The Kido Butai sunk or damaged eight US Navy battleships, 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers, and five other ships. They destroyed 188 US Military aircraft and damaged 159 more. 2,335 Americans were killed and 1,143 were wounded. The Japanese lost 5 midget submarines, 29 aircraft. 74 aircraft were damaged. 64 Japanese were killed, and 1 Imperial Japanese sailor was captured. It was a clear tactical victory for Japan.
It was a tactical victory but a strategic error. The attack on Pearl Harbor essentially awoke a sleeping giant. It united and mobilized the United States against Japan and brought the United States into World War II. Additionally, the Japanese failure to strike power production facilities, repair and storage facilities, and headquarters facilities left the United States Navy in a good position to recover from the attack. While the Japanese had put a large dent in the Pacific fleet’s surface assets, the US Navy’s aircraft carriers were not in port on the morning of 7 December. Japan’s plan was to cull the US Navy’s battleship and cruiser numbers to make a naval gun-battle more in their favor, but the war to come would be a war not of battleships, but of aircraft carriers. The aircraft carriers that weren’t in port would be the ships to take the battle to the Imperial Japanese Navy and begin to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific within six months at the Battle of Midway. The US Navy would do a stunning job of salvage after Pearl Harbor; six of the battleships sunk or damaged during the attack would be raised and returned to service by the end of the war.
The US Navy would be knocked down by the attack on Pearl Harbor and the first months of World War II. Both the United States and Japan were guilty of hubris and underestimating their enemy, but the United State Navy would learn from its mistakes, pick itself up off the floor, and give better than it got. The manufacturing might of the United States would put Japan on its heels, there was simply no way that they could replace their losses and expand their fleet the way the United States could. Furthermore, the way the attack on Pearl Harbor was conducted – without warning, a declaration of war, and while it appeared negotiations were still ongoing – made the US war against Japan one of retribution and revenge; the Japanese hoped that the US would tire of the war and shrink from the losses and negotiate an end to the war, but by making it a war of revenge, that would not be.
For more reading on the Pearl Harbor attack and how the United States Navy rebounded from it and learned to fight the Imperial Japanese Navy, I would suggest Ian W. Toll’s terrific book Pacific Crucible, the War at Sea 1941-1942.
Sikorsky VS-300 Helicopter
From 7-15 December, the Stratford Amateur Radio Club in Stratford, CT will be commemorating the 80th Anniversary of the Sikorsky VS-300 helicopter with special event station K1S. They’ll be operating on or near 18.150, 14.240, 7.230, and 3.925. QSL with SASE via SARC c/o Dave Arruzza, 32 Benz Street, Ansonia, CT 06401.
The Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 was the United State’s first practical helicopter and the first helicopter to utilize the single main rotor/single tail rotor layout. It was designed by Igor Sikorsky in the late 1930s while he was Engineering Manager of United Aircraft Corporation’s Vought-Sikorsky Division. The VS-300 made it’s first tethered flight on 14 September 1939 and its first free flight on 13 May 1940. A crash on 19 December 1939 led to a series of different rotor configurations before Sikorsky settled on the now familiar layout of a single main rotor and a single vertical tail rotor in late December 1941. This configuration was tested on 8 December 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Most of the helicopters in use today descend from the VS-300 and use the configuration that Sikorsky developed with it, making it a historically important aircraft and a watershed in Aviation History. While it wasn’t the first helicopter, the VS-300 was the first practical helicopter and opened the door for useful production helicopters that performed a multitude of military and civilian tasks.
The Battle of Trenton
From 26-30 December, the Delaware Valley Radio Association in West Trenton, NJ will be commemorating the Revolutionary War Battle of Trenton with special event station W2T. They’ll be operating on or near 14.225 and 7.175. QSL via Delaware Valley Radio Association, PO Box 7024, Trenton, NJ 08628-0024.
December 1776 was not a good time for the Americans during the American Revolution. In late 1776, American forces under George Washington suffered several setbacks in New York forcing them to retreat and resulting was low morale and desertion. In attempt to reverse their fortunes, Washington planned a multi-pronged attack against Hessian forces at Trenton, NJ on the night of 25 December and morning of 26 December 1776. Two of the prongs were unable to cross the Delaware River due to ice and weather conditions, leaving Washington with approximately half of the men planned, but he continued with the attack with the 2400 men he did have. The Hessians, although not drunk from Christmas celebrations as legend has it, were not expecting an attack and didn’t have any patrols out. As a result, the attack caught them by surprise. They put up resistance, but eventually 800-900 of the 1500 Hessians in Trenton were captured, 22 killed (including their commander Col. Johann Rall), and 83 were injured while approximately 500 of them were able to escape. Without his full complement of forces, Washington was, however, unable to hold Trenton and moved back across the Delaware with the prisoners and supplies they had captured.
Trenton was a small battle but an important victory. Materially, it provided the Americans with much needed supplies and arms. In addition to the Hessian troops that were captured, 1000 small arms, ammunition, cannon, uniforms, shoes, and other equipment were captured along with supplies of meat and flour. All were needed by the poorly supplied Americans. More importantly, it had had positive psychological effects. The battle instilled confidence in the Americans that they could stand up to regular troops and eased their fear of the Hessians serving under the British. It raised the morale of the troops still on hand and resulted in increased recruitment which replenished Washington’s numbers. It also helped lead to the Battle of Princeton, which will be featured in next month’s post about History related special event stations.
There are several books that I would recommend reading about this period of the American Revolution:
- The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution 1763-1789 by Robert Middlekauff
- The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 by Rick Atkinson
- 1776 by David McCullough