J. William Miller
Crafton, PA, 1920 - 1938
In 1933, I earned my amateur radio operator's license. In those days, you couldn't get a station license or a call sign until you had a working station, so I used my cousin's station, W8HTS, for the first six years. By 1939, I had assembled a station and earned my station license. My first call sign was W8SWQ; "Short Wave Quack." (Pennsylvania was then in Region 8.)
Pittsburgh, PA, 1938 - 1940
In the evenings, I went ice skating for pleasure. I got to be pretty good and so took up competitive skating, both figure and dance steps. Later, after WWII, I ran the ice-skating rink at Penn State for a while.
While going to school in Pittsburgh, I put together a small dance band that played for various night clubs.
Pittsburgh, PA, March 1939 - 1940
To solve this "self-fading" problem, a new plant was built at Allison Park, closer to the more heavily populated areas of Pittsburgh. I was the engineer who signed off the Saxonburg station after its last broadcast . The new antenna served KDKA until 1994, when yet another new antenna was built. The toppling of the older antenna, and the design and building of the new one, is a story that Bix, W4BIX, told at the January 1997 meeting of QCWA Chapter 91.
KDKA had a 50-kilowatt transmitter and antenna for the commercial AM broadcast band and five or six short wave transmitters and antennas for international broadcasting to overseas markets on four or five frequencies. The short-wave station, originally W8XK, then WPIT, carried programs prepared by the White Network. The White Network and WPIT became part of Voice of America's short-wave network during WW II.
Before the war, there were three broadcast networks: Red, White, and Blue. After the war, the Red network became the CBS network, and the Blue became the NBC network. KDKA was part of the Blue network and so became an NBC station.
The transmitting plant for KDKA was an interesting one. We had a number of 23-v alternators to heat the filaments in all those tubes, plus six 3000-v supplies to provide screen and grid bias, but we had only one high-voltage supply for the plate circuits. That plate supply obtained its power from a three-phase circuit with a mercury-arc rectifier in each phase. These were huge rectifiers, each sitting in its own tank of cooling oil, so you didn't just pull one out and replace it with another. Rather, a fourth rectifier was wired in to automatically pick up the load should one of the other three fail. The transmitters were water-cooled, so there was a big cooling pond outside. In the wintertime you could see steam rising off the pond.
On one of the last days of broadcasting from the Saxonburg site, a football game was scheduled for broadcast. It was a holiday, so a large listening audience was expected. We communicated between the transmitting site and the studio in Pittsburgh using Morse code, the keyed signal being multiplexed onto the audio programming feed coming to us from the studio.
Well, the studio sent me a message to devote every transmitter I could to that game. So I cranked up all of WPIT's eight short-wave transmitters and KDKA's 50-kilowatt main broadcast transmitter for the duration.
Herb Irving, the Chief Engineer, drove down to Allison Park to check on progress there and then dropped by the Saxonburg site on his way home. The latter facility was built in the shape of a "T", and the plate supply controls were located at the center. Herb walked up the ramp and checked on the loads being placed on that supply. As he came down the ramp, he said, "Call me when the game's over."
After the game, he drove back to help me shut the station down. After it was all over, he told me: "You set a record, buddy. Those four rectifiers have been in there for 25 years. This is the first time that any one of them has ever blown!"
March 1941 - March 1942, Charleston, WV
I realized the fellow he was describing was the Chief Engineer at WWSW in Pittsburgh, Hank Kaiser. Hank had been out on a field-strength measuring trip required annually to ensure that the station's coverage pattern remained within its FCC-authorized limits.
Charlie Affelder at WWSW and I had worked together in Pittsburgh, and so I called up Charlie. I called to ask him for advice on how to handle the situation. I began by suggesting that we "call the sheriff to get Hank released -- but wait until morning."
September 1942 - August 1944
My first convoy had 12 ships, and I was the only radio operator. I'd copy CW messages sent via HF radio. On my last convoy, I had three 90-day wonders who took turns standing watch while I was down below. When one of them heard our ship being called -- her call letters were about all they could copy -- they'd get me out of bed in a hurry to copy any messages.
While in port the last time, the Port Captain said, "You can't go out to sea with that leg; you can't handle a lifeboat radio now." I told him that's BS, because I did it on previous trips. He said that's beside the point, and they released me with a medical discharge.
Appendix A lists the vessels on which Bill was licensed to serve as the radio operator and his tours of duty.
New York, NY, August 1944 - May 1947
I then took a job as a test engineer for Mort Kahn at the Transmitter Equipment Manufacturing Company (Temco) plant and did some other jobs on the side. Newark Electric down on Cortland Street was just getting into the recorded music business, selling phonographs, pre-amps, amplifiers, and speakers, and I built an audio patch panel for them. I also helped design specialized test equipment for Avery Fisher, and that's how I obtained one of their first FM tuners. About that time, Lee decided she'd had enough and left. Fortunately for me, I was offered another job back in Pennsylvania.
State College, PA, 1947 - 50
At Penn State, I assembled and ran a field station for ionospheric research, eventually becoming an Assistant Professor. I also took some math and engineering courses at the college. While at Penn State, I was licensed to operate the following stations:
One day, the local broadcast station burned three days before U. of Pittsburgh vs. Penn State football game. Jack and I had a Hallicrafters BC-610 transmitter in the lab that we knew could do the job, so we applied for and got an emergency STA from the FCC to broadcast that game. We modified the transmitter to operate on 1490 kc and got it on the air just in time for the broadcast. The Chief Engineer of the broadcast station arranged to continue to use our transmitter until their station could be refurbished and back put on-the-air.
Jack and I also had an 80-meter rotary antenna up 30 or 40 feet on a tower. One night a heavy wind bent it like an old umbrella.
Milton Eisenhower was the President of Penn State at the time. After his wife died, he used to come out to the field station and we'd take walks together, so we got to know each other quite well. Then, one day, I came up for a salary increase, but the rules required me to be full Professor to qualify for it. Though I had taken some math and engineering courses at the college, I didn't have a degree, so I elected to leave Penn State and join RCA as a technical representative.
When I left, Milton wrote me a very fine letter explaining why he couldn't make me a full professor, but said to come back if I ever got the credits I needed. I certainly knew all the engineering and math; it was just the other stuff.
Remembering Jack Brown, Max Jacobson, and Tex DeBarteleben
Tex DeBardeleben, W4TE, Max, and I were members of the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Wireless Pioneers (SOWP) and the D.C. chapter of QCWA. We were instrumental in getting both the local chapter of SOWP (we were the first 3 charter members) and the Northern Virginia chapter of QCWA (which later became the Vic Clark chapter) chartered and organized.
Max's widow, Margaret, later married widower Jack Kelleher, W4ZC. It was Max's B&W linear amplifier that Jack Kelleher auctioned off a few years ago. [W4ZC's advertisement for the amplifier appeared in the January 1996 edition of QCWA chapter 91's newsletter. Jack sold it to Tony Stalls, K4KYO.]
Camden, New Jersey, 1950 - 1954
I also took some courses in electronics & television at the RCA Institute in NYC and later some business and industrial management courses at Oklahoma University, Norman, OK.
In my last position with RCA, I was re-assigned to Tinker Field near Oklahoma City. By that time, I had re-married; soon after, Peggy and I had a baby. The next assignment for me was to have been in "Banana River, Florida". I didn't want to take my new family there, so I left RCA and joined Page Communications. Andy Conrad, who took that job at Banana River, became RCA's VP at what soon became known as Cape Canaveral, and after 1963, the Kennedy Space Center. Of course, at that time, I had no idea of what was happening in the space arena or what "Banana River" was about to become.
1954 - 1961, Dallas, TX
According to Volume 1 of the final report from Page, "The procurement plan was based on the need for a maximum of 15 men at each station. Shelter, included 4 Jamesway units and auxiliary tents. Personal clothing and subsistence for a minimum of 90 days. Technical equipment included 100-250 watt transmitters in the 500-1000 mc frequency range, a combination of REL and NBS propagation test receivers, paraboloidal antennas with 10 and 28 foot reflectors to be mounted on 24 and 48 foot towers. Transmitters were to be located at certain stations; receivers at others." See photo of one of the camps attached.
He bought that idea, assuming that if these units worked out well, he could come back later and re-build the installations to "meet mil spec". I called Frank Gunther at Radio Engineering Labs (REL) who was building the 10-kw tropo-scatter terminals I had in mind. I told Frank the problem and asked "How soon can you get me 12 commercial-quality terminals?" Frank said "Come on up and have dinner."
After dinner, we went out to the closed plant, and he took me to a production line where they were building terminals for a NATO contract. The specs for these units were halfway between commercial and military standards and were just what I was looking for. So Frank went through the plant, taking the NATO plates off and putting commercial plates on! All 12 were put on an airplane three days later. We had them up and operating in Turkey within a month. A later project called Turkey Trot upgraded these to meet "mil spec."
While I was with Page during these years, I operated as W6AJM in Del Paso Heights, CA; W7RIF in Tacoma, WA; W5YAN in Midwest City, OK; and W3NVE in College Park, MD.
Amateur call became W1EIT
1968 - December 1969
Fairfax, VA: 1970
Bill was with the FCC, so we'd go to all these hamfests together, with me representing ICOM and Bill representing the FCC at the ARRL booth. Bill was a licensed pilot, so he and I did a lot of private flying together. I miss that guy, I'll tell ya!
Washington, DC December 1969 -- April 1974
I asked Transworld to modify one of their mobile rigs for use on the ham bands, and I used it in my car for years. I also asked them to modify one of their fixed station versions for the ham bands so I could show it at the Dayton hamfest, which they did.
The boys at the FCC's Laurel, MD, facility were responsible for ensuring it met FCC requirements. Two nights before I was to leave for Dayton, The FCC boys called me up to tell me that it had passed all their tests, including one that 50 watts of drive should not produce more than 1 kilowatt of output power. They were now curious what would happen if they drove it harder, and asked if they could try that. I said "sure," as long it was operated SSB and not continuously. They found that with 100 watts drive, the amplifier would produce 1,440 watts. That's how the FCC established the regulatory limit of 1,500 watts PEP that we amateurs live by today.
The late King Hussein of Jordan, whose amateur call was JY1, bought eight of these transmitters, but his engineers soon ruined them by driving them continuously using RTTY. So we had to replace all the transistors. King Hussein remained a friend and used to contact me on two meters when he was visiting in the DC area.
April 1974 -- December 1984, Washington, DC:
Operated as YN1YM from Nicaragua.
His body was recovered "a week later, on October 1, 1978, with a 9-mm gunshot wound to the back of the head, weighted diver's belts around the waist". The Maryland State Police later concluded that death was 'undetermined' after a belated investigation, marred by what they called the 'contamination' of evidence by CIA security officers who were the first to search the boat."
The story of John Paisley and his unsolved murder is also told in the 1989 book Widows by William Corson, Susan Trento, and Joseph Trento. That book is subtitled: "Four American spies, the wives they left behind, and the KGB's crippling of American Intelligence." It is interesting to note the following excerpts from that book:
p147: "When [John's wife] Maryann began her fight with the CIA to try to force them to tell her what John had really been doing, strange things began to happen to her". William Miller, her husband's friend from the radio club and a man who had installed the most sophisticated of radio systems in some of the world's most difficult areas, concluded that [an annoyance she complained about] was actually a warning alarm to let whoever was monitoring the house electronically know when someone was about to enter or leave". Miller found that the CIA had put a tap on Mrs. Paisley's telephone and, he believes, planted listening devices elsewhere in the house."
The radio club referred to is the Vienna Wireless Society when it met in the Cedar Inn in Vienna. That's where Bill met and befriended John.
p148: Maryann "contacted William Miller, the radio friend of John's, whom he had met the year before he died, to get help on reports that a burst transmitter was aboard the Brillig. A burst transmitter is a small device that can deliver an encoded message in a fraction of a second to a communications satellite passing overhead. The Soviets started using them with great success in the late 1960s to communicate with their agents. Maryann learned from Miller that a burst transmitter was small enough to be concealed in any of Paisley's radios. The fact that Miller helped Paisley obtain a new portable radio, inside of which a burst transmitter would fit, and the fact that the radio was never recovered, left Miller with plenty of questions concerning Paisley's use for that radio."
P149: "The only thing that is certain is that the CIA, with the FBI's assistance, botched the investigation of the Paisley case. The Senate Intelligence Committee certified Paisley as a patriot when it was never told about the discrepancies in his background or that he had been accused a month before he disappeared of being a Soviet mole in the CIA."
We held one early FARfest in Gaithersburg in October of ________. We filled one building and about 500 people came. I subsequently ran the FARfest for another nine years; at the last one, we had over 7000 in attendance.
One year, the Maryland legislature passed a law that required us to collect sales taxes from all the vendors and tailgaters there. Hugh Turnbull, W3ABC, and I tried to get relief from the state, but they wouldn't budge, so I decided to cancel the event. That happened just a few weeks before it was to occur, and we took a lot of flack over that!
"To K4MM for vital emergency communications assistance rendered, which was invaluable in the saving of lives and suffering, following the Flooding of the Conemaugh Valley that occurred on the night of July 19, 1977." From the award given by Laurel County VHF Society and the Conemaugh Valley Amateur Radio Club; see this and another award from the ARRL attached.
Fairfax Station, VA, August-September 1979
Fairfax Station, VA, 1983
At the beginning of our invasion of Granada, the Watch Officer at the State Department called and asked if I could make contact with a student - Mark Barettella, KA2ORK - who was enrolled in the U.S. medical school in Granada and who had a ham rig. It turned out he had a Swan 500, the same as I had here. I ended up communicating with this student for 18 hours or so, passing on his reports to the State Department. He could hear the guns, and before it was over, he had lost commercial power, and small arms fire was going off all around his apartment. He ended up operating from emergency power and lying under a table for protection.
Ted Koppel called for an interview that night, but I refused to do it. Dan Rather repeatedly called to get a phone patch put through, but I refused to do that also. Then Rather complained to the State Department, but they said that Mr. Miller was correct in refusing because, as an amateur radio operator, he was prohibited from carrying commercial traffic.
Reporters from U.S.A. Today spent the day observing and published a front-page story with pictures; the Washington Post also covered it. The student was given an award by the State Department, and I got a letter of thanks.
My role in this was described by Bill Crawford in an article that appeared in the February 1984 edition of the AARP News Bulletin entitled "When Fat Hit Wire in Granada, Ham Operators were Cooking." [See the copy attached.]
January 1985 - 1988, Fairfax, VA
The station, located on a sugar plantation, seemed to be loosing signal strength year after year. A VOA engineer and I went over to investigate. It took us two weeks, but we figured out that when they burned the sugar cane to prepare for replanting each year, the fire was scorching the wires and separators.
The Germans have used a special coax for their short-wave broadcast stations for many years as it requires little or no maintenance. Because it is pressurized, nothing enters. I tried to convince the VOA to use that coax to solve their problem, but they didn't buy it at the time. However, a cross-sectional slice of it was made into a very nice mantle clock and given to me by the sales representative for the cable's manufacturer. I retired from Contel in 1988.
Remembering Bill Miller, K4-"Mickey Mouse"
Joseph William "Bill" Miller, K4MM, a widely known and respected Washington, DC, area ham, became a Silent Key on 8 July 2000. He will be sorely missed and not easily forgotten.
[These memories of Bill are extracts from his biography as kept by QCWA Chapter 91. The information was collected and compiled by Dick Rucker, KM4ML, during several personal interviews.]
Bill moved his family to Northern Virginia in 1970 when he joined Icom as a sales rep. He joined the Vienna Wireless Association, became their representative to F.A.R., and soon was elected President of F.A.R.
As an early organizer of F.A.R.Fests, Bill told this story: "My first year, we had one building and about 500 people came. At the last one I ran--nine years later--we had over 7000. One year, the Maryland legislature passed a law requiring us to collect sales taxes from all vendors and tailgaters. Hugh Turnbull, W3ABC, and I tried to get relief, but the state wouldn't budge, so I canceled the event just a few weeks before it was to occur. We took a lot of flak over that!" Bill also was a primer mover in the formation of the Vic Clark Chapter 91 of QCWA in 1975.
Bill was a very active ham; for example: --Feb 1976: citation for public service during the Guatemalan earthquake (ARRL) --Feb1976: citation for organizing the 60th anniversary reenactment of the first relay of radio messages by radio amateurs nationwide --Jun 1976: organized a memorial service at the gravesite of Hiram Percy Maxim --Jul 1977: citation for "the saving of lives" during the Johnstown, PA, flood (Laurel County VHF Society and the Conemaugh Valley ARC) --Sep 1979: citation for vital assistance during hurricanes David and Frederick (ARRL) --Jan 1980: citation for participation in the snowstorm net of 4 January (VWS and NWS)
From his home in Fairfax Station, VA, Bill played a key role in support of the U.S. Invasion of Granada in 1983: Here's how Bill told it: "I enjoyed good radio coverage of Florida and the Caribbean. With my Transworld 1-kW linear amplifier and rotary beam, I could work anyone down there.
"At the beginning the invasion, the Watch Officer at the State Department called and asked if I could make contact with a student, Mark Barettella, KA2ORK, who was enrolled in the U.S. medical school in Granada and who had a ham rig. I ended up communicating with this student for 18 hours or so, passing on his reports to the State Department. He could hear the guns, and before it was over had lost commercial power; small arms fire was going off all around his apartment. He ended up operating from emergency power while lying under a table for protection.
"Reporters from USA Today spent the day observing [my operation] and published a front-page story with pictures; the Washington Post also covered it. Mark was given an award by the State Department, and I got a letter of thanks."
Bill was first licensed as an amateur radio operator in 1933 at age 13. He used his cousin's station, W8HTS, until 1939 when he obtained his own station license, W8SWQ. After high school, Bill went to school in Pittsburgh, earned a commercial radio operator's license, and, in 1939, joined KDKA as a broadcast engineer. Through a ham he met on the air (Ray Sine, W3JIW) he found a job as a radio dispatcher for the West Virginia state police in Charleston in 1941. Between 1942 and 1944, Bill served as radio operator for the Merchant Marines.
After WW II, a long-time friend, Jack Brown, W3SHY, invited Bill to join him at Penn State. There, Bill assembled and ran a field station for ionospheric research, and was an Assistant Professor. Bill reminisced, "Milton Eisenhower was the President of Penn State at the time. After his wife died, he used to come out to the field station and we'd take walks together, so we got to know each other quite well."
Between 1944 and 1988 (when he retired), Bill served as an engineer, project manager, or sales rep for several companies. His projects ranged in location from Greenland to Turkey to the South Pacific, and his stories from these days are like a John Le Carre novel. Closer to home, the story is that Bill was instrumental in getting EEB to augment its dwindling supply of war surplus gear with a few lines of amateur radio equipment and supplies. We all know that EEB then became a very successful ham-radio venture for many years.
When he passed away, Bill still had in his shack a 1-kW linear amplifier that was the prototype for an all-transistor RF amplifier from Transworld built for the amateur market. This was built to his specifications so he could show it at the Dayton Hamvention.
"FCC's Laurel, MD, facility was responsible for ensuring it met their requirements. Two nights before I was to leave for Dayton, the FCC boys called me up to tell me that it had passed all their tests, including one that 50 watts of drive should not produce more than 1 kilowatt of output power. They were now curious what would happen if they drove it harder, and asked if they could try that. I said 'sure,' as long it was operated SSB and not continuously. They found that with 100 watts drive, the amplifier would produce 1,440 watts. That's how the FCC established the regulatory limit of 1,500 watts PEP that we amateurs live by today."