While turning the pages of the Saturday Evening Post during World War II, Harry Gartsman, W6ATC, came across an article about a mighty battle in the Pacific.
"It described the dramatic turn in the Pacific war when 'Battleship X blew four big enemy battleships out of the water. What especially caught my eye was the statement that the success was greatly due to a new type of radar. "As I was stationed at the Western Electric Company near Chicago as Assistant Inspector of Naval Materiel, and as our work was heavily involved with radar, I avidly read the article.
"At the time, everything about radar was extremely hushhush. In our office, we took most of our shipping orders on the phone in guarded language. Mail was too slow and dangerous. Also, there was a frantic effort to keep on schedule. The discipline of those days shaped my future and is responsible for any success I have subsequently enjoyed.
"I investigated and learned that indeed, the battleship had used the MK8 Firecontrol Radar we manufactured. I also learned that a great many Amateur Radio operators played important roles in its development and use. "For instance, at our company, as chief of the MK8 testing program was John Zwaska, W4WKQ, along with inspectors Rollie Long, W9NLP, Ed Dervishian, W9VSU, and Bill O'Brien, K6ZQ.
"My boss was the late Robert E. Trapeur who held a W7 call. "And in the Pacific at Pearl Harbor, there were Cmdr. Ray Meyers, W6MLZ, and Leo Shepherd, W6LS. "Of course there's the Navy Department at Washington D.C. and we had Hams there, too, such as Capt. Raymond W. Andrews, now K4FEI. He was in charge of allocation and distribution of Firecontrol Radar.
"We all felt the urgency and importance of the MK8. As Hams we could appreciate this remarkable device. Its antenna was made to sit atop the 16 inch guns. It consisted of an array of approximately 60 transparent polyglass rods the size of baseball bats, which radiated out to the tip.
"At times, we would hear about a major problem when a ship was in for battle damage. The workmen would paint the rods with metallic paint and of course that would ruin the antennas!
"Back in my office, I would get calls to rush new rods out to the airport for immediate shipments. I'd take them in my '37 Chevy convertible, hoping no one would know what precious cargo I was carrying.
"Yes, a lot of Amateur Radio operators were involved with this super-secret radar instrument which played a vital role in turning the tide of the war. "And if you're wondering, Battleship X turned out to be the USS South Dakota."
March 18, 2006