VOL 9  NO 1

Spring 1998








President’s Report                Page 2

Vice President’s Report        Page 3

Treasurer’s Report               Page 3

No Oscar for O’Brien           Page 4

Delayed Fish Dinner             Page 5

Ancient Ailment                    Page 5

Stars Over Gallops                Page 6

Hard Aground in Scotland     Page 9

In the Mail                            Page 11

From the Editor’s Desktop     Page 18

Conference Information        Page 19

Silent Keys                           Page 23


Welcome New Members                                     


M-1534     R-060

William S. Barlow

3012 Queens Way #7

East Liverpool, OH 43920

(330) 385-5170


M-1535     R-119

Robert D. Sheridan

6200 Warner Street

Allendale, MI 49401

(616) 895-4438


by JJ Ward

Now deep in its twilight, the career of Marine Radio Officers lasted barely a century, short compared to some, longer than others. In 1901 Guglielmo Marconi transmitted Morse code over the Atlantic utilizing duration modulation, simpler than either AM or FM.

Gallups Island, in its five-year life span, supplied the bulk of radio officers (a total of 7727) for the greatest merchant marine ever launched by any nation. We are a microcosm of another much larger group, the Army of the Republic in our tragic Civil War also covering an approximate five-year period. Not that soldiering is in any danger of becoming obsolete but the GAR chose not to accept as a member veterans of any other conflict.

In 1866 Dr. B.F. Stephenson founded the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) with their first encampment at at Indianapolis. General Logan, elected Commander-in-Chief in 1869, moved the GAR headquarters to Washington, DC, where it reached its nadir to the point of almost disappearing in 1875. But the GAR rebounded remarkably and in 1890 boasted 490,000 members. While proclaiming its non-political nature, the GAR became the most potent political force in the Nation’s history. It was responsible for establishing Memorial Day among many other things.

GAR members were elected overwhelmingly as governors, state and national legislators and five of the next six presidents came from the GAR. Only Grover Cleveland was not a veteran and he was promptly voted out after vetoing a pro-GAR bill. At one point a fifth of the federal budget went to veterans pensions.

National Encampments (reunions) in 1890-91-92 drew 25,000 GAR members and supporters. Commander Logan rejected requested membership from Spanish-American War veterans encouraging them to form their own organization  thus continuing a long-standing tradition. Revolutionary War veterans belonged to the Order of Cincinnati from which the southern Ohio city was named.

Cities vied for the honor of hosting each year’s GAR Encampment. Ladies made candies, baked cookies, cakes, and breads for the veterans. Bands and drill groups performed, many returning year after year. Each Encampment  issued attendance medals, increasingly ornate and elaborate. One host city melted down a cannon to strike the medals. As time took its toll, Encampment attendance shrank relentlessly.                       (continued on page 4)




President's Report


by Urban (Bud) Guntner



               I’ll use this first column to express my sincere appreciation to all GIRA members for giving me the opportunity to serve as your president for the 1998 - 1999 term.  I'd like to thank each of you individually and personally, and perhaps I'll be able to do that at our forthcoming reunions.

               Also, I'd like to thank all of our past officers and directors who have made GIRA the fine organization that it is today.  Special thanks to our immediate past president, Les Rauber, for all that he has done for GIRA --as both a member and an officer-- prior to becoming ill early in his term as president.  Les is still receiving medication and physical therapy, and we all hope and pray that he will have an early and complete recovery.

               Many thanks also to all ten of our Regional Directors.  The directors are the "guys in the trenches", and GIRA could not thrive without them.  All GIRA members are strongly urged to stay in touch with their regional directors and offer to assist them in any way they can.

               Thanks also to our vice president, Ray King.  Ray also has done a lot for GIRA as both a member and a director.  Among his accomplishments are the two national reunions in Boston (Braintree) --1990 and 1997-- which Ray organized and directed.  In addition to that, Ray's background and experience as a lawyer are a valuable asset to GIRA

               Thanks, too, to Homer Gibson, our secretary-treasurer.  Homer has upgraded our records and has established procedures for tracking and reinstating members who have inadvertently allowed their dues to expire.  We believe that these procedures will prevent that kind of situation from occurring in the future.

               And let's not forget our two newsletter editors: J.J. Ward of the Spark Gap  and Stan Jennings of the Gallups Islander.  Both of these newsletters are outstanding publications and we have received a number of compliments about their journalistic quality.  These two newsletters are extremely important because they're the only connection that many of our members have with GIRA.   Some of our members attend the reunions to stay abreast of things, and others are on the GIRA amateur radio nets where they can discuss GIRA, but most of our members rely on the Spark Gap  and the Gallups Islander  to keep up with GIRA activities.  So, many thanks to J.J. and Stan for the great job they are doing

               Finally, a big thank you to Tom Cruse who was the editor of the Spark Gap  from 1990 to 1997.  Also, it may come as news to some of our members that Tom was both the editor of the Spark Gap  and the secretary-treasurer of GIRA in 1990 and 1991.  Tom has done very much for GIRA over the years and we're very grateful to him for his services.  As has been reported, Tom had to resign as editor of the Spark Gap  because of a problem with his vision.  Then, J.J. took over as editor and he, too, has done an outstanding job.  Thanks again to Tom, J.J. and Stan for all that they've done for GIRA and the GIRA newsletters.

               In conclusion, many thanks to all the members, directors and officers who have done so much to make GIRA a great organization.



Message from the Vice President

By Ray King

I am pleased and honored to serve as the new Vice President of GIRA.  I am enthusiastic to be serving with our new president, Bud Guntner.  Judging from his handling of the Directors and Members meetings at the Boston reunion, it is apparent that he has leadership talent.  GIRA is fortunate to have him serve as president.

I urge every Member of GIRA, who can do so, to attend the National Reunion this year in Spokane, Washington (September 10-12).  My wife Jane and I definitely plan to attend.  The National Reunions have given us the impetus to travel in the USA.  We attended the Reunions in Minneapolis, Long Beach, New Orleans, Baltimore, Tulsa and San Francisco.  My wife had never been to any of those cities before, so attendance at those reunions was an interesting travel experience for her.  I had been to the coastal ports when I was at sea, but those visits were long ago so it was also interesting to me to return to them.  I never had been to Minneapolis or Tulsa before and I enjoyed visiting them more than I anticipated.  I certainly gained a new appreciation of the diverse backgrounds of our members by attending those reunions.

Keith Wallace has done a superb job of planning the tours that will be available at the Spokane Reunion, and my wife and I look forward to visiting that section of the country.

Our members owe a vote of thanks to Les Rauber, our former President, for a job well done.  Les could not attend the Boston Reunion because he was, and still is, doing battle with a medical problem of a kind that many of us may also face in the not too distant future.  If Les is as persistent in his efforts to recover as he was in getting those additional names engraved on the Gallup's Island monument in Boston, he should make progress in getting well.  We are all rooting for him.

Ken Watson, who was practically a fixture at the National Reunions, died as he was preparing to leave home for the Boston Reunion.  Ken visited me at my home a few years ago and we sat out on my deck during an early summer evening, overlooking Gallup's, drinking a beer or two and reminiscing about our Island experiences.  The next day we went out to the Island and tramped around it for several hours.  We will miss Ken at future reunions.

My wife and I enjoyed our roles as host and hostess at the Boston Reunion.  There were some SNAFUs  for which we are sorry, but on the whole, things worked out as planned.  We were gratified by the many letters of appreciation we received after the reunion.

It has been said (more than once) that GIRA is a self-liquidating organization.  So I say "on to Spokane" before it is too late to attend a GIRA reunion and meet your old classmates again.





JANUARY 1, 1997 - DECEMBER 31,1997



Cruse - Spark Gap Account             1,167.42

Donations                                       1,965.00

Dues                                            17,910.50

Interest on Checking Account             117.20

O'Brien Print Sale                              588.00

‘97 Reunion, Braintree                     1,300.19

TOTAL INCOME                         $ 23,048.31



Bank Charges                                     61.95

Gallups Islander - Jennings             3,417.41

Copying & Printing                             391.84

Postage                                            793.61

Telephone                                        205.81

Legal Fee                                           25.00

O'Brien Prints                                    222.64

Office Supplies                               1,436.84

Region-3 Expenses                           464.38

Region-9 Expenses                            74.40

Secretary/Treasurer Stipend            1,450-00

“Slop Chest” Expense                       162.72

Spark Gap - Ward                           1,574.00

Tom Cruse - Spark Gap                 11,744.91

Vice President Reimbursement          230.26

TOTAL EXPENSES                     $22,255.77


Total Income                               $23,048.31

Total Expenses                           $22,255.77

Net Income                                      $792.54


Beginning Balance, 1 Jan 97        $14,032.58

Net Income                                      $792.54

Ending Balance, 31 Dec 97          $14,825.12






by John JJ Ward

The SS Jeremiah O’Brien is a Liberty ship used for boiler room scenes in the movie Titanic. Built in Portland, Maine, in 1943 the O’Brien evaded German U-boats on seven trans-Atlantic voyages in WWII.  The media keeps reporting that the O’Brien is the last of the 2,571 Liberty ships built during World War Two, however, there’s another, the SS John W Brown, based on the east coast  in Baltimore. Both were rescued from the boneyard, restored, and are open to the public. The O’Brien also made the twenty-thousand mile round-trip voyage from San Francisco to France for the 50th anniversary of D-day, when it was in the thick of the invasion taking in troops, tanks, and weapons.

The O’Brien was chosen for the Titanic engine room scenes because it’s one of very few remaining ships  with the old “up and down” propulsion systems used by all the ships in the Titanic’s era. Modern vessels have turbines.

To make the O’Brien’s engine room look more spacious—a liberty ship is barely more than half the size as the 900-ft long Titanic—the railings and catwalks (actually people walks) were removed and replaced with replicas half the size. The engine room lights were also replaced with tiny versions. Even so, it appeared  remarkably small to me.

The O’Brien spent 15 hours maneuvering in San Francisco Bay, going forward and backwards repeatedly,  for the filming of the boiler room scenes which they had to get exactly right.

The movie showed the O’Brien’s engines pounding away and used the sounds they made. When watching the movie later the ship’s crew guffawed  because a bearing was out and you can hear it clanking, an unlikely thing for a brand new ship.

The Liberty ship was a simple British design originally burning coal like the Titanic, but those built in the U.S. had been converted for using oil.

Ironically the scene of stopping and reversing propeller(s) that the movie crew worked so hard to get correct, probably doomed the real Titanic. Reversing the propeller(s) disturbs the water making the rudder less efficient. With engines in normal forward thrust and rudder working normally, the big ship could have missed the berg which it barely scrapped.

Some believe the SS Jeremiah O’Brien deserved the movie’s twelfth Oscar.

“GAR”  …continued


Favorite bands and performing groups became hard pressed to replace members even utilizing sons and grandsons of those unable to return.

The last GAR encampment was in 1949 when only six surviving members could attend, but more than 1500 medals were issued for supporters. The last known GAR member (probably a former drummer boy) died in Minnesota in 1956. GAR records went to the Library of Congress and the encampment medals and other paraphernalia to the Smithsonian Institute.

Like the GAR we (GIRA) are marching toward oblivion albeit at a slower pace—at least we hope so. Should we consider attendance medals, which are much easier to make today?  Our next Encampment is in Spokane next September in somewhat more posh settings that the GAR enjoyed. But then everything is relative. I want to be there and to as many more as the vicissitudes of time will permit.



My parents told me not to smoke;

               I don’t.

Nor listen to a naughty joke;

               I don’t.

They told me it was wrong to wink

At handsome men, or even think

About intoxicating drink;

               I don’t.

To dance or flirt was very wrong;

               I don’t.

Wild Girls chase men and wine and song;

               I don’t.

I kiss no men, not even one;

In fact, I don’t know how it’s done.

You wouldn’t think I have much fun ---

               I don’t !


From Winter Annual, “Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang”

Pedigreed Follies of 1921-1922  -  Price $1.00

Submitted by Chet Klingensmith




Excerpted from The Ugly Duckling

 In  the summer of 1942 Germany had the Russian armies reeling, near collapse.  The U.S. and our British allies tried mightily to supply enough war materials to permit them to hang on. The only route open was around the northern tip of Norway to the Russian arctic ports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk.  Germany, of course, was throwing everything they had at our convoys, and they had a lot to hurl. Their submarines were debatably a decade ahead of ours in technology, and they had swift battle cruisers hidden in Norwegian fjords plus dive bombers and a long range type of aircraft with diesel engines called a “Condor.” In winter, encompassing almost two thirds of the year in those latitudes, Mother Nature’s elements themselves were challenge enough.

Charles “Blackie” Blockston’s ship, the SS Carlton, was torpedoed by U-88 on July 4 after the attacking force overwhelmed the convoy which was ordered to disperse. German aircraft and subs continued to pick off the fleeing ships one by one. All but three of the Carlton’s 44 crew members survived and clustered together in one lifeboat and several rafts. Over the next few days German torpedo bombers fitted with pontoons picked up as many survivors as they could leaving only 17 in the lifeboat 400 miles from the Norwegian coast. This was a mere open boat, a far cry from the huge double-hulled, covered lifeboats of today. Had it been winter life expectancy would have been a matter of hours.

Twenty days later with 16 still alive—the first assistant engineer had died—they were sighted by fishermen Otto Joseffsen and his father who towed them into the tiny fishing village of Tufjord. Otto’s mother cooked the emaciated survivors a big fish dinner, but before they could take a bite, a German torpedo boat roared in and took them into custody. Blackie, sleeping on the ground in back of the Joseffsen house, was awakened by a soldier prodding him with a sub-machine gun.

On August 16, along with a battalion of  the Wehrmacht, the Carlton survivors embarked on the transport  Wuri  bound for Denmark. Barely more than a hundred yards from their berth at Aalberg, the Wuri  struck a mine and sank. On August 27 Blackie Blockston and his shipmates arrived at the Marlag-Milag POW camp where they spent the remainder of the war. While German POW camps were no Club Meds, they proved to be far safer than the shipping routes to Russia.


In July 1997 Blackie (now gray) Blockston returned to Norway in the hopeful but doubtful quest of finding someone who remembered the incident. He enlisted the help of Edmund Martensen who was a radio operator for the Norwegian underground in WWII. They located the fishing village Tufjord and found Blackie’s benefactor, Otto Joseffsen, still fishing there. The delighted Joseffsen took Blackie out fishing and cooked him the fish dinner Otto’s mother had planned fifty-five years to the day earlier.

Blackie also found Halden Olsen, a child at the time, who the grateful survivors gave the chocolate remaining in the lifeboat rations. The three happy septuagenarians and the sexagenarian  “young un” spent happy hours in the local pub reminiscing about their about their adventures more than a half-century ago.




by John JJ Ward

Most of us suffer, by widely varying degrees, from something called Triskaidekaphobia. With what malady are we afflicted?   Triskaideka is Greek for the figure 13, and phobia, of course, is fear or Fear of the figure 13. Many hotels and other tall buildings skip the 13th floor, and few athletes would choose 13 for his uniform number. And add Friday to 13 and the fever soars into the red sector.  There are only 14 configurations for annual calendars as any perpetual calendar will demonstrate. Occurrences of Fridays the 13th are as follows:

No year is without at least one Friday the 13th and no year has more than three.   

Six of the 14 years have one Friday the 13th

Six of the 14 years have two Fridays the 13th

Two of the 14 years have three Fridays the 13th

This year (1998) has three Fridays the 13th. The first occurred in February, the second will be in March, and the third in November.  The next year to have three Fridays the 13th will be in the next millennium, in 2009. We say “Fridays the 13th” simply because nobody can pronounce “Friday the 13ths.” The best antidote for Fridays the 13th is caution and carry your trusty “rabbit’s foot.”



by Howard (Hank) Clark

In the last seven or eight years many letters and articles have appeared in both the SPARK GAP and THE ISLANDER containing memories and reminiscences of every imaginable kind.  The following tale tells of an experience that began on the island that has stayed with me all the rest of my life.  I arrived at Gallups in July 1942, aged 21, having been born and raised in the teeming environment of Manhattan Island.  Everything north of New York City was a wilderness to me, as was everything west of the Hudson River. Reaching Gallups Island was like visiting another planet.  There were many shocks in store for me on that quaint little island floating in the middle of Boston Harbor.  I made many discoveries but perhaps the one I remember most vividly was the shock of discovering the universe, yes, I really mean THE universe.  It happened like this:  You'll all remember the quaint custom of each platoon being detailed to perform what was called "fire watch".  This involved various platoon members getting up at some ungodly hour to stand a watch of two or three hours making the rounds of the fire stations on the island armed with a flashlight to insure that all was well.  Each platoon had to stand this watch on a revolving basis.  The time was probably September or thereabouts and I stepped out of our R-19 barracks and beheld a sight such as I had never seen before.  Above my head, looking up from tiny little Gallups, was the whole universe spread out in staggering array from horizon to horizon.  It was a perfect night in late Summer with no cloud in the sky.  I remember gasping and standing stock still for several minutes.  I had had a college astronomy course but city boys were not renowned as being star-gazers.  I had felt a dim attachment to astronomy but had never followed up on it.  In those few minutes everything I had learned came flooding back as I tried to take it all in.  I made the appointed rounds and got back to bed eventually but still moved deeply by what I had seen.  I had stopped at the edge of the cliff over the beach several times and tried to make sense of it all and to identify the landmarks I knew.  It was bewildering, and it stayed with me for a long time.  The following May (1943), after leaving the island, when I started shipping


out regularly, I began my "star-gazing" watch which lasted till the end of the war (and to this very day, I might add).  As you all will remember, Sparks aboard ship was in a particularly good position for such activities.  On all my Liberty ships, the flying bridge or top deck was "Sparks country" and everybody aboard knew it.  The old man never cared much for that area.  He preferred the wheelhouse or the wings of the bridge.  The flying bridge was Sparks country and became my observatory as well as my own private sun-deck.  My first trip, out of New York, was a North Atlantic back-breaker from Halifax to London (over the top of the UK, down the North Sea).  There was still heavy U-Boat activity but the baby carriers were making it the beginning of the end for Admiral Doenitz and his flock of U-boats.  The weather was foggy and overcast and rough most of the way so there was little opportunity or inclination for star-gazing as I was half scared to death in the old Hog Islander we were riding - the WWl vintage S.S. Hollywood.  At least it was Spring in England and since there were still air-raids going on in London, I went down to Stratford on Avon to make a pilgrimage to the birthplace of my literary idol, William Shakespeare.  My star gazing in Strafford was heightened by the thought that I was seeing the same stars that the Bard of Avon had seen as a young man in the 1580's and had fueled his imagination much as the universe was affecting mine 400 years later.  I stayed a week in near-perfect weather, went to the theater every day, fell in love, got to know a little about England and headed back to London. My next trip was much more interesting, From Norfolk, a southern convoy route took me through Gibraltar into the Mediterranean all the way to the Suez Canal.  Weather in those classical regions in September/October was magnificent with brilliant skies and stars and wandering planets flung all over the sky.  You'll all remember that the flying bridge of a Liberty made a perfect astronomical observatory and could even be made comfortable by bringing up pillows, chairs, blankets etc.  The S.S. John W. Garrett glided from Gibraltar to Suez past the war in North Africa, the invasion of Sicily and Italy, through the Greek islands and the ancient Aegean Sea to Port Said and the Suez Canal.  The radio operator went through all this in a dream since every night brought the incredible display


(continued on next page)

“Stars”  …continued


overhead featuring the exotic calligraphy of the universe etched in the skies above me.  The passage through the Suez Canal provided another monumental "first" in my young life.  The canal was operated at that time with

French pilots who generally spoke little or no English.  Since I was the only French-speaking person aboard , the old man nominated me to stand next to him on the bridge and pass on the pilot's commands!  All this at age 22!  I did the job and was overwhelmed as I did it by the sights around me - the sands stretching away to Mount Sinai and all the Bible lands and to the very beginnings of civilization.  To starboard we drifted past all the wonders of ancient Egypt and the river Nile.  We passed through safely to Port Tewfik where the Captain and I went ashore for a convoy conference.  I made the stupid mistake of eating ice cream while ashore and that night, sailing down the Red Sea, sleeping on the flying bridge surrounded by my friendly stars I passed out from an acute attack of amoebic dysentery and was delirious for two days till we reached Aden.  I was put ashore there, delivered to the RAF Hospital where I stayed for three months until I recovered.  I had to live in Aden for three weeks or so until a passing Liberty ship picked me up to deliver me back to New York.  It was a bizarre trip in filthy December/January weather crossing the Atlantic in an empty ship (you'll all remember the pleasure of that!).  Parenthetically I should add that the ship that picked me up was the S.S. Charles Henderson which brought me back to New York and then went on to Bari, Italy where she was blown up by German bombs a few months later in the incredible raid that the Luftwaffe made on the Bari docks in early 1944.  I was strictly a passenger aboard and didn't have to work as Sparks but I made a lot friends - and they were all killed including Sparks in the bombing a few months later.  I thought of all those guys when we were all made "official veterans" a few years ago.  Nobody even told them "thank you".  My next trip was the be-all and the end-all.  I left New York in July 1944 on the S.S. Charles McAllister in convoy to Loch Ewe, Scotland where we formed the next convoy for Murmansk in the Soviet Union.  This convoy had been specially prepared to be the bait that would lure the German battleship "Von Tirpitz' out of the Norwegian


fjord where she had been hiding for almost a year.  This was the most advanced warship in the world at the time and could do an awful lot of damage especially to supply ships and warships backing up the Normandy invasion.  We were accompanied (out of sight over the horizon) by a naval task force consisting of a baby carrier, a heavy

cruiser, several light cruisers and 12 destroyers in addition to our regular convoy protection of D-E's and destroyers.  We had a few air attacks and several U-boat contacts but they were easily turned away and the Tirpitz never ventured out so we arrived north of the Arctic Circle in good shape.  It was October and turning colder by the minute.  We were met by the old British battleship HMS RODNEY which had been given to the Russians and escorted into Murmansk.  Suffice it to say that Murmansk was not much of a liberty port since there was only one dreary USO type place offered by the Russians for entertainment.  After several weeks we finished up and were glad to go.  The weather had turned nasty and wintry and the seas were high and about as rough as they can get.  We didn't have to worry about U-boats or air raids but it became a matter of survival in the constantly rough seas.  As we rounded the North Cape though, on the second night out I was treated to one of the greatest sights of my life.  It was a clear night and gradually the sky filled with long streamers of green, blue and various incredible shades of color and we were seeing a full scale Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights . I learned later that this particular period was one of the most spectacular displays in history . It went on most of the night and I have remembered it ever since.  I saw the Aurora a few other times while at sea but never with such startling clarity and I never saw it take over the whole sky the way it did up around the North Cape.  It was a long way from Gallups Island but I remembered that lonely star-filled night when I first beheld the universe and looked back deep into Time and the beginnings of the cosmos.  From Gallups to the North Cape was a long way indeed. The passage to Scotland (Gourock) was rough all the way.  We had an unusual happening along the way.  One of our engine-room crew was taken down with a bad case of appendicitis so we signaled the British escort for a doctor.  A light cruiser came alongside (as close as they could get in a rough sea) and rigged up a breeches buoy


(continued on next page)

“Stars”  …continued


and delivered the poor guy that way.  He was green when he finally boarded us.  A young British doctor on his first trip . He operated on the mess-room table but, sadly, because of the heavy rolling and pitching couldn't do an effective job and the poor guy died.  I sat up with the doctor all night in the officers mess and tried to console him.  He was really shook and blamed himself for the oiler's death.  I hope he recovered eventually but it was a helluva way to begin a medical career. Next trip was a quickie from New York to Antwerp in January/ February 1945 on the S.S. Frederic Remington -just in time, lucky me, for "buzz” bombs and V-2 rockets while we were at the docks in Antwerp.  It was never made clear to the world that Antwerp received most of the V-1 and V-2 bombs that the Germans fired - not London though they received quite a few.  We got it all day and all night as they tried to knock out the only functioning port on the continent to supply our armies moving into Germany.  I was glad to get out of there and there was hardly a clear night for any star-gazing since the nights were filled with the ominous sounds of the "buzz" bombs and the deathly silence that preceded the explosion and the incredible detonation of the V-2 rockets.  Whew !  Last trip was the longest from May '45 to January '46 aboard the S.S. Grover C. Hutcherson commanded by Captain Charles Richter, a real Captain Queeg and one of the strangest human beings I ever met.  The long way round - to Athens, Naples, Marseilles , through the Panama Canal and then the long haul across the Pacific to Japan and the Phillipines.  The war was finished so at least it was a peaceful, if boring, trip but the astronomy was magnificent.  The Pacific was made for stargazing and I made a deal with the chief mate to stand his watch with him from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. (And he even let me handle the wheel anytime I felt like it).  I won't try to describe the last act of my wartime astronomy course - it was simply spectacular with all those tropical, perfect Pacific nights and an empty ocean all around . Pure poetry.  We ran into the famous October typhoon as we neared Japan and managed to survive even though several ships had foundered . After the typhoon the skies were swept clean and I've never seen them clearer.  I must have seen galaxies never before seen for several nights between the Philippines and Japan.


And so the saga ended that had begun on that starry night on the cliff at Gallups Island.  The trip home took us farther north-and we had some stormy and rough

weather, nothing like the peaceful tropical idyll of our westward voyage across the mighty Pacific - even the heavens seemed colder and farther away.  Starting in 1946  I never took the night skies or the universe for granted again.  It added a new dimension to my life.

My job in the publishing business kept me traveling for many more years all over the world, still star-gazing with the same delight I had found that night at Gallups.




An early PANAGRA Passenger Plane


This single engine Fairchild once served the Lima, Peru based Panagra (Pan American-Grace Airways) routes on the west coast of South America.  In the late 1940s and early fifties a number of Gallups Islanders  (including Sec-Treasurer Homer Gibson) flew as Flight Radio Officers for Panagra then operating from the Panama Canal Zone to Argentina. The routes were later extended to Miami and finally to Washington.

A TWA captain that I later flew with piloted these aircraft for Panagra in the airline’s infancy. He once had to make a dead stick landing on a northern Peruvian beach and walk 19 miles for help.

As the South American countries established their own national airlines and increasingly added restrictions, the once healthy airline began to falter and was sold to Braniff International which subsequently also went belly up. The halcyon days were over.

This restored Fairchild is on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.



by Carl G. Davis R-8

     My story begins with the unique use of the crystal set when I was on the liberty ship SS John Marshall. On January 5, 1943, we were in the Irish Sea en route from Liverpool to Glasgow for convoy form-up. It was a dark and stormy night as we sailed along at top speed (13 knots) when a tremendous crash threw me out of my bunk.  We were hard aground on the rocky coast of Scotland, near Portpatrick. I transmitted the emergency call (XXX) and by morning a tug came alongside as a dozen or so people on shore looked down at us curiously. We were about 200 feet from the high cliffs. They had rigged a lifeline and were preparing to haul us off by breeches buoy, a scheme which, fortunately, was abandoned. The tug was unable to budge us from the rocks. Two days later with an extra high tide, an additional tug, they were able to pull us free.

     We proceeded to Glasgow to unload our cargo of Sherman tanks then were banished for three weeks to a deserted section of Gareloch, an empty, cold, forbidding place miles from nowhere—nowhere being Helensburg, Scotland. Two reasons for this location were: First, we might sink and this was a good place to do it. Second, the forward hatch with its load of 105 mm gas shells was flooded. The shells had yellow bands, whatever that meant, and apparently were on hand in case the Germans decided to resort to gas warfare. Apparently crew members were considered expendable should the gas shells leak.

     The shipboard TRF set couldn’t receive the BBC , so we were without news or music, except for a couple of German long wave stations which weren’t much help. After a week or so of this I took the train to Glasgow and while walking around I ran into Julian (Mike) Mikel, a close friend in R-8. He was good at math and helped me to survive Ohms Law and AC circuits. Over a cup of tea he drew me a diagram of how to connect the xtal set to the audio of the receiver so to receive  the BBC on the standard broadcast band. It worked well, bringing in several stations with news and music. Unfortunately I couldn’t share this with anybody but the cadets and gunnery officer who frequented the radio shack. But I was able to produce a daily news bulletin. We spent a pleasant three weeks in Meadowside dry dock in Glasgow. At a nearby dairy I got fresh milk for the first time in 3 months. Milk was severely rationed, but a nice, rosy faced Scotch lass sold me a quart a day because I was an American.  Also fish and chips were available just around the corner. The chips were wrapped in newspaper and the fish was tasty flounder. I think it cost a shilling or maybe a half-crown.

Xtal Sets, A Remarkable Simplicity.

     As I remember the Mackay xtal circuit was simply a tapped coil, tuning capacitor, galena xtal and cat whisker, but when connected to the ship’s main antenna, was remarkably sensitive. I recall studying xtal detectors at Gallups Island (Square law detectors according to Chief Hilliard). I’ve always been interested in xtal sets, and many of us started out building one with the traditional oatmeal box. Twenty or so years ago I taught science at a local junior college which got me interested again so I sent off for literature from MRL, a one-man company specializing in this subject. The owner, Elmer Osterhoudt, was an old time shipboard sparks circa 1915.

     I built several of his circuits using tapped solenoids, but received only local stations even with a 70-ft long, 30-ft high antenna. I was unable to receive Chicago, very disappointing. I tried a one-coil basketweave, but it too lacked sensitivity. Finally I found a circuit in a magazine using two spider web coils wound on cardboard forms. I modified it by winding #18 DCC wire on a nine-stick form (similar to spokes on a wheel) and viola, an air-wound spider web coil! I used tinker toy spokes but had to drill a core since the number must be odd: 9, 11, etc. They were similar to the honeycomb coils—crossing the wires reduce capacity and losses. In a solenoid, the wires are side by side with a high inter-wire capacity. I made one each for the antenna and detector circuits and both were tuned with a three gang capacitor with the sections hooked in parallel. These came from old BC-343 long wave receivers. Their large

capacitance (1000 pfd) covered the whole BC band without tapping the coil. This set picked up Canada,

Chicago stations (120 miles north), Cuba, Bel Aire, Dallas, Nashville, and Atlanta at night. If this arcane science interests you, the circuit was printed in a booklet just published by Xtal Set Society and is advertised in several electronic magazines: Xtal Set Projects.

Long Waves

     Mike also told me about listening to “whistlers” on 15 khz at the bottom of the dial, but I never heard them until much later on a surplus Navy receiver. Really strange phenomena. Also in January or February of 1943, I heard the two or three day memorial services broadcast by German radio (low band) after the Stalingrad surrender. Nothing but Wagner and funeral dirges throughout. Later I read that the entire nation went into mourning for a week after the loss of their 6th Army totaling some 300,000 men.

Shipboard DX on the BC Band

     The longest DX I ever got on the BC band was aboard the old flush deck tanker, Malabar. We were shuttling between Trinidad and South American ports in 1943-44. The SW set radiated and was sealed up so I had only the RCA marine band radio which would tune up to about 700 khz. I switched the rcvr over to the xmtr antenna—the big one—for more RF. This antenna was higher than most, and I think it used two parallel wires. I picked up WLW, Cincinnati, every morning at daybreak for a half hour all the way to Rio de Janeiro. Got news and scores and produced a bulletin from it.. At that time WLW ran 100 KW.

     Also off Brazil one night the navy sparks (an RM2C) picked up a faint automatic distress call from a downed plane which we reported to the convoy commander. We were the only ship, including the navy DE escorts, that heard it. At Recife, a Navy officer came aboard to investigate how we heard it but nobody else had. I don’t know if the RM2C got a commendation. They seemed only interested in why we heard the signal and no other ship did. I showed him the special antenna setup without mentioning that I converted it to receive WLW thinking there was no use overloading him with information. He seemed critical of an arrangement that wasn’t standard until I showed him how quickly I could go from receive to transmit when the situation demanded.

     In the tropics after the sun comes up, the QRN is overwhelming, so only the strongest signals can be copied. I couldn’t receive NSS at all, not even at night, but GBR came in on 16 khz just before sunrise with their time signals.

     I really enjoyed the six months down there basking in the beautiful weather while visiting Port of Spain, Racife, Belem, Rio, and others instead of tossing around in the gray North Atlantic dodging U-boats.  In Racife, I bought a chess set from a friendly German merchant. Our pleasant chat made me wonder about the strangeness and silliness of war.

     In 1951-52 I returned to sea to sail on the Jacob Chandler Harper which had been taken out of  mothballs. We had a Scott low-radiation rcvr, a nice set but somewhat dead so I took out the electrostatic (Faraday) shields in the RF section. This jumped up the signal strength from two to three times. I was interested in seeing how far I could get on the BC band en route from Newport News to Tunis. The best station was WWL, New Orleans, which came in until about the Azores where the Europeans blocked it out. The skipper liked to listen to Lowell Thomas news on WWL so this helped cement relations with him.

     Returning from Dublin we listened to the BBC broadcast the funeral of King George VI which was well done. This was the same atrocious winter that Captain Carlson became famous for sticking with his floundering ship. The severe winter weather gave me trouble with my receiver antenna grounding against the smoke stack due to winds just below hurricane force. Finally we were laid off ending my sea-going career albeit a grand finale.



Figure 1: Schematic





Figure 2: Coil form, 9 dowel rods, ¼” diameter, 6” long






Figure 3: Adjustable coil coupling







This Crystal Set designed by Carl G. Davis (R-88)  W9CA





Hi JJ & Carol:

   San Jose puts on a great Veterans Day parade and celebration.  But this year, they added a dedication for a memorial in honor of all veterans.  The memorial is located in downtown San Jose, among all the new high rise hotels and other new construction.  I was invited to attend one of the last meetings of the Veterans Memorial Committee as I wondered why the Merchant Marine veterans were not represented.  At the meeting, I was informed that media notice had been made at least five years ago and there had not been a single response from any Merchant Mariner.  I, for one, had never read about it, so it must have been stuck in the back pages somewhere in the SJ Mercury News.  I am certain that other veterans organizations had been contacted directly to form the committee.  No one stood up and mentioned the MM.  Be that as it may, the memorial is in fact a great looking park and memorial which will be enjoyed by all who visit.  It sits on a one acre plot and is ideal for meditation with 76 white flags flying and an 80 foot flagpole flying a huge American flag as the centerpiece.  I asked if our MM emblem could be included along with the five other service shields that ring the flagpole.  The chairman said they would consider it and vote on it after I had departed.  Which they did.  Unfortunately we were too late for our emblem to be made and installed for the opening scheduled for Nov 11.  So, most of the committee voted no.  But, they invited the MM Veterans to select one of their members to participate in the unveiling/dedication on Veterans Day.  AMKV National VP appointed yours truly to be the chosen individual.  November 11th was a dark, blustery day, threatening rain.  But, the rain god was on our side.  The dedication went off on time without a hitch.  I pulled the string for all those mariners who have crossed the bar, MIA'S, KIA'S.  Even Maj.  Gen.  Kent Hillhouse, USA out of the Pentagon, gave credit to the MM veterans, including those who served recently in the Desert Storm operation.  After the dedication, we assembled at our appointed location and with the help of several AMMV members, decorated our tractor/trailer combination for the ensuing parade.  A pleasant surprise was the appearance of the Calif.  Maritime Academy Color Guard and Drill Team from Vallejo, who led our group with flags flying and did their smart routine before Lt. Gen  Carlton W. Fulford  Jr.

USMC, parade Grand Marshal.  Also included in our group providing unusual transportation was A. L. Leegard with his beautifully restored Rolls Royce sedan.  Leegard had been a purser during the war and is now a retired factory owner.  He just wanted to get in the parade so that the spectators would become familiar with the American Merchant Marine.  Yours truly was fortunate to ride in this vehicle along with Al Gregory, a retired captain and volunteer on the Jeremiah O'Brien while she was in France recently. Thus ended a most interesting and fullfilling morning and afternoon.  So far as San Jose was concerned, this was a first in the 78 years that Merchant Mariners have been recognized and participated in the yearly tradition of the Day of Rememberance.  My next step is to get the application for membership in the Unified Veterans Council of San Jose/Santa Clara County so that we can participate with the other member organizations whenever veterans are involved.  I suggest that our Directors contact their members and get involved in veteran affairs in their various cities that support such councils.  Perhaps Bud Guntner might make this assignment to the Directors? Good luck on your editorialship!


Al Hadad

Member, AMMV and GIRA




by Archie and Rosemary Willis

On Sunday, August 17, my wife and I boarded the LANE VICTORY in San Pedro, California for a day long cruise circumnavigating  Catalina Island.  Now the ship is berthed between the Catalina Terminal and the World Cruise Center, where most of the large cruise ships dock right under the Vincent Thomas Bridge. It is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and welcomes visitors daily except on the six Saturdays and Sundays in the summertime when they take a large number of people on day-long cruises.  If you attended the GIRA reunion in Long Beach (1990, I believe), you may have visited the LANE VICTORY which was somewhat of a mess in those days and in need of scrubbing and painting as well of a decent berth.  When the LANE VICTORY was readied for the Normandy Reunion in France it was worked over thoroughly, and although the ship did not complete the




trip, it was given the good location in San Pedro when it returned.  The day we spent aboard was lots of fun as I wandered all over exploring. The amateur radio station (W6LV) was located first in the Captain’s Cabin but later in the day was moved to the hold with the museum and gift shop.  For lovers of ships and the sea, it is an outstanding chance to see how the great ships worked.  I recommend a visit for anyone.  The LANE VICTORY’S 1998 cruise schedule includes:

July 11 & 12;  August 15 & 16; a nd September 12 & 13.

For further information and reservations call

(310) 519-9545.


73’s from Archie Willis, (R112) W6LPJ and Rosemary, KF6EKP



Dear Bud Guntner:


Thanks very much for your gracious letter of December 17, and for enclosing copies of The Gallups Islander and The Spark Gap, both substantial and interesting publications, and quite impressive.  In response to your query about my books, the new one (The U.S. Merchant Marine at War) is pretty well summarized in the copy from Naval Institute Press's "Spring" catalog, which will be out in a couple of weeks.  Briefly, the book sets the MM in WW II solidly in the context of gallantry, patriotism, and heroic conduct from the very birth of the Republic.

I noticed with interest the attention your newsletters paid to the perennial dismissal of Merchant Mariners as veterans.  In the Islander  I was fascinated to read the Insight  piece on Stanley Willner.  Of course I knew about Willner, but not in the detail supplied here.  And in Spark Gap, John Ward's response to John Imhoff's letter was news to me too.  I never realized that Michener's memoir contained such perfidious drivel.  Never having been one of his fans, I ignored the book.  Now I will seek opportunities to expose this evidence of scandalously inadequate reporting and interpreting.  My book treats the matter of pay differential by quoting a long excerpt from Charles Dana Gibson's outstanding research on it, as well as some interpretative comments of my own.  I am really grateful for your interest.  I am sending a copy of this to Messrs.  Jennings and Ward, and will see that you and




they get further information of The U.S. Merchant Marine at War  1775 - 1945   from the publisher as soon as it is  available.  I must say I am pleased that Naval Institute Press is publishing it, and that they are quite enthusiastic about it.  The acquisitions editor who acquired it for them called it  "by far the finest work we have published on that service (USMM)”.  They really seem to want to help roll back the tide of misrepresentation that has washed over us for all these years.  If I can advance that process, I will go to my grave with a grateful tear in my eye and a fierce pride in my breast.


Thanks again for your interest and friendly and immediate cooperation.  Warmest good wishes.






Alaska  …continued from page 15


Alaska has the most intriguing of all the 50 state flags, the big dipper and the north star on a field of blue. At those latitudes, the real dipper and north star appear to be almost directly overhead and remarkably bright. Regrettably no aurora borealis appeared during the week.

   A distressing number of clear cut patches of forests appeared along the Canadian coast, but most areas had been replanted. One little Canadian lumber hamlet  boasts the world’s tallest totem pole, clearly visible from the ship’s deck passing in the channel. By dawn of the seventh day we were alongside a Vancouver dock.

   Vancouver, Canada’s third largest city with the highest per capita income, is an excellent choice for pre and post cruise visits. Although it had endured a garbage collectors’ strike for several weeks, the city was remarkably neat and tidy. Vancouver has the second largest Chinatown in North America resulting from workers brought over to build the trans-Canada railroad who became stranded when the builder reneged on its agreement to send them home. Incorporated in 1886, Vancouver is named for Captain George Vancouver who explored the coast a half century earlier looking for a “northwest passage.” The city’s 1986 Expo was the most successful ever.




Jack Kesler, R19 platoon leader at Gallups Island, had previously seen Army service in Panama and other venues.  Considerably more mature and experienced than most of us, he was always ready with words of wisdom and encouragement.  Jack and Catherine (Kit) met in her home town, New Orleans.  After his wartime seagoing career they returned to Jack’s home turf in LaGrange, Georgia, where they operated a flourishing business.  The Keslers had two children. Tragically, their son was lost in Vietnam. Their daughter is a

successful banker in Florida.




Bob Mitchell (R-34) and Bennie Bartolini (R-57)


In 1942 Bob Mitchell of Kennebunk, Maine and Bennie Bartolini of Framingham, Massachusetts enrolled in the Massachusetts Radio and Telegraph School in Boston.  During the course they became fast friends, and later sailed many trips together, including Murmansk.

Last December they met again in Del Ray Beach, Florida and had a grand reunion.  Ben’s girlfriend of the war years, Eleanor, now his wife of many years, and Bob’s second wife, Virginia, had a grand old time reminiscing and getting reacquainted face-to-face.


A thousand words,  it is claimed, is what a picture is worth. But most pictures need, perhaps not a 1000 but a few words of explanation. This one is from the GIRA convention in Braintree, MA, last August. On the left are Diana and Howard “Hank” Clark.  Hank wrote the intriguing article Stars Over Gallups  in this issueHis pretty wife, Diana, is from England.

On the right are J.R. “Scotty” Ferguson and best friend Evelyn Ventola.  Scotty, from Scotland, graduated with R19.  His ship was one of a number that were sunk to form a breakwater at Normandy. The ships’ crews returned to the U.S. on the Queen Mary.  One of the first directives made upon sailing was the ship, now chartered to the U.S. Army, by regulation had to close is bars.  The lady in the center with the raven hair is Carol Zimmerman. Like Hillary, she kept her maiden name. Carol was born in the hospital at Fort Sam Houston. Her mother was Norwegian with hair so blond it was almost translucent. At that time you had to await the birth before the child’s sex was known, and they expected a blond boy. Obviously a bad guess. Carol’s mother said there was an Apache Indian woman in the hospital who also gave birth that night, and they must have gotten those babies mixed up. Carol retired in 1997 after 23 years with the Arizona Air Guard as a Major. She’s now a Software Quality Engineer with Honeywell working on the Space Station scheduled (maybe) for launch this year. More importantly, she copy edits the Spark Gap.  The other guy is a nonentity who writes, among other things, travel articles.  A magazine editor called recently to ask, “who is the pretty model you always use?”  A n Apache who works cheaply, of course.



by John JJ Ward


     If you suspect that all oceans look alike, try an Alaskan cruise via the Inside Passage where interesting sights abound. Billed as the Love Boat our cruise ship was certainly that, if in a different connotation.  While there were a number of  honeymooners aboard, far more were  middle age couples treating their parents to a 50th anniversary trip. One couple was celebrating their 71st anniversary. Many of the varied, cosmopolitan travelers fit the trip in more ambitious, wider ranging travel plans.  Unlike so many cruises to the Caribbean, Central and South America, and other destinations, where ubiquitous vendors and promoters can be as pesky as paparazzi, visits to northern seaports are orderly and well organized.  From late spring to mid-September most of the major steamship lines feature cruises via the Inland Passage to various Alaska ports. Many have their own modern buses, posh railway cars, and Inns at interesting destinations including Mt. McKinley. All the ships are modern, the service magnificent. Holland-American Lines was a favorite among many seasoned travelers.

     With natural breakwaters of island chains, Inland Passage seas are usually tranquil providing pleasant viewing from the decks of timbered islands on one or both sides and behind them to the distant east, snow-capped Rocky Mountain peaks punching holes in the clouds.

     The approach to Juneau, the state’s capital city,  presents fabulous vistas of steep mountains with timbered slopes from the several thousand feet high peaks down to the water’s edge.  Alaska’s capital city is named for Joe Juneau who discovered gold in a  stream near the old town’s center. From among many interesting choices, we opted for a helicopter that whisked us out to the Mendenhall Glacier, still growing while all the others recede.  Among other equipment passengers are provided with special boots for sure footing on the ice.  Juneau also boasts one of the highest cable cars in the world for magnificent views of the mountains, the sea, and offshore islands. Old timers complain that in every legislative session a few lawmakers introduce a bill to move the capitol to Anchorage. So far it has been defeated in several elections. Juneau has a modern airport with the latest instrument landing system, but no highway out. To reach Anchorage and other points north motorists must take the ferry to Haines then drive on a circuitous route briefly in Canada.

     Juneau to Skagway is a leisurely overnight sail. In 1898 at the height of the Klondike gold rush, Skagway was Alaska’s biggest city with more than 20,000 inhabitants. Two years later when the Klondike gold was gone, the population dropped to 700 where it has remained ever since. Names of all the ships that have called at port are painted on vertical rocks by the docks. Once required by law,  the tradition continues.

     At Skagway, with its modern highway into the Yukon Territory, a number of passengers left for bus and rail tours into the interior of Alaska to join another ship later and press on by air.  Audrey, our tiny driver expertly negotiated her huge bus up the new, winding highway across the White Pass into the almost empty Yukon—the huge territory has only 27,000 inhabitants—to Frontier Land near White Horse. Trees, mostly black spruce and lodge pole pines, grow all the way to the summit, but diminish in size from sixty feet at sea level to inches on the heights. The return leg from White Pass was on the narrow gauge WP &YR railroad from which short stretches of the stampeders trail are visible. Bus drivers and the ship’s TV featured poems of Robert W. Service who lived in the Yukon for 8 of his 84 years. Audrey recited The Cremation of Sam McGee.   In Skagway, some passengers left and others joined the ship, traveling via modern cruise line buses and railroad cars to the Yukon, Fairbanks, Mt. McKlinley and Anchorage. Many of the cruise lines have a fleet of modern buses, railroad cars, and posh Inns for add-ons.

     Park Service naturalists came aboard in Glacier Bay where dolphins cavorted and humpback whales appeared on both sides of the ship breaching, rolling, blowing and diving as if in a choreographed  performance.  The naturalists explained that the Bay only 200 years ago was completely covered by glaciers that completely denuded the surrounding mountains. The bay now contains 12 glaciers, some calving—huge chunks breaking off and falling into the sea  to form icebergs. Sitka, the capital city under the Russians and for a time after the U.S. purchased Alaska, was next. Located on an island, Sitka has a natural harbor but  no docks large enough to accommodate seagoing ships that must anchor and lighter-in passengers and freight. Sitka has a branch of the University of Alaska  and a liberal arts college with a verdant campus where  James Mitchner reportedly did research  his book ALASKA. The marina is jampacked with every type of boat. The Big ships must arrive and depart Sitka at high tide.








Does anybody remember this occasion?  Apparently it was an R19—perhaps with others—gathering.  We’re wearing dress uniforms which means it was probably December 1942 or January 1943. Has to be January 1943 or later since we didn’t have the dress blues during Christmas leave in 1942.  Jack Kesler is the guy in center looking back and Jimmy Goodwin is facing to his right.  Looking straight through to the next table I see Freddie Miles, Mike Burns, Mo Connolly who were my closest bunk mates, but I don’t see me!  Among all the familiar faces I can’t see me!  Good picture, though. Maybe I was taking it.












This picture is even more interesting. Lt. Grant is on the left, next is yours truly at age 21 with two French sailors and Jimmy Goodwin on the right.  In 1942 the Germans attacked the French naval base in Toulon (North Africa) trying to take out the remnants of the French Navy.  The capital ship was the dreadnought Richelieu and it accompanied by the heavy cruiser Jean Bart had made their way to Boston for repairs.  We had been asked to help entertain the crew.  Inasmuch as I spoke French reasonably well, I was chosen along with Jimmy Goodwin who also knew a bit of the language.  It got us a free (extra) night out with dinner, but then we wonder what those poor French sailors got out of it.  Incidentally, they spoke awful French, but then most Frenchmen do.  Can anybody add more information to these photos?



by JJ Ward

***Thanks to remarkable detective work by Sec-Treasurer Homer Gibson, President Bud Guntner, and VP Raymond King, GIRA managed to find and borrow one of the few remaining copies of The United States Merchant Marine at WarThe 82-page booklet is a 1946 report from Admiral Land to President Truman covering the War Shipping Administration’s history from its creation in February 7, 1942 to December 31, 1945. The numerous pictures reproduced like originals. The story is well-told, delineating the enormity of the task and its successful conclusion. On page 62 it mentions Gallups Island where 7,727 radio officers were trained. I devoured it from cover-to-cover and think every mariner should have a copy plus one for family members and friends. It’s modest price of five dollars covers only printing and mailing costs..


***FUBAR is the acronym of the month. Coined by J. William Schoff, UCLA paleo-biologist, it stands for fouled (mariners would likely use a more earthy synonym) up beyond all recognition..


***Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17) U.S. celebration is remarkably different from that in Ireland where it is a religious holiday with church attendance, then lunch (probably not corned beef and cabbage) with family and friends, then perhaps watching a parade. While many commonly wear a Shamrock (a type of clover) boutonniere, dressing in green may not be widespread and pinching someone without a symbol of green might get you arrested or more likely slugged. A government spokesman said he knows of no custom of drinking beer dyed green. St. Patrick, apostle and patron saint, introduced Christianity into Ireland in 432 AD reportedly explaining the Holy Trinity by the three leaves of the Shamrock.


***A Mr. Thomas claiming to be a Merchant Marine veteran (possibly the MM was chosen because he thought the records would be more difficult to check) was buried  recently in Arlington National Cemetery, but later ordered to be dug up and moved when his service claim proved bogus. Subsequently a female columnist, who stands by her story, revealed that Thomas received his ambassadorship as a reward for his wife’s tete-a-tete with President Clinton.

***In another classic case of deception, a publisher of our state’s major newspaper, The Arizona Republic, claimed to be ex-colonel and fighter pilot ace. His pose was not only among intimates but also made in public claims. An Arizona politician, whom the paper had been leaning on, investigated and revealed the flamboyant editor had never been in service nor near a fighter plane. The man, who ironically was one of the paper’s better editors, left in disgrace for a job with an obscure Montana newspaper.  What price vanity!


***Keith Wallace, who has been very busy putting together our next GIRA convention in Spokane, Washington, September 10-13, is off to Australia for a month’s visit to friends made during his sabbatical there as a Washington State University professor. Wallace emphasizes that when calling the hotel for reservations, the manager requests that you identify yourself as not GIRA, which the employees might not recognize, but use the full title of Gallups Island Radio Association.. Also note that there are separate forms for post convention tours and those going on during the September 10-13 period inasmuch as they go to different providers.


***Son of a gun always seemed to me a western (US) expression.  Not so says the author of Men, Ships, and the Sea, but it originated for a custom in the Royal Navy. RN warships arriving in British ports were reluctant to give ordinary sailors shore leave because many, being impressed, were unlikely to return. So the RN permitted them rum and one woman each, no questions asked. With warships notoriously cramped quarters, the sailors made-do by stringing their hammocks beneath the ship’s guns. The offspring of these unions were dubbed “sons of guns” literally meaning bastards.


***Time and Tide wait for no one as we all know; however, a quiz asking for a word with three y’s would, I suspected, require some waiting. But I happened upon it the same day. It’s Syzygy, a tide occurring twice a month, as the sun and moon become in conjunction, ie., lined up on the same side of the Earth at the new Moon, and also when they are in opposition or on opposite sides of planet Earth at full Moon. In both instances the gravitational effects of the Moon and Sun reinforce each other resulting in an increased tidal range.


at Doubletree Hotel, Spokane City Center

322 North Spokane Falls Court, Spokane, WA 99102-0165




               Member's Name: _____________________________________________________

               Address: ___________________________________________________________

               City: _________________________ State: _________________Zip ____________

               Home Phone (include area code): ________________ G.I. Platoon ______________

               Amateur Call Sign, if any: _________________  Arrival Date: ___________________

               Guest:    ________________________________ Relationship: ___________________


1998 REGISTRATION FEE (non-refundable) $10.00x ________ persons $ _________


Optional Reunion Tours:


Thursday, Sept. 10, 1998

1.  Grand Coulee Dam & Laser Light Show

including Western Meal  (4:15 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.)         $40.00x ________ persons $ _________


Friday, Sept. 11, 1998

1.  Silver Mountain Gondola Ride with

mountain top lunch and tour of

Cataldo Mission (9:15 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.)                        $47.00x ________ persons $ _________


2.  Dinner cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene

(5:15 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.)                                                   $49.00x ________ persons $ _________


Saturday, Sept. 12, 1998

1.  Breakfast at refurbished Historic

Spokane Looff Carrousel built in 1909,

including carrousel rides  (8:30 a.m - 10:30 a.m.)        $20.00x ________ persons $ _________


2.  Historic Spokane's "Age of Elegance" tour

(1:15 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.)                                                   $16.00x ________ persons $ _________


3.  Reunion Social Hour and Dinner

Price includes tax & gratuities                                       $35.00x ________ persons $ _________


4.  Reunion Dance                                                         No charge   Open to all


                                                                                                                    TOTAL    $__________



Dinner Selections (insert number):         Baked Salmon __________  Filet Mignon _________


Please make check payable to GIRA REUNION and mail this form with the check to: GIRA REUNION, % Keith E. Wallace, 1223 South Blake Road, Spokane, WA 99216-0429.


Cancellation Policy: Cancellations must be in writing and received by August 1, 1998.  No refunds after August 1, 1998 unless there are exceptional circumstances.


Make hotel reservations directly by calling the hotel at (509) 455-9600.  Identify yourself as GIRA.  Call by August 1, 1998.  $76.00/day single or double occupancy.  On arrival Spokane airport, use courtesy phone to call Doubletree Hotel for free shuttle.




Wednesday, September 9, 1998 - Jet Boat up the Snake River

Two hours south is America’s deepest gorge, Hell's Canyon, where you’ll ride a jet boat 70 miles upriver through narrow canyon walls to Copper Creek Lodge, a wilderness camp on the Snake River.  This is an unforgettable trip through the beautiful and rugged country of the Northwest.  A camera is a must!  This ride takes you past historical sites and tells of the history of the Canyon.  Stop for a chicken barbecue at Copper Creek overlooking the Snake River.  Boats and captains are U.S. Coast Guard approved have more than a 20 year perfect safety record for professional whitewater jet boats tours for people of all ages.

Time:    7:00am - 6:00pm

Includes:    Transportation, guide, jet boat ride and lunch at Copper Creek.

Cost: $120.00 per person.


September 13 - 17, 1998 - The Canadian Rockies

Sunday, September 13  8:00am Depart and travel North to the border.  Our destination tonight is Fairmont Hot Springs.  Before we reach our destination, we will make some stops along the way including the Cranbook Railway Museum for a narrated tour of part of Canada's railway history.  Dinner tonight is on your own at the resort.


Monday, September 14  Traveling through Radium Hot Springs and through several National Parks you may see some wildlife, so be sure to have your camera ready.  We arrive in Banff at the Dynasty Inn Banff in time for you to go shopping or do some exploring on your own.  There's lots to do in Banff - Take the Sulfur Mountain Gondola ride; and maybe even see the Cave and Basin Centennial Centre.


Tuesday, September 15  Leaving Banff this morning, we drive to the Columbia Icefields.  Here we board one of the gigantic snow coaches for a close up view of a million year old glacier.  Traveling further through the mountains we arrive in Jasper where we spend the night at the Marmot Lodge.  You'll have the evening to relax and enjoy the peaceful country air.


Wednesday, September 16  This morning we leave Banff for our destination - Radium Hot Springs.  Along the way we stop at Lake Louise for coffee and some picture taking.  The natural beauty of Lake Louise will take your breath away.  We arrive at in Radium this evening.  Enjoy your evening!


Thursday, September 17  This morning if you like, we'll take you to the hot pools for a dip before starting back home.  We arrive back in Spokane by 6:00pm.


Included in the tour:  Deluxe motorcoach transportation, all accommodations, professional and experienced driver, hostess on board, admission to Railway museum, snow coach tour of the Columbia Icefields & baggage handling.


Meals included:  Breakfast in Banff, breakfast in Jasper, lunch at the Columbia Icefields

and dinner in Radium Hot Springs.


Cost per person:  $665.00 per person with 2 people sharing.  Please call for single and triple prices.


Registration form: Please detach and return with a deposit of $150.00 per person to:

Group Coordinators 2805 West 17th Spokane, WA 99224 Deposit is due by July 13,1998.

Full payment is due by August 7, 1998.  If minimum number of people needed to operate the tour is not reached by July 13th, the tour will be canceled and your deposit returned.



Name: ________________________________          Address: ________________________________


City/State/Zip __________________________           Telephone: ______________________________


Please reserve ___ space(s) for the tour.  I would like a ___ Double (1 bed) ___ Double/Double (2 beds) room.

I will share a room with ______________________(name).  I want a smoking / non-smoking room (circle one).


Cost per person: $665.00 double/twin


Total Amount Enclosed ______________________






Travel through the rich farming country of Eastern Washington to Grand Coulee Dam.  Along the way, stop for a Western steak or ribs dinner in a small farming community.  The restaurant, once owned by a rodeo rider, is still adorned with his many trophies, saddles and memorabilia.  After dinner continue on to Grand Coulee Dam to see the world's largest Laser Light Show on the spillway waters of one of the world's largest concrete structures.  The show is narrated and accompanied by music and you'll be seated in the bleacher seats by the Visitors Center.  It is a sight you'll never forget.



Get a realistic glimpse of what the miners life was like during the boom days of the late 1800's, along the way to the oldest building in the State of Idaho, the Cataldo Mission, built without the use of hammer or nails.  Next, the world's longest gondola at Silver Mountain.  Take in the scenery as your gondola car carries you 3,300 vertical feet to the top where you can walk around at your leisure and enjoy the view.  Then, sit down to a mountain top barbecue.



Travel to Idaho where you'll board the cruise boat for a tour on Lake Coeur d'Alene, one of the five most beautiful lakes in the world.  Along the way, pass by the now famous floating golf green at the Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course.  The boat is climate controlled.



Charles I.D. Looff gained fame building Coney Island's first carrousel in 1876.  In 1907 Looff visited Spokane and recommended the addition of a merry-go-round to the city's amusement park and offered to carve one.  Almost two years later, Looff, accompanied by his daughter, Emma, and son-in-law, Louis Vogel, returned to Spokane with his completed marvel.  The owners of the amusement park liked the ride, but balked at his asking price of $20,000.  Vogel agreed to operate the carrousel and Looff installed the ride as a belated wedding present for Emma.  The Park closed in 1968 and the ride was dismantled and put in storage.  After purchase by the City of Spokane restoration was done and the Carrousel opened to the public in May of 1975.  With the exception of a few glass "eyes", some horses' tails and feeding mechanism on the organ, the Carrousel, organ - even the ring arm - are original equipment.



See Spokane's highlights as we travel past Spokane Falls, learning about where the city began, along the grounds of the former Expo ‘74 site, now Riverfront Park, then up "The Hill" where views of the city, beautiful mansions and the magestic Saint John's Cathedral are located.  Visit the Bing Crosby Memorabilia Room at Gonzaga University.  Discover Manito Park, stroll through the formal sunken gardens, authentic Japanese Tea Gardens and flower-filled Conservatory.  See the historic ,area of Browne's Addition, where many of the homes have been restored to their original splendor.














This is a very comprehensive account of our story.  It was written in 1946 by Admiral Emory S. Land, the Administrator of the War Shipping Administration.  It is his report to the President, of the activities of the Merchant Marine during WWII.  It contains many pictures and gives a complete accounting.  Everyone who has seen the book has become very excited and wonders why this very important information has not been found before.


It is the intent of the Association to offer this very desirable book to the Membership of Gallups Island Radio Association at the very reasonable price of $5.00 per copy, including shipping, which barely covers our costs, so that everyone can afford at least one copy.


Please fill out this order form and send your check, made payable to GIRA, along with the order form to:



                                                          BOX 1235

                                                          HERMITAGE, PA 16148-0235


                   Name _______________________________________________


                   Address _____________________________________________


                   City ______________ State ______________ Zip code _______


                   My check  for $ _______ is enclosed for _______ books @ $5.00 per book.


" Dedicated to those who attended Gallups Island and served as Radio Officers

in the Merchant Marine During World War II "






Silent Keys, the Sad Messages



 MARCH 11, 1998



Cecil Adler                                        M-0846                R-019                   8-9-96

Norman Anthony                M-1387                R-077                   8-1-95

Frank Beninati                                                               R-007

Harold Cantor                                   CM-044               R-008                   4-26-97

Archie Carpenter                              CM-059               R-119                   5-7-97

Arthur A. Currier                                                           R-092                   1-29-98

Walter M. Czesnowski                                                  R-047                   4-24-97

Thomas B. De Meis                         I-1209                  Friend                  4-10-95

William N. Doughty                          M-0706                R-059                   5-15-97

Mac E. Erps                                      CM-037               R-001 (A1)           9-22-97

Martin Fenney                                                               R-007

Reinhold Fischer                M-0929                R-100                   10-20-96

Alfred Flinn                                                                    R-035                   11-95

Robert E. Van Gelder                      M-1235                R-028                   4-27-97

Remington Gsoell                                                          R-020                   9-17-94

Richard B. Hackenberger M-0833                R-017                   4-92

Edward Langlois                M-1025                Friend                  3-7-98

Claude Lorroine McKee                  M-0278                R-009                   8-15-97

Herbert Newton                                M-1092                R-006 (C-1)

Albert Peters                                    M-0715                R-062                   1-12-97

Douglas Peterson                             M-1378                R-002 (A2)           3-6-97


Armand Lemma (R-019) writes that Claude McKee of R-009 joined him on the SS Stepas Darius in 1944 at New Orleans. In addition to the Darius they sailed together on other vessels becoming life-long friends and their families also were very close. Born on April 5, 1922 in Palestine, Illinois, Claude McKee died August 15, 1997 in Solvang, California, and was interred in Highland Cemetery, at Norwood, Massachusetts.


Edward Langlois, GIRA member and friend, who died March 7, is widely mourned and will be missed around the Greater Portland (Maine) area. Langlois worked mightily for the New England Shipbuilding Corporation at Spring Point where 30 WWII oceangoing ships were built for Britain and 236 Liberties for the Martime Commission. Along with many others Langlois worked relentlessly in the project to restore the Jeremiah O’Brien. Friends and contemporaries of the Shipyard Society want to launch a Liberty Ship Museum to display his many collected shipyard artifacts. His talents & enthusiasm will be missed.









Non Profit Org.

U.S. Postage


Newington, VA

Permit # 66




      Post Office Box 42036-357

      Phoenix, Arizona 85080-2036


      John JJ Ward, Editor

      49220 North 26 Avenue

      New River, AZ 85027-8080

       (602) 465-9256



      Urban A Guntner, President

      (410) 377-5316


      Raymond E. King, Vice-President

       (617) 331-6154


       Homer  N. Gibson, Sec-Treasurer

        (412) 962-4213


      The Spark Gap is published quarterly by The Gallups Island Radio Association. Basic circulation is confined to    

       Association members and Gallups Island Radio School graduates, instructors, and administrative personnel during World

       War II. This alumni newsletter is dedicated to the men who went to sea as Merchant Marine Radio Officers, school

        instructors and support people assigned to Gallups Island. Opinions expressed herein are those of contributors or the

        editor, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Organization, Officers, Directors, or Association members.





Hotel accommodations have been contracted with the DOUBLETREE INN in downtown Spokane adjacent to the Riverfront Park site of the 1974 World’s Fair. The hotel guarantees single and double rooms for $76.00 per day with free shuttle service from the airport.  There is no cost for parking, including RVs; however, no hookups are available. RV parks with complete services are available within three to five miles.

The multitude of  available activities include Silver Valley (Kellogg and Wallace, Idaho) with gondola ride on Silver Mountain  claimed to be the longest in the World; Grand Coulee Dam and laser light show; Palouse farming area; formal gardens and historic sites in Spokane; dinner cruise on Lake Coeur d’Alene; and dinner dance with live band from Fairchild Air Force Base. The Interstate Fair will also be in progress.

Spokane is a transitional area with mountains to the east and farms & range land to the west. September weather is delightful.

For those driving, there are many attractions en route: Calgary or Glacier National Park are only an eight hour drive, and just five hours to Mount Rainier National Park. Rainfall averages 19 inches per year near the Idaho border and a mere three inches just east of the Cascade Range.

Spokane has non-stop air service from Minneapolis, Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.

For more information contact Keith E. Wallace, 1223 South Blake Road, Spokane, WA 99216. Phone (509) 926-8334.