VOL 12  NO 1

Winter 2001





Atlanta Tours                       Page 2

BBC Film                            Page 4

MM WWII Memorial             Page 4

QRS Please                        Page 5

Portishead Radio Closed      Page 7

Sea of Change                     Page 7

Samuel Morse                     Page 8

Two Questions                     Page 9

Murmansk                           Page 10

VA RX Program                   Page 10

Bob Hope Message              Page 11

Jacksonville, Florida             Page 13

Mystery Destination             Page 13

Letters                                Page 14

Veterans Affairs                   Page 19

Treasurer’s Report                Page 19

Roster Corrections               Page 20

Mid-Atlantic Mini-Reunion     Page 21

Registration Form                Page 22

Silent Keys                         Page 23



The 2001 GIRA reunion is set for August 9 - 11 at Gwinnett Place Hotel, 1775 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth, Georgia 30136.  Make reservations by calling 1-800-228-9290, or speak directly with the hotel at (770) 923-1775.  If you plan to attend, please complete the Registration Form printed in this issue of the SPARK GAP and forward it to Golden Cross. If driving a rental from Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport take Interstate 85 north for about 27 miles to exit 40 (Pleasant Hill Road). The hotel is a quarter mile further, on the right. To catch the bus, from the airport baggage claim follow signs to Ground Transportation Shuttle # 7 to Duluth-Gwinnett Place via AAA Airport Express.  The shuttle leaves the airport 55 minutes past each hour.

Atlanta is currently the 11th largest city (metropolitan area) in the United States with a metro population of almost 4 million. At an elevation of 1057 feet, it is the highest (above mean sea level) of any major city east of the Mississippi River (Phoenix is 1121) and it is actually west of Detroit.

The Coca Cola soft drink was developed in Atlanta in 1886. The fancy Coca Cola script still used was by the hand of the company’s original bookkeeper. They subsequently launched one of the most successful advertisement campaigns in history. At one point in the early Depression years, Coca Cola could have bought the Pepsi Cola company for thirty thousand dollars. Atlanta is now the home of many national entities including CNN and CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and the American Cancer Society. Its tallest building is Bank of America Plaza, 1,023 feet high with 55 stories. Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport is currently the World’s busiest, recently edging out Chicago’s O’Hare Field.

The city was founded in 1837 and originally called Terminus (from three railroad lines) but renamed Atlanta in 1845. It became the state capital in 1877. The State of Georgia, itself, was named by James Oglethorpe in 1732 for King George II of England.

Stone Mountain, the destination of one of GIRA’s tours, is a monolith 1686 feet high, dwarfing Ayer’s Rock in Australia (1143 feet). And Stone Mountain has a cable car to the top but visitors have to walk up Ayer’s rock. At the foot of Stone Mountain are sculptures of the Confederate leader’s horses.

The Cyclorama is also a “must see” attraction featuring the Battle of Atlanta in the Civil War (or the South’s War of Independence). Viewed from inside a circle of scenes of that tragic engagement, it combines paintings with actual three-dimensional equipment. For example, the painting of the front end of a wagon may end up with the back section an actual wagon half. Among the many figures (manikins) is a smiling Clark Gable. There’s also Atlanta Underground and many other attractions not to mention the best of all: Visiting with fellow Gallups Island alumni.

Inside this issue are descriptions of tours offered during this reunion.  Please peruse them and decide early which ones you wish to attend.





Thursday, August 9, 2001: Taste of the Peachtree Tour: 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Depart with uniformed guide on a driving tour to include an overall look at Atlanta, from its flaming past to its exciting future.  Learn about the city’s history, how and why it grew, as you see some of the more interesting landmarks.  The downtown business district is dynamic with its blend of past and present.  The Capital Complex is the center of local and state government.  Visit the grave of the Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Peachtree street takes you past Portman's Peachtree Center, Ted Turner's CNN Center, the World of Coca-Cola Pavilion, Underground Atlanta, Woodruff Park, Woodruff Arts Center, Fox Theater, Colony Square, High Museum, the Carter Presidential Center, and much more.  Visit the Cyclorama, circular painting of the Battle of Atlanta and told in sight and sound and a "must see" while visiting in Atlanta.  The 1996 Summer Games were held in Atlanta.  A driving tour will acquaint you with the venues including the Village, located on the campus of Georgia Tech, the Natatorium, the Alexander Memorial Coliseum and the many newly constructed Residence Halls.  Walk through Centennial Park, and see the Georgia Dome, which currently is the home of the NFL Champion Atlanta Falcons.  Also, you will see the Stadium, site for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and now Turner Field, home of the champion Atlanta Braves.  Enjoy lunch on your own at the "Varsity", the largest fast food drive-in restaurant in the United States.  Drive out famous Peachtree Street to Buckhead, the premier residential and shopping district in Atlanta, and see how Atlantans live.  You will see many exquisite homes with beautifully landscaped lawns including the Swan House and Atlanta History Center.  Tour the Governor's Mansion in this beautiful area.

Time:        Five hours

Cost:        $32.00 per person (based on 35 to 45 participants).

Includes uniformed guide service, luxury motor coach, attraction fees, and all arrangements.


Thursday, August 9, 2001: Carter Center and Stone Mountain: 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Begin with a visit to the Carter Presidential Library, a museum dedicated to Georgia born president, Jimmy Carter and to the American Presidency.  Guests will continue with a tour of the Carter Presidential Library.  Be a part of history and discover the everlasting peace keeping effects of President Jimmy Carter.  See firsthand the inspirations and motivations of this monumental man.  Catch a glimpse of the American Presidency and life in the White House.  View personal aspects of the Presidency embodied in handmade gifts from the American people, elegant objects from foreign leaders, a formal dinner setting from the White House and video-taped events at the executive mansion.  Modem technology allows you the opportunity to ask Jimmy Carter a range of different questions, from "What did Amy do all day at the White House?" to "Why did you choose to go to Camp David with Sadat and Begin?" You will also see a replica of the Oval Office, the Presidential Library, memorabilia from the Carters' years in Washington, and a Public Policy Center for dispute resolution.  Then off to visit Stone Mountain Park, 3200 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds and interesting attractions. Stop at Memorial Hall for a close-up view and story of the world’s largest bas-relief sculpture: Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on horseback.  Enjoy one of the following attractions: an authentic Georgian Plantation or a ride on the Swiss Cable Car Skylift to the top of the mountain for a breathtaking view of the area.  Enjoy a true Southern lunch at The Stone Mountain Inn buffet.

Time:        Six hours

Cost:        $64.00 per person (based on 35 to 45 participants).

Includes uniformed guide service, luxury motor coach transportation, entrance fees, lunch, all gratuities and fees, all arrangements.


Friday, August 10, 2001: City Highlights Orientation Tour: 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

You will experience the highlights of the downtown area as you see the many sites, both historic and futuristic, which blend to make Atlanta such a vibrant and progressive city.  Begin with a drive on famous Peachtree Street where you will see Five Points, Peachtree Center Complex, Fox Theater, Colony Square, Woodruff Arts Center, and Margaret Mitchell's "Dump".  See the Capitol Complex with the Gold Dome, Turner Field and Undeground Atlanta.  Walk in Centennial Park and see the "bricks".  Also see Martin Luther King's grave, and Ebenezer Baptist Church.  While downtown you will drive by the various 1996 Olympic venues.  You will visit the World of Coca Cola, a museum dedicated to the famous soft drink founded in Atlanta in 1886.  Visit Ted Turner's Cable News Network where you will experience a live newscast.  This tour is one that all guests will be pleased to experience as they discover Atlanta's vibrant personality!

Time:        Four hours

Cost:        $38.00 per person (based on 35 to 45 participants).

Includes uniformed guide service, luxury motor coach transportation, entrance fees, and all arrangements.





Friday, August 10, 2001: Tracing Sherman's March: 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Trace the steps of those brave boys in blue, as they followed General William Tecumseh Sherman on his march from Atlanta to the sea during The War Between the States.  The Atlanta Campaign, the final turning point in that historic conflict, followed the railroad line of the city that Sherman burned. (This is affectionately known by locals as its first urban renewal project.)  You will begin at Kennesaw Mountain, a national park on the site of one of the war's fiercest battles.  After you tour the museum and see a film on the event, walk in the now peaceful park grounds where the battle was fought long ago.  Be sure to look for the Civil War cannons and original earthworks.  A drive up the mountain will present an awesome view of the surrounding mountain area.  Following the Union Army's path into town, the tour concludes with a moving visit to the Atlanta Cyclorama.  This museum and diorama is complemented with music and narration, placing you literally in the middle of a major turning point in the Civil War - The Battle of Atlanta.  One of the world’s largest circular paintings at 40 feet high and 400 feet in circumference, it shows in moving detail Atlanta’s role in this historic conflict which brought the South to her knees.  You will find this day to be both educational and entertaining.  You will discover that an essential part of Atlanta is still caught up in that historic time, "While They Were Marching Through Georgia."

Time:        Four hours

Cost:        $30.00 per person (based on 35 to 45 participants).

Includes uniformed guide service, luxury motor coach transportation, entrance fees, and all arrangements


Saturday August 11, 2001: Mansions and Magnolias: 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Today we will carry you away to times past to the Old South of Magnolias and Mansions.  Atlanta is the progressive leader of the Southeast, but it was born in the Old South, and it is surrounded by the Deep South.

We leave the shade of some of the world's most innovative and awesome skyscrapers and go east to the town of Covington, which you may recognize as the filming site of the hit TV series In the Heat of the Night. This land area was once a part of the Creek Indian Nation (1733-1813).  The coming of the railroad (1844-1845) brought prosperity to the town, which flourished as a trading center for planters and farmers, when Cotton was King.  Those who prospered from King Cotton and the textile mills built large, impressive homes; three of which we will see today, upon availability.  These fine private period homes include: Dixie Manor (1840), a beautiful antebellum brick house which incorporates English Regency with Italian overtones.  Boxwood House (c. 1830), is a white columned home filled with a world-class collection of Napoleanic art and treasures. These homes have been beautifully maintained and are furnished in keeping with their historical periods and are occupied by their current owners. Mount Pleasant (1830) is a former plantation home filled with eclectic furnishings and surrounded by beautiful gardens.  Then, off to the Blue Willow Restaurant for a delicious Southern-style buffet luncheon complete with fried green tomatoes and a day to remember in the south!

Time:        Six hours

Cost:        $62.00 per person (based on 35 to 45 participants).

Includes uniformed guide service, luxury motor coach transportation, entrance fees, lunch, taxes, gratuities, and all arrangements.


Saturday, August 11, 2001: City Highlights Orientation Tour: 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

You will experience the highlights of the downtown area as you see the many sites, both historic and futuristic, which blend to make Atlanta such a vibrant and progressive city.  Begin with a drive on famous Peachtree Street where you will see Five Points, Peachtree Center Complex, Fox Theater, Colony Square, Woodruff Arts Center, and Margaret Mitchell's "Dump".  See the Capitol Complex with the Gold Dome, Turner Field and Underground Atlanta.  Walk in Centennial Park and see the "bricks".  Also see Martin Luther King's grave, and Ebenezer Baptist Church.  While downtown you will drive by the various 1996 Olympic venues.  You will visit the World of Coca Cola, a museum dedicated to the famous soft drink founded in Atlanta in 1886.  Visit Ted Turner's Cable News Network where you will experience a live newscast.  This tour is one that all guests will be pleased to experience as they discover Atlanta's vibrant personality!

Time:        Four hours

Cost:        $38.00 per person (based on 35 to 45 participants).

Includes uniformed guide service, luxury motor coach transportation, entrance fees, and all arrangements.







The British Broadcasting Commission (BBC) is planning a “landmark series” on the vital, and decisive, Battle of the Atlantic in WWII. The series will consist of three fifty-minute programs to be broadcast in primetime on the BBC (and very likely later in the U.S. and throughout the world).  Clearly it must be done soon. The promoters recognize that now is the time to take a comprehensive look at that extraordinary campaign inasmuch as it’s undoubtedly the final opportunity to capture on film the testimony of the veterans involved.  The BBC seeks to make contact with veterans falling into the following categories:

*  Survivors of the sinking of the Ruben James.

*  Those on the staff of Ernest King or Adolphus Andrews (junior or senior).

*  Those involved in Naval Intelligence relating to the U-boat war.

*  Crewmembers of the USS Icarus, sunk by


*  Any Naval attaches posted to Great Britain.

*  Any scientists involved in development of technology for the Battle of the Atlantic.

*  Former Liberty Ship crewmen.

*  Those involved in the design and construction of Liberty Ships.

*  Anyone with stories relating to the Battle of the Atlantic.

*  Survivors of the Gulfamerica, the Atlas, the Byron Benson (all sunk tankers). 


If you, Family members, or acquaintances were involved, please contact:


Mr. Dominic Sutherland, BBC via mail:


Room 5433

White City

201 Wood Lane

London, W12 7TS, United Kingdom.


Telephone (+44 (0)208 752-6632)

FAX (+44 (0)208 752-6336)

e-mail (dominic.sutherland@bbc.co.uk)



Excerpted from SIU Seafarers Log

The U.S. Merchant Marine’s contribution to the WWII victory is being honored, along with the other services, in the new WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.

President Clinton led the groundbreaking ceremony on Veterans Day for the WWII memorial. It is the first memorial dedicated to ALL those serving in the armed forces of the U.S. during WWII, including Merchant Mariners.

The ceremony was concluded with a medley of service anthems. The first being the song of the Merchant Marine, “Heave Ho! My Lads, Heave Ho! sung by Erin Gant, a graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

On Veterans Day 2000, ground was broken on the Mall in Washington, D.C., for the National World War II memorial. It is appropriate and gratifying that the memorial will be dedicated to all who served in the armed forces and the Merchant Marine of the United States during World War II.

Recognition is certainly welcome however late it may come.



Speaking of late recognition, former president Theodore Roosevelt is being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for the Battle of San Juan Hill one hundred years after the event and 82 years after his death in 1919.

He organized a cavalry unit dubbed the “Rough Riders” that  trained in Florida, but when they were ready to leave for Cuba, there was insufficient shipping (as in all following American wars) to take the horses so they had to storm up the hill afoot, but without the horses they got the job done.

Roosevelt also was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1908 for his successful effort to negotiate a settlement of the Russo-Japanese war.




A total of 31.5 percent of adult Nevada residents now smoke replacing Kentucky as the state with the highest percentage of smokers.


Utah, next door, has the fewest smokers with only 13.9 percent of its residents lighting up.


Remember when the Slop Chest sold cigarettes for one dollar per carton? A single cigarette costs almost that much today.




By Frank Hetzler R-94

No one ever said that a telegrapher's life would be easy.  On the other hand no one ever warned me that there would be days when I wished I had never bothered to learn Morse code and shipped out as a mess boy instead.  One of those days got off to a bad start when a Soviet radio operator violated one the basic operator courtesy rules; "Do not transmit code faster than the station with whom you are communicating!  The following relates a nearly disastrous case of a station violating the international Morse code signal QRS, "send slower."

The SS Edward L. Grant, a Liberty cargo ship loaded with railroad equipment in Baltimore and bound for Odessa, was lost in the Black Sea.  It was January 1946 and according to general consensus of the Captain and Mates, our exact position on the chart was unknown.  The ship was in an area where the charts showed numerous floating mine fields.

I was called to the navigating bridge by the Captain and instructed to use the radio and request immediate assistance to establish our position.  The procedure was straight forward: contact three radio stations with radio direction finders and request a directional fix on your radio signal. The directions would be plotted on a chart from the positions of each radio, station. These lines would intersect and produce a small triangle on a chart which defined the position of the station asking for assistance.  The Black Sea area, according to my opinion, was probably heavily trafficked by Soviet naval ships and ringed by radio stations tuned to the marine radio band.  I thought that it would be easy to establish our position accurately within a matter of minutes.

Captain Sigurd Dahl had been navigating the entire voyage with dead reckoning using only a magnetic compass and throwing pieces of trash from the bridge to, estimate the ship's speed.  Captain Dahl had long passed the age of sixty years and had started his career as a fifteen year old mess boy on his father's square-rigged four master from Bergen, Norway, This would have been about the turn of the last century.  He had retired from the sea and taken a job as a maintenance man at the White Plains, New York, YMCA. Dahl was called back to sea in 1943 because of an acute shortage of qualified captains required for the War.  He became Master of the American flagged Grant, owned by the American West-African Lines.  Absolute authority was an obsession with Dahl making it difficult for him to easily delegate tasks to the Mates.  There were stories about Dahl single-handedly staying with the Grant in the Mediterranean with an unexploded German bomb in the explosives filled, number one cargo hold.  This may explain his "do it myself” attitude.  Whenever he stepped on the bridge, he was in control of the ship and seldom deferred to the mate on watch.  The fact that he occasionally forgot his eye glasses and probably could not see past the bow did not prevent Dahl from giving the helmsman orders.  The fact that occasionally he put his lighted pipe into his coat pocket created a diplomatic problem regarding who was going to tell the “Old Man" that his coat was smoking.

One sunny early afternoon we were passing islands off the coast of Greece when brush scrapped the radio shack porthole.  I ran out on deck to see our port side nearly scraping the side of a very high and steep cliff. On the starboard side, people were running from a fishing village to the beach and pointing at our ship.  The keel of the ship scrapped the bottom lightly a couple of times and continued to make headway.  We stared at the people on the beach and they stared back as we passed from view into open water.  No one waved, we all just stared in a state of disbelief.  A sign that the Captain was also in similar frame of mind was the fact that the propeller kept turning during the entire event.

The Chief Mate who was m watch during the incident, told me later that he was following a laid-out course when the Captain suddenly appeared on the bridge without his eyeglasses.  He peered at a couple of islands he probably could only dimly see and ordered the helmsman to steer a course between the islands.  The Mate, an Icelander, and the brunt of some mysterious feud between Norwegians and the Icelanders, tried to warn the Captain that the decision to change course might not be a good idea.  The Mate's comment was not well received and Scandinavian differences suddenly took higher priority than the ship’s course-.  We were locked on a course where only fishing boats were meant to pass and on our way to a most exceptional marine experience.

Company economics certainly played an important role in a near disaster. This was the Grant's first postwar voyage.  American West-African's charter to the Government had ended and money was no longer available in exchange for a stack of forms submitted in triplicate.  The Company had taken over the economic reins and wanted to make a profit.  In Baltimore, the stack was painted with the blue and white stripes of the Barber Lines to, which American West-African Lines was a subsidiary. Cost cutting was immediately initiated. The radio officers were reduced from two, to one whereby I advanced to become Chief Radio Officer. Several cases of frozen ducks


…continued on page 6



QRS   …continued from page 5

were loaded aboard to provide a never-ending diet of baked or boiled duck. (The Steward c that these were purchased very cheaply from Argentina, and still had their feathers.  I chose not to verify this possibility.)  An extension ladder between the dock and ship's deck was set up to avoid the cost of rigging the gangway.  One of the crew fell from the ladder and drowned during a night time incident.  The ladder disappeared never to be seen again.

Navigational equipment on the Grant was marginal no, better than a commercial fishing boat and probably less than a large pleasure craft of that period. The gyro compass was shut down by the Captain to avoid the potential cost of replacing mercury-vapor vacuum tubes. Radar had not yet been installed on many ships of that period and the Grant was no exception. There was a radio direction finder; however, the deck cargo included two large steam locomotives which disturbed calibration. The mates had their navigation sextants but North Atlantic winter conditions promised to hide the sky and eliminate the chance for obtaining an accurate position.  We departed Baltimore navigating with a magnetic compass, a mechanical log towed from the stem to record distance, a revolution counter on the propeller shaft, and the Captain's ability to throw trash from the bridge to estimate the ship's headway.  Without catching a glimpse of the sun or stars during our transition of the Atlantic, we sited The Rock of Gibraltar only on a couple of nautical miles off of our dead reckoned position.  Who needed modern navigational aids when Captain Dahl could navigate a ship just like they did in old days?

We passed Gibraltar, sailed along the coast of North Africa and through the Greek Isles.  We had wonderful sunny weather and celebrated New Year 1946 with roasted duck.  Approaching Turkey we picked up a pilot to navigate the ship into Istanbul. The Grant anchored in Istanbul where new charts were issued for the Black Sea showing numerous mine fields and military restricted zones.  The mine fields were shown as geometrically formed fields of black dots with clear passages between long rows, several mines wide.  The gyro compass remained shut down and weather conditions in the Black Sea were reported to be miserable.

A Turkish pilot came aboard, ordered the submarine nets opened and conned us to the Black Sea.  Weather conditions included near gale winds, and limited visibility with rain and mixed snow.  Within 18 hours the Captain was clearly nervous and there was a lot of activity in the chart room I had been ordered to keep a close watch for ship and shore traffic and report any contacts immediately to the bridge.  I heard the ship’s engine stop.  Shortly after, I was called to the bridge and ordered by the Captain to establish our position.  He said the situation was urgent.  I sent a XXX on 500 KHz. A Naval station at Sevastopol replied at a speed far greater than my ability to copy code.  I made repeated requests of QRS which were ignored.  I finally ran out of hope to communicate with Sevastopol or any other station on 500 KHz and tried international calling frequencies on 3, 4, 6, 8 and 12 MHz.  No stations whatsoever were detected, just very heavy static.

By then, two theories had been formed in the chartroom. Both were based on the fact that our exact position was unknown.  The first theory was that we were close to a mine field but had not yet drifted into contact since we were still floating.  The second theory was that we had somehow stumbled into a channel between two rows of mines.  In either case the ship was drifting before the strong wind which promised that the ship would contact a mine sooner or later.

I reported my lack of success to the Captain and said that an SOS might attract the attention we required.  An SOS was transmitted on the Captain's order, stating that were in dire need to establish our position.  After 16 hours of transmitting SOS there was still no contact with any station other than the Sevastopol "speed demon." We were all holding our breath waiting for the "big bang" and starting to concentrate thoughts on the life boats.  The idea of getting into a life boat in the bad weather conditions was not pleasant.  Provided that I could get into a lifeboat, would I have any better success sending SOS from a lifeboat?

Daylight finally arrived about 10:00 hours together with a Soviet military aircraft that flew low alongside the ship, then off in a direction about 30 degrees off our port bow. This maneuver was repeated three or four times before the Captain rang the engine room for slow speed and course in the direction the plane seemed to indicate.  The plane made one last pass and the pilot rocked the wings to indicate that we understood.

A few hours later, a pilot boat met us, and a Soviet military officer climbed the Jacob's ladder to come aboard.  The pilot took over as navigator and guided us into The Port of Odessa using sign language.  Communication with the Soviet pilot was no more informative than the Soviet radio operators.  What happened was truly unbelievable.  No explanation was ever made.  That such a situation could happen today is probably impossible.  Of course, e-mail facsimile and telephone all communicating via satellites have replaced our honored profession and have no doubt made distress situations more manageable.  Regardless of the advances in communications, XXX, SOS and QRS win never fade from this operator’s mind.





Almost all radio officers of the U.S. and world merchant fleets have worked the magnificent British Marine station Portishead Radio, available from all corners of the globe. But at 1200Z on Sunday, 30 April 2000, the final message went out from GKB: BT regrets to announce the closure of GKB. We send our thanks and best wishes to the maritime community, which we have served faithfully for over 90 years.

Unthinkable! To radio officers everywhere, it was like announcing that the sun was being turned off.

Portishead Radio took its name from the original transmitting station near Bristol. But the station staff invariably called it “Burnham” because of its location near to the small holiday resort of Burnham-on-Sea.

In its heyday some 300 radio operators filled in the 24 hour shifts every day of the year to take the calls from ships, British and foreign, throughout the world.   In its prime, Portishead Radio had “search” operators listening on common frequencies of all marine HF bands. After initial contact, the ship radio officer would be passed on to a free operator for the exchange of traffic. Portishead Aeradio conducted telegraphy service with aircraft during civil aviation’s early days. The Israeli airline. El Al, was among the last patrons of this air-ground Morse service. Many ex-Gallups Islanders had worked Portishead Radio from both ships and aircraft.

GLD, Lands End Radio, a low frequency CW station located on the very southeast tip of the British Isles, also closed forever. GLD was my first radio contact with a British marine station.

MF Radio Telephone Service on 2182 kcs et al by BT closed on June 30, 2000 ending forever all of Britain’s Coastal Station Service.

Allistar McLean, who wrote HMS ULYSSES (about a British Cruiser escorting convoys to Russia), THE GUNS OF NAVARRONE, and other adventure stories was a favorite author until I read his story of intrigue about post war merchant ships. A climaxing event in the novel was when a British freighter pretending to be Portishead Radio sent a bogus message that diverted a passenger ship for devious purposes.  Imagine!  A 200 watt freighter transmitter convincing anyone it was Portishead Radio. The dumbest RO in the world wouldn’t buy that for a second. McLean was no longer a favorite author.


Excerpted from the ROSS VALLEY REPORTER

Submitted by Gene Harpe

Volunteers are working vigorously to restore a piece of nautical history. The Red Oak Victory took 87 days to build, but will require years to restore. The revamping of the SS Red Oak Victory has so far taken four years and the restoration is just beginning.

SS Red Oak Victory, part of the country’s Victory ship fleet, was built by the Kaiser Permanente Metals Corporation in Richmond, California, and served as a commissioned U.S. Navy ship from 1944 to 1946 and as a merchant ship from 1947 to 1969. It was the 558th ship built at the Kaiser Shipyard and the last of the Victory types constructed there. After three decades from hauling its last cargo, it is being restored at a dock in Richmond, a short distance from its birthplace.

Like Art Rogers, a Marin commercial real estate agent, a growing number of ex-sailors and others change to working clothes and turn to in a labor of love. The ship’s cabins, including the captain’s, and the massive cargo holds are being cleaned and restored.  Estimates for dry-docking and repairs are between five and seven million dollars. Some of the companies who made parts for the ship are no longer exist and others no longer make parts for ships.  While the work goes on, the fundraising has barely begun. Contributions from major corporations are vitally needed. Skilled and unskilled volunteer workers are always in demand.  There is a chance the ship may become the centerpiece for a “Rosie the Riveter”  WWII theme park the National Parks service is considering building at the Richmond Shipyard. Visitors are always welcome aboard the ship for guided individual tours.  The SS Red Oak Victory is located at Terminal 1, 1500 Dornan Drive in Richmond, California. For information, call the ship (510) 237-2933 or the Richmond Museum of History at (510) 235-7387.

The Victory ship was a remarkably good wartime vessel. Built late in WWII, it proved to be one of the fastest freighters of that era and was equipped with the latest in technology. However, its speed came at a price of heavy fuel consumption, and was not widely used in peacetime, giving way to the older but more fuel efficient C-2, and C-3s.






Samuel Morse’s development of the telegraph (1837) and the Morse Code (1838) are high on the list of the World’s greatest inventions. Few things, before or since, have resulted in such quantum leaps forward.

Before the telegraph, and subsequently the radiotelegraph, to send a message from New York to London or from New York to San Francisco required ten days or more. And that was under ideal conditions—a ship ready to sail, and favorable weather conditions. The same applied to the journey across the American continent. But the telegraph reduced the time to a few minutes, and gone were major battles after wars had ended. That’s several thousand times faster. The original automobiles were only two or three times faster than the horse-drawn vehicles, and the first airplanes about an equal time advantage over the autos. In 1839 Morse sent the first telegraph message between Washington and Baltimore “what has God wrath?”

Like Leonardo da Vinci, Morse was primarily an artist, but also an inventor with engineering skills. Originally Morse was reduced to painting portraits, the only “art” in demand before photography. His patent for the telegraph was challenged by numerous others working on the same system. The U.S. Supreme Court finally gave him patent rights in 1854, and he became enormously wealthy. Morse possessed the gift of friendship, which didn’t hurt him in his telegraph case before the Supreme Court. He was close


friends with Marquis de Lafayette, the French hero of the American Revolutionary War, and novelist James Fenimore Cooper.  Like Cooper and Lafayette, he had aristocratic social tastes.

In his old age, the very wealthy Morse gave generously to Vassar College (of which he was a founder and trustee) and his Yale alma mater. He also supported myriad Bible, mission and temperance societies, and poor struggling artists.

Morse’s code of dots (one time unit) and dashes (three time units) required a total of 44 dots and 38 dashes or 82 total for the 26 letter English alphabet.  Figures required 25 dots and 25 dashes, and the nine punctuation marks (period, comma, colon, query or question mark, apostrophe, hyphen, fraction bar, parentheses, and quotation marks) use 27 dots and 26 dashes.

In 1851 the European nations held a conference to modify Morse’s code slightly and simplify the letters C, R, Y, and Z with the results to be called the International Morse Code or simply the Continental Code. That’s what we used at Gallups and later on the greatest merchant fleet ever


Today we have cell phones, the internet, and endless other marvels forever pushing the envelope of speed but most have increases of mere fractions, seldom double, and never approaching the thousands of times registered by the telegraph. Humanity may never see such leap forward again.

Samuel Morse’s first completed telegraph device is on display in the Smithsonian Museum of History and Technology.




Gore Vidal may be one of the longest living air travelers today.  In 1929 he flew across the continent on the first transcontinental air tour with TAT (forerunner to TWA).  His father was the general manager.  In 1929 it took two days to fly from coast to coast, and it can take that same amount of time today.  So we’ve come full circle.



Make your reservation now for the GIRA 2001 Reunion.

Call the Gwinnett Place Hotel at  1-800-228-9290



Checkout the GIRA website at




If you have ever thought about writing your seagoing stories and shore side adventures, or simply a letter, now is the time to give in to temptation.  We welcome your photographs and poems too.  Write us at::

49220 N 26th Ave

New River, Az  85087

Or e-mail




Free 60th Anniversary ball caps to members paying dues by April 1st.  Contact Homer Gibson for details.




Two Frequently Asked Questions about the Merchant Marine


What were Merchant Marine casualties in World War Two?

Unfortunately, the U.S. Merchant Marine has no official historians and researchers, but

current statistics, primarily compiled by Captain Arthur More, show the following casualties:


8,651 mariners killed at sea

11,000 wounded

1,100 died from their wounds ashore

604 men and women taken prisoner

60 died in prison camps


How did the Merchant Marine casualty rate compare to other services?

Official Statistics show:



Official Number Serving

War Dead





Merchant Marine



4.02 %

1 in 25







1 in 34







1 in 48







1 in 114



Coast Guard




1 in 421







1 in 56



A unnamed Naval Official challenged these Merchant Marine casualty figures as flawed, pointing out that the percentages were higher because the (Steamship Company) shore employees weren't included in the total number of personnel.  But his reasoning is even more flawed inasmuch as the armed forces didn't include their civilian personnel either.  They actually had millions working for them during WWII.  But averages are just that.  Some of the American combat units suffered horrendous casualties.  The Army's 10th Mountain Division is a good example.  As our only ski-troop division it attracted an unusually high education level-more than 60 percent of their members would have been eligible for commissions elsewhere.  German mountain troops in heavily fortified positions in the Italian Alps had stalled the Allied advance for weeks.  In dislodging them, the 10th Mountain Division of approximately 13,000 troops suffered 1000 killed and 4,100 injured.  Other combat units had similarly high casualties in their equivalent to our Murmansk Run.  But there's no denying, we took our licks too.  Few things are more horrifying that seeing an ammunition ship blown up.



The Jeremiah O’Brien and the John W. Brown, the last two operational Liberty ships, met at sea on August 15th 1994 off Cape Cod.            Photo by Canadian Coast Guard.

Check out the website  www.liberty-ship.com  for more photos.





All seafarers have their favorite destinations, but Murmansk wasn’t likely one of them. Located 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Murmansk was formerly (until 1917 when the communists renamed most of the Russian cities) called Ramanov-Na-Murmane. It is only 30 miles south of the ice-free Barents Sea.

Founded in 1915 as a supply port for World War One, it was subsequently the base for the British, French, and American Expeditionary Forces fighting the Bolsheviks in 1918.

In WWII, Murmansk, along with Archangel in the White Sea to the south, was the main port for Anglo-American supplies to the USSR through the Arctic Ocean.

From December through May it still replaces icebound Leningrad as Russia’s northwest port. Although more than 500 miles to the north, Murmansk remains ice-free while Leningrad (formerly St. Petersburg) freezes up solid during the winter months.

Murmansk’s name comes from the local Soami Tribe’s word Murman meaning “the edge of the earth” and to most of us, that’s an accurate description.

With more than a half million population, Murmansk is by far the largest city north of the Arctic Circle. It is also one of the ugliest and has the highest radiation levels of any place on Planet Earth. More than a hundred nuclear subs and surface craft lie in the harbor unattended, rusting, and leaking radiation. Radiation monitoring devices are placed on major street intersections throughout the city.

It’s sad to learn that hard times have fallen on that far northern outpost, but then has Murmansk ever known anything else!  It was in the frigid nearby waters of the Barents Sea where the Russian submarine Kursk recently met its horrible fate.



Go “online” and see what's new at:                 www.usmm.org

There is more information and pictures, and the usual additions to the Shipmate Search, Maritime Links, Newspaper Articles, and Books pages.



Answers to questions at the VA are no easier to get than from other Federal Bureaucracies. The “expert” is always out, and despite repeated promises to get back to you, seldom ever do. One lady did do some research and called back as promised and faxed a half dozen pages that left us more confused than ever.

The Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix advises:

If you are an eligible veteran and want to enroll in one of the Primary Care Clinics please do the following to schedule an appointment:

Contact the Centralized Scheduling Center (602) 222-5501 or 1-800-359-8262 (if outside Maricopa County) (Your nearest VA Hospital).

Tell the clerk you are “new” and want a “New Patient Appointment.”

If you need to see a doctor sooner than the appointment time, advise the clerk.

 Be prepared to respond to the clerk with the following information:

*Financial information from the previous year (yours and spouse).


*Medical Expenses

*Education Expenses

*Assets (Bank accounts, IRA, Stocks, Bonds, and property)

*Insurance Information

*Dependants’ Social Security Numbers, if any

*Also, on your first visit, bring Proof of your medical insurance (insurance card) and DD214.


Upon visiting the VA Hospital in Phoenix, we learned that you do not have to reveal all the above financial information if you don’t wish. Then there will be a co-payment of $2.00 for a 30-day supply of each drug prescribed.   But first you must make an appointment with a VA doctor at the cost of $50.80 per visit.


The lady at the VA who faxed the information promised she would address the Merchant Marine Veterans issue on their next nationwide conference call, which connects with some 150 VA locations. 




Bob Hope Christmas Message

My name is Glen Trimble, a classmate of Kent Slabotsky (R47), who requested I forward to you an excerpt from our last newsletter which you might find interesting.  The following was copied from a newsletter published by the mid-west chapter of the AMMV and provided by a member, Jim Downs, who found this account in a scrapbook.  It concerns a radio program broadcast by Bob Hope in conjunction with a merchant ship that was ready to cast off for a Pacific voyage Dec. 23, 1944


“This is Bob Hope speaking to you from Hollywood.  Two days from now we'll be celebrating Christmas here in the U.S. with our children and exchange presents with those we love.  Merry Christmas with stars on the Christmas tree and stars in the eyes of our kids----and stars in the windows of our homes.  Blue stars for those still at home, Gold for the men who'll be spending Christmas with God and Silver stars for the ones over there, like the boys I'm going to introduce to you in a moment.

They are Z-men.  Did you ever hear of Z-men?  Sounds like a gag, doesn't it?  Well, it isn't.  Z-men are the guys without whom General Ike's army and Admiral Nimitz' navy couldn't live.  Almost 6,000 of them have died from enemy torpedoes, mines, bombs or bullets since our zero hour at Pearl Harbor.

Z-men are the men of the Merchant Marine.  They carry a big wad of ID papers in a book called a Z book with their own Z number, so they call them Z-men.  They're union men, too.  They work for scale.  Yeah, scale!  Joe Squires worked for scale.  He was a seaman on the SS MAIDEN CREEK.  He and Hal Whitney, the deck engineer, stayed aboard to handle the lines so the rest of the crew could get away before the ship sank under waves 30' high.  The crew was saved.  They never saw Joe or Hal again.  Did anyone ever make a wage scale big enough to pay for a man's life.  Joe and Hal gave theirs voluntarily.  So did more than 6,000 others.  Did anyone ever devise a scale big enough to make men brave?

Listen, it takes nerve to go to work in a hot engine room, never knowing when a torpedo might smash the hull above you and send thousands of tones of sea water in to snuff out your life. 


It takes courage to sail into the waters of an enemy barbaric enough to tie your hands and feet and submerge you so you can drown like a rat, without a fighting chance.  It takes courage to man an ammunition ship after you heard how Nazi bombers blew up 17 ships loaded with ammunition at Bari and not a man was ever found of the crews.  I was there about that time.  I’ll never forget it.  Neither will men like Admiral King, who said "The Navy shares life and death, attack and victory with the men of the Merchant Marine".  Yeah, it's a Merry Christmas Monday for a lot of us except the boys of the Army, Navy and Merchant Marine.  Our Z-men will be on the high seas or in ports far away from home, like the crew you're going to meet right now.

Before this program is over you'll hear their ship leaving with another cargo for the war zone, a cargo like the 500,000 tons of vital supplies and the 30,000 troops the Merchant Marine delivered to General MacArthur in the first three weeks on Leyte.  Like the 70,000,000 tons it delivered to all the fighting fronts in 1944.  Seventy million tons!  Ninety-plus percent of all war supplies we used all over the world.  These boys won't be in the U.S. for Christmas, so the USS is providing them with an early Christmas party which we're all invited to attend.”

At this point Val Brown, NBC announcer, picked up the program from the flying bridge of the Liberty ship.  Gathered around him, near some of the guns manned by the Navy crews that guard these Liberty ships, were some 42 Z-men, members of the crew and some of the 26 sailors who were the gunners.  The United Seaman’s Service had provided gifts and a Santa Claus.  Overhead was what in sea language is called a Christmas tree---a pole 15 feet high with cross bars resembling branches.  At the end of each branch was a red, green or while light used for signaling other ships at sea.

The men and their ship, commanded by a Captain only 30 years old and a mate age 20, were all easterners.  The Captain was Roy Newkirk of Rincon, Georgia, the mate was Donald Hall of Springfield, Massachusetts.  Newkirk commanded one of the 17 TNT ships that were blown up by the Germans at Bari, Italy. Fortunately, he was ashore at the time.


…continued on page 12



Bob Hope  …continued from page 11

The program closed with the choristers singing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" in the distance and the lowering of Santa Claus to the dock on a cargo net.  The commands of the Captain were heard as the steam winches began hauling in the lines with which the ship was fastened to the dock, then the blast of the whistle as the ship began moving out, and the farewell words of Bob Hope:  "Bon Voyage, men of the SS Liberty Ship, Merry Christmas to you and to all the merchant seaman wherever Christmas finds you!  Merry Christmas everyone."

Now what does copying something like this do for us?  Really not a darn thing.  Just a little nostalgia and remembering where you spent some Christmas Days!

Glen Trimble





On page 23 of the Autumn issue of Spark Gap was the puzzle of a boat heading upstream to GIRA Island wherein a pretty young lady’s hat blew off and the Captain turned the boat around to retrieve it. The hat drifted downstream at ten knots while the minute-long decision was made to give chase – the boat had continued upstream for that time – and another half minute while the boat turned around. It gave chase at twice the speed of the current and drifted another half-minute while turning around to resume course upstream.

It lost a total of six (6) minutes en route to GIRA ISLAND.



Comes from the MENSA puzzle calendar, which

gives a clever problem for each day.

Start with the number of rolls in a baker’s dozen, multiply by the number of Horsemen of the Apocalypse, add the cube of 2, and divide by the number of little Indians in the nursery rhyme.

What do you have?

The answer will be in the next issue.







I’m OLD, I’m told,

And hard to fold.


I’m a member of the generation

That relies upon its medication:

A jar of pills, a shot or two,

A cane to walk, false teeth to chew,

A glass for reading clarity,

A dose for regularity,

A mass of pain from toe to head.

What doesn’t ache is surely dead.


I’m OLD and COLD

And hard to fold.


I’m a member of the generation

That lives by sheer determination:

I get my kicks and get around

Although not in a single bound.

In Sleep, I dream of long ago

But leave tomorrow; room to grow

My hope shines bright. My sun’s not set.

I’ve not been all I can be – yet.


I’m OLD but BOLD

And hard to fold.


Dr. Miles D. MacMahon

Submitted by Bud Guntner



Submitted by Chet Klingensmith:

For years, until I got spellchecker on the computer, I got certain words wrong.  One was, of all things, the spelling of a common mark used to denote special attention when writing a word. I came across this little verse to help me remember:


The winter day was very nice.

The wind was cold and brisk.

Ann skated out onto the ice

Her little *







In 1951 I was on a Navy tanker that, to our crew’s delight, went into the dry dock in Jacksonville. It was our laid back third mate, Urban Scott’s hometown. Urban (one Scott who wasn’t called Scottie) had a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and belonged loosely to an unofficial group of bikers. One evening when I was walking from the shipyard to the downtown area, Urban pulled up on his Harley, stopped and offered me a ride. “Naw, really Urban, I’d rather walk. It’s relaxing exercise after all that time at sea,” I finished lamely.   “Get on,” he said firmly. “We’re going to a party.”  It was a young, avant-garde group with above average good looks, but one shy girl stood out like a solar eclipse. In the days following, going about with her in the group, was a delight. Although suitors clung to her possessively, wherever we went, virtually everybody was looking at us—actually mostly at her. The males stared longing, hopefully, the females with undisguised hatred. Later I learned from Urban that she married a handsome suitor despite some remarkably fierce competition. Her husband was subsequently drafted and sent off to Korea for that interminable conflict. This gave suitor number two, who had a remarkable gift of gab, a chance to move in, and somehow he ultimately convinced her to divorce her soldier husband and marry him. But fickle fate, always waiting to pounce, again intervened. Husband number two was drafted and also sent off to Korea, while husband number one finished his tour, got repatriated and set out on a successful quest to convince her to divorce number two and remarry him.  Now the extremely distressed number two somehow managed to get emergency leave claiming a family tragedy. His desperate effort to retrieve his trophy wife was a total disaster. Husband number one, and now number three, beat the living daylights out of him. Unfortunately I lost touch with Urban and never learned the final denouement of that soap opera-like happening.  Another of Urban’s biker friends had suffered a bad streak, the victim of several accidents. His wife finally gave him an ultimatum, “it’s either that blasted bike or me!” He responded by walking out on his crutches, getting on his Harley and riding away. We all have our priorities.






Urban Scott aboard the tanker Tamalpais

in Thule, Greenland



To inject new life into the Wellesley, Massachusetts, Scout Troop 182  (down to a mere two members), Scout Master Mike Kahn came up with the idea of an annual Mystery Adventure trip. Throughout the year, clues, as to what and where, were dolled out one at a time.  “The mystery,” Assistant Scout Master Levens said, “is always the trip itself. Where, what, and will the Scouts be prepared.” The troop has since grown to 40 active scouts and 13 adult leaders.

In May 2000, some 31 scouts and 11 adult leaders boarded the century-old Schooner Ernestina for the mystery destination of Gallups Island.

The 150-foot Ernestina, owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has a regular crew of 12 that supervised the scouts in all the duties of hoisting sails, keeping the vessel on course, and maintaining a sharp lookout. Others worked in the galley.  When the Ernestina, docked the troop pitched tents downhill from where the WWII-era Maritime Service Radio School once stood, and a short distance from where 237 smallpox victims are buried, and Union soldiers during the Civil War were bivouacked.  As the lights of Boston twinkled in the distance, the troop enjoyed lasagna by the camp fire until taps from the bugler ended the day. Some scouts slept in the 12 bunks available aboard the Ernestina and the others bedded down in the tents ashore. The next morning (Sunday) Troop 182 re-boarded the schooner and set sail for the Boston inner Harbor.  The Ernestina and Gallups Island experience was now a part of the rejuvenated Troop’s 87-year history.




Dear JJ:

There has been chapter and verse written about the Liberty Ships and their contribution to winning the War. All of it was true. However, in 1944 more modern and faster cargo ships were being built. They were called Victory Ships. I was fortunate to get assigned to the SS Temple Victory for my only voyage during WWII. It was a seven-months long sojourn into the Pacific ending in the Philippines. Robert Wilson and Frankie Teste were the other radio officers.  Frankie and I were R-91 graduates. Robert was the chief radio officer from R-19.

My son in San Anselmo (on Marin Peninsula across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco) saw the enclosed article and sent it to me. Many of our West Coast Gallups Islanders also sailed on Victory Ships and the article will be of interest to them. The next time I go to visit my son I am going to Richmond to visit the Red Oak Victory.   My ship the Temple Victory was built at the Swan Island Shipyard in Portland, Oregon. It is now one of those rusting hulks resting in Suisun Bay. When we sailed back from the Philippines we docked at Port Chicago. From there the Temple Victory went to the scrap yard. We had hit a reef in Ulithi while doing sixteen knots and tore a hole in the bottom 195 feet long. Lucky for us the ship had a double bottom, and it only penetrated both of them in one hold that had oil.

Gene Harp, R-91, Region 8 Director.

(See article titled “Sea of Change” in this issue, about the SS Red Oak Victory restoration).


Dear JJ:

Enclosed is an article I did for BREAK-IN, the monthly newspaper from Nykopings Sandareamatorer. A few expressions were changed, and it may be suitable for the Spark Gap.  I live in the little farm village of Stigtomata which is only 10 Kilometers away from Nykoping and the sea port of Oxelosund on the Central East Coast of Sweden. Nykoping has all the amenities which go with larger cities including a good amateur radio club.

Best regards,

Frank Hetzler, R-94.


(See article titled “QRS PLEASE” in this issue).


If you get any more inquiries about Veterans Administration (VA) furnished prescriptions at two dollars ($2.00) per month each, you may have them write me for help. (You) must have DOD-214 Honorable Discharge or I can write you a complete article on my experiences with the V.A. and how I got expelled, thus preventing other mariners from making the same mistakes. CUL,

Melvin Lindsey

9335 East Ocotillo Drive,

Tucson, AZ 85749-9671



My father in law, Mr. Evon Higgins, is hoping for information on his class at Gallups Island. He is in failing health and can't remember his class number. He attended in 1942 or 1943. Any help appreciated.

Tom Driscoll




My name is Francis J. Derwin, and I am very much interested in the history of the Merchant Marine Radio Officers, and also the Cooks and Bakers .  I did not serve as a merchant mariner, but am peripherally involved because many of the classes were attended by boys discharged out of the C's in to the Merchant Marine. I am researching for all history involving the Boys and men after they served in the C's.

Any information is appreciated.

Francis J. Derwin




Happy to be aboard. I was in R-49 from June 1943 until January 1944.  Hope to hear from some of my old friends and shipmates.  Sailed until Sept. 1946 and during summer vacations from school until 1948.  An experience I treasure.      

Frederick D. Hartmann





See the form at the back of this issue to register for the 2001 reunion in Atlanta.


…continued on page 15


Letters   …continued from page 14

Dear JJ,

I am currently looking through boxes that I have had stored for over 50 years, trying to locate documents from my seafaring days.  As far as I can recall, I enlisted in the Maritime Service as an apprentice seaman.  At that time, November 1943, I did basic at Catalina Island.  We went through Navy inductment, as M1 of the Naval Reserve.  While on Catalina, we wore regular Navy Uniforms with a Maritime insignia on the cuff.  An order came through and we changed to Maritime Uniforms.  After a few weeks on Catalina Island, I volunteered to take the test for Radio School.  I passed the code test with a perfect score...and never studied code.  At that time, I was told that I was the only one in the past history of taking this test that received a perfect score.  At Huntington, Long Island I believe we had a two months course which prepared us for the advanced course at Gallups Island.  I believe that the course at in Boston Harbor was around five months.  This would mean that around March of '44 I was at Gallups Island.  I am trying to get documents to show when I received my FCC License...this would be around the time I finished training.  I waited for six or seven months for a ship.  My first ship was the SS Algonquin, a coastwise vessel owned by Richfield.  I believe the next ship was the William H. Ashley, a Liberty ship out of San Francisco.  I traveled all through the South Pacific ...Borneo ..Tarakan ...Australia.  I was in the Philippines when the war ended in '45. In '48 I shipped out on the SS Baltimore Trader for a five or six month stay, running between Australia and India. Then in ' 68 or ' 69 I shipped out again from Portland Oregon and made two trips to the Persian Gulf.  I was hoping to get to Vietnam...double pay and an extra $150 a month...but only got as close as Singapore.  I can't re-call the name of the ship, but I think it was a tanker.  I am going to contact the ROU, and see if they have any records.  Also the FCC should know what ships I served on.  I remember one ship's call letters: WXLA.  I remember the Waterman Steamship Line.  I am really happy to find out that I am now entitled to join the American Legion.  At present, I am producing records and am finishing up a new CD for a female artist.  I managed her for 22 years and she was very famous in Europe for ten years.


I am also in the process of converting a two-car garage into a 32 Track digital recording studio.  I check my email 3 or 4 times a day and sometimes spend as much as seven or eight hours on the computer.

As I said, I was in Manila in 1945 when the war ended.  I went to the seaman's club every day for almost a month.  I bought candy and gum and distributed it among the little kids.  One little girl, 6 years old, named Soling, had "pink-eye."  I got an eyecup and some Boric Acid solution and took it to her parents.  They lived in a small one-room shelter, with earth as the floor.  The kids always tried to gang up on us, to get as much candy and gum as possible.  I noticed that none of them ate any of it.  When I visited Soling’s parents, I noticed that she gave all the candy to them.  They then sold or traded the candy for more important necessities.  A prize there in Manila, was white sheets... they made clothes out of them.  I asked the steward for some torn ones then delivered them to Soling’s grass shack.  The day I left, Soling and two of her younger relatives followed me to the ship, after giving me a present of a coconut and some mangoes.  All three of them wanted to go with me to America and leave their families.  They cried, and so did I.  When I returned to the States I bought a couple of dresses and some boy’s pants, and sent it to them.  Manila has fond memories for me.

Best of Luck,

Sam Gino (Gianpapa)





A welcoming committee greets a tanker in 1951 Manila



Letters   …continued from page 15



Last month we ran Cecil Tankersly’s letter, which proclaimed that not all nonagenarians are silent keys. Cecil A. Tankersly, R-74, here with three of his great grandchildren, is still going at 90 years old.





Tanker in Baffin Bay, en route to Thule Greenland

Via e-mail from Jack McNulty

Subject: How sweet it is!

I'm back! Triple bypass on Friday, home on Tuesday.  A surprise of a lifetime was to wake up Saturday morning and see a stranger in my room. When I reached up to shake hands he said, "I'm your son Paul!"  First time seeing him in 10 years, since he lives in Prague, Czech Republic!

After being opened like a cantaloupe, a progress report is due you all. It will be my last, since you all are busy.

1. Though I have more scars than Frankenstein's monster, the stitches are all out!

2. It is absolutely mind-blowing to have all this new rich blood flowing throughout! My brain is flashing like I'm on LSD. My taste buds are alive to new nuances in everything I eat or drink. Fran had better look out, she's living with a 40 year old!  If only my hearing gets better, Fran says.

3. I had a week of laughing with my visiting son, Paul, who left for Prague this morning. He has told me a reservoir of Czech jokes, which I might share! His brother John in Tucson joined us by phone and it was wonderful therapy for me. I've also had lots of visitors, and we have shared a laugh or too, also. Boy, does laughing ever beat crying, improving your lung therapy, as well. Try It!

4. I had two great hours with our 300 business partners in Dallas, got to make a small speech on “How Sweet it is!" My experience should shape up a few who are smoking, eating and working themselves into the warm bed I left at the hospital!

5. Now I can tell you. I didn't believe I could get through five hours of heart surgery, after going thru bladder surgery only six weeks before. I knew that I've lived a full and exciting life and Fran was in good hands with our business, our friends and family. I was ready for the worst!

When I came to, in ICU and she was in my face saying, "You're alive, Jackie".  I felt the clock started all over again. Don't waste a moment with nonsense, because death is a way of telling you to slow down smell the roses!  Love each other and enjoy!

Jack McNulty





…continued on page 17


Letters  …continued from page 16

What follows is an interesting e-mail exchange between Ray Maurstad  (W3HUV - RayMau@peoplepc.com) and Frank Hetzler (SM5XHO - hetzler@swipnet.se) regarding equipment in the radio shack aboard ship.


Frank: There is a lot of interest in our radio club here (in Sweden) regarding WWII and Liberty ships and the equipment available for the Sparks.  This is no doubt related to the fact that Sweden and Switzerland became tired of loosing wars and decided to become neutral countries.  I have Sawyer and Mitchell's book "The Liberty Ships," which provides a lot of information. What I do not have is a good memory of the radio shack.  I visited the Jeremiah O'Brien when it called at Portsmouth and I looked around the shack but the details are now gone from my mind.


Frank’s Question: As I remember both RCA and Mackay provided "prefab" and complete equipment for the ships.  Was it the RCA which we called a "Coke Machine?" or was it both?


Ray’s Response: They were both generally referred to as Coke Machines


Frank: The medium band xmitter covered 375 - 500 kHz?


Ray:  We referred to this xmitter as the "Main". The Mackay Type 2012 covered 400khz-535khz 500 watts.


Frank: The high freq xmitter covered the 3 MHz - 16 MHz bands?


Ray: The Mackay Type 2013 covered 2mhz - 24mhz.


Frank: The maximum power was 200 watts?


Ray: The maximum power was 500 watts.


Frank: The emergency xmitter only covered about 500 kHz and was about 50 watts?


Ray: The emerg xmtr Mackay Type 2010 covered 405-535 khz and rated 40 watts output.


Frank: The auto alarm actuated with a series of six 1-second signals?


Ray: The standard auto alarm signal was 12 four-second dashes each separated by one second. These could be transmitted manually or automatically with an Auto Alarm Keyer. This keyer would continue sending dashes until shut off. Any four of these four-second dashes could ring a receiving auto alarm.


Frank: There was a crystal receiver which we had to try to tune in once a day?  Was this to be removed and carried with you when you took to the life boats?


Ray: This was a "required" piece of junk. In port all you could hear on it was broadcast stations. At sea, in silence, you could pick up a signal on 500 khz if it was very strong. I heard one once.

No, the crystal receiver was permanently mounted in the frame of the "coke machine". What you carried to the lifeboat was the Lifeboat Transceiver which operated on the 8mhz  (about 4 watts) and 500khz (about 2 watts) distress calling frequencies. It had a receiving tunable range of 8266khz-8745khz.


Frank: Did the Liberty ships carry a radio direction finder?  I know that we had this on the Mission ships together with radar.


Ray: The Liberty ships carried radio direction finder in the navigator's chart room.


Frank: Do you remember the power output of the Hallicrafters BC-10?  At least I think it was a model 10 that was about a 3 foot cube.  These are the transmitters that failed in the field during the Korean War and several of us from Gallups Island were sent to Texas to sort out the problems.  It turned out that a swift kick on a corner with a size 9 or larger army boot solved the problem immediately.  These had mechanical relays, which hated dirt and moisture.


Ray: I believe you must mean the BC-610. It was a real workhorse when it did work. I communicated with one that was on a weapons carrier evacuating Seoul. I was in Pusan on ham radio (HL1CE) at that time.


…continued on page 18



Letters   …continued from page 17

Frank: How can you remember all that stuff?  Fantastic.  After I sent the e-mail, I remembered that the Hallicrafters was a BC-610. The four-second dashes with a 1 second interval was just perfect for the South Pacific QRN to set off that big alarm bell over my bunk. The only time I think I actually heard the real thing was just outside the Golden Gate when someone must have pushed something by mistake. I turned my back on all forms of communication radio following the Korean

War where I was first an instructor at Fort Gordon and later a team chief in Japan running RTTY liaison for the 182 Airborne who were rotating personnel between the battle fields of Korea and the bars of that wonderful hot-spring and resort town of Bepu.  Bill Oldenburg, also of R-94 was running the RTTY for the 1st Calvary Division at Sendai, where their commanding officer was a prisoner of war in Korea. From 1952 to 1996, when GIRA shamed me into getting my Ham license, I did not think about touching radio.  Those years helped to fade my memory. Here in Sweden, I am getting all sorts of questions from very interested Hams whom I feel deserve an answer. Thanks for the great help which I know will be much appreciated by the other Hams.

73s, Frank SM5XHO




JJ Ward, Carol Zimmerman, and Chet Klingensmith


Chet Klingensmith, R-088, of  Jacksonville, Florida, returning from a ski vacation at Purgatory, Colorado, detoured to Phoenix to visit family and school chums.  He was able to meet us in north Phoenix for a leisurely brunch.

Chet looked trim and fit after shedding almost 30 pounds since last summer.  Eschewing the ubiquitous fad diets, he followed the classical, no-fail program: eat less, cut back on alcohol, and exercise more.




Bizarre Denouements

Several years ago, sexagenerian, identical twin sisters met for the first time since they were separated as infants. After embracing and shedding profuse tears, one looked at the other and gasped, “Oh my God! I never knew I was so homely.”


When a sixth grade teacher in Massachusetts told his students about a one-room, adobe schoolhouse in central Africa that couldn’t afford the most basic materials including textbooks, the children thought that really sounded “cool.”


Early last spring when a couple drove through a torrential downpour on Long Island, they spotted a drenched and terrified cock spaniel cowering at a busy intersection. Stopping their Mercedes, the man leaped out and ran to the shivering dog. Shortly he returned, soaked to the skin and said, “It’s all right, honey. He’s not ours!”


A friend, hurrying to keep his doctor’s appointment came upon a woman collapsed on the sidewalk outside the clinic. He rushed to tell the staff, and his doctor hurried out to investigate. “Is she one of our patients?” he asked.

When told she wasn’t, he said, “good” and went back inside. My friend is now looking for another doctor.





by Bernard C. Flatow

The Committee has been active during the past few months participating in legislative breakfasts, meeting with legislators and attending memorial services, as well as functions that highlight the Merchant Marine.

I again had an opportunity to pose specific questions about the Merchant Marine to legislators and received very positive responses.  In fact the Congress will increase the funding for the Merchant Marine significantly about the two million-dollar increase this past year.

I attended a dinner in honor of General Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces, and spoke personally with the general, who has the highest praise for the Merchant Marines, and he promised his support for the Merchant Marine Academy and the Merchant Marine fleet.

We participated in memorial services for departed seamen and gave lectures about the Merchant Marine dating back to the Revolutionary War.  We were invited to speak at the Prison Ships Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, NY, and have also been invited to participate on the program at the South Street Seaport in honor of the memory of the S.S. Stephen Hopkins crew and Cadet Edwin J. O'Hara who sank the only capital German Navy ship in the South Atlantic during World War Two.

We attended the Northeast Regional Conference pertaining to compensation for World War II merchant seamen similar to that received recently by our Canadian counterparts.

The Veterans Affairs Committee consisting of: Bud Schmidt, Beech Dale, George Freisleben, Joe Katusa, Jack Brandazian, George Searle, and myself will cooperate with our National Committee to try to secure compensation for our participation in the World War II war effort.

We were denied the GI Bill, care in VA hospitals, bonuses, life insurance, and all other benefits granted to U.S. servicemen.  This compensation is long overdue.  We will need everyone's support if we are to be successful in this endeavor!

Respectfully submitted,

Bernard C. Flatow





JANUARY 1, 2000 – DECEMBER 31, 2000



BANK INTEREST                                                      166.62

BRAINTREE REUNION                                           469.35

DONATIONS 2000                                               2,942.00

DUES 2000                                                           14,060.00

DUES 2001                                                                 940.00

HATS                                                                             90.00

LAPEL PINS                                                                  30.00


TOTAL INCOME                                             $ 18,697.97



60TH ANNIVERSARY HATS                               7,479.80

ATLANTA REUNION                                            1,000.00

EDITOR FEE GALLUPS ISLANDER                     475.00

FRANCHISE FEE                                                        25.00

GALLUPS ISLANDER MAILING                             457.55

GALLUPS ISLANDEER PRINTING                   2,164.00

INTERNET SERVICE                                               191.40

LAS VEGAS REUNION 2001                              1,246.56

OFFICE SUPPLIES                                                  810.45

POSTAGE                                                              1,428.31

PRESIDENT EXPENSE                                           248.08

PRINTING & REPRODUCTION                        3,620.89

REGION 9 EXPENSE                                                 50.00

ROSTER 2000                                                      4,453.78

SEC/TREAS STIPEND                                        2,200.00

SPARK GAP EDITOR Fee                                  1,700.00

SPARK GAP PRINTING                                       5,749.73

TOTAL EXPENSE                                          $ 33,300.55


TOTAL INCOME:                                            $ 18,697.97

TOTAL EXPENSE:                                         $ 33,300.55

NET INCOME:                                                 $ -14,602.26


BALANCE AS OF JAN 1, 2000                      $ 16,042.31

NET INCOME                                                  $ -14,602.31

BALANCE AS OF DEC 31, 2000                  $ 2,640.00


Respectfully submitted by Homer N. Gibson, Sec/Treas





In order to help keep your new roster up to date, in each subsequent issue of Spark Gap we will publish this correction sheet with any additions and changes since the previous issue.  Please send any changes in your information to me as soon as they occur.  Then I will be able to include your changes in the next issue.  By doing this, we can all have an up-to-date roster, all of the time!



Homer Gibson Secretary/Treasurer

P.O. Box 1235

Hermitage, Pennsylvania  16148

E-mail: kb3aps@infonline.net     Phone:  724-962-4213     Fax: 724-962-0181






Buxton, Kenneth

Langdon Place Apt 205B

319 E Dunstable Rd

South Nashua, NH 03062



Carpenelli, Carmine

2511 Chinaberry Drive

Bedfor, TX 76021

Texas address (Dec-Mar)




Derwin, Francis




Dicuus, Wilma

P.O. Box 695

Tabor City, NC 28463



Doerhoff, Ray




Fairfield, John




Hamann, Wyatt A.

New Member M-1543

Spouse - Carol

73 San Simeon Drive

Palm Springs, CA 92264



Harp, Eugene




Hartmann, Frederick D.




Heimbach, Albert G.




Hetzler, Frank




Hudson, Robert

New member M-1542 R-85

13762 SW 111th Avenue

Dunnellon FL 34432-8797



Jensen, Dennis




Linder, Gareth




Maursrad, Ray




McCourt, Louis, J.




Mitchell, Robert




Murray, Jack M.

10345 Champios Circle

Grand Blanc, MI  48439



Nelson, Arvid W.




Olson, Earle E.




Phelps, Joseph V. Jr




Pollitt, Robert

Dunns Cartway Box 1886

Block Island, RI 02807



Sandel, Robert

New member M-1544

Spouse - Geri

3806 Galicia Road

Jacksonville, FL 32217










President "Bud" Guntner and others proposed a min-reunion in the Mid Atlantic area.

As a result, plans are underway for a luncheon-mini-reunion during the week of April 15th.

The location will be in the Allentown/ Bethlehem, Pennsylvania area, close to major highways.


If you are interested in participating, please contact Charles Bergey, event chairman.

Your "significant other” and/or friend(s) will be most welcome.

Fill-out the form below, or send a post card, or use the phone.

Further details will be forwarded to the respondents of this survey.


Charles Bergey

237 Tenth Avenue

Bethlehem, PA. 18018-5138

(610) 865-0839


Renew old acquaintances, make new ones!  Reminisce with stories of the Island, sea stories, career stories, and - at our age - medical procedure/health stories. (Story-telling embellishment is permitted.  Indeed, expected!)  The snow will be melted, your federal income tax completed, Hey - what a nifty way to usher in the Spring Season.


Please respond within one week of receipt of this notice.


YES, I am interested in attending the GIRA Mid-Atlantic luncheon-reunion.

There likely would be a total of __________ person(s), including me, at the luncheon.

















at Gwinnett Place Hotel, 1775 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth, GA  30096

Thursday, August 9, 2001 to Saturday, August 11, 2001



                      Member's Name:                                                                                                            


                      City:                                            State:                                       Zip:                             

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

                      Amateur Call Sign, if any:                                          Arrival Date:                                    

                      Guest:                                                       Relationship:                                                 


REGISTRATION FEE                                                                       $15.00  x             persons  = $       


Room rate for single or double is $79.00, subject to applicable state and local taxes at time of check-in.

Attendees may include a full breakfast for two for $89.00 per night rate.

The rates of $79.00 and $89.00 will apply two days prior and two days after the event.


Optional Reunion Tours:


                     Thursday, August 9, 2001


                                 1.      Peachtree Tour                                      $32.00 x             persons  = $        

                                 2.      Carter Center, Stone Mountain Tour         $64.00 x             persons  = $        


                     Friday,  August 10, 2001


                                 1.      City Highlights Tour                                $38.00 x             persons  = $        

                                 2.      Sherman's March Tour                            $30.00 x             persons  = $        


                     Saturday,  August 11, 2001


                                 1.      Mansions and Magnolias Tour                 $62.00 x             persons  = $        

                                 2.      City Highlights Tour                                $38.00 x             persons  = $        



REUNION DINNER/DANCE (Saturday evening, August 11, 2001),

Dinner Selections (insert number)   Chicken Piccata Napoli                 $27.10 x             persons  = $        

Price includes tax and gratuities      Southern Catfish Fillet                  $29.60 x             persons  = $        



                                                                                                                     TOTAL:            $           


All tours include transportation from the hotel and return.  Bus departure times will be posted at the reunion.


Make hotel reservations by calling 1-800-228-9290, or speak directly with the hotel at (770) 923-1775.

Call by July 25, 2001 and identify yourself as GIRA.  Reservations for the event will be accepted after the cut-off date at GIRA’s rate as long as rooms are available.


Cancellation Policy: Individuals may cancel up to 24 hours prior to their arrival date.


Please make check payable to GIRA REUNION and mail THIS form with the check to:

GIRA REUNION, c/o Golden Cross, 1445 Lake Lucerne Road, Lilburn, GA 30047-4334






Andren, Richard




Baxter, Jack




Bischoff, H. A.




Black, Robert




Boissonneau, Joseph H




Briggs, Anthony


R-001 (A1)


Brown, Howard J.




Clark, Adrian E.




Diamond, Ray




Jimmy P. Dicus, Jr.




Dorval, Albert F Jr




Dunne, Patrick, Jr.




Fisher, James V., Sr.




Garaudy, Eugene J.




Gedeon, John H.




Ginder, Paul




Glazer, Melvin H.




Goodwin, James W.




Hackenberger, Richard B.




Hunter, Walter W.




Hutchinson, Robert F.




Jeffers, Clarence G.




Jennings, Norman L.




Jones, James M.




Kelly, William L.




Kesler, Jack




Layeux, Philip T.




Lemma, Schley D.




Marshall, George H., Sr




Masi, Charles R.




Meadowcroft, Bruce A.




Morrison, William A.




Natvig, Arthur G.




Newbold, Charles G.




Nocella, Salvatore




O’Sullivan, Cornelius J.




Pallazolla, Dominic




Purkiss, Frank E.




Riedel, William


R-005 (B2)


Rule, David




Schrade, William




Scott, Stephen Russell




Sharkey, Richard




Sharpe, William A.




Simpson, George E.




Stallings, George C.




Sutcliffe, Ray A.




Travers, John L.




Trotter. Robert W.




Uhrig, George J.




Watson, James A.




Williams, Lacy L.




Wortman, Carl K. R.




Zikmund, Floyd D.












PERMIT # 201




Post Office Box 83

Black Canyon City, AZ 85324


John JJ Ward, Editor

49220 North 26 Avenue

New River, AZ 85087-8080



Urban A. “Bud” Guntner, President

527 Windwood Road

Baltimore, MD 21212-2108

(410) 377-5316


Raymond E. King, Vice-president

108 Great Hill Drive

N Weymouth, MA 02191-1038

(781) 331-6154


Homer N. Gibson, Secretary-Treasurer

P. O. Box 1235

Hermitage, PA 16148

(724) 962-4213



The Spark Gap is published by The Gallups Island Radio Association (GIRA), a non-profit organization.

Basic circulation is confined to Association members, Gallups Island Radio School graduates, instructors,

and administrative personnel during World War II, and friends of GIRA.  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 Radio School. Contributions of personal experiences, seagoing and otherwise, of general interest

are always sought. It’s time to share your life’s adventures. Manuscripts may be edited for length, clarity, and redundancy.  Photographs will be returned upon request, otherwise shall be filed for possible future use.

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.



Sunset and evening star,

   And one clear call for me!

And may there be no mourning of the bar

   When I put out to sea.


But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

   Too full for sound and foam,

When that which drew from out the boundless deep,

   Turns again home.




Twilight and evening bell,

   And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

   When I embark;


For though from out our bourne of Time and Place,

   The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my pilot face to face

   When I have crossed the bar.


                                               Alfred Lord Tennyson