The USS Missouri (BB-63) Battleship Memorial located in Pearl Harbor, HI, announced plans for a commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the formal surrender of Japan to the Allied Powers which took place on her decks in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, thereby officially ending World War II. Over the course of several months, the Azalea Coast Amateur Radio Club initiated contact with the Battleship Missouri Amateur Radio Club to explore the possibility of an historic radio contact between the Missouri and the USS North Carolina (BB-55) Battleship Memorial and Museum, located in Wilmington, NC, on that date. The contact would be via Morse code, the primary means of naval communication during WWII. While the amateur operators aboard the Missouri would use a modern amateur radio transceiver, the North Carolina hams would use a TBM-4 Morse code transmitter placed in service on the ship in 1941, and an RBC receiver, placed in service on the ship in 1944.
Members of the ACARC have been working on restoring several of the North Carolina's original transmitters to operating condition since 2000. During the ensuing decade, the Club has operated two of these transmitters on the amateur radio bands during many commemorative and amateur activities.
With available modern communication technologies of the internet and Internet Radio Linking Protocol (IRLP), an agreement was reached and a protocol for the proposed contact was established. In consideration of when band (atmospheric) conditions were projected to be most favorable, a frequency of 14.035 MHz and a time of 9:00-10:00PM (local) were selected.
At 7:30PM on the evening of September 2, 2010, the TBM in Radio 2, the main transmitter room on the North Carolina, was fired up. In the summer heat of the Carolinas and the water temperature of the Cape Fear River, in the non air conditioned confines of the radio room, by 8:00PM the transmitter had warmed to the point that it was settling in around the desired frequency.
At 8:05PM (2:05 PM in HI), NI4BK (BB-55) sent out a tentative Morse code call to KH6BB (BB-63) on 14.035+/_ MHz. Band conditions were not optimal, but contact was established, and it was agreed that further attempts would be made on the half hour as conditions were expected to improve. While the North Carolina gave the Missouri a signal report of 339 for readability, signal strength and tone of its transmissions, the Missouri gave the North Carolina a report of 559 in return. (599 is optimal).
A second attempt was made at 8:28PM, band conditions had improved somewhat, and the two Battleship Memorials exchanged congratulatory greetings in recognition of the Special Event.
The North Carolina sent the following message to the Missouri, in Morse code, using a 662 pound transmitter, glowing with the latest in 1930's technology i.e. radio tubes, radiating from an original equipment vertical antenna high on the superstructure, over an air mile distance just shy of 5000 miles.
"ON this 65th anniversary of the document signing on board USS Missouri, ending World War II, we salute the efforts of our brave service personnel who protected our freedom. The curators and supporters of the USS Missouri and the USS North Carolina are to be commended for preserving important instruments of our proud history."
Upon confirmation of receipt, the Missouri responded with the following message.
"September 2, 2010 marks the 65th anniversary of the signing of the documents on board the USS Missouri that officially ended World War II. Your participation by radio in the commemoration of this significant event is appreciated."
The contact ended at 8:45PM local and the signal report was 559 both ways.
As an aside, during the North Carolina's transmission of its message to the Missouri, the TBM, for reasons as yet unknown, suddenly ceased transmitting. However, adroit manipulation and readjustment of the controls brought it back to life and the message was successfully completed. Operation of the TBM is managed through 9 primary and 5 secondary switches/controls, the effects of which are read on 12 meters. The controls are interrelated, and adjustment of any one most often requires the readjustment of several of the others back and forth, until a satisfactory reading can be read on various combinations of meters. Briefly, it is not "plug and play".
Participating in the Special Event aboard the North Carolina were ACARC members Club President Charlie, K4UWH (whose father served on the North Carolina) on the straight key, Allan, KX2H at the transmitter controls, Jack, WD4OIN, Norm, K4YSY, Bill, AG4PA, Glenn, KE4BMY, and Hutch, NK0S. Handling comms aboard the Missouri were Bill, KH6OO (whose father landed on Okinawa under the protective shore bombardment provided by the Missouri) and Ray, WH6ASW.
The opportunity to participate in the historic contact between the two Battleship Memorials is reward enough in itself, given the solemn significance of the anniversary and the storied contributions of the Missouri and the North Carolina and their valiant crews during WWII in the Pacific. These contributions played no small part in forcing the Japanese Empire to the decks of the Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945 to sign the formal "instruments of surrender".
From our perspective aboard the North Carolina, the use of current technology to initiate and coordinate the contact, the use of late 1930's technology-- the TBM-4first awakened in 2002 after a 60 plus year slumber--, the use of a communications mode (CW) which, while prevalent in its day, has largely been abandoned by all but amateur radio operators, and reliance on individual skills learned through experience to rectify an equipment failure which could easily have prevented successful contact have all added to the enjoyment of the occasion.