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Radio Waves Across The North

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1 Radio Waves Across The North
Ernie Brown – VA3OEB With collaboration by Doug Leach – VE3XK

2 Early Yukon Road Attempts
Routes taken by RCMP Inspector J.D. Moodie (1897) and Sgt. Charles Constantine (1905) from Edmonton toward Dawson City to establish a road link to maintain Canada sovereignty Both failed.

3 Pre-War Yukon Travel The primary travel routes in the interior of the Yukon prior to 1942 were mainly by water, with a rail connection between Skagway, Alaska and Whitehorse

4 North West Staging Route
In response to increasing demand for flying services in the North, Department of Transport started building an airway between Edmonton and Whitehorse in 1939. It was based on routes established by bush pilots and in consideration of the shortest (Great Circle) path between the centre of the continent and the Orient. The object was to build as many emergency airstrips as needed to supplement existing airports to position an airfield, with 3000’ X 500’ runway, every 100 miles and to equip all airfields with a Radio Range system for electronic navigation. This was called The North West Staging Route.

5 The NWSR Goes To War When the United States entered the war in late 1941, Canada offered the use of the Northwest Staging Route "for the duration". Canada and the USA began work to extend the NWSR from Great Falls, Montana to Fairbanks, Alaska using existing airways where possible. The US used the NWSR to ferry fighters and bombers to the USSR and to ship matériel to the developing front in the Aleutian Islands. This became the major shipping route to supply aircraft for the war in Europe and the fronts in Asia.

6 North West Staging Route
Great Falls, MT*+ Lethbridge, AB* Calgary, AB* Penhold, AB* Edmonton, AB* Whitecourt, AB Grand Prairie, AB Fort St. John, BC Beatton River, BC Fort Nelson, BC Smith River, BC Watson Lake, YT Teslin, YT Whitehorse, YT Aishihik, YT Snag, YT Northway, AK+ Tanacross, AK+ Delta, AK+ Fairbanks, AK+ * Existing airways + US non-DOT airfields

7 North West Staging Route

8 RCAF Participation In 1942 several RCAF bomber-reconnaisance and fighter squadrons were sent via the NWSR to Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to assist the US in checking the Japanese threat in that area. For months they carried out patrols and strafing missions On one sortie an RCAF Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk shot down a Japanese Zero, the only enemy aircraft destroyed in WWII by a home-based unit.

9 Lend-Lease Lend-Lease was the major program that enabled the USA to supply Britain, the USSR, China and other Allied nations with vast amounts of war matériel to fight the Axis Powers. Lend-Lease began in March 1941, nine months before Pearl Harbor, and ended after V-J Day, on September 2, 1945. In addition to thousands of tons of heavy equipment, arms, clothing and food, Lend-Lease aircraft for the USSR totalled 14,795 fighters, bombers and transports

10 Lend-Lease Routes to USSR
North Atlantic by ship to Murmansk/Arkangel - Convoys encountered heavy losses due to U-boats and aircraft based in occupied Norway South Atlantic via Brazil and North Africa through Turkey or Iran - Aircraft incurred heavy losses due to engine damage from desert sand across North Africa Alaska-Siberia (ALSIB) via the extended NWSR to Siberia Ferry aircraft incurred moderate losses due to severe temperatures, remote wilderness, and hazardous weather.

11 The ALSIB Route Great Falls, MT Calgary, AB Edmonton, AB
Grand Prairie, AB Fort Nelson, BC Watson Lake, YT Whitehorse, YT Fairbanks, AK Onward to Siberia via Galena and Nome, AK Total 6413 km

12 ALSIB Siberian Section
Fairbanks – Uelkal ,500 km Uelkal – Seimchan ,450 km Seimchan – Yakutsk ,167 km Yakutsk – Kirensk ,331 km Kirensk – Krasnoyarsk km A total of 7924 aircraft were transferred to Soviet #1 Ferry Squadron pilots at Fairbanks.

13 The Aircraft – Fighters (1)
P-39 Airacobra built by Bell Aircraft in Niagara Falls, NY the only Lend-Lease aircraft photo we could find in Soviet colours 5707 supplied P-63 Kingcobra 2397 supplied

14 The Aircraft - Fighters (2)
P-40 Kittyhawk Built by Curtiss at Buffalo and Hammondsport, NY supplied P-47 Thunderbolt Built by Republic at Bethpage, LI, NY 195 supplied

15 The Aircraft - Bombers A-20 Boston (Havoc) built by Douglas at Long Beach, California 2908 supplied B-25 Mitchell – built by North American Los Angeles, California 862 supplied

16 The Aircraft - Transports
C-47 Dakota/Skytrain) Built by Douglas at Santa Monica, California

17 Lend-Lease from the UK Surprisingly, in addition to the aircraft supplied to the USSR by the USA, beleaguered Britain also supplied the following via sea-lift to Murmansk/Arkangel (mostly prior to US Lend-Lease getting underway): Hawker Hurricanes 2952 Supermarine Spitfires 1331 Handley-Page Hampden Medium Bombers (below) 23

18 The US Ferry Air Crews ALSIB ferry pilots were from the US Army Air Force Air Transport Command (military) or the Women Airforce Service Pilots (civilian – no benefits) Pilot of the lead aircraft in a flight would handle all A/G communication (voice-only ) sending HF, receiving on the Radio Range frequencies, as they passed overhead, or landed. (This was before VHF nav/com). No WASP pilots landed at Aishihik and no WASP voice was heard on radio. Perhaps as female civilians they were not given Leader authority over military pilots. Lead aircraft of a bomber or transport flight probably had the only navigator. There were no radio operators. The Flight Leader in a fighter flight had to navigate as there was no crew aboard.

19 Denied to the USSR In spite of repeated requests, the USSR was denied the following (strategic) equipment by the USA: Four-engine bombers – B17, B-24, B-29 Four-engine transports – C-54 (DC-4) Night Fighters (They did not receive any Lancaster, Halifax or Stirling four-engine heavy bombers, heavy transports, or night fighters from Britain either.) Norden Bombsight Certain other advanced instrumentation and avionics At Fairbanks, US radio equipment was removed and the Russians installed their own radio equipment, following their inspection and acceptance of each aircraft.

20 Fort St John Airport

21 Whitehorse Airport Douglas A-20’s and Bell P-39’s enroute to the USSR.

22 Whitehorse Hangars 1943 New hangars under construction at Whitehorse Airport. The U.S. Army Air Force developed the west side (front) while the RCAF used the east side during the war.

23 Aishihik Operations Bldg
Radio Range and Point to Point Operating Positions were on the top floor Airport Manager’s office on the ground floor Weather Office on the ground floor performed weather observations and produced the weather reports. These were passed to the Range Position to be sent by voice to aircraft (on request), and to the Point to Point Position to be sent by CW to Snag and Whitehorse.

24 Radio Range Position Operator doing weather broadcast using the carbon microphone on its desk stand. This position handled all Air/Ground communication, all weather reports and weather requests – all by voice, sending on the Radio Range frequency. Passing aircraft position (PX) reports and ETAs were logged in indelible pencil and passed the Point to Point Position to be sent by CW to the next station.

25 Range A/G Operations All Radio Ranges were in the 200 – 400 kHz Band
Aishihik (ZK) – 341 kHz W’horse (XY) – 302 kHz Snag (XQ) – 239 kHz Transmissions were on the Radio Range frequency, interrupting the navigation signals. Reception of typical A/G HF AM transmitter (top) was on AM Receiver (no squelch) 3105 or 6210 KHz.

26 Four-Course Radio Range
In 1929 the US Bureau of Standards developed the Four-Course Radio Range as used on the NWSR. Four 125’towers set in a 500’ square transmitted the letters A and N in Morse code. Where the A and N signals overlapped, the Morse code dashes and dots sounded a steady tone, painting four audio “legs” or “courses”.

27 Radio Range Theory Diagonally opposite tower pairs were fed with out-of-phase energy, which produced a figure 8 pattern for each pair. The combined figure 8s, produced the radiation pattern with four lobes. An L-C phasing network feeding each tower could steer that lobe as needed. The RF from the transmitter, modulated at 1020 Hz, was fed to the two Goniometer primary windings on the rotor, through a Link Circuit Relay (LCR), which had contacts on both sides.

28 Radio Range Theory When the LCR keyed dot-dash [A] on one side, the spaces automatically keyed dash-dot [N] on the other side. The Range ID was keyed alternately on the A side and then the N side of the Link Circuit Relay, by a separate code wheel, once per minute

29 Radio Range Theory A range station was always positioned several miles off the end of the airport main runway. One of the “legs” pointed at the runway and other “legs” pointed toward adjacent airports (with fine orientation using phasing) Pilots would tune to the next range when about 50 miles out (halfway) to the next airport.

30 Aishihik Radio Range Site
Two Marconi transmitters (one active and one standby) the goniometer, and a standby generator were located in a building at the Radio Range site. Photo shows one of the four Radio Range towers each with an elevated counterpoise. The counterpoise was essential to provide an effective RF ground over sub-arctic soil

31 Changing a Top Light at 125’

32 Point to Point Position
The active frequency was monitored continuously All messages to and from adjacent stations were handled on HF (6 – 8 MHz) at wpm CW, using standard message forms, and Q-codes. When there was no HF propagation 157 KHz was used. This often allowed contact with Edmonton but then often not Whitehorse. Admin traffic was via Whitehorse to Edmonton and on by CN Telegraph

33 Point to Point Position
The general coverage (LF/HF) Marconi CSR-5A Receiver (sample shown) could work Point to Point circuits and also monitor the Radio Range. The AT-3 Transmitter at the Transmitter Site was remotely controlled using a control panel at the Point to Point Position, similar to the one shown

34 Aishihik Transmitter Site
Two 300W RCA AT-3 HF transmitters (as shown below) One 500W Marconi LF transmitter Antenna farm of dipoles with open-wire feed lines Standby power plant This Point to Point Transmitter Site was separate from the Radio Range Site, another 3 miles away from the airstrip.

35 Installation Diplomacy
Isolation required diplomacy (and good humour). A visiting Engineer in charge of installing the LF transmitter had been trying all afternoon to get antenna current without proper results. That evening, the OIC invited the Engineer and some off-duty radio ops on a fishing trip. Fortunately, the Engineer declined. A truckload of the radio ops and the OIC (three pre-war hams) went “fishing” at the Transmitter Site, loaded up the LF transmitter, and got proper readings. They then reset things as the Engineer had left them, confident the transmitter was OK, so the Engineer could “fix it” next day, at his own pace.

36 Other Duties Assisting OIC with station maintenance and learning maintenance routines Cleaning relay contacts Lubricating motors Test run of standby generator Maintenance of the plant Changing tubes under direction of OIC General help with the installation crew Gofer

37 Off Duty What do hams (and non-hams) do when they can’t ham off-duty?
Build a sail-boat Sail Photograph equipment and local fauna Hiking Debate No musical instruments or talent revealed

38 Barracks Building When I arrived by air in 1943 there were no blinds
or window curtains, and 24-hr daylight. Spare blankets were soon put over the windows for those of us on shift work. The wood-burning “Yukon Heater” was a 45 gallon oil drum on its side with stove pipe on one end and a door on the other. The replacement hot air furnace melted the permafrost.

39 Others on Site The Resident Engineer was responsible for oversight of construction and then became the Airport Manager. About 20 Whitepass & Yukon Construction Co workers finishing the buildings, gravelling and packing the runway and local roads, until completed in Construction camp cook and helpers fed all on site. RCAF Sergeant and two helpers took over power plant and runway maintenance, and the RCAF cook and helpers took over the kitchen, after W&YC left in 1944. Four radio ops plus OIC were responsible for radio & Radio Range. Radio ops and OIC acted as techs where needed (No airport radar at the time outside the military). Four Meteorology staff to do observations and forecasts.

40 Bush Road – Spring & Fall
Unimproved bush roads to the Transmitter and Range sites were difficult enough in summer and fall, and impassable during spring runoff (below) After freeze-up, roads were good except for possible drifting snow. The road to the lake and barge landing dock was sandy and passable at all times

41 Bent A-20 Bomber Flight Leader, making a precautionary landing at Aishihik to avoid bad weather, mistook the shoulder for the runway. His nose wheel dug into the soft gravel. The other three A-20s landed safely along the middle of the runway A-20 was taken by barge to be trucked for repairs.

42 Million Dollar Valley Lead navigator of a bomber flight failed to find the refuelling stop at Watson Lake Low on fuel, with darkness approaching, the flight let down through cloud and landed safely on a frozen lake in a valley between Watson Lake and Teslin. A bush pilot spotted them and a small aircraft on skis picked up the crews with no casualties. Several days later, a USAAF salvage crew found only stripped out shells of the bombers. Everything had already been “salvaged” by unknown trappers or hunters. Not all sacrificed everything for the war effort. This event earned that valley the sarcastic name.

43 Welcome Air Visitors An RCAF Norseman or Beech 18 Expeditor (shown) delivered the welcome regular mail and supplies An Alaska Star Airways Ford Tri-Motor airliner once stopped to check a suspected oil leak The stewardess went for coffee, while waiting All Aishihik’s off-duty crew also went for coffee

44 Gratitude Photo shows appreciative Soviet pilots with a P-39. Their two top WWII aces flew P-39s. Neither the Red Army Museum in Moscow, nor the Soviet Air Force Museum makes any mention of Soviet use of American aircraft during WWII or that the Western Allies even participated in that war.

45 ALSIB War-Time Losses Aircraft were usually flown at altitudes between 17,000’ and 22,000’, in very low temperatures, and the pilots wore oxygen masks in unheated cockpits. Pilots were further hampered by frosted cockpit windows that limited visibility. Portions of the route were flown “on instruments” when forest fire smoke in summer and heavy fog and clouds in winter obscured terrain features. 133 planes were lost enroute to Fairbanks. USSR reported 73 planes and 140 crew lost past Fairbanks, enroute over Alaska to Krasnoyarsk (likely a deliberate underestimate, given the much greater distance and primitive navigation conditions their ferry pilots had to contend with).

46 ALSIB Memorial Plaque Memorial plaque at Fairbanks to those American ferry pilots (often women) who flew the Lend-Lease aircraft up to Fairbanks via the Northwest Staging Route, and the Russian ferry pilots (often women) who flew them onwards 6,000 km to the “front”.

47 Alaska Highway Today The Alaska Highway follows closely the North West Staging Route (though it misses Aishihik by 84 miles)

48 Aishihik Today This map shows the abandoned airstrip.
The 84 mile road in from the Alaska Highway is no longer maintained past the south end of the lake, leaving 57 miles of almost impassable road. The bush road also goes to the Transmitter and Radio Range Sites. A barge docked at the wharf with supplies and fresh fish caught enroute.

49 Satellite photos courtesy of Chapter 70 member Tim Evangelatos - VE3MY
Aishihik Today Google Earth view from space shows what remains of the airstrip and station, abandoned in Nature has been hard at work, for 40 years, reclaiming the gravel runway (centre). Unfortunately Google Earth resolution is poor in remote areas like the Yukon so the detail is poor. Satellite photos courtesy of Chapter 70 member Tim Evangelatos - VE3MY


51 Other Arctic Radio Services
Royal Canadian Corps of Signals built their NWT&Y network up to 40 stations over 50 yrs Dawson City – Mayo 1923 Fort Simpson 1923 Fort Smith 1924 10 more stations in 1930s Whitehorse – Burwash Landing 1935 24 more added All shut down or transferred to DOT by 1959

52 Other Arctic Radio Services
By 1930 virtually all HBC Northern outposts were provided with am broadcast receivers to monitor CKY -Winnipeg, and KDKA - Pittsburg, for news and occasional employer and family messages In 1934 an HBC apprentice took his ham radio equipment to Cambridge Bay and demonstrated reliable communication with his friends in the south. He used batteries, and a supply of vinegar to revive fading cells! HBC quickly obtained a Private Commercial Licence for his station so he could handle business messages.

53 Other Arctic Radio Services
HBC then added training in Morse code and weather observation to their course for new apprentices. By 1938/9 they had equipped most outposts with short wave transmitters and receivers, batteries and wind chargers. RCMP had supplied broadcast receivers to their outposts since In 1932 the first ever use of two-way radio was recorded in the manhunt for “Mad Trapper” Albert Johnson.

54 Other Arctic Radio Services
Installed in 1928 for ship-to-shore communication and direction finding were the following DOT Marine Radio Stations (call signs): Churchill, MB (VAP)* Chesterfield Inlet (VBZ)* Port Harrison, QC (VAL)* Nottingham Island (VCB)+ Resolution Island (VAW)+ * Hudson’s Bay + Hudson’s Strait

55 Other Arctic Radio Services
To support Arctic air operations, a number of Eastern Arctic weather stations were set up during the war: Frobisher Bay, NT (USAF) Padloping Island, NT (USAF) Clyde River, NT (DOT) Arctic Bay, NT (DOT) Resolute Bay, NT (DOT) Most DOT Arctic weather stations were set up after WWII. The Crimson Route, was built by USAF in 1942 as a wounded evacuation route (hence the name) and alternative to the Gander/Goose Bay - Iceland route for trans-Atlantic ferry flights from California to Great Britain.

56 The USAF Crimson Route Great Falls, MT**+ The Pas, MB**+
Ft Churchill, MB** Coral Harbour, NT** Fort Chimo, QC (alt) (Kuujjuak) (Crystal 1) Frobisher Bay, NT** (Iqaluit) (Crystal 2) Padloping Island (Crystal 3) Narsarssuak, Grnld (Bluie West 1) or Sondre Stromfjord, Grnld (Bluie West 8) ** Ikateq, Grnld (Bluei East 2) Keflavik, Iceland Prestwick, Scotland Few aircraft had used the Crimson Route by 1945, when USAF Canadian stations were sold to DOT. + Aircraft enroute to The Pas could use Trans Can Airway from Calgary to Winnipeg ** ** Radio Ranges

57 North Atlantic Air Routes
Gander and Goose Bay also had Radio Ranges

58 South Atlantic Air Routes
Almost half the USSR Lend-Lease aircraft took these routes.

59 1965 DOT Radio Circuits

60 You Can Go Back! …. but this is as close as I could get to the Aishihik airstrip in July, I was still 57 miles away by un-maintained bush road when I had to give up, or risk being unable to make it back home.

61 Thanks for taking this sentimental journey with me.
Your time and attention were much appreciated. Any other questions?

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