Friday, October 9, 2009
Radio waves from hallowed ground
Let me digress from the usual for a short post about an upcoming event that will have absolutely no significance to most of you. It will, though,be near and dear to the hearts of my fellow amateur radio operators, and especially those of us who enjoy communicating with groups who set up in remote locales for what we call "dx-peditions."
But there is another reason I am excited about this particular operation. Using the call sign K4M, the "hams" will be set up and communicating from Midway Island in the middle--thus the name--of the Pacific between San Francisco and Tokyo. Some--though not nearly enough--also know it as the spot where one of the key battles in naval history was fought in 1942. Many feel the course of the war, and thus of history, was altered just a few wavelengths away from where the hams and the gooney birds--the islands only permanent residents now--will share sand the next few weeks.
Now, for those who don't know, I have written several books about the exploits of U.S. submarines in the Pacific during World War II. That little atoll somewhere northwest of Hawaii played a huge role in the success those submarines...more correctly, those submariners...had in doing more than their share of winning the war.
One of the most remarkable things that I wrote about was a former submarine commander...one who gave up his commission because he thought he was not being effective enough. That gentleman actually won a submarine command back in a poker game. He was the XO at the sub base on Midway when, one night in a heated card game, he made a daring move and took a huge pot. The base commander was one of the players at the table who lost, but he was duly impressed with how Commander Joe Enright played his hand.
"Joe, if you ran a submarine the way you played that hand, I'd give you the next boat that comes in," he said. And he did.
Enright ended up as skipper of USS Archerfish. All he and his brave crew did on that first patrol was sink the biggest ship that has ever been sunk by a submarine--the Shinano, a massive, "unsinkable" aircraft carrier caught emerging from Tokyo Bay on her maiden voyage.
But now you see why I am especially excited about talking to guys who will be set up on that hallowed ground, contacting fellow amateur radio ops around the world. It will be a new tally mark in my "Countries contacted" column. But I will also be proud to talk to that gooney-bird covered sliver of sand in the Pacific because of the brave men who stopped over there more than sixty years ago.
Don Keith N4KC