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Mobile Amateur Radio – Museum Ships on the Air Weekend 2016

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Brunswick – Museum Ships on the Air Weekend is one of my favorite amateur radio events of the year; it allows me to combine two of my loves – history (particularly military history) and radio. I was working in Brunswick during this year’s Museum Ships on the Air weekend, but I took the opportunity of about an hour on Saturday and Sunday morning before I went to bed to use my recently repaired mobile amateur radio station to log some museum ships. Over the course of the two mornings I logged 10 museum ships, five each morning, despite the not so good conditions. Sunday morning was particularly difficult for the mobile station as I fought some huge QSB (fading) signal swings; one second a station would be loud and clear and the next second they would be barely audible. The newly repaired Yaesu FT-857D and the Opek HVT-400B mobile antenna got the job done though, collecting 9 QSOs on 20 Meters and one on 40 Meters. It’s worth noting that both of my recent W9IMS QSOs were on 40 Meters with the same setup – the  HVT-400B while not ideal on the band, will definitely get the job done on 40 Meters.

The 10 ships represented a good variety of ship types and eras. One, the USS Olympia represented the pre-World War I era, she is the oldest steel hulled American ship remaining afloat. The CSS Acadia was also built prior to World War I. The USS Oklahoma saw service in World War I and was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II. LST 325 is a landing ship that took part in multiple amphibious landings during World War II. The USS Orleck and USS The Sullivans are destroyers that saw service during and after World War II. The SS Cedarville and SS Carl D. Bradley were sister Great Lakes freighters that sank in the 1950s and 1960s after a collision and during a storm. Listed below are the ships and a bit of each one’s history.

Saturday’s Activity

  1. W8C – SS Cedarville – The Ships Amateur Radio Club put the SS Cedarville Memorial in Rogers City, MI on the air for Museum Ships on the Air 2016. Launched as the SS A.F. Harvey and renamed in 1956, the Cedarville was a bulk carrier that worked the Great Lakes until its sinking in the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in May 1965 after it collided with the SS Topdalsfjord.  10 out of the crew of 35 died when the ship sank before the Captain was able to run it aground in an attempt to prevent the sinking. The Cedarville was the third largest ship to sink in the Great Lakes after the infamous SS Edmund Fitzgerald and the SS Carl D. Bradley, whose memorial, W8B, I worked on Sunday morning.
  2. K1USN – Watson Library and Research Center – The K1USN Radio Club activated the Watson Library and Research Center in Braintree, MA for Museum Ships on the Air 2016. Located on the site of the former Fore River Ship and Engine Company which was owned by Thomas Watson and built ships during late 1800s and the 1900s, it features an amateur radio station used by the K1USN club to demonstrate amateur radio to area students and provide displays of historical radio equipment.
  3. WW2LST – LST 325 – The USS LST 325 Amateur Radio Club activated LST 325 in Evansville, IN for Museum Ships on the Air 2016. LST 325 was launched in October 1942 and saw service in the European Theater of World War II, taking part in operations at Sicily, Salerno, and Normandy. Post-war, she saw service in the arctic and served in the Greek Navy from 1963 to 1999 before being transferred to Museum Ships, Inc. in 2000. She is currently homeported in Evansville, IN as a museum and memorial ship that is also fully operational and makes cruises.
  4. N2HTL – USS The Sullivans – N2HTL activated the USS Sullivans (DD-537) at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park for Museum Ships on the Air 2016. The first of two US Navy Destroyers to be named The Sullivans after the 5 brothers killed aboard the USS Juneau when she was sank off of Guadalcanal in World War II, The Sullivans is a Fletcher class Destroyer that was launched in April 1943 and saw service in both World War II and the Korean War, earning 9 battle stars in WW2 and two in the Korean War. Decommissioned in January 1965, she was accquired by the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park in 1977 as a memorial and for public tours. The second USS The Sullivans is DDG-68, which is still an active US Navy ship.
  5. W5BII – USS Orleck – The Southwest Louisiana Amateur Repeater Club activated the USS Orleck, a US Navy Gearing class Destroyer that saw service with both the US and Turkish navies for Museum Ships on the Air 2016.  Her namesake is Lt. Joseph Orleck, the commanding officer of the USS Nause (AT-89), who was killed in action in the Gulf of Salerno during World War II on 9 September 1943 and posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.  He was also awarded the Navy and Marine Corps medal for his actions in helping save the crew of the SS Lancaster on 31 December 1942.  She was commissioned on 15 September 1945; after service in the Pacific after World War II she saw combat during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.  The Orleck fired more shells than any other Destroyer during the Vietnam War.  In 1982, she was turned over to the Turkish Navy, where she saw service as the TCG Yucetepe (D 345).  Decommissioned by the Turkish Navy in 1998, she was acquired for the purpose of a museum ship in 2000 by the Southwest Texas War and Heritage Foundation in Orange, TX.  The Orleck was damaged during Hurricane Rita in 2005 and after repairs, eventually found a new home in Lake Charles, LA where she reopened as a museum ship in April 2011.
USS Olympia (C-6) on display at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, PA (photo from Wikipedia)

USS Olympia (C-6) on display at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, PA (photo from Wikipedia)

CSS Acadia on display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia (photo from Wikipedia)

CSS Acadia on display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia (photo from Wikipedia)

Sunday’s Activity

  1. WW2OK – USS OklahomaThe USS Batfish and USS Oklahoma Amateur Radio Club activated the USS Oklahoma (BB-36) memorial in Tulsa, OK for Museum Ships on the Air 2016. Launched in March 1914, the Oklahoma served in World War I and was based in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 when the Japanese Navy attacked. Sunk by several Japanese torpedoes, she sank and capsized taking 429 of her 1,398 crew members with her. The Oklahoma was raised in 1943 but was deemed beyond repair and sold for scrap in 1946. Before she could be scrapped, however, she sank in a storm while en route from Hawaii to San Francisco in 1947. Along with her class namesake and sister ship USS Nevada, the Oklahoma was one of the first oil burning super dreadnaughts in the US Navy.
  2. VE0MMA – CSS Acadia – The Halifax Amateur Radio Club activated the Canadian Scientific Ship CSS Acadia for Museum Ships on the Air 2016. Launched and built in 1913 in England, the CSS Acadia designed and built to survey Canada’s northern waters for the Canadian Hydrographic Service. In addition to doing scientific, survey, and mapping work for the Hydrographic Service, she also served with the Royal Canadian Navy during World War I and II. Slightly damaged in the explosion while doing guard ship duty, the Acadia is the only ship in existence today to have survived the Halifax Explosion maritime disaster in 1917. Appropriate for a ship activated for Museum Ships on the Air, she was also the first Hydrographic Service ship to be fitted with a Marconi wireless system in 1913. She was retired in 1969 and became a museum ship at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1982.
  3. NJ2BB – USS New Jersey –  The Battleship New Jersey ARS activated the Battleship USS New Jersey (BB-62) for Museum Ships on the Air 2016.  Commissioned on 23 May 1943, the Iowa class Battleship was decommissioned and recommissioned several times over her US Navy career.  The New Jersey saw combat operations in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Lebanese Civil War, and also saw service in the Persian Gulf before her final decommissioning in 1991.  In World War II, she provided gunfire support and anti-aircraft support.  Among the battles the New Jersey took part in was the Battle of the Philippine Sea, providing anti-aircraft support during the “Marianas Turkey Shoot” which broke the back of the Japanese carrier force.   Her massive 16″/50 caliber guns proved their worth in Korea, Vietnam, and Lebanon.  Following her final decommissioning, the New Jersey was restored to her 1990 appearance and opened as a museum ship in her namesake state in October 2001.
  4. WA3BAT – USS Olympia – The Olympia Radio Amateur Club activated the USS Olympia (C-6) for Museum Ships on the Air. Launched in 1892, the Olympia was decommissioned several times and served the United States Navy until her final decommissioning in 1922. Most famously, the Olympia was Admiral Dewey’s flagship during the Spanish-American War Battle of Manila Bay. During World War I, she was used for coastal patrol and convoy escort. After World War I, she participated in Allied operations in the Russian Civil War and conducted cruises in the Mediterranean Sea and Adriatic Sea because of instability in the Balkans (see how long we’ve been involved in that part of the world!). Prior to her final decommissioning in 1922, she transported the body of the Unknown Soldier from France to Washington DC in 1921. In 1957, the Olympia was acquired by the Cruiser Olympia Association and restored to how she was in 1898. She remains on display at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, PA.
  5. W8B – SS Carl D. Bradley – The Ships Amateur Radio Club also put the SS Carl D. Bradley Memorial in Rogers City, MI on the air for Museum Ships on the Air 2016. Launched in 1927, the Bradley was a freighter that worked the Great Lakes until it sank in Lake Michigan during a storm in November 1958. Only two of the Bradley’s 35 crew members survived the sinking. For 22 years after she was launched in 1927, the Bradley was recognized as the “Queen of the Great Lakes” for being the largest and longest freighter working the Great Lakes. The Bradley was also the sister ship of the SS Cedarville, whose memorial was activated for Museum Ships on the Air as W8C (which was the first ship I logged on Saturday morning).

If you’re interested in Museum Ships on the Air Weekend, it takes place every year in June. For more information and a list of participating ships, see the Battleship New Jersey Amateur Radio Club’s website.


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