Armed Forces Diego Garcia

In the late 1970s, Invercargill DXer Neville Henry was rewarded with reception of AFDG Diego Garcia 1485kHz, 250 watts, on a morning he will never forget… here is a background on the station.

U.S. Naval Communication Station – Diego Garcia

Armed Forces Diego Garcia, AFDG, is one station that many would like to be able to hear in New Zealand. The station at present operates on 1485 kiloHertz with a power of 250 watts. At present only seven people run the station. The staff consists of three Navy journalists, three Communications electricians and the Officer-in-Charge. AFDG contains both a radio station and TV station operating from the same building. The radio programs are put to air mainly by the journalists and some volunteers who help out during the weekends. Most of the programming is pre-recorded in the USA and there are some local announcements broadcast.

The equipment for the radio station consists of two turntables, two cartridge machines and the transmitter is a CPA 250ds/5kW/1000. It has a rated power output 1000 Watts. It is also designed for 24 hour continuous service. The FM service is operated 24 hours a day seven days a week with mainly classical programs. Television programs are broadcast for twelve hours a day and programs are either video tapes or 16mm films.

Diego Garcia is located in the Indian Ocean some 3300 miles from Perth. Here is the biggest single project presently being undertaken by units of the U.S. Naval Construction Force. The Seabees are in the process of completing the construction of a jointly operated (USN/RN) facility. The living and working conditions on the island are rather basic but recreational opportunities are numerous and the service personnel do their best to make life comfortable. There are no women on the island.

The island is a part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, formed in 1965 from territory formerly belonging to Mauritius and the Seychelles. It is a narrow coral atoll having a land area of about eleven square miles, nearly enclosing a lagoon. It’s configuration is that of a “V’ drawn by a shaky hand. The island stretches 37 miles from tip to tip, with an opening to the North-Northwest. Three small islands dot the mouth of the lagoon, which is approximately 13 miles in length and in some places six miles wide. The depth of the lagoon runs from sixty to one hundred feet with numerous coral deeds in all areas. The climate is tropical, but the heat is tempered by the ever present trade winds, blowing from the north-east in the winter, and shifting to the west-northwest in the summer. Annual rainfall averages nearly one hundred inches with the wettest months being October to January. Temperatures are generally in the 80’s during the day and drop into the 70’s during the night. However in the jungle underbrush the heat can easily exceed 100 degrees.

The flora of the island is lush and consists of a large measure of coconut trees. Every effort is being made during the construction works to preserve the ecology of Diego Garcia. Wildlife on the island is not numerous, but it is interesting and varied. No dangerous wildlife exists on the island. The worst of the lot is a small scorpion with a sting like a bee. Land crabs and hermit crabs abound and also there are wild horses and donkeys, remaining from the old plantation days before mechanisation.

In December, 1966, the United Kingdom and the United States signed a bilateral agreement making the islands of the British Indian Ocean Territory available for defence purposes of both governments as they may arise. In 1972 an agreement was signed by the two governments regarding the scope of constructing a US Navy Communications facility on Diego Garcia. The facility consisted of an austere communication station with all necessary supporting facilities, including an airstrip.

Beachcombing, fishing, shell collecting, swimming and sailing are some of the many popular activities on Diego Garcia. However, scuba diving is not allowed, nor are spear guns and knives. A well stocked library and classroom areas are provided for study. Sports catered for includes a gymnasium, tennis courts, basketball courts, volleyball and a four lane bowling alley. A model shop, craft shop, photo and electronics hobby shops are also available.

Thanks to David Planck on Diego Garcia for the above information.

Feedback File: From Bob Fern

Re the residentislanders: they were evicted to other islands after the British told them the island had been sold. They didn’t even know it was for sale!! The islands won a high court decision in London about 2 yrs ago in which the judge stated that their eviction was imperialistic and illegal. Because the Brits had leased the island to the US and the US are now basing B52’s and B1’s there to bomb Afganistan and perhaps other countries the court order has been ignored.

From Howard Henze Lt. USN (in 1973)

I was the OIC of the station when it went large enough to broadcast beyond the island’s quarters in 1972. AFRS put up the large tower and supplied the station’s interior gear. We ran as much as possible with several full time people and a number of volunteers. AM was all we had but we were the best beacon that the incoming aircraft had to locate the island.

We broadcast the Bob Hope Christmas show on Christmas Day, 1972 and did our best to provide a well rounded playlist so everyone from rock to country was as happy as they could be. FM was not an option then and video tapes were well in the future.

The station was under the auspices of Logistic Support Component, a command separate from the SEABEES and, eventually under the island command and the command of the Communications Station.

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