By John C. Seehaas
The Armed Forces Radio Service
23 April 1948
The story of Radio Eniwetok is not, actually, the story of a radio station, but the story of the finest group of men with whom the author has ever had the pleasure of working. It is the story of espirit de corps elevated to the Nth degree.
The prosaic details, of material, construction, installation, etc., ad infinitum et ad nauseum, are set down in a summary outline, for the convenience of persons desiring to do research, preparatory to planning future AFRS installations in forward areas.
With the nearest hardware store a couple of thousand miles away, the story of the procurement of building materials, is an almost incredible account of the ability of the US serviceman to use his own ingenuity.
Many of the desirable materials were, naturally, not readily available, in unlimited quantities, on the remote atoll of Eniwetok. Consequently, available building materials and equipment were made to do. We might say that Radio Eniwetok was ‘improvised’ from such materials as happened to be on hand, in local stockpiles.
The story of construction and installation is a small but significant saga in cooperation. The station was built more of cooperation than of anything else; with the Navy, the Signal Corps, the Corps of Engineers, the Quartermaster and Transportation Corps Port Service Units, the Air Force and the CIC all contributing anything that they happened to have which could possibly be used in the construction of a radio station.
In short, they worked as a team, proving that Joint Task Force Seven was truly what the name implies, a force joined together to do a task. And again, the story comes back to the story of men; men were at a premium, man hours had to be hoarded, and yet, each unit managed, somehow, to spare badly needed personnel and still continue with their own primary projects.
The men, also, came back to the job in their off-duty hours and, voluntarily, worked night and day, just to get the station ‘on the air’.
Within less than one week, following the arrival of the transmitter and supplementary broadcasting equipment, Radio Eniwetok was ‘on the air’ with regular program schedules.
With men of the caliber available in JTF-7, it would be possible, if necessary, to put a ‘Times Square of Radio’ in the middle of the Sahara, or in the most inaccessible reaches of the Arctic.
The crew was very carefully selected and weighed and measured from every possible angle before being assigned to full time duty at the station.
Before the first evacuation period, each was interviewed, personally and privately, and each unhesitatingly volunteered to remain ashore during the evacuation.
The experience, fortunately was uneventful, but it should be emphasized that these men unhesitatingly volunteered, to remain ashore without any assurance that the testing of the atomic weapon, the sixth in history, would be, uneventful.
John C Seehaas prepared these notes in 1948, along with his draft design of a colorful logo for WXLE that is reproduced here. The original of the artwork is now held at the Radio Heritage Foundation.
John worked at KSAI Saipan as a producer and announcer for the OWI [Office of War Information] and his WXLE materials came to light in the early 2000’s after a purchase from auction site Ebay as part of a genealogy search.
We’re grateful to Bruce Portzer of Seattle for accepting the materials from the purchaser, and for making them available to us. John Seehaas died in Honolulu, Hawaii in November 1972, aged 62 years.
Note: WXLE still broadcast from Eniwetok in 1967, as this confirmation letter sent to a New Zealand listener shows. It then operated on a frequency of 1385kc with a power of 250 watts.
The AFRS station on Eniwetok relocated to Canton Island in the late 1960’s. The original Radio Eniwetok callsign [WXLE] was transferred at the same time – WXLE.
You can read all about the Canton Island period [including broadcasts from an earlier AFRS station – WXLF – on the island in 1944] in the following stories that make up the most comprehensive coverage available: