By Adrian Peterson
For a period of around two years during the Pacific War, there was no radio broadcasting station on the air in Port Moresby. However, when the American forces flooded into the South Pacific in support of the war effort, there was a need for a radio broadcasting station in Port Moresby. In actual fact, they did establish their own temporary and unofficial station in Port Moresby under the callsign WHMS, and there was also an unofficial Australian operation known as RAAF Radio on the air over at Milne Bay.
However, General Douglas MacArthur wanted a substantial station and he sought the co-operation of the Australian authorities. Out of these negotiations, grew the very familiar wartime radio station 9PA-9AA, which was established as a joint Australian-American operation under the control of the Australian PMG & ABC, and with programming input from commercial stations in both Australia and the United States.
Several areas around Port Moresby were investigated for suitability for the new station and finally a site was chosen adjacent to Wonga Cottage, the home of the AWA coastal station VIG that also housed temporarily the silent transmitter from 4PM.
Several Quonset huts were hastily erected and the equipment for the new 9PA was installed, including a new 500 watt Philips transmitter from Australia. However, this transmitter always operated at half power, 250 watts, due to local electricity restrictions.
Radio station 9PA was officially opened by General Douglas MacArthur and the ABC Director- General, Lieut-Colonel Sir Charles Moses on February 24, 1944. The official inauguration service for the new 9PA was relayed on shortwave to Australia by the adjacent AWA coastal station VIG for re-broadcast by the Australia-wide ABC mediumwave network.
Here is the full text of the official opening of 9PA by General Douglas MacArthur on February 24, 1944:
“I am glad to have the opportunity to talk to the men of this command as a unit. The magnitude of the areas over which we are operating has previously made this impossible and limited my contacts to individual echelons.
My first thought is to tell you of the admiration and gratitude I feel at your splendid fortitude and fighting efficiency. No troops in the world have more magnificently upheld the immortal traditions of the fighting services. You are faithfully carrying your nations sacred trust. No campaign conditions in the history of war have entailed greater hardships than here.
Conditions beyond my control have combined to limit recreational features to a minimum. My concern at this has caused me the gravest anxiety. No one appreciates more than I the need of relaxation and recreation to alleviate the hardship and rigors of the field. To know what is transpiring in the world – to hear the tinkle of music and laughter – to feel something of the little familiar things that link us with home – this is what I hope this station can do. It will be my earnest effort to more and more ease your service and bring to you in increasing degree something of that comfort which you so richly deserve. The way before us is long and hard, but with God’s help which has so richly blessed and guided us in the past, we will finally come to the glory of the end.”General Douglas MacArthur – Port Moresby, February 24, 1944 (delivered over Radio station 9PA)
End-Note: There were numerous corrections made on the original handwritten draft.
Speech notes courtesy of Gary Schulze via Dr Adrian Peterson
Several months later, an officer in the Australian air force visited the new 9PA and reported that it was “a very nice operation”. He also stated that there was another transmitter on the air relaying the programming from 9PA on the same channel 1250 kHz. This second transmitter was acting as a repeater unit to increase the coverage area of the primary transmitter. It is thought that this second transmitter was the old 100 watt 4PM at a new location and on temporary loan to ABC-AFRS.
A few months later, the Americans left Port Moresby for the island areas further north and 9PA was taken over by the Australian army as an AAAS (Australian Army Amenities Service) station and re-designated as 9AA. A few months later again, 9AA was taken over completely by the ABC-PMG and the callsign reverted back to the former 9PA.
Soon after the inauguration of the mediumwave station 9PA-9AA-9PA and just before the end of the Pacific War, the coastal radio station VIG began once again to carry broadcast programming, this time under the slogan “Radio Guinea”. Programming was generally a relay from mediumwave 9PA and some of these broadcasts were taken on relay by the ABC network in Australia.
Soon after the commencement of this new series of 9PA-VIG relays, reports of another mediumwave station in Port Moresby began to surface in Australia and New Zealand. This new station was listed as a 100 watt station on the channel 1010 kHz with the callsign 9PM, an obvious reference to the earlier station 4PM. This station was noted in New Zealand and it was also listed in the 1949 edition of the FIBS directory “Broadcasting Stations of the World” issued by FIBS-USIA-VOA in the United States.
The few DX reports at the time do not give any information regarding the programming from the new 9PM, though the ownership is clearly stated as AWA. It is thought that this 100 watt transmitter was the same transmitter that was on the air earlier as 4PM and that was apparently on the air subsequently as an extension relay for 9PA.
At the time when station 9PA was launched, it was conjectured among some radio personnel in Australia and New Zealand that 9PA was a revived 4PM. However, the weight of evidence would suggest that 9PA was not a revived 4PM but rather a replacement radio broadcasting service that superseded 4PM.
Adrian Peterson is a noted radio historian and broadcaster for many years with Indianapolis based Adventist World Radio, a global shortwave, AM, FM and satellite radio network. Originally from South Australia, Adrian has worked in radio across Asia and the Pacific and is well known worldwide for his long running Wavescan radio series. He has published an extensive number of radio heritage articles using his large database of historical information, and personally maintains the AWR heritage collection, one of the world’s largest privately held memorabilia collections.