Imagine thick jungle, incessant rain, tropical heat, the continual roar of aircraft engines taking off and landing from hastily carved out runways, and the hustle and bustle of thousands of troops coming and going. You’ve then got some idea of the unlikely setting for the first introduction of radio broadcasting to many parts of the South West Pacific.
As American forces bolstered Australian units in New Guinea, they were soon looking for entertainment, and this was normally supplied from Tokyo Rose propaganda broadcasts, some coming from a transmitter in the occupied New Guinea port of Rabaul. Some unauthorized US stations began broadcasting from airbases [such as the cluster at Nadzab] and plans to establish official AFRS radio stations were hastily moved forward.
New Guinea soon became the home for a number of AFRS stations, initially operating under a collection of call signs but quickly regularized in the WVT series by the FCC in Washington DC.
As the ‘island hopping’ campaign continued, small mobile units were moved as far afield as parts of the Dutch East Indies along the southern border with the Philippines, and what became known as the Jungle Network, was initially headquartered at Hollandia [Jayapura today] in Dutch New Guinea.
A typical AFRS Jungle Network station had a staff of 5 or 6 personnel, some of whom may have worked in radio in the USA before the war. They had to secure equipment from a variety of sources, including ‘midnight requisitions’ to begin operations. Most had a small 50 watt transmitter and a small library of records supplied by AFRS Los Angeles. They often broadcast at breakfast, lunchtime and from dinnertime onwards until sign-off around midnight.
Studios were constructed and simple antenna systems built nearby. The staff would play records from their library, often known as V-discs that featured popular band and jazz music of the day as well as artists such as Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. Request sessions were popular, as were hospital calls. News and sports came from major US networks and the AFRS via shortwave transmitters in California and Hawaii, but mostly the staff had to produce their own entertainment shows [such as quiz nights] and broadcast information programs about health, education and the progress of the war.
We’ve managed to locate some 50 stations that seemed to have broadcast as part of the Jungle Network. Some similarities with callsigns do give rise to doubts about whether all were on air, or just ‘paper only’ assignments. Some stations were also mobile units that later moved into the Philippines after the Leyte landings and a considerable number of AFRS stations began operating there, including the powerful WVTM Manila.
The floating broadcaster ‘Apache’ also appeared off the Leyte coast and was heard broadcasting local programs to troops before the land based station WVTK was established. We’re also aware of a number of AFRS stations that suddenly came on the air to broadcast for one night only at the time of the Japanese surrender, these being heard in New Zealand on 1090, 1370, 1460 and 1530 over that period. Some of these are believed to have been located in the Jungle Network coverage area as well.
For all the stations of the Jungle Network, we’d like to hear from anyone involved as a broadcaster, as a listener or as a friend or family member of someone who knows anything about them. Images, memories and memorabilia are needed to help us document these short lived radio stations and the role they played in contributing to the spread of radio broadcasting in the region. Some acetate recordings may also exist [such as those known from an outside broadcast in 1944 from WVTB Nadzab] and if you know of any, or any magazine articles published back in the US about these stations, we’d like to hear from you.
The Jungle Network later became known as the Far Eastern Network, and headquarters moved to Tokyo in late 1945 as part of the occupation of Japan. You can read about those Japanese based AFRS stations at our companion introduction article AFRS Japan. Also watch for AFRS Mosquito Network covering the South Pacific stations, AFRS Pacific Ocean Network covering the Central Pacific and Micronesia stations, and AFRS Pineapple Network covering broadcasts from the Territory of Hawaii.
|1||Aitape||New Guinea||WVTA||1320/1323||“The Voice of the New Guinea Area”|
|4||Biak||Dutch East Indies||WVTG||1450/1480|
|12||Hollandia||Dutch East Indies||WVTF||1400|
|14||‘Java’||Dutch East Indies||–||–|
|24||Leyte [Tolosa]||Philippines||WVLC||7790/7800||“Apache”/”The Voice of Freedom”|
|25||Leyte [Tolosa]||Philippines||WVTK||1510||“The Voice of Leyte”|
|27||Macassar||Dutch East Indies||WVTQ||1430|
|33||Milne Bay||New Guinea||WBPC||1420/1450/1480|
|34||Milne Bay||New Guinea||WVTC||1420/1450/1480|
|35||Milne Bay||New Guinea||–||1550|
|36||Milne Bay||New Guinea||–||1580|
|37||Milne Bay [Samarai]||New Guinea||WDAM||1415|
|38||Morotai||Dutch East Indies||WVTL||1450/1480|
|39||Morotai||Dutch East Indies||WSYJ||1500|
|40||Morotai||Dutch East Indies||–||1000|
|44||Nadzab||New Guinea||WVTB||1430||“The Pioneer Radio Voice of New Guinea”|
|45||Oro Bay||New Guinea||WVTE||1320|
|46||Port Moresby||Papua||9PA||1250||Joint Australia/US operation|
|49||San Fernando La Union||Philippines||WVTE||1370/1400/1420/1480|