With The Kiwis In Japan

This article forms part of the Radio Heritage Collection ©. All rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to South Pacific DX Resource hosted on radiodx.com for a period of five years from April 1 2002. Author: David Ricquish
Location Yuda, Japan
Shimonisekei, Japan
Chofu, Japan
Kure, Japan
Keywords AKAA
New Zealand Broadcasting Unit Japan
Introduction Over a three year deployment from 1945-1948, more than 12,000 New Zealand military personnel formed J-Force, the New Zealand contribution to the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces (BCOF) in Japan. The main locations were Bofu AFB, Chofu (Kobe Steel Works), Eta Jima (Naval Academy), Iwakuni (Air Naval Training Station), Kiwa (sanitorium), Mizuba (Naval Submarine Base), Ozuki, Tokyo, Yamaguchi (Army Barracks) and Yuda (school buildings). To relieve the boredom of occupation duties, J-Force established two radio stations. One with the callsign AKAA was based in Yuda, the other a short distance away was a relay station and used the callsign WLKY (WLKW according to some reports). This introductory article is based on personal reminiscences from some of the personnel involved. More stories, information and photos of AKAA facilities will hopefully be added shortly.

(1) Disputes with BCOF HQ

Disputes with BCOF HQ continued to cause unnecessary disruptions. Their intransigence stymied the building of a Jayforce radio station at Yuda during the winter of 1946-47.

BCOF HQ would only approve a 10 watt station, not powerful enough for the signal to reach all the New Zealand camps in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Eventually, Brigader L Potter ignored their stipulations. ‘The Commander…requested that we carry on with our plans to build a 500 watt transmitter while he negotiated at a higher level for the requisite authority to increase the power of the station.’

(2) Getting the Gear A radio station especially for the New Zealand force operated at Yuda from 15 January 1947. Radio WLKW broadcast a mixture of news, music and live commentaries on major sports events involving New Zealand troops. Although there was little official help in establishing the station, there was unofficial assistance from other occupation forces. J. Penketh remembered: Colin Buck (technician) and I travelled by train through the under-sea tunnel from Honshu to Kyushu where I presented a half-hour NZ programme over the US Army ‘Voice of America’ network……When I came Off Air, the Americans put on a beer party for us. They eventually took us to the train and we found that our carriage had been loaded up with all manner of radio station goodies including a great many records….their only proviso being that we cue out the announcer’s words ‘This is the Voice of America’. Chofu-based personnel could also tune into an American radio station based on Kyushu, and those located near the Australian zone of Hiroshima Prefecture could pick up the BCOF radio at Kure.

(3) With the Kiwis in Japan Another technician and I from the NZ Broadcasting Service were selected to go there in March-April 1948, with preliminary rank of corporals, but promotion expected. I understand that when the occupation of Japan began, the Yanks quickly set up their radio broadcasting stations. So the Aussies had to do the same, and then the New Zealand brigader wanted a radio station. He sent for the honorary lieutenants (an announcer and a technician) who were with the army to do the With the Kiwis in Japan, a later version of the wartime with the Kiwis in Africa and Italy. They got a 30 watt transmitter from the Aussies, and turntables and mixer. I have the faint memory these things were originally from a lorry that had the whole outfit carried around in it. There was a mast too, which was mounted in a field adjacent to the transmitter site. The station was set up at Yuda, a small town about 8km from Yamaguchi, the capital city of the prefecture of the same name, and where there was a large New Zealand army camp. There was another big camp at Chofu, further south, and near to Shimonisikei, at the tip of the main Japanese island of Honshu. At AKAA at Yuda, I understand the transmitter was built by Lin Martin. It had a power supply from a Japanese submarine, which was voltage stabilised, but when it adjusted voltage it sounded like a machinegun firing. Station AKAA, 1440 kHz at Yuda, was the main station. The 30 watt satellite station WLKY, 1480 kHz was at Shimonisikei. WLKY rebroadcast AKAA’s programs. The staff consisted of professionals lent from NZ Broadcasting, and volunteer soldiers from the army, under Lin Martin, the engineer and honorary lieutenant. Bill Hamer, originally from 2YZ Napier, was a sergeant, and is still to be found in Wellington, a keen ham and jazz organiser. Among the army volunteers, Dick Allard, an electrician from Christchurch, later became the Christchurch broadcasting sports announcer. Bob Irvine, a Lands and Survey clerk before he joined J-Force, ended as chief announcer at Auckland and a rugby commentator. Another technician, ex DSIR, joined broadcasting when he returned, and after a successful career installing new stations, moved to South Africa. Most successful was Gary Chapman, a grocery assistant and trainee cabinetmaker, who left school at Standard VI, and after Japan, became an advertising agency creative director, while spending some years compering the Saturday evening National program on the YA’s, and other assignments. He later left advertising and became one of the two all-night announcers on the 11pm to 6am YA stations. Lin Martin became the engineer at the broadcasting receiving site at Quartz Hill (Makara, Wellington), and ended his working days as Engineer, Dunedin. One of the army part-timers on the Japanese stations, Staff-Sgt. John Raynor is secretary of the NZ Sub-Branch of the RSL in Sydney, where I am now in my 4th term as president. John had a most successful career in radio in New Zealand, and then in Australia. Before I left broadcasting in 1962, I asked what information they had on AKAA and WLKY and all they had was a log book with almost nothing in it. The success of our soldier volunteers, and the way some people who joined broadcasting, but later gave up and went into another profession, were part of my inspiration for community broadcasting for New Zealand (I didn’t know it had already been invented in the USA and Australia). Also, Vic Stagpoole had been bringing FM broadcasting to our attention, and as a technician, I knew FM had to be on VHF/UHF, because of its great bandwidth. VHF transmitters meant that, unlike medium frequency broadcasters, small community stations would not clutter up the airwaves all over the country and cause interference.

(1) Laurie Brocklebank in Jayforce, New Zealand and the Military Occupation of Japan 1945-1948, (c) Oxford University Press, Auckland, New Zealand. Published 1997. Source: private collection, NZ Broadcasting Unit Japan, correspondence, monthly reports etc 1946-48, L H Martin
(2) Ibid
(3) Ben Furby, Campie NSW, Australia in personal correspondence to author, April 23, 2002. Ben is currently a part time volunteer with 2RPH Radio for the Print Handicapped in Sydney.

Context notes: In nearby Kure, the AFRS established a mobile transmitter for the 24th Infantry Division in September 1945. Initially allocated the callsign WLKH, it used a power of 400 watts on 1440 kHz. The call was then transferred to a former NHK transmitter of 3,000 watts in the same town and reportedly moved to 1500 kHz by June 1946, and again to 1470 by September 1946. Around this time, the callsign was changed to WVTV, in line with the WVT sequence used by Jungle Network stations, which later became the Far East Network (FEN). Because the local terrain was very hilly, a relay station was established on 930 kHz with 10 watts and using the callsign WLKI until the 3kW transmitter was used and this relay closed down. Around the time of the change to WVTV, the area was allocated to Australian control under the BCOF, and WVTV changed callsigns again to become WLKS. The Australians used one of the mobile truck based transmitters of the Australian Army Amenities Service (9AT) and continued broadcasting on 1470 kHz with a 200 watt transmitter. Shortwave broadcasts using 1kW were also made on 6085 kHz and later, 6105 kHz. Because this was less powerful than the captured Japanese 3kW unit, a series of low power relay stations had to be set up in the hills around Kure. These were.WLKT (allocated WVTW on arrival in Japan, and originally 9AM), WLKU (previously WVTX and 9AQ), WLKV (previously WVTY and 9AV) and WLKW (previously WVTZ and 9AR). There is some confusion surrounding WLKW. According to J-Force documents, this is the callsign of the New Zealand relay located near Chofu in the New Zealand occupation zone, and which relayed AKAA from Yuba. However, according to station engineer Ben Furby, the Chofu station had a different callsign, WLKY, but did use one of the former AAAS transmitters. If this was the case, then WLKW was located in the hills of Kure in the Australian occupation zone and relayed WLKS, the BCOF station.

Feedback File:

I’ve just been poking around the net and had a go at WLKY Japan, which was a New Zealand BCOF station in Chofu.

There is obviously some confusion about this station.

My name is Robert Matthew Haycock.

I, together with Peter Rothschild, set up this station in Chofu in late 1947, in an abandoned entertainment hall of Kobe Steel Works in Chofu.

Initially the station was meant to be simply a re-broadcasting station, from AKAA in Yamaguchi.

However, because of land-line problems (private Japanese conversations switched through our line etc.) we were forced to improvise with our own (very) hastily organised presentations. We were on our own; we were not even in the perimeter of a N.Z. Camp, because of the convenience of hanging our aerials from the chimneys of Kobe Steel Works.

We were both green kids; I hadn’t yet got to 21; Peter was about the same.

We were really and truly on our own.

Peter transferred after a few months and was replaced by Lew Andrews.

In 2004 Lew is living in Wanganui. He would do a better job than some of those creatures who get half a million bucks a year.

Yes, at AKAA Yamaguchi there was Lin Martin, my boss, even though I only saw him about twice when he came down from Yamaguchi, Bob Irvine was at AKAA and started his sports commentating there, George Gair (future MP), and a few others. Doug Smith was a war correspondent (mainly in Chofu) who did the “the boys talk home” from our station.

I was in charge of WLKY. I had the magnificent rank of Lance Corporal, promoted to Corporal for the trip home on the “Duntroon”

We had a Warrant Officer Johnny Overend next door in charge of A.E.S. who was a great help to us.

Don’t want to bore you.

Bob Haycock

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