Women on Pacific Wartime Radio
|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 radiodx.com for a period of five years from July 1 2001.) Author: David Ricquish|
Allies Listen to the Ladies
Although Tokyo Rose was infamous throughout Asia, and Axis Sally infamous throughout Europe during WWII, the Allies were seemingly reluctant to allow women to get behind the microphone.
The British let singers such as Vera Lynn and her standard ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ provide some limited nostalgia for their forces, and the ITMA shows took some women along as part of their repertory performances.
The Americans relied on glamorous Hollywood female stars in a never ending parade of patriotic movies, as well as sultry female singers such as the Andrews Singers whose voices crooned from the V discs issued to every AFRS radio station library. The USO tours were another means of providing a limited female touch in the behind the lines locations.
New Zealand’s Aunt Daisy Does Her Bit
The British had a limited experience with using female announcers, regarding their voices as ‘too weak’ to read important news items, and unable to survive the static and fading of radio signals. In New Zealand and Australia however, the private commercial radio stations of the 1930’s had generated characters such as Aunt Daisy who had a large listener following.
In fact, the NZ Government even paid for Aunt Daisy to go on a tour of the USA and the UK in the closing stages of WWII, and encouraged broadcasts back to New Zealand as she interviewed New Zealand military personnel enjoying some R & R in New York and London.
Aussie Female Comedian Aims for Laughs in Kure
The Australian Army chose three women announcers to serve at the Australian Army Amenities ‘Radio Station WVTL’ in Kure, Japan. Although they’d been operating their 9A network of stations throughout the western Pacific and Borneo, no females had been officially allowed behind the microphones there either. But only one ended up in Kure.
So it wasn’t until after the war, and during the occupation of Japan, that Mae Seaton arrived at ‘WVTL’ in June 1946. According to the ‘Listener in Melbourne’ magazine, ‘Mae will take to the air in a day or two and later will build up a hospital session which will include request numbers’.
As AWAS WO3, she announced from 5DR Darwin. She then resigned from the services, and will broadcast from Kure as a civilian.
During her theatre days, Miss Seaton appeared in musical comedy leads, including Nan, in ‘The Country Girl’ performed in Melbourne. She was also principal girl in several pantomines’ reported the magazine.
But Was It Really WVTL Or Was It WVTV?
Although the Melbourne magazine article twice refers to WVTL in Kure, we’re not sure if this is the case at all. There was a WVTL sure, but not in Kure. This confusion neatly illustrates the issues confronting a researcher more than half a century later.
WVTL Assigned To Morotai, Dutch East Indies
WVTL was the callsign assigned to an American Forces Radio Service station on Morotai, an island in the Northern Moluccas of what was then the Dutch East Indies. Reportedly on air in January 1945, it used 50 watts on 1450 or 1480 AM, identified as being part of the Far East Network later that year, and closed down on October 16, 1945.
Kure, SW Honshu Island Starts With WLKH
Kure is located in Hiroshima-ken, on the SW of Honshu Island in occupied Japan. The first AFRS station on air there was established by the 24th Infantry Division in September 1945. Allocated the callsign WLKH, it used a frequency of 1440 AM with 400 watts.
By February 1946, the station was using 1500 AM and a power of 3kW. At some point over the next few months, it changed its callsign to WVTV (in line with other later Jungle Network stations) and shifted to 1470 AM.
Mae Smeaton Goes To WVTV Says NZ Magazine
A New Zealand radio DX magazine in September 1946 reports that Mae Smeaton was to broadcast over the Australian Army Amenities Radio Station WVTV in Kure.
Around September 1946, the station was handed over from AFRS to the AAAS, and apparently changed its callsign again with the move. Now broadcasting as WLKS, it continued to use 1470 AM but with a lower power of 250 watts, and had shortwave outlets on 6085 and 6105 using 1kW.
Confusing An ‘L’ Instead Of A ‘V’
So, was the Melbourne magazine quoting the wrong callsign? From the available evidence it seems they made a typo, confusing a slanted V in WVTV for an L and suddenly resurrecting a radio station which had closed down 9 months earlier and with a different transmitter.
So even when we come across original source material, we need to cross check against other sources. In this case, some four other sources placed Mae Smeaton at WVTV. At least for a little while, and then she broadcast from WLKS!