WVLC Apache – The Little Ship That Could

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 March 1 2002. Author: David Ricquish
LOCATION Philippines
USRC Galveston
Jungle Network
LEYTE Leyte, an island in the Visayan Group in the Philippines, is where General Douglas MacArthur returned with the Allied invasion forces in October 1944. It’s from here that the former USRC Galveston (renamed Apache in 1904) and now a Royal Australian Navy vessel (at least nominally) began broadcasts as the Voice of Freedom on shortwave. Specifically refitted as a shortwave broadcasting station with a 10kW transmitter, Apache provided a comfortable base for war correspondents to follow the Pacific war towards Japan. Broadcasts were made to the USA and Australia, and the ship was generally used for dispatches from correspondents. At Leyte, Apache assumed the callsign WVLC and broadcast on shortwave to American troops in the initial days of the landings and before the AFRS was able to establish its own Jungle Network AM station at Leyte. The Voice of Freedom broadcasts variously used 7800 kHz with 8kW and 7790 kHz with 5kW according to reception reports of the time. DX reports were verified from the Transmitter Engineer, Radio WVLC, US Army General HQ, SWPA, APO 500 c/o Postmaster, San Francisco, CA.
SAIPAN Apache also undertook initial broadcasts from Saipan, again on shortwave, this time with relays of KRHO Maiili, from the Territory of Hawaii.
Several other ships, notably the USS Phoenix followed soon after, and the AFRS finally established a landbased Jungle Network AM station there after some weeks.
TOKYOApache continued broadcasts as the invasion of mainland Japan drew closer, and eventually anchored in Tokyo Bay during the surrender ceremonies. The more powerful shortwave transmitters of NHK Radio Tokyo were used to broadcast instead of Apache, whose role was now ended.
When I shipped overseas, it was to General Headquarters, Southwest Pacific Area, based at the time in Brisbane, Australia. It was the headquarters of fabled General Douglas MacArthur. I came into the organization at a time the Chief Signal Officer was gathering a group of former broadcast technicians and engineers who were to create a high power shortwave broadcast station within a ship. The proposed mission was to open a radio channel for the exclusive use of broadcast network war correspondents. The concept was to use the ship as a roving shortwave news platform during combat operations against Japan. The station would have sufficient power to be reliably heard on the US West Coast. I was the Lieutenant, a veteran broadcaster, who was directed to develop plans for the 10kW station, which was to be built within a 55 year-old former Coast Guard vessel. It required a lot of Signal Corps imagination and ingenuity, plus a generous amount of ship construction know-how that came from people at a Sydney shipyard. That, and more than a ton of radio apparatus obtained through the Australian government and the American wartime Lend Lease Program. The US Army transport ‘Apache’ radio conversion job was performed at the Sydney shipyard in mid-1944. We sailed north to New Guinea in time to join the invasion fleet that would soon attack the Japanese held Philippine islands. Radio broadcasting history was made on the afternoon of October 20, 1944 at a beach on Leyte Island in the Philippines. General MacArthur picked up a microphone and announced to the world through the Apache transmitter, “I have returned…” The little ship became the darling of news reporters covering the Pacific war. In the months ahead, a steady stream of traffic flowed from our station to the world. At war’s end in 1945, the Apache was in Tokyo harbor when Japan surrendered to Allied forces commanded by General MacArthur. Its transmitter was silent however. American troops now controlled Radio Tokyo, and news of the surrender ceremony on the USS Missouri was relayed through the defeated enemy’s own powerful shortwave station.
(2) USRC GALVESTON The US Revenue Cutter Galveston, was commissioned on August 22, 1891 and built by Reeder & Sons of Baltimore, MD She had a displacement of 416 tons, a complement of 41 and was armed with 3 guns. Her name was changed in 1904 to ‘Apache’ and she cruised eastern waters of the USA, mainly in Chesapeke Bay, through until the end of WWI. She was decommissioned on December 31, 1937. In WWII, she was taken over by the US Army as a transport ship, sailed to Sydney, Australia, and converted into the radio transmission ship Apache. She was scrapped in 1950.
(3) VOICE OF FREEDOM We regret we cannot give details regarding equipment used or specify operating schedules other than for the ‘Voice of Freedom’ broadcast which takes place on 7.79mc with 5kW radiated power. Other schedules transmitted are for restricted point to point use only.
(4) WVLC 18600 KC After considerable forwarding, your reception report of WVLC has been received at this station. Our transmission logs indicate that reception reported by you is correct on frequencies and times specified. We regret that we can give no technical information regarding technical equipment used for this purpose, other than present transmissions are being made with 5kW power radiated. Due to occasional changes in location, it would be appreciated if you would forward us further reports at intervals with particular remarks as to quality of transmission, fading and interference encountered. It is regretted very much that we have no verification cards to include with this correspondence, but nevertheless do wish to thank you for your information on WVLC signals.
NOTES (1) Stories from our Guests, Sanford T Terry, retired. ©
www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity. Lt. Terry retired from broadcasting in 1978 at the age of 65 after establishing WRVA-TV (later WWBT) in Richmond, VA, and WRVB-FM Richmond and WRVC-FM Norfolk, VA. (2) US Coastguard & Revenue Cutters 1790-1935, Donald L Canney. © Naval Institute Press, Anapolis, MD. More details about the USRC Galveston (Apache) can be found at www.uscg.mil as well as information about the US Coast Guard.
(3) QSL letter dated January 29, 1945. Issued by US Army, GHQ SWPA, Public Relations Office, Radio Section. Part of the Arthur T Cushen Collection, NZ Radio DX League Archives.
(4) QSL letter dated April 24, 1945. Issued by US Army, GHQ SWPA. A W Borgia, 1st Lt Signal Corps, US Army, Transmitter Engineer. Part of the Arthur T Cushen Collection, NZ Radio DX League Archives.

Feedback File:

Hello, my name is Sandra Parkerson. My father, Sanford T. Terry, Jr., I am proud to say, was on The “Apache” and helped to build the great radio news ship from scratch. It was through his efforts and others that brought America the news of Douglas MacArthur’s fight for the Philippines in 1944-1945. It was through their microphone that he proclaimed: “I have returned…”

My father passed away in September of 2000. However, before his death he wrote an unpublished work called “The Apache Project” He manuscript is approximately 200 pages filled with the complete history of the building of the radio, along with photographs, newspaper clippings, letters or material written by others.

I don’t know if this manuscript might be of interest to you, but I could certainly get a copy to you if you would like. My father was always proud and served his country well.
Sincerely, Sandra T. Parkerson.

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