It was nice returning from New York last week and getting back on the air at home. On this trip, there were TOO many "social events" to play with the radio. That's just the way it goes sometimes....
But I worked a "Special Event Station" with the characteristic "three" letter call (W2W) first thing this weekend. They were recognizing " Pearl Harbor Day " and broadcasting from Pennsylvania.
I don't particularly like thinking of this event because I was a sailor on a destroyer back in the late 60's, and I know first hand the stench of burning flesh and the feel of dead weight in vinyl bags. I only think of it during days when our nation takes time to remember the "ultimate sacrifice" of those who served and still serve in our military units today.
You never forget things like that but you DO learn to live with them. That's all I have to say about that....
Pearl Harbor was the home of the Pacific Fleet in 1941 and there were dozens of ships moored there on December 7th. We knew there was an attack coming, but didn't know the exact location or the exact time. The Japanese took full advantage of that fact, with Christmas season approaching in a few weeks, and we got caught with our pants down that day.
I like working old military and civilian ships, and since I've been an amateur radio operator, I've worked several old Coast Guard Cutters, a Submarine, and an old destroyer in Baton Rouge Louisiana, but I've never worked an old Battleship.
Until late Sunday night......
I was listening to the lower end of 40 meters (7028) when I heard the very distinct "and very slow chirp" of an old CW transmitter. It wasn't a "three" letter station but was sending "NI4BK". When I returned the call, he sent his name, my RST and his QTH (Wilmington, North Carolina). I didn't realize what I was working until I looked at the "call" on the web.
It seems the ships call was originally NIBK (back in the mid 40's) before she was decommissioned in 1947. She originally had "seven" radio rooms but only one has been completely restored. The local radio club has been working on the second for several years now.
I'm reading strictly "between the lines" here...but the signal was so faint and the "chirp" so slow (barely oscillating) I think they were using one of the original CW transmitters. I didn't hear any other transmissions after my contact.
I consider myself fortunate to have worked the USS North Carolina (BB-55) with my QRP radio. (and my first Battleship). I operated with the USS New Jersey, for a few months in the late 60's, and vividly remember "seeing" and "hearing" 16" projectiles as they passed overhead. The "fire power" of these old ships were awesome.
The "Ships Bell" from the USS West Virginia (BB-48) is just up the street from me here in Charleston. She was sunk in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7 th. 1941, after being hit with two bombs and 7 torpedo's (one of which was from a miniature submarine). There were 70 sailors that lost their lives in that attack on the West Virginia along with 1,177 on the USS Arizona. In all, well more than 2,300 sailors were lost that day.
I still remember standing on the USS Arizona Memorial back in the late 60's. There's still a trace of oil oozing from the tomb below this wreckage.
(All images courtesy of Wikipedia)