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A history question:

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by KC1NY, Apr 15, 2020.

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  1. KC1NY

    KC1NY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Does anybody know the history of amateur radio onboard USN ships. Looking for some kind of chronology of when it was allowed, when it was not, and the current status. I am not asking about MARS operations, just amateurs operating aboard Navy ships. I'm pretty sure it was allowed at one time, but then forbidden (I think Vietnam had something to do with it). Thanks.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2020
  2. AC4RD

    AC4RD Ham Member QRZ Page

    I remember reading about some hams who were able to go on the air when WWII ended, though they were still at their wartime locations, Pacific, I think. I don't recall where I read that, though. I'm sure you've done web searches; it might be worth contacting the central MARS authority to ask if anybody there knows anything about it. Good luck!
  3. K1LKP

    K1LKP Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    HELLO ROBERT ........ ENJOY.....


    Last edited: Apr 15, 2020
    K8EEI, PU2OZT, KO4PYL and 4 others like this.
  4. W3WN

    W3WN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Ah, not to be a spoilsport, but...

    Most of the cards displayed are from individual sailors, club or military rec stations, Armed Forces Days stations, and so on. To say nothing of the Antrarctic (IGY) research calls like KC4USN, or Naval Communications Reserve calls (which, if memory serves, eventually became Navy MARS).

    Are any of them from "just amateurs operating aboard Navy ships" ? (Not sailors who are licensed Amateurs operating from their home / club / military rec stations while in port)
    W7UUU likes this.
  5. K0RGR

    K0RGR Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm not sure of the answer on this one. I think I vaguely recall reading about it in a 194X QST, but a scan of the January 1946 issue didn't turn anything up at first glance. I don't know when FCC started issuing station licenses with callsigns attached. I remember my dad, who was a Navy radio chief , telling be about getting back on the air after the war ended, but I don't remember if it was from the Navy ship, or elsewhere.
    N4FZ likes this.
  6. W4NNF

    W4NNF XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I've heard from a Navy vet friend of mine that he and other hams occasionally operated at sea--on their own rigs.
    N4FZ likes this.
  7. KA0HCP

    KA0HCP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    To my knowledge the US Navy has never had any navy wide policy about amateur radio shipboard or ashore. It is entirely up to the decision of the captain.

    Historically the navy is less structured than the army and tends to let matters be handled at the lowest level rather than write regulations/instructions for every situation. This comes by the nature of sending ships thousands of miles from home with little or no communications.

    In my experience aboard three ships, amateur radio operating has not been the norm, however MARS was authorized when it did not interfere with daily operations and was not inconsistent with security. In all, there was actually little such amateur operations. The carrier did more MARS, but it was still fairly minor (during Desert Storm). My experience is mostly Cold War or D.S.

    Amateur operations by nature are a security hole since the operator is known, the position is disclosed, and the name of the ship or explanation for the unusual location will probably be disclosed. All this also aids Direction Finding, voyage tracking and identification by hostile forces.

    Authorizing amateur operations presents a continuing concern for the CO, Ops officer and Comms officer; something they don't need in their already busy lives.

    Bill (USNR-ret'd. 1978-2005).
    Relevant experience: Radio Central on DDG, Combat Information Center on LST, Combat Direction Center on CV; Patrol Plane Navigator/Communicator.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2020
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  8. WA4ILH

    WA4ILH Subscriber QRZ Page

    When I was stationed on the USS Columbus (CG-12) from 1969 to 1973, we had a Collins S line that we (I) operated almost on a daily basis when we were at sea. This was before the MARS afloat specialty net. We had a 35' whip mounted well above the waterline. Our biggest problem was intermod from the various HF transmitters the ship ran with the comm sta. I had to carefully tune to find a clear spot in between spurs from those KW transmitters. (AN/URC-32) We were an east coast ship and operated a lot in the Med. There were a few times when we had to shut down due to ops. BTW, the Collins S line had been purchased by Special Services (MWR today)
    Tom WA4ILH
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  9. W3WN

    W3WN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thank you both for answering the question based on your own experiences.

    And, of course, it should go without saying (but I'll say it anyway), thank you both for your service.
    W7UUU and N4FZ like this.
  10. KC1NY

    KC1NY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for the responses. It is a tough question. I could not find anything online.

    A little background: My first assignment in the Navy in the mid 70s was Chief Engineer on a minesweeper (MSO) stationed in Long Beach, CA. I decided it would be fun to operate my rig onboard. We checked the regulations, and couldn't find any prohibition and the CO said it was OK as long as I only operated in port. Additionally, The Comm Officer said I couldn't alter the antenna configuration or profile while underway, so the antenna would have to come down when underway. So, I installed a mobile whip antenna. It worked OK and I made a few contacts. After a short time, I called CQ and got a call from the Long Beach Naval Station ham radio station. I didn't know they had one! Anyway, the operator, a retired Navy Captain (who was in charge of the club station) asked me when the Navy had lifted the restriction on ham radio ops aboard ship. OOPS!! I pretty quickly secured ops and met with him. When he learned that I lived on the base, he made me the custodian of the club. It was an awesome station, with S Line, Henry 2K amp and a monstrous beam on about a 30 foot tower which was atop a 4 story building. He told me that the permission to operate ham radio at sea was rescinded a few years earlier due to some hams operating while their ship was on patrol in the Tonkin Gulf. After transfer to another ship, I never again gave it a thought, but have always been curious about that history.

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