Call Search
     

New to Ham Radio?
My Profile

Community
Articles
Forums
News
Reviews
Friends Remembered
Strays
Survey Question

Operating
Contesting
DX Cluster Spots
Propagation

Resources
Calendar
Classifieds
Ham Exams
Ham Links
List Archives
News Articles
Product Reviews
QSL Managers

Site Info
eHam Help (FAQ)
Support the site
The eHam Team
Advertising Info
Vision Statement
About eHam.net

   Home   Help Search  
Pages: [1]   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: Vibroplex and the Army / Navy  (Read 3376 times)
LB5KE
Member

Posts: 141




Ignore
« on: June 07, 2010, 02:00:42 PM »

As i understand vibroplex made several keys during ww2. But where did they use it? They seem to be absent on all the pictures from ww2 Korea and later. Was they hard to learn and only used by experts on landstations?
Logged
K6LHA
Member

Posts: 349




Ignore
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2010, 12:43:05 PM »

As i understand vibroplex made several keys during ww2. But where did they use it? They seem to be absent on all the pictures from ww2 Korea and later. Was they hard to learn and only used by experts on landstations?

Believe it or not, OOK CW radiotelegraphy wasn't used nearly as much by the USA military as all these old tales of amateurs make out.  One reason I know this, at least from 1952 through 1956 was being IN US Army HF communications from the US Far East Command Headquarters in Tokyo, station ADA.

To give you an idea of the amount of message traffic handled over ADA facilities, it was slightly more than 250,000 messages per month during the Korean War active phase (1950 to 1953) and 220,000 messages per month in 1955.  It was all done by TTY (60 WPM machines) using the torn-tape relay method.  By "torn-tape" it meant that a paper tape was punched on an incoming Rx-Tx terminal, the operator tending a half-dozen such machines would read the address preample, literally tear off the tape and place it on an out-going message tape rack to be handled by another TTY tape handler.  ADA's Control Center had one floor of a former small warehouse filled with over 200 p-tape distributors.  I spent two-thirds of my service at the transmitter site...which had 36 HF transmitters in 1953, expanded to 41 by 1956, all running 1 KW to 40 KW RF peak power.  The sheer volume of messaging necessary precluded using manual morse code messaging for any but very small military radio stations.

In the smallest of land radio stations, primarily the AN/GRC-26 vans in the field, local commanders in Korea preferred the alternate TTY messaging because they could read contents themselves or, if need be, use the on-line cryptographic equipment in the Angry-26 hut.  Yes, they had morse keys in those huts and they could be used, but it was faster and more secure to use the TTY terminal already in them.

On HF long-haul radio paths to mainland USA and other bases throughout the Pacific, TTY could be multiplexed with other TTY circuits such as was done on commercial-format SSB for 8 simultaneous TTY circuits and still have two independent voice channels.  Many of the RTTY radio paths used time-multiplexing of 4 TTY circuits for FSK within the wide (of the time) 850 Hz mark-space shift.

I might mention that no nation, not even allies, had ever broken the cryptographic system used for TTY by the USA during WWII to well into the Korean War Truce time.  Communist nations could only do it after the USS Pueblo was captured by North Koreans.  The German Enigma system was broken by the UK and the Japanese system was already broken by the USA before 7 December 1941.  The USA was sending decrypted Japanese intercept messages to allies by USA-encrypted TTY throughout WWII.

In the US Army, only the Field Radio military occupation specialty required OOK CW training for tactical communications.  The former ASA (Army Secutiry Agency) required OOK CW training.  When the ASA was changed to MI or Military Intelligence, morse code cognition skill became a separate military occupation specialty within MI.  At present, MI central at Fort Huachuca, AZ, still has that specialty, but only for intercepts (receive only).  The MI center teaches morse code cognition through PCs using commercial code teaching programs.

The entire USA government-military now relies on the DSN (Digital Switched Network) which is all-digital with a very robust built-in encryption, relayed around the world by any means convenient to replace all the old big radio centers.  The DSN has been considered the [USA] government's own Internet.   Cheesy

As far as the 1950s and 1960s were concerned, I can give links to or send copies of original documents (if your Internet provider can handle 6 MB e-mail attachments) of USA HF communications stations.  Let me know though my forwarding alias, LenAnderson@ieee.org

73, Len K6LHA
Veteran, US Army Signal Corps 1952-1960, ex-RA16408336

Logged
WB2WIK
Member

Posts: 20599




Ignore
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2010, 05:29:15 PM »

As i understand vibroplex made several keys during ww2. But where did they use it? They seem to be absent on all the pictures from ww2 Korea and later. Was they hard to learn and only used by experts on landstations?

I think they were more popular for shipboard operators in the Navy, and the old timers with the best "fists" on "bugs" (Vibroplex semi-automatic keys) I've ever met were ex-Navy guys, and really old now (or SKs).

After Korea, I'll bet they were seldom in use other than by hams.

I learned to use a bug, and got fairly good at it up to about 30 wpm or so, but once I built an electronic keyer, that was all over and I've never used one again since about 1967 or so. Tongue
Logged
K7KBN
Member

Posts: 2805




Ignore
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2010, 06:47:34 PM »

I think they were more popular for shipboard operators in the Navy, and the old timers with the best "fists" on "bugs" (Vibroplex semi-automatic keys) I've ever met were ex-Navy guys, and really old now (or SKs).

After Korea, I'll bet they were seldom in use other than by hams.

I used a Vibroplex Presentation, a high-school graduation gift, on USS Kitty Hawk from '63-'66.  When the Flag came aboard, the message traffic easily tripled in volume, and all of the lower-precedence stuff went out on CW.  Of course, there were teletype malfunctions and quite often we'd get an IMMEDIATE or a FLASH, encrypted offline and brought out to get sent RIGHT NOW!

You needed a "speed key certificate" in order to use a bug.  The examination for the "bug ticket" was invariably conducted by the crustiest Master Chief on the Commander's staff.  I reported for my appointment and while waiting for the E-9 I took the bug out of its case and connected it to the oscillator.  Made a few fine adjustments and started sending some of the text lying on the desk.  About five minutes later I heard a voice behind me.  "Beautiful code, Bailey.  Can you receive as well as you send?" 

"Sure can, Master Chief!"

"Well, let me try that Presentation and we'll see."  He adjusted it to his touch while I got the paper into the typewriter.  Ten minutes later I walked out of the office with my bug ticket.

About a week later, that same Master Chief reported aboard Kitty Hawk as our new Leading Chief.  He remembered me!  Actually, I think it was the bug he remembered.
Logged

73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
N2EY
Member

Posts: 3880




Ignore
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2010, 07:29:26 PM »

As i understand vibroplex made several keys during ww2.

Vibroplex has been making Morse Code keys for over 100 years. Not only did they produce keys during the war, other companies were licensed to build them for the military during the war as well. The best-known is the J-36, a military version of the Lightning Bug. Many were made by Lionel, the model-train folks, because they had the manufacturing capabilities.

But where did they use it? They seem to be absent on all the pictures from ww2 Korea and later.

Not sure what you mean. As others have noted, different services had different requirements for "speed key" use.

I've seen plenty of pictures showing bugs and Morse Code in use during and long after WW2. It all depends on where you look. As others have noted, many US Navy ships were using Morse Code regularly well into the 1960s.

Remember that sometimes the use and popularity of something isn't reported with precision. For example, if you ask most people knowledgeable about USAAF 4 engine bombers in WW2, they'll probably mention the B-17 and B-29, both historic aircraft that made an enormous difference. Less well known is the B-24.

Yet there were more B-24s built and flown in WW2 by the USA than B-17s and B-29s combined. The B-24 was the only heavy bomber used in every WW2 theatre of operations where the USAAF operated. Just look up a place called "Ploesti" for an idea of what B-24s did.

That's not meant as any sort of comparison with other planes, just that the B-24 didn't get the same visibility.

Was they hard to learn and only used by experts on landstations?

IMHO, a good Vibroplex bug isn't hard to learn. What you need is a good straight-key fist, because a bug doesn't forgive timing errors. You also need to know how to adjust a bug, because a lot of the adjustments interact.

I got my first Vibroplex, an Original Standard, in December 1974 and it is still my favorite. Have acquired three others (a Champion, a Lightning Bug, and another Original, all Standard models). They all have their good points. I also have a J-37 straight key, which was my only Morse Code key for the first 7 years I was a ham. I didn't own a ham rig that would transmit voice until 1977.

btw, if you want to see a good movie with a radio angle, see "Island In The Sky" with John Wayne.

73 de Jim, N2EY
Logged
K6LHA
Member

Posts: 349




Ignore
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2010, 08:15:22 PM »

As i understand vibroplex made several keys during ww2.

Vibroplex has been making Morse Code keys for over 100 years. Not only did they produce keys during the war, other companies were licensed to build them for the military during the war as well. The best-known is the J-36, a military version of the Lightning Bug. Many were made by Lionel, the model-train folks, because they had the manufacturing capabilities.

But where did they use it? They seem to be absent on all the pictures from ww2 Korea and later.

Not sure what you mean. As others have noted, different services had different requirements for "speed key" use.

Remember that sometimes the use and popularity of something isn't reported with precision. For example, if you ask most people knowledgeable about USAAF 4 engine bombers in WW2, they'll probably mention the B-17 and B-29, both historic aircraft that made an enormous difference. Less well known is the B-24.

Yet there were more B-24s built and flown in WW2 by the USA than B-17s and B-29s combined. The B-24 was the only heavy bomber used in every WW2 theatre of operations where the USAAF operated. Just look up a place called "Ploesti" for an idea of what B-24s did.

Nice romantic thought.  But, this is still an amateur radio site and not a Heavy Bombardment Aircraft Afficionado website.  There are plenty of the latter, complete
with numbers (serial and tail) and all the military groups to verify everything.  A late friend of mine back in Illinois was a nose gunner on a B-24 on two of the four Ploesti oil refinery attacks.  My next door neighbor was a pilot (left seat) on B-26 attack bombers in Korea (the later B-26, not the one made by Martin), managed to survive to talk himself into a safer job as strike controller on the ground.  A distaff in-law was a ball turret gunner on B-17s based in England.  On all those heavy bombers, the "radio operator's" main job was as GUNNER; 'radio' operated by radio operators was used on "safe" flights like getting from the USA to England, operating only their Liason sets.  Command sets were used by the pilots.

Quote
That's not meant as any sort of comparison with other planes, just that the B-24 didn't get the same visibility.

Oh, I rather think you fully intended to make a comparison.  You have to on so many subjects.  <shrug>

Unless there was some secret vibration dampening gizmo made that is still classified, the vibration on a B-17 or B-24 or B-29 doesn't make it easy to use anything but a straight key.  I've actually flown in a B-17 as a teen-ager up to 8000 feet or so in the midwest and can testify to vibration and mild buffeting from changing air currents.

Quote
btw, if you want to see a good movie with a radio angle, see "Island In The Sky" with John Wayne.

You can also read the book "Fate is the Hunter," by Ernest K. Gann, who wrote the original story and also participated in the real situation.  But, the real story didn't involve a mix of C-47 and C-117 two-engine transports.  "Island in the Sky" is a superbly-photographed black and white film.  As far as I know, John Wayne never had a ham license.  Andy Devine, a supporting player in "Island" did.

In the real situation and in the movie, 'radio' never played a part in the final rescue.

Len K6LHA
Logged
N2EY
Member

Posts: 3880




Ignore
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2010, 04:07:32 AM »


I used a Vibroplex Presentation, a high-school graduation gift, on USS Kitty Hawk from '63-'66.  When the Flag came aboard, the message traffic easily tripled in volume, and all of the lower-precedence stuff went out on CW.  Of course, there were teletype malfunctions and quite often we'd get an IMMEDIATE or a FLASH, encrypted offline and brought out to get sent RIGHT NOW!

You needed a "speed key certificate" in order to use a bug.  The examination for the "bug ticket" was invariably conducted by the crustiest Master Chief on the Commander's staff.  I reported for my appointment and while waiting for the E-9 I took the bug out of its case and connected it to the oscillator.  Made a few fine adjustments and started sending some of the text lying on the desk.  About five minutes later I heard a voice behind me.  "Beautiful code, Bailey.  Can you receive as well as you send?" 

"Sure can, Master Chief!"

"Well, let me try that Presentation and we'll see."  He adjusted it to his touch while I got the paper into the typewriter.  Ten minutes later I walked out of the office with my bug ticket.

About a week later, that same Master Chief reported aboard Kitty Hawk as our new Leading Chief.  He remembered me!  Actually, I think it was the bug he remembered.

Thanks for a great story, and a piece of history. According to what I've read, Kitty Hawk was a nearly-new ship then (commissioned in 1961).

Do you still have the Presentation?

----

I've been told that in the late 1950s, one of the US Navy's requirements for Radioman "A" school was to be able to copy 24 wpm on a mill for a solid hour with no more than 3 mistakes. Code groups, not plain text. Do you know if that's accurate?

73 es TNX de Jim, N2EY

Logged
K7KBN
Member

Posts: 2805




Ignore
« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2010, 11:15:31 PM »

Thanks for a great story, and a piece of history. According to what I've read, Kitty Hawk was a nearly-new ship then (commissioned in 1961).

Do you still have the Presentation?

----

I've been told that in the late 1950s, one of the US Navy's requirements for Radioman "A" school was to be able to copy 24 wpm on a mill for a solid hour with no more than 3 mistakes. Code groups, not plain text. Do you know if that's accurate?

73 es TNX de Jim, N2EY

Hi Jim - no, that Presentation and I parted company when I moved from Las Vegas up here to Western WA.  A lad whom I elmered before the term existed (gasp!) really took a shine to it and I figured he'd do right by it.  From what I hear from him, he does.   Smiley

24 WPM code groups for an hour with only 3 errors ... that's one I haven't heard but I won't discount it at all.  When I graduated from "A" School, it was 22 WPM plain language/24 WPM for groups.  My very first day of code class, I passed those requirements in that I could write it out with a stick; however, I couldn't type that fast! 

From then on until graduation, I reported to "Code Control" to assist the RMC in charge with running the punched tapes on the Boehme keyers.  He didn't need too much help, though.  At any given time, there were at least five students (just about all of us were hams) in the same situation:  knowing the code but not being able to touch type worth beans.  We worked on our typing and told about our DX chasing as hams.  Ah, memories!

73
Pat K7KBN






 








Logged

73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
N2EY
Member

Posts: 3880




Ignore
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2010, 08:23:11 PM »

Hi Jim - no, that Presentation and I parted company when I moved from Las Vegas up here to Western WA.  A lad whom I elmered before the term existed (gasp!) really took a shine to it and I figured he'd do right by it.  From what I hear from him, he does.   Smiley

24 WPM code groups for an hour with only 3 errors ... that's one I haven't heard but I won't discount it at all.  When I graduated from "A" School, it was 22 WPM plain language/24 WPM for groups.  My very first day of code class, I passed those requirements in that I could write it out with a stick; however, I couldn't type that fast! 

How long was the test? That was in the early 1960s, right?

From then on until graduation, I reported to "Code Control" to assist the RMC in charge with running the punched tapes on the Boehme keyers.  He didn't need too much help, though.  At any given time, there were at least five students (just about all of us were hams) in the same situation:  knowing the code but not being able to touch type worth beans.  We worked on our typing and told about our DX chasing as hams.  Ah, memories!


Thanks for the great stories.

You might enjoy this:

Harry Shearer did a 2 hour tribute to K2ORS, which includes several great monologues he did.
 
The first hour is here:
 
http://hearingvoices.com/news/2009/08/hv067-jean-shepherd-1/
 
You can download the MP3 file at the link (right click, then "Save Target As"), or listen to it online.
 
There's a great Army code school story that begins about 28 minutes into the file. Shep and several high-speed radio operators/radar technician buddies were mistakenly sent to basic Morse Code instruction - which, as Shep puts it, was like training a brain surgeon in how to put on a Band-Aid.
 
So the guinea pigs took over the experiment, so to speak.
 
"I COULD TEACH CODE TO A DOG!!!"
 
The second hour is here:
 
http://hearingvoices.com/news/2009/08/hv068-jean-shepherd-2/
 
Same deal. Shep was in the Army in WW2. 
 
73 de Jim, N2EY
 
Logged
K6LHA
Member

Posts: 349




Ignore
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2010, 12:29:26 PM »


You might enjoy this:

Harry Shearer did a 2 hour tribute to K2ORS, which includes several great monologues he did.
 
The first hour is here:
 
http://hearingvoices.com/news/2009/08/hv067-jean-shepherd-1/
 
You can download the MP3 file at the link (right click, then "Save Target As"), or listen to it online.
 
There's a great Army code school story that begins about 28 minutes into the file. Shep and several high-speed radio operators/radar technician buddies were mistakenly sent to basic Morse Code instruction - which, as Shep puts it, was like training a brain surgeon in how to put on a Band-Aid.
 
So the guinea pigs took over the experiment, so to speak.
 
"I COULD TEACH CODE TO A DOG!!!"
 
The second hour is here:
 
http://hearingvoices.com/news/2009/08/hv068-jean-shepherd-2/
 
Same deal. Shep was in the Army in WW2. 

I was in the US Army during the Korean War.  Never went to any "code school" (didn't have to).  Operated FSK TTY, SSB (commercial format kind), VHF-UHF radio relay, finally 24-voice-channel microwave radio relay.  Dang if I can find any "humor" in operating all that stuff or tell "funny stories" about all the non-morse-code "dummies" who had to also keep training for their main mission:
close with and destroy the enemy.  Yeah, and carrying an HT on a pack strap or a VHF transceiver on the back while practicing patrol tactics when our regular radio tasks were done.

Yessir, I'll just have to join the crowd and laugh and laugh at all those non-code dummies, otherwise all you code-tested brain surgeon experts won't let me play in the HF ham bands.  The FCC thinks its okay but the ELITE of the "amateur community" doesn't think we are good enough for them.  <shrug>

So, Jimmy, tell us some funny stories about your military days?

73, Len K6LHA
Logged
AD5X
Member

Posts: 1430




Ignore
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2010, 08:40:59 AM »

My Dad was a radio operator in the Army Air Corps during WWII.  I asked him about this today when I talked to him.  He said that no one used a bug except for very routine, non critical communications where the receiving operator had access to a typewriter.   But for anything critical/combat related, the straight key was used.  Everything had to be written down, and it was difficult to write much faster than 20WPM or so - and you couldn't take a typwriter along with you on an airplane in combat.  And the radio operator in the plane didn't use a bug because of the difficulties in adjusting it and then using it in a very shaky environment.

Phil - AD5X
Logged
W5LZ
Member

Posts: 477




Ignore
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2010, 06:02:04 AM »

I seriously doubt if I'd ever use it, but I wish I could find another old 'Lightning' bug.  I learned on one, think I still have parts of it around here, but you know how that goes.  Good, bad, or indeifferent, the one you 'learn' on will always be the standard (at least for me), and not just 'bugs'.  You could slow that thing down to a 'usable' speed, that was what I remember about it the most.
Paul
Logged
Pages: [1]   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!