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Editorial re FCC Potentially Shutting Down Amateur Radio During WWII
November 1940 QST

November 1940 QST

NOvember 1940 QST Cover - RF CafeTable of Contents

These articles are scanned and OCRed from old editions of the ARRL's QST magazine. Here is a list of the QST articles I have already posted. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.

"Do you think that F.C.C. would be engaged in the present terrific expense and effort of getting our fingerprints and citizenship histories if there were intention of shutting us down shortly?" That statement was printed by the QST magazine editor in the issue that preceded the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor by thirteen months. A few things about it are troubling. First, the FCC was collecting fingerprints of licensed amateur radio operators. Second, the FCC was assimilating information about licensed amateur radio operators' citizenship histories. Third, a combination of short-sightedness and apparent naiveté concerning the FCC's willingness to shut down amateur radio operations once America had been inevitably drawn into World War II. We know now that the FCC did immediately shut down all amateur radio transmissions on December 8, 1941 - a mere day after the Pearl Harbor attack. The action was not without precedent since the U.S. had suspended amateur radio operations during WWI as reported in this "War and the Radio Amateur" article in the May 1917 issue of The Electrical Experimenter. The takeaway lesson here is to never fool yourself into believing there is something that the government 'would never do,' because history is replete with evidence to the contrary.

Incidentally, do you know that on the same day as the Pearl Harbor attack that Japan also attacked American and British military installations in the Philippines, Guam, Malaya, Taiwan (Siam), and Wake Island? This, before war was declared and peace talks were ongoing. Hirohito was doing to Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean what Hitler was doing to Europe and North Africa, and in many ways more brutally.

War Comes!, January 1942 QST; Editorial re FCC Potentially Shutting Down Amateur Radio During WWII November, 1940 QST; News Items from F.C.C., December 1940 - January 1941 National Radio News; Hallicrafters Radio - End of War in Sight, November 1944 Radio News; Painless Reconversion, September 1947 QST

Amateur Radio Editorial

Editorial on FCC Potentially Shutting Down Amateur Radio During WWII, November 1940 QST - RF Cafe"It Seems to Us -"


Are you one of those amateurs who are holding off from buying some needed or much-desired piece of gear because of fear that amateur radio in this country is going to be closed up soon? There seem to be several of you, and we have a few words we'd like to get off on the subject:

Manufacturers and dealers are currently offering us the most interesting line of apparatus and parts that has existed in the history of radio. If we and they are not to lose contact, if we are not to lose the benefit of their business interest in us and their new developments especially designed for our field, it is perfectly manifest that we must continue to patronize them - if we can feel safe in doing so. Otherwise they'll go broke and fold, or - what is of almost the same result to us - concentrate on government orders and abandon us. The thing seems to hinge entirely, then, on whether we can feel safe.

For twenty-odd years we've been keeping the rails hot between Hq. and Washington. We frequently visit many government officials there, both military and civil. They were somewhat concerned about amateur operation early this past summer. That's why they got up the orders that were imposed on us last June - to correct the things that they thought needed correcting. All of them now profess to us to be satisfied with our present situation. They realize that amateur radio is that most remarkable kind of a training school, one in which ardent devotees train themselves in the intricacies of a very complex art at their own expense! They want to see this self-training intensified, not discouraged; national defense considerations require it. Do you think that F.C.C. would be engaged in the present terrific expense and effort of getting our fingerprints and citizenship histories if there were intention of shutting us down shortly? No, the indexes all point the other way and they tell us that no new regulations are even under contemplation. We do not have the slightest knowledge whether this country will eventually get into the war but there is certainly no suggestion that it will in the near future; and we feel that, short of that, we are going to continue our present serene course without further material restriction.

So if you're planning a new antenna system or eyeing a new receiver or lying awake nights visualizing a new sender-outer, we consider that you are safe in investing in it; hop to it.


November will be a momentous month in the American chronicle, marking the first peace-time induction for compulsory military training in our country's history. Inevitably, amongst those thus drafted will be a goodly number of radio amateurs, members of A.R.R.L. A word to you young fellows:

The military folks will be keeping a sharp lookout for numerous kinds of technical specialists amongst the men called up. You, because you're a radio amateur, will prefer radio work - because it will be more interesting to you than other work, because you'll learn something new, and because you know you can serve best by giving of your radio talents. You will find that arrangements have been provided to give radio assignments to conscripts who are hams. This is the way we understand it will work:

When conscription begins in November, the men called up for duty will first be ordered to a local" induction station" or "reception center," where their qualifications will be determined and the proper arm or service for them decided. Have your license with you, because right there is the place for you to announce your. radio qualifications and press hard for an assignment to radio work. It shouldn't be difficult since, we are told, they will have instructions to locate as many radio men as possible. From the reception center the men will be sent to the "replacement center" of the service to which they have been assigned, to receive training for a period of up to three months. The Signal Corps and the Air Corps and probably other arms will maintain such centers for the training of their communications personnel. After the schooling the men will go to duty with tactical units of their arm, filling out the remainder of their training year with field service. If you are quite a skilled amateur you will not have to take the entire school course but will slip through with a small amount of "processing" and be assigned to a unit, or perhaps retained at the school in an instructorship. Your cue is to advertise the fact that you're a communications man right from your first reporting, until you have a radio assignment.

You men are giving up a year to receive training and experience at the hands of your government. That year can be pretty much what you make it. It will be no bed of heliotrope but if you apply yourselves you'll come out of it a whole lot smarter and healthier than when you went in. Remember that you will be the representatives of the institution of amateur radio. For years we have said that the amateur body provided a great reservoir of trained personnel for national needs. In you the government is now sampling that reservoir. Show them what a radio amateur can do! Don't be too cocky but show them that he's good! Play the game and do your part to maintain the tradition that a good ham can lick any other kind of a radio man at whatever needs to be done.

Incidentally, the League has proposed to the F.C.C. that it would be swell if the expiring licenses of men on active service were renewed upon application without the usually-required proof of activity. Sort of keeping the home fires burning. The Commission says it will be glad to cooperate and we believe something can be worked out. Watch QST for the news.

Which reminds us: Have your folks re-mail QST to you, so you'll keep up with what's going on. (Requires additional postage.) When you're "permanently" located you can have us change your address, if you wish, but in such a request give us the QTH of the old homestead as well as the one where Uncle Sam is putting you up. Matter of fact, we'd like a postcard occasionally anyway, both to have the news and because we'd like to keep a score-sheet on the ham's contributions to the defense training program. The best of luck, OM!

Defense Matters

There has been an American Radio Relay League in this country since 1914 - nearly twenty-seven years. It belongs to you fellows and it looks after your interests through the directors whom you elect. Whatever the new problems or whatever the changing aspects of American life, the League can be counted upon to be on the job in your interests. It has the record of having done so unfailingly for a full generation.

It isn't necessary to assert to you that it is busy today, both in looking after your interests and in consulting with government officials on the best employment for amateur talents as the country gears up to face a mad world. You already know it, because you have seen these relations growing over the past generation. Your League is already here and it's all set; it is the amateur organization. There is no need for A.R.R.L. suddenly to wrap itself in the star-spangled banner and start screaming like eagles as to how, with the help of the heavenly host and divers names of big-shots, it will overnight raise a hundred million radio militiamen and save the country from the powers of darkness, including taking over the monitoring functions of the federal government. If our organization seems a bit too conservative and dignified for that sort of thing, perhaps it is because our contacts are better and our knowledge of the situation and the needs sounder.

In recent months, officials of the League have had many conversations with government authorities, both civil and military. We have explored the possibilities for amateurs to help in the defense picture. Some interesting ideas are in the works, ideas that can't be talked about yet but which will be announced as they take definite form. The important thing we want you to see now is that your association is, as usual, on the job, and that what needs to be done is being done, even if we aren't waving flags.

In the meanwhile, the greatest contribution to national preparedness that the individual amateur can make is to look after his personal preparedness by raising his code proficiency, including copying on the mill. 'Phone amateurs have not only that code duty but also the opportunity to develop proficiency in handling traffic by voice. For those with a yen for active-service training, both Army (Signal Corps and Air Corps) and Navy are seeking enlistments, offering schooling, contact with new gear and methods, and field experience.

As we go about our work on the air, we are requested to keep our ears open and report any monkey business we hear to the nearest office of F.C.C. It is their work; we just help. If we're approached with improper operating proposals, ditto nearest office of F.B.I.

As the National Guard moves out for active duty, a Home Guard will be formed in each state, mostly of men out of draft age or with dependents or flat feet. They have to start from scratch, with little or no equipment, no radio personnel. In some states they are already calling for amateur help. Here is a chance - see if they don't need you in your state.

With over a million men away from home in camps and bases and schools, there is going to be an amateur message-traffic problem of big proportions. Our Communications Department is planning now what ought to be done about it. It's down our groove, the kind of public service we've always given, and it will be important in the coming year. It will take our best skill as relayers and will provide traffic proficiency as well as code proficiency itself. There will be a place in it for everybody.



Posted July 9, 2020
(updated from original post on 4/27/2016)

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