AN/FRT-39 HF transmitters
1954 - 800' tower for 50KW LF xmtr
(US Navy Official Photo)
1920 - original towers
|1969 Goliath VLF antenna
In 1910, the Navy purchased a 180 ac property from Theodore Corner, which consisted at the time of four structures and what appeared to be an orchard (U.S. Naval Academy, Public Works Department [USNA, PWD] 1916). Initially, the Naval Academy operated a small dairy farm at Greenbury Point. However, this small operation failed to meet the needs of the Academy, and in 1913, the Navy moved the dairy farm to a much larger tract in Gambrills, Maryland. The Academy subsequently established a hog farm on the 100 ac southern portion of the former Corner parcel. This farm, which contained four dwellings, a milk house, cook house, a hog house, four barns, and a wagon shed, was established primarily as a means of disposing of garbage generated in the dining halls in Bancroft Hall, located on the Academy's campus (USNA, PWD 1918; Midshipmen's Store and Service Division 1929). The Academy prided itself on maintaining a scientific operation, complete with hog houses, breeding platforms, and built-in concrete troughs on the 10-ac developed portion of this facility. The remaining 90 ac were used for pasturage, livestock exercise lots, and alfalfa and corn production. None of the average 350 hogs raised on the farm were utilized to feed the corps of midshipmen. Most of the excess stock was sold to the stockyards in Baltimore, and some meat was sent to feed the unmarried employees at the dairy farm in Gambrills (Midshipmen's Store and Service Division l929:2 1,26).
The northern portion of the former Corner farm was developed as a radio transmission facility. The Navy had began testing wireless apparatus as early as 1899, and in 1900, radio stations were established at Washington, D.C., and at the Naval Academy itself. During the ensuing 15 years, the Navy established additional naval shore and ship stations on both coasts, as well as its own radio research laboratory in Anacostia, and a high-power transmitting station at Arlington, Virginia (Gebhard 1979%; Office of the Chief of Naval Operations 1961:3-4). With the advent of World War I, the Navy Department assumed the responsibility for establishing and operating a transatlantic communication system. This system included former commercial properties, transmitting facilities, receiving stations, testing facilities, communications schools, and additional high-power transmission stations on United States possessions in the Pacific and in the Caribbean (Best 1996). By the end of the war, the Navy's communications network included the highest powered arc transmitters in the United States, and was capable of communicating with Navy ships throughout the world (Office of the Chief of Naval Operations 1961:7-9; U.S. Navy Department, Bureau of Yards and Docks 1921:365).
The Naval Radio Transmitting Station [NAVRADSTA (T)] at Annapolis was established in 1917 to provide a secure communications link between the United States, France, and England. The Annapolis site was selected due to its remote location along the Chesapeake, as well as for its proximity to Washington (Nimitz Library, Miscellaneous Records of the Naval Station, Box No. 1, Folder No. 6; "Radio Transmitting Facility Annapolis, Maryland", n.p.). In 1918, the Navy entered into an agreement with France for the Navy to construct a high-power, long-wave station in France (Office of the Chief of Naval Operations 196 1 :9). NAVRADSTA (T) Annapolis, established in 19 18 as a high-powered Very Low Frequency (VLF) station, was designed to operate in conjunction with the French transmitter.
The station was commissioned in August 1918 using two 500-kw Poulson Arc Converter VLF transmitters built by Federal Telegraph Company of San Francisco under a contract from the Bureau of Steam Engineering. Four 600-foot radio towers (Nos. 1-4), designed by the Austin Company, were erected as part of the original construction campaign (Nimitz Library, Miscellaneous Records of the Naval Station, Box No. 1, Folder No. 6; "Radio Transmitting Facility Annapolis, Maryland", n.p.). ,--- In addition to the towers, the transmission site also contained a power house and transmitter house, an operator's dwelling, Marine barracks, the residences of the officer in charge and the chief petty officer, a wharf at Possum Point, and a water-supply system (USNA, PWD 1918). The two 500-kw arcs installed in the operations building (Building 5) provided coverage for the Atlantic Ocean, England, and Europe. The station was completed by the summer of 1918, and the first message was sent to France in early September (Gebhard 1979:9). At the time of its completion, the Annapolis station was one of the most powerful in the United States and the world (U.S. Navy Department, Bureau of Yards and Docks 1921:365-366).
The transmitter facility was expanded and modified during the 1920s. In 1922, two additional towers (Nos. 5 and 6) were constructed (Best 1996). The Marine barracks were modified to accommodate married enlisted men's quarters, and artesian wells, septic systems, and a technical support building were constructed. North of the fenced facility, the installation's wharves were expanded and several barns were constructed (USNA, PWD 1928). The Naval Academy Hog Farm continued to occupy the land south of the transmission facility.
Development of the northern portion of North Severn proceeded along a different track during this period. The former Taylor property went through a series of owners, including Thaddeus Davids, L. A. Palmer, and C. E. Remson, who acquired it in 1889 (Hopkins 1878; USNA, PWD 1934). An undated survey of this property showed that land use during this period was devoted to agriculture. Approximately 59 ac at the northernmost point of the tract remained wooded, while the remainder had been divided into fenced fields of 8-28 ac. Two peach orchards were present within the property, and a residential complex of three buildings was located overlooking Mill Creek. At the head of Carr's Creek near the southern boundary of the property, a small portion of land was designated as a "Mineyard;" this parcel may have been associated with the rifle ranges then under development on the neck of land between Carr's Creek and the Severn River (USNA, PWD n.d.). At some time prior to 1934, the Remson farm was acquired by the Greenbury Land and Development Company, presumably for development as a recreational or vacation complex. One small 7 ac parcel bordering Mill Creek was owned by the Acme Realty Company of Maryland (USNA, PWD 1934).
During the 1930s, the mission of NAVRADSTA Annapolis was expanded to include high frequency radio transmissions. During this period, High Frequency (HF), Medium Frequency (MF), and Low Frequency (LF) transmitters were added to support the original VLF arc converter transmitters (Nimitz Library, Miscellaneous Records of the Naval Station, Box No. 1, Folder No. 6). In 1937, the original VLF transmitter was replaced, and a new antenna system installed (Nimitz Library, Miscellaneous Records of the Naval Station, Box No. 1, Folder No. 6; "Radio Transmitting Facility Annapolis, Maryland", n.p.).
Other modifications included the addition of one new building at Possum Point and the extension of the unpaved Greenbury Point Road from the transmitter station complex to the southern tip of the point. In 1935, the Hog Farm was relocated to the northern portion of the tract, between the transmitter facility and the wharf at Possum Point (USNA, PWD 1935a, 1935b). Between 1939 and 1940, these facilities augmented fire protection capabilities at the station. The facility also made minor infrastructure improvements with the construction of a pumphouse (NA76), a concrete dam (NA77), and reservoir.
By 1940, the Navy's radio communication system encompassed a global chain of high, medium, and low frequency transmitting stations, receiving stations, and supplementary stations. The Bureau of Yards and Docks' construction program for radio stations in the continental United States during World War II was relatively modest, with allocations for buildings and structures totaling $25,000,000. Additional funds allocated for new equipment under the Bureau of Ships were used to make improvements to both west and east coast facilities, including Annapolis. The major emphasis was directed towards expanding overseas radio facilities at Hawaii and other advanced bases (U.S. Navy Department, Bureau of Yards and Docks 1947:401). World War I1 forced a tremendous expansion of the capacity of the Annapolis Station. During the war, NAVRADSTA Annapolis became the "primary transmitting station for communication command and control with deployed units" (Nimitz Library, Miscellaneous Records of the Naval Station, Box No. 1, Folder No. 6). The station's capacity was upgraded with the construction of 50 kw LF transmitters, and a continuous "modernization plan" was instituted. The station's pre-war complement of 24 radio operators was increased to 50 during the war, and the number of radio transmitters almost tripled (Office of the Chief of Naval Operations 1946:45-46).
Expansion of the facility's mission necessitated changes in land use at the installation. The former Remson Farm property bordering Mill Creek was acquired in 1942, and was utilized to accommodate the expanded transmission facilities, including five transmission towers, a receiving station, a bachelor officers quarters @JA74), and a golf course (USNA, PWD 1943a). On the transmitter parcel itself, the site of the former hog farm was developed for additional residential housing, and the wharf facilities at Possum Point apparently were dismantled (USNA, PWD 1943b).
The post World War II era was dominated by increased hostilities in Soviet-American relations and a proliferation of new technologies in communications. Developments at NAVRADSTA Annapolis responded to and reflected these outside influences. In August 1953, the Annapolis facility became part of the U.S. Naval Communications Station, Washington, D.C., which consisted of a communications center and two other radio stations (Cheltenham and Arlington). In 1955, microwave communications were installed between Cheltenham and Annapolis to replace telephone land lines.
Construction activity at Annapolis during the late 1940s and 1950s included a transmitter building (Building 128); a helix house; a battery house (Building 138); a Communications Control Link Building (Building 150); an AN/FRT-4 transmitter; an 800-foot vertical radiator tower; three AN/FRT-39 transmitters in Building 60; seven AN/FRT-25 transmitters; and, Communication Moon Relay (CMR) transmitter building (Building 151). A microwave duplex teletype circuit also was activated with Fort Ritchie, Maryland. In 1958, a 200-foot steel tower was erected at the north end of the Annapolis radio station, and a 190-foot steel tower was constructed adjacent to Building 60 (Nimitz Library, Miscellaneous Records of the Naval Station, Box No. 1, Folder No. 6).
The 1960s and 1970s were a dynamic period for Annapolis, as many of the earlier, now obsolete transmitter systems were upgraded to accommodate newer, state-of-the-art systems. The original 1918 radio towers (Contract 2650-1918) were demolished in 1969. Transmitters were removed or transferred to other facilities. The Model TBJ VLF system, installed in 1938, remained in continual use until 1969, when it was upgraded to a new system (Model AN/FRT-87 VLF) designed by Continental Electronics. The VLF system was capable of communicating with submerged submarine 50 to 60 feet below the surface (Nimitz Library, Miscellaneous Records of the Naval Station, Box No. 1, Folder No. 6; "Radio Transmitting Facility Annapolis, Maryland", n.p.; J. Schorpp, personal communication, 17 November 1995).
The station was renamed Naval Radio Transmitter Facility (NRTF) in 1974 and became a component of the Naval Communications Area Master Station (NAVCOMTELSTA), Atlantic. As a department of NAVCOMTELSTA, NRTF Annapolis was a vital link in the communications system that served the fleet and the Defense Communications Agency. The mission of NRTF Annapolis was to "operate and maintain those facilities, equipments, devices and systems necessary to provide reliable communications for the command, operational control and administration of the Naval establishment ashore and afloat, and to perform such other functions as may be directed by the Commanding Officer" (Naval Radio Transmitter Facility n.d.).
As communications technology improved, old systems requiring manpower were replaced with computer and satellite equipment. This allowed manpower reductions and consolidation of space required to operate the station. During the 1970s, the station's total acreage was reduced. The acreage containing the golf course was transferred to USNA. When the requirement for HF operations was eliminated in 1976 with the introduction of satellite communications, the MF and HF transmitters at NRTF Annapolis were removed or transferred. In contrast, an upgrade of communications equipment, communications to the Atlantic and Mediterranean fleet units.
In 1988, the submarine base at Kings Bay, Georgia was linked with NRTF Annapolis, providing them with LF and VLF communications capabilities via Annapolis. In October 1988, a CVLF terminal was installed at NRTF, which was designed to meet the needs of submarine tenders, and NATO submarine and surface platforms (Nimitz Library, Miscellaneous Records of the Naval Station, Box No. 1, Folder No. 6).
From Naval Facilities Engineering Command History 1965-74, Chapter 10 - link
In the late 1960s the Navy decided to build a very low frequency communications facility at the Naval Radio Station, Annapolis, Maryland. This facility was to be used for communicating with submerged submarines at great distances. In 1969, a contract was awarded to build a complex of six 600 foot towers and one 1,200 foot tower. All of these were insulated and were supported by guy wires. (190) The total cost was $5 million. On 9 December 1971, before the contract was closed out, tests revealed that one insulator in the central 1,200 foot tower was cracked. This discovery led ultimately to an operation unique in the annals of construction. In order to replace the insulator it was necessary to place jacks under special lifting pads at the tower's base. While preparations were being made to do this during the winter of 1972, cracks were discovered in the weldings joining these pads to the tower. During the spring of 1972, ultrasonic magnetic particle testing revealed that the welds were made without the full penetration required by the contract specifications. Attempts were made to repair the faulty welds by rewelding but they failed. (191)
It was deemed crucial that the cracked insulator be replaced as soon as possible because of the dangerous stress it put on the other insulators and because the tower was no longer insulated and could not be used. To lessen the strain on the lifting pads a girdle, or mechanical fix, was placed around the base of the tower in May 1972. In June, the tower was jacked up and all the insulators were removed, as it had been deemed advisable to install new, stronger insulators that could better handle the 1,500 ton load of the tower. Unfortunately the problems with the towers were only beginning. During the remainder of 1972 and the first half of 1973, spot testing at different elevations on all seven towers revealed further gross deficiencies in the welds, especially those at the points where guy wires were attached. The situation was especially critical with regard to the 1,200 foot tower. Since this tower had no redundant parts, if even one guy wire lug broke loose because of defective welding, the tower would collapse.
Such a collapse would have not only resulted in millions of dollars in property loss, but would have also endangered the lives of all personnel in the area. Under similar circumstances such tower collapses had already occurred so there was little doubt that the weakened tower system should be removed. The risk of collapse was simply too great.
Only two viable courses of action were left open to the Navy - repair the tower as it stood, or dismantle it and rebuild at a later date. The first course of action was hazardous and would require the most exacting calculations if the collapse of the tower were to be avoided while repairs were in progress. It called for a systematic detensioning on the tower's guy wires so that the welding on the defective guy-wire mountings could be redone. Since no part of the tower guy-wire system was redundant, if one wire was detensioned, then other wires also had to be detensioned to varying degrees to keep them from pulling the tower over. Such an operation required not only an incredibly complex series of exacting calculation, but also needed skilled welders willing to work at great heights. The second alternative, that of dismantling and rebuilding, was safer, but also was prohibitively expensive. Whichever course of action was chosen, the decision had to be made quickly as the corning winter's storms would put still greater strain on the already weakened structure. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command chose the first course of action after an analysis of the risks and expense involved in both showed it to be the least disadvantageous of the two.
Welders with the requisite skills were found and the detensioning calculations were made. During the remainder of the summer of 1973 the necessary repair work was undertaken. Welds were redone at elevations of 600, 900 and 1,200 feet. (192) These repairs were completed by 22 April 1974. In May 1974, new insulators were installed under the jacked-up tower and in July 1974, the antenna, now fully operational, went on the air.
This incredibly delicate operations was a resounding success, not a man was lost and the tower was saved. The cost of the repair operation ran about $1.5 million, but the Command hoped to recoup this loss through litigation with the contractor. The VLF, Annapolis story is a chronicle of both failure and success. Failure in the sense that the original construction was fatally flawed. Success in the sense that the Command was able to save the project by means of brilliant engineering and decisive remedial construction work.
190 Interview with Dr. M. Yachnis, NAVFAC Engineering and
Design, Code 04B, 28 May 1975.
191 Yachnis interview.
192 "Sequence of events associated with the VLF Antenna (1,200 ft), Annapolis, Md" (undated chronology), p. 2; M. Yachnis, "Fifty-year Development of Naval Facilities Construction" Journal of the Construction Division, ASCE, Vol. 101, No. CO 1, Proc. Paper 11175 (Mar 1975), pp. 15-27.
Naval Radio Transmitter Facility Annapolis
Naval Station, North Severn, Annapolis MD
Greenbury Point is managed as a conservation area and is presently used for light midshipmen tactical training. The Radio Transmitter Facility at Greenbury Point was ordered to close, per BRAC ‘91. The the 231 acres of land and existing facilities, except the towers, at Greenbury Point conservation area at North Severn (formerly the Naval Radio Transmitting Facility (NRTF)) has been transferred to the US Naval Academy in September 1994. The undeveloped areas are being managed as wildlife habitat; therefore, human access is limited. Residents of Greenbury Point housing have free access to their homes and surrounding area except the East and West Roads and undeveloped areas.
During the Cold War, Greenbury Point was a key communications center for the Navy's submarine fleet. The antennas transmitted Very Low Frequency signals capable of penetrating the ocean, allowing communications with submerged submarines. By the early 1990s, with advances in satellite communications, the antennas became obsolete.
Greenbury Point was the site of the original settlement in the area, now mostly submerged by the Severn River. It was called Providence and was established by Puritans seeking religious freedom in 1649.
The property -- called "Hammond's Inheritance" -- was purchased by the Navy on August 21, 1909 for use as a dairy farm. From 1911 to 1917, part of this site was also used for the first Naval Air Station. In August 1911 a handful of Naval officers received orders to report for duty at the Engineering Experiment Station at the Naval Academy “... in connection with the test of gasoline motors and other experimental work in the development of aviation, including instruction at the aviation school.” The site of the aviation camp at the Academy was Greenbury Point. The Greenbury Point station has not come in for its fair measure of recognition in the history of Naval Aviation. It was a very small affair, and it shared its location with the Academy as its host. Nonetheless, its establishment was a landmark event, It was the Navy’s first air station and it was at Greenbury Point that the Navy began to conduct its first formal aviation training program. Pensacola, known as "The Cradle of Naval Aviation," succeeded the "naval air encampment" at Greenbury Point as the training site for naval aviators in 1914.
The Navy first built the four of the most northern radio towers on Greenbury Point in 1918 to communicate with US forces fighting in World War I. The transmitter, with call letters NSS, went on the air on 06 August 1918. The Annapolis transmitters operated in conjunction with a large antenna receiver facility at Cheltenham, MD. Two additional southerly towers were erected at Annapolis in 1922. In August 1938, the erection of three "Eifel Towers" (1G7, 1H7 and 1T9) was completed. In 1941, Building #60 was compled, a 50 kW L.F. transmitter were installed and high frequency operations established. The station was used for all communications with the Atlantic Fleet during World War II.
Extensive modification and improvement of the VLF antenna system was begun in 1969. The old 600-foot radio towers on Greenbury Point were demolished to make way for a new communications link with vessels of the Atlantic fleet. A new 1200-foot guyed center tower was erected and surrounded with nine 600-foot towers (three of which were identical to those erected in 1917). The modified "Goliath" antenna consisted of the 1200-foot tower and the "top hat" assembly supported by the 600-foot towers, covering about 200 acres. To power the new VLF antenna a 1000 kilowatt AN/FRT-87 transmitter was installed in the original transmitter building.
Since the radio towers had no operational requirement and the Naval Academy has no mission requirement for the towers, the disposal action for the antenna towers was the responsibility of the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Command (NCTC) under MILCON project P-501.
The demolition of the towers had political implications. A Senate appropriation staffer attempted to allocate funding to this project; however, he also tried to place language in the appropriations bill that would limit the use of the property to only conservation and any changes require Congressional approval. The staffer was informed that this is not acceptable to the Naval Academy.
The demolition of the naval radio transmitting facility (NRTF) towers at Naval Station, Annapolis was initially projected to include demolition and removal of 19 antenna towers, antenna arrays and guys, the excavation and removal of a causeway in the Chesapeake Bay, and incidental related work. The towers to be demolished include: Six 600 foot towers supported by 2 levels of 3 guys, Three 600 foot freestanding Eiffel-style towers, One 1200 foot tower supported by 4 levels of 3 guys, Four 300 foot freestanding towers, One 800 foot tower supported by 1 level of 8 guys, Three 80 foot triangular towers with rigid conical antenna frame supported by rope guys, and One 66 foot freestanding download terminal tower. Six tower guy anchors located in the Bay were removed; and all other tower foundation/anchors and the radial grounding systems remained in place. The base insulator for Tower No. 10 was salvaged and turned over to the Government. The work also included removal of 4 HF curtain array antennas and supports. These include a total of approximately 20 wood pole supports, 55 guy cables, 250 foot (plus or minus) length of 2 foot wide wood access piers, and 60 (plus or minus) wood dolphin poles. The naval station, primary school and golf course remained in operation during the entire demolition period.
The final demolition of 16 of the 19 former Navy radio towers on Greenbury Point took place on 09 December 1999. Three towers remained standing and were turned over to Maryland or Anne Arundel County for telecommunications or training purposes.
The undeveloped area of Greenbury Point is being managed as a environmentally sensitive conservation area and is the surface danger zone for the Naval Station rifle ranges. In the developed area, the facilities are occupied by Construction Battalion Unit 403, a Bachelor Enlisted Quarters, Married Enlisted Quarters (being used as swing space during NavSta BEQ Renovation), and a soon to be renovated Environmental Nature Center.
There are no planned changes to the facilities or land usage at Greenbury Point. An updated Integrated Natural Resources Plan and a Facilities Master Plan are being developed to manage this area. Greenbury Point has a variety of other habitats including wooded coves, shallow wetland ponds, forests and scrub/shrub areas. Many interesting wildlife make this area their home. For example, Greenbury Point supports the only bobwhite quail population in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
US Fish and Wildlife Service staff developed a Natural Resources Management Plan for the Annapolis Area Complex of the Navy, which includes the Naval Academy, the North Severn Complex of the golf course and Greenbury Point and the Naval Dairy Farm in Gambrills, Maryland. The Service’s restoration and environmental education experts assisted the Navy’s natural resources manager by evaluating Navy lands and writing a plan for the future of conservation areas and natural habitats under Navy management.
Greenbury Point, a 231 acre peninsula at the mouth of the Severn River, provides numerous opportunities to integrate wildlife habitat and education with the training mission of the Naval Academy. Outdoor education planners from the Service's Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge are lending their expertise to help shape the Visitor’s Center Environmental Education facility the Navy is currently building on Greenbury Point. Nineteen osprey pairs that nested on Greenbury Point’s radio towers were provided new platforms before the towers were demolished