NAVCOMMSTA San Francisco - US Navy Radio NPG

Naval Radio History of 12th Naval District (San Francisco) - by LT George Todd, USN RET - pdf

NPG San Francisco Early Photos and History from Sparks Journal - thanks to John Dilks and Society of Wireless Pioneers

NPI Farallon Islands CA Early Photos and History from Sparks Journal - thanks to John Dilks and Society of Wireless Pioneers


The U. S. Naval Radio Station at Mare Island was the first naval radio station on the West Coast. This station, commonly referred to as the "Hill Station" was
commissioned 27 April 1904. The original site was located on a hill southward of the shipyard proper. An abandoned pigeon cote was moved to the site and fitted up as an operating and transmitting room. In addition to the pigeon cote, one ship type mast, 130 feet high, was erected.

The first equipment consisted of a Slaby-Arco open-gap spark transmitter together with a Slaby-Arco coherer and decoherer for receiving, which had been purchased from the German General Electric Company and shipped to the Mare Island Navy Yard for installation . The first call sign used was "MI" which was probably self-assigned as the first officially assigned call sign was "TG".

The Yerba Buena station (Goat Island) was commissioned May 5, 1904. The first official call sign was "TI."

In 1915, 30 Kw arc transmitters were installed at Mare Island. A decision was made to establish the Yerba Buena Station as the control station and Mare Island as the transmitter station for the communication complex. At that time the Mare Island station was changed from a transmitting/receiving station to a transmitting station only, with control {keying) of the transmitters accomplished by the Yerba Buena Station (NPG). The San Francisco District consisted of the stations at Yerba Buena Island (District Center), Mare Island, Farallon Island, Eureka, Marshfield and a station at Monterey which had been authorized but was never built.

During WW1, the Navy acquired  Federal Telegraph KSS in South San Francisco. It was equipped with one 30 KW and one 40 KW arc transmitters, and operated from Yerba Buena. In 1919, the 40 KW arc transmitter was installed at Mare Island (HIPOWER) along with a 100 KW arc transmitter from Tuckerton NJ. An additional 100KW arc transmitter was installed at Mare Island in 1922. [Photos]

In May 1923, the Yerba Buena Control Station was moved to the Appraisers Building in San Francisco. At the same time, a new receiver station was established at South San Francisco where signals received from Washington and Honolulu were piped into the control station in the Appraisers Building over lines leased from the Pacific Telephone Co . Signals from San Diego, Puget Sound, the direction finder stations and ships were received directly on receivers installed in the Appraisers Building. 

In 1925 NPG moved to the newly constructed Marine Corps warehouse building in the industrial section of San Francisco, at 100 Harrison St.. Signals from Washington and Honolulu were piped into NPG from the receiver station at South San Francisco. Receivers, and antennas on the roof, were installed in the building for the San Diego, Puget Sound, DirectionĚ Finder Stations, and the ship-shore circuits. Operating positions for duplex operation of the Washington and Honolulu circuits and for the other circuits were located around a large room with desks for the traffic chief, supervisor, and local delivery clerk.

In 1935, NPG was moved to the newly constructed Federal Office Building in the Civic Center, San Francisco, where it remained for the next twenty-five years . From 1935 until the start of World War II, NPG consisted of the Radio Control Station in the Federal Office Building, the Radio Transmitting Station at Mare Island, the Time and Diversity Receiving Station at Mare Island, the Radio Monitor and Receiving Station at South San Francisco, and several Direction Finder stations. NPG control occupied a few rooms on the third floor of the building, where operating positions were located along a conveyor belt which carried messages between the operators and the supervisor and. traffic chief. High speed Kleinschnidt and Boehme tape equipments were used on the primary circuits to Washington and Honolulu. A few receivers were installed for the San Diego-Pu.get Sound circuit, the DF stations, and the ship-shore circuits. Photos

With the increase of communication circuits and the requirement for a better, noise-free location, the Radio Receiving site at Skaggs Island was developed and construction started in 1938 . Naval Radio Station (R). Skaggs Island, on the northern edge of San Francisco Bay, became a component part of NPG in 1942 as replacement for the old South San Francisco receiving station. [1945 Photos] All of Mare Island's radio receiving functions were also shifted to the new station in 1942. Initial use of' the 3300 acre site was to provide receiving facilities for point to point, ship shore, local harbor, and inter and intra-district nets as the occasion demanded. Supplementary Radio (later NAVSECGRU) activities were added at Skaggs Island [more photos and info]

In 1962, NAVCOMMSTA San Francisco moved to Stockton (Rough and Ready Island).  [1970's Stockton Photos]

In 1965, Transmitter operations were moved from Mare Island to NAVRADSTA (T) Dixon  [info, photos]

Ships Table, Marine Receiving, in the Control Station at the Twelfth Naval District Radio Headquarters 1927
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Yerba Buena 1921
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Goat Island 1921
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Yuerba Buena receiving booth circa 1917-20
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South San Francisco 1927 
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NPW Eureka ca. 1913-15
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-- Teletype Relay San Francisco 1945
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Mare Island Transmitter Site

1904 - Radio Station (Call sign TG) established with Slaby-Arco transmitter at the HILL location
1912 - 5 KW quenched spark gap transmitter installed
1915 - 30 KW arc transmitter installed - call sign changed to NPG since Yerba Buena became the control station

Equipped with one 30 KW arc transmitter adjusted for these wavelengths : 4000 ( calling) , 4800 (working) , 6000, 8100, and 12000 meters ; and one 5 KW, 500 cycle quenched gap spark transmitter, adjusted for : 600 (commercial), 952 (calling), and 2400 (working) meters . Both transmitters were operated by remote control from the Yerba Buena station. Separate antennas were installed for the arc and spark transmitters . Receiving apparatus was also installed at the Mare Island station. There were four private landline circuits between Yerba Buena and Mare Island; three telegraph circuits for arc control, spark control and message circuit ; and one telephone circuit used as an order circuit for operation of apparatus and adjustment of wavelengths, etc . That circuit was bridged into the offices of the Pacific Coast Communication Superintendent at Yerba Buena and the Radio Officer at Mare Island . The arc set at Mare Island was used for communication with San Diego, Lents, Oregon, Puget Sound, Cordova and Great Lakes, Illinois. Traffic with Puget Sound, Cordova and Great Lakes was by schedule only. Traffic with San Diego was on a continuous call basis . The spark transmitter at Mare Island was used to communicate with Farallon Island, Eureka, Marshfield, Oregon (night only), North Head (night only), and with ships equipped with spark sets . Time signals were transmitted simultaneously daily at noon and 10 PM, 120th meridian time, on both arc and spark transmitters on 4800 and 2400 meters. This was accomplished by the Mare Island station switching control of both transmitters direct on the Western Union wire which was connected to the Naval Observatory at Mare Island . The station broadcast local weather conditions, storm warnings and hydrographic information in accordance with Radio Regulations .

1920 - Construction of new Power House, Operating Building, and three 450' towers at HIPOWER location
1920 - 100 KW Arc transmitter moved from Tuckerton NJ, 40 KW arc transmitter moved from South San Francisco
1922 - additional 100 KW Arc transmitter and two additional 450' towers installed
1942 - Receiving equipment and functions moved from Mare Island to Skaggs Island
1945 - SSB transmitters installed for Washington and Honolulu circuits (multi-channel RATT)
1961 - The five 450' towers and the LF transmitters were removed - about 60 HF transmitters remained in operation.
1965 - Operations moved to Dixon CA
March 1949
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January 1940
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1930's
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1921 view from antenna tower
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100kw towers - 1920
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1929 "Beam Antennae"
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Building 505 HF Transmitters - photos and plans - main link -

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Skaggs Island 1945

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RBP at Skaggs Island
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