U. S. NAVAL RADIO DIRECTION FINDER STATION
POINT ST. GEORGE, CRESCENT CITY, CALIFORNIA
CERTIFIED TO BE UNCLASSIFED
By Director, NSA/Chief, CSS
______ DATE 2 July 1984
This document was prepared as UNCLASSIFIED by Naval Personnel who had access to classified records. The first review to verify the fact that the report does not contain sensitive information was conducted by personnel of the Naval Security Group. The original of this document was retained by them and has been placed in the NSG Repository, Crane, Indiana. A final review to insure releasability was conducted by NSA.
U. S. NAVAL RADIO DIRECTION FINDER STATION
POINT ST. GEORGE, CRESCENT CITY, CALIFORNIA
Note: The attached document was prepared by Naval personnel with access to various historical records with the objective of bringing diverse records into a useable narrative history of Naval activity. The document does not constitute an official Navy history and no claims are made regarding its completeness and accuracy. Prepared by NAVSECGRUDET, Crane, Indiana. 3 December 1980
U. S. Naval Radio Direction Finder Station
Point St. George, Crescent City, California
The U. S. Naval Radio Direction Finder Station, Point St. George, Crescent City, California, was evidently established after 1923 since it is not carried in the “List of U. S. Naval Radio Traffic and Radio Compass Stations” (CSP 450) published in 1923. The earliest reference to a direction finder at Point St. George is found in a handwritten extract from the report of the semi-annual inspection of the Direction Finder Station, Point St. George (Crescent City), California, conducted on 7 March 1935, by LCDR W. M. Wynne, USN, the Radio Material Officer, TWELFTH Naval District. The extract stated, “Point St. George is a very desirable site for a direction finder station. Well favored . . . . . in having decidedly the least deviation shift of any D/F station in this district . . . . . It would be an excellent site for high frequency direction finding.”
In a tabulation of data on shore D/F stations for FY36, it was reported that Point St. George was equipped with a Model DP (medium or intermediate frequency) direction finder unit. During FY36, the station had reported 4681 bearings on 2209 targets for an average of 13 bearings per day at an estimated cost of $1.40 per bearing. The station additionally reported 456 bearings during tracking drills for an average of 1.2 bearings per day. The station was recommended for retention.
In a 21 August 1936 OP-20G memorandum on the subject of direction finder stations, it was stated that for strategic tracking (long distance and coastal), the proposed system for the Pacific Ocean would consist of nine fixed stations and twelve portable stations. Point St. George was listed as an existing fixed station with the comment, “The only D/F station in the Pacific Ocean that we desire to retain. Additional land will be required.”
Presumably this meant the only station that was desired to be retained since the list of proposed fixed stations included Corregidor, Guam, Oahu and others which were listed as new or under construction while other existing stations in the Pacific area were proposed for decommissioning in peacetime.
In a 26 August 1936 letter from LCDR L. F. Safford, USN, at OP-20G, to LT S. P. Patten, USN, at the Mare Island Navy Yard, LCDR Safford requested LT Patten send information previously requested regarding Point St. George since, “We are awaiting your report with interest and hope that you can supply enough information to sell the idea of the Point St. George Project to the powers that be.”
In a 30 December 1937 letter from the Bureau of Engineering to the Commandant, Mare Island Navy Yard, it was desired that the Model XAB/HRO (high frequency) direction finder previously installed on the USS LEXINGTON (CV-2) be installed and made operational at the Point St. George Radio Direction Finder Station with a second Model XAB/HRO to be installed at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base, Oakland, California. It was desired that both units be operational by 1 February 1938.
In a 3 March 1938 report on the calibration of the direction finder at Point St. George, it was reported that the new Model DP-4 MFDF unit had been installed just prior to its calibration which took place on 5 February using the Coast Guard Cutter SHAWNEE. There was no mention of the Model XAB/HRO HFDF unit.
In a 26 September 1938 letter from the Director of Naval Communications (OP-20GX) to the Chief of Naval Operations on the subject of additional radiomen for HFDF stations, it was reported that HFDF equipments had been installed at a number of strategic tracking stations, Naval Air Stations, and Fleet Air Bases. Point St. George was listed as one of the strategic tracking stations which was included in the Pacific Coast Group consisting of Mare Island (control), [deleted] Point Arguello (tentative), Point St. George, and Fort Stevens (tentative). The equipment at these sites was to be manned intermittently since the main purpose of the group was training. At the time, the four outstations had an allowance of five radiomen for the navigational (medium frequency) direction finder station. One additional radioman was desired for each station to permit two radiomen to be assigned to strategic direction finder duties during tracking exercises.
On 17 October 1939 letter from CNO (OP-20G) to the Chief of the Bureau of Engineering requested shelters be constructed for HFDF equipment installed at a number of stations employed in neutrality enforcement. Point St. George was one of the stations.
In a memorandum dated 17 December 1945, CAPT. E. S. L. Goodwin stated that Point St. George was an active direction finder station in June 1940 equipped with a Model DT HFDF unit which had been installed in late 1938. According to a study entitled “Development and Expansion of Communication Intelligence Facilities” apparently written in late 1945 or early 1946, a CNO letter dated 17 June 1938 to the Bureau of Engineering on the Model XAB/HRO HFDF equipments indicates that the Model XAB/HRO HFDF unit had already been installed at Point St. George.
In a 5 December 1940 message, it was reported that the Model XAB/HRO HFDF equipment at Point St. George would be out of commission from 6 through 12 December for modification and to remodel the building.
In a 21 February 1941 OP-20G memorandum, CDR Safford stated that the Farallon Islands station and Point St. George were the only strategic direction finder stations that were still providing navigational service. Since it was desired that a strategic direction finder station have only one mission, it was suggested that the TWELFTH Naval District initiate a request for the discontinuation of navigational services from these stations.
In a 21 May 1941 letter from CNO (OP-20G) to the Chief of the Bureau of Ships, the strategic direction finder stations on the West Coast were listed as being located in Washington at Bainbridge Island, and in California at Point St. George, Farallon Islands, Point Arguello (proposed) and
On 25 June 1941, COMTWELVE forwarded a letter to CNO discussing the construction charges, installation charges and monthly rates of TWX service provided by the West Coast Telephone Company to the Naval Radio Direction Finder Station, Point St. George.
Construction charges to install one copper circuit from Crescent City to Point St. George were estimated at $1225. Equipment installation charges for one teletypewriter and auxiliary equipment would be $61 with monthly rental charges of $26. Installation of TWX service to the station was scheduled for completion shortly after 1 July.
Irregardless of the 21 February 1941 OP-20G memorandum, according to a 5 September COMTWELVE memorandum to OP-20G Point St. George was still providing intermediate or medium frequency radio direction finder bearings as an aid to navigation.
On 25 November, the correct mailing address for the station was listed as:
U. S. Naval Radio Station
Point S. George
Via Crescent City, California
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, OP-20G initiated action to station at least one Kana-trained man at each station taking bearings on or intercepting Japanese traffic. According to a memorandum dated 12 December, a C. H. Bissell was slated for transfer from the Navy Department to Point St. George to fulfill this requirement. A lilting of all personnel known to have been stationed at Point St. George is contained in Appendix A.
In a 29 April 1942 letter from COMTHIRTEEN to COMTWELVE, it was reported that during the preceding year a general tendency toward a plus error averaging more than 5° had been noted in bearings from the Point St. George station. A study of the problem had determined that the deviation was greatest during the hours of darkness and the problem was not particularly confined to any one-frequency band. Bearings on Oriental shore stations generally had less deviation but it was generally a consistent plus deviation. Bearings taken to the east in the 045-090° sector did not indicate any particular deviation. It was concluded that, based on descriptions of the local topography, there was a strong possibility that the incoming signals were refracted by the proximity of the direction finder equipment to the cliff near the shoreline. If this was the problem and other elements were not unfavorable, the condition could be corrected by moving the station further inland away from the cliff.
On 21 July, the Commandant, Mare Island Navy Yard, forwarded a letter to COMTHIRTEEN and COMTWELVE discussing the deviation problem at Point St. George and its correction. The specific problem had been due to electrostatic coupling between incoming landlines and the direction finder equipment which had been caused, in general, by an expansion of the station’s activities beyond its original purpose and beyond the capacity of the station personnel to handle properly. The station was primarily a medium frequency direction finder station where HFDF equipment had been installed several years before as a temporary experiment during Fleet Problem #19. The HFDF unit consisted of an Adcock collector and a National HRO receiver which had since been designated as the Model DT HFDF unit. The equipment was originally located on property under the jurisdiction of the Lighthouse Department but, since the Navy had been refused permission to occupy the site, the Model DT had been mounted on skids so it could be moved off the lighthouse property if its presence was protested. The Model DT HFDF unit had since been installed in a 16’ x 12’ redwood water tank located on a platform seven feet above the ground. The increased level of operations brought about by the war and the need for real-time communications required that communications equipment be installed in the Model DT operating room so the HFDF operator could perform all the functions required to operate in the net. Point St. George was also required to man the MFDF unit and was therefore forced to perform the duties of a three-man watch section with only two men who were located some 200 feet apart. The installation of this communications equipment by station personnel without the knowledge of the Radio Material Officer at Mare Island had created the conditions producing the deviation which was particularly noticeable on bearings taken to the northwest. The problem was corrected by removing the tone channel terminal equipment from the Model DT operating room to a new operating room immediately below. This room contained the teletypewriter, tone channel amplifier, Model RAS search receiver, Model RAK and RAL stand-by receivers, and stop-start and key controls for the Model TBK and TAY transmitters. Output of the MFDF receiver was remoted from the main operating room so all circuits formerly guarded in the main operating room were now guarded in the HFDF buildings. If an MFDF bearing was requested, the operator would have to go over to the main operating room where the Model DP-4 MFDF equipment was located. It was mentioned that the Point St. George station regularly reported about 15% more bearings in response to net flashes than any other station in the net. This was believed to be attributed to the fact that the dipoles on the HFDF unit at Point St. George were tuned and that the Model DT was operated on alternating current. The Model DT HFDF unit was originally designed as a portable unit operating on storage batteries but, when in a permanent installation, there was no reason why alternating current should not be used.
In a 3 July 1942 letter from the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks to the Commandant, Mare Island Navy Yard, it was reported that funds had been available for the installation of Model DAH direction finder at Point St. George. However, in a 7 August 1942 letter from VCNO (OP-20G) to COMTWELVE, it was stated that the Model DAH MFDF unit slated for Point St. George would be installed at Jupiter, Florida, instead because the Model DP-4MFDF unit at Point St. George was considered satisfactory and the installation of a Model DAH would either require space beyond that which was available or could possibly adversely affect the HFDF unit’s performance.
In a 28 October 1942 letter from COMTWELVE to VCNO (OP-20G), it was reported that Station ‘T’ (Point St. George) only had ten men on board which was considered insufficient to maintain operations. A minimum of two additional men was requested immediately. It was stated that, “In addition to the eight watch standers required for carrying out the strategic task at Station ‘T’, four men are required for the maintenance of continuous guard on 500 kcs, to man the MFDF, handle traffic, and to search on intermediate frequencies.”
In an equipment listing contained in the October 1942 monthly report, Point St. George was equipped with two Model RAS-1 receivers, a Model RAK-5 and a Model RAL-5 receiver, a Model DT (XAB/HRO) HFDF unit, a Model DP-4 MFDF unit, a Model TBK-11, a Model TAY and a Model TM transmitter as well as test and frequency measuring equipment, typewriters, a truck, etc. The teletypewriter at the station was still leased. The direction finder portion of the monthly report stated that the leased teletype and “TC” (tone channel) lines were not satisfactory because the line ran through timbered areas and limbs and trees frequently fell across the lines during storms and periods of high winds. It was recommended that an alternate line be constructed running inland rather than along the coast. As predicted, the lines were knocked out by high winds between Eureka and Crescent City for four days on 14 November. On 25 November, COMTWELVE informed OP-20G that a new line less exposed to falling timber was under construction by the West Coast Telephone Company and was expected to be in service by 1 January 1943. The existing lines would be retained as a stand-by. The new lines were apparently put into operation in March 1943 since the monthly report stated that the alternate landline had improved services on the leased lines.
In a 6 November memorandum from OP-20G to COMTWELVE on the subject of personnel allowances, it was reported that no definite allowance had been established for Point St. George because of their being manned with personnel under the allowance of “Specials” carried under the Director of Naval Communications. It was planned to keep two RMC, four RM1, four RM2, and four RM3 at Point St. George which would allow a three-man four-section watch or a four-man three-section watch in addition to the Radioman-in-Charge and a RMC for material work and assistant to the OinC. In the station’s November report, it was reported that ten men were assigned to the station and operations required that a three-man watch section be maintained. One operator was assigned to the HFDF unit, one maintained watch on two Model RAS receivers and operated the teletype and tone channel, while the third operator maintained a watch on the MFDF unit, guarded 375-500 kHz and searched from 250 to 500 kHz using the Model RAK, RAL and DP-4 receivers. The three-man watch posture was continued through March 1943. For further information on watch stander duties, see Appendix B.
In the April 1943 report, the watch posture reflected an apparent change to a two-man watch section with one operating the HFDF unit while the second maintained a watch on the teletype and tone channel as well as searching on the two Model RAS HF receivers. There was no mention of anyone assigned to the Model DP-4 MFDF unit but another section of the report stated that the station still operated the MFDF unit. Based on reports through October 1943, the station appears to have alternated every two months between a two-man and a three-man watch section with no mention of the MFDF unit in one section of the report while it was reported as operational in another section when the station was in a two-man watch posture. It is possible that personnel shortages occasionally required the MFDF to be manned on an on-call basis or perhaps the individual preparing the report would simply forget to include information on the MFDF operator in the report.
In a 22 January 1943 message from BUSHIPS to the Mare Island Navy Yard, it was reported that a Model DAB HFDF unit was scheduled for installation at Point St. George rather than a Model DAH MFDF and it was recommended that installation proceed. In a 1 May message from Bainbridge Island (Net Control for the West Coast Strategic HFDF Net) to OPNAV, it was reported that the Point St. George station was conducting tests to locate a site for the Model DAB HFDF unit. This was being accomplished by setting up another Model DT HFDF unit at a temporary site on a bearing of 59° about 300 yards from the station’s permanent Model DT HFDF unit’s site. In a 14 June message forwarded to ADNC (OP-20G) for information, it was reported that installation of the Model DAB HFDF unit was being held in abeyance pending the analysis of the test data and the approval of the recommended site by OPNAV and BUSHIPS.
On 26 July, the commandant, Mare Island Navy Yard forwarded a letter to BUSHIPS via COMTWELVE and COMWESTSEAFRON recommending that the Model DAB HFDF unit not be installed at Point St. George. The reasons given were the restricted area available and the presence of overhead antennas, a water-tank tower, and other obstructions. These objections also applied to the installation of the Model DAB on the site of the existing Model DT. Since a Model DAB HFDF unit had been approved for installation at or near the Naval Air Station, Crescent City, as part of the Western Sea Frontier HFDF Net, it was recommended that the Model DAB be installed on a site approximately 1,000 feet to the east of the Radio Station at Point St. George. After the Model DAB was installed accepted by the West Coast Strategic HFDF Net, the Model DT could be turned over to the Western Sea Frontier Net and relocated to the same site as the Model DAB for more economical operation. Presumably the existing housing and other facilities of the Radio Station would continue to be used. Using this plan, it was estimated that the Model DAB could be installed and operational in about 90 days at a cost of $14,000. The proposal was favorably endorsed.
On 16 August, BUSHIPS, forwarded a letter to BUDOCKS via VCNO (OP-20GX) reviewing the 26 July recommendation made by the Commandant, Mare Island Navy Yard. It was recommended the proposed direction finder site be expanded in the size from 300’x600’ to a plot 1000’x1400’ so the two HFDF units could be separated by 400 feet and the nearest other obstacle would be some 500 feet away. Approval was recommended by OP-20G subject to the requirement that operations of the Model DAB and Model DT units be kept completely separate and independent of each other. Separate communication facilities would be provided.
Approval of the new site had been received and, according to a 20 November message from Bainbridge Island to OP-20G, action was underway to determine the exact parcel of land needed so it could be appraised and acquisition proceed. On 25 November, the Commandant, Mare Island Navy Yard forwarded a letter to BUSHIPS stating that the exact parcel of land, some 50.9 acres, needed had been identified. Of the total, about 10 acres consisting of gullies and hillsides along the ocean shore was unusable while the remainder was substantially level ground located about 53 feet above sea level. The soil was shallow and sandy and of no agricultural value except as pasture land. Since no provision had been made for the installation of the accessory radio equipment assigned to the station which, at the time, was to consist of 14 receivers, two panoramic adapters, one recorder and three frequency meters as well as portable test equipment, it was recommended that a single-story frame building (25’x43’) be authorized for construction immediately to the north of the existing radio reservation. COMTWELVE favorably endorsed the recommendation. A 30 November commandant, Mare Island Navy Yard letter officially described the site as located in Section 13, Township 16 North, Range 2 West, Homboldt Meridan, Del Norte County, California. The land was part of a tract owned by Mr. J. J. McNamara and family of Crescent City. It was estimated that a fair price for the property was about $2300 but $300 per acre was being asked. It was therefore recommended that the land be procured by Condemnation with Declaration of Taking due to the price, the fact that there were several owners involved, and the land was urgently required by the Navy.
On 20 December, the Officer in Charge, Station “T”, requested that a Model DAH MFDF unit be installed to replace the existing Model DP-4. This would have the advantage of a more efficient direction finder which could also be installed in the proposed Model DAB building as well as the advantage of an improved location and consolidation of all personnel and operations in one building. However, on 12 February 1944, ADNC (OP-20G) informed the Officer in Charge, Station “T” that due to the limited number of Model DAH MFDF available and the number of sites believed to have greater strategic value for the installation of the Model DAH, no provision was being made at the time for the installation of a Model DAH at Point St. George.
In a 3 January 1944 letter, COMTWELVE recommended that the allowance at Point St. George be increased by two RM2 and two RM3 in order to operate the Model DT HFDF unit in the Western Sea Frontier HFDF Net.
A BUSHIPS speed letter dated 24 January informed the Commandant, Mare Island Navy Yard that BUSHIPS had endorsed his letter of 25 November 1943 over to BUDOCKS for further action. BUDOCKS would arrange for acquisition of the land when approved by Congressional Committee. It was also mentioned that OP-20GX had indicated that Point St. George’s radio equipment allowance would not be reduced thereby reducing the size of the operating room required in the new operations building.
In a 29 January 1944 memorandum from ADNC (OP-20G) to the West Coast Communication Intelligence Liaison Officer, Port Blakely (Bainbridge Island), Washington, it was stated that four radioman “Specials” would be transferred to Point St. George upon graduation from training at Station “S” (Bainbridge Island) to man the Model DT HFDF unit in the WESTSEAFRON HFDF Net. All WESTSEAFRON HFDF net operations would be controlled from the Model DT building, which would be, relocated from its existing location to the new site. It was further stated that neither a Model DAH MFDF or Model DAJ HFDF unit would be installed at Point St. George. The planned operations building was to be no larger than required to house the terminals of the two leased lines for Model DAB HFDF control plus space for approximately seven search receivers, a small office, a workshop, a storeroom, a toilet, and heating facilities. The formal statement of the reduced requirements was contained in a 3 February endorsement to the Commandant, Mare Island Navy Yard’s letter of 30 November 1943, and recommended the construction of an operations building of about one-half the size originally proposed. However, on 4 February, the Commandant, Mare Island Navy Yard recommended that the size of the proposed operations building not be reduced since the reduction in the amount of radio equipment would not produce an equivalent reduction in space requirements and experience had shown a need to allow for future expansion.
On 29 February, BUDOCKS informed the Officer in Charge of Construction at Mare Island that funds were available for the installation of the Model DAB and the relocation of the Model DT at Point St. George. Action would be initiated immediately upon notification of the acquisition of the land.
In the interim, the disagreement between the Commandant, Mare Island Navy Yard and OP-20G on the size of the proposed operations building continued. On 3 March, the Commandant again stated that the building should not be reduced in size in order to provide for an operating room of 24’x 28’ in which a supervisor’s desk, eight operating positions and four training positions could be installed. On 6 March, OP-20G responded that the allowances for Point St. George did not provide sufficient men or equipment for eight operating and four training positions. Only the direction finding equipment and seven receivers were planned with surplus equipment to be transferred elsewhere. The personnel allowance was to be 20 radiomen. It was not desired to change the recommendation for the reduction in the size of the operations building. On 13 March, the Commandant informed BUDOCKS that the proposed operations building would be limited to 700 square feet in area.
However, the debate on the size of the operations building and problems in land acquisition were quickly rendered academic. On 9 March, CNO (OP-20GX) informed COMTWELVE that curtailment of West Coast Supplementary direction finder activities including the possible abandonment of Point St. George was under consideration. Therefore, BUDOCKS, had requested to hold further land acquisition and construction at Point St. George in abeyance pending completion of a survey of West Coast Supplementary Activities by CDR. H. S. Scott and CDR J. S. Cross which was to commence about 20 march at [deleted].
On 14 March, BUDOCKS informed CNO that Congressional approval for acquisition of the land at Point St. George had been received and action could be initiated immediately when advised to proceed.
On 15 April 1944, CNO (OP-20G) informed the Commandant, TWELFTH Naval District that strategic direction finder operations at Point St. George would be discontinued as soon as practicable with personnel and equipment other than the Model DP-4 MFDF unit transferred to other Supplementary Activities. Recommendations on the desirability of transferring the station to the Coast Guard for operation of the MFDF equipment were requested. COMTWELVE responded promptly that it would be highly desirable to transfer the station to the Coast Guard as it would consolidate all navigational direction finder stations in the TWELFTH Naval District under one administrative command. In separate correspondence dated 22 April, COMWESTSEAFRON recommended the substitution of the Radio Station at Tillamook, Oregon, for Point St. George in the WESTSEAFRON HFDF Net. This was approved by CNO (OP-20Z) on 29 April.
In an internal OP-20GX memorandum dated 28 April, it was stated that Station “T” would be discontinued by CNO on 1 June 1944 and turned over to the Coast Guard for operation as a navigational direction finder station using the Model DP-4 MFDF equipment. OP-20GC was requested to initiate action to terminate the communication circuit at the station.
On 3 May, CNO (OP-20G) formally informed BUDOCKS that strategic direction finder operations would be discontinued at Point St. George effective 1 June 1944. It was requested that all actions relating to the acquisition of land and construction of direction finder facilities at Point St. George be cancelled. Cancellation of the contract was effected on 17 May.
On 9 May, the Secretary of the Navy officially informed COMTWELVE and all Bureaus and Offices of the Navy Department that the U. S. Naval Radio Direction Finder Station, Point St. George, California, would be transferred to the Coast Guard on 1 June 1944.
Strategic direction finder operations were terminated at 0800 local, 31 May. The Model DT HFDF unit was dismantled and prepared for shipment to the West Coast Equipment Pool at Seattle the same day. On 1 June, action was initiated to cancel the call sign NYW which had been assigned to Point St. George.
Transfer of the station at Point St. George to the Coast Guard was effected at 1130 local, 1 June 1944.
There are no pictures of the Point St. George station available. However, Appendix C contains a map showing the general location of the station, a description of the station in mid-1943, a drawing of the station layout in December 1938, and a layout of the planned expansion of the station prior to its transfer to the Coast Guard.