Coast Guard Radio Guam/NRV, part II

I am fascinated by history, especially when it involves places or events that I am connected to.  This is the history of US Coast Guard radio station Guam.

In the closing days of WWII, the US Coast Guard was busily installing and manning LORAN A stations around the world.  In the Pacific, often before the smoke of battle dissipated, Navy and Coast Guard construction detachments quickly built LORAN stations to aide the war effort.  After the war, some of these stations were moved or consolidated to better locations.

More about LORAN history can be read at LORAN History website.

Along with the LORAN stations, which were often located on remote (read desolate) islands, a large support system evolved.  This included Section offices, which oversaw about 8-10 individual LORAN stations, LORAN monitoring stations, Coast Guard air stations or air detachments, which flew in supplies and personnel, and communications facilities.

LORAN A, the first version of LORAN worked on 1750 KHz, 1850 KHz, 1900 kHz, and 1950 KHz just above the AM broadcast band with moderate to low power levels.  The signals were timed precisely with Caesium clocks and against each other. Charts were issued with TD lines, which were basically timing lines based on the distance from a certain transmitter.  A LORAN receiver on board a ship or aircraft would receive two or more transmitting stations, then the navigator would be able to compare the TD lines on the LORAN chart to determine where they were located.  This worked because radio waves travel at the speed of light, which is a constant.

Since LORAN A worked on Medium Frequency (MF), the usable distances were not great, especially in the tropics, where MF does not carry far.  Thus there were several LORAN A chains throughout the Western Pacific.  There were also several Section offices, one in Japan (Far East Section or FESEC), one in the Philippines (Philippines Section or PHILSEC), and one on Guam (Marianas Section or MARSEC).  Each of these section offices had a radio station attached, at FESEC it was NRT, at PHILSEC it was NRX and at MARSEC it was NRV.

US Coast Guard Guam Depot, circa 1960
US Coast Guard Guam Depot, circa 1960

Coast Guard Guam Radio Station/NRV was an adjunct of the MARSEC command, occupying a small corner of an “Elephant” Quonset Hut on Cabras Island.  The Elephant Quonset huts were the largest size half-round corrugated steel structures that were quickly erected during the War.  They had two floors and were not normally air-conditioned, which is a significant detail on Guam.  Several of these structures, located on various naval bases, survived numerous typhoons and the harsh tropical environment up until the year 2000 or so.  In this picture, there are a couple of HF vertical whip antennas evident.  These would have had antenna tuners and been used in the 5-25 MHz range.

Most people think of the Pacific War and think of jungle and dense overgrowth.  In the south pacific, that was often the case, however in the central pacific, often it was a dusty hot coral aggregate surface once the Seabees finished their work.

NRV consisted of four radiomen standing six-hour watches.  Their duties included communicating with civilian ships entering the port of Guam and communicating with various Coast Guard units in the western Pacific, including LORAN A stations on Ulithi, Yap, Saipan, Marcus Island, Iwo Jima, Angaur Island (Palau), as well as air guard for any aircraft in flight and ship guard for any cutters underway in the MARSEC operational area.  Almost all of the message traffic was sent by Morse code on High Frequency (HF). The radio room NRV occupied was noted to be about the same size as a radio room on a Medium Endurance cutter.

Aerial view of building 150 and antenna fields
Aerial view of building 150 and antenna fields

This operational configuration continued until about 1966, when Cabras Island was transferred from the Navy to the newly established Government of Guam, for use as a commercial port.  At that time, MARSEC moved to a new building next to Victor Warf, onboard Naval Station Apra Harbor and the Radio Station (RADSTA) Guam moved to Building 150, at the Navy Communication Station/NPN, Finegayan (Dededo).

Building 150 was the primary operations center/receiver site for the Navy. It was located in the middle of a large antenna field, with long rhombic antennas pointed at various locations throughout the Pacific. This location was chosen by the Navy during WWII for its excellent ground conductivity.  The closest geographical reference for Building 150 is Pugua Point, located on a high plateau overlooking the Philippine Sea, to the west.  Prior to WWII, this area was primarily ranches and farms because of its good soil, not found in many other places on Guam.

RADSTA Guam was on the first floor, in an open room without partitions between operating positions.  It was at this time that NRV took over primary responsibility for monitoring 500 KHz distress and calling frequency from NPN. LORAN A was being phased out for LORAN C, which required fewer transmitting sites.  Facilities in the Philippines, Marianas and Japan LORAN A chains were combined into one Western Pacific LORAN C chain.  The final LORAN A station was turned off in 1978.

USCGC Basswood, WLB-388 courtesy of Coast Guard Historians office
USCGC Basswood, WLB-388 courtesy of Coast Guard Historians office

This reduced NRV’s workload considerably, as radio was replaced by landline circuits at all but the two most remote LORAN C stations; Iwo Jima/NRT3 and Marcus Island/NRV6. In addition to the LORAN stations, the CGC BASSWOOD/NODG (arrived 1968), CGC CAPE GEORGE/NRDT (arrived 1981) and CG Air Station/Air Detachment Guam (1950-1972) were all supported.

The transmitters were remotely located at the Navy Radio Transmitter Facility (NRTF) Barrigada, approximately 12 miles to the southwest.  Keying was sent via buried cable to building 112 where a microwave link completed the circuit to Barrigada.  Transmitters were generally AN/FRT-70’s which were 1 Kilowatt HF units, however, other transmitters, power levels, and antennas were available on request.

It was at this time, NRV began functioning more like a commercial coastal radio station, maintaining watch and answering calls on HF CW calling channels, relaying commercial messages to shipping interests on Guam and beyond.

The Navy provided all supporting functions including dining, living quarters, medical, dental, etc.  They also owned all of the equipment such as teletypes, some of the receivers, antennas, landline circuits, etc.

The Navy moved the majority of its operations to Building 112, which we referred to as “Tech Control.”

In 1980, the designation was changed from “Radio Station” to “Communications Station.”  NRV moved upstairs to the second floor of building 150.  This was the final location and configuration for NRV.  It was at this time the NRV took over keying the HF CW GCMP broadcasts from the Navy.  The GCMP broadcasts were the last surviving Morse code fleet broadcast and used separate frequencies in the 8/12/16 and 22 MHz bands from NRV’s HF CW working position.  SITOR service was also added about this time.  During this period, there were four watch sections consisting of five to six watch standers each.  The CO, XO, and OPS boss were day workers as were new arrivals.  Thus the total station complement was about 28 people, all radiomen, except the CO, who was a CWO2.   NAVTEX service (ID V) was added in 1990 on 518 KHz.

When I reported aboard in April 1988, I received the following description of the station from the command welcome aboard package:


12 January 1987

Communications Station Guam/NRV is located in building 150 onboard U.S. Naval Communications Area Master Station (NAVCAMS) Western Pacific.  Communications Station Guam is the major relay station for all Coast Guard units located in the Western Pacific region.

Communication Station Guam is a unique unit within the communications community.  It serves the typical needs of it’s geographic area as would any COMMSTA, plus it also functions at various times as a MINI-COMMCEN, a SAR communications relay unit and a commercial coastal station.

To get a better understanding of how COMMSTA Guam functions it is first helpful to get an idea of the physical layout of the station.

After entering the station through a chipher-lock door, and passing through a short corridor, one enters the main communications area.  Here are the majority of the teletype circuits and equipment, patch panels and the five operator positions, of which four are contained in separate cubicles (ed note: rooms) numbered 1 through 4 situated in a clockwise pattern.

POSITION 1 is the primary SAR position at the station.  The operator maintains a 24 hour headphone dedicated watch on the international calling and distress CW (morse code) frequency, 500 KHz.  The operator is required to make log entries of signals intercepted at a minimum of every 5 minutes.  The operator also operates three model 28 teletypes (ed note: replaced by computer terminals in 1989) used to communicate with merchant and USNS vessels via SITOR (Simplex Teletype Over Radio)

POSTION 2 is responsible for maintaining communications over several different circuits.  Here, the operator monitors the Loran-C voice net and frequently utilizes it to coordinate communications primarily with LORSTAS Iwo Jima, Marcus Island, Gesashi, Hokkaido, Yap and FESEC in times of emergencies.  A continuous listening watch is also maintained on the Coast Guard System Coordination Net (SCN).  Although the primary purpose of the SCN is to coordinate communications between COMMSTA’s and Cutters, it is often used as a long range SAR contact frequency by merchant vessels, yachts on the high seas, and the like.  When CGC Cape George, Basswood, or any other cutter operating in our area are underway, the position 2 operator maintains uncovered radioteletype communications with the vessels.   Utilizing ARQ (Automatic Repeat Query) equipment, the operator is responsible of receipt and delivery of all record traffic for LORSTAS Marcus Island and Iwo Jima.  Lastly, COMMSTA Guam maintains an aircraft Air-to-Ground circuit in position 2, when required.

POSITION 3 is considered by our operators as the most challenging and rewarding position at COMMSTA Guam.  The HF CW (AMVER) position.  (AMVER stands for Automated Mutual Vessel Assistance Reporting) Here the operator must listen continuously to nine different channelized frequencies on six different receivers each with it’s own speaker.  Through the “dits” and “dahs”, screechs, howls, and woodpecker sounds on the bands, the operator must try to detect and discern the often weak and barely perceptible signals from ships calling NRV.  Often calls come from ships off the coast of South America to the Indian Ocean and even the North Atlantic.  Only the most skilled CW operators man this position during peak traffic periods.  High speed proficiency in CW is the number one goal of all operators at NRV.

POSITION 4 is the Broadcast Position.  From position 4 is keyed CW transmitters on Guam, in the Philippines (NPO), Australia (NWC) and upon request Diego Garcia.  Transmitting weather, hydrographic reports and record traffic to various allied fleet ships, the “GCMP Broadcast” was acquired from the Navy in 1980.  The position four operator is also responsible for guarding the VHF-FM channel 16 calling and distress frequency used by local fishermen and the boating public.  Additionally, the 2182 KHz international calling and distress frequency is guarded in position four. (ed note: HF, MF and VHF voice weather broadcasts were also sent from this position)

POSITION 5 brings together the combined efforts of the positions 1 through 4.  The CWO, Landline Operator/Supervisor Position.  Here, the processing of all incoming and outgoing messages over the NAVCOMPARS circuit, OV-42 circuit and the K-198 Weather circuit to Hawaii takes place.  Although position five is manned by senior petty officers billeted for the station, a goal of junior operators is to qualify for certification at position five.

The preceding description of the responsibilities of COMMSTA Guam is by no means complete.  Flexibility is the key to successful and timely fulfillment of our mission which constantly changes in its scope and magnitude.

Based on that description and my own memory, I drew out the following floor plan as the station was in 1988-1990.  The operating positions were about 12 x 12 foot rooms, perhaps slightly larger.  The main floor was about 30 x 30 or so, and the CO’s office was twice the size of the XO/OPS boss’s office.  It might not be totally accurate, but it is close:

Communications Station Guam/NRV circa 1989
Communications Station Guam/NRV circa 1989

The positions where the watches were stood were relatively small rooms.  The normal position rotation schedule was 4 hours in each of the positions one, two and three.  This worked to keep the watch operators fresh, as each position had a different skill set.  Position 4 was stood by the same person for the entire 12 hour watch, this was to keep the broadcasts consistent.  It was also the least challenging position unless there were multiple typhoons active in the western Pacific.

The watch supervisor was usually a senior RM2 or RM1 and the chief watch officer was a senior RM1 or RMC.  The Position 5 nomenclature sort of dropped out of usage when I was there, it was generally called the “supervisor or CWO” position.

Watches were 12 hours on/12 hours off for three days.  After a day watch rotation (three days of working from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm), there were two and a half days off then the night rotation started, which was another 12 on/12 off period for three nights (6:30 pm to 6:30 am).  This was followed by four days off.

By 1993, the western Pacific LORAN chain was either turned over to the Government of Japan or decommissioned.  The 500 KHz watch, HF CW service and GCMP broadcasts were all discontinued.  Other functions, such as SCN (Ship Coordination Network), HF voice, and SITOR services were remoted to COMMSTA Honolulu, HI/NMO.  This effectively closed the station down.  By late 1992, all personnel were transferred to other commands.  In 1997 NMO’s operations were in turn remoted to CAMSPAC/NMC.  VHF channel 16 and 2182 KHz are monitored by Sector Guam (the former MARSEC).  In 2008, NRV stopped accepting OBS and AMVER reports via SITOR.  The HF voice and SITOR weather and NTM broadcasts continue as of 2011, keyed from CAMSPAC/NMC.

For general operating conditions in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, read my recollections on working there.

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52 thoughts on “Coast Guard Radio Guam/NRV, part II”

  1. I am curious if there was commercial 60 Hertz power on the Marianas? I suppose Uncle installed his own turbine plants running on No. 2 diesel fuel to power the base communications systems.

  2. There was 60 Hz commercial power available by two oil fired steam turbine plants. The local power company is GPA or Guam Power Authority. They are a Government Guam agency, but functions as a corporation. There was a large diesel generator for backup on base in the event of a power outage, which seemed to happen every time there was a typhoon.

  3. That’s an expensive way to go, especially these days. I would think installation of a solar voltaic array would be the way to go, but with typhoons, they would have to be extremely rugged, and protected with a open-able structure or both. Maybe a tide harnessing system of generation? But then again, who cares about energy on a U.S. island? It’s only chump change to that dummy (U.S. taxpayer).

  4. The oil plant burn #6 or high sulfur resid fuel. Costs about a dollar to a dollar and a half a gallon. There are several gas turbines that are on standby for peak load periods. These are fast start up units, so they are normally idle (E.G. not spinning). I think they are looking toward renewables; wind, solar, etc. The problem is variability. Most of the year, huge monsoon type rain storms develop out of the blue and dump several inches of rain on any given area in an hour or so. They dissipate just as fast, leaving hot, sunny, steaming conditions. If solar were to be counted on for anything but a small percentage of the electrical load, it would have to be widely distributed. There is also the typhoon concern you mentioned. Tides are fairly tame, 1-2 feet typical in any shoreline location.

    I believe that GPA operates at a slight profit. I know the electrical rates are very high, with a premium placed on conservation, at least for the residential customers.

  5. No. 6 oil is a thick almost tar petroleum product. It is much cheaper than the more refined viscous oils, but has to be pre-heated for it to flow. It has a fairly high BTU rating, but requires good combustion people to setup the nozzles in the burner for complete combustion. I knew a ham who was considered to be one of the best combustion men in our state and was flown all over the world to get No. 5 and No. 6 burners burning right with complete combustion. No. 6 oil is getting relatively hard to find these days unless you happen to be an asphalt plant. I would have thought the tides would be more dramatic out there in that area of the Pacific.

  6. KYOI was a shortwave music station out of Saipan and put a good signal down in the Pacific which I appreciated greatly. My first job was at the HF rx station of NZ Post office in 1973 where we brought in various telephony and telytype circuits and had marine coast station receivers installed for ZLW.

    We had SP600, AR88, Collins 51J4, 51S1, as well as a lot of Marconi gear to keep us warm in winter. Most of it dual or triple diversity. When I installed a bay of Harris RF550 in ’76 with the remote panels I knew the decline was starting, although I believe the station remained staffed until closure.

    One pleasure of the midnight shift was as after then the local AM radio stations would close then we could listen to the Aussie ones and by 3am most of those had closed and it was possible hear the USA stations.


  7. @ John, the FRT-70’s were indeed made by TMC. They were old when I was there in 1990, I can’t imagine they are still in service today.

    @ Ralph, we had mostly Collins R-651, a few R-1051, and I think one RF550. The high level teletype converters were all tube type, I can’t remember what those were now. For CW work, I liked the Collins receivers the best.

    KYOI went off the air when I was on Guam, I think. I was never able to listen to them reliably as I think they were skipping overhead. I listened to the BBC for news. We also had KSDA and KTWG religious shortwave broadcasters on the southern part of the island. I went to KSDA several times as there transmitter was only about a mile or two away from where I was living. I think KSDA had 100 KW Thales transmitters? I’ll have to go dig though my pictures now.

    As far as AM broadcast DX, the only thing I could get at night were Japanese stations, particularly the domestic NHK network.

  8. I served at COMMSTA GQ/NRV 1989-1990. The layout was almost exactly as diagrammed above, but we added some features during my tenure, e.g., some sort of data-burst system whose name slips my mind; we used it primarily for communicating with the LORAN stations.

    I remember KYOI as well, but listened to it when I was in Alaska in POLAR SEA and BOUTWELL during the 1980s. I can still hear that announcer’s voice saying “This is KYOI Sai-PAN!” He sounded WAY too cheery when you’re on a seasick midwatch in the Bering Sea.

  9. Hey Bryan, I believe you were a Chief when I was there? Anyway, HFDL (High Frequency Data Link) is the data do-dad you are thinking of. I remember it well. Good to hear from old shipmates…

    Ed Note: What we called HFDL was more properly named: MIL-STD-188-110 Appendix B 39-Tone

  10. Hi,
    i just have read your story, and see a picture you show, i used googlemap to search the station you worked but can not find it. Could do me a favor? Thanks!

  11. A very interesting pair of articles, Paul. Never worked much CW but found its history fascinating. Living in NYC in the ’60s I used to listen to the various Morse stations along the Atlantic. Later I got a 2nd class radiotelegraph license just for fun. Wonderful that you had a chance to be part of this great tradition. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  12. @Richard, Thanks, I am glad you liked them. I re-read the articles and should note that I was a mere fledgling CW operator. I did earn my speed key certificate, which I cannot now find, but there were guys who worked with me who could copy whole sentences in their heads.

    It was a special thing to be even a junior operator and I am glad I was a part of it.

  13. I was in the Navy stationed in Guam at the Receiver site. I helped with a refit for the Coast Guard Radio Station between 1983 and 1986. It brings back great memories of working at Building 150.

    All the Best

    ET1 Stephan W. Shemenski

  14. @Stephan, thank you for your service. You might be interested to know that the last re-configuration of NRV was aroun 1989 or so, when all the model 28 teletypes were removed and Unisys C-TOS terminals were installed. All the high level converters and patch panels were removed and everything was shipped around on RS-232. The data rate was increased to 300 baud, which was as fast as the statmux would go, I believe. Anyway, we always appreciated the Navy techs, I know you guys put up with a lot of stuff for things that were out of your control.

    If you are not familiar with this site: US Navy Radio Communications, you should pay a visit.

  15. Dear Paul Thurst,

    I am trying to locate an RM named Hugh Collins. He was on Guam living in Dededo during the 80s. So I am thinking he was stationed at the Commsta. I served with him on CGC Chautauqua. He is my daughter’s godfather. I retired from CGD14 in Oct 1981. I got a letter from him recently that was postmarked 1989. In the letter he said that he sent it to me via HQ as he didn’t where I was. He told me that he retired in 1985 and attended colloge at UOG. He also said that he was accepted at the University of Hawaii. I retired Honolulu. it took more than 20 years to get to me. I will also ask hq if he is still alive, but I don’t expect much from them..If you can give any info on HUGH I would appreciate it. Charles W. Ingran, ETCS (ret)

  16. Senior Chief,

    Sorry, the name does not ring a bell, it was a few years before my time. The location is right to be stationed at NRV, however. Most of those unaccompanied tours were 18 months, so people moved in an out pretty quick. I was there for about 31 months, which is longer than most. I left the Island in May of 1991.

  17. Paul,

    Thanks for sharing. I am currently serving in Guam in the USCG. It’s my 3rd tour. I was first here in 1992-1994, and I got to see the COMSTA briefly before it closed. I knew RMCM Winters through Amateur Radio, which was my connection. Anyway, building 150 is now the NASA tracking facility on Guam. All the rhombics and most of the other HF stuff is gone now as well, replaced by SATCOM gear. Building 112 is still in use by the Navy. All comms is now handled from the Sector Guam facility on Orote – however I believe they use high sites on Orote Point and up at NCTS (not sure).

    I would be curious to know what role the “USCG sta” supposedly located near the FAA housing area (between NCTS and South Finegayan housing) played. I have a 1950 era map that shows there was a USCG station located there, presumably for communications. The site was located just off the road and the buildings were used by either NOAA or FAA in the late 80’s as far as I know.

  18. @Dave, that is interesting. I always wondered what they did with building 150. As far as the FAA is concerned, in front of the housing area was the FAA administration building, which was still in use when I was on Guam. I know they had a flight service station there with HF link comms for transpacific flights. This was all transferred to AIRINC, but I don’t think they were located on Guam. The FAA “gave” all their gear to the Coast Guard (since both were department of transportation at the time). I believe most of it ended up at NRFT Barrigada. I don’t know of any USCG activity around that the FAA area, but at some point in the late 40’s early 50’s there was a LORAN A monitoring site somewhere on Guam. I also know that NCS was once located south of the Finigayen housing area, right after WWII. When I was there, many of the macadam roads were still visible in the jungle area.

  19. My father, Justus P. White (USCG Academy class of 1935) was COMWESTPACSEC from November 1948 to May 1951. He relieved Stan Lindholm and was replaced by Willard Smith (Later USCG Commandant). The first year we lived on the CG base in Guam that was situated about 200 yards from the Naval Communications Station. We rode out Typhoon Allyn (1949) in the one Elephant quonset on the base but the hut we lived in was destroyed and thereafter we lived on NCS as did subsequent commanders.
    Loran bases during that time were located on Saipan, Ulithi, Okinawa, Iwo Jima (initially at Kango Ku), Tarumpitao PI, Yokusaka and one other Philippine base whose name escapes me. The bases were resupplied by a couple of cutters–one of whiuch was the Kukui. My father (USCG Aviator #64) often exercised his command prerogative (his suprior HQ was located in Hawaii) to take me along as supernumerary cargo in the PB4Y when he made inspection tours. My favorite port of call was the Loran base at Ulithi Atoll. The airstrip bisected Fallalop islet, but for some reason the Loran base
    was situated on Potangras about 25-30 miles across the lagoon and reachable only by a three hour amphibious DUKW ride.
    It was a great experience for an 11-13 year old kid as was the summer of 1950 when I “shipped out” on the Kukui for a supply run.

  20. Paul,
    I went over to NRV from NMC back in early 1993 to assist in the cut-over to link NRV back to NMC. I was there as a back-up CW/SITOR operator, in the event that the cut-over back to Point Reyes didn’t work. Fortunately, it did. So, I ended up being part of the remaining skeleton crew cutting cables, documenting new equipment of the 1st floor of bldg 150, etc. Ultimately, NMC remotely controlled HFCW & SITOR. Because of the proximity of the 500 kHz watch closure, that circuit was not included in the move.

    Went to RM “A” School Nov 87-Apr 88. Sent the final 500 kHz bcst from NMC in 1993. Did a tour from 1991-1995 & 2005-2009 (retired out of there). I’m now a retired CPO and working as a contractor for the USCG in Oakland.

    Enjoying your web site and blog. Good stuff!

    73 de Eric, KB6YNO, Petaluma, CA

  21. Hey Eric,
    That’s good information. I graduated RM A School in March of 88, somewhere around here I have my class picture, if I can only find it. I have many fond memories of Guam. Sometimes, like today when the temperatures are well below freezing, I actually miss it, a little bit. Anyway, thanks for the kind words.

  22. Technically, the “CWO2” billet is incorrect. All CWO billets were registered in the Personnel Allowance List (PAL) as CWO4 billets and filled by CWO4’s on down. BTW is was a great RADSTA to work at. The base at that time I was there was NSGA WESTPAC, USN. All watch personnel both USN and USCG stood the same rotation (8 hours) 2-2-2-80 and base services such as the galley was open to accommodate that rotation.

    Charles, RMCS Hugh Collins passed away a number of years ago, back in the late 90’s I believe. I think it was in NY.

  24. I was an RM3/RM2 at NRV from Aug 62-Feb 64. We were located in that large quonset hut pictured at Cabras island. It was on the botttom floor immediately to the left as you entered the front door. The shack was like a 311 cutter shack. Walking in on the right were two radio positions. The first had old RBB and RBC receivers. The second had a R-388 (51J3). Along the left side was the URC-7 voice transceiver and the teletypes to NPN that carried our NTX traffic to and from the outside world. At the end along the building outside wall were two AN/FRT-23 transmitters. Initially, when I reported aboard, we had 4 RM’s counting me. RM1 Bobby Warbutton, RM2 Warren Shawen, RM2 Mike Rusczcyk and myself. We stood a modified 2-op sked. We would go more hours if a CG ship was in the area. We had no air guard and the naval station had harbor control on 2716/3216. We didn’t work any civilian vessels. No 2182 kHz guard either. The navy/NPN guarded 500 kHz on speaker. We worked Cocos and Saipan voice. Ulithi, Anguar, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa on schedules via CW. Later came Yap and Marcus. When Marcus came on line, 1963, we went to a full watch (h24). We probably had 8 RM’s at that time. Yap came on line late 63 or early 64. In ’63 they expanded the shack and remodeled with R-390A receivers and a TMC transmitter that I think was a URT-17. The FRT-23 remained. We also had an SSB RCA transceiver that we ran tests and worked Yap with. I wouldn’t say that 500 kc/s carried differently in the topics. There just wasn’t that much shipping in that area. At night of course it would come alive. Also I liked the comments about the Chinese coast station. I had my duals with XSE. Excellent article. Enjoyed the heck out of it.

  25. Hey Fred, Thank you for the clarifications. It is always nice to get information first hand from somebody who was there. Guam was a great duty station, I am happy to give NRV history a place where people can read about it. When I look at the floor plan diagram, I can almost hear the old model 28 teletypes clattering away in the background.

  26. Hello Paul:

    Great articles about NRV!

    I was stationed at COMMSTA GUAM JUN 69-JUN 72 working at the “Elephant Cage”.

    In looking with Google Earth at the COMMSTA today, it has really changed! ‘Golf Balls’ all over the place.

  27. I was on Guam at Andersen Air Force Base from September ’85 to September ’87. I would copy CW transmissions from NRV/NPO. I would copy the weather reports that were given on 21.760 MHz. Many times I would hear “Cyclone formation Alerts” and “typhoon positions”. I was there at Andersen when “Super Typhoon Kim” hit Siapan. There were many times we had to “Tie Down” when we received word that a typhoon was on the say. I would give my Supervisor word of what I heard on NRV/NPO then next thing you know, we were tying down for a typhoon. Next thing you know, the military quit using CW. Oh how I miss those days.

  28. Tim, That’s kind of funny, you could have phoned us directly and we’d save you the trouble of copying the warnings by hand. I think your command probably received the warnings directly from NAVOCEANCOMCENTER the way we did. NRV keyed remote CW transmitters at NPO (Naval Communications station San Miguel, Republic of the Philippines) and NWC (Naval Communications Station Harold E. Holt, Australia) and if we wanted to we could also key Diego Garcia (I don’t remember the call sign there).

  29. Paul:
    It was more fun to copy the warnings by hand. I didn’t know that I could have called and found out the warnings. I love CW. I am a radio amateur operator. I have been licensed since 1979. Started out with a Novice license and now I have a General Class license. My call sign is KA8EXK.
    Tim Wolf

  30. Paul,

    Good station diagram. I was there from 1992 – 1993. Two missing things that stand out are the huge safe and industrial shredder in the bottom right hand corner of the main area. I remember these because during the 8/8/93 earthquake, both “walked” across the floor and bent several dollys getting back into place.

  31. I just saw this link for the first time… To be honest… I had never heard of Guam before that…. But Brother, did I have a great time in guam…

    This link brought me good memories. ComsSta Guam, was my first assignment out radio school in Petaluma. I loved getting on that radio communicating with Morse code with all those foreign ships. The weather reports were a blast… sometimes copying over a dozen of reports per period (every six hours). Working medivas and all the general communication for me was such a great job experience.

    Even though most of my shipmates hated to be on the Island, I really enjoyed it. I bought my self a motorcycle, got my self a beat up working VW, and I even had a social life with the people of Guam.

    Great Assignment!

  32. Ange:
    I myself didn’t really like the island but the people were a blast! My wife of then and myself lived at 154A Mataguac drive at the Northern end of the island. Near our street was a Mobile gas station. My landlord had a life preserver from the U.S.S. Panguin hanging up by the pool. Ahh yes, NRV/NPO provided me with many hours of weather reports. Loved every minute of it. Now, instead of copying weather reports via CW, I have a software proggy for my computer where I can decode HF fax. The reports come from NMN, NMG, and I can’t remember the ComSta out of Pt. Reyes in California. It is kind of hard to find the frequency on my receiver since I am using an old DX-160 sold by Radio Shack back in the 70s. The frequency is the carrier frequency minus 1.9 or 1.8 MHz. My dad was a radio operator during the Korean War and taught me CW. I kind of wish that I would have went into the Coast Guard and been a radio operator. I think it would have been neat to monitor 500 KHz. Yeah, you fellas that were radio operators at these ComSta had to know your stuff and they still do.

  33. Hi to the group. I was there ’60-62 with RMC Crigger and RM1 Warbutton. Part of the buoy depot on Cabras Island. I think the Comarsec CO was Applegate and XO Kubic?? Only 4 RM’s at that time with 2 FRT-23’s. Worked the buoy tenders when they came west from Sand Island (Hono), also the C130’s on their WestPac runs. I remember an Army?? ship that stopped by the depot while making its weekly or monthly run through the islands–and ofcourse NRV3, 4, NRX5, NRT2. Guam Loran was on Cocos island at that time–a couple miles south of Merizo. HU16e (or UF2G) at that time made the weekly trips to lorstas. Our ham call was KG6AFA and the ET2 was the station licensee…we used a very heavy Heathkit transmitter (Apache?) and receiver (Mohawk??) don’t remember the antenna. I was recently married as an RM2 and my wife and I lived in new Tipalao housing. Was on duty all night 1961 during typhoon Nancy..the base was abandonded except for a couple guys and I had to keep contact with Ulithi and others till the storm passed. Guam was wonderful.

  34. Great stuff! I was there as an RM2 from 1991-1993 and shut her down. Brings back good memories reading this. Thank you.

  35. I was assigned temp duty working there doing upgrades in 1984/85 as an ET2 USN. I enjoyed my time there especially listening to the operators on 500Khz working the shipping traffic.

    Brings back great memories!

  36. Nice writeup Paul. I was at NOJ (Secondary Radio Station Kodiak) in 1969/70 working the CW. Loved the night shifts to see how many CG Radio Stations
    we could hear. Guam Radio would always be there. I was stationed with Hugh Collins in the early 70’s at CCGD12/ComWestArea Commcen. Retired in 1998
    as a LCDR in Port Angeles, WA. Now living in Chesapeake, VA. I also briefly worked some code at NOX (Adak Radio).

  37. Great information. A shout out to Brandon Hughes! How is your brother? Was stationed at NRV 92-94. Absolutely the best duty station in my 23 years of service. I really miss that place and absolutely miss Guam. It was sad when they dropped 500khz and did the cutover to NMC. Are the Commsta’s even copying HFCW anymore? It really was the end of an era.

  38. Was at NRV for three months in 1972 and then was assigned to the RM position at MARSEC. I was also a volunteer DJ for AFRTS on Guam. Played a LOT of golf at the Navy golf course and a LOT of scuba diving, too…. Once you got used to the heat and humidity, it wasn’t too bad… except for women. Back then all the single ladies were only interested in officers….

  39. What a cool thread. I was googling WLB-388 for my old boat and this came up. I was on the rock 79-81 on the Basswood, then off to ET A school where I learned to repair all that gear at Commsta: Model 28/40 TTY. Collins 651a, CCI 802, MX 350, ENI 1140 Loran power amps, AN SPS 64 radar. Ah the good old days. Some of my favorite memories were motocross racing in the red dirt with RM1 Richards. Im iss Guam, I assume it has been overbuilt like Hawaii. Ready line at Anderson was also a cold war fav.
    Semper Paratus. Hope to get back to Guam some day. Hafa Adai.

  40. Wow! This brings back a lot of memories. I know most of you from my 7 years at NRV. Thanks Paul for the memories. I get out to Guam every few months, the island is nothing like it was when we were there. All the housing at South Finegayan where I lived – gone. NTC is a shell of what it was. Tom McCracken – hows the jaw!

  41. Hey, Bob. Nice to hear from you again! Yes, I have seen the pictures and heard the stories… Someday, when time and funding permits, I’d like to return to Guam and see what the old site and KUAM are like today.

  42. I know the owner of KSTO-FM and KUAM, great guy. If you want a tour of the radio stations I can get it for you. Don’t know if you or any of the others ever went to the Christian broadcasting station at the south end of the island but its impressive. The story of their curtain antenna is awesome. Once you go and see the 10000 LBS concrete blocks that move up and down with typhoons to keep the antenna from breaking apart (some as high as 12 feet!) you appreciate the storms we endured during our stay. I still remember the one that sand blasted all the cars in the parking lot. And who can forget Omar!

    I truly miss NRV…great bunch of folks. I’d do it all over again.

    73, Bob (N7XR)

  43. I served at NRV around 1980 and remember it well. I hated the rate and later struck boatswains rate on the Basswood. Sitting in those cubicals trying to pick code out of clutter was awful….I have nothing but respect for the guys who can and did do that. I remember going down and getting rid of “burn bags” and passing Marines who were zealously guarding fiber optic cable….you could not even look into the holes they were running the cable through. I loved Bare Ass beach, my fellow radiomen and was so happy to get my rate ripped and be put on a cutter heading for Palau. I still hear code in my dreams that I understand and when I here code used in media can read it. The command there sucked, with a nerd CO who had no clue as to what was going on in the station….we would be drying pounds of weed we got from Saipan in the microwave and he would walk in and compliment the watch supervisor on his great aftershave. I loved working for some of the senior petty officers who were just super good at the technical aspects of the job and hated dealing with the mid level odd balls…we had one guy who kept his wife and kids in their military housing with no furniture and want to talk Bahai bullshit all night….what a life it was fun, we worked or butts off and it is a station I will never forget…it was a human endeavor rife with all of the oddness that that incurs…..but we sure moved some traffic. I found out that John Lennon was killed while in station one….just tooling through freqs, trying not to go nuts. I also listened to a very dramatic radio conversation between a lady on a station in Australia as fire approached her buildings and barns. Never will forget N RV.

  44. Paul if you send me your email address I’ll send you four pictures –
    1. The main floor showing the old supvr position and equipment racks on the back wall.
    2. Position TWO – Loran Comms
    3. Position THREE – HF CW
    4. Position ONE – 500 receivers.

    If anyone wishes copies, send me an email (redacted, send admin an email for contact information)
    Bob, N7XR

  45. Hey Winters, McCracken, Winn and anyone else I overlooked during my 91-93 tenure on NRV. Great *#(@*# times! Omar… earthquake….everything else. Bob… I forget how you wrangled Jimmy (Tinsley) and I into washing your car so often but I’m sure we were on the losing side of bets. 😉 If anyone is interested in connecting… my email is I’m in Minneapolis MN.

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