COMMAND AND ADMINISTRATIVE NETWORK (ACAN)
US ARMY SIGNAL CORPS
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII
On 10 March 1942, Fort Shafter WTJ, Hawaii, established a manual CW radio circuit to a Royal Australian Air Force station in Melbourne, Victoria which at that point in time served as U.S. Army Headquarters down under. General Douglas MacArthur arrived in Melbourne and short time later to establish his GHQ after escaping from the Philippines.
Hawaii WTJ heard Manila WTA for the last time (actually Bataan) at 07:01 hours Hawaiian time, on 4 April 1942. Hawaii had established a radio circuit to Fort Mills (Corregidor), Philippines WVDM, on 3 April 1942.
Corregidor WVDM notified Hawaii, WTJ, that it had lost Bataan, WTA, on 9 April1942.
Hawaii, WTJ, lost contact with Corregidor, WVDM, at 18:07 hours, on 5 May1942. (Dates based on US time zones - actually 6 May in Philippines)
The Philippines station was under the command of General Akin.
Hawaii, WTJ, then established radio circuit to Canton Island, WVHT, on 14 May1942. In July 1942 links were established to Christmas Island WVHW, Suva WVHU, and Noumea, WVJN.
General Douglas MacArthur and party including General Akin arrived in Australia on 17 March 1942 after escaping out of Corregidor, and set up headquarters in Melbourne.
Col. Calvert H. Arnold was theater Signal Officer as of 1 February 1942. Mid March 1942, Lieutenant, Roger E. Dumas, with a team of 19 enlisted men from the 52nd Signal Service Battalion, started to set up the Army Command and Administrative Network (ACAN). The 52nd Signal Service Battalion had arrived in Australia in February 1942.
The ACAN radio chart, dated May 1942, shows the following ACAN stations:-
Radio Station Melbourne, WTJJ, during its first week of operation and into early May 1942, handled the last flow of messages from the besieged Philippine Islands. Corregidor WVDM, traffic went to Darwin WVJK, to Melbourne WTJJ, and Melbourne then sent to Hawaii WTJ, and then on to the War Department in Washington. The message load ran into about 30,000 groups a day, both ways, and was transmitted on a duplex CW circuit. (sending via hand key or bug).
In June 1942 George Sullivan's ship "Tasker H. Bliss" landed on 18 June 1942 at the Bulimba docks in Brisbane, Queensland across from the shipyard where the OL boats would be worked on. They marched to the Camp Ascot.
George Sullivan was a member of the "Fixed Station Communication Company" comprising 125 officers and enlisted men. Approximately 3 days later, part of the group was interviewed by Colonel Arnold. George was one of the group to stay in Brisbane. The day George Sullivan reported to the radio room at Base Section 3 at Somerville House was around 24 June 1942.
The radio room at Somerville House was located in the center of the school, above a patio. They could walk out of the radio room and sit on the patio roof and relax. The room had a 1 kW Federal Transmitter to Sydney, and a TG5 Telegraph set that the Telephone Co., patched through to Townsville every morning at 7:00 a.m. to clear traffic.
The two radio operators were from an Air Force bomber crew. About two weeks later George Sullivan was sent to Capalaba, the CW Radio Receiving Station, to open up their first circuit to San Francisco WTO. The 1 kW Federal transmitter at Redland Bay was set up in a tent. The circuit was established and sending with a hand key, the traffic started to flow to the War Department. Brisbane WTO, was up and running! They handled between 80,000 - 100,000 groups a day with some messages via courier.
General Douglas MacArthur moved his General Headquarters SWPA to Brisbane making Brisbane the nerve center of the southwest Pacific. The circuits from Melbourne, Sydney, Townsville, Darwin, Noumea and Hawaii were now relocated to terminate in Brisbane. Great expansion ensued as American and Australian forces, reacting to earlier defeats, began to consolidate their strength and make their first victorious advances.
New equipment started to arrive. A lO-kW amplifier for the Brisbane to San Francisco circuit arrived. In July 1942 Col. Calvert H. Arnold became the Signal Officer of the U.S. Army of Supplies in the SOWP area (USA-SOS-SWP). Col.John C. Grable became Arnold's executive Signal Officer.
George Sullivan commented that the temperamental the "hotshot operators" in San Francisco refused to copy hand sent messages from Noumea. This traffic was routed through Brisbane WTO. In the early months of 1942, from June onwards, the San Francisco operators complained about Brisbane WTO on the same score. The operators in Brisbane WTO begged, borrowed and stole equipment to see if they could send messages via machines. The supply problem was deplorable. They had to patch, repair, and say a prayer. After much letter writing, Col. Grable obtained a Boehme high speed CW system for the Brisbane - San Francisco circuit.
Boehme equipment! What is that? The operator in Brisbane WTO would put his message via punched holes on a paper tape, insert it in a sending head (variable speed) to key the transmitter in Redland Bay. On a dry day, the open wire telephone lines to Redland Bay 30 miles away, would allow the speed to go up to 100 words per minute, much faster than if sent manually, by hand. This moved a greater amount of traffic and made the operators in San Francisco very happy. On the receiving end in Capalaba, they had 3 receivers tuned to San Francisco. Receiver #1 on the San Francisco Rombic antenna. Receiver #2 on Hawaii Rombic antenna. Receiver #3 changed from various other antennae to get best signal. The output of the three receivers went into a 3-channel device which selected the strongest signal of the three, and re-keyed an audio oscillator which was sent over the telephone lines to ink a tape at the operating room in Brisbane WTO. A very efficient CW system! In late 1942 a most important circuit was added from Brisbane WTO to Port Moresby, New Guinea, WVLQ.
The Redland Bay Transmitting site was later superseded by a new Transmitting site at Hemmant.
The supply problems improved in early 1943. They could order dry "B" batteries for their test gear and receive the complete order.
On the first day of 1943, Capalaba, the CW Radio Receiving Station was handed a new assignment. They had to set up several receivers on assigned frequencies and log the signal strength every quarter hour, 24 hours a day. This went on for several weeks. One of the frequencies was entertaining - Radio Tokyo. They heard the latest American music releases, plus "Tokyo Rose". The men were trying to figure out what the monitoring was all about. They received their answer in February 1943 when the 40-kW Single Side Band unit went into service, closing down the high speed CW Boehme circuit between Capalaba and San Francisco.
They started to receive new state of the art equipment. The single side band system employed three teletype machines on diversity, to help correct "fade" or "message dropout." For example, the teletypes could be on the lower side band with the upper side band being used for voice control between Brisbane WTO and San Francisco, or SIGSALY (Green Hornet), located at General MacArthur's headquarters, or for use by the Photo Group. The system handled 250,000 message groups a day, 80-85% administrative. A vast improvement over the high speed Boehme circuit. Messages were also mechanically encoded and decoded.
Around the 1 November 1943, the 805th Signal Service Company set up a telephone voice scrambling circuit at General MacArthur's GHQ SWPA known as SIGSALY (Green Hornet). This highly classified voice circuit was not declassified until around 1976.
Here is an interesting excerpt from "General Kenney Reports" by Geo. C. Kenney, 1949.
"On the 9th of November, 1943, a direct telephone line between Brisbane and Washington was inaugurated. General Barney Giles, Arnold's Chief of Staff, talked with me for a few minutes and mentioned that my son, Bill, who had recently graduated from Officers Candidate School and been given commission as Second Lieutenant in the Air Corps, was on his way to the Pacific. I told him not to send Bill to me as it would not be fair to either of us. I said to send him to the Thirteenth Air Force and let him work for General Miff Harmon. Barney said he would fix the orders up and then he put Alice Kenney, my wife, on the line. The connection was not too good, and I had trouble understanding her excited soprano voice, but we both got quite a kick out of the conversation. Arnold had very thoughtfully brought her in for the occasion, warning her that the very existence of the newly opened line was a deep military secret. She told me afterward that she was so impressed she didn't dare mention it even in her diary."
There were 3 different radio rooms located in the Somerville House. The first one that George Sullivan reported to was in the center of the complex on the second floor, over a patio. The second room was located in the extreme right wing near Vulture Street, on the top floor where the first CW circuit to San Francisco was inaugurated. The third location was in the extreme right wing, first floor towards the back of the building, where the single side band control room and operators were located.
In the spring of 1944, Seaborne Communications was born, but was not officially authorized before January of 1945. In the post years of the war, many vessels of various types were pressed into service, such as the FP47 Communication Boat.
The immediate plan was to have invasion vessels and floating ACAN stations on the spot right after a landing was secured. At this point in time a GHQ major radio communication station, so close to the action, was unheard of. Gen Akin obtained three ships to be under Army control - NOT Navy - but manned by the Navy. These three ships would be outfitted for the invasion of Leyte in the Philippines all equipped with Army Signal Corp units. The PCE(R)848 went into the invasion with Gen. Akin aboard. PCE(R)849 was backup for PCE(R)848 and had Gen. Akin's deputy aboard. PCE(R)850 had the 6th Army Signal Corp aboard.
When Gen. MacArthur landed in Australia, he made a promise to the people of the Philippines, "I shall return". He specified that he wanted a radio broadcast ship in the convoy so that when he stepped ashore in the Philippines - which was 3 hours after the invasion started - he could broadcast that message to the people. It was also going to be used to broadcast to the guerrillas, plus press service to the world.
The 50-year-old schooner, "APACHE" which had many uses, but was formerly Pres. McKinley's yacht, was acquired. The yacht was outfitted in Sydney, Australia with necessary gear. The good old faithful COMM. FP47 was its backup.
Three LCM's furnished by the Navy had mobile communications equipment aboard to establish land terminals.
For the construction of the floating ACAN stations, 7 ocean lighters (OL's) were ordered from a Sydney, Australia shipyard. They were 120' long with a 24' beam. The original plan called for 3 ACAN stations, using 6 of the OL's. The 7th, OL31, was to be equipped with a SIGSALY terminal. The first station consisted of OL22 receiver and OL30 transmitter.
Approximately seventy-five Army personnel were transferred to Seaborne to accomplish the task. In October of 1944, the OL22 and OL30 proceeded to Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, and set in and handled traffic there for a few months, then moved on to Manila Bay in the Philippines. In early June 1945, OL23 receiver and OL29 transmitter arrived. George Sullivan could not locate any information on the other two OL's. He believed it was possible that they became Signal Corp supply and repair boats.
When Seaborne entered Manila Harbor, they were dubbed, "Gen. Akin's Grand Fleet."
George Sullivan left for home in June 1945. George knew that 7 OL's were towed to Japan. He did not know what had happened to the "Weeroona".
NOTE:- This web page is based heavily on George J. Sullivan's history of ACAN titled "The Things We Save". I have attempted to located George Sullivan or or any of his family without success so far.
"The Things We Save"
by George J. Sullivan
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© Peter Dunn 2006
This page first produced 4 January 2009
This page last updated 14 January 2015