Coast Guard District narrative histories 1945
for 16 months before it was decided that the only possible means of returning her to her station was by hauling her overland through the woods and launching her in the Columbia River. The No. 50 was constructed of wood and remained in service only until 1909 when she was replaced by the steel-hulled lightship.
During the amalgamation of the Lighthouse Service and The Coast Guard in 1939, four lightships, the COLUMBIA RIVER LIGHTSHIP 393, the UMATILLA REEF LIGHTSHIP #88, the RELIEF LIGHTSHIP #92 and the SWIFTSURE LIGHTSHIP #113, were transferred to the Coast Guard. These four lightships maintained only three stations as the RELIEF LIGHTSHIP #92 was used on all stations as relief. They were steel-hulled vessels with a displacement of approximately 685 tones and a complement of 3 to 6 officers and 5 to 11 crew. All but one was built around 1908; the SWIFTSURE LIGHTSHIP #113 was the newest and it was completed in 1929. In addition to exhibiting a bright beacon light, the lightships were also equipped with sound signals, [radio]], radio-telephone, and radiobeacons. In addition to their regular duties as lightships, they were also instructed during the early days of the war, to notify the Commandant, 13th Naval District of all vessels passing the Columbia River northbound.
At the outbreak of the war, LIGHTSHIPS NO. 88 and 113, were removed from their stations by the Navy and replaced by lighted whistle buoys. The ships were reconverted by removing the radiobeacon and antenna mast, by installing armament, by realtering radio facilities and by increasing the complement to 30 Coast Guardsmen and 5 Coast Guard Officers. The No. 88 was then placed in the Strait of Juan de Fuca as a Recognition Ship and the No 113 was sent into Alaskan waters. The removal of these two ships left only the COLUMBIA RIVER LIGHTSHIP #93 on station at the entrance to the Columbia River with the No. 92 to be used as its relief.
The use of one lightship as standby only, seemed most uneconomical of ships and men at a time when they were at a premium. The District Coast Guard Officer, with the approval of the Commander, Northwest Sea Frontier, proposed to Headquarters that the COLUMBIA RIVER LIGHTSHIP #93 should remain on station for a month and then, on a clear day with good weather, the ship would leave her station, go to Astoria for fuel and supplies and return before dark. A station buoy would be placed close to the Lightship's position at all times and mark the station when the Lightship itself was absent. Such an arrangement would permit the RELIEF LIGHTSHIP to be used as part of the Offshore Observation Force.
The early conception of the mariners, that all aids to navigation must be received by the normal senses of sight and sound, was radically changed by the development of the radiobeacon system which has, since its inception in 1921, become recognized as a most important innovation for increased safety for mariners. As radio signals are not obscured by fog, wind, rain, snow or temperature changes, and bearings may be taken at great distances far beyond the horizon, the radiobeacon had great advantages over previous types of navigational aids. Proof of its efficiency lay in the fact that since its inception approximately a quarter of a century ago, the radiobeacon system was adopted by all maritime nations and direction finders were developed to fit not only the requirements of large ocean liners, but small pleasure craft and fisherman's vessels as well.
At the time of the consolidation of the Lighthouse Service and the Coast Guard, the Seattle District operated nine-land-based radiobeacons and four radiobeacons on the lightships at Swiftsure Bank, Umatilla Reef and the entrance to the Columbia River. Two beacons were under construction at Destruction Island (completed in 1943) and at Willapa Bay (completed in 1941). Two more radiobeacons were authorized in 1842, one at Cape Flattery (Tatoosh Island) and one at West Point. In the middle of 1945, the radiobeacon at Ediz Hook was established, bringing the total number of District radiobeacons to 18. However, at the onset of the war, the Navy removed the lightships from Umatilla Reef and Swiftsure Bank thus leaving only 16 beacons in operation. Of these 16, one was maintained by the RELIEF LIGHTSHIP and used alternately on the Columbia River station.
In an effort to increase, to even a greater degree, the efficiency of the radiobeacon system throughout the United States, headquarters urged that a monitor system be developed and put into operation in each District. Subsequently, a monitor station was established at North head Radio Station which checked the performance of all District radiobeacons. Between 0800 to 1100 and 1500 to 1900 daily, each radiobeacon was monitored, the time for the check being staggered to insure a truer picture of the various beacons' performance. Outlying stations were notified daily of all failures or defects in the radiobeacons' operation. These reports were a District innovation and were not required by Headquarters but were merely another measure adopted by the District Coast Guard Office for increased efficiency in the District system.
An arrangement was made for rating the radiobeacons on a percentage basis for efficiency of operation. For each various type of failure, an established number of points were deducted from a perfect score. These scores were then arranged in chronological order and published each month. However, a discrepancy was evident in that one station operating on the wrong minute for 35 minutes received the same percentage rating as a station being off sequence for only 10 minutes. A new plan for such rating was established and put into operation in the early part of 1945. This new system was so arranged that an offending radiobeacon station was marked down for not only the type of failure, but for the number of minutes of faulty operation. This accounted for the low percentage rating for 1945 of 94% as compared with the percentage rating of 96% for 1943 and 98% for 1944. Actually, the number of failures occurring after the February survey (see survey below) in 1945 became less than those in the months prior to that date.
The Radiobeacon Station guilty of the most failures was on the Columbia River Station. The high percentage of failures in this case was due to a combination of old equipment, fluctuating voltage, disinterested personnel, too small a complement and the motion of the ship, which tended to dislodge the sensitive parts, especially during heavy seas. Little or no interference was found in any of the radiobeacons. One instance of expeditious conduct occurred at Yaquina Head Radiobeacon Station when lightning struck the building in which the beacon was housed and destroyed the equipment and severely injured the operator on watch. Only twelve (12) minutes elapsed between the time the radiobeacon was struck and put out of commission before the standby unit was operating normally.
Peace time operation of the radiobeacon consisted of the distance finding dash being sounded when fog was actually in the area of the radiobeacon and the fog signal was in operation. During the war, the distance finding dash was used continuously as for fog for the purpose of not allowing the enemy to know whether it was foggy or clear weather. Two days after the declaration of war, on 9 December, 1941, the radiobeacon stations were instructed that no radiobeacon signals and no test transmissions in the radiobeacon band were to be permitted during the emergency without specific authorization from the District Coast Guard Officer. This order permitted no variation and forbade all radio frequencies radiation within the band from 285 to 315 kcs. from any radiobeacon stations. Radiobeacon transmitters on any frequency
on land stations were not permitted to be used. During the period of radiobeacon silence, radiobeacon clocks were maintained in normal condition but no other equipment was operated although it was kept in in full repair in the event it should become necessary to go into operation. Rooms were kept heated so that equipment would not be damaged and a continuous watch was maintained in anticipation of the time the radiobeacon was ordered into operation. Six months later, the radiobeacons were restored to operation on low power and maintained a schedule as for fog. In October, 1942, the Commander, Northwest Sea Frontier ordered the resumption of all radiobeacons in the coastal waters of Oregon and Washington. (Some radiobeacons were authorized on specific dates to be silent for the purpose of cleaning insulators, only after the District Coast Guard Officer had approved the period.)
In March, 1944, Radio Station Meadowdale was selected as a Monitoring Station for radiobeacons, as the activities at that station had been considerably reduced. The North Head Monitor Station's use had been increased extensively as radiobeacons had not been returned to peace time schedule (operating three minutes out of the usual two ten minute periods each hour) but were operating on a continuous program of one minute out of every three. Although Headquarters' instructions ordered that each radiobeacon in the United States be monitored at least once every four hours, it became possible, in the 13th Navel District, to monitor each radiobeacon every hour after the new monitor station had been added. Monitoring receivers were calibrated with a frequency meter and were checked periodically to insure accurate observation. Each monitoring station kept a record of its observations on a Headquarters' form which was submitted to the District Office and reviewed by the Aids to Navigation Officer who summarized the data before submitting it to Headquarters. Any unusual situations were reproted with detailed information to Headquarters at once.
Although three Canadian radiobeacons were operating on a continuous schedule as for fog, which conformed with the United States program, three other Canadian radiobeacons were still operating on a peace time basis. Headquarters suggested to the Controller of Radio in Ottawa that the radiobeacons at Quatsino, Race Rocks and Point Atkinson be placed on a twenty-four hour fog schedule. the purpose of this continuous operation was to prevent the possibility of the enemy receiving information as to visibility at radiobeacon stations, formerly disclosed by change of operation from normal operation to fog schedule. Continuous operation had an equally important factor in making beacons available
to vessels which might be in an area of reduced visibility, yet, within reception range of a station enjoying clear weather. It further eliminated the personal equation in determining what might or might not be considered reduced visibility. The recommendation that the three Canadian aids maintain a continuous schedule was intended not only to fill a gap in Pacific Coast Radiobeacon System, in the interest of uniformity, but to provide better aids to navigation in a very dangerous area. Headquarters volunteered to lend the Canadian Government equipment for installation in this section. However, the Canadian aids were installed without Coast Guard assistance.
In order to determine whether of not radiobeacons should return to their pre-war schedule, mariners and pilots were asked by Boarding Officers whether they found the peace time operation of radiobeacons of greater value than the continuous fog schedule. Most mariners were of the opinion that better use could be made of them if they were transmitting each minute of the hour. In connection with the airways, Pan American Airways, the Air Transport Command and the Army Service Forces all indicated that marine radiobeacons were used by the pilots and they, too, felt that even better use could be made of them if they were transmitting each minute of the hour. A flight check made at this time on radio marine beacons in Canada found that these aids assisted greatly in safe navigation of aircraft equipped with radio direction finders. Those radiobeacons were operated on a continuous schedule. As a result of these questions and flight tests, it was decided that war time operation of radiobeacon (continuous as for fog) would continue.
Because of the mounting failures of radiobeacons in the District, a survey of radiobeacons and monitor stations was made in February, 1945. All radiobeacon stations were visited and Commanding Officers of each station presented the problems of his activity. As a result of this survey, the following recommendations were presented to the District Coast Guard Officer and later were accepted as District Policy:
(a) A twenty-four hour watch maintained at all radiobeacon and monitor station.
(b) The standby unit swtiched on immediately in case of failure.
(c) The method of timing radiobeacons standardized.
(d) Personnel at all monitor stations thoroughly tested and instructed.