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Forced Guest stay called ‘Protective Custody’, by Gurbux Singh, W6BUX

This is a follow-up to my article about the demise of Amateur Radio in Burma under the military dictatorship.

I was a champion badminton player and some of my regular training included a seven mile run early in the morning around the lake in Rangoon. My younger brother was a bicycle racing champion and I would ride along with them every other day when not jogging in the morning.

A 50 mile round trip was the norm and on Monday, June 12th 1972, having come back from a training ride and waiting to take a shower when a Van pulled up in front of the house and three men got out and told me in a peremptory tone that the Captain wanted to see me now. Once seated inside the van in the back seat, they covered my head and eyes with a black towel and warned me not to look anywhere but the floor. Having lived in Rangoon all my life and using a bicycle to get around, I knew exactly where we were from the stops and turns and I was taken to a mansion a few miles out of town. All businesses having been nationalized and the owners kicked out, this house belonging to one of the famous cloth merchants was turned into a secret interrogation center by the Army Intelligence and from the outside would look like a private residence and blend in with the other houses.

I was interrogated by many people non-stop asking the same questions again and again and the questions were why I was going to the US Embassy and British Embassy and what made me want to leave Burma having lived there all my life. I told them I was working on getting a travel document from the British Embassy and a Visa from the US Embassy to migrate to the United States. Mentioning United States was a taboo subject, but I had to tell the truth. They kept asking me why I wanted to leave Burma and was told I was a traitor and not loyal to the country. Whatever I told them, they countered that I was not telling the truth. When I asked what the truth was, they keep insisting that I knew the truth. The interrogation was done by soldiers and they were all armed to the teeth. Same questions by different people and same answers given. One of the interrogators inadvertently blurted out that they had been tailing me for a long time and knew all the places I frequented. They had taken my personal belongings including my watch when I was frisked upon arriving there and had no idea of how long I had been there or what time it was. Around midnight or so, this haranguing stopped and I was told to sleep on top of a table with all the bright lights on and soldiers taking turns watching me. All the glass on the windows had been painted and looking outside was out of the question.

Next day after the same ritual of interrogation, I was again blindfolded and had to sit on the floor of a Jeep type of vehicle in the back with soldiers sitting on the rear seats. Feeling the butts of guns pressing against you made sure they meant business. The route taken was the same route we used to ride our racing bicycles every other morning and I knew the route and knew exactly where they took me. This is a route with only a couple of turns and one could not go wrong as to the area. The vehicle was driven about 14 miles out of town and it led to an Army Outpost in the middle of rubber plantations completely hidden from view from the road. None of the people in the vehicle talked and were silent so that their voices could not be heard or remembered. They pulled up to a gate and the sound of it opening to let us through and drove another couple of hundred  yards.

They got me out and two people, one on either side, guided me in to a building and suddenly pushed me in to a room and my blindfold was taken off and the door slammed shut.

I was in shock when I looked around and saw that I was in a 8’x8’ cell with a cement floor and on one side was a wooden bench made of 2x4s and the top part was a of wooden slats with about a 2 inch gap between the slats. It was about two feet wide and six feet long. I am six feet tall and exactly the same length was the bench and I noted that it was bolted to the wall and could not be moved. The room was of fairly new construction and was of a double wall design with about a two foot gap between the walls. The inner walls were of plywood and no protruding nails could be felt. The newness of the wood was evident and there was a single window towards the top edge and it looked out to another wall on the outside. There was just a very limited view of the sky. There was a light with a 40 watt bulb  on the top with a metal cage around it so it could not be removed or tampered with. The light was on all the time. The roof of the building which appeared to be like a barracks type had a corrugated tin roof and the cell felt like an oven. It was summer and the temperature normally is around 90 degrees plus with a humidity of 90 percent or more. Worse if it rained.

On the concrete floor, there were two clay pots of about a gallon capacity each with about a six inch opening on top and clay lids on both. I was gruffly told one was to be used for drinking water and other as a toilet. They were identical in size and shape and neither one had any water in it. The cell stank of vomit and urine and it was gagging.

Not having slept well the previous night, I lay down on the bench and fell asleep. Some time later the door opened and I was given a metal plate and a steel mug. A few minutes later, the door opened again and I was asked if I was vegetarian and when I said no, told me to bring my plate and a pile of rice was dumped on it. The next soldier ladled a hard boiled duck egg and some gravy on the rice. I started to ask something and was abruptly told I was not to speak unless they asked me to  and just shut up.
They also made sure my eyes were not wandering and I could not look towards the door or outside. They then took one of the pots and brought it back with some water in it and said it was for drinking and I wondered how he knew which pot was for water or the toilet. There were no markings to tell them apart. The door was locked from the outside and you were enveloped in a deathly silence except for the cawing of crows in the distance. I had no appetite even though I had not eaten in over 24 hours but took a bite out the egg and shoved some rice into my mouth with my fingers. There was no salt in the food. No spoon or fork to eat with. It was starting to make sense now. They did not need to used physical abuse or punishment, but mental abuse is more effective. The Military Junta was averse to University students and educated people who could discern right from wrong and thus systematically had a plan to get rid of them or put so much fear in their minds that they would become docile and not think of any thing revolutionary. The Armed Forces are used to giving orders and you do not question them.

Night came and I could tell from the sky, what little I could see was dark but did not know the time. It was very hot and humid in the cell but using my turban as a cover to keep the mosquitoes away, slept on and off. In the swamp like environment, it was a prime area for mosquitoes. The next morning, I was brought some milk tea which was lukewarm and had very little milk or sugar in it. I drank it anyway. Some time later the door opened and a man who looked like he might be from South India was let in by the soldiers and started to take the pots. People in Asia speak more than a single language and will switch from one to another and communicate fluently. I spoke four languages. I told the man in the S. Indian language that the pots were not clean and very unhygienic. The soldiers berated me for talking and almost got physical with me and wanted to know what I told the man. I was not sure if they understood what I had said but I lied and told them that I thanked the man for doing his job well. I was reminded again not to open my mouth. While this was going on, I heard the sound of like clay pots being smashed or falling and breaking  and a person yelling and saying who was going to pay for breaking the pots. The janitor, out of the goodness of his heart, understood what I told him and dropped the pots to break them so that he could bring me new ones. He brought the new pots and one was full of water. I made sure to separate the two and one of the soldiers handed me a roll of toilet paper which felt like sandpaper I would find out.

Most of my time was spent laying on the bench or taking naps as there was nothing to do. No radio, newspaper or books to read and only human sounds were when the soldiers would march in. Army boots make a distinctive sound on concrete. I was of the opinion that they must have made a mistake and would let me go home soon. A cup of afternoon tea was given and and in the evening was a meal of rice and stew which I guessed was goat mutton or something close. The meat was tough and of the two pieces given, one was gristle hard to chew and a piece got stuck between my teeth. The food had no salt in it and was inedible. Hard to dig out food stuck between your teeth without a toothpick. Quick lesson learned on how we take things for granted. No toothbrush or toothpaste to clean your teeth and I soon had diarrhea from the insipid food and lack of hygiene. I ran out of toilet paper on the second day and also quickly found out that going to the toilet became a test of mind over matter, literally.

Did not take me long to find out that it is hard to control your pee while you evacuate your bowels and vice versa. The pot opening was only large enough for one purpose at a time. This was all part of mental torture. The water provided was barely enough to drink and washing hands after using the pot toilet was not part of the plan. Thus the diarrhea. When I asked for more toilet paper the next day, I was told that I was given a week’s supply and here I could not even use the paper for two toilet visits. I was told that they would not be lenient the next time and to control what I use. The allotted ration was four sheets of toilet paper a day. On that day I was given an Army issue mosquito net, a Burmese sarong and a small bar of soap. I was told to wear the sarong and take off the bicycle shorts I had been wearing. I was told to follow the soldiers and not to look up or around and not to try anything funny. Took about twenty steps and was out of the building and there was a water bib on the wall and told to quickly wash myself. All of two minutes was allowed and told to go back in. Had just enough time to wet my body due to low water pressure and nothing to pour water from.

It was the peak of summer and temperature had to be over a hundred degrees F and the humidity about the same. I soon realized that I had lost count of what day or date it was and had to think back as to what meals I had and counted back the days. I had read stories of mental torture by dictatorial regimes where they used mental torture and broke people down till they became vegetables. Made up my mind not to fall in to this abyss and stay in control. With nothing to do, time moves very slowly and your mind starts to wander. I started exercising by walking in a figure eight pattern as there was only enough room to do that and also running on the spot and doing knee bends and squats. With nothing to do, I had to keep my mind alert and started doing Yoga exercises and meditation. A lot of time was spent fervently praying. As a practicing Sikh, we believe God creates us in his Image and as such gave us this body as a temple to take care of. As such, Sikhs do not cut their hair and maintain their body as created by God. I had a full head of long hair which came down to my waist and a beard down to my belly-button. Normally, the beard is rolled up and tucked in under the chin and held in place with a bobby-pin. With all the sweat and heat, I opened out my beard and saved the bobby-pin which was made of strong tempered steel for the spring action.

To keep track of the date and days, I started making marks under the bench where it could not be seen and was able to maintain a calendar. Sikhs carry a small comb in their hair which is tied in a topknot and it came in handy to comb my hair and keep it tidy. Since I was in a small cell all by myself, I felt there was no need to look presentable and most times stayed naked because of the heat and let my hair down to keep it dry from sweat in the heat and humidity. Seven days went by and I was again asked to get out and wash myself. I asked if I could have some extra time to wash my hair but that was immediately shot down and told that a barber will come by periodically and I could get my hair cut. This was not going to happen that as a Sikh, hair is sacrosanct and cutting my hair would be sacrilege. In other words, Sikhs are the original Hippies.

This was all part of how they had been trained and knew that they could break me down with poor diet and mental torture. They had learned from the Russians that mental torture is easy and hard to prove and they could not be accused of physical abuse. Food getting stuck in my teeth was a problem and one day there was fish on the menu and luckily for me it had a toothpick size and shape bone in it and it was an Eureka moment for me. This would make a perfect toothpick and I saved it and put it to good use. The Army has a system of keeping the guards and sentries alert by having them strike a hanging piece of railroad track with a metal rod on the hour, every hour. Six pm would mean six strikes and nine would be nine. It became easy to keep track of the time by listening to he sounds of the gongs.

To stay mentally alert, I made a plan to have imaginary QSOs with stations by mouthing off in CW and having long and detailed exchanges of information. Of course, I had to not sound it out loud but just for myself so as not to annoy the guards. The longer the QSO, the more time it took and the better it was. I had plenty of time and wasn’t going anywhere. The daily routine of waking up, exercising, praying, meditating etc., was getting monotonous and time was moving very slowly. I was spending more and more time meditating and it was going in to hours at a time and I was feeling better for it as it was giving me peace of mind.

A month had gone by and since my shirt had been soaking and drenched in sweat, one of the buttons came off due to rotting thread. I asked the guard for needle and thread and he just laughed it off. I was always trying to stay cool by not wearing clothes as the wet clothes were causing rashes from the salt. One time I overheard one guard tell the other that I looked like a mountain man and not to look into my eyes as I had a distant look which they did not like. One day, I decided to stand on the bench and put my hand out of the inside window and see if I could feel anything. There was a gap of about eighteen inches between the walls and feeling along the horizontal 2×4 between the walls, I felt something on the wood and picked up a piece of wire about and inch and a half long. I saved it and since I have a mechanical engineering background, decided to make a needle. Had a lot of idle time and sharpened the wire on the concrete floor and made it in to a sharp point. It was of no use without a hole to  pull thread.

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Remembering the bobby pin I had saved, it occurred to me that it was made of very hard tempered steel and if I could grind it down in to a point like a drill bit, I might be able to use it to make a hole in the wire. I had to make sure that there were no guards expected making their rounds or meal times and started grinding the steel pin in to a sharp point. The dull end of the wire was ground into a flat part and with the sharpened bobby pin, I slowing pushed into the flattened part of the wire while turning the drill bit back and forth. After a few hours of trying over many days, I had made a dent in to the metal and started the process from the other side now. Took me eight  days to punch a hole in it and getting some thread was easy as all I had to do was pull a piece from the mosquito net. I soon had a working needle and thread. The button was put on, but had no use for the shirt as I was better not wearing any clothes.

I had by now figured out the routine and the timings of the guards and noticed that if the guard was smoking  or lit a cigarette, it meant having a few extra minutes to wash myself. Guards are normally not allowed to smoke on the job, but they bend the rules as needed. On one such day, I noticed plenty of wood chips about the size of a quarter laying around the area where the water pipe was and probably left over from the construction. Also noticed that if the guard was smoking, he would step away to smoke but still be able to see me as he did not want to be surprised by his superior. This gave me a chance to quickly pick up a piece or two of small wood chips and sneak them in. With plenty of free time, I decided to make them in to beads for meditating. I started grinding the wood piece on the rough concrete floor and from a cube shape made it in to a round ball like a marble. Making a hole was not a problem as I had the drill I made of the bobby pin and after a few hours of twisting the drill in the wood, a hole was made. I learned the hard way that it was better to drill the hole first and the grind down the wood as a couple of the balls cracked when I forced the drill in to the wood. My concern was getting the right size wood pieces surreptitiously without the guards noticing. The grinding and finishing work was done in a corner under the bench where the guards could not easily see. It took eleven months to make the beads and I had the full 108 finished pieces and then slowly removing thread from the mosquito net from various areas to be not noticed.

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In the pictures of the beads one can see that some of them have imperfections and not all of them are the same size but very close to each other. At first they were lighter in color but using them with sweaty palms and fingers gave them a darker patina. Making the beads had to be done without the guards noticing and was only worked on at different times of the day or night. I was not aware of other people being there as I did not hear any sounds or movement and this led me to believe that I was the only one there. Staying indoors all the time except for a few minutes when I was allowed to wash myself, I longed to go out in the sun. My complexion was looking milquetoast white and the sunburn and tan on my arms and legs was all gone.

One day when the guards appeared to be in a lighter mood, I asked one of them if they would let me do some work to pass the time . I could pull weeds etc. and the quick retort was that I was not a criminal and they could not make me work. When asked why, I was told I was in ‘Protective Custody’ and not someone serving time for a crime. How I wished I was a criminal then just so I could be outside in the open and do work to stay fit. When I had been there a couple of months, I felt dejected and sort of came to the conclusion that I would spend the rest of my life there and die there. I accepted that eventuality and in a way it was a good thing because when meditating, one has to tune out all extraneous distractions and only concentrate on closing your eyes and focusing on the area between the eyes which is called the third eye. Sitting cross legged, I would concentrate on this and I could feel my breathing and heart rate slowing down and a calm feeling was felt. Over the course of doing this repeatedly, I would lose track of time and go in to a sort of trance and a feeling of sublime tranquility. I could meditate for hours and not feel physical discomfort. First it was for a couple of hours and as time went on, longer periods of meditation happened.  One day I was abruptly shaken and told that I had not eaten my lunch meal and they wanted to know if I was protesting with a hunger strike. I was not aware that I had sat in the meditative pose from early morning and now it was time for the evening meal. I did not feel any hunger, but it was the best feeling which cannot be described. Meditation is a great tool and I made full use of it. It would not have been easy to reach that stage in the outside world with all the worldly distractions. Plus it was a good way to pass the time.

I had noticed that there were rat droppings to be seen some mornings which meant that there were rats. I started leaving clumps of rice on the floor and watched as a rat would come in from the window down the 2/4s and eat it. Became sort of a pet, but I was not sure if there was only one that came in to my cell. I enjoyed feeding the rat.

The bench was situated on the side where the skylight was and it became a habit to use the mosquito net as a padding and if I noticed mosquitoes, use my old turban as a cover while sleeping without any clothes on.

One night I was woken up by a loud squealing sound and from my supine position on the bench saw that a full grown cobra snake had come in from the window and crawled over my thighs and had caught the rat in its mouth and was swallowing it. The snake had the rat head first in its mouth and only the tail was visible. As I looked at the snake from my position on the bench, the snake was at eye level and we had eye to eye contact. I started thinking that if the snake had wanted to harm me, it could have bitten me when it came in I would be dead by now. It would have been easy to just grab the snake and kill it as it was vulnerable with a large rat in its mouth and could not strike to kill.  Part of the snake  was over my thighs and not wanting to do anything, watch the snake swallow the rat and and digest it . About three hours went by and the snake slowly made movement and went out the way it came in. I can never forget the sight and feeling of the snake crawling over my naked body and I was thinking of the worst case scenario of the snake striking at a part of my body that stood out.

Thirteen months  and sixteen days from the time I was brought here, the door opened and  I was told to wash up and put on a clean T-shirt and sarong they had brought. I was blindfolded and they took me to an office and  a person who was a Major spoke and said I was going to a meeting to meet someone. I was put into a Jeep and could tell that there was a driver and another passenger and took me to the Main Jail where I was escorted in to a meeting room with a table and six chairs. I was then informed that I was meeting the British Ambassador and the conversation was going to be recorded and that I was to be discrete and there would be consequences if I said the wrong things.

After about a wait of twenty minutes, a well dressed gentleman in a suit and a lady walked in. He introduced himself as the Ambassador and the lady was his secretary who would make notes and record everything with a tape recorder and if I had any objections. I said no and went on to say that I felt like a celebrity with everyone making a recording. This happened so fast that only the Ambassador caught on that there was another recorder in the room. He was looking at me dressed in a T-shirt and sarong which was not my usual dress code and without my turban. The Ambassador asked me if I was treated well? I looked at him with good  eye contact and said,’ Your Excellency, I cannot complain.’ He replied that he understood. The Burmese are well educated and fluent in written English, but are not used to speaking it. My reply went over their heads which was good and the Ambassador said it looked like I had lost weight. I told him I always wanted to lose weight and with the diet they have me on it was  helping me lose weight fast. He asked me if I had any questions and I asked him why I was incarcerated at which point my minder butted in and said I was not in jail, but in protective custody. I asked to have my day in court and to see a lawyer if I was being accused of any crime. At that point the meeting was abruptly halted and I was taken back to my cell. Back to the routine of praying, exercising etc.

A month and half later another meeting with the Ambassador took place and told me that he had been in contact with my family and that the British Government was pressing the Burmese authorities to honor International law and do the proper thing. Either put me on trial or let me go. He asked me if I still wanted to leave the country, and I said that yes, I would love to go to the US. I was allowed to leave on November 23rd morning, 1973 and my personal items returned to me and was given an hour’s time to meet my family. They had arranged for me to leave Rangoon and fly to Singapore. My father told me to call 9V1NR when I got there and ask him to help. We knew Doctor Charan, 9V1NR from our contacts on Amateur Radio and he took me to his house. When I got to his house, I asked to take a shower and got to wash my hair. It was my first time washing my hair after seventeen and a half months in Protective Custody! The US Embassy there arranged to have my immigration papers sent to Singapore and I got my paperwork done. The Doctor’s daughter and I got to like each other and I asked her to come with me to the States. Call it frequency response.  We got married with  our parents blessings even though my parents were not allowed to come to Singapore from Burma.

I arrived in Springfield Illinois on March 10, 1974 and stayed with my American sponsor who used to live in Burma and was an American doing ‘farming’. We later found out that he was part of the OSS and on assignment.

My family consisting of my wife Ranjit and two children moved to California in 1988 because of the better weather and love S. California. I got my call WB9TTN in Illinois and then got my vanity call of W6BUX which reflects part of my first name.

Having lived outside the United States and here, I can vouch that this is the best country in the world and the United States has been very good to me and my family. I did my paperwork the legal way and it was not easy, but I would not have done it any other way. I became an American Citizen  in 1979 and was a proudest day of my life to have become an American. My family and I live a very comfortable life.

I always wanted to do my part to pay my dues to this great nation which I call home and when I met Doug Dowds, W6HB during a visit to the Battleship USS IOWA, he said that they were in need of a CW operator and it did not take me long to volunteer and I enjoy the time I am on the ship and activate NI6BB. I live in Chatsworth, CA. and driving down to the ship taking the 405 is a small price to pay for my gratitude to this great country.  America has always been great and is still great.

 73, Gurbux
W6BUX, WB9TTN, XZ2KN.

My life and experiences in Burma and the status of Ham Radio by Gurbux Singh, W6BUX

Where is Burma located? Burma is now called Myanmar, but most people still call it Burma. Has anyone been to Burma or worked Burma on Amateur Radio?

The British ruled over Asia and Burma and India were colonies. India became independent in 1947 and Burma in 1948. My father and mother were both born in Burma and and lived in Rangoon now named Yangon. Rangoon is the Capital of Burma and is well designed and with lots of Colonial type buildings.

Father and Grandfather had the largest Machine shop and Foundry and were Contractors and designed and built Rice and Flour mills. Every part was made in-house and had to be certified to meet design and safety standards of the British Government.

My father Tara Singh was licensed as an Amateur Radio operator in 1938 and was very active on the bands. The station was of mostly homebrew equipment and war surplus stuff. World War II got bad and the occupying Japanese forces were brutal and not safe for anyone to be found with radio transmitting equipment. Father hid the radios in the attic and my parents had to trek overland on foot to evacuate to India.

I was born in Punjab, India on August 4th 1943 and my parents moved back to Rangoon in 1945 and found the house and radio equipment safe. I went Catholic schools and got a very good education and although not a Catholic, my father arranged donations to the school which was enough to bend the rules to accept me as a student.

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I got interested in Morse Code and used a bicycle horn as a buzzer to practice sending and also listening to the ham radio bands. Built a one tube receiver and studied for the test to get a license. The test was given at the Telecoms Dept. and sending and receiving code at 13 words a minute. The technical test was a test of Radio theory and and this was certified by two hams who were friends of my father. Got licensed as second operator for my father’s station XZ2KN. Burma had a license for Amateur Radio operator and a license for a ham radio station. Since I was living at the same location as the station of my father, anther station license seem redundant and not issued. I got my license in 1955 at 12 years of age and enjoyed CW. New hams were only allowed CW privileges for one year and then phone privileges were made available. I like CW and even after a year, rarely used AM Phone to work stations. It was the height of the band openings and working DX was no problem at all. Of the 22 licensed hams in Burma, only 3 or 4 were active and in the later years, our station was the only one that was active on a regular basis.

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In 1962, the Military staged a coup and things got hot with the General  following the lead and advice of China, started turning the country into a Socialist State. To appease the people that they were not becoming Communist, the system was called The Burmese Way to Socialism. There was nothing different about it from how China was being governed. We had a feeling that Amateur radio was going to be banned and it was a matter of time. All businesses were nationalized and the Government controlled everything from the only radio broadcast station and newspapers were heavily censored for content.

We confirmed all contacts with QSL cards being sent to stations that wanted one which was about every one. We kept getting paper money in the mail from people who were desperate to get a card from Burma. It was dangerous to have foreign currency especially US Dollars and stations would still send money even though we told them not to do it. Needless to say we had to stash it a in a safe and hidden place.

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We made all our antennas in our Machine Shop and it produced great results. We had a full sized four element beam on 20 meters with a boom of 44 feet. The boom was made of one inch steel Angle-iron and the elements were 3/4 inch diameter copper tubing. The driven element was a folded dipole and our signal was famous all over the world. Had plenty of WWII surplus electronic equipment and used old parts to keep our station on the air. Having learned to read schematics and solder connections, keeping the RCA AR88 receivers going was a full time job as the oil filled capacitors would keep leaking and we had to cannibalize parts and use them. We had a couple of AR88s,BC221,BC348, Hallicrefters receiver, Collins R107 and other so called Junk. The main transmitter was a RCA ET4336  transmitter with two 813s in the finals and a couple of 807s to modulate. A home brew speech amplifier made up the station.

The 20 meter beam was gigantic and weighed about 500 pounds. It was supported on 4 inch steel boiler tubing as a mast. Three 20 foot lengths were joined together and the joints welded together for strength. The element joints were also brazed with copper where needed. The whole setup was supported on a heavy duty thrust bearing which was from the wheel bearing of a tank. A winch was installed and steel cables run to the mast for turning the beam using the Armstrong method which worked well. The winch was also from a Tank.

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When the Allies withdrew from Burma, all equipment was destroyed or left behind and you could buy stuff for pennies or just hauling it away. It was not unusual to see local shops using Collins or RCA receivers to listen to shortwave broadcasts. Almost all visiting hams would stop by our place to see the antenna and station of XZ2KN which had a very loud signal on the air. We also built beam antennas for 10 and 15 meters and having a machine shop and foundry of our own , cost was not a consideration.

Some of the notable hams that visited and worked from our station that come to mind are David L Marks W2APF who went by Uncle Dave, Father Moran 9N1MM, and Senator Barry Goldwater who was on a quick private trip spent almost 4 hours on the air and said if he had not seen the monstrosity of an antenna and how well it worked, he would not have believed it. My father always believed that you had to be able to hear the other station to make a contact and it was this thinking that we used to tune our antennas.

We had many QSOs with King Hussein of Jordan and on my first contact with him, I was calling him Hussein as he gave his name and was jolted to reality when my father said you are talking to the King of Jordan. Frank Smith W5VA owned an NBC TV station in Corpus Christi and wanted to make and confirm a contact with Burma.

We had then inherited a Johnson Viking Ranger from a Greek ship and it was headed to the junkyard when I asked to take it off their hands. The Captain of the ship said it  stopped working and they got another system to replace it. The Viking Ranger came with a Johnson Matchbox antenna tuner and we were elated to get modern stuff. The only thing wrong was it had a cold solder joint and it put out 65 watts on AM. W5VA wrote us for a sked and we set it up after exchanging letters by snail mail. This was before computers and Internet.  W5VA had the top of the line equipment and a beam antenna on top of a 200 foot tower for 20 meters. At  the scheduled date and time, I called his station on CW and he was waiting for the call. We completed the QSO and of course he had some of his friends waiting to make their contacts and work Burma. I received a QSL card in the mail from Frank and a note saying how happy he was to have confirmed a contact with Burma. Also said that our signal was the louder on the band.

 The Military dictatorship ruled with an iron fist and all private ownership of guns and arms were banned. As expected, Amateur Radio was stopped and banned in Burma on March 10 1968. We had about 12 hours advance notice and we did not waste any time in letting the world know and making a lot of hams happy by confirming contacts with Burma. Amateur Radio was not allowed after that and officially Burma is still not active except for some special occasions when permission was given to some hams to activate Burma. 

My father was a champion golfer having won the Championship twice and played to a scratch handicap. I played indoor badminton and won the singles championship twice. Indoor badminton is like racketball and is a very fast paced game requiring excellent eye and hand coordination.

Because of the stagnant business climate and volatile political situation, I decided to leave Burma and started my paperwork for an immigrant visa in 1967. This meant making numerous trips to the US Embassy and also the British Embassy. The Burmese government was not issuing travel documents but as I was born in India during the British occupation, I qualified for a British Passport. Thus the trips to the British Embassy. Getting things done the proper and official way meant jumping through many hoops and facing Catch 22 situations. I got my US visa in the first week of June 1972 and booked a flight out for the following week.

On the 12th of June, I was taken into ‘Protective Custody” by the military intelligence people and thrown in to an eight foot by eight foot cell solitary confinement for seventeen and a half months. I was finally allowed to leave the country and made United States my home in March of 1974 and I cannot think of a happier occasion.  

If there  is interest and people want me to share my time in Protective Custody, please communicate and I will do my best to share this. I pray that no one has to go through something like this in their lifetime.

73, Gurbux. W6BUX

Nick England Visits the IOWA on August 1, 2017

Nick England, K4NYW, a Life Member and Benefactor of BIARA will visit the Battleship IOWA on August 1 at 1000. Nick is an avid Navy communications historian and manages a web site http://www.navy-radio.com to record both his extensive collection of restored naval communications equipment along with historical vintage photos.

Nick-England

A licensed ham since 1961, Nick started out restoring old amateur radio gear, http://www.virhistory.com/ham/index.html and became interested in accumulating and documenting naval communications equipment in 2007.

nick-shack-913

NEPM On the Air for it’s First Annual Armed Forces Day Crossband Military/Amateur Radio Communications Test

The Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard are sponsoring the annual military / amateur radio communications tests in celebration of the 66th Anniversary of Armed Forces Day (AFD). The AFD Military / Amateur Cross band Communications Test will be conducted on 13 May 2017.

The Battleship Iowa Amateur Radio Association (BIARA — http://biara.org) and qualified Pacific Battleship Center crew members will activate NEPM on four assigned military frequencies. This will be the first time since 1990 that NEPM been active aboard the Iowa.

NEPM will transmit on the following assigned military frequencies on USB ONLY on:

4,043.5 KHz, 6,903.5 KHz, 14,463.5 KHz, 24,803.5 KHz

NEPM will listen on the following amateur frequencies on USB ONLY (note that 75/80 and 40 meters are not on lower side band as is the norm in these bands).

3,961 KHz or 3,943 KHz, 7,261.5 KHz or 7,243.5 KHz,

14,261 KHz or 14,343 KHz, 24,961 KHz or 24,943 KHz

Follow the NEPM operator’s instructions as to where he is listening in the event changes are required.

NEPM operations will begin at 1500Z and conclude at 2359Z.

NEPM operations will utilize both dedicated amateur radio transceivers and circa -1980’s US Navy legacy equipment. Note that an amateur transceiver requires one operator whereas the legacy gear needs four to five. Recognize this as NEPM tries to maintain a frequency while controlling a receiver on the main deck and a transmitter three decks below.

The annual celebration is a unique opportunity to test two way communications between Amateurs and military communicators as authorized in 47 CFR 97.111. All licensed amateur radio operators general and above are encouraged to participate.

These tests give Amateur Radio operators and Short Wave Listeners (SWL) an opportunity and a challenge to demonstrate their individual technical skills, and to receive recognition from the appropriate military radio station for their proven expertise. QSL cards will be automatically provided to those stations making contact with the military stations. There is no need for you to QSL us.

LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault Ship Arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week

LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
LHA 6 USS America Amphibious Assault ship arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week

Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 Arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week

Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week
Guided Missile Destroyer Wayne E. Meyer DG 108 arrives in Los Angeles for LA Fleet Week

Gray Radio Gang Legacy Radio Activation on IOWA

Under the auspices of the Battleship Iowa Amateur Radio Association, the “Gray Radio Gang” will sign NI6BB as they operate the IOWA’s legacy gear on 18.164 MHz J3E. The “Gang” expects to be on the air from 1700 UTC to 2200 UTC Saturday during Museum Ships Weekend with some operations possible on Sunday.

OPERATIONAL NOTES:

This activity requires a minimum of 5 “Gray Radio Gang” team members. Two are in the transmitter room on Deck 3, one is in FACCON I on the main deck where the receivers and switching is located and two are on the bridge with one doing the talking on the “Red Phone” and a second to log.

When transmitting the receivers are protected from overloading by cutout relays. As such there is an approximate two second delay from the time the operator stops transmitting and the receiver returns to service. In order to be heard, COUNT TO TWO after the NI6BB operator stops transmitting or you will not be heard. Also recognize that the EARS on the ship are not as sensitive as you might expect so be prepared to hear us much stronger that we will be hearing you.

QSL per information on NI6BB at QRZ.com and note LEGACY QSO on your card.

David Kulcinski (WD6AJR) calling CQ on 20 Meters from the Captain's Chair on the navigation bridge
David Kulcinski (WD6AJR) calling CQ on 20 Meters from the Captain’s Chair on the navigation bridge
Red Phone
Red Phone
Red Phone closeup
Red Phone closeup
Red Phone call log during Museum Ships on the Air weekend 2016
Red Phone call log during Museum Ships on the Air weekend 2016
Captain's Chair on the IOWA
Captain’s Chair on the IOWA
Captain's communications console
Captain’s communications console

NEPM Radio Call Sign Presentation

For those trained to read maritime signal flags, the four flags that appear on the IOWA’s port side up near the ship’s bridge, spell out NEPM. NEPM was the ship’s assigned radio call sign from 1942 until 1997 when it was stricken from the official register. Later the call sign NEPM was assigned to the US Coast Guard Cutter Heron.

N
N
E
E
P
P
M
M

In 2015, Mr. Bob Burchett contacted a USCG Spectrum Management Consultant to request that the NEPM call sign be reassigned back to the IOWA. After several months of negotiations his request was approved and the USCG Heron’s call sign was reassigned to the Battleship IOWA. The Heron now has a new call sign NHRN.

On May 28, 2016 in a ceremony aboard the IOWA, Mr. Burchett made a presentation to senior members of the Pacific Battleship Center, including Mr. Jonathan Williams, President & CEO and Mr. David Canfield, Vice President of IT / Security & CIO along with members of BIARA and Mr. Bryan Moss, who served as a radio operator on the IOWA during the Korean War from 1952-1953.

Below are photos taken during the ceremony.

Radio call sign signal flags flying on the port side
Radio call sign signal flags flying on the port side
Mr. Doug Dowds with Mr. Bob Burchett
Mr. Doug Dowds with Mr. Bob Burchett
Mr. Bob Burchett (WB6SLC) presenting the plaque
Mr. Bob Burchett (WB6SLC) presenting the plaque
Presentation of the NEPM call sign banner
Presentation of the NEPM call sign banner
Mr. Doug Dowds introduces Mr. Bryan Moss
Mr. Doug Dowds introduces Mr. Bryan Moss
Mr. Bryan Moss served as a radio operator on the IOWA during the Korean War, 1952-1953
Mr. Bryan Moss served as a radio operator on the IOWA during the Korean War, 1952-1953
Mr. David Canfield accepting the plaque with Mr. Jonathan Williams
Mr. David Canfield accepting the plaque with Mr. Jonathan Williams
Mr. David Canfield accepting the plaque with Mr. Bryan Moss
Mr. David Canfield accepting the plaque with Mr. Bryan Moss
NEPM Presentation Plaque
NEPM Presentation Plaque

Dorothy Grant Elementary School Amateur Radio Club, K6DGE, visits USS IOWA and BIARA

On Saturday, February 27, about fifty 4th and 5th grade students of Dorothy Grant Elementary School in Fontana, California and their families visited the USS IOWA museum ship and the Battleship Iowa Amateur Radio Association station NI6BB in the ship’s Communications Room.

The students are members of the school’s ham radio club, Dorothy Grant Elementary School Amateur Radio Club, K6DGE under the direction of Beverly Matheson, WA6BK.

Several club members have already passed their Technician Class exam including Suzette, KK6TQK and Jocelyn, KK6TQS.

Not only are the students active DXers, but David Collingham, K3LP, co-leader of the recent VP8 DXpedition to South Sandwich/South Georgia is the K6DGE club license trustee and an alumnus of the school.

To learn more about their club visit: www.k6dge.com

Doug Dowds, W6HB, goes over the morning's schedule of activities
Doug Dowds, W6HB, goes over the morning’s schedule of activities
Here we come...
Here we come…
This is just like Chutes and Ladders
This is just like Chutes and Ladders
Let's play Hide and Seek
Let’s play Hide and Seek
Smiling visitors are happy visitors
Smiling visitors are happy visitors
Time for a rest on the main desk
Time for a rest on the main desk
Now for some serious DX rag chewing with a friend in New Zealand
Now for some serious DX rag chewing with a friend in New Zealand
Jocelyn, KK6TQS, is ready to make a new contact
Jocelyn, KK6TQS, is ready to make a new contact