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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.

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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.

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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