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Welcome to my bio, de W4DON

Raised on a dairy farm seven miles west of Statesville, NC., therefore I know what work is because there's always work to be done, rain or shine, in addition to just milking cows twiced a day. When finished milking and cleaning up barn and utensils it was off school or to the fields.

Attended Scotts High School (grades 1 - 12) from September 1944 til May 1956 where enrollment was around 350 students. Disipline was the first order of business. Disipline was maintained using corporal punishment by teachers and the principal. The principal conducted his corporal punishment in front of the student body before they boarded their buses. His corporal punishment was administered with his leather belt.  Today the lack of corporal punishment is the reason for no disipline and respect in schools and colleges.

At home from 1952 - 1956 I was taking a radio/TV repair correspondence course with the National Radio Institute in Washington, DC.

In March of 1956 was employed by WSIC-AM/FM as a broadcast technician until August 1956. In addition to keeping the transmitters in operation and taking transmitter readings every 30 minutes I did lots of recording from our studios to be broadcast later. During the "yankee daylight time" we had to record all network programming from MBS so programs could be broadcast an hour later on regular eastern time. Sometimes an hour long program came down the line from MBS. The local station announcer was introducing the MBS program before I could get the recording rewound and cued up. Same thing occurred when recording the weather forecast from WSJS-FM in Winston-Salem, NC. Many times the announcer buzzed me to playback the weather forecast before the WSJS weatherman had finished his report.  While at the station I began learning the Morse code by sending and recording words and sentences in reverse order.  In August 1956 it was back to the dairy farm for me but I continued to learn Morse code and study for the Novice test.

Licensed as Novice, KN4PAJ, on April 29, 1957. First QSO was with KN4JOS via 80 meter CW on May 3, 1957 using a DX-35, NC-98 and dipole antenna.

Upgraded to General Class August 1957 in Winston-Salem, NC at Reynolds High School. Mr. Bennett from FCC was the examiner. First he sent applicants the 13 wpm receiving test. Secondly he called those who passed to come up, one at a time, and send code for him. If applicant passed the receiving and sending tests the examiner handed them their written test. Slide rules were used by everyone. Absolutely no talking allowed.

License examinations for Radiotelephone and Radiotelegraph were conducted in the same room . . the cafeteria. While taking the written General Class exams, etc. everyone could listen to the commercial 20-25 wpm code tests being conducted by Mr. Bennett and applicants. The commercial radiotelegraph applicants used their own semi-automatic keys for sending part of code tests.

In January 1958, being of draft age, I joined the U. S. Air Force and took basic training at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, TX for 12 weeks. Assigned to BMTS 3709, Flight 4 and later to Flight 61. Since I passed their code test Career Counciling wanted me to be a radio operator. I told the Counselor I wanted to be a Radio Repairman. "Oh, you will have to take a tech school bypass test for that." I asked him to schedule me for the Air Force Specialty Code 30432A, level 3, bypass test. I past the test and received my 30432A job speciality before completing basic training. After basic training was completed I was assigned to the 2253rd Support Group (formerly an ADC Base) in Coraopolis, PA  where I studied and trained for the 5-level test 30452A. Passed the 5-level test with no problem. My NCO was a ham as well. In September of 1958 received orders assigning me to the 66th Base Communications Squadron on the 66th TAC Recon Air Base near Laon, France from September 1958 til October 1961.          

Served in U.S. Air Force from Jan 1958 til June 1962 as a Ground Radio Repairman and Air Force MARS operator. While in Air Force operated from K3FAU / AF3FAU at 2253rd Support Group in Coraopolis, PA.; England Air Force Base in Alexandria, LA.; Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, SC; MAAG MARS station in Brussels, Belgium and FAA909 from Laon Air Base, Laon, France.

Below: Inside an AN/GRC-26D RTTY-AM-CW Mobile HF Van.

Top to bottom: FSK converter and two R-390A's.

Visited HF and MARS station sites in Germany. In Verdun, France visited a repair depot where the U S Army was completely disassembling radio vans, R-388 receivers, and BC-610's. Chassis were being replated and R-388 receivers and BC-610's reassembled and aligned. Alignment was done in a copper screen wire cage. Visited an Army HF radio site, located near Verdun, France, that was located on top of an old French fort site. Several T-368's and R-390's were being used. Site was being guarded outside by a Polish political refugee that was dressed in a WWII uniform with helmet. After pulling guard for number of years they were given US citizenship.

At Laon, France the French PTT issued callsign F7GW and operation was conducted from Laon Air Base from 1959 til 1961. The PTT Engineer examined radio logs every year and signed them .

Participated in the Congo Airlift in summer of 1960 by operating and maintaining a Collins KWT-6, a 500 watt SSB station at Chateauroux Air Base, in Chateauroux, France in support of the Twlight Radio Network set up to rescue the white missionaries in the Congo before they were killed. Net was used to communicate with two stations in Congo at Brazzaville and Leopoldville and to keep track of our C-124's as they flew from France and Germany to the Congo and returned with rescued personnel. Other stations in Net were in France, Germany, Spain and Dakar, French West Africa. Many phone patches were conducted. NATO/MATS operation. Below is the actual station photo.  Great little 500 watt station after I got the antenna transmatch properly adjusted.  Collins tech reps didn't have it adjusted properly.


During the French Navy rebellion against General Charles DeGaulle in 1961 all amateur radio operations in France were shut down by order of the French PTT. Every radio amateur in France received a telegram which informed amateurs to cease operation immediately and disable equipment so it could not be used by the enemy. When everything was settled some weeks later radio amateur operations were allowed to resume . . .after we re-assembled our stations.

While operating from Laon had the opportunity to work Ernst, RAEM in Moscow on CW. Still have his card, F7GW station logs and those French PTT telegrams written in French. UPOL was the call sign of the Soviets communications station when they first landed at the North Pole. Ernst was the chief radio operator there. Read his book, "RAEM Is My Call-Sign" to learn more.  Ernst is now a SK.

Transported an AN/GRC-38 HF AM & CW radio van, 10 kW Generator-Trailer and gasoline to a U S Air Force RF-101 crash site near Reims, France for communications link between crash site and Laon Air Base about 30 - 40 miles away. Pilot was not injured. Found pilots ejection seat frame in the bushes beyond site while taking a relief break there. Frame didn't have a scratch. The RF-101 broke apart as it belly landed. Fire destroyed part of the aircraft.

Some history on the former air base . . . .

"The air base near Laon, France was originally a German fighter base used for launching their fighters against US and British bombers during WW2. The German "Big Bertha" cannon was located a few miles from the base. It fired a few rounds into outskirts of Paris during WW2.

The US Air Force activated the old base and airstrip in 1952 and had B-26's there to begin with. See photos below. Later a new and longer airstrip, new control tower, three hugh hangars, and many buildings were built to support the aircraft squadrons and base operations. When I arrived there in September 1958 the French farmers were removing the old German anti-aircraft gun implacements that surrounded the base. The Germans had used red brick for all the buildings they had built but many were destroyed by our bombings."

View is WEST toward Main Gate

Notice the PSP on ground




View is EAST on old German concrete Runway



"On March 7, 1966, French President Gen. Charles De Gaulle announced that France would withdraw from NATO's military structure but not leave the political organization. He gave NATO forces one year (until April 1, 1967) to depart France."

"Laon Air Base was closed after 15 years of activation in 1967 after Gen. De Gaulle ordered all NATO Air Bases and Army Posts closed and all NATO military personnel out of France. Those closings damaged all of their nearby villages and towns economies terribly. A French Marine Regiment began using the site but it's my understanding the French government plans to completely dismantle the site in 2010. They will probably use the land to raise sugar beets or grain."

Memorial Day in 1959, 1960, and 1961 drove to Bony, France and the WWI Somme American Military Cemetery to conduct Memorial Day Services.     http://www.greatwar.co.uk/somme/cemetery-somme-american.htm

In Septermber 1961 I was scheduled to be discharged from service but instead was involuntarily extended for one year in October 1961, due to the Berlin Wall problem, and was reassigned to Strike Command and the 651st Communications Squadron at Shaw AFB, SC. Time was spent maintaining our portable radio vans/huts and modifying to improve them for SSB and RTTY modes.

March 1962 was sent on temporary duty assignment to England AFB, in Alexandria, Louisanna to participate in a mock war exercise.

The last temporary duty assignment, April-June 1962, was to Yakima Firing Range in Yakima, WA where another mock war exercise was carried out. Provided communications to and from McChord Air Force Base via Collins TSC-15's when sortes were being requested by Army Ground Forces out on the Yakima Firing Range. Communications between forward air controller (FAC) and Yakima base site was via Collins KWM-2's. Before mock war exercise began attended the World's Fair in Seattle, WA with a bus load of college girls that boarded the bus in the town of Yakima. Beautiful girls!!!

In May 1962 the one year involuntary extension was terminated.  Honorably discharged from the U. S. Air Force in June of 1962, returned home and unpacked for good. 

May 1962 I enrolled in Grantham School of Electronics course to preparing to pass the FCC's Second Class and First Class Radiotelephone License's.   Passed the Second Class and First Class FCC examination in 1963.

1963 to 1968 Transmitter Technician for WBT on 1110 kHz in Charlotte, NC where a 3-tower directional antenna array and a RCA BTA-50F1 50 kW AM transmitter was operated and maintained. The modulation transformer weighed 3 tons. Plate current 5.5 amps and plate voltage 11,000 volts. Filament currentof each PA tube was 230 amps. The 25,000 watt modulator output tubes also drew 230 amps of filament current each. Copper bus bars were used to supply 10.0 volt filament voltage to the tubes. Hurricane HUGO destroyed two of the towers in 1989. Directional array is used to protect KFAB in NE. Directional array provides a 40 db notch in that direction. In winter time WBT received mail from listeners in England. During the Cuban Crisis WBT broadcast twiced daily in Russian language to the Russian technicians in Cuba. A Radio Liberty project.

In 1972 was finally allowed to upgrade to the Advanced Class License in Winston-Salem, NC Army Reserve Center.  Written examination and was adminstered by the F CC.  This was due to the ARRL's Incentative Licensing project, "Upgrade or loose some of your General License priviliges" I had earned in 1957.

1972 - 1974 Was enrolled in the ICS Course "Digital Electronics". Course completed and Certificate of Completion was received from ICS.

In July 1976 organized and taught the first Novice Class in Statesville, NC to gain support for a radio club and 2 meter repeater. In September 1976 was "instrumental" in organizing the Iredell County Amateur Radio Society.

In 1978 was finally allowed to upgrade to the Amateur Extra License in Charlotte, NC.  Written examination and Morse code examination was adminstered by the FCC.   Once again this was due to the ARRL's Incentative Licensing project, "Upgrade or loose some of your Advanced License priviliges" I had earned in 1972.   So it took me 21 years of operating and study before I could hold the Amateur Extra Class License. 

Today an applicant can walk into a VEC examination point and take required multiple choice written tests after memorizing the published multiple tests pool questions and answers and walk out with a Technician, General or Extra license.  No experience required.  Still today I'm wondering what the ARRL's Incentative Licensing project accomplished?

In years passed HF equipment has been Heathkit AT-1/S-76; Heathkit DX-35/NC-98; DX-35/75S-1; BC-610/75S-1; BC-610 w/20A SSB exciter/75S-1; Heathkit SB-102; Ten-Tec Argonaut 509; Ten-Tec Omni-D series B; Ten-Tec Scout; Ten-Tec Argonaut V, and Ten-Tec Jupiter 538. HF equipment of choice since 1975 has been Ten-Tec transceivers, various dipoles and a Mosley TA-33MW five-bander.

Favorite bands are 40 and 20 meters. Active each year since being licensed in 1957.

Primary interest is supporting the Iredell County Amateur Radio Society.  Operating interest is CW operation and member #3936 of the FISTS CW Club on 3558, 7058, 10118, 14058, 18085, 21058 and 28058 kHz respectively. NAQCC and SKCC member also.

Best regards, "Don" W4DON


8334784 Last modified: 2017-09-17 03:27:47, 17440 bytes

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