Monday, January 26, 2015

Birth of Armed Forces Radio

Midge England has a pretty incredible website in tribute to AFRTS in the Canal Zone http://www.scncz.com 

She sent the following out, and it's wonderful.

I found it! Our PCAN origins. The whole story. It is a good thing I belong to newspaper archives for my genealogy research. Now I understand the reason why AFRTS (AFN) has no records of our origins. We created AFRS. Not the other way around. When they destroyed the records at SCN, they destroyed the origins of the AFN. The person who gave that order destroyed the history of the entire network. PCAN was responsible for the creation of AFRS.

I am attaching the newspaper articles I found. You ALL need to read these.

In April 1941, a group of artillery soldiers took it upon themselves to start PCAN (Panama Coast Artillery News) and PCAC (Panama Coast Artillery Corps)
The artillery soldiers decided to set up two little 50 watt radio stations for the 30,000 artillery soldiers spread through the jungles of Panama building artillery defense for the canal zone. The little stations were operated by the Jarman Junglemen Artillery Corps named after their beloved Major General Sandeford Jarman. The Jungleers created their own unofficial call letters which essentially belonged to the Signal Corps. They created their own radio stations to provide entertainment and news for the 30,000 soldiers spread through the jungle. They operated 4 hours per day.

A few months later, MSG Clay Doster, editor of the Artillery News sent a letter to NBC's "Blue Network" requesting some old recordings and transcriptions for their little stations to air for the troops. The vice president of NBC who received their letter was a former Doughboy and decided to adopt the two little 50 watt stations as honorary affiliates of the NBC "Blue Network". They immediately sent 1000 recordings weighing one ton, to the 2 stations. The President of NBC went on the air to personally welcome the adopted stations to the NBC network as honorary affiliates in a two hour special program nationwide on Sept 11, 1941 to tell the public PCAN's colorful story along with several guest celebrities. I found about 5 newspaper articles about this. I have attached them.

Clearly embarrassed by this situation after NBC "Adopted" the soldiers whose needs were not being provided for, the military decided to create a network to provide radio services to their soldiers, many fighting the wars overseas or protecting our territories, by creating the AFRS network a year later. PCAN was their first station... before AFRS ever existed. This is why AFN was missing the records for the origins of SCN because we existed before they did. And because some unthinking person ordered the destruction of our records... all of that history was lost. I'm grateful that the NBC President decided to make a big deal out of the event and made sure our story was in the newspapers and on national radio with a huge two hour, celebrity studded welcoming program just for PCAN & PCAC as their new adopted affiliates. That is the only reason the story was in the papers for us to recover the history. This really put the military on the spot for not providing an organized source of entertainment and news to their troops.

So a year after the soldiers had built their own radio stations... the military was embarrassed into creating AFRS. Now I need to correct and update our history. It is a crying shame it was lost. It needs to be returned to its true place in the origins and history of AFN.

Here are newspaper articles with the entire story of PCAN and the NBC adopting them and the welcoming 2 hours special program aired nationwide. These are from newspapers in Canton, Ohio and New Orleans, etc.