The Coast Guard took over a Navy Direction Finding (DF) station at Kailua, Hawaii. Names of the Coast Guard personnel station there were Leo Dobraki, Chief in Charge, Sasov, McConnel, Dahl, Marvin Carr, Harold Hansen, Robert Wever, Norton Williams and Dewey Byerley.
The DF station was built on pilings in the center of a shrimp pond. The DF was a DAB-1 supplemented by a small loop antenna for 500 MHz and lower. Dewey Byerley, one of the operators, recalls taking bearings on Japanese stations that had spotted our bombers en route to Japan. Bearings were also taken on B29 aircraft when they were forced to ditch in the ocean. The station living quarters were adjacent to the ruins of King Kamehameha’s castle, a jumbled of volcanic rock with little resemblance to a castle. Byerley recalls that the village people treated the Coast Guard personnel with respect, and invited them to their luaus. These parties came complete with scrumptious food, except that the raw tuna fish did not appeal to Dewey. The local population also supplied the station with Kona coffee strong enough to float a nail. This was a primitive area at the time and wild donkeys would bray loudly and sometimes scare the operators to death on the mid watch. The popular name for the donkeys was Kona Nightingales. The area had many other unique features from lava caves to wild pigs. Once from the nearby lighthouse the operators spotted a unique object floating in the air. The object turned out to be one of the Japanese balloons which were launched from Japan for the purpose of burning the forest of Canada and the United States. Evidently this one strayed off course. When brought ashore the balloon was found to be harmless.
In early 1945, Jim Gast, then RM1/c, was transferred to the former Navy HFDF statin at Port Allen Kauai, which also had a DAB and operated as part of the Pacific Strategic HFDF Net, with a specialty on friendly lost aircraft.
The Coast Guard was also represented at FRUPAC, Pearl Harbor. Henry M. Anthony was a cryptologist who worked on Japanese merchant shipping codes. Four Coast Guard operators were assigned to Section 3 of the Watch at Station Hypo where they copied Japanese weather broadcast. In 1945 FRUPAC personnel were sent to outlying stations such as Port Allen, Kauai, Kwajalein and Alaska.
The Coast Guard also had an intercept facility collocated with the navy HFDF facility in Refice, Brazil. Bob Jones (NCVA, deceased) recalled that he visited the facility on several occasions. He remembered that the Coast Guard operators were copying very weak clandestine signals. These were illegal transmissions from German agents in Brazil communicating primarily with Germany. There was a large loyal German and Japanese population living in Brazil, and it was known that they passed along information concerning ship movements and other information useful to the Axis powers. This Axis agent system worked very well. There once was a very serious fire on the Recife dock. Information about the fire was broadcast over the German short WAVE radio while the fire was still in progress.
As the war wore down, many of the Navy’s HFDF stations were transferred to the Coast Guard. This was particularly true of many of the East Coast HFDF station at the time of the German surrender. The Coast Guard continued to use those facilities for air-sea rescue purposes.
Editor’s note: This rather meager story of Coast Guard participation in COMINT was prepared from information provided by Dewey L. Byerley, Robert Jones, Jim Gast, Marvin E. Carr, Phil Jacobsen, the book: The Man Who Broke PURPLE, by Ronald Clark, an interview with a Coast Guardsman, and your editor’s own memory.
Note: Captain George P. McGinnis, USN, Retired, is the editor of the article.