Radio Intelligence Personnel Set Sail

NOBI Communications Officer.  Efforts were made to locate a lighter of less than five tons, but there were none in Iceland. Therefore, it was decided to use the NORTHLAND’s boats and two life rafts in lieu of any other lightering equipment.  The radio equipment, other than the HFDF equipment, had failed to arrive by plane from CONUS as scheduled.  So as not to delay sailing, LCDR Dosland assembled a TCE transmitter and two 5KW motor generators.  At 2000, November 2, CTU 24.8.15 (LTJG Pedersen and his men) reported on board the NORTHLAND, which sailed for Jan Mayen Island at 1100, November 4, 1943.

On November 3, the State Department reported receiving a reply from the Norwegian government regarding the Jan Mayen station.  The Norwegian government concurred with the proposed installation subject to certain conditions including that the installation and personnel would be withdrawn after the cessation of hostilities.

On November 5, CNO (OP-20-GX) informed the British Admiralty (Government Code and Cypher School) of the planned establishment of Jan Mayen.  The station designator would be “AJ” and the call sign “NHO.”

COMGREPAT OpPlan #8-43 was modified slightly on November 8 to broaden the area from which HFDF bearings were desired and to promulgate the station’s mailing address: Navy #719, c/o Fleet Post Office, New York, New York.

Jan Mayen Island Description  

Jan Mayen Island is about 35 miles long, very mountainous and of volcanic origin.  Mt. Beerenberg on the northeast end of the island is 8,350 feet high and streaked with glaciers.  The Norwegian garrison on the island consisted of about 6 officers, 100 enlisted personnel and 2 doctors, of whom at least one-half were on the island at all times while the remainder of the garrison was on Iceland for relief.  The garrison maintained outposts at Jameson Butg, Nord Lagoon, Waldross Gat, and on the ridge between Nord and Sud Laggons.  In addition, there was a meteorological and radio station which, together with the outpost, was connected by telephone with the Headquarters Camp located about 500 yards southeast of Nord Lagoon.  Nord Lagoon and Jameson Bugt were the principal points for landing supplies. There was a small railway track, with two push cars, running from Nord Lagon across the spit to the rocky beach.  Nord Lagoon was the only place on the island where fresh water was obtainable year around other than my melting snow.  Norwegian operations were confined within an area of about 27 miles circumference at the central, or narrow, section of the island.  Island defenses consisted of one 12- pounder and one 6-pounder gun and several .50 cal machine guns.  These were supplemented by a battery of two .50 cal machine guns installed by the NORTHLAND at Nord Lagoon for the protection of the HFDF station.  These weapons were in addition to an existing Norwegian .50 cal machine gun installation, which probably gave rise to the station becoming known as “New Chicago.” 


Jan Mayen Station Location, as seen on Google maps

The USCG Cutter NORTHLAND arrived at Jan Mayen at 0730Z, November 8, and anchored off Nord Lagoon.  After a brief reconnaissance, it was decided to locate the HFDF equipment about 400 yards north of Nord Lagoon just off the north central beach of the island at the foot of a plateau approximately 150-200  feet high extending in a northeasterly direction for two or three miles to the base of Mt. Beeringberg. The site chosen for the station was governed by the proposed area of communications search, the unloading and transportation of cargo at the time the station was established, construction limitation to withstand hurricane force winds, security from observation, possibilities of defense, radio communication requirements, and living conditions for personnel, primarily the availability of water and wood.

Unloading commenced immediately in spite of the roll of the ship and driving snow.  The landing force company, its baggage, tents and rations for two weeks were sent ashore first. The two 18-foot dinghies, and two life rafts from the NORTHLAND through the surf to the shore and back again as quickly as possible.  To maintain radio silence during these operations, messages originating from the NORTHLAN were sent in code over the Norwegian garrison’s radio for delivery to Naval Operating Base Iceland (NOBI). Unloading operations proceeded day and night with the NORTHLAND being forced to leave when the winds shifted and returning when it shifted back to south or southeast again.  In five days, all materials, supplies, and equipment had been landed.  During unloading operations, one Monomoy surfboat was holed and sunk, one motor surfboat and one Monomoy surface were badly holed, and one 18-foot dinghy was badly holed and smashed.  The casualties to the boats occurred after dark but since there was only an average of four and one-half hours of daylight, night operations were essential to success.  Two loads of freight were lost during operations, but the lost material was replaced by the NORTHLAND and NOBI.

The beach party wore hip boots.  The men waded into the surf to keep floating equipment from slamming into the side of the ship. These men were wet below the waist continually.  One day they worked from 0900 to midnight in that condition. 

Building the Station

By the end of the first week, construction of the living quarters, powerhouse and cookshack was complete, and the HFDF hut was about 25% complete.  Lights were installed in the living quarters as well as in the Norwegian quarters.  The latter installation was a gesture of goodwill and in appreciation for the help of the Norwegian garrison.  By the end of the second week, construction of the HFDF hut and installation of equipment was 80%  complete, and the radio installation was 50% complete.  The HFDF hut was located to give uninterrupted over-sea great circle bearings on the east coast of Greenland from its most northerly extremities to Captain Farewell, the proposed areas of search.  The official coordinates for the HFDF station were 71 degrees 01’ North, 08 degrees 25’30” West.  The HFDF Hut was a two story wooden building (24’x24’) reinforced to withstand wind velocities as high as 70 knots.  In addition to its reinforced construction, rocks, lava sand, and sand bags were piled six feet high around the building  and guy wires were run from each corner of the second story to anchor the rods.  The DAB-3 HFDF equipment was installed on the second floor of the HFDF hut.  The building housing the personnel was a Quonset hut located approximately 200 yards inland from the HFDF hut.  The Model TCE transmitter and three receivers (two Model RAS and one model HRO) were installed in one of the rooms of this hut.  The transmitting antenna was oriented toward Iceland.  The generators were located in a 10’x12’ wooden building at the rear of the Quonset hut.  Power was provided by two 7.2KW 110V 60 cycle generators powered by two four-cylinder gasoline engines.

Source: NCVA/SRH-299