Building the Station “Complete,” but Work Continued

By 2400, November 26, the Commanding Officer, USCG Cutter NORTHLAND, considered the station complete with the HFDF and radio equipment checked and functional. Two Radiomen, one Ship’s Cook, and one Boatswain’s Mate were transferred from the NORTHLAND to the station since it was believed that the original allowance of personnel was inadequate for the station to be self-sufficient. 

The NORTHLAND remained at Jan Mayen to await the Royal Norwegian Naval Vessel HONNINGSVAAD, which arrived at 0830 November 27.  Unloading of supplies and equipment, and relief personnel for the Norwegian garrison and the loading of personnel who had been relieved was completed by 2300.

On November 28, the Commanding Officer, USCG Cutter NORTHLAND, reported that he was ready to depart the island since he considered the unit was self-supporting and the NORTHLAND’s mission completed.  However, the Officer-in-Charge of the station estimated that 10-14 days of work remained.  The HFDF equipment was not working properly and the radio was not in operation.  Much carpenter work remained to be done.  However, the NORTHLAND departed at 0800 in company with the Norwegian supply ship, the HONNINGSVAAD.

Commence Standing the Watch

Work continued on the equipment, buildings and stores.  Radio watch standing commenced on December 6, and watch standing on the Model DAB-3 HFDF equipment searching for German clandestine radio stations in northeastern Greenland commenced on December 13.  The gasoline stores for the generator motors were estimated to be sufficient for three months of operations at 18 hours per day.  The station’s complement at the time was one officer, four experienced Radio Intelligence operators, two communications Radiomen with one striker, one Gunner’s Mate, one Boatswain’s Mate, and one cook.


The U.S. Naval Supplementary Radio Station, Jan Mayen was established for the purpose of detecting and locating enemy meteorological stations in northeast Greenland, and, if feasible, to obtain lines of bearings (LOBs) on enemy radio transmissions from the area north of Norway and Finland.  The search for clandestine stations was carried out by maintaining daily 12-hours watches staggered throughout the 24-hour period on the Model DAB-3 HFDF equipment and in the monitor room, simultaneously.  Target radio frequencies covered were determined by existing conditions for radio communication to Norway.  With experience of the Radio Intelligence personnel’s familiarity with high frequency communications, it was possible by a process of elimination, to identify and locate the wanted stations in 35 (12-hour) days of work.  On January 18, 1944, a net consisting of Tromsoe Radio and other stations using Norwegian ship calls were intercepted.  Subsequent intercept and analysis indicated two stations were located on Koldewey Island and/or in Dove Bay in northeastern Greenland while two other stations were apparently located in the Greenland Sea.  The net used six frequencies, international commercial communications procedures, and international “Q” signals.  Operating characteristics and occasional plain language chatter between operators indicated that the operators were Norwegians; however, some chatter used Norwegian words but German language structure. A Naval Operation Base Iceland (NOBI) message 272343Z JAN 44 instructed Jan Mayen station to monitor the stations necessitating the implementation of a 24-hour watch schedule, which began at once.

Station Vulnerabilities

One of the fears about the establishment of the Jan Mayen station was its exposed location.  Numerous enemy aircraft consisting of FW 200 and Junkers 88 aircraft were observed over and near the island at various times.  On January 25, 1944, one aircraft strafed two members of the Norwegian garrison near Gamle Station, and on two other occasions, attacking Junkers 88 aircraft were driven off by .50 and .30 cal machine gun fire from the station’s guns.  On June 16, 1944, the station’s defenses were enhanced by the addition of two 20mm anti-aircraft guns, which were welcome but were less than the 40mm anti-aircraft guns and the 4” cannon the station requested.  In addition to the anti-aircraft weapons, station personnel received instruction on the .45 cal automatic pistol, .30 cal M-1 rifle, the .45 cal Thompson submachine gun, the .30 cal Lewis gun, .22 cal rifles, shotguns, and hand grenades.

Attack from the sea was also a real possibility.  On December 18, one of the station’s .50 cal machine guns was moved from in front of the HFDF hut to the top of the plateau on the advice of the Norwegian garrison commander in order to provide cover of the beach to the northeast of the station.  On January 31, 1944, a Norwegian guard reported sighting a vessel at 2210 and General Quarters was sounded.  The vessel was reported to be about one mile off Vogelbert with no lights or signs of life.  The Norwegian garrison opened fire with three rounds scoring two hits, but there was no reaction from the target, which looked like a large U-boat or small steamer.  A boat was sent to investigate the target, which was finally identified as a small iceberg.  However, not all of the alerts turned out to be icebergs.  On March 9, 1945, General Quarters was sounded due to an unidentified light being sighted northwest of the island.  On March 16, a three-man Norwegian patrol returned from a reconnaissance of the northern end of the island and reported finding a German automatic weather station.   This station was later dismantled and shipped to Iceland.  Apparently as a precaution against the station being overrun by an enemy attack or a major national disaster, a cache was established at an unspecified location.  There is no record of what was contained in the cache.

Source: NCVA/SRH-299