Weather/Supply Challenges

Resupply of the station and the Norwegian garrison was normally accomplished by Norwegian supply ships from Iceland and was subject to the whims of the Arctic weather.  On December 30, 1943, a storm resulted in ice blocking the coastline out to a distance of 1500 yards.  When the Norwegian supply ship HONNINGSVAAD arrived the next day, the landing of supplies was blocked by the ice which fortunately shifted away late in the day and the supplies were landed on January 1, 1944. 

However, the weather wasn’t always so cooperative.  On December 31, 1944, when the Norwegian supply ship NOMSOS arrived with supplies, the Norwegians garrison commander and medical officer went on board.  They were unable to leave the ship until January 4, 1945 because of high surf, which also delayed the landing of the supplies.

The surf also brought various types of flotsam and jetsam (wreckage of a ship or its cargo found floating on or unwanted material from a ship and washed ashore) to the island.  On November 29, 1944, twelve drums of gasoline and kerosene were recovered from the surf about 2 miles north of the station.  On another occasion, a 200-pound bale of cured rubber was found.  On January 2, 1945, a mine washed ashore.  The sea also helped supply needed firewood through the driftwood, which washed ashore.

In the event vital supplies were needed immediately, an airdrop could be made.  On February 8, 1944, it was necessary to secure operations and shut down the generator motor when it was discovered that the fan belt on the motor was in bad shape and there were no spares.   It was decided to use the generator only to maintain communications schedules but the belt broke the next day.  Finally, on the morning of February 21, an RAF Liberator bomber from Iceland made a supply drop which included several fan belts.  Operations resumed on February 22. However, airdrops did have their disadvantages as an oscilloscope, some insulators and bulbs included in the shipment were destroyed in the drop.

On March 30, 1944, the Navy department requested the State Department contact the Norwegian government for permission to establish radio sonde facilities at the Jan Mayen station to facilitate the operations of the U.S. Army air Transport Command and movement of military aircraft over the North Atlantic.  The Norwegian government promptly concurred in the proposed radio sonde installation, which would be manned  by three Aerographer’s Mates.  On April 11, it was reported that the Aerographer’s Mate and their equipment was tentatively scheduled to arrive in Reykjavik, Iceland, during late April.  However, there is no further mention of the radiosonde equipment or the Aerographer’s Mates in station records, so it is not known if they ever actually arrived.

U.S. Coast Guard Personnel and Equipment

On April 25, Jan Mayen was discussed in an OP-20-G memorandum, which stated that when the station was established by COMGREPAT, it was agreed that all other personnel (apparently other than the four OP-20-G HFDF personnel), including the OIC, would be supplied by the Coast Guard.  On June 29, 1944, NOB Iceland requested the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, to furnish replacements for LTJG Arne C. Pedersen, SC2 Lawrence Wright, and GMC Ira A. Beale, all of whom had served one winter at Navy #719 and should be relieved.  In a June 30 1944 Commandant, NOB Iceland letter to CNO (OP-20-G), stated a U.S. Navy HFDF station using a Model DAB-3 HFDF equipment was established on Jan Mayen Island in November 1943 in accordance with COMGREPAT OpPlan #8-43 of October 25, 1943, and that NOBI had requested Jan Mayen personnel be relieved after 6 to 8 months.

In July 1944, orders were issued directing the transfer on or about July 20 of the following personnel to Jan Mayen Island:

RM2 John William Millard
RM3 Timothy John McKenna
RMC Joe Arthur Chance, Jr.
RM1 David Daniel Wells

The personnel on Jan Mayen were to be transferred as follows:
RM2 W. A. Leskie to Naval Supplementary Radio Station, Winter Harbor, ME
RM2 K. T. Kunze to Naval Supplementary Radio Station Dupont, SC
RMC G. C. Bernatz and RM1 O. B. Lee to Naval Supplementary Radio Station Jupiter, FL

On July 21, 1944, the station was listed as having an OIC (LTJG Pedersen, USCG), and AOIC (RMC USCG), two Chief Radiomen (one USN, one USCG), three Radiomen First Class (two USCG and one USN), three Radiomen third Class (two USN and one USCG), One Ship’s Cook Second Class (USCG) , and one Boatswain’s Mate Second Class (USCG).  When the initial call was made for volunteers for Jan Mayen, it was emphasized that any volunteer should be in good physical condition, particularly free of dental problems.  Equipment installed consisted of one Model DAB-3 HFDF Equipment, for HF receivers, (two RAO, two RAS), one Model TCE transmitter (100W, 350-905KHz three Model TBY transceivers (0.5W, 28-80 MHz), and two 7.2KW  110V motor generators.  It was stated that the HFDF had been placed in operation on November 27, 1943.


In a July 29, 1944 report, it was reported that monitor watches had been discontinued on June 27 in accordance with NOBI message 271150Z JUN and the DAB personnel had carried out all monitor and search activities since then.

The transfer of the reliefs for Jan Mayen ran into difficulties as indicated by an August 25 letter from RMC Chance.  The men were to have been flown from Boston to NOB Iceland but were instead shipped out on the USS WEST POINT to Rosyth, Scotland, where they were told there would be no transportation to Iceland for some time.  The letter apparently got action and the reliefs reported to NOBI in time to effect relief before the close of the navigation season to Jan Mayen.  RM1 D.D. Wells arrived on board the HONNINGSVAAD on October 20, 1944 to relieve RM1 O. B. Lee probably departed on the ship the next day.  It is not known exactly when LTJG Pedersen, the first OIC, was relieved but it was prior to October 20, 1944 when a log was signed by LTJG J. Yurick, USCG, as OIC.  Additional personnel, RM2 W. J. Descoteau and EM3 H. Gilbert, arrived on board the NAMSOS on November 24.  It is not known when RMC Chance, who wrote the August 25 letter from Scotland, arrived at Jan Mayen, but he apparently had a very short tour as he departed on board the NAMSOS on January 4, 1945, to return to Iceland.

On December 7, 1944, CNO (OP-20-G) forwarded a letter to CTF 24 stating that there were no plans to decommission the Jan Mayen station until after the cessation of hostilities in the Atlantic.

On February 28, 1945, the Station Department forwarded to the Navy Department a letter from the Norwegian government, which stated the Norwegian government’s desire to take over, at the cessation of hostilities, buildings and other instillation on Jan Mayen Island, which would be used in connection with ordinary radio service on the island.  The Navy Department responded on March 10 to the effect that the Navy would turn over to the Norwegian government such buildings as might be desired and would consult with the Norwegian government representatives regarding other installations prior to their removal.

Featured Image is a Model DAB HFDF

Source: NCVA/SRH-299