U.S. Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA) Winter Harbor was established on June 9, 1958 and disestablished and closed on June 30, 2002 – 20 years ago today.
NSGA Winter Harbor maintained and operated a high frequency direction finding (HFDF) facility and provided communication support to Navy and other Department of Defense elements. The communications facility located at Winter Harbor included an operations building located in the center of an AN/FRD-10A Circularly Disposed Antenna Array (CDAA), also known as a Wullenweber antenna array. The CDAA ceased operations in 1998 and was dismantled and removed in August, 2001. In September, 20001, Naval Security Group operations ceased in September, 2001. The CDAA property was officially transferred to the U.S. National Parks Service in June, 2002.
On July 1, 2002, the base was transferred to the National Park Service. The former NSGA has now been transformed into the Schoodic Education and Research Center, a research and training center for the National Park Service.
Previous Officers In Charge
U.S. Navy Radio
Direction Finding Station
CRM M C Gunn February 1935 – August 1935
CRM O. C. Coonce August 1935 – July 1937
CRM F. L Freeman July 1937 – July 1938
CRM J. W. Pearson July 1938 – July 1939
CRM/LTJG M.C Gunn July 1939 – July 1943
LTJG L.A. Lankford July 1943 – February 1944
Supplementary Navy Radio Station
LTJG H. I. Maltz February 1944 – October 1945
CRE L. A. Newberry October 1945 – January 1946
LCDR M. C. Gunn January 1946 – December 1947
LCDR C. M. Smith December 1947 – March 1949
LCDR H. L. Kisner March 1949 – January 1950
Naval Radio Station (Receiver)
LCDR F. V. Mason January 1950 – January 1951
CDR K. B. Kohler January 1951 – January 1952
CDR S. E. Hazelett January 1952 – July 1953
LCDR I. E. Willis July 1953 – June 1955
LCDR M. C. Morris June 1955 – July 1956
LCDR J. L. Koon July 1956 – June 1958
Previous Commanding Officers
Naval Security Group Activity
LCDR J. L Koon June 1958 – July 1958
CDR T. J. Quick July 1958 – May 1960
CDR C. G. Lawrence May 1960 – April 1963
CDR S. T. Faulkner April 1963 – August 1966
CDR T. F. Hahn August 1966 – August 1968
CDR H. J. Davis August 1968 – July 1970
CDR J. F. Williamson July 1970 – August 1972
LCDR D. K. Layman August 1972 – September 1972
CDR G. C. Montgomery, Jr. September 1972 – August 1974
CAPT J. D. Wood, Jr. August 1974 – June 1976
CAPT A. D. McEachen III June 1976 – August 1978
CAPT M. J. Whelan, Jr. August 1979 – August 1980
CDR R. K. Lunde August 1980 – August 1982
(1) CAPT T. F. Stevens August 1982 – June 1984
CAPT E. R. Dittmer June 1984 – October 1986
(2) CAPT H. W. Whiton October 1986 – July 1989
CAPT J. T. Mitchell July 1989 – July 1992
CDR E. J. Kurzanski July 1992 – May 1995
CDR S. K. Tucker May 1995 – July 1998
(3) CDR M. S. Rogers July 1998 – June 2000
CDR E. F. Williamson June 2000 – January 2002
CDR J. W. Guest January 2002 – June 2002
(1) Served as CNSG July 1992 – July 1998
(2) Served as CNSG July 1998 – to September 2001
(3) Served as FCC/C10F and currently serving a DIRNSA/USCC
Winter Harbor is located on the Schoodic Peninsula in Down East Maine, four miles east of Bar Harbor. The Schoodic Peninsula contains 2,266 acres, or approximately 5 percent, of Acadia National Park. It includes the towns of Franklin, Gouldsboro Sorrento, Sullivan and Winter Harbor. The peninsula has a rocky granite shoreline containing many volcanic dikes. NSGA Winter Harbor operated on Schoodic Point from 1935 to 2002
Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA) Winter Harbor began as the Otter Cliffs Radio Station, located on Mt. Desert Island, about five miles west across Frenchman Bay from its last location.
The Otter Cliffs Radio Station was commissioned on August 28, 1917, under the command of then Ensign Alessandro Fabbri. Fabbri, in patriotic fervor after the declaration of war against Germany, cleared the land, and built and equipped the station. He then offered it to the government as a Navy Radio Station to support the war effort, in exchange for a commission in the Naval Reserve and assignment as officer in charge.
Ensign Fabbri sought to make Otter Cliffs the best radio station on the East Coast. Eventually, his efforts were recognized in a promotion to Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) in May, 1918, and to Lieutenant (LT) in January, 1919. Before being released from active duty on June 30, 1919, he LT Fabbri was awarded the Navy Cross for developing the “most important and most efficient station in the world.” The medal and citation were on display in the NSGA Winter Harbor administration building before being decommissioned.
Otter Cliffs Radio Station continued to function long after LT Fabbri left, but by 1933, the wooden buildings had become dilapidated, and due to the economic depression, Navy funds were not available for repairs.
For many, it had become an eyesore on beautiful Ocean Drive, on Mt. Desert Island. Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was one of the influential people who desired to have it removed. While he found support for his view in several quarters in Washington D.C., Otter Cliffs was very important to the Navy.
Because of the lack of man-made noise within many miles, and the unobstructed span of ocean water between there and Europe, Otter Cliffs was among the best radio sites along the East Coast, and could receive signals from Europe when no other station in the U.S. could. It had been invaluable during World War I, when radio receivers were rather primitive.
By 1930, the Otter Cliffs Radio Station began to receive weather reports from Iceland and Newfoundland, and emergency traffic from Europe, when atmospheric conditions were so bad that Portsmouth, Boston, and Washington could not copy the overseas transmissions.
The Navy was willing to meet Mr. Rockefeller halfway on the removal of the radio station from Otter Cliffs. If Mr. Rockefeller would build an equally good receiving station on the coast, within 50 miles of Otter Cliffs, the Navy would agree to turn over the Otter Cliffs Station to Mr. Rockefeller to include it as a donation to Acadia National Park, upon the removal of the station’s structures.
Big Moose Island, located at the tip of Schoodic Peninsula, about five miles across the mouth of Frenchman Bay from Otter Cliffs, seemed the ideal location.
The architect’s plan for the new station included a beautiful building similar to Mr. Rockefeller’s residence at Seal Harbor. Artisans from all over the world contributed to the project. It has been estimated that to build the same structure today would cost 10 million dollars.
High Frequency Direction Finding (HFDF) Operation
In the early 1930’s, the U.S. Navy originally envisaged a High Frequency Direction Finding (HFDF) capability and began developing HFDF operational plans in 1933. Amended in 1935, the development of strategic HFDF sites world-wide was proposed by the U.S. Navy. Of the eleven sites chosen, four were to be situated on the Atlantic coast, including Winter Harbor, ME; Jupiter, FL; Cheltenham, MD; and either Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. Winter Harbor received the highest priority of the Atlantic sites and was operational in early 1935.
On February 28, 1935, the U.S. Navy Radio and Direction Finding Station, Winter Harbor, ME was officially commissioned, with Chief Radioman M. C. Gunn in charge of a complement of 11 sailors.
Chief Gunn departed the station in August, 1935; and Chief Gunn (later LTJG Gunn) returned to the station as the OIC from July, 1943 to February 1944.
Radio interception gradually supplemented HFDF as a form of communications intelligence. Site selection for interception operations was similar to that for the HFDF stations. Naval Radio Station Bar Harbor, Maine was involved as a Naval Monitoring Station as early as 1921, and ceased receiving as a Monitoring Station for the Navy Department on July 2, 1923. Bar Harbor was involved in intercept activities as early as November, 1931. The station was subsequently relocated across Frenchman Bay at Winter Harbor in early 1935. While the primary concentration of its activities had been diplomatic traffic between Europe and Tokyo, Winter Harbor was well situated for other forms of radio interception.
The Naval Security Group moved into Winter Harbor in 1940, with the establishment of Communications Intelligence Unit “W”. In August 1940, the U.S. Navy had six sites with diplomatic targets, which were all linked directly or indirectly through U.S. Army communication circuits, to Washington DC via radio and landline communications.
Twelve netted sites (six Navy and six Army) were authorized to intercept Japanese diplomatic traffic.
The six Navy sites:
Winter Harbor, ME (Station W) (February, 1935 to February, 1944;
Amagansett, NY (station G) (November, 1939 to 1956);
Cheltenham, MD (Station M) (September, 1939 to August 1953);
Jupiter, FL (Station J) (September, 1939 to July, 1945);
Heeia, HI (Station H) (June, 1934 to December, 1941;
Fort Ward, Bainbridge Island, WA (Station S) (August, 1939 to March, 1953).
The six Army sites:
Fort Monmouth, NJ (Station 1)
Presidio, CA (Station 2)
Fort Sam Houston, TX (Station 3)
Corozal, CA (Station 4)
Fort Shafter, HI (Station 5)
Fort Hunt, VA (Station 7)
Note: An Army Station #6 was proposed but was never activated.
In March 1941, seeking to improve the interception efforts of the HFDF stations, a direct commercial teletype service link was authorized, procured and inaugurated between the installations at Winter Harbor, ME (Station W), Amagansett, NY (Station G), Fort Ward, Bainbridge Island, WA (Station S) radio intercept facilities; and the Net Control Station at Cheltenham, MD (Station M). This development allowed the stations to forward intercepts immediately to Washington upon receipt. While the primary emphasis was on Japanese diplomatic traffic other “messages of unusual nature appearing to be of sufficient importance to warrant attention” would also be forwarded. The result was improving coverage of radio circuits and minimizing delays in getting the intercepts to the cryptanalysts.
In February, 1944, the station was renamed the U.S. Naval Supplementary Radio Station, Winter Harbor, ME. In January, 1950, that station was redesignated as the Naval Radio Station (Receiving) (NAVRADSTA (R)), Winter Harbor, ME.
30 June 2022 at 17:03
I’m surprised Navy shut Winter Harbor down in view of its location. I’ve heard though that its use as an
educational facility today is exceptional. Thank you, Mario, for this history lesson.
30 June 2022 at 18:22
I was stationed there. I lived in the Rockefeller right above the CO (CDR M. S. Rogers). Enjoyed my time there. Beautiful area too.
2 July 2022 at 01:41
Stationed from late June 67 to dec 68. Stationed after USSLiberty incident.
Remember one night after midnight watch seeing about 7 moving lights jumping very fast in sky. Often thought it could have been UFO’s. Funny how mind works.
2 July 2022 at 02:53
Excellent history lesson, Professor Volcano! This filled in at least two or three historical points I long realized but did not have solid answers to. Thank you very much, Mario! Have a wonderful 4th of July with your family. Ditto to the rest of Station HYPO’s readers. (I’ve been working many hours on research. This Wednesday I decided to see if I could interest my better half in “a July 4th holiday on Maui.” To my surprise, it wasn’t a hard sell. I was shocked all that much more when, yesterday, Deb suggested we spend four nights on Oahu right after Maui and before flying back to Molokai. This, was a really easy sell for Deb to do, and even easier when she suggested we spend Sunday, 10 July paying our respects to all those resting at the Punch Bowl (National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific). Very soon, probably right after our seven-day vacation, I’m going to shift over from research into writing the MS for my first book. Again, Mario, thanks for a superb bit of history on Station W. And have a super July 4th with your family. Andy McKane
4 July 2022 at 19:50
When My father went on active duty in June of 1941, we lived in Winter Harbor at that I believe he was an RM 3 after we entered the war he was sent to Greenland when he came home, we were in Chatham MA then many other security group facilities he retired as a CTC 1961