On September 24, 1914, the Captain of the Cavite ship yard on the Philippine Islands sent a letter to the commandant providing details of radio wave propagation and indicated an early interest in Japanese radio codes and a suggestion for extra pay for operators who become proficient in the Japanese language.
August 7, 1914, one month prior to the letter the British government officially asked Japan for assistance in destroying the raiders from the Imperial German Navy in and around Chinese waters. Japan sent Germany an ultimatum on August 23, 1914 which went unanswered; Japan then formally declared war on Germany on August 23, 1914 in the name of the Emperor Taishō.
This letter was 10 years prior to Admiral Edward W. Eberle, CNO who asked Admiral Thomas Washington, Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet to expand radio intelligence facilities in his area. As a result, in 1924, the first shore-based intercept station was established in the American consulate in Shanghai. The primary target was diplomatic radio network serving the numerous Japanese consulates throughout China. Shanghai also copied both Naval and commercial traffic, Japanese and British. Four years later would pass before the birth of the “On-the-Roof Gang” training.
For ease of reading below is the letter typed; a copy of the original is at the end of this post.
UNITED STATES NAVAL STATION
Cavite, Philippine Islands,
September 24, 1914
From: Captain of the Yard, Commanding
Subject: Communication by radiotelegraphy.
REFERENCE: (a) Secnav let 12479-708-Op-4; 5/22/14, and memo. And correspondence from Supt. Naval Radio Service.
For operations in Asiatic Waters the radio station at Cavite, P. I., would probably be the main source of information to the Commander in Chief. The present installation has a daylight range of approximately only 350 miles and from 1200 to 1500 miles at night. A steady communication is not possible under unfavorable atmospheric conditions, and the range is greatly reduced. For efficient radio communication with vessels operating at a considerable distance, a modern high power set, such as has been proposed for Sangley Point, is necessary. With the present installation at Cavite there are no foreign station within range during daylight. Under usual conditions, at night, communication can be had with the station at Kelung, Formosa, and with Ose Saki, Goto Islands, Japan, under favorable condition. These stations are both owned and operated by the Japanese Government and would not be available for official business in time of war if Japan maintains neutrality. There is also a station controlled by the Japanese Naval Authorities at Kelung, Pescadores Islands, with which communication could be had if the Japanese Government would authorize it. At present this Station will not communicate with foreign stations under any circumstances.
A radio chain to northern waters could be established without the use of ships, as follows: Cavite-Kelung-Ose Saki-Tsingtan or Cavite-Kelung-Ose Saki-Dalny, the advisability of the foreign stations of course, depending upon international relations. The Tsingtau station has a daylight range of approximately 600 miles.
In regard to personnel it is recommended tht operators on the Asiatic Station be required to become familiar with the Japanese radio code. It is believed that extra compensation should be given operators who become proficient in the Japanese language, especially in the use of Japanese script. Operator with this knowledge would be of great value on the Station.
This copy was provided by noted author David Kahn. Document courtesy National Archives
24 September 2022 at 15:24
Very interesting! It was, of course, extremely kind of Dr. Kahn to provide this letter–and all of his Papers, I believe–to NSA’s Center for Cryptologic History a few years ago. Next time my wife and I visit the National Archives in College Park, we will have to look into this particular letter and any of Dr. Kahn’s other papers that are now in the National Archives.
Suffice it to say, next time we’re on the East Coast to visit the National Archives, we’ll do our best (in advance) to make necessary arrangements to visit the National Cryptologic Museum!
Thank you, Mario, for keeping so much fresh and interesting material posted on Station Hypo!
26 September 2022 at 05:39
Another fine history lesson from Station HYPO! Thank you, Mario.