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Hallicrafter model S-36.

  Ultra high frequency radio reciever model S-36 made by the Hallicrafter Co, Chicago, Illinois., 1940's.
Recievers like this S-36 model were use by the FCC's secret monitoring units during World War II.

    Ed Atems in a RID (Prowl Car) mobile intercept unit.                                      The primary monitoring station in Allegan, Mi.

by Edward J. Wolfrum - K8HJU

Unknown to most Royal Oakers during the Second World War Royal Oak was the home of a secret Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Radio Intelligence Division (RID) monitoring station, located at the Starr School near 13 mile Rd. and Crooks. 

At the request of the President, the FCC established a network of monitoring and direction finding stations throughout the U.S., to track and identify clandestine radio transmissions of spies and other radio activities pertinent to the war effort. Because of the War these FCC RID stations were cloaked in secrecy. The FCC had established this operation as a separate entity, with the other branches of the FCC unaware of the details of its operation, and had begun monitoring both overseas and local radio transmission. After public testimony was given in 1944, the lid was blown off and resulted in RID receiving heavy publicity.

This location and the operation of this station and the appendant direction finding "Prowl Cars" was revealed to me in the late 1980's by my friend Ed Atems, the retired FCC Engineer in Charge of the Detroit FCC branch. I had worked with Ed and he helped the Royal Oak RACES radio group during the Timothy King incident, where we provided additional communications for Birmingham and Oakland County law enforcement, and during other emergencies in that era. 

One afternoon on a social visit sitting in our living room he quietly revealed the work he had done in Royal Oak at a secret monitoring station located in the Starr school, and that he had driven by there to see if anything was left of the operation on the way over to visit us. He told us of the previously secret operation, about the station, the tracking, direction finding and reporting of industrial espionage transmissions from clandestine radio transmitters in Michigan and other areas during the war. 

He explained the use of the numerous Hallicrafters Receivers, the hidden and visible direction finding antennas at the Starr School site.

One of the most riveting stories concerned the transmission from German Headquarters at the end of the war. This was being sent as CW (continuous wave-Morse code) in code groups which he was copying on a typewriter for later transmission to Washington for decoding. In the middle of the transmission the transmitting station dropped the sending of code groups, and broke into plain
text as Ed Atems copied "Der Fuhrer is Kaput." He then knew first hand that the European war was over. 

      On April 10, 1944, Metro-Goldwin-Mayer and the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) broadcast a 20 minute film depicting the
      fictional exploits of the Radio Intelligence Division during WW2 (the actual events were classified at the time). The film, titled
     "Patrolling the Ether," marked a milestone in history. It was the first time a motion picture was broadcast on TV, thus marking the     
beginning of network television. FCC Chairman James L. Fly and George Sterling the head of the RID Division were in New York for   
      the viewing ceremony. In the October 1944 issue of QST there appeared an article titled
"Hams In The RID" which described the
contributions amateur radio operators of RID made in the defense of the country during WW II.
      In 1944, RID funding was cut forcing cut backs in war related services. RID continued to
function until the end of the war discharging 
      its responsibilities as required by law. It continued to provide bearings and fixes to distressed aircraft until the service was taken
      over by Air Sea Rescue Services of the U.S. Coast Guard. The FCC had successfully defended it's position but the funding cuts 
      forced RID to reduce its compliment of personnel. As the war came to an end the FCC slowly phased out RID operations and it    
      was abolished in 1946. (Cite: http://users.isp.com/danflan/sterling/dfh1.html)

Recently a friend gave the Royal Oak Historic Society a "UHF" (by the standards of 1940's) radio receiver of the type used at these FCC monitoring stations. This prompted further research into the FCC RID division. 

Ed Atems died in 2007 at the age of 93. The FCC was helpful but unable to provide much information on this Royal Oak operation in our research. If any Royal Oak resident can provide further data on the operation please contact the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum. 

  (Cite: http://usuers.isp.com/danflan/sterling/dfh2.html- Photos-Mobil unit and monitoring station.

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