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Air Force One Radio Transmissions


William Kelly
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Bill,

I was trying to identify the logo pictured in the middle of this equipment:

sp_equip.jpg

There seems to be an articulated "S" or some other letter in the middle. It does not look like a "Collins" logo at first glance.

Here's a Collins Radio Company Archive (logo in middle of newsletter at top):

http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/msc/tomsc850/msc814/collinsradiocompanyrecords.html

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In the screen capture above (from the video I posted earlier), the nearest operator is wearing headphones without a microphone. All the other operators in the background have headsets that seem to include mics. The near operator also has a pencil and paper, so I'm guessing he is sitting at a receiver and not a transmitter. There are two units in front of him. A large one which is closest to the photographer and a slightly smaller one next to it. The smaller one strongly resembles this Ham receiver I found on flckr:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/59371508@N07/6957126759/in/set-72157629461354825/lightbox/

*note that even the air slits on this unit (on the side panel) resemble the same air slits on the larger and still unidentified unit.

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This link may help ID some of that equipment. It's Navy "oriented" but I'm not sure that matters too much.

http://www.virhistory.com/navy/index.htm

Maybe the site admin may be some help?

The current issues of Esquire "Flight From Dallas" - and Washingtonian Magazine "Angel is Airborne," are generating considerable interest in the AF1 radio tapes, and I believe the author of the Esquire article interviewed radioman Trimble, whose After Action report is among these:

http://jfkcountercoup2.blogspot.com/2012/05/a6-radioman-whca-after-action-reports.html

I think they are some pretty riveting reports, as Trimble ends his, 'unbelievable.'

In today's world of cell phones, satellites and drones, its kind of hard to imagine them using short wave HAM radios to communicate over public airwaves, but they did, and anybody with the right equipment and the frequency could listen in, and did. There was a group of civilian amateur HAM radio buffs out of Colorado who made it a hobby of listening in to SAM - Special Air Mission radio communications - which went under the name "Mystic Star."

I believe that an amateur HAM radio buff may have tape recorded many of the radio communications that are missing from the existing AF1 radio tapes - and these recordings are just out there, their owners not realizing they have missing pieces to the big puzzle.

They were using a Collins Radio sideband radio equipment and using frequencies set by the Collins HQ radio station "Liberty" - aka "Fish Bowl."

I believe they make mention of a KW7 - ? and a TWX - ?

I have something on the KW7. Must be 1963 era.

http://jfkcountercoup.blogspot.com/2008/01/collins-radio-connections.html

I don't know if any of these links work, but will check them and correct them if necessary.

Over and out.

Chris, I think you're on the right track.

Arthur Collins, while a young student, built his own short wave radio set that could communicate with the US Navy expedition to the South Pole led by Admiral Richard Byrd, the cousin of Harold Byrd, owner of the TSBD building on November 22, 1963.

Working out of his parent's garage in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Collins built radios that were simple to assemble and durable, and when World War II began, his company began to receive government-military contracts that continue today.

After the war Collins met another HAM radio enthusiast Curtis LeMay, who had Collins address a military gathering in the early 1950s, and Collins received the contracts to serve the Strategic Air Command (SAC) bombers and the Special Air Mission (SAM) that serviced the top administration officials and generals.

In 1962 Arthur Collins became a director of a Texas graduate research center in Dallas, which was the state of the art of research at the time - and I believe that it is mentioned in JFK's Undelivered Speech that he was to make that day, so JFK - at least his top aides who prepared his speech, were aware of Collins and his research, so maybe so should we.

KW7 - TWX - ?

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Chris, I think you're on the right track.

Thanks, Bill.

I've found this video on youtube of a ham operator using his Collins equipment. Visually, the Collins units he is using appear to be exactly the same as the one's in the photo we were examining. I'm not a "Ham" expert or communications guy (although, at one time, I was a battalion comsec custodian - that has to do with codes not radios). There were Military SW bands as well as civilian ones and in the case of the flickr receiver picture I posted above there is a subsequent shot of the rear of the unit that has a label designating that it is an "amateur" band receiver.

Back to this video: the "big" unit that appears in the photo seems to be the transmitter unit on the right in the video (on the operators left in the photo) and the receiver is on the right. It seems that if this is the case then the photo might be "staged" - why wouldn't the operator of a transmitter have a microphone?

The following youtube is not the same model - it seems to be from the later '60s (though it is a military band version). What's interesting is that the guy filming has a lot of commentary about these radios and the intelligence community (see youtube comments as well) and the radio is tuned to the "Spanish Lady", a Cuban numbers station that's still broadcasting.

Edited by Chris Newton
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http://acorn.net/jfkplace/09/fp.back_issues/25th_issue/jfk_spch.html

JFK: The Undelivered Speech - What follows is quote from the beginning of the text of the speech President Kennedy was to deliver in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

JFK: "I am honored to have this invitation to address the Dallas Citizens Council joined by the members of the Dallas Assembly - and pleased to have this opportunity to salute the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest...I congratulate those of you here in Dallas who recognized these basic facts through the creation of the unique and forward looking Graduate Research Center....This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level, it is indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap progress....and this country's security."

From what I can gather off the cuff, the Dallas Graduate Research Center, where Art Collins was on the board and closely associated, was originally a company called Geophysical Services, Inc., a company that was purchased with men of incredible foresight on December 6, 1941 - Eugene McDermott, Cecil Howard Green, Erick Jonsson and A. Earl Cullum, Jr., which metamorphosed into the General Industries Division that in 1951 became Texas Instruments.

Around that time, it was decided - as a national policy - to break up security industries into different areas of the country - the major defense contractors that constructed high security defense products moved to different geographic areas - one of which was to be Dallas-Fort Worth, so all of a sudden a number of big defense contractors showed up - including Bell Helicopter (with Michael Paine in tow), Collins Radio and other defense contractors relocated some of their production to Texas. But there was a severe need for young engineers, and they had to be recruited from out of state - until they began their own engineering student factory - the Graduate Research Center, 1961.

Originally based at the Fondren Science Library at Southern Methodist University, and affiliated with the Lab on Earth and Planetary Sciences - Founders Building, it is now part of the University of Texas at Dallas and known as the Southwest Center for Advance Sciences (SCAS).

So JFK knew what these guys were up to and begins his Undelivered speech by mentioning the Graduate Research Center, which was being spearheaded by Arthur A. Collins of Collins Radio, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Some of Arthur Collins and Collins Radio company records have been archived at the University of Iowa (Cedar Rapids, Library), and the company affiliated RockwellCollins Museum has a neat inventory of Collins products that we can check out.

And all of this reminds me that LBJ originally arranged for Texas Christian University (?) to invite JFK to Dallas to receive an honorary degree, but then the offer was rescinded by the university board of trustees, and that was a major embarrassment to the city - as JFK had to have an official reason for being there - and technically they had to mix the politicking with official business - usually with the military as an excuse - such as inspecting a base or new weapon. In any case, the official reason for JFK to go to Dallas was suddenly withdrawn, and they quickly got Plan B - together - the sponsors as mentioned in the first paragraph of JFK's speech, and the purpose of the annual luncheon was to honor the Graduate Research Center.

So I imagine Art Collins, a director of the GRC, was at the Trade Mart waiting for JFK to deliver the speech, as was the director of Texas Instruments.

www.acorn.net/jfkplace/09/fp.back_issues/25th_issue/jfk_speech.html

If that link doesn't work just search for JFK's Undelivered Speech.

I think that JFK's copy of this speech, kept in his sports coat pocket, was found bloodied. I wonder if that bloody copy was preserved?

Edited by William Kelly
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KW7 - TWX - ?

Bill,

KW-7

A crypto system known by the code name Orestes, employed a device called the KW-7...

http://www.knobstick.ca/museum/kw7.htm

“During return flight of AF-1 from Dallas, we were working the aircraft via KW-7. The operator aboard the aircraft was so busy that he could not attend the CKT.” - Specialist First Class Carriger

KW-7 (Orestes) http://jproc.ca/crypto/kw7.html

The Orestes crypto system employed the KW-7. It was an on-line, send/receive crypto unit installed in shore stations and aboard ships. In one application, it was used for ship to shore and for intership radioteletype communications. To send messages over a secure UHF teletype circuit, a model 28 Teletype or reader (T-D) sent the prepared message to the KW-7 which in turn keyed a UHF transmitter in the AM mode. Note, that the KW-7 was not a totally synchronous unit, therefore, it required a phasing signal to be sent in order to attain a lock on the received signal. top. The circuitry was all solid-state and fit in a fairly rugged housing that featured a Tempest-sealed lid on top, removable for servicing. The KW-7 was also used aboard aircraft such as EC/RC-135's.

SETTING THE DAILY KEY

THE WIRE CORD VERSION

The original KW-7 had 30 fixed wires coming out of the bottom half of the key area. Using a daily key list, the operator plugged the wires into the top half a flat block. Many operators joked that part of the KW-7 course consisted of basket weaving since that seemed to be a prerequisite skill for this task. The task of coding the plugblocks was sometimes referred to as knitting. The wires were about 14 to 18 inches long and it took forever to get them all plugged in and still be able to close the door over top of them. There were metal loops provided to help shorten the slack but it was still difficult to get them packed in.

Many a time, a KW-7 used in flying command posts for TTY traffic would be pulled in for maintenance only to discover there were little black loops of wire hanging outside of the edge of the locked door because it was such a tight fit inside. This was frowned on since the purpose of the gasket was to reduce Tempest......

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Bill, do you know where the Specialist First Class who was attempting to work the circuit was located - it sounds like he was not on AF1 but was trying to set up secure comm but the AF1 techs were too busy with voice circuits to attend to the teletype - which is pretty interesting since apparently the teletype was on the only secure circuit - which would be the military command and control circuit.

It will also help us understand if the secure equipment was on a relatively short range UHF circuit or a much longer range SSB circuit.

-- Larry

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Larry,

I'd assume it would have to have a long range (bold type mine):

ORESTES SPECIFICATIONS:
Keying method: Cables, keylist.
Service life: 1940's - 1980's.
Input: Teletype
Output: On-line encrypted teletype.
Speed: 50+ wpm.
Applications: Strategic and tactical environments.
Note: Typically used to send encrypted teletype from ship-to-shore.
Which raises a significant question: could "speckled trout" communicate using this system plane-to-plane with AF1?
Edited by Chris Newton
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Bill, do you know where the Specialist First Class who was attempting to work the circuit was located - it sounds like he was not on AF1 but was trying to set up secure comm but the AF1 techs were too busy with voice circuits to attend to the teletype - which is pretty interesting since apparently the teletype was on the only secure circuit - which would be the military command and control circuit.

It will also help us understand if the secure equipment was on a relatively short range UHF circuit or a much longer range SSB circuit.

-- Larry

Radiomen After Action Reports lists Carrigan as "Communications Center Washington DC" -

From what I can gather - those in the radio loop - they later called Mystic Star - are:

1) White House - Crown

2) White House Situation Room -

3) Liberty Station - "Fish Bowl" - Collins Radio HQ Cedar Rapids, Iowa

4) Andrews Air Force Base - A big place -

5) Command Post - SAM - Strategic Air Mission - Andrews

6) Air Force One - Four radios each on different frequency - Pilot (Swindal), Radioman (Trimble), office phone at desk, bedroom phone.

7) VP Plane

8) 86972 Cabinet Plane

9) Cargo Plane -

10) Dallas White House - Dallas Sheraton - w/Links to Trade Mart, Parkland (See: Bales)

11) Secret Service Office Executive Office Building (EOB - Gerald Behn?)

12) State Department -

13) Pentagon - Command Post?

14) Other

The above are those radios that are on the AF1 radio tapes - though there are probably others - Brandywine, Weather Mountain, etc.

All of these interesting reports should be read closely as they make many fine details and give you an idea of how people responded to the assassination. While I think Bales' report is probably the most important - Trimble's is fascinating. And while I haven't confirmed this yet, I think Trimble is still alive and was a source for the Esquire article "Flight From Dallas."

http://jfkcountercoup.blogspot.com/2012/03/whca-comm-center-after-action-reports.html

CWO Arthur W. Bales, Jr.

WHCA Trip Officer for Presidential Visit to Dallas, Texas

SSG Brazell, Chief Switchboard Operator

White House Switchboard in Dallas, Texas

MSG Tarbell, Chief Switchboard Operator

Signal Switchboard, Washington, D.C.

SFB Carriger, Chief Operator,

Communications Center, Washington D.C.

SP4 Witte, Operator, Communications Center

Washington D.C.

SGT Bodenstiner, Operator, Communications Center,

Washington D.C.

MSG John Trimble, Radio Operator

Aboard AF-1 for flight from Dallas, Texas to Washington D.C.

After an overnight at Ft. Worth, Air Force One departed Carswell AFB at 1125 AM (Local Time) for Dallas. After a short flight we arrived at Dallas and blocked in at 1140 AM.

After the rain storm of the previous night the sun seemed particularly bright as the President and First Lady deplaned to the warm greeting of what was probably the largest crowd of the Texas tour. The Last we were to see of them together was when they departed the airport in their open car.

The first indication that anything was amiss came when one of the WHCA representatives, Theron Burgess, who was on duty at the airport, told me that someone in the motorcade had been hurt. My first reaction was that one of the Secret Service Agents had fallen from the car. About 15 minutes later we were told the ready the airplane for immediate take-off. At this time we were not told why we were leaving or what our destination would be. No information was forthcoming at this time and since we at least needed a destination for flight clearance purpose Col. Swindal asked me to check with the switchboard. After identifying myself to the switchboard operator he told me that the President had been shot and that no other information was available. This was relayed to Col. Swindal although he had just heard it himself from another source.

My communications equipment had been on since receiving the immediate take-off order. I had cleared a voice and teletype frequency with Andrews Airways. Even though I was using the call sign AF 26000 and could not tell the reason for clearing a voice frequency, Andrews cooperated fully. I was making periodic signal checks with Andrews when someone entered the airplane and said the President was dead.

All the chatter ceased and I think we were all numb and did out jobs automatically as we waited --- waited for the body to arrive from the hospital; waited for President Johnson; and finally for the judge to arrive and perform the swearing-in ceremony.

We departed Dallas at 1447 Dallas time for the three hour flight to Washington.

I was busy every minute of the trip and had three phone patches going simultaneously for much of the time. The normal HF air to ground communications had to yield to higher priority traffic. Some position reports were sent, some were not. Quite a bit of time was spent by Dr. Burkley and General Clifton in the air and General Heaton on the ground concerning removal and preparation of the body after reaching Andrews.

My circuits were in continuous use and Andrews always had a waiting list of various officials who wanted to communicate with the airplane. Due to the limited facilities on both ends, many times I had to decide who we would talk with next. I had a good knowledge of the Kennedy team and don’t think I made any mistakes in this respect.

We had been cleared to an altitude of 29,000 feet upon leaving Dallas. I was able to send one of the few position reports over Nashville and found that we were then at 41,000 feet because of winds and weather.

About this time I received a call from the rear of the plane saying that President Johnson wanted a phone patch with Mrs. Rose Kennedy. I immediately seized my best frequency and placed the call through Andrews and the WHCA switchboard. A short time later both the President and Mrs. Johnson offered their condolences to Mrs. Rose Kennedy. These Mrs. Kennedy accepted in a strong, clear voice.

A few minutes later I placed a call, again through the WHCA switchboard to the wife of Governor Connely in Dallas. Both the President and the First Lady talked with Mrs. Connely and assured her that the Governor would be all right.

The rest of the flight was about as hectic as the first. We landed at Andrews and blocked in at 1805 local time.

A large crowd and many bright lights were visible when the doors were opened. Mrs. Kennedy was scheduled to leave by another exit but insisted on being lowered to the ramp with the remains. She entered the ambulance and accompanied the body out of sight.

After President Johnson made his very short talk and departed, I remember thinking what irony that this terrible thing had to happen at all --- but to have it happen in the United States. Somehow it was still unbelievable.

JOHN C. TRIMBLE MSGT, WHCA

Edited by William Kelly
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Good stuff Bill, this will be really helpful. It appears to me that Trimble has his HF SSB circuits set up to Andrews which is then Andrews is patching them though to the other destinations and taking

incoming requests to clear circuits to AF1. Andrews would be able to patch AF1 to the White House switchboard which would take them to the Situation Room or to anyone else in the

building. In fact Andrews could patch them to any landline voice circuit or vice versa.

I think the question now is whether or not one of the AF1 transmitters could handle more than one patch or whether Trimble is using multiple transmitters. The same question holds

for the Andrews center and raises the question of how many radios are in use there and how many have a tape recorder on them. Since we only have "one" tape, either that means

only a single channel was being recorded or somehow someone merged several tapes onto one.

What we really need here is somebody who has a ham radio buddy or better yet a radio comm friend out of the Air Force.

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Chris, I think you're on the right track.

...

Back to this video: the "big" unit that appears in the photo seems to be the transmitter unit on the right in the video (on the operators left in the photo) and the receiver is on the right. It seems that if this is the case then the photo might be "staged" - why wouldn't the operator of a transmitter have a microphone?

...

what I gather the above Youtube video shows is a dual transceiver config (2 units same make and model). One unit to transmit, one to receive... both on 20 meter band, separate freq's. Why two units? Communicants can *both* speak and hear at the same time, conversation is truly two-way, although the verb "over" is used to end a transmission, and proper protocol, its not necessary to the conversation.

If, in your research you run across tapes where there is no "over" used to end one side of traffic, then you're probably hearing only one side of the conversation... eh?

btw, I haven't seen "7's" since 1964-65...

Edited by David G. Healy
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Bill,

I was trying to identify the logo pictured in the middle of this equipment:

sp_equip.jpg

There seems to be an articulated "S" or some other letter in the middle. It does not look like a "Collins" logo at first glance.

Here's a Collins Radio Company Archive (logo in middle of newsletter at top):

http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/msc/tomsc850/msc814/collinsradiocompanyrecords.html

those are Collins radios, the radios look the same vintage equipment (possibly the ones I operated were a bit older and larger) I operated in Vietnam (out-of-country comm) in 1963-64. Can't remember nomenclature...

Edited by David G. Healy
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David, sorry to be slow but then the two units are necessary for a full duplex - both ends talking at one time - operation? One unit would require the old "over" protocol with

one end only talking then handing it off to the other.

Do you recall whether these were UHF or HF....what their range was?

-- thanks, Larry

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