Radio was emerging as a new technology a century ago when World War I broke out across Europe. Events collided again this weekend at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City.
Dozens of amateur radio operators partnered with the National WWI Museum to operate a special events radio station for 31 hours.
By removing obscure call signs from raw audio signals, amateur radio volunteers reached out to hundreds of other amateur radio enthusiasts from 10 a.m. Saturday to 5 p.m. Sunday.
“Kilo, kilo, four stations, come back,” David Hinkley, Lee’s Summit resident and president of the Amateur radio club of the Sanctuary of Ararat, said in his headset.
He had only received part of the call sign of another radio operator and had asked to open a conversation.
“Kilo, kilo, quatre, sierra, Quebec, tango,” Hinkley recalled when the voice repeated its call sign. “It’s World War I in the United States. The name is Dave – Delta Alpha Victor Echo – brought you to Kansas City.
He had found another David, this one in central Alabama, and wished him a Happy New Year. It was one of 600 contacts Hinkley and others made on Sunday morning under the call sign WW1USA.
“I’ll tell you 73 and erase,” Hinkley said, using a familiar friendly signature on the pitch.
The event was to commemorate the Christmas truce in 1914. Conversations were brief, just to make contact.
Here’s a video about the event, including some of the radio jokes, shared on Twitter.
Joe Krout, a licensed amateur radio operator from Kansas City, Kansas, recorded the contacts made by Hinkley to broadcast the station’s call sign and practice the occupation of amateur radio.
“My ear can pick up a call sign in what looks like static electricity to a lot of people,” said Cary Altman, president of the Warrensburg Area Amateur Radio Club Inc. and a participant in the special weekend event.
It is a skill that takes time to acquire and practice to maintain, which was one of the reasons for the special event open to the public.
“We are doing a lot of good, but people don’t hear from us until the emergency. Then the hams are there, ”Altman said.
They help monitor the weather, for example during the Altman broadcast during the 1977 floods at Country Club Plaza.
“It’s a constant thing that we do for the event when we need it,” he said.
Those who worked for the WW1USA station reached out to operators in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin and other states.
“One of the guys from Montana that I’ve talked to a lot of the time,” said Randy Butt of Holden, Missouri, and a member of the Warrensburg club. “I recognized his call sign.”
It was WW1USA’s fourth special event this year and the first to be broadcast from inside the memorial. Unable to install antennas, they worked remotely via Internet connections to local stations around Kansas City.
For example, Hinkley spoke from the Kansas City site on the Missouri side of the state border, but was broadcasting through Krout’s equipment to his home in Kansas City, Kan.
“Anyone who logs me in today gets two states at once, I guess,” Hinkley told an operator in Atlanta.
This story was originally published December 28, 2014 2:24 pm.