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World War I Museum and amateur radio operators team up for marathon broadcast

Randy Butt contacted other amateur radio operators Sunday morning from the National World War I Museum, broadcasting as WW1USA a special event station. Joyce Fagan logged the contacts he made.
Randy Butt contacted other amateur radio operators Sunday morning from the National World War I Museum, broadcasting as WW1USA a special event station. Joyce Fagan logged the contacts he made. The Kansas City Star

Radio was emerging as new technology a century ago when World War I erupted across Europe. The events collided again this weekend at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City.

Dozens of amateur radio operators teamed with the National World War I Museum to operate a special event radio station for 31 hours.

Culling obscure call signs from rough audio signals, the ham radio volunteers reached out to hundreds of fellow amateur radio enthusiasts from 10 a. m. Saturday to 5 p. m. Sunday.

“Kilo, kilo, four station, come back,” David Hinkley, a Lee’s Summit resident and president of the Ararat Shrine Amateur Radio Club, said into his headset.

He’d picked up only part of the call sign of another radio operator and asked to strike up a chat.

“Kilo, kilo, four, sierra, Quebec, tango,” Hinkley called back when the voice repeated its call sign. “This is WW1USA. Name is Dave – delta alpha victor echo – got you in Kansas City.”

He’d found another David, this one in central Alabama, and wished him a happy New Year. It was one of 600 contacts Sunday morning that Hinkley and others made under the call sign WW1USA.

“I’ll say 73s to you and clear,” Hinkley said, using a friendly sign-off familiar in the field.

The event was to commemorate the Christmas truce in 1914. The conversations were brief, just making contact.

Here’s a video about the event, including some of the radio banter, shared on Twitter.

Joe Krout, a licensed amateur radio operator from Kansas City, Kan., logged the contacts Hinkley made to spread the station’s call sign and practice the craft of ham radio.

“My ear can pick out a call sign in what sounds like dead static to many people,” said Cary Altman, president of the Warrensburg Area Amateur Radio Club Inc. and a participant in the weekend special event.

It’s skill that takes time to gain and practice to keep, which was one reason behind the special event that was open to the public.

“We do a lot of good but people don’t hear about us until the emergency. Then the hams are there,” Altman said.

They help as weather spotters, for example when Altman broadcast during the 1977 flooding at the Country Club Plaza.

“It’s a constant thing we do for the event when we’re needed,” he said.

Those working for station WW1USA reached operators in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin and other states.

“One of the guys from Montana I’ve talked to lots of time,” said Randy Butt from Holden, Mo., and a member of the Warrensburg club. “I recognized his call sign.”

This was WW1USA’s fourth special event this year and the first to broadcast from inside the memorial. Unable to set up antennas, they worked remotely through Internet connections to local stations around Kansas City.

For example, Hinkley was speaking from the Kansas City site on the Missouri side of the state line but broadcasting through Krout’s equipment at his home in Kansas City, Kan.

“Anybody who logs me today gets two states at once, I guess,” Hinkley told an operator in Atlanta.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to mdavis@kcstar.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @mdkcstar.

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