Russell E. Theisen
Class of 1955
In 1954 I was working as a TV and Radio Technician while I was going to Granby High School.
My father ran the Radio and TV Repair business called Master Craft in Norfolk, Virginia and I was helping him in the TV Repair business. One of my jobs was to make the house call repair end of the business and I drove an old 1939 Dodge truck that had over 100,000 miles on it. I had worked in Radio and TV and Communications repair work for over 4 years. And I was in Avionics Electronics in the USMC Reserve squadron VMF-233. We flew the T2V aircraft. The Navy version of the Air force T-33.
Since we were in a Navy town, I received many request to install a TV system on a Navy Ship.
I had installed six or seven TV systems including Antenna, Cable, antenna rotor and TV receiver
In the Captain’s or other Officers quarters on ships docked at the Norfolk Naval Base.
One of the difficulties that I had was convincing the Captain to shut down the RADAR while I was installing the TV Antenna on the ships mast. I carried a lock and key
with me whenever I would do this installation since, the RADAR could fry you brain if you got in front of
the rotating Antenna that was Operational.
(This is how you’re RADAR Range or microwave oven works to cook your food).
On one September 1954 Saturday, we were asked to install a TV system on a Navy Ship at anchor in the Norfolk Naval Base harbor. When we arrived at the ship with the TV, antenna, rotor and cabling, we went to the Captain’s cabin with the Officer of the Day as our escort, he indicated that the Captain was not aboard and that he had the watch and would provide an escort for us about the ship. I noticed that the RADAR antenna was rotating on the ships mast and I requested that it be turned off during our Antenna Installation. He said that he could not do that as the [SOP] Standard Operational Procedure was to keep it going while personnel were aboard. I told him that I would install the TV and run the 300 ohm [UHF] Ultra High Frequency cabling but, that I would not install the Yagi Antenna with directional rotating system unless the RADAR was not working while we were working on the mast, because of the danger to us. The RADAR will fry our brains.
The Officer Of The watch had to call the Captain to get permission to shut the RADAR Off, while we were installing the Antenna System. Reluctantly, The Captain gave permission to shut the RADAR down for lunch but, that he had a crew trying to repair the RADAR and it could not be down for more than 1 hour. I agreed if I could place my lock on the RADAR POWER SWITCH while we were on the ships mast installing the Antenna.
With the RADAR power off and locked, we proceeded to install the Yagi TV Antenna on the ships mast.
I had to place it out of the RADAR antenna’s radiation path or the RADAR would saturate the TV antenna and make it useless as a TV antenna. While we were installing the 300 ohm UHF cabling I noticed the ships RADAR waveguide flexibility section was discolored and hot to the touch.
(The Waveguide flexibility section was placed in the area where the ship would bend in rough seas and still allow the RADAR to continue to operate).
After I installed the Yagi Antenna and Rotor System and came down from the ships mast, I went to the RADAR Room to unlock the RADAR Power switch. It was just about 1 hour since I had shut off the power.
While we were in the RADAR Room the crew working on the RADAR unit were back from lunch. I asked them what the problem was. The officer of the Watch said that they could not discuss this with a civilian.
After I demonstrated to the Officer of the Watch that the TV installation was fully operational and how to use the Antenna rotor system to point the antenna at a transmitting station, he signed off my purchase order and asked a sailor, who had been trying to fix the RADAR, to escort me off of the ship.
As I was leaving, we passed the RADAR flexibility section that I mention earlier. I asked the sailor, Tim what was the problem and he said that they had been working on the RADAR for months and that they could not get the high noise, (called grass) out of the RADAR, even though they had replaced the antenna and the transmitter the noise was still making the RADAR useless.
I realized what the problem was and asked the sailor, Tim do you want to be a HERO and solve the problem? Tim said what do you know about RADAR? I told him more than you think I know. TV signals are very much like RADAR and we have run across this type of problem before. (Typical wave guide flexible couplings)
I told him if you can get me a large wrench, a car jack and a large sledge hammer, I will show you how to fix the RADAR problem.
He agreed to get the items that I requested when, I explained that you have been trying to fix the RADAR in the wrong places, the problem was in the wave guide transmission section.
I showed him the heated section of flexibility coupling, even the paint was discolored and the flexibility coupling was hot to the touch.
We loosened the bolts on the flexibility coupling and used the car jack and sledge hammer to reposition the wave guide to proper flexibility coupling alignment and retightened the bolts. I told Tim the repainting is up to you.
While I was on the ship’s deck, I noticed several other ships at anchor in the Norfolk, Naval Base Harbor and remembered the ships numbers painted on the ships.
I asked if I could go down to the RADAR Room while he checked out the monitor for noise reduction.
When we got to the RADAR Room the sailor, Tim said that he had fixed the Noise problem by himself.
I commented that the noise was reduced so much that I could read the ship number of the ships in the harbor. I rattled off the ships number that I remembered when I was on deck and it really amazed the sailors repairing the RADAR unit.
They wanted to know what miracle had he done? He said that he would tell them some day.
When I left, Tim verified the ship numbers and he thanked me for not telling on him and for fixing the RADAR problem that had stymied the best Navy RADAR Technicians for months.
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