The Voice of America Relay Stations in the Philippines: Before the Beginning

VOA Philippines relay station
Soon after the discovery that shortwave broadcasting was a valuable method for obtaining international radio coverage, United States interests began shortwave services beamed to the Philippine Islands.  After all, the Philippines were an American colony at that stage, and they had been so for the past half century, ever since they were ceded to the United States at the Treaty of Paris in 1898.   

Yhe earliest known date for a shortwave radio relay from the United States to the Philippines took place in June 1935. Station KKR at RCA Bolinas in California relayed a program to the Philippines on 15450 kHz for rebroadcast on mediumwave and shortwave in Manila.  There were many subsequent occasions back in that prewar era when the huge RCA shortwave station at Bolinas carried similar program relays for live rebroadcast in the Philippines. Interestingly, some of these live relays were originally broadcast on shortwave from Europe, from the BBC at Daventry near London and from the German shortwave station at Zeesen near Berlin in Germany.

The prominent California shortwave station KGEI was inaugurated with test transmissions on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay as W6XBE on February 18, 1939. This station also was noted in Australia and New Zealand at times with a relay of programming from the United States for coverage in the Philippine Islands. Wikipedia states in their historic article on the origins of the Voice of America (Slightly adapted for use on radio)

Even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government's Office of the Coordinator of Information, COI, in Washington DC, had already begun providing war news and commentary to the commercial American shortwave radio stations for on a voluntary basis. This procedure was enabled through its Foreign Information Service, (FIS), in New York which was headed up by playwright Robert E. Sherwood, who had served as President Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech writer and information advisor.

Direct programming beamed to the Philippines began a week after the United States entered World War 2 in December 1941, and the first broadcast from the FIS office in San Francisco was via a leased General Electric transmitter also located in San Francisco (KGEI). A newly organized American shortwave network began its transmissions from studios at 270 Madison Avenue in New York City on February 1 of the next year 1942, and soon afterwards the identification term "The Voice of America" was introduced.

The first Japanese attack against the Philippines took place with an aerial bombardment on December 8, 1941 at several locations just 10 hours after the tragic attack at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Exactly one week later on December 15, 1941, FIS, the Foreign Information Service in the United States, began the transmission to the Philippines of two special programs daily. These daily news programs were specially compiled with information of interest to the Philippines, and the information was rebroadcast by the mediumwave and shortwave stations in Manila and Cebu to the south.

Then two weeks later again on December 28, the broadcast of an expanded series of radio programs began from KGEI on Treasure Island in San Francisco. These broadcasts were beamed to the Philippines and carried live by all six of their mediumwave stations and all six of their shortwave stations in Manila and Cebu City. This series of radio programs under the title the Philippine Program was produced due to a special request from General Douglas MacArthur, and also by a proclamation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  These expanded programs were broadcast not only by the famous shortwave station KGEI, but also by three of the shortwave transmitters at RCA Bolinas.

A total of eight live programs were prepared each day, and all of these were received by the RCA station in Manila, and they were relayed live via station KZRH to all of the mediumwave and shortwave stations then on the air in the Philippines.

For the record, these stations were:
Manila mediumwave KZRH  KZRM  KZRF KZIB KZEG
Manila shortwave KZRH  KZRM KZRF KZIB KZND
Cebu mediumwave & shortwave KZRC

This special programming was on the air for a total of just 18 days. When the Japanese army arrived in Manila on January 2, 1942, the program relays over the Philippine commercial stations ended. However, at the instigation of General MacArthur, an alternative radio news service had already been implemented. Initially, Army Radio WVY in California transmitted news bulletins to the American navy base at Cavite NPO, on the coast south of Manila, and these bulletins were transcribed and read on air over navy radio NPO for local coverage. The Cavite station received these off-air program relays and re-broadcast them for local coverage for just a few days.

It is understood that the radio broadcasting transmitter in use on the Bataan Peninsula was a 1 kW mobile unit licensed under the callsign KZRB which was owned by the former FEBC Far East Broadcasting Company (not related to the subsequent/current FEBC) in Manila.  The American army took over this transmitter for use mainly as a relay station for the programming from shortwave at KGEI in San Francisco.   

These transmissions from mobile KZRB and army radio WTA Bataan contained mainly news and information, sometimes produced locally and sometimes on relay from elsewhere including the Voice of Freedom Radio on Corregidor.  Station KZRB was heard in Australia at times on 11850 11940 or 15545 kHz.  The American forces on Bataan surrendered on April 9, 1942 and mobile KZRB as well as WTA was silenced.  At the same time, station KZRC in Cebu no longer carried a relay from KGEI via WVDM Corregidor.

For another month, station WVDM in Malinta Tunnel on Corregidor Island continued with occasional relays form KGEI, but with the full surrender on May 6, then WVDM was silenced also. Thus it was that these special program relays from the United States to the Philippine Islands were on the air, spread out over some seven years, and they were heard from the major shortwave station KGEI in San Francisco together with three additional relay transmitters at the RCA communication station in Bolinas California and via army radio WVY at the Presidio in San Francisco. In the Philippines, this programming was taken off air and relayed live by six local mediumwave stations and by six shortwave transmitters, as well as by the United States navy radio NPO station located at Cavite, as well as by KZRB-WTA on Bataan Peninsula and by WVDM on Corregidor Island.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 498)

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