Listening Posts

Listening Posts


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Running out at right-angles from the frontline trenches were saps (narrow, shallow, trenches). This saps were about 30 yards long. Small groups of soldiers were sent to the sap-head (listening post) and were given the task of finding out about the enemy. This included discovering information about enemy patrols, wiring parties, or sniper positions. After a heavy bombardment soldiers would be ordered to seize any new craters in No Man's Land which could then be used as listening posts. From August 1916 all British Army units were under orders to occupy any shell-hole within 60 yards of their forward trench.


HistoryLink.org

In September 1939, the U.S. Navy relocated a secret radio listening post from Fort Stevens, Oregon, to Fort Ward on Bainbridge Island in Kitsap County, a few miles from Seattle in Puget Sound. The radio post was renamed "Station S" and began eavesdropping on Japanese messages in 1940. At the end of World War II, the station turned to the Cold War, intercepting messages from Russia and, later, North Korea. Station S closed down in December 1953.

Secret Listening Post

In May 1932, the U.S. Navy established a radio listening post at Fort Stevens, Oregon (near Astoria). But the station discovered reception issues in 1938, forcing a move. After a survey determined that Bainbridge Island had ideal reception, the Fort Stevens station relocated to the island in September 1939. It opened at Fort Ward (established 1900-1903) as the Communications Support Activities (COMSUPACT). Rhombic antennas were erected on the parade grounds. In 1940, the facility was renamed Station S, Naval Security Group Activities (NSGA) and eavesdropped on the Tokyo-to-San Francisco radio net, recording Japanese diplomatic messages sent in Japanese Morse code.

From the start, Station S would be a very secret operation, remaining hidden from local residents and the general public. Occupying a former army post, with the radio intelligence center housed in what had been the Post Exchange building, the station avoided public awareness. It helped that Fort Ward had ample vacant space, so no new construction, which might have drawn outside interest, was needed to open the intercept facility.

The Bainbridge listening post also had another significant intelligence activity, radio direction finding (RDF), for locating and tracking enemy ships. Using radio signals acquired by several listening stations, RDF could identify a ship’s location. To locate or identify a ship’s position required at least two RDF station reports, but the addition of a third report ensured more accurate locating. Bainbridge operated in the West Coast High Frequency Direction Net as the Net Control and Plotting Center, compiling its own and other RDF stations’ data to keep a log of Japanese ship locations. The data was then sent to West Coast naval commands and the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C.

Naval Radio School

On October 28, 1940, a Naval Reserve Radio School opened at Fort Ward. Each class consisted of up to 40 students, who would come for four months of training in radio operations. To accommodate them, all six cells in the fort’s former guardhouse were removed and the space was converted into a classroom. Additionally, fort barracks were rehabilitated to provide student housing. The students would learn Morse code, typewriting, naval communications operations, and elementary seamanship. At graduation, those who passed a test would receive radioman third class ratings and be assigned either to the fleet or ashore.

The school provided excellent cover for the top-secret radio operations across the parade grounds in the former Post Exchange. A full-page photo essay soon appeared in The Seattle Times, indicating that the radio school was the U.S. Navy’s purpose for being on Bainbridge Island.

An additional 160 acres were acquired in 1941, land to the west and south of Fort Ward. Construction crews erected 60 temporary wood-frame buildings, and existing Fort Ward buildings were modified for new uses. The former administration building became home for Commander B. C. Purrington (1896-1961), the station commander. The bakery became a power house. And the former PX was converted into Station S.

Signs of War

In November and early December 1941, an increase in Japanese diplomatic messages in kept Station S busy intercepting the heavier traffic, which reached its peak between December 4 and December 6. Commander B. C. Purrington also noted increased shipping activity in his November and December 1941 secret station reports to the Chief of Naval Operations. The stepped-up radio and shipping activity indicated something important was happening. On December 7, 1941, Station S intercepted a message from Japan about breaking off negotiations with the United States. Station S forwarded this significant message to Washington, D.C.

In early September 1941, Japan's military and civilian leaders had decided that they would go to war if they could not obtain oil and raw materials through negotiations. The United States and other nations had frozen Japanese assets and closed off Japan’s access to oil. Japan was fighting in China and required oil to keep up its campaign. Japan's diplomats were instructed to try negotiations despite a belief that they would not succeed. Meanwhile the Japanese military prepared for war. The message intercepted by the Bainbridge radio was the signal to begin the war.

This intercepted message expressed the Japanese position that it would be impossible to reach an agreement through further negotiations. The Japanese had secretly moved their naval force for the attack on Pearl Harbor, located in Hawaii.

Tokyo had planned that the Japanese ambassador would deliver the message to the U.S. Secretary of State on December 7 at 1 p.m., shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor was to start. To maintain the advantage of surprise, the Japanese government did not present a declaration of war. But delivery of the message was delayed, and, despite the various indications that war might break out, United States intelligence officials did not anticipate the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

It came at 1:20 p.m., Washington D.C. time. The following day, on December 8, 1942, following an address to Congress and the nation by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), the United States declared war on Japan.

During the War

In November 1942, Station S took over the Canadian radio intelligence work. During World War II, an anti-submarine net was laid across Rich passage. In September 1942, a navy radio transmitter station was built at Battle Point, north of Station S. The Battle Point station included a reinforced concrete transmitter building, helix building, and four 300-foot towers. Later, an 800-foot radio tower was added. This station relayed messages from the Pacific to the 13th Naval Command in Seattle.

WAVES, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, arrived in 1944, and a number of them worked at Station S. The former quartermaster building was converted to barracks to house them. In January 1945, some intercept-trained WAVES skilled in Japanese Morse code went to other intercept stations.

Cold War and Closure

After World War II, new eavesdropping targets were selected. In 1946, the Naval Radio School taught Russian code, and Soviet messages were listened to. In 1950, Station S began intercepting messages from North Korea. The Naval Radio School became the U.S. Naval School Communications Technicians, which taught students radio skills from October 1951 until it closed in December 1953. Naval Security Group Activities ceased in 1953, and the station moved to Marietta, Washington. Again, Fort Ward and naval radio activities went into caretaker status.

In 1958 the navy abandoned Bainbridge Island. In 1959 the General Services Administration (GSA) disposed of the land and buildings. In 1960, 137 acres on the water became Fort Ward State Park.

Battle Point station closed in 1971, and the land was turned over to the Bainbridge Park District. The federal government removed the five towers in 1972. The area is now Battle Point Park, and the former transmitter building has been converted into a 3,000-square-foot gymnastics center.

In 1978 the Fort Ward site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Listening station, 1940-1953 (now private home), Fort Ward, Bainbridge Island, 2010


We’ve had the pleasure of interviewing so many talented folks over the years. Here, our host Lisa Louise Cooke lists some of her favorite episodes and interviews.

Gain Major Genealogy Problem-solving Skills (Ep. 129)
This episode features an interview with Deborah A. Abbott, Ph.D on cluster research.

Make This Year Your Most Organized Yet (Ep. 128)
This episode focuses on organizational strategies for genealogy, but it also includes an interview with Cheryl A. Lang, manager at the Mid-Continent Public Library’s Midwest Genealogy Center.


Listening to Miss Eudora

For Christmas, I gave my granddaughter a compilation of Eudora Welty’s novels. She’s an avid reader and tore into the book as soon as she unwrapped it. The short stories, however, were not included. Yesterday, we drove to a large national bookstore chain ( aka quasi toy store and puzzle shop) to purchase one of Miss Welty’s finest Why I Live at the P.O. After a thorough search of the shelves, I couldn’t find any of Miss Welty’s works so I approached the young woman standing behind the customer service desk.

“May I help you?” she asked me. She was mid-twenties, long straight hair, Buddy Holly glasses, and a serious expression.

“Where are Eudora Welty’s books?” I inquired.

“I don’t think I know her,” the young woman replied. My mental thermometer rose. I swallowed the word “idiot” and plowed ahead. “She’s a well-known Mississippi writer.” I continued.

“Oh?” Her eyebrows arched. “Let me check the computer.” As her hands flew over the info keyboard, she asked, “Welty?”

“Yes,” I answered. “Eudora Pulitzer Welty!” I didn’t shout, but I wanted to. My granddaughter wondered why her docile Nanny was on fire.

“Can you spell that?” she asked.

“Ummmm. I don’t see anything here,” the clerk said.

Luckily, the store manager saw the unfolding drama and intervened. “Yes, Eudora Welty,” she said. “What a great writer. I’ll look.” After a second computer search, the manager reported that the store no longer carried Miss Welty’s works.

My granddaughter was disappointed and so was I. “I’ll order it for you,” I said. Then I told her about one of the most wonderful experiences in my reading life.

I was young, not growing up young, but newly married young. A women’s club in Jackson invited Miss Welty to appear and read Why I Live at the P.O. A series of excellent English teachers had talked about her for years, along with other magical Mississippi names such as William Faulkner, Shelby Foote, and Walker Percy. My seventh-grade teacher danced around Tennessee Williams but was careful not to discuss the content of his work. Each teacher explained that our small, poor state was a workshop of artistic excellence and repository of brilliant writers. Fires, floods, tornadoes, or a resurgence of the black plague would not keep me from hearing Miss Welty. It happened one evening in October.

Our large meeting room lacked a stage, billowing curtains, or artful potted palms, but it was as full as an “open up the folding chairs” revival. In the center, Miss Welty sat in an overstuffed armchair holding her words in her lap. She was a thin, grey-haired woman with a soft voice and an expressive face. She thanked us for inviting her, then lifted her book and began to read. Within minutes, it was the Fourth of July in China Grove Mississippi. Sister and Stella Rondo were at it again, Papa Daddy had not shaved, and the elusive Mr. Whitaker remained elusive. What a delight! After Miss Welty finished her story, and Sister had established herself in the P.O., we rose as one, and gave her a rousing standing ovation.

As I was driving home, I began to wonder how this talented woman created such a fascinating story. Miss Welty was a photographer as well as a writer both skills were beyond comparing. As she traveled the state as a WPA agent, the seeds of her stories walked right in front of her. Sometimes, they smiled and waved. Her razor-sharp mind cobbled those seeds into amazing stories. Just my guess, but it seems plausible. Bravo for one of Mississippi’s first lady of literature. I wish she was still living on Pinehurst Street, puttering in her garden and blessing us with a torrent of stories.

Another question, how does it happen here? After long years of reading, writing, and just looking around, I’m convinced Mississippi is a blend of fiction with an element of truth, as well as truth mixed with an element of fiction. Both aching to be told. It’s waking up early before it gets hot and the sky is a patchwork of pink and blue. It’s a blended aroma of sweet olive, honeysuckle and dirt mixed with pounding rain. It’s telling a tale from way back before anyone forgets. Here, we are story people. It’s innate, born in our blood, inherited from southern soil, and nourished by time. We have history too, sometimes joyful, sometimes accompanied by great pain. But ours.

Although Mississippi provides an abundance of inspiration, writing about it can be difficult. The task requires opening a vein, bleeding words, then spreading them out for all to see. It’s an exposure of the soul. As Miss Welty said, “No art ever came out by not risking your neck.” Fortunately, many our home-grown folks have taken that risk.

I pity the clerk in the bookstore. She’s missed a lot, and I truly hope she’s not going for a master’s degree in English literature. Maybe W-E-L-T-Y will remain in her brain, and she’ll take a risk too.


Juneteenth: Reading, Listening, Learning

This year, we celebrate Juneteenth, the annual commemoration of the official end of slavery, as a federal holiday for the first time. As recognition of this day expands, so too does the realization that many of us grew up with limited–or even no–awareness of its history or importance. Thankfully, it’s never too late to educate ourselves.

Here’s a few of the resources we’re relying upon to build our own knowledge, with gratitude to the authors, podcasters and creators featured. Happy Juneteenth.

Reading Lists:

  1. What A Day: The Legacy of Juneteenth
  2. The Daily: The History and Meaning of Juneteenth
  3. Code Switch: A Taste of Freedom
  4. The Takeaway: A Very Special Juneteenth Episode
  5. First Name Basis: What is Juneteenth and How Can I Celebrate?

Black Bookstagrammers to Follow:

Recent recommendation: How the Word is Passed, by Clint Smith

Recent recommendation: All Boys Aren’t Blue, by George M. Johnson

Recent recommendation: We Do This ‘Til We Free Us, by Mariame Kaba


5 social listening tips

Below is some of our best advice for social listening. Use it to get the most bang for your buck when you try it out.

1. Listen everywhere

Find out where your audience is talking about you—not just what they say.

That means casting a wide net for your social listening program.

Conversations around your brand on LinkedIn are likely going to be much different than on Instagram. And you might find that people talk about you all the time on Twitter, but not on Facebook.

Knowing where they talk about you is as important as how they talk about you. It will give you a clear strategy on joining the conversation via organic engagement and paid advertising.

2. Learn from your competition

You can always learn something from your competitors.

You can especially learn something from what people say about them.

See what they do right and what people love about them. But most importantly, see where they misstep and get it wrong.

It’s a lot less painful to learn a hard lesson by watching your competitors make mistakes than by making it yourself.

3. Collaborate with other teams

Social listening provides a wide range of information that is useful for your whole company.

Maybe it’s a customer post that needs a response right away. Maybe it’s a great idea for a blog post. Or maybe it’s an idea for a new product or new feature for an existing product.

The customer service, content marketing, and product development teams could all benefit from what you learn when you’re listening on social media. Make sure to communicate those learnings. And seek input from those teams, too. They might have specific questions you could answer by tweaking your social listening setup.

4. Roll with the changes

As you start to collect social information, you’ll develop a sense of the regular conversation and sentiment around your brand.

Once you know how people feel about you on a regular basis, you’ll know when it changes.

Major changes in engagement or sentiment can mean that the overall perception of your brand has changed. You need to understand why so you can adapt your strategy appropriately. That may mean riding a wave of positivity, or correcting a misstep to get back on course.

5. Take action

Remember: If you don’t take action, you’re only engaged in social media monitoring, not social listening.

Social listening is not just about tracking metrics. It’s about gaining insights into what your customers and potential customers want from you, and how you can give them that.

Make sure to analyze patterns and trends over time, rather than just individual comments. These overall insights can have the most powerful effects in guiding your future strategy.


Britain's Concrete Ears To Be Saved By English Heritage

Photo: shaped like an amphitheatre to focus sound, the 200 feet long acoustic 'mirror' wall is one of only two in the world. Photo: Chris Reeve.

Three massive concrete "listening ears" built on the Kent coast between the wars to detect aircraft crossing the channel, are to be rescued with a £500,000 grant from English Heritage.

Precursors to radar, the structures were built in the 1920s as part of the vital inter-war experiments with early warning systems that eventually helped win the Battle of Britain.

Rapidly sliding into flooded gravel pits at Greatstone, Kent the scheduled monuments have been in a crumbling state since the 1970s.

Restoration work is set to begin on August 4 and will provide controlled access and interpretation for history enthusiasts and the general public.

Photo: over 30 feet high, the listening posts are precursors to radar and were part of vital inter-war experiments that eventually helped to win the Battle of Britain. Photo: Chris Reeve.

English Heritage Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Kent, Peter Kendall explained why the bizarre concrete structures need to be rescued.

"Standing like huge modern sculptures in the otherwise featureless gravel, these structures are beautiful and fascinating," he said, "as well as historically important for the critical role they were designed to have defending England,"

The posts consist of two huge bowls, 20 and 30 feet high, and a 200 feet long acoustic 'mirror' wall, shaped like an amphitheatre to focus sound – one of only two such structures in the world.

Forming part of a long tradition of communications and defence on the south coast, the devices worked by concentrating sound waves onto microphones. Operators would then use stethoscopes attached to the dishes to listen for the far-off sound of enemy aircraft movements.

Photo: paid for by the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, work to restore the structures is set to begin in August. Photo: Chris Reeve.

During the Second World War, radar very quickly rendered the structures obsolete and since then the land has been used by the aggregates industry.

A Site of Special Scientific Interest, it is hoped that when restoration work is completed in October – before migrating birds arrive for the winter - the RSPB will manage it as a nature reserve.

Raised through the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, the £500,000 grant will be used to repair and underpin the structures. The grant will also be used to shore up the lake edges and cut the causeway currently leading to the listening posts in future a retractable bridge will provide access.

An additional £125,000 has been secured by local authorities to provide visitors with interpretation as part of the Historic Fortifications Network, a project to promote historic military sites in Kent, Flanders and around Calais.


Reassure people

Before you start an oral history, it's important to explain to the person you’re going to interview that:

  • it’s up to them what they say
  • they don’t have to answer all your questions if they don’t want to
  • they can stop at any time

It’s important that people are comfortable about talking, especially if it’s a difficult or emotional subject. They should understand what you are going to do with their recording (and their personal data) afterwards. This means asking them to fill in forms so you both agree. Find out more on the Oral History Society website.


Listening underground with a geophone

The best way for tunnellers to locate the enemy underground during the First World War was to use the geophone. The New Zealand Tunnelling Company official history tells us that the geophone:

consisted of a pair of wooden discs about four inches in diameter by a inch and a half thick, in the centre of which was a layer of mercury contained between mica plates: these were connected by rubber tubes to stethoscopic earpieces. In use the two discs were placed in contact with the ground and the listener knelt in front of them with ear-pieces adjusted. By moving one disc in an arc round the other until a particular sound was heard with exactly equal intensity in each ear, the direction of the sound was located in the line at right angles to that between the centres of the two discs, a compass bearing of which could be taken.

By making this observation from two or more widely separated points and plotting the results on paper the intersections of the bearings would give the exact location. A simple and wonderfully efficient little instrument, provided the user had sufficient experience and was not too plentifully endowed with imagination. When it is understood that in listening with it in the solid chalk of our front, practically every sound within a radius of 300 feet was distinctly audible it will be realised that a lively imagination can produce some weird effects in the listening reports: one classic sample distinctly heard a horse munching oats at 100 feet below the line – it could only have been a pre-historic fossil one!

To kneel or sit for hours at the end of a narrow gallery out under no man's land, in bad air, with only a guttering candle as protection from the ultimate dark, with every faculty concentrated on the sense of hearing alone to pick up the faint tap-tap of a Hun miner's pick, to separate that sound from the innumerable others, men walking on the trench boards far overhead, a sentry kicking his numbed feet against a firestep, the crash of a "Minnie" [German trench mortar] or the rattle of a machine gun, or even the scurryings and love affairs of the trench rats: to keep concentrated when it stops (the Hun is a very intermittent pick man), and to pick it up again the instant it starts, and then to determine exactly in which ear the sound is the stronger and to know that perhaps on this knowledge depends not only your own life and that of your mates but also the lives of those patient infantry in the trench above, all this will be summed in the laconic official listening report "Enemy picking Intermittent Faint 18 deg." Or again, to listen through the night to the stealthy shufflings and dragging noises that indicate the enemy is charging and tamping his mine, to determine, when the last faint rustle ceases, that he is ready to blow and so warn the line all this is the listener's job and perhaps there was no other that strained body, brain and nerve as did this.


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Find a conversation

Broadcast across Radio 4 and on local radio stations across the UK and Northern Ireland.

Get Involved

How to have your conversation - at a BBC Radio station or in the comfort of your own home

The Listening Collection

Fi Glover presents The Listening Project. Hear conversations that have caught her ear.

The British Library

The Listening Project is a BBC Radio & British Library partnership.

Bill and Madeleine - The Proposal

40 years after her father split them up, a couple are back together, but will she say yes?


Watch the video: Mia Matia Sou Mono Ftanei