NMP - USCG Radio Station - Chicago, IL
NMP Site - 9th District USCG photo supplied by Bob Balantine
Thanks to Bob Bob Ballantine, W8SU for almost all of the information on this page.
In 1939 the Coast Guard absorbed the U.S. Lighthouse Service and the six stations that they had broadcasting weather bulletins and notices to mariners. It is believed that MNP came on the air in 1943 and replaced several of those stations. It was located in Northbrook, IL on Dundee Road near Evanston and the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. In the picture above the operations building can be seen at the end of the drive, center right. Underwriters Labs (with the water tower) is toward the top of the picture with the I94 overpass just beyond it. Dundee Road is just off the bottom of the picture where the guard house stands. Center building facing was the barracks, rec. room and chow hall. The other slightly smaller building to its left was the garage. Radio Northbrook went QRT on 1 July 1969. Today, nothing remains but an empty field (the west part of the Somme Woods Forest Preserve) and a post office. A circle on the ground where the Ops. building stood is still clearly visible on current aerial photos.
There were no transmitters in the operations building, just receivers and antenna/transmitter control panels with keying and control lines leading to the TX dog houses. The receivers were the National HRO 1930's types with those infuriating band-change coils and later on the vaunted Collins 51J3 and 51J4. There was a supervisor's position, one CW position and one phone position all on the ground floor with teletype service between the phone and CW positions. Eventually there was only one operator at night. The men with more rank usually ended up with the day shift. Bob says that the story was that they used to spray carbon-tet on each other to keep awake on shift!!!
The main NMP antenna towers behind the
operations building could be configured into a diamond antenna or a
Rhombic for directional uses - both receiving and
transmitting. The two buildings nearest to the guard house
housed heavy-duty transmitters capable of 5KW CW & approx. 4KW
AM phone. They used 4 each 4-1000a's. Two
for RF output and two for modulators, air cooled.
The white circular fences contained broadband (2 to 4 MHz range)
discone antennas utilizing multiple wires suspended from the vertical
towers. They were used for both receive and
transmit. The white fences kept everyone out of harms
way. The remote transmitters and antennas were connected to
the operations building through buried cable troughs made of cement
under the pavement. At the time of the photo, in the 1960s,
there was no VHF utilized at NMD Cleveland or NMP Northbrook, but NOG
Sault Ste. Marie did use VHF on the river to control the shipping
approaches to the canal.
Communications operations consisted of Weather and Marine Safety broadcasts, distress watch and communications for any U.S. Coast Guard vessel or land station. NMP worked in tandem with Primary Station NMD in Chesterland (Cleveland) Ohio and secondary station NOG At Sault Ste. Marie Mich. Frequencies were limited: Voice channels 2182 KHz, 2678 KHz, an obscure and hardly used SSB channel and CW watch on 4337 KHz. There was no MF CW on 500 KHz, but 4337 was quite active and many hams have said that they got started in ham radio by copying NMP's CW transmissions.
There was a 9th district landline teletype system with in-time capability. This was a leased Bell Telephone secure line, with instant access 24-7. Every life boat station and each radio station had instant Teletype capability. Messages were brought to attention by ringing bells on the Teletype keyboard. The stations ranged from Duluth, MN to Eastern New York State. The District Communication Center in Cleveland was net control, and used the call group CCC.
NMP made life better for some of the CW equipped CG cutters in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior especially on the west end of Superior; that was a nasty area to get a signal out of. However, Bob feels that a bit of common sense applied to Great Lakes CG communications would have alleviated some of those radio problems, and perhaps could have eliminated the need for NMP. Higher power aboard ship and frequency selection, 5 or 8 MHz channels and 500 KHz. However, there was only one 4 MHz CW channel. It was different on the coasts, they had multi- channels which the Great Lakes were not authorized to use.
Bob lists the crew at NMP when he was stationed there in 1963 as: CO CHRELE Herb Shuey, RMC Vic Hansen, RM1 Tom Olsen, RM's Patterson, Tim Blatz, John McGrory, Sparkie the Dog. FN Rocky Graziano, SN Mike Shuey and one of the best cooks in the C.G. CS2 Walter Boyle. Bob reports that the Chief non-com radioman Vic Hansen, with his Hawaiian shirts, was a tough cookie. He could look a guy down and make him wonder if he was going to shoot him!
NMP was considered top-shelf duty in the Guard. Guys would have killed for the billet. A negative aspect of duty there was that a radioman had to stay aboard station for two days even when off watch and then had two days liberty. Also, it took a lot of work to keep the place looking good. Bob reports spending many off-duty hours white washing the buildings with the rest of the radiomen. The day crew, including the cook, also mowed the whole area. However, compared to weather patrol or ocean station duty, those assigned to NMP were most fortunate.
Interesting side note: During WW2 male radiomen were relieved by lady CG members (SPARS) who took over radio ops. duties at the stations. The men were sent to the war theaters. After the war their male counterparts returned to their old billets at NMP , NMD and NOG, and the lady ops. were discharged.