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Amateur Radio : History1


1909: "On January 2, the first amateur radio club; The Junior Wireless Club, Limited, of New York City, was organized. Later the club name changed to Radio Club Of America, and their history is a must read, don't miss it."1 "Founded in 1909, the Harvard Wireless Club (W1AF) is America's oldest Amateur Radio Club."2

Post-WWI: Amateur Radio After World War One (1919-1924)

1920: During the 1920's and 30's, college club stations were issued W#Yx calls. For example, W9YB (1920) is Purdue, W6YX (1922) is Stanford.3

1926: The first amateur radio station at West Point, NY, was founded by William Holmes Wenstrom with the call letters 2CX. The "2" represented the club's location in the second district. Below is a picture of LT Wenstrom while an instructor in the English Department in 1927.

NOTE: The June 1928 edition of  Amateur Radio Stations of the United States from the Department of Commerce [C11.7/6:928/2] lists the trustee of 2CX as William Holmes Wenstrom. Prior to 1926, 2CX was listed in the callbooks belonging to T. L. Van Loan of Catskill, NY. By the June 1930 callbook, there is no listing for W2CX.4 However, WH Wenstrom continued to pursue his interests in radio and meteorology. He published several articles including, Historical Review of Ultra-Short-Wave Progress in the 1932 Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers, Radiometeorography as Applied to Unmanned Balloons in the 1934 Monthly Weather Review, and On Pilot Balloons and Sources of Light for High Altitude Upper-Wind Observations in the 1937 Monthly Weather Review, as well as a book in 1942, Weather and the Ocean of Air.

1927: The Radio Act of 1927 established the Federal Radio Commission. "In the U.S. on January 1, 1927, there were 14,768 amateur radio stations, 671 broadcast stations, and 583 other stations (transoceanic stations and domestic point-to-point stations)."5 The Commercial and Government Radio Stations of the United States, edition June 30, 1927, shows WUAH at West Point, which may be a predecessor of the Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS) station (DODD 4650.2).

1928: Definition of Amateur Radio

1932: Edward C. Gillette (USMA Class of 1920), W2JIG, begins instructing in the Department of Chemistry and Electricity. Click on the below picture for a larger view of the department's officers including LT Gillette and the prophetic introduction of the department in the United States Military Academy's yearbook, Howitzer

1934: The Communications Act of 1934 created the Federal Communications Commission.

1936: Gillette, W2JIG, is instrumental in formalizing the Radio Club and it is authorized by the Academy this year. The earliest QSL cards in the club's records bear his callsign. Below is an image of a QSL card W2JIG received in 1936 from A. Baro, ON-4BAR, Belgium.

1937: The amateur radio club at West Point receives its current call sign, W2KGY. Gilette, W2JIG, acts as control operator for cadets and LT James W. Green. Green takes over the Radio Club later this year. Gillette would return to the academy and later be appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Chemistry until 1964 when he retired as a Brigadier General. In 1986, he became a Silent Key. In tribute, below is a picture of COL Gillette, his 1937 QSL card, some of the cadets he Elmered during that time, and the Howitzer entry for Department of Chemistry and Electricity in 1937.

COL Edward C. Gillette, Jr.


CPT Gillette and LT Green in the Department of Chemistry and Electricity.


Cadet George Millard Simmons


Cadet George Thaddeus Breitling


Cadet Lawrence Gordon Forbes


NOTE: The Winter 1937-38 "Flying Horse" Radio Amateur Callbook shows James W. Green as the trustee for W2KGY.6

1938-1939: The Radio Club makes its debut in the Howitzer:

Club Officers:
CIC: ?
OIC: ?


Club Officers:
CIC: Larry G. Forbes
OIC: ?


Club Officers:
CIC: Bob Keagy
OIC: Edward C. Gillette, Jr., W2JIG

1941 - 1942: Since its authorization in 1936, members of the club have made two-way radio contact with all states of the Union, and with 87 foreign countries. During World War II, amateur radio transmitting was suspended by the FCC because of wartime restrictions imposed on 8 December 1941. However, the club continued code practice, license examination studies, and building & maintaining equipment just as they did before the war.

Club Officers:
CIC: I. R. Obenchain, W2SMA
OIC: Edward C. Gillette, Jr., W2JIG


Club Officers:
CIC: ?
OIC: Edward C. Gillette, Jr., W2JIG

1943-1944: Despite restrictions placed upon radio transmitting due to the War, the Cadet Radio Club fostered a large membership actively engaged in experimentation, theory, and circuit design. The Club owned or operated such equipment as a Television receiver, a complete communications receiving unit, workshop, and transmitters. Members from every class worked in the three Club rooms in the 49th Division.

1944-1945: Cadet-in-Charge (CIC, a.k.a. President) Graham and the other "radio bugs" provided code instruction to air cadets and repaired worn out equipment while continuing to experiment with circuits and operate the club's equipment. Below is a picture of the officers, and some of the club members, taken in the west club room on the 7th floor of the 49th Division in 1945 before the end of WW-2. The code practice table is in the left foreground of the picture.

W2KGY 1945

Club Officers:
CIC: James Butler Graham
S4: Wallace Owens Enderle, W7IZR
OIC: H. W. Curtis

1945-1946: During this year, Cadets Friend and Simpson guided the club in repairing, overhauling, and installing equipment necessary for resumption of two way amateur radio operations while assisting members to attain their amateur radio license. The war-time activities of experimentation, code practice, license examinations, and the maintenance and repair of personal radios were continued, backed by some new test equipment obtained by Captain Curtis and the local Signal Detachment. A major addition to transmitting capabilities was an army surplus BC-610 transmitter. Below is a picture, taken in Church Hall, of the club officers and a few of the many other members in 1946. There were 51 club members listed just from the class of ’46 that year! From Clint Friend, Class of '46, W4CLV, "Got my original license in 1938, W1MAG. Operated from Puerto Rico from 1940-43 as K4HNI. Foreign calls held: DL4XI Germany 1947-50 and HL9KP Korea 1961-62. Worked all continents (WAC), Worked all zones (WAZ) and am on the ARRL DX Century Club (DXCC) Phone list. Finally retired to FL 1984."

1946hamx.jpg (6133 bytes)
Standing: Cadets Robinson, Simpson, Shattuck, Friend, Matejov, and Kent.
Seated: Cadets Culpepper, Sherman, Mattern, and Enderle.

Club Officers:
CIC: Harold "Clint" Friend, W4CLV
ACIC: Charles "Bill" Simpson
OIC: H. W. Curtis

Data on the years 1943-49 was graciously provided by COL (Ret.) Wallace Owens Enderle, Class of '48, W7IZR.


Beginning - 1945
1946 - 1965
1966 - 1985
1986 - 2005
2006 - Present




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