Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

The US Naval Radio Station at Mare Island was the first naval radio station on the West Coast. This station, commonly referred to as the "Hill Station" was commissioned 27 April 1904. The original site was located on a hill southward of the shipyard proper. An abandoned pigeon cote was moved to the site and fitted up as an operating and transmitting room. In addition to the pigeon cote, one ship type mast, 130 feet high, was erected. Under the command of officers with such titles as Equipment Officer, Officer in Charge Wireless Telegraph Station, Pacific Coast Radio Officer, Electronics Officer, and Industrial Manager, people based at Mare Island have been engaged in shore electronics installation work since 1904.

 

The Mare Island location served as a transmitter station to ships at sea as well as to shore commands in the Pacific. In May 1904 the first radio message transmitted to the Pacific was sent from Mare Island to the hospital ship USS Solace as she steamed out through the Golden Gate. Contact was lost at seventy-five miles. The station's mission during the early years was to provide the then new Marconi wireless circuits to fill the Navy's requirements in the San Francisco Bay area. By 1915, Mare Island had built all of the radio stations that spanned the Pacific Coast from Point Loma at San Diego to the Pribilof Rocks in the Bering Sea, as well as the Lafayette Station at Bordeaux, France. In 1919, the Mare Island team went to Siberia to build the first station erected in Vladivostok. In 1917, Naval Communication Station San Francisco moved its headquarters and receiver site from Mare Island to Yerba Buena Island; the transmitter site remained at Mare Island.

 

In 1915, 30 KW arc transmitters were installed at Mare Island. A decision was made to establish the Yerba Buena Station as the control station and Mare Island as the transmitter station for the communication complex. At that time the Mare Island station was changed from a transmitting/receiving station to a transmitting station only, with control (keying) of the transmitters accomplished by the Yerba Buena Station (NPG). The San Francisco District consisted of the stations at Yerba Buena Island (District Center), Mare Island, Farallon Island, Eureka, Marshfield and a station at Monterey which had been authorized but was never built.

 

1904 - Radio Station (Call sign TG) established with Slaby-Arco transmitter at the HILL location
1912 - 5 KW quenched spark gap transmitter installed
1915 - 30 KW arc transmitter installed - call sign changed to NPG since Yerba Buena became the control station

 

Also located at the Mare Island Naval Radio Station was one of the US Navy's Electrical Schools. The purpose of the school was to help fill the Navy's need of electricians, employed both aflorad and on shore and at wireless telegraph stations. This shcool was opened in March, 1905. The inauguration of the school was conincident with the beginning of wireless telegraphy in the Pacific.  

 

BELOW IS A SMALL SELECTION OF THE IMAGES IN THE MARE ISLAND COLLECTION