Sat Jun 1, 2019, 04:56 PM

WGU-20 - "The Last Radio Station" Government Doomsday Longwave!

WGU-20, also known as "the last radio station," was operated by the United States Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (one of the two agencies later merged to become the Federal Emergency Management Agency) in the mid-to-late 1970s.

Public Emergency Radio

Operating 24 hours a day on a longwave frequency of 179 kHz from Chase, Maryland, WGU-20's programming consisted of pre-recorded announcements (including weather reports) and time checks. The transmitter was situated at 39°21'3.4"N 76°20'44.7"W and used as antenna a single-mast antenna with a height of 219.45 meters (720 ft), which was demolished in 2011. The broadcast had the mechanical sound of early speech synthesis systems but the message could be clearly understood, with time ticks in the background and a continuous announcement akin to the speaking clock:

"Utilizing the world's first all-solid state, 50,000-watt, radio transmitter built by Westinghouse, the signal covered much of the eastern seaboard. WGU-20 was something of a mystery initially, with thousands of ham radio operators and radio hobbyists speculating about the nature of the station, until a small news article in Popular Electronics magazine outlined exactly what WGU-20 was. Afterwards, reception reports (some from as far away as Texas) were sent a special QSL card featuring Paul Revere on a horse, raising the alarm.

"Signing on in 1973, the purpose of WGU-20 and it's planned sister stations was to broadcast news and information to Americans in the event of a nuclear war. The station was always in test mode, 24/7.

The advantage of using an LW signal rather than standard AM or FM signal was because as I mentioned earlier, LW signals travel through the ground rather than the sky. And that's where most of us (hypothetically) would be in a nuclear war - underground. In bomb shelters.

Second, radio direction guided missiles would have more difficulty homing in LW signals because they don't rely on sky waves. Besides, since radio towers are above ground, they would likely be destroyed or unusable due to radioactive contamination.

Thus WGU-20's ominous unofficial nickname, "The Last Radio Station".

And LW stations have the same purpose in other countries. In The Letters of Last Resort, which are the considered the final acts of Her Majesty's Government in the event the UK is destroyed in a nuclear war and the Prime Minister and second in command are killed. One of the protocols given to UK nuclear submarine commanders is to listen for BBC Radio 4 on it's 198 kHz LW frequency. Because LW signals not only travel well underground, but underwater as well.

If there is no signal and all other protocols for verifying the worst have been followed and the UK is no more, the commander may retaliate with his/her submarine's nuclear weapons, not retaliate, join a commonwealth country like Canada or Australia or an allied nuclear power like the US or France. The exact orders can vary and change with each new Prime Minister.

WGU-20's final broadcast was in 1990.

However, if you're curious to hear what LW radio sounds like, there's a tunable WebSDR in Peterborough, UK you can use to sample the European LW dial

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Reply WGU-20 - "The Last Radio Station" Government Doomsday Longwave! (Original post)
wonderwarthog Jun 1 OP
DDKick Jun 1 #1
wonderwarthog Jun 1 #2
Currentsitguy Jun 3 #3
wonderwarthog Jun 3 #4

Response to wonderwarthog (Original post)

Sat Jun 1, 2019, 07:14 PM

1. I remember many years ago hearing WNBC radio at 3 in the am driving near Las Vegas.

The waves can carry

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Response to wonderwarthog (Original post)

Mon Jun 3, 2019, 04:57 PM

3. Great idea in theory, however

Considering (outside of us nutballs) how few Americans own or owned a radio capable of receiving a long wave transmission, I'm not sure of how much use it would have been had it become necessary to press it into service.

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Response to Currentsitguy (Reply #3)

Mon Jun 3, 2019, 09:55 PM

4. Everyone in Europe

once had longwave radios.

It never took off in the U.S., regardless of the efforts of the "homeiand security" of the day to convince manufacturers to make it available on standard radios.

I have a friend at Antique Radio Forums

"yes, a top notch antenna system and grounding system will be imperative for optimum LW reception.

i had hundreds of feet of buried ground counterpoise fanned out throughout the field, buried about 1 foot beneath the surface with multiple grounding rods 10-15 feet into the earth connected to this ground field. this was all below the overhead beverages.

i used hundreds of feet of beverages overhead.

when i disconnected the ground (shell of the coax connector which was my buried ground system) most of the long wave signals disappeared into dead air.

a large antenna system along with an excllent earth grounding system is absolutely necessary.

the stations i listed above came in armchair copy and some pegged the needle in the late evenings, especially between november and march. a blanket of snow and cold temps in january and february really icened the cake.

as the equinox creeped up in march along with thunderstorms, then summertime, my LW reception really decreased. in my parts, LW propagation absolutely loved december, january, and february.

i was also thrilled to receive many european, north african, and middle eastern stations on medium wave (broadcast band "AM") here as well. stations such as RTV Algeria, RTM Mauritania, Libya, RNE Spain, HRT Zagreb, Yugoslavia, and Duba, Saudi Arabia's massive 2 megawatt blowtorch, on 1521. these were almost regular armchair copied stations too."

who is a longwave fan. He has a buried grounding cable system in his yard, and a serious antenna. He picks up longwave from around the world. .

Here is the thread...

For those of us without proper antenna array, longwave is ...

a longshot.

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