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WDRC at War
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Like every other aspect of life, America's entry into World War II had a drastic impact on broadcasting. From the moment of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, a patriotic fervor gripped the country. It was clear that major changes were coming.

In January 1942 it was announced that 11 WDRC programs would be canceled or revised to comply with new censorship rules issued by the War Department. Notably, no further telephone or telegraph music requests would be accepted by the station. Owner Franklin M. Doolittle said even mailed requests would be scrutinized closely to be sure they didn't carry hidden messages which might benefit the enemy. It was an era when the slogan, "loose lips sink ships," was a creed to live by.

The Hartford Daily Courant - January 17, 1942
The Hartford Daily Courant
January 17, 1942

The Hartford Daily Courant - March 19, 1942 
The Hartford Daily Courant
March 19, 1942

The weekday afternoon man-on-the-street interview program Main Street, Hartford was canceled outright, replaced with a musical program.

In March, the U.S. Treasury launched a national program to sell defense bonds in order to pay for the ramp-up of America's military machine. The six WDRC staff announcers were commissioned to sell bonds to listeners during their broadcasts.

Radio was predominately a male occupation, at least as far as most on-air staffs were concerned. One by one, the male announcing and technical crew resigned to join the war effort. The first to go was transmitter engineer Carl Milner who joined the federal government in a civilian radio capacity. He left in late March.

WDRC did a live broadcast from an American Red Cross plasma bank to educate listeners about the need for blood.

As it became obvious that replacing male personnel was going to be difficult, WDRC began training its entire female office staff for double duty. Under the direction of Chief Engineer Italo A. Martino and Chief Control Operator Louis House, a program was developed to train stenographers, typists and secretaries to operate transmitters and control consoles.

The first to take over the main control board was Mr. Doolittle's personal secretary, Rose Pescik, who took over the early morning Shoppers Special program on June 10.

The next day development engineer Kenneth McLeod said farewell to begin a government research post.

On June 17 control operator Stanley Peer departed to join the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Hartford Daily Courant - May 2, 1942
May 2, 1942 - WDRC announcers Ray
Barrett & Bob Provan donate plasma as colleagues and Red Cross technicians look on.

In July Mr. Doolittle himself was appointed a technical advisor on frequency modulation broadcasting at the Board of War Communications in Washington, DC.

In August, announcer Elliott Miller was next out the door, signing up with the Civil Air Patrol. He was replaced by Russell Naughton (whose own lengthy WDRC career would be interruped by a stint in the Army starting in June 1943). On September 11, Bob Provan enlisted in the Army. Announcer Edwin O'Connor soon joined Stanley Peer in the Coast Guard. On September 18 Chief Announcer Ray Barrett departed for Uncle Sam's Army. Before long transmitter engineers Carl Milner and Larry Grant were also in uniform.

On October 8, 1942 announcer Jerry Piven also left for the Army never to return; he was killed in the line of duty on December 6, 1944 and is buried in Luxembourg. Piven was replaced at WDRC by Charles B. Haaser of Springfield. The same month Haaser started, so did Rodney L. Swift, who was imported from Rochester, NY.

1943 QSL card signed by WDRC's Lydia Gamble
One of the duties assumed by Lydia Gamble during World War II was the issuance of QSL verification cards to distant WDRC listeners.

November 2, 1942 was the day Jean Kirwan left the secretarial staff to become WDRC's first fulltime female control operator. After the war she became Mrs. Russell Naughton. She was later joined by Lydia Gamble. A regular singer on WDRC became part of the announcing staff on June 26, 1943. Alice Fraser replaced Army Private Naughton.

Billboard Magazine surveyed various radio stations in June 1943 on the impact of war staffing. Program Manager Walter Haase was quoted as saying WDRC lost 12 of its 30 announcers, control operators and transmitter men to the military or government defense positions. He said, "two physically handicapped men, one a control and transmitter operator, the other an announcer, have been employed. A part-time high-school boy works on FM."

In January 1944 The Courant reported news of a former WDRC announcer, then earning his living as a Marine First Lieutenant in the South Pacific. Frank W. Stuhlman was a bomber pilot who received commendation for his actions against the Japanese as the Allies landed on Bougainville in the Solomon Islands.

Whenever possible WDRC reported on news of Connecticut soldiers, sailors and airmen. The DeMaio family, of Hartford, had four sons in the service. Marine Corporal Anthony DeMaio was among the first to land at Guadalcanal which he recounted in a broadcast on August 11, 1944.

On November 3rd, Major James Garrett of Windsor Locks (no relation to the WDRC announcer of the same name) recounted his experiences with the Army Air Corps in Africa, Sicily and Italy.

The Hartford Daily Courant - June 27, 1943
Hartford Daily Courant
June 27, 1943

Not all of the hometown news was good, however. The station reported on April 27, 1945 that the brother of announcer Charles Haaser, B-17 pilot Lieutenant Walter B. Haaser, of Wethersfield, was missing in action in the Italian theater of war.

For a sample of wartime programming aired on WDRC, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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