United States Maritime Service Radio Training Station in Boston Harbor
Gallups Island school produces "well grounded" men for vital radio jobs in our Victory Fleet

To a stranger, Gallups Island, site of the United States Maritime Service Radio Training Station, is not unlike an isolated, yet pleasant, mountain lake resort. Seven miles from shore and just one of the many islets that dot Boston's line harbor, Gallups breathes informality but it is not long before one recognizes the effortless, yet unmistakable, poise of quiet efficiency underneath its peaceful exterior. It is an efficiency that has transformed 2,830 men from all walks of life into expertly-trained Merchant Marine radio operators since Pearl Harbor.

view of Gallups Island
Seven Miles out in Boston Harbor, Gallups Island enjoys pleasant isolation.
At dock is "Calvert," the Shuttle Boat

These men, trained in a specialty which demands the highest type of man in the U.S. Maritime Service, are now manning the radio rooms of innumerable merchant ships carrying the necessities of war to our battle fronts. And every week some 50 more are being graduated with the rank of warrant officer to help fill the requirements which eventually will demand three radio operators aboard every merchant ship so that a 24-hour vigil may be kept.

Outdoor indoctrination class
Outdoor indoctrination class. Officer gives talk on
rules and regulations to incoming trainees

As it has been with other Merchant Seamen, many Gallups Island men have given their lives in helping to deliver the goods to the men who deliver the punch. Perhaps the most fitting tribute to the men from this station is one which is also applicable to all Merchant Seamen who have faced disaster and lost.

This tribute is inscribed on a monument recently erected on Gallups Island and is dedicated to the memory of those men who have made the supreme sacrifice. The engraved wording a constant reminder and inspiration to men now in training --- reads: "BY THEIR DEEDS MEASURE YOURS."

Gallups Island and the Maritime Service are proud of the men they have trained. Like the thousands of other men trained by the Service under the terrible urgency of war, they are doing their jobs and are doing them well on widely-scattered ships that dot the seven seas. These men of Gallups Island represent something new in the history of the American Merchant Marine. They are a part --- a numerically small but highly-specialized part --- of a planned, large-scale, intensive program involving the application of the best modern techniques of testing and classification to men of proven aptitude and then giving these men the knowledge and skills, through intelligent training, to fit them for their highly important jobs at sea.

Thus it is that the finely balanced training period of from 20 to 32 weeks (20 weeks now) makes easy the transition from dryland sailor to sea-going man. A Gallups Island man makes this adjustment quickly. He possesses "savvy." He needs only a pair of sea legs and a few watches on board to justify the time and money that have been spent in training him.

Aboard ship, the licensed radio operator is a department in himself, responsible only to the master of the vessel. He has freedom of action and decision in the event of emergency when he is more than likely to display that skill and "savvy' he has acquired at Gallups Island.

Originally an apprentice seaman at an U.S. Maritime Service Training Station could be enrolled at Gallups Island Radio Training Station merely by requesting it. Now, however, trainees are chosen after careful thought and consideration by classification officers. How well this system of selection has succeeded may be measured by comparing the terrific attrition rate before the program went into effect with the very few who "wash out" under the new method. Experience also has proved that only those men who receive scores well above average in most of the standard psychological tests and possess good educational background, plus positive code aptitude, can hope to survive the heavy, concentrated doses of code, theory and laboratory work which they must digest to be graduated from Gallups Island.

To present a picture of the average student at Gallups Island, it appears he is the survivor of a rigorous process of screening and elimination --- a process which virtually guarantees his competence. According to tests he is mentally capable of absorbing a concentrated course of training in a short period of time. He is about 22 years of age and has had one to two years of college, regards himself as a career man and is definitely dedicated to the idea of remaining in the Merchant Marine in the post-war period.

Gallups Island has been forced, by the demands of war, to accelerate its program many times. From a station of a few buildings housing a couple of hundred men and producing some 22-30 graduates every six weeks, Gallups has been geared to turn out 50 men a week while clothing, feeding, housing and providing medical and recreational facilities for a total trainee and administrative complement of some 1200 men. As the station grew, instruction techniques were stepped up, non-essentials curtailed and new, improved methods adopted. It might be safe to say, perhaps, that from the moment a trainee enters Gallups Island there is hardly a waste motion made or breath taken, so well-oiled and efficient is the training program.

Sherman W. Reed Commander Sherman W. Reed, Gallups Island skipper. At 17 he took a concentrated two year seamanship course on the Massachusetts Nautical School Training Ship and passed his exam as third mate. For 23 years he sailed the North and South Atlantic, with advancements from Mate to Master. Commander Reed assumed command of the Gallups Island Radio Training Station in September, 1942.

[Below left] Instructor shows trainee how to take a ship's bearing using
the direction finder -- a line of direction to a fixed radio shore position

direction finderThe training department is divided into three distinct divisions, each necessary hut not sufficient in itself for giving the radio trainee the proper equipment to go to sea as a licensed operator. Together, the three divisions --- Operations, Radio Engineering and Laboratory --- contribute everything toward the manufacture of a well-rounded and thoroughly grounded 'Sparks.'

Operations include code, message procedure, communications laws and message accounting; Radio Engineering comprises the study of all radio and electrical theory necessary to pass second class radio telegraph license examinations given by the Federal Communications Commission, as well as providing an excellent basic knowledge for further advanced study in communication engineering; Laboratory gives the trainee an opportunity to put into practice what he has learned in theory about the behavior of electric currents and also gives him the opportunity of familiarizing himself with all representative Merchant Marine equipment before he encounters it aboard ship. This equipment includes direction finders, auto alarms and several types of radio transmitters and receivers.

Trainees work with tools, learn how to make repairs and how to service their equipment at sea from competent instructors, some of whom have had ships sunk under them. These instructors are also well-versed in reaching procedure in emergencies. Always, the practical is stressed.

Training aids are exploited to the last possible degree, particularly in the radio engineering division which is rich in such ''assists." Every conceivable aid to illustrate text material, difficult to grasp because of its abstractness, is put to use. Visual aids include strip films, motion pictures (silent and sound), animated movies (made on the station), slides, charts, drawings and specially-made animated drawings.

To demonstrate various radio and electrical principles in radio theory, instructors make frequent use of aid equipment of various kinds. Large meters in working condition, cathode ray oscilloscopes, cut-away models of electrical machinery and bread-board built-up radio equipment are used profusely.


cathode ray oscilloscope console type unit
Instructor explaining use of cathode ray oscilloscope Instructor pointing out features of console type unit

Perhaps the most interesting development for student use has been the installation of benches in all theory lecture rooms and construction of working models of radio transmitters and receivers with meters so that students can make adjustments and observe the effects themselves. Display boards showing various radio instruments and devices are liberally distributed in all lecture rooms and laboratories. These opportunities to "learn by doing' are in line with the best modern teaching methods.

In the Operations division, student code drills are held under conditions closely simulating actual working conditions at sea. Static, background noises and all the ills that the seagoing operator finds in his daily work are artificially introduced into code circuits through which the men are required to copy messages. Students are assigned call letters to represent actual ships and they send and receive messages with their instructors who represent coastal stations.


Watch standing room lifeboat emergency transmitter
Watch standing room: Trainees stand
regular "watches" copying signals and
keeping complete radio log
Trainees learn use of portable lifeboat emergency transmitter that sends
distress signal automatically

This is not all the student must learn. Traveling in convoy, the radio trainee must know all the "ins" and "outs" of convoy communications which often involve the safety of the ship. Radio operators should know blinker and have more than a speaking acquaintance with semaphore. And in the event of necessity they should be able to man an oar in a lifeboat.

After successfully passing all his school requirements, the student is assigned to a week's intensive instruction in war-time convoy procedure. Here he must learn about communications procedures, signals, confidential naval methods of handling ships in convoy and everything that will permit his acting as liaison communications officer between his ship and the convoy leader. Following that week of instruction, the student receives his full second class radio telegraph license and awaits assignment to his first merchant ship. He is then on his own.

Although all activities on the station naturally are centered around the training program, other departments make important contributions toward putting a polish on the finished product. All recreational, social, athletic and religious activities are centered in a beautiful new recreation hall which boasts practically every facility to insure trainees and administrative men adequate means of relaxation. Moving pictures are shown several times a week and the stage is so constructed that a section may be rolled out to serve as a boxing ring. There is also a canteen, reading room and game room, provided with billiard tables and ping pong tables. Outdoors is a good sized macadamized drill field which is also used for baseball and softball. On the social sue, dances are held occasionally for trainees, administrative men and their guests in the spacious auditorium.

Physical fitness
Physical fitness keeps trainees in top condition

Everything is pointed to the development of raw trainee into finished radio operator and officer, poised and aware of his importance to the war effort. Immediately upon his arrival at Gallups Island, the student becomes part of a platoon which has its own section advisor, an officer who acts as a buffer between the trainee and the administration. Any individual may go to the section advisor with his problem and get advice --- which he is not required to accept --- before presenting his problem or request to the station's authorities. This gives the trainee a higher morale by impressing upon him that his welfare is indeed the first concern of the station.

Gallups Island's isolated location out in Boston Harbor on the seaward side of the submarine nets, is both helpful and at the same time somewhat of a nuisance. The admitted advantages of freedom from the distractions of a large city are somewhat offset by the problem of supplying a station of about 1,000 trainees and administrative personnel over a supply line seven miles long.

Several running boats and a large excursion-type vessel, the Calvert, make several trips a day between India Wharf in the heart of Boston and the station. Because of transportation difficulties, as well is the intensive type of instruction, liberty --- for both trainees and administrative personnel --- is regarded as a precious privilege and eagerly sought. Ordinarily trainees rate weekend liberty only, unless they attain a very high scholastic average in which case a Wednesday night liberty is awarded.

Gallups Island, named after Colonel Gallup who obtained prominence in New England Colonial life, was, before the U.S. Coast Guard took over in 1938, a U.S. Public Health Service quarantine station. Immediately after taking over, the Coast Guard completely renovated most of the buildings and installed equipment to train Maritime Service enrollees as cooks and bakers and later as radio operators. The cooks and bakers school was subsequently abandoned and the station became a radio school exclusively.

Since the U.S. Maritime Service assumed full control of the Merchant Marine training program for the War Shipping Administration in September 1942, construction of new buildings and new facilities preceded at an accelerated rate. New barracks to house a vastly increased number of trainees and administrative men, mess halls, new classrooms, an entirely new dock to accommodate the larger liberty boat, a new addition to the hospital equipped with the most modern X-ray, surgical and medical equipment --- even a new incinerator --- have all been constructed. Hundreds of feet of cement walks have been laid, the drill field mind its approaches macadamized and new roads and driveways built. Good exterior building maintenance and intelligent landscaping have made Gallups Island not only one of the busiest but also one of the most beautiful small islands in Boston Harbor.

The U.S. Maritime Service is a flexible organization and due to war needs, conditions and requirements change almost from day to day. So it has been on Gallups Island. As new offensives have been launched throughout the world, time demands upon merchant shipping and particularly American shipping have been stepped up. New offensives mean more ships and more ships mean more radio operators.

graduates of Gallups Island Radio Training StationThe Normandy invasion has emphasized the need for more ships and more men to man the ships. New blows by the Allied forces certainly are being conceived and still more merchant ships and more radio operators will be required. The newly-established policy that all American merchant ships carrying the necessities of war to all the global fronts carry three Merchant Marine radio operators has forced upon the Maritime Service the immediate necessity of turning out more men to handle the radio watch aboard ship than the maximum capacity of Gallups Island can accommodate.

The setting up of a parallel station at Hoffman Island is the Maritime Service answer to that problem. Both schools are expected to be able to supply the expected demand for 2,500 men per year qualified to stand a watch on the distress frequency at sea.

Originally established to serve the dual purpose of training men for licenses as radio operators in the Merchant Marine and to provide refresher courses for operators working on their licenses at sea, both purposes, under the pressure of wartime conditions, had to be abandoned, or rather, subordinated to the job of turning licensed operators in half the time and five times the number planned as adequate before Pearl Harbor.

It might have been easier to sacrifice quality for quantity but then it would not have been possible to say that Gallups Island men are equal to every radio room emergency. As it is now and as it will be in the future, that will be the simplest, yet most truthful description of Merchant Marine radio operators.

[Above right] Warrant officers, graduates of Gallups Island Radio
Training Station, board the "Calvert" for their last trip to the Boston
mainland. Soon they will be qualified radio operators at sea

Source: MAST Magazine, July 1944

For a full story on Gallups Island U.S. Maritime Service Radio Training Station see We Came From All Over... We Went Everywhere: This was Gallups Island, Turner Publishing Co., Paducah, KY, 1994. Turner Publishing Co., P.O. Box 3101, 412 Broadway, Paducah, KY 42002-3101, 1-800-788-3350.
Compiled by Gallups Island Radio Association, a History of Gallups Island, Its Veterans and Their Role in Our Freedom. 208 pages of Facts, Stories, Photos, Platoon (Class) reports, etc. Great effort!

U. S. Maritime Service


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