Clinton Man Helps Build 5th Army Radio

(From the Clinton Herald, date unknown.  This was sent to us by Richard Carstensen,

Lt. Vern Carstensen Helps Get Programs to Troops Daily.

Second Lt. Vern Carstensen, 211 1/2 Second avenue, Clinton, is assigned to a task of helping keep favorite radio programs available each day to widely scattered troops of the Fifth Army in Italy.  He's doing the task with a crew of six enlisted men in charge of the Fifth Army's mobile radio station.

Designed and built to move and broadcast as an independent unit anywhere in the combat zone, the modern, completely equipped American expeditionary station on wheels is reaching the most isolated units of Fifth Army.  A radio service for American fighting men and women and their Allies, the station is the first of its kind to be put in operation in this theatre of war.

The broadcasting unit goes on the air at any spot chosen in the Fifth Army area, enabling troops within a radius of 50 miles to tune in.  It moves with the army into the location which best enables it to beam its programs to the largest number of troops.

Programs By Personnel

In order to cut down on the number of transcribed programs it broadcasts daily, the station is now monitoring a "Salute to Fifth Army." Unit personnel is auditioned and the programs rebroadcasted.

In less than two hours the station can be disassembled, moved, and placed back on the air.  The studio can be compared with one in the States that has been moved to Italy and placed on wheels.  It has been built into two-and-a-half ton trucks with jeeps and trailers to carry its transmitter, office and studio.  With its 10 units, it resembles a small circus on the march.

The idea of a mobile radio station for troops was first proposed last year in North Africa by Major Francis L. McAloon, 67 Brigham street, Providence, Rhode Island, Fifth Army assistant special service officer.  

At that time the Fifth army station was broadcasting from buildings.  Its programs were not reaching a majority of fighting men who were outside the radius of the station's transmitter.  The real need for a mobile, self-sustaining unit that could reach large members of men.

On Air In Month

In a little over a month after Carstensen was assigned to the job, the mobile unit went on the air.  Shortly after Allied troops invaded Italy below Salerna last September, the station beamed its first program.

But the problem of reaching outlying troops still was unvolved. [sic] Although mobile, the station was not servicing some units.  Either they did not have radio sets or they were lacking public address systems.

Major McAloon went out and either bought or rented more than 700 radios for distribution among remote outfits.  Special Services of each unit arranged to install at least one public address system.  Now all Fifth army organizations are hearing daily broadcasts.

Studio Built By Crew

The studio was designed and built, almost in its entirety, by the crew.  Captured German and Italian equipment had an important part in the station's construction.  American ordnance units built additions to trucks which house the studio, control room and office.

German ply wood makes up the walls of the studio which is large enough to stage a four or five-piece swing band.  The light fixtures are shaped out of powdered egg cans.  An Italian piano, its fringes removed, fits snugly into one corner of the studio.

Four Italian field artillery aluminum observation towers have been broken down and made into antennae.  Ration cans were shaped into a 10-second warning bell and the "on the air" sign.  "Mikes," transmitter and turntables in the central room were sent from the States.

Interior decorating was done by Lieutenant Carstensen who admits he had a hobby for that in civilian life.  He is a former program director for KROS here.

With this mobile expeditionary station on the air daily, Fifth army special service has been accomplished perhaps the greatest service in its power to entertain war-weary troops.