“A group of us whose last name began with B were all assigned to the radar gang for some deep secret that only the military would know why. That was in November of 1942. Even the word radar was classified at the time. You could not reveal it stood for radio detection and ranging. We had an old set of bedsprings [CXAM] up on our foremost. The little air search radar was just a small cathode ray tube and it had no calibrations on it whatsoever. We had a little piece of scotch tape across the front of it and marked in ink were increments of 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60.
By practice and error we had no way of determining altitude…or how many there might be in a group. We could just pick up some signals coming in. That was the early radar. We were one of the few ships in the formation that was equipped with radar.
They called the new radar gang CT Division, communications technician. They didn’t know what else to do with it. Even the radar rate was the same as the radio rate except it had an arrow through it. It grew. It became more sophisticated.
You are trained to detect something that wasn’t normal. Of course, trying to determine what is clouds because the radar would pick up cloud formation and you would get a signal back. It had no speed and no direction. Prematurely we went to air defense many times at night when someone called that they had contact and didn’t.”
-Everette Beaver, Radarman 2/c
Attended Radar Operators School in October 1943
Jerry Johnson describes radar aboard the Battleship North Carolina.
“Radars are devices which the Allies use to detect the approach of enemy aircraft and ships, and to determine the distance (range) to the enemies’ forces. It is one of the marvels made possible by the electron tube. Radars operate through fog, storms, and darkness, as well as through cloudless skies. They are, therefore, superior to both telescopes and acoustic listening devices.”
The First Public Account of Radar in Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin, June 1943
“When we first went into commission [April 1941], the thought of radar was just fantastic. When you consider your antiaircraft, you are completely flatfooted until some joker drops out of the clouds. You have a different problem than if you have advanced warning as to their approach.”
-LCDR John Kirkpatrick
Assistant Gunnery Officer and Air Defense Officer
“A second class radioman by the name of [Adam] Miller was the most experienced and the best qualified operator of this radar. He sat on a stool facing the console. He was superb in his ability to look at the A scope of that radar and interpret all those strange flickers of light. He could distinguish carriers from battleships and cruisers from destroyers. He was a real pro at radar navigation. He was the eyes of the ship in many dark and dangerous situations.”
-LT Ben Blee
Combat Intelligence Officer and Assistant CIC Officer
“We had no idea what radar really was. I had visualized it when I first heard about it as sort of like a modern television screen. The first thing my boss told me in London, ‘what do you know about radar?’ I said, ‘nothing.’ The British called it RDF for disguise purposes. The school at Portsmouth was for fleet officers who would be exposed to search radars, fire control radars. And they started right from the push-pull vacuum tubes right up on through the circuit. You weren’t supposed to become an expert repairman or technician but it was just enough background so that you not only later learned what radar could do but had some idea of how and why.”
-Rear Admiral Thomas Howard Morton
(CDR Morton, gunnery officer on BB55)