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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

LBJ Communicating with the World (1966)-revised


 White House Communication Capabilities 
The Oval Office (1966)
Type of Activity
Communications
Location
Location
Worldwide
Date of Activity
 August 1967
Coordinates
38°53'51.2"N 77°02'20.9"W

Note:  Excerpts from an Article found in the Bell Telephone Magazine, Spring 1966, Titled, Communicating Presidents by Merriman Smith was used in this Post.

As late as 1929, the President of the United States did not have a telephone in his office. In the spring of that year, however, Herbert Hoover had a telephone installed at his desk. Until that time, the presidential telephone had been in a hallway booth outside the office Where it had been dating back to Dec. 1, 1878, and President Rutherford B. Hayes. Since March 27, 1929, when Mr. Hoover brought the black stand-up instrument out of the hallway and onto his desk, each succeeding President has had progressively better communications.

From a handful of draftees and regulars in 1942 the White House Signal Detachment (WHSD) evolved an organization whose efficiency, variety of skills and esprit-de-corps stood unbeaten in the service of future Presidents.

President Roosevelt’s primary mode of travel was either by automobile or rail car. The use of Mobile radios or HF radios became the Primary means of communications while a network of voice communications connected the White House with the world.

In 1954, during the Eisenhower Administration, the White House Signal Detachment (WHSD) was reorganized under the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, Army Signal Corps as a Class II unit and renamed the White House Army Signal Agency (WHASA). The WHASA primary responsibility was to provide communications for the President at the White House and when the President traveled but WHASA was also responsible for the Communications at Shangri-La (renamed Camp David) the Eisenhower Gettysburg farm and the Presidential Communications Rail Car which was stored near Harrisburg PA.

Entrance to the Presidential retreat aka Camp David
The USSS CP at the Eisenhower Farm

Hitched to the end of a private train that included baggage cars, sleeping cars for staff and a communications car that was a converted hospital car, the Magellan could function as a veritable White House on wheels—a reverberating fortress. And as “Presidential Railcar U.S. Number 1,” it took precedence over all other rail traffic.

Communications were facilitated by a converted hospital car that had high-tech radio gear installed so the President could stay connected at all times. A second converted hospital car was also part of the train. It was used by the President’s Secret Service protection detail and included bunks, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a lounge area. The code name for these two cars was “Crate.” An oversize baggage car would often carry two sedans and two convertibles for motorcades, and other cars could be added, like ones carrying the press and other aids for high-profile rail missions.

The Radio Car had a console installed which handled all the HF Comm. equipment, the audio amps and VU Meters for the audio PA function and two patch panels for audio routing. It also had rooms for the AC power generators, radio equipment, switchboard, and a small Comm. Center.


The WHCA  Albert J Meyer Comm. Car the Presidential Communications Rail 
WHCA HF Radio Console
 
The White House Army Signal Agency (WHASA) was organized at the beginning of the World War II for providing, maintaining, and operating facilities for the transmission, reception, and safeguarding the security of Presidential communications primarily during the President’s travels which evolved into today’s White House Communications Agency (WHCA).

Presidential Communications of 1966 uses state of the art communication helping our chief executives to carry out their duties as national and world leaders. Air Force One, a gleaming silver and blue jet transport, speeds across America at 35,000 feet bound for the Orient and a Summit Conference of nations involved in the Vietnam war. The President of the United States sits in a reclining leather chair beside a long table in his combination office and sitting room. Tiny gold stars shine in an artificial sky on the ceiling. This is the larger room of his suite in the after section of the aircraft. At the end of his table a tiny red-light glows. The President picks up a white telephone. "Hello there, Senator," he says. "Are you all going to vote today on the bill 1 called you about from Texas last night?"

Conversation ends quickly, and the President says to an aide, "Have the White House send us the roll call on that bill before we refuel in Hawaii. Now I would like to talk to Secretary Rusk in London."

The aide picks up another telephone in the cabin and gives instructions to the communications center in the forward area of Air Force One next to the control bridge. Processing the call to the White House WHCA manned Signal Board (Crown) and the White House Admin board in Washington. In less than a minute. Rusk is on the radio telephone and instructions to transmit the Senate roll call are received back at the White House by radio teletype.

President’s Office on Air Force One 
Air Force One's HF Radio Console

When the President travels overseas the Primary means of communications and the most important is the Mystic Star HF-SSB network, which is a worldwide network of remotely operated HF-SSB transmitter and receiver sites linked by switched DSN lines and some leased lines to a control center near Andrews (Brandywine Md.). All are located at or near military bases (mostly Air Force), and can be tuned, keyed, and the antennas selected and pointed from consoles at Andrews. Most of the antennas are huge rotatable HF log periodic.

White House Teletype terminal 1966

On all overseas trips, WHCA would install HF transmitters and receivers at all locations that the President had on his Itinerary. Each location would establish contact with Andrews Airways through the Mystic Star HF network. Andrews would select sites and frequencies to maintain continuous HF-SSB voice and TTY contact with AF-1. Frequencies used come from a list of more than a hundred throughout the HF spectrum.

KWM-2 SSB HF Transceiver

Improving communications plus marked advances in transportation have freed American chief executives to move about the earth. Today it seems almost silly, but as recently as 1947, the legality of official papers signed by President Harry S. Truman was challenged because he affixed his signature to these documents while visiting Brazil.

In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson could sign important legislation 40,000 feet above Kuala Lumpur without causing the slightest legal ripple among constitutional purists on Capitol Hill.

Another radio system, code named Yankee/Zulu after the two White House frequencies it uses (Yankee 407.8500 MHz and Zulu 415.7000 MHz), is provided by WHCA, and permanently installed around Washington DC and presidential vacation homes. It is usually installed on a temporary basis at the site of a presidential visit. This UHF system provides a telephone circuit to the presidential limo.

The President's Limo mobile FM Yankee/Zulu radios in the back seat

The President's Limo mobile FM Yankee/Zulu radios in the front seat

This system (Y/Z) is occasionally used from AF-1 to complete calls during landing and takeoff. It is not used enroute.

And needless to say the aircraft can communicate on most of the standard Secret Service Presidential Protection VHF and UHF radio channels, and of course, there is normal VHF and UHF AM air to ground capability.

When the President is aboard (and the plane is really called AF-1) this voice and Teletype circuit is also patched into the White House Signal Switchboard from the WHCA trip site to provide a link if other circuits are unavailable.

There was also the UHF radio network WHCA operated (on 415.7/407.85) is code named "Echo Foxtrot", or "Nationwide" (the later name distinguishes it from the "Washington Area" system used for communications with White House limos and staff cars). It provides full duplex clear voice coverage over most of the continental US to VIP aircraft in flight (SAM aircraft - Special Air Missions - which fly out of Andrews AFB).

Echo-Fox links them to a console known as (Crown Radio) located at the White House Signal Switchboard (Crown) in the Old Executive Office building basement from which phone patch connections can be made to telephones at the White House, on the commercial POTS/DDD network, various other federal telephone systems, and occasionally the DSN (Defense Switched Network - formally Autovon).

Crown Radio had two consoles one was the Washington DC FM network. The other one was for the Nationwide System (E/F), and secure voice. All of WHCA and USSS FM locations in the Washington DC area terminated there, as well as the Echo-Fox Nationwide air-to-ground Communications for AF1. 

That was the old E/F console built by Mario Lilla. It was operated from WHCA's M St location until Crown Radio was moved to the OEOB shortly after the new WECO 608 was cut into service there. Crown Radio (CR) went operational for the first time in the mid-sixties. At the time CR was that it only controlled the E/F network CR was manned and operational only in support of a POTUS mission. The only radio phone patches from CR was to WH Signal board who handled connections to telephone subscribers, and CR only operated the air-to-ground E/F network, the only person who would even use the CR system was the POTUS, that’s the only time it was used.

The system is operated by the White House Communications Agency (WHCA), and AT&T. Ground sites (there are about 30 of them) for the E/F system are located on AT&T microwave towers throughout the US and are connected by leased lines to a tech control console ("Crown Radio") that is part of the White House Switchboard ("Crown" or "Signal"). Each individual site can be separately keyed from the console and patched into a call, thus the system is capable of handling several calls at once although the aircraft involved have to be far enough apart not to interfere with one another.

The E/F system is completely manual at both ends, call setup and ground site selection is done by operators. On the ground the operators are WHCA/White House switchboard operators, on the aircraft they are CSO (Communication System Officers) who are military NCO's (tech sergeants mostly).

      Crown Radio the E/F radio Console
White House Signal Switchboard ("Crown")

The E/F system is in-the-clear UHF full duplex voice. The aircraft often push-to-talk keys its transmitter, so it only transmits when the party on board is talking. The ground site usually transmits continuously for the duration of the call.

E/F antennas on AT&T towers are small and not very conspicuous but they can be recognized if one knows what they look like. They are always mounted at the top of the tower near the Hogg horns. There are usually three antennas, two small ground planes and a short vertical pole mounted above them and three or four feet apart.

Air Force One mostly uses the E/F system for actual phone connections when it is out of range of other systems or there is extremely heavy traffic on them (but it always maintains contact via E/F when in range of a ground site as backup anyway) and has in the past sometimes used E/F as a communications order wire to set up calls on the other systems.

Echo-Fox antenna cluster atop the tower
Image courtesy of Tim Tyler; photographed May 25, 2002.


Note: Echo-Fox is no longer in service; it is reported to have been shut down in 1996.

Coverage Map

This green-shaded area on this map shows the estimated coverage of the Echo-Fox stations listed in the table above (indicated by black dots), assuming a 200-mile range for each transmitter:

Echo Fox Nationwide Network

Echo-Fox Radio Sites as of March 1973

AT&T Corporate Security has requested that the names and exact locations of certain active facilities not be published; therefore, such installations are identified only by their Common Language Location identifier (CLLI) codes, printed in all capitals.

State

Station

Owner

Control Office

Alabama

Brewton

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

Arizona

Holbrook

Mountain Bell

WASHDCDTW20

Arizona

Seligman

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

Arkansas

Memphis Junction

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

California

Mount Wilson

Pacific Tel. & Tel.

ARTNVACKT20

California

Stockton

Pacific Tel. & Tel.

ARTNVACKT20

California

Turquoise Junction

Pacific Tel. & Tel.

WASHDCDTW20

Colorado

Prospect Valley

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

Florida

Daytona Beach

Southern Bell Tel. & Tel.

ARTNVACKT20

Florida

Perrine

Southern Bell Tel. & Tel.

WASHDCDTW20

Georgia

Adairsville

Long Lines

WASHDCDTW20

Idaho

Boise Junction

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

Illinois

NRWYILNO

Long Lines

WASHDCDTW20

Iowa

Red Oak

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

Kansas

Hays

Southwestern Bell

WASHDCDTW20

Kentucky

WLTWKY01ZAZ

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

Louisiana

Alexandria

South Central Bell

WASHDCDTW20

Maine

Portland

New England Tel. & Tel.

WASHDCDTW20

Maryland

WDRFMDQO

Long Lines

WASHDCDTW20

Minnesota

Minneapolis

Long Lines

WASHDCDTW20

Missouri

Hillsboro

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

Montana

Helena Junction

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

Montana

Miles City

Mountain Bell

WASHDCDTW20

New Mexico

Clines Corner

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

Nevada

Winnemucca

Bell Telephone of Nevada

WASHDCDTW20

New York

New York City

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

North Carolina

Westover

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

Ohio

Navarre

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

Oklahoma

Mounds

Long Lines

WASHDCDTW20

Oregon

Mount Baldy

Pacific Northwest Bell

WASHDCDTW20

South Carolina

Charleston

Southern Bell Tel. & Tel.

WASHDCDTW20

South Dakota

Chamberlain

Northwestern Bell

ARTNVACKT20

Texas

Amarillo Junction

Long Lines

WASHDCDTW20

Texas

Ennis

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

Texas

Midland

Southwestern bell

ARTNVACKT20

Texas

Seguin

Long Lines

WASHDCDTW20

Utah

Crescent Junction

Long Lines

WASHDCDTW20

Utah

Levan

Long Lines

ARTNVACKT20

Washington

Seattle No. 5

Pacific Northwest Bell

ARTNVACKT20

Washington

Spokane

Pacific Northwest Bell

WASHDCDTW20

Wyoming

Rock Springs

Mountain Bell

WASHDCDTW20


LBJ in constant touch

His practice of being able to keep in touch goes far beyond the conventional telephone. While he is at home at his ranch home and office, he is in constant touch with the rest of the world through a highly sophisticated radio system over which telephone calls can be patched as necessary through the White House Signal Switchboard or the White House Adnin. Switchboard.

 LBJ's office at his Texas ranch
The White House Admin Switchboard 1967

It is startling at first to be riding with him when he picks up the microphone of a radio transceiver beneath the dashboard to ask,

"Is Mrs. Johnson around?"

"One moment, sir," comes the crisp voice of a secretary.

Then only moments later, "Yes, dear."

"Bird, we're 22 minutes away from the house and I'll be bringing four of the boys to lunch."

"Fine, dear, everything's ready."

Another Johnson auto trip might be interspersed with this sort of radio traffic:

Voice suddenly from out of nowhere (actually one of his special assistants back at the ranch office) : "Sir, Secretary Wirtz is calling about that emergency board. Do you want him put through?"

President: "Tell him I have the names from Washington by Teletype, and I'll sign the order this afternoon. I'm about 30 minutes from the house and unless it is urgent, I'll talk to him then." (short pause)

Voice: "Nothing urgent, sir. He'll call again at 2:30."

The President's cars and the boats at the Ranch and at Lake LBJ had radio-telephone capability. A Full Duplex FM radio system known as Kilo-Lima was the President’s full Duplex residence phone at the Ranch.

LBJ’s 64 Lincoln Continental
LBJ's favorite vehicle at the ranch his Amphibious Amphicar

The Kilo-Lima radio system provided direct communications with the ranch switchboard. The ranch switchboard was able to establish phone patches to the signal board Washington DC and the White House.

WHCA Trip Switchboard (mini-board)

Motorola Radio Console

WHCA personnel manned the PBX switchboard and serviced all their equipment. At the request of WHCA, radio circuits were established and given code names--Charlie for the Secret Service and Baker for the staff people. Southwestern Bell maintained the gear in the telephone building. When the President was. in residence, personnel were on duty round-the-clock in the communications building.

 Working aboard Air Force One

Moreover, effects of continuously improving and expanding communications are wider by far, socially, economically and politically, than their application at the White House. The earth shrinks daily under a network of cables, wires, radio channels and satellites.

Rapid advances in telecommunications are not without negative aspects. For one thing, they have shortened the line between cause and effect. This cuts into allowable reaction time for governments and their chiefs.

Working aboard Air Force One

High-speed communications available to a President today may improve his functional ability, but somewhat in ratio to the added number of problems with which he must deal. During the 1965 crisis in the Dominican Republic, U.S. Ambassador Tapley Bennett was on the telephone to the White House and State Department, giving a running account of street fighting as bullets ripped into the building from which he spoke.

As recently as the late Thirties, it would have been many hours, even days, before such on-the-spot diplomatic information would have been available to the Washington decision-makers. This may be a plus for national welfare, but it is hard on the men who must decide what to do about crises, particularly when they draft messages for the "Hot Line" Teletype to the Kremlin.

The promise of communications

Quite aside from the personal hardship on a President being awakened at 3:30 a.m. by a telephone report on new race riots in a distant American city or by a call from the Pentagon about a deadly fire aboard a U. S. aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin, it could be that the wizardry of modern communications has more promise of holding another World War in abeyance than many of the other, more conventional diplomatic efforts.

The problem is one of understanding the torrent of words and pictures flashing from nation to nation. International understanding is bound to improve as information flows into heretofore blind areas, but there remains a question : will understanding improve with the speed which is needed to convince others that modern warfare is a depleting and self-defeating answer to differences among men?

The weight of being the focal point of a world-wide communications system may be an onerous chore for a future American chief executive, but Lyndon B. Johnson is fortunate — he grew up as a political leader in an era of enlarging communications. Thus, he is not only at home with the lights of a Call Director blinking beside him, but he insists on constant communications capability.

Call Director on the President's desk
The circuit is of such quality that there is no added shortwave lingo to establish that the message was understandable and received. The President merely puts the microphone back in its socket, flips a switch and the car fills with soft tape-recorded music.

Presidential communications are more impressive when he is away from the White House simply because they are more visible, more noticeable. For example, on a typical speaking trip to New York or San Francisco, WHCA will take along as many as 100 Motorola FM handi-talkie radios, plus three or more FM base stations, Switchboard and Comm center all operated by the White House Communications Agency for the USSS and White House staff.

When needed, these hand-sized FM radios are connectable with telephone landlines utilizing phone patches. When the President travels and his itinerary includes several cities, WHCA will set up similar trip sites so as the President's travels from location to location he will always be able to communicate with the White House switchboard, and in conjunction with the radio base stations installed at each location, check plans with a White House Staff or the USSS.

The President at the TTY and the Three Eyed Monster

Communications seem effortless

President Johnson may not be expertly aware at times of communications difficulties and perhaps this, to put it plainly, is because his own access to telephone and Teletype, plus sophisticated radio, seems so effortless that he takes such technical aids for granted.

LBJ Oval Office 
Seated in his office beside a Call Director that can route his calls through different White House switchboards which have the capability of preempting any busy line in an emergency, a few feet away from the desk, two press association teletype writers, operating 24 hours a day in soundproof housings, and three TV screens to monitor each of the networks, it is small wonder that a President comes to accept this sort of arrangement as a norm. He sees press association reporters lugging 10-watt walkie-talkies and assumes that if he can reach the rest of the world in seconds, we can do the same.

The WHCA Signal Switchboard  1970

For example, he thought enough communications equipment for the world could be installed overnight at Classboro, New Jersey, for his meeting with Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin in the early summer of 1967. After all, AT&T and the White House Communications Agency provide the White House and the Soviet party with all the circuits they needed.

This comforting attitude did not take into consideration such factors as White House priorities, marshalling an army of installers and tons of equipment, provision of extra power and a simple but unrelenting thing called the clock. Operating in darkness and intermittently heavy rain, thousands of technicians could not have met the requirements in the few hours allotted them. But they came close. By the second day of the meeting there were hundreds of circuits operating virtually from the front yard of "Hollybush," the graceful old house where the Big Two met on the campus of Southeast New Jersey State College. During the Johnson administration WHCA faced many travel challenges like the one described above.

Things only got worse after President Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection in 1968. The President would often announce his destination when leaving the White House as he boarded Marine One. WHCA kept personnel on constant alert, with bags packed, and several trucks packed with necessary trip equipment. If the President decided to leave the White House, the teams on call would immediately depart for Andrews for departure to unknown locations.

In today’s environment all command-and-control communications is contained in a single vehicle.

In the spring of 2018, The White House Communications Agency and the Secret Service have received a new and much improved "Roadrunner."(MC2V). The 2018 Roadrunner has one of the most critical jobs in today’s motorcade, keeping the President and their entire support apparatus connected to the outside world. As such, it also has a critical command and control function to play.

So, it is not hard to imagine that this new, and more noticeable system offers a huge leap in capacity. The photo of the new vehicle also shows a UHF satellite communications antenna attached to the roof mounting system. The Roadrunner is manned with just three operators and is easily transported by air along with the Presidential Limo, anywhere in the world.

The Presidential Limo at any given time, the White House Communications Agency and the Secret Service must work directly with the USAF (AF-1) and USMC (HMX-1) to keep all the President's aircraft up to the latest standard as well. In fact, Air Force One just went through a similar satellite communications upgrade that brings far higher bandwidth and networking capabilities to the flying White House.

WHCA (Roadrunner) 2018
Presidential Limo (The Beast) 2018

With the technology that we enjoy in 2018 these advances has enabled us to communicate with the world at greater speeds than ever before and with better Quality. The evolution of Satellite communications, the Internet, high speed data high-definition video, and wireless (Wi-Fi) all helping to connect miniaturized devices together worldwide at amazing speeds and reliability!