The Arlington Naval Radio Station

In 1910, the US Navy Department undertook a survey of sites in the neighborhood of Washington, D.C. to determine the best location for a high powered radio station.  The site selected was a portion of Fort Myer and it was arranged to have this transferred from the War Department to the navy.  Construction of two buildings and one 600-foot and two 450-foot towers was bgun in 1911.  One building housed the transmittter and provided space for offices for the superintendent of the Naval Radio Service.  The other housed the receiving facilities and provided operating space and quarters for the crew.  Construction was completed in December 1912.

The station had been intended to provide communication from the seat of government to fleet commanders distant from the US mainland. In 1913, however, a “first” in long distance communication was achieved at Arlington through the cooperation of the American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) Company and the Navy. In September 1915, the President of AT&T spoke into a telephone line to his office in New York City.  His words were carried over a telephone line to Radio Arlington and then broadcast to the Naval radio station on Mare Island, California. This was the first such transmission of the human voice.  Not long after, a radio telephone message from Arlington was received in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and shortly after that one at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. These were the first instances of successful long distance overseas transmissions of this type.

Fort Myer cavalry charge practice with radio towers behind

Another dramatic incident in which Radio Arlington figured occurred in 1917.  Congress was debating the declaration of war against Germany, requested by President Woodrow Wilson.  The Joint Resolution was finally adopted at 3:00 AM on the morning of April 6 and delivery to the President was set for 1:00 PM of that day.  At 12:45, Radio Arlington notified all stations of the navy system to cease operations and listen. A naval commander stood in a window of the Executive Office. As the President completed his signature on the joint resolution, the commander signaled an assistant standing in a window of the old State, War, and Navy Building (now the Old Executive Office Building) across the street.  He notified the radio station and the word was out that the United States was at war.