Naval Security Group Activity Winter Harbor, Maine,
began as the Otter Cliffs
Radio Station, located on Mt. Desert Island, about five miles west across
Frenchman Bay. The Otter Cliffs
Radio Station was commissioned on Aug. 28, 1917, under the command of
then-Ensign Alessandro Fabbri who, as a civilian, had cleared the land, and
built and equipped the station. He then offered it to the Government as a Navy
radio station in exchange for a commission in the Naval Reserve and assignment
as officer in charge. Because of the lack of man-made noise within many miles,
and the unobstructed span of ocean water between there and Europe, Otter
Cliffs was among the best radio sites along the
East Coast and could receive signals from Europe when no other station in the
United States could. It was invaluable during World War I, when radio receivers
were rather primitive. By 1930, the station began to handle weather reports from
Iceland and Newfoundland, and emergency traffic from Europe, when atmospheric
conditions were so bad that Portsmouth, Maine; Boston, Mass.; and Washington
D.C., could not copy the overseas transmissions.
At the behest of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who was incommoded by what had become an eyesore on Ocean Drive, the Navy agreed to move the station to a location at the tip of Schoodic Peninsula about five miles across the mouth of Frenchman Bay from Otter Cliffs. On Feb. 28, 1935, the U.S. Navy Radio and Direction Finding Station Winter Harbor was officially commissioned with Chief Radioman Max Gunn in charge of a complement of 11 personnel.
The station's name changed several times over the years. In 1944, it was changed to Supplementary Radio Station, U.S. Naval Radio Station Winter Harbor. In 1950, it became known as U.S. Naval Radio Station (Receiver). Its final name, Naval Security Group Activity, Winter Harbor, became official on June 9, 1958, and it was under this designation that the station closed at the end of June 2002.