Intercept Station T Revisited

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From Spring 2007 NCVA CRYPTOLOG

By Graydon Lewis

Check a map of California; Point St. George will be in the western most part of the state. The map (see inset) shows Intercept Station “T” was located on “Radio Road” though today the signs are all gone. Here, on this windswept, and frequently stormy, point sometime between 1923 and 1925, a “U.S. Naval Radio Compass Station” was placed in operation. The original station was equipped with a model DP DF, believed to have been a medium or intermediate frequency DF. This unit was located in the penthouse, which you can see on the ocean side of the building, on top. According to an inspection by the Material Officer Twelfth Naval District on 7 March 1935, “Point St. George is a very desirable site for a direction finder station. Well favored…in having decidedly the least deviation shift of any D/F station in this district…it would be an excellent site for high frequency direction finding.”

By 1936, OP-20-G proposed a system a for a strategic tracking system (HFDF) in the Pacific Ocean area. The proposed net would consist of nine fixed stations and twelve portable stations, with Point St. George included as one of the fixed stations. Others included Corregidor, Guam, Oahu and more, classified in the original documents. 

On 26 August 1936 LCDR Safford at OP-20G indicated his interest is the establishment of the high frequency D/F site at Point St. George. On 30 December 1937, a Model XAB/HRO (see photo for equipment photo) previously installed on USS LEXINGTON (CV-2) was ordered for Point St. George. Another XAB/HRO was to be installed at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base, in Oakland, California. As a result of this activity, OP-20G requested additional radiomen for the HFDF stations. At that time the HFDF net consisted only of Mare Island (control), Point St. George, Point Arguello California, and Fort Stevens in Oregon.

A Model DT HFDF unit appears to have been installed in 1938 or 1939. CAPT. E. S. L. Goodwin, in OP-20 G, mentioned this in a letter. (A typical DT installation is shown in the photograph)

Since Point St.George and the Farallon Islands station were the only stations left in the net still tasked with navigational service, OP-20-G requested that the navigational mission be discontinued and the stations mission was to be only strategic. 
Other stations mentioned at this time were on Bainbridge Island, the Faralon Islands, Point Arguello (proposed) and the other Pacific stations. TWX was installed in the spring of 1941. The station was designated as “T” with one or more Kana trained operators assigned. 
One problem involved the DT direction finder. The U.S. Lighthouse department refused to permit the DT to be located on their designated property, so the unit was placed on skids, so it could be moved easily off the lighthouse property if its presence was noticed! Ultimately, it was installed in a 16’ by 12’ redwood water tank located on a platform seven feet above the ground! (same site but not the water tower shown in the station photo. Later a Model DAB (see photo) is believed to have been installed as well. 

By 1944, station ‘T” was to be greatly expanded, with some new buildings, and more “specials” with Kana training from Bainbridge Island. By then however, it was seen that the end of the war might be near, and there were also problems in obtaining the additional land needed. So, on 15 April 1944, CNO (OP-20-G) informed the Commandant TWELFTH Naval District “ …strategic direction finder operations at Point St. George would be discontinued as soon as practicable with personnel and equipment other than the Model DP-4 (MFDF) unit transferred to other Supplementary Activities.” The station was turned over to the Coast Guard on 1 June 1944. The Coast Guard retained the MFDF for several years, for navigational and safety purposes; the radio/TTY call NYW which had been assigned to Point St. George was terminated. 

Ultimately the Coast Guard abandoned the station, and it was purchased by a professional painter William Newman who rented out the sets of quarters. Dr. Michael N. Mavris, M.D, Purchased the building in 1977, for an office and the front entrance walkway was added. Dr. Mavris and his family also lived in the building after remodeling. The two Mavris boys had the DF penthouse as a bedroom. Can you imagine the fun of climbing up to your room by ladder? How often did mom or dad climb up to check things out? Dr. Mavris mentioned that the original basement or lower level recreation room was also used by his kids for teen social gatherings. Eventually the kids were off to college, Dr. Mavris retired, and now one son lives in the building and has located his law offices there. Because of its location and the weather, the station “T” building was built strong, to last and is now on the register of historic places. 

When driving in northern California, take a short detour and view for yourself the last example of direction finder old style buildings remaining. There is a large nearby parking lot, where people park to explore Point St. George and trails. 

(Author’s note: The original article on this historic site was printed in CRYPTOLOG, Winter, 1992, V13, Nr. 3)