The Radio Logs of the USCGC Itasca
Background and Situation

In order to make sense of the Itasca radio logs it is important to understand the physical setup that was organized aboard the ship and on the island in preparation for Earhart's arrival.

Aboard the ship there were three radio “positions.” Each position was manned in rotation by one of the ship’s four regular radio operators:

Chief Radioman Leo G. Bellarts
Radioman 3rd Class William L. Galten
Radioman 3rd Class G. E. Thompson
Radioman 3rd Class Thomas. J. O’Hare

Position #1 was in the radio room. The primary job of the operator manning this position was to handle the ship’s administrative radio communications with the outside world and to maintain a typed log of that traffic. He sat in front of a typewriter, normally wearing headphones, with a telegraph key at hand. Incoming and outgoing messages were typed into the log noting the time by the clock on the wall. The clock was set to local time, in this case Greenwich plus 11.5 hours. (It should be noted that Earhart was using Greenwich Time; see Traffic, message for June 29). On the morning of July 2, 1937 this position was manned from:

Midnight to 0200 by Radioman 3rd Class William L. Galten
0200 to 1035 (a marathon 8.5 hour watch) by Radioman 3rd Class Thomas. J. O’Hare

In practice, neither Galten nor O’Hare confined their log entries to purely administrative matters and frequently included asides about the Earhart drama being played out at the other positions. On several occasions, and especially as the airplane seemed to be approaching the island, O’Hare appears to have been entirely occupied with listening for Earhart.

Normally the original logs, which routinely featured strikeovers and corrections, were retyped or “smoothed” for filing as part of the ship’s official records. The copy of the Position #1 log reproduced here is a smoothed copy. No original copy of the Position #1 log is known to exist. Smoothed copies of all three Itasca radio logs are on file at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Position #2 was also in the radio room and was dedicated to communicating with Earhart and keeping a separate log of that activity. The operator was similarly equipped except that he also had a microphone for voice transmissions and had the ability to put incoming messages over a speaker system so that everyone could hear. On the morning of July 2, 1937 this position was manned from:

Midnight to 0200 by Radioman 3rd Class G. E. Thompson
0200 to 0725 by Chief Radioman Leo G. Bellarts
0725 to 1033 by Radioman 3rd Class William L. Galten

The original Itasca Position #2 radio log was saved by Chief Radioman Leo G. Bellarts and given by his son to the National Archives in 1974. The Position #2 log reproduced here is Bellarts’ original. Because it still shows all of the mistakes and corrections made at the time of the events it describes, it provides insight that is not available from the smoothed logs or edited transcriptions. The document also exhibits some hand-drawn marginal tick marks and underlinings, the origins of which are not at present known.

For diagrams of the layout of the radio room, click HERE.

Position #3 was the ship’s radio direction finder apparatus which appears to have been located on the bridge. No separate log was kept of the use of this device but the Position #2 log states that Chief Radioman Leo G. Bellarts manned the device at 0725 while the Position #1 log reports that Radioman 3rd Class G. E. Thompson was on the direction finder five minutes later at 0730. The direction finder seems to have been manned continuously, probably by Thompson, until at least 1000.

A fourth radio position was the High Frequency Direction Finder set up on Howland Island and manned by Radioman 2nd Class Frank Cipriani. Cipriani was not a regular member of the Itasca crew but was borrowed from another Coast Guard cutter specifically to man this piece of equipment.

All of the Itasca radio logs use local time but the log for the direction finder on Howland is particularly confusing because, incredible as it seems, the island was using a different time zone than the ship standing just offshore. The Itasca used Greenwich plus 11.5 hours, while the island used Hawaiian time which, in those days, was Greenwich plus 10.5 hours, so the island log is an hour off. To make matters worse, it’s also a full day off, erroneously recording the vents of July 2nd as occurring on July 3rd.

The only existing copy of the Howland log is a smoothed transcript. It begins at 2200 on the night of July 1st and runs until 1000 the next morning when the batteries being used for power ran down. We have not mounted the Howland log with this Bulletin because there is nothing of interest in it until after the search began.

The translations provided here are plain English versions of what was said. The translations are color coded:

Entries in RED are transmissions by Itasca in Morse code.
Entries in GREEN are transmissions by Itasca in radiotelephone (“phone” or voice).
Entries in GREY are references to attempts by others to communicate with Earhart.
Entries in BLUE are unsuccessful attempts to receive Earhart.
Entries in DARK BLUE are receptions from Earhart.
Entries in BLACK are administrative notes or transmissions.
MAGENTA entries are unknown.

PDFs of Originals Background Itasca Radio Room
Glossary Radio Traffic Analysis of 0843

Archived Research Bulletins Earhart Project Home Page

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