Corporate entry: 'Mosquito Network' American Military Radio


U.S. Marines landed on the Lungga plains of Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942, captured the new Japanese airfield there and established a major base. The Signal Corps operated military radio equipment, but to boost morale, Presto Y-model recorders (with an amplifier and turntable capable of playing gramophone recordings and also cutting new disks) were sent to Guadalcanal and other Pacific theatres. Low-powered portable radio transmitters were also provided which enabled fully mobile radio broadcast stations to entertain front-line troops. By early 1943, small medium-wave stations were operating at Munda on New Georgia and on Vella Lavella. Broadcasts opened with the signature tune 'You Are My Sunshine'. Guadalcanal became a large American base that around 250,000 troops passed through. In 1943, the U.S. military established American Expeditionary Stations (AES), which used pre-recorded programmes and also produced local programmes for the troops; the first Pacific one was established in Noumea, New Caledonia in September 1943.

Guadalcanal test broadcasts began on 2 March 1944ΒΈ run by Station Manager Captain Spencer Allen, Chief Engineer Captain Wilford Kennedy, and Programme Director Staff Sergeant George Dvorak, along with several technical and support staff. The Army engineers constructed 'Radio City', a studio building and a transmitter shack nearby, with an antenna strung between two coconut palms. The signal was at about 800 watts and could be picked up for 130 kilometres, and the frequency began on 730 kilocycles (later 690 kilocycles) with one kilowatt of power. Daily programmes began on 13 March. When the broadcast system was upgraded in late 1944, the signal could be picked up as far away as New Zealand. AES-Munda opened on 3 April 1944 and AES-Bougainville followed on 15 April. In March 1945, call letters were introduced: AES-Guadalcanal became WVUQ; Munda became WVTJ; and Bougainville became WVTI.

The name 'Mosquito Network' originated to remind troops about malaria and to take their Atebrin and Quinine tablets. Guadalcanal radio broadcasted for eighty-five hours each week, half of the time devoted to U.S. recordings of popular music, and fourteen hours produced specifically for the armed services, live news relayed from America, and local material such as church services and whatever local news was considered of no use to the Japanese. Both Bob Hope and Jack Benny were interviewed on the station when they visited Guadalcanal.

The first Solomon Islanders to appear on radio were groups of Malaitan and Guadalcanal labourers from Levers plantations, on 12 April: one sang Anglican hymns and the other secular popular songs. News was occasionally broadcast in Solomon Islands Pijin, translated and spoken by Fijian Native Medical Practitioner Eroni Leauli Taoi, who was serving on Guadalcanal.

As the war ended, EAS radio stations began to be shut down. AES-Bougainville closed in January 1945, and AES-Munda that April. AES-Guadalcanal was taken over by the Army Air Force Communication System, and after the Noumea station closed in November its powerful equipment was sent to Guadalcanal and installed at a new site near Henderson Airfield. The last official broadcast was on 30 November 1945, but transmissions continued for another year, the last reported one in September 1946. The first attempt at regular local broadcasting after the war began in 1947. Station VQJ2 transmitted at 10:00 a.m. each Sunday for half an hour, from a leaf hut on the beach in Honiara. In 1952 this became the British Solomon Islands Broadcasting Services and later the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (q.v.). (Hadlow 2004, 2009) See also Wireless Communication.

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Book Sections

  • Hadlow, Martin, 'The Mosquito Network: American Military Broadcasting in the South-West Pacific, 1944-1946', in Peter Dennis;Jeffrey Grey (ed.), The Military and the Media: the 2008 Chief of Army Military History Conference, Australian Military History Publications, Canberra, 2009, pp. 74-95. Details

Journal Articles

  • Hadlow, Martin, 'The Mosquito Network: American Military Radio in the Solomon Islands during World War II', Journal of Radio Studies, vol. 11, no. 1, 2004, pp. 73-86. Details