Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Henry Miyatake Interview III
Narrator: Henry Miyatake
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 21, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-mhenry-03-0003

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Well, are these devices still around? I'm now, now curious...

HM: Yeah, they're still around --

TI: After, after hearing this, I'm curious to look at this.

HM: Now, the reason why this device came about was the, World War I, the Germans devised this ultra fast Keying device to transm -- transmit Morse code at extremely high speeds. At that time they were running 250 words a minute. And the allies during World War I could not decipher what was going on because the speed was so great that they couldn't, nobody could copy Morse code at that rate. You had to be a typist that could type 250 words a minute to begin with if you wanted to do it, this thing on real time. And you had to have the exceptional capability of keeping phase with the, with the speed of the system. And then they would purposely send, between messages, they would kick up the speed to a maximum speed of about 300 words a minute and it would be gibberish. So this would be to distract whoever was trying to decode --

TI: So it was a form of coding almost, to just sort of, an encryption or something like --

HM: Yeah. Well, the way that the Germans were doing it was they were receiving the information, and they were inking it on a paper tape. And then they would read the paper tape at the slower rate. And they would just have a operator typing all this stuff in there. Well they didn't discover this, the method of translating this high-speed data until way towards the end of World War I. And that became the standard that was used for weather data transmission. And so consequently, when the Russians defeated the Germans, they took all this gear that they had, and they were using it. This is after World War II now, so there's one whole generation difference. And everybody in the world started using this thing. And the U.S. adopted the Bohme Keying. And that's when my first interest in cryptology and all this kind of stuff started. You know, we were using teletype machines at that time which was going at sixty words a minute was standard speed and then sometimes we were running at seventy-five words a minute. That was about the standard rate we were using. And the teletype machine is a kind of a adaptation of automating international Morse, Morse code. And since then, of course, we've gone into much higher data transmission functions. But the Baudot system was the method that they used to look at ASCII as a keying method for determining data transmission functions.

TI: That, that's interesting. Yeah.

HM: And so, and this had a lot to do with how data was transmitted during that era. In, in fact, during World War II, lot of the data transmissions were using the teletype functions in whether you talk about ultra systems, or enigma, or code magic, or code purple, they all used the teletype system. So, and in the case of the Japanese, when they had to transmit Nihongo in terms of high speed data transmission, they had to use roumanji for the transmission, and then they convert the roumanji into Japanese ideographs. It's a very laborious, inefficient way of doing it, but that was the state of the art during that time period. But anyway, because I got this stupid reputation for doing this -- they wanted some more flight people to go out to these different stations to service the equipment at these different bases. And so my brother said, "Well, why don't you apply for that flight personnel approval." And at that time I had been taking the instrument fly -- flight (training) --

TI: So when you say flight status, that means actually you get your pilot license?

HM: No, no this was going with the flight crew and going to these different field stations and then calibrating the, the ground equipment for air navigational facility items. And then having the ability to overhaul some of this gear. And then -- like in the Bohme Keying Head, they would have trouble with the dumb thing, and we'd have to bring in the parts to update it and overhaul their equipment and get it up to speed, but just all the ones they had trouble with. And these guys would -- because they had so much trouble with these Bohme Keying Heads, the spares requirements were extremely high, because the personnel at these different remote places, either they had to shut off the equipment right as, after they quit using it for their hourly weather forecasts. Either that or they would have to have a whole bunch of spares so that between visits from these guys from Anchorage, they would be able to operate that station and be able to run it. And it was a problem, because we used to have some of these stations that would have maybe twenty pieces of equipment, and they would be only able to transmit once an hour.

TI: Well, how frequently would the Anchorage people come by, and why wouldn't they just ship these back to Anchorage to your little workshop?

HM: Well --

TI: Get 'em fixed and then send 'em back?

HM: The problem was, you get a place like Umiat or one of these stations way out in the boonies, and the way we used to service those areas was, the airplane used to fly above the, the field station and we used to open up the airplane doors and we used to kick the bags out of the airplane.

TI: [Laughs]

HM: And that was their mail and their, the spares, and even the food we used to transmit that way. And we wouldn't even stop at the airport. Because, there was no use for us to stop. There was nothing for us to really pick up, and if they wanted us to transmit any messages they would use the regular communication links. So if it was emergency, we had to pick up a person at that base, then we would have to land. But some of the problems were that these were formerly bases that we used during World War, World War II. And in some of these areas the fuel was never fueled in. It was just using the old fuel that they had in these fifty-five gallon drums. And they, when we landed, if we wanted fuel, we were short on fuel on the airplane, most of the time we had to go out with a manual pump and pump this thing into the airplane from these fifty-five gallon drums. And these were av. gas, you know aviation gas, you know, 125/(130 octane) --

TI: So you avoided landing and taking off again because of the fuel requirements?

HM: Yeah, and then --

TI: Just fly by and drop it.

HM: Yeah, drop if you can and get to the major base, and then get into there, to those bases because we could have automatic fuel systems. And they had gasoline-powered trucks and we would drive the trucks (up) there and fuel up the airplane. Otherwise we were cranking away. Of course the base personnel would crank too and get the fuel in the airplane.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.