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Sunday, August 30, 2015

To All Radio Hams , 73 from Mac

I am the son of Dugald Stewart McDougall, 1916-2007, W9CVQ, briefly W2VKQ (while living for a time in New York immediately after WWII), then W9IV, continuously licensed and on-air from age 13 until  only months before his death.

One of my New Trier High School classmates, Lynn David Newton, happened to mention in Facebook this week that he had been a member of the NT Amateur Radio Club back in our years there (1957-1961).  Reading his comment reminded me af a story that my dad (known as "Mac" to all his ham radio friends) once told me about the role played in his (and my) life by his hobby.  The story seemed a bit lengthy for posting in Facebook, so I decided to share it here.

Mac grew up in Indianapolis, the son of a railroad freight agent and a high school math teacher.  He was a precocious lad, and in those days such kids were encouraged to advance as rapidly as their abilities allowed.  Hence, Mac started as a freshman at the University of Chicago when he was 15.  There he met my mother, Carol Brueggeman of Chicago, who was starting in the same year, 1931, at 16.  Carol graduated with a degree in English in 1935.  Mac entered a six-year program which resulted in his graduating in 1937 with both a BA from the liberal arts college, and a JD from the University of Chicago Law School.  They were soon married, and Mac started to work at a law firm in Chicago.

Then came Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.

Two other life-changing events occurred that month for Mac and Carol.  Carol discovered she was pregnant (with my older brother), and Mac enlisted in the U. S. Navy.

After going through the Navy's Officer Candidate School, Mac attended the Communications School.  Commissioned as an Ensign and a communications officer, he got wind of an upcoming entrance examination for a new and top-secret program called The Radar School.  Mac asked his commanding officer if he might take its entrance exam.  He was told, "Sorry, Ensign McDougall, but that school is reserved for electrical and electronic engineers, and you are a lawyer with a history degree."

"Well, Sir" Mac said, "As it happens, I have been a ham radio operator since 1929, and have built all of my own radios.  I believe that I understand the theory."

His commander relented, handed Mac a book, and said, "Very well, I shall put your name on the list.  The exam is tomorrow at 08:00."

The Radar School was taught at Harvard and MIT, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Having passed the entrance exam, Mac succeeded in the Radar School, served six months as radar officer on a subchaser, escorting convoys from Boston to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they would be joined by the larger destroyers (DDs) and destroyer escorts (DEs) for the voyage to England, while the subchasers would return to Boston, or to their other home ports on the East Coast, to escort the next convoy.

Mac's next post was as commanding officer of the Radar Repair Squadron at Charlestown Naval Shipyard (now the home port of USS CONSTITUTION, "Old Ironsides" of War of 1812 fame).

At some point in 1943, Mac was ordered back to The Radar School as an instructor, and that is why my birth address was 18 Mellen Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts.  I was born on August 25, 1943, at the Chelsea Naval Hospital, just a few miles from MIT.

So, classmates Keith Bellairs and Lynn Newton, that is the story I wanted to tell you.  May God bless us all, and may God rest Mac, and may God save the United States of America, and human freedom on Earth.

I can almost hear my Dad signing off: "73s, Old Man! William Niner, Charlie, Victor, Queen, signing off and shutting down!"

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