To The Mountains of the Moon

Part 01. The Beginning.

In 1947, Hallicrafters put a big 2-page advertising in QST, the HAM-magazine, to find an experienced Radio-Operator for taking part in the Eleventh Gatti-Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon. Bob Leo wanted that job, desperately

The Competition

Bob Leo, W6PBV, saw an article in May 1947 QST, a two page advertising from Hallicrafters about the plans for a Gatti-Hallicrafters Expediton, starting at the end of the year.  Earlier Gatti Expedition They announced a competition, nationwide to find a lucky ham to join the Expedition for being the Radio-Operator, keeping the Expedition in touch with the outside world. The competition-letter should have 250 words at the most. Gatti, the expedition-leader, was 10 times before on Expedition to Dark Africa, the last one was back in 1939 to Belgian Congo. Gatti then did use the call OQ5ZZ. Hallicrafters never sponsored an expedition before. After world-war II, the company focus changed to civilian applications of which ham radio was one of the market components. And when Gatti met the chief of Hallicrafters, Bill Halligan, and talked about going to Africa again, Hallicrafters was in for sponsoring the Expedition. The result was a trailer filled with radio-equipment, designed and prepaired by engeneers of the Hallicrafters company. The trailer got the name "Shack on Wheels". And to operate this trailer-shack, Gatti needed an experienced operator. Of course, Bob responded to the advertising. Bob had always enjoyed reading books of exploration, such as those about Byrd, Bradford Washburn, Flight of the Souther Cross, artic explorers and so forth. So when he saw the announcement in QST, he immediately began to wish he would be the one choosen to go. He was employed until may 1947 at Pescadero CA and enjoyed the rhombic antennas there and the wonderful results. He worked at the CAA transmitter station KSF at Belmont, CA when he wrote in answer to the ad, just one week before the dead line on july 1st. The contest letter Some 9000 applications were received, and judged by Gatti, Halligan (W9WZE) and Handy (W1BDI), ARRLs Communications manager. Bob still has a copy of his application, which made him a winner. He included being a member of the Naval Reserve (which is how he was drafted for the Navy in early 1941); school efforts; working for the CAA (now FAA); etc. In his application, Bob mentioned being an experienced CW- operator, familiar with PHONE contacts, having had already more than five-thousand contacts with 66 countries and 30 zones. Also Bob mentioned being number one twice in the ARRL QSO party But probably the winning text was the last part of his letter. Bob ended his letter with: "Also take good pictures with my camera (f4.5 time to 1/250th sec.). Don't mind working, don't need much sleep, am rather quiet, get along well with people, am in good health, and most of all would enjoy being the operator on the other end of a DX QSO" One morning in August, after the 1 am to 9 am shift at KSF, his mother came in and shook him, saying there was a phone call from Chicago. It was Rose Kosgren from Hallicrafters who told Bob, his letter was one of the six selected from many thousands. Bob had to go to Vermont to be interviewed op September 2th for the job of radio operator for the expedition. She would send a telegram to confirm the conversation. When the phone was hung up, there was great exitement around the house. Bob told his family about writing the letter for being the ham of the Eastern African Expedition. The Leo family had just before learned that dad, John W6YEZ was going to Arabia. Gatti's house was built exactly on the border between Canada and the United States, one part was Canadian the other American. Travelling from San Mateo to Derby-Line, Vermont for the interview was in those days a mini-expedition. So some planning was made, Bob got the necessary time off from the CAA transmitter station, the man in charge at KSF was very helpful. Bob even had time for sightseeing if he would go to Vermont by air. A DC4 brought him from California, across the Sierras, then over hot and dry Nevada and seeing Great Salt Lake. Then to Denver and further to Chicago. . When the plane dropped suddenly above the rockies, the hostess lost control over her plate, and Bob got a shower of milk, turkey, gravy and sundry assorted viands. Happily the milk matched to color of his pants very well. It was impossible to fly to Montreal, therefore Bob had to catch the train from Chicago to Montreal. After spending the night in Chicago, Bob made a visit to the Hallicrafters Factory. The radio-shack in the very nice lobby was equipped very well. Rose Kosgren and Bob went to lunch, where Bob did meet some of the Hams working at the plant. Then Rose showed Bob how Hallcrafters did produce their products. There were three assembling lines in production, so Bob got a very good idea how Hallicrafters could build so many broadcast receivers in a short time. Later, back in the ham-shack again, Bob met an old friend Joe Khan, W9KYM. Both were old contest die hards, so they had a swell conversation. Bob got a lift from Joe Khan into downtown Chicago, and Bob did buy some radio gear at Concord Radio. Bob visited also Marshall Fields, a big department store. It was a gigantic establishment and they had escalators up and down for each floor Next day Bob continued his trip, but this time by train. The train arrived in Toronto a few hours late, the connection train to Montreal had just left. After waiting for some time, a special train was made up, to got to Montreal. Finally the train took off, it was very crowded, but the ride was enjoyable because the scenery was so pleasant along the St. Lawrence river. With help of a cab-driver Bob found a place to sleep in the french part of Montreal. Because he was too early for his interview, Bob stayed another day in Montreal, and was busy with sightseeing. On september 1, 1947 W6PBV finally arrived in Newport, 4 days after he left San Mateo, California.   In Newport Bob had to wait for Weldon King and Bill Snyder. Weldon King was a photographer, he was selected by the same method as Bob was selected, but there where as many as 19.000 photograhpers involved. However Bill Snyder, W0LHS, was a real competitor. Bill Snyder and he had made QSOs before, and the two could get along very well from the start. They hatched a plan get both selected by Gatti, convincing him that the radio-workload was too much for a single person.    The contract On September 2, at 2 pm sharp they arrived at Commander Gatti's residence, and had a good interview with Gatti, learning a lot about the plans for the expedition. They convinced Gatti that the job was too big for just one radio-operator, but the Commander needed the approval from hallicrafters. That night Bill and Bob had a very long talk about the possiblility of going to British East Africa. Next day they signed their contract and a letter of agreement on additional issues. Gatti was charming, but it was already clear to the two hams, that Gatti never would use their first name, Bill and Bob. They did not meet Mrs Ellen Gatti, while being interviewed by the commander. Bill Snyder was chosen FIRST for the job of Radio-Operator on the Gatti Hallicrafters Expedition. On September 23th he got this telegram:   “SELECTED STOP SAILING SCHEDULE NOVEMBER 28TH STOP CONGRATULATIONS.”    Second winner of the QST contest Bob had to wait some more weeks, but finally on October 14, 1947 he got a letter from Gatti, being selected as SECOND winner of the QST-Contest. The plan of having two operators on the job was succesfull. Bob had to wait some more weeks, but finally on October 14, 1947 he got a letter from Gatti, being selected as SECOND winner of the QST-Contest. The plan of having two operators on the job was succesfull.   Before the expedition took off, W0LHS and W6PBV had 32 QSOs, most of them in CW. They started on 14.020 but later shifted to 14326 Khz. The Leo residence was very busy, John Leo (W6YEZ), Bobs father, was going to Saudi Arbia, and was planning to be QRV as HZ1AB. Doug Bee, a local ham, came over to learn how to use the rig, to contact the expedition or W6YEZ from HZ1AB. To be ready for that job, Bob did build a new modulator using push-pull parallel 811's, and rebuild a 10 meter, 4 element beam, and a T-match.   From the day Gatti and Halligan had that conversation mentioned before, it took Gatti 25 months of preparation. It was not easy to collect the proper equipment, trucks, trailers, boats, 10-Kw, 110 Volt power-generators, speciat tents, etc.. But Gatti was good in convincing people, he got what he wanted.   ©W7LR and PA0ABM  
Gatti had, on one of his preewar Expeditions also a ham/staion in the air. OQ5ZZ from Belgian Congo Visiting hallicrafters prior to the interview by Gatti