Operating CW From North Korea

W8WFB At The key As most DXers know, about the rarest contact one could make is North Korea on CW. If you check the DXCC CW Honor Roll, you will find only 5 stations at the top of the heap, JA1BK, JA1UQP, JA2VPO, OH2BN, and OH2EA. They were the only ones lucky enough to work Martti Laine OH2BH on CW during his brief North Korea operation. Ed P5/4L4FN made several thousand SSB and RTTY contacts, but none on CW. So you can see why North Korea is so rare on CW. Let's talk about the very first CW operation from North Korea. No, it was not that of Martti, but one by a young U.S. Marine from rural Ohio. George L. (Lee) Morrow was all of 21 years old when he participated in one of the fiercest and unfortunately forgotten battles of the Korean War. It was shortly after Thanksgiving 1950, when 25,000 U.S. Marines of the 1st Marine Division were attacked at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea by well over 100,000 Chinese soldiers. This came as a complete surprise to the highest military command. These Marines were ordered to fight their way out of the Chosin Reservoir area and head for the southeast coastal port of Hamhung. This feat was accomplished with a tremendous loss of lives on both sides. The weather accounted for as many casualties as enemy fire. Lee remembers sustained temperatures of 40 below zero Fahrenheit, with a temporary warming to 23 below! Young Lee Morrow was well schooled in communications by the Marines, and functioned as a foreign observer. As quickly as possible, he was manning a HO-17 communications shelter with a full SCR-399 complement, including a BC-610 transmitter with BC-312 and BC-342 receivers. There was also an antenna set up of dual whips, plus an antenna tuner. The tuner also allowed the use of whatever antennas Lee could improvise. The straight key was a J-37. In addition to official communications, young Morrow could not resist a bit of action on 20 meter CW, using the call HL1MC (for Marine Corps of course). He no longer has a logbook, but distinctly remembers working DX legends, also personal friends of his, W3CRA and W8NBK. This operation only took place over a period of several days, while the Marines, 7th Army Infantry Division troops, and United Nations forces were evacuated by ship. Fully 193 shiploads of personnel and equipment were evacuated from Hamhung and Hungham. After the evacuation, the port facilities were destroyed. The ferocity of these battles was soon forgotten, except by those who returned home, and by their relatives and those of others who did not make it. How was it that this young fellow, who is now 86 years old, was so skillful a communicator? Well, he just happened to be the son of DX and Contest Legend George W. Morrow W8BKP. Young Lee began his ham career as the second operator of W8BKP at the conclusion of WWII, and had plenty of DXing skills under his belt by the time he wound up in the vicious battlefields of Korea. During Marine boot camp training, he was issued the call W4SII, which he never used. His present call of W8WFB was issued in 1952. Lee is just as skillful now, both in operating and repairing and restoring gear as he was as a young man. He has been my friend for many years, and I'm very proud to know him. The fact is that I visited with him today, 12 June 2015, to get a few missing facts for this story. Now it has been written after we talked about it for years.

Written on 12 June 2015. For more information on the battles around Chosin Reservoir, and the evacuation to the port of Hamhung, see the following URL. There are 4 pages of information. http://b-29s-over-korea.com/US-Marines-at-Chosin-Reservoir/US-Marines-at-Chosin-Reservoir1.html

Today, December 8, 2017, is a sad day in Northeast Ohio. George "Lee" Morrow - W8WFB became a silent key at the age of 88. Lee was the son of DX legend W8BKP, and a skilled operator in his own right.  He was also one of those guys who could fix anything. In 1950 Lee was the first ham to operate from North Korea as HL1MC. His operation was far from comfortable, as he was with the U.S. Marines engaged in the battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Lee was low key in his DX operating in recent years, but the flame still burned bright.  He knew all of the big guns of the past. In fact he worked W3CRA and W8NBK among others during his North Korea operation.
Rest in Peace, Lee (also known as "Gunny") I'm very proud to have been your friend.

73, Don Karvonen K8MFO

Courtesy of K8MFO


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