Recollections of KMTH by DJ Dave Perkins
With not much to challenge me, I wandered into the radio station
one day and asked if they had the need for any help. Amazingly enough,
they just happened to be looking for someone to do a show, and since
I knew one end of the turntable arm from the other, they let me
try out. I had, in my civilian life, hung around the local radio
station in the little town where I went to college...so I had some
concept of what 'doing radio' was all about.
'KMTH AM 900 on your dial' and 180 miles from tomorrow, with the
sounds of tomorrow today
The military and the Armed Forces Radio & Television Service (AFRTS)
known among the 'guys' as 'A-Farts' had a totally different concept
of how to 'do' radio.
Playing 'non-existent' songs
There were so many songs that came out in the 60's that were 'anti-military'
or 'anti-war' and AFRTS didn't want them played on their radio stations
at all. So, they didn't send us copies of them...and, being the
resourceful disc jockeys we were, we got copies of them anyway.
Occasionally, The Boss would comment that he hadn't seen that record
on the list of 'approved' tunes, so we'd have to give up that copy
(sometimes). In theory, if AFRTS didn't send it, it didn't exist.
What a concept!
A Honolulu artist airbrushed this KMTH logo
Broadcasting from the second floor
With the weapons compound closed and nothing to guard, I asked for
a new job and was re-assigned permanently to the AFRTS crew. My
immediate supervisor was Journalist First Class Jim Ferrel. Prior
to my departure from Midway in November 1966, Jim was promoted Chief
Petty Officer. KMTH Radio and TV was located on the second floor
of the administration building. We enjoyed spacious offices that
we were allowed to have decorated as if we were a civilian station.
From accoustical tiles on the wall to album covers for decorations,
we looked the part. My desk below is a testament to that statement.
Dave Perkins desk at KMTH
Volunteers and KPOI keep Midway awake
It's a fact that we wouldn't have kept KMTH Radio on the air in
a 24/7 mode if it hadn't been for the sometime 'near heroic' efforts
of a number of 'part time' announcers and 'disc jockeys'.
Charlie Noble, host of the 'Early Bird Show'
Mike Copple at the mike
When we could hear it on the AM radio, KPOI Honolulu was the station
we all listened to....to get ideas to use on Midway's KMTH.
Back to the Future
Unfortunately, with the end of the military presence we (The U.S.
Navy) had in the Pacific, that base has been closed and the island
has been returned to "how it was" when we sorta "took over" back
in the late 1930's or early 40's.
Since all the trees and buildings were brought in, they were taken
away! Gone. The darn place is FLAT again! There was a corporation
that was trying to make a go out of running fishing and scuba diving
trips there (what an excellent fishing and diving place it is!)
but somehow that went bust and as I last heard, the place has been
put off limits and there are just a few Filipino's living there
in a caretaker status...
KMTH Radio tower is to left in this scene of the Battle of
Midway Memorial site. 1966
Oh yes, regarding the call KMTH, that was taken away from the troops
on Midway because some "high roller" business tycoon in Utah wanted
that call sign for a radio station he was planning... and he got
Till the base closed, the station went on, but only as Armed Forces
Radio Midway... no more KMTH in the Pacific! That's the cost of
'Brother Dave and Roger P'
My brother, Roger Perkins served on Midway, same time as me... "RogerP
on Radio One!" was his handle... I was always "Brother Dave."
Brother Dave on the air, September 16, 1966
Roger Perkins in the KMTH offices
From the photo's, you can see our equipment layout was quite
Operator console and two 18" Gates turntables that would play 33,
45 or 78 RPM recordings. AFRS sent out the 18" vinyl recordings for
years because they could get so much on just one record... but quit
in the late 50's or early 60's.
In 1965 we got that AMPEX Reel-to-Reel that shows in one of the
photo's. Since it was 40 years ago, I actually forget the brand of
the console but I believe it was a Gates product as well... Not sure.
Down the hall was our 500 watt transmitter that fed the vertical
tower you can see in the photo shown earlier. In the back room, seen
through the glass behind the operators, was the short wave radio
we used to bring in live feeds from AFRS headquarters in Los Angeles
or other sources we found from time to time.
And a great receiver that allowed us to DX ourselves and hear
what was being played back on the Mainland US radio stations... as
AFRS was strict about not letting us get our hands on any records
that "promoted the drug culture" etc... like that was going to stop
anyone from hearing the music anyway.
They must have really been dumb since the "Navy Store" on the
island sold all the records AFRS told us not to play! So we just
bought a copy and played it anyway!!!
Or had copies shipped in from DJ's that we communicated with
either on the Mainland or in Hawaii at KPOI (which today is no longer
a rock music station)
Dave Perkins celebrates 21st birthday at KMTH 900 AM
(Journalist First Class, Jim Ferrel) (the one at his desk)
Lt. D H Greenfield, OIC, KMTH
AFRTS Operator Certificate issued to Dave Perkins, KMTH
All images are from the Dave Perkins Collection. Content
from his Midway website and personal correspondence with the Radio
Heritage Foundation, February 2005.
For a nostalgic look back at
Midway Island in the mid 1960's and many excellent photos of military
activities, base facilities, local flora and fauna, recreation and
even more KMTH images, please visit midway.daveylee.net.
Dave Perkins currently resides in Frederick, MD.