American Radio Relay League Saves Lives 

US #1260 was issued for the league’s 50th anniversary.

On March 28, 1964, amateur radio operators provided essential emergency communications in the wake of a devastating earthquake in Alaska.

The idea for the American Radio Relay League came from Hiram Percy Maxim of Hartford, Connecticut.  One night in April 1914, he wanted to send a message to a friend 30 miles away in Springfield, but was unable to reach him.  From this, the idea struck Maxim to create an organized relay system for radio amateurs.

A few days later, Maxim attended a meeting of his local radio club and suggested the creation of an American Radio Relay League.  The club agreed and the American Radio Relay League was formed on April 6, 1914.  In the coming months, they sent out applications to every amateur radio station they knew of, and by that September, they established a network of more than 230 stations.

US #1260 – Classic First Day Cover.

Over the next 50 years, the league’s membership grew across the country, reaching all the way to Alaska.  Then, just days before the group’s 50th anniversary, a major natural disaster brought the Amateur Radio Relay League into the spotlight.

US #1260 – Fleetwood Plate Block First Day Cover.

On March 27, 1964, the largest earthquake in the history of the United States struck Alaska, greatly damaging Anchorage, Valdez, and the surrounding areas.  The earthquake, which measured a magnitude of 9.2, caused widespread destruction.  In conjunction with the ensuing tsunami (tidal wave) it caused, the quake took nearly 140 lives.

US #C53 was issued on the date of the president’s proclamation of Alaska as a state.

On March 27 and March 28, in the aftermath of this natural disaster, amateur radio operators provided essential emergency communications, which greatly aided relief and rescue operations.  Amateur radio operators, often referred to as “hams,” continue to serve during emergency situations, especially in places with such sparsely populated areas as Alaska.  Today, the Amateur Radio League has 154,000 members in the US, as well as 7,000 in other countries.

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  1. THIS IS CHANCE by Jan Mooallen is a recently published book about the 1964Alaskan earthquake and Genie Chance, a radio announcer

  2. Hi folks – to add a bit more detail regarding the”title” of a “ham” -, the following was taken from the Amateur Radio Stack Exchange website, “The word “HAM” as applied to 1908 was the station CALL of the first amateur wireless stations operated by some amateurs of the Harvard Radio Club. They were ALBERT S. HYMAN, BOB ALMY and POOGIE MURRAY. At first they called their station “HYMAN-ALMY-MURRAY”.” WWW. 03-28-2020.
    The first letter of each individual’s surname = HAM.

  3. During the Vietnam War there was a network called MARS which allowed troops in-country to call people at home. I actually talked to my friend in Thailand through Barry Goldwater’s station in Arizona.

  4. Both my husband and I are HAMs and we were a point of contact when Irma hit us here in Florida. It’s a wonderful hobby but much more than that…when land lines and cell towers go dark it is the only lines of communication left, all the more reason we need more HAMMIES.
    Thank you Mystic Stamp
    KN4MCT and NO7GX

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