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The "Back Channel Communication Network
or otherwise known as the

Phone Talker Network

By Hersch Pahl

The Hannah's underground or "Back Channel Communication Network" is something that existed. It was for real and was very efficient even though many might deny that it even existed. To any one that thinks otherwise, I would ask them to explain how it was possible for the guys in the boiler room, the cooks and possibly the Yeoman in the Captain’s office to learn the outcome of a strike mission, a dog fight or the results of a search mission well before the pilot finished his post-strike debriefing with the Air intelligence people.

It seems a bit farfetched; however I know that the system worked even though I don't know the details. I am sure that the plane captains who came scrambling up on the wing to help us pilot get out of our airplanes were the ones to get the first news of what happened on the flight. Most pilots had a real good trust filled relationship with their plane captain. Most pilots were probably quick to give out with a head line or a brief statement of what happened on their flights --- especially if there had been a dog fight or other contact with enemy planes or forces.

I suspect this underground system of shipboard communications continues this way even today.

How it worked...

Within a very short time the plane captain made contact with the closest "talker" on a voice powered telephone. I don't know how many times it got relayed from one talker to another, but within a few minutes a brief statement of the news would be spread through-out the ship. Once the news got to an office or to a key place it was relayed to buddies in other offices via the ships telephone. The news was passed on down to guys on working parties by word of mouth by some one that made their business to keep them informed. I have been told that this network was especially effective when the ship was at General Quarters --- when all the talkers were on line. The talker network within the Gunnery Department, Air Department and Damage Control was especially good, but when there was a lull in the action there was quite a bit of chatter going on between talkers so they had their way of getting the news around.

I may not have all my facts correct, but as a pilot, I was a part of it and I know that it worked. One time, after talking to my plane captain following an exciting flight, I made my way to the Officers ward room which was then being used as a pilot’s ready room. On my way down I passed a damage control party. One of the gents in full damage control dress that I had spoken to previously, told me with a big smile on his face "Good going Lt." --- then he excitedly asked about details some of which had to have come from the plane captain that I had just talked to as I was getting out of my airplane.

I am not quite sure how the ships chaplain figured into this network, however, I do believe that the one that sometimes passed the word about developing enemy air attacks on the ship's PA system during GQ may have had a part in this very useful underground communications network too.

Perhaps now would be a good time for some of those on the receiving end to come clean and tell us how the system really worked.

"Buzzy" Baur as he appeared with VF-6 during a photo-op On the USS Intrepid on 2/8/44 in anchorage at Majuro Atoll just prior to the first US Carrier raid on the enemy at Truk Atoll .

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Butch O'Hare tell's his Plane Captain, Buzzy Baur his successes near the Lexington

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Plane captains were the pilots most important and trusted link with the rest of the ship. Our lives depended on him in so many ways.
Thanks !! Hersch

One more part of the story comes from Buzzy Baur’s account of being Butch O’Hare’s assistant plane captain the day (in Feb 1942) when Butch shot down a lot of Jap planes near the Lexington. Butch told Buzzy (while he was helping him out of his Wildcat F4F) that he thought that he had downed seven enemy aircraft and that is the way Buzzy spread the story on the Talker Network.

Later photographic coverage confirmed only five had been shot down. Buzzy and all subscribers on the network were disappointed. Buzzy’s account is included on page 138 of the book “Fateful Rendezvous” by Steve Ewin and John B. Lundstrom.

- Hersch Pahl

"For those who fought for it...
freedom has a flavor the protected will never know!"


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October 1, 2007