Jump to content

Gibson Girl SCR-578 survival radio transmitter


Bob Hudson
 Share

Recommended Posts

They called these "Gibson Girl" radios because their narrow waist reminded people of the young ladies drawn by illustrator Charles Dana Gibson:

 

gibsongirl.jpgshape.jpg

 

Officially it was the SCR-578 emergency transmitter (there was no receiver). First made in 1942, these were in use through the 1980's in some countries.

 

They had a hand cranked generator for power and included an automatic SOS sender with an option to manually key Morse Code messages. These were inspired by a captured German survival radio. There were a few different ID numbers associated with these including BC-778-A , SCR-578, T-74/CRT-3 and AN/CRT-3. The transmitter itself was the BC-778, while the complete set including bag, radio, accessories was the SCR-578.

 

label.jpg

 

I found two of these recently at an estate sale, one of them in the original case with the accessories, including antenna, balloon, life raft rations, etc.:

 

both.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The shape of these radios allows them to be held by the legs as the hand crank is turned. You'll notice in this photo the proper attire for using one of these in a life raft. The 800 foot long antenna is held aloft by a balloon.

 

gibsongirlinuse.jpg

 

The crank stows away on the side:

 

crank.jpg

 

The front panel:

 

front.jpg

 

The controls are quite simple and, again, it can send an SOS automatically:

 

controls.jpg

 

The long wire antenna is stored on a spool behind this door:

 

frontdoot.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is the signal lamp: it plugs into a jack on the front panel and flashes the same message being sent out by the radio transmitter:

 

lamp.jpg

 

Here are some of the other contents of the storage bag:

 

ballooncan.jpg

 

kitecontents.jpg

 

antennaass.jpg

 

rations.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow! What a neat collectible and even neater description. Many thanks for sharing this radio transmitter and its relationship to the Gibson Girl art. The hydrogen balloon idea is just super.

 

Best wishes, Jim

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow! What a neat collectible and even neater description. Many thanks for sharing this radio transmitter and its relationship to the Gibson Girl art. The hydrogen balloon idea is just super.

 

Best wishes, Jim

 

There is also a kite to hoist the antenna aloft.

 

I just tried the crank and amazingly the generator still turns and when I plugged the signal lamp into its socket it lit up! Not bad for something made in 1944. I may have an old shortwave radio that receives the very low frequencies and if so I will have to see if the transmitter still generates a signal. By the way, these use tubes so the generator has to produce two voltages: a cathode voltage of 24 volts and a plate voltage of 330 volts. A Dutch site at http://www.wftw.nl/gibsongirl/gibsongirl.html and some nice details including mention that the signal lamp was designed to be strapped to the top of someone's head (human lighthouse????). He also says that a small round compartment on the front opens up to reveal a ground wire with a weight on the end. These would have been dropped into the water and made a big difference in the efficiency of the antenna. A aircraft flying at 2,000 feet could pick up one of these transmitters from 150-200 miles away. After the war they made a dual channel model that could have transmitted over one thousand miles, but I think the short range transmission was probably better for search aircraft with radio direction finders: the long range frequency channel often was no audible to receivers close to the transmitters (one of the quirks or shortwave radio frequencies).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had my Gibson Girl as part of my display at an airshow a few years ago. It brought back one Vet's memory of its use - how it almost killed him.

 

They were in a raft after ditching. They ran the antenna up with the balloon and took turns cranking on the radio. The radio did its job and a rescue plane arrived while he was cranking. It did a pass to look them over and got a little too close. The plane snagged the antenna. The wire held just long enough to yank the fellow out of the raft before it broke. "There I am in the water with the dammed 25 pound radio strapped between my legs, pulling me down to a watery grave..." As one might guess, he got out of the harness before he drowned as he was there telling the story 60 years later. But not a war story he wanted to relive!

 

Tom :thumbsup:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had my Gibson Girl as part of my display at an airshow a few years ago. It brought back one Vet's memory of its use - how it almost killed him.

 

They were in a raft after ditching. They ran the antenna up with the balloon and took turns cranking on the radio. The radio did its job and a rescue plane arrived while he was cranking. It did a pass to look them over and got a little too close. The plane snagged the antenna. The wire held just long enough to yank the fellow out of the raft before it broke. "There I am in the water with the dammed 25 pound radio strapped between my legs, pulling me down to a watery grave..." As one might guess, he got out of the harness before he drowned as he was there telling the story 60 years later. But not a war story he wanted to relive!

 

Tom :thumbsup:

 

I wonder how many people were rescued because of these? It's an ingenious system.

 

I had not opened up the door to the antenna wire spool until after I read your story: I can easily see how this braided wire could support a man's weight for a while:

 

reel.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wonder how many people were rescued because of these? It's an ingenious system.

 

I had not opened up the door to the antenna wire spool until after I read your story: I can easily see how this braided wire could support a man's weight for a while:

 

Actually, it really didn't even have to support his weight. Just pull him over the side of the raft.

 

Another Vet I spoke to told of taking turns cranking the Gibson Girl for a couple days. After they were rescued, they discovered the thing wasn't working and all those hours of physical effort had been in vain. (The source of their rescue was being spotted by an aircraft out searching for them.)

 

Tom :thumbsup:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i would love to come across one of these, are they hard to find?

 

A Gibson Girl? No. A Gibson Girl with all the accessories can be one of those years-long quests just like filling out a C-1 survival vest. Occasionally one appears with all the "bells and whistles", but be prepared.

 

Tom

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
A Gibson Girl? No. A Gibson Girl with all the accessories can be one of those years-long quests just like filling out a C-1 survival vest. Occasionally one appears with all the "bells and whistles", but be prepared.

 

Tom

 

There is one for sale on Ebay for $250 that appears to have most of the accessory items. Not a bid price. # 280369587696

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A Gibson Girl? No. A Gibson Girl with all the accessories can be one of those years-long quests just like filling out a C-1 survival vest. Occasionally one appears with all the "bells and whistles", but be prepared.

 

Tom

 

There is one for sale on Ebay for $250 that appears to have most of the accessory items. Not a bad price. # 280369587696

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is one for sale on Ebay for $250 that appears to have most of the accessory items. Not a bad price. # 280369587696

 

I just sold one almost complete set with everything having original WWII dates for $275. It did not have the cans of chemical to inflate the balloon, but those are very hazardous materials and I did not want to ship 65 year old cans of dangerous substances. I did a lot of research on Gibson Girl radio sales using worthpoint.com and $275 is pretty high price for even a complete set. The one on Ebay has some serious issues and I think $250 it too high: I think some on the order of $150 is more in order and if you want something to put in a WWII display it's not even worth that. The set is a post-WWII dual-channel radio, the crank on the radio appears to be a mass of rust and the bottom of the carrying case is falling apart. I had to do repairs on the one I sold - those old cloth cases are very fragile and based on my repair experience, I would not want to tackle this one. I still have one of the post-WWII radios with no case or accessories and it has some rust on the crank and some dents, I figure that is worth less than $50. If you're a military radio collector one of these post-WWII sets would be nice to have but, again, this is not set for WWII collectors: you want one of the older single-channel sets.

 

ggbott.jpg

gghandle.jpg

ggfreqs.jpg

ggall.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My son bought the kite at a show this spring. I'll see if I still have pictures to post or take new ones. Robert

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 6 months later...
Lightning Ace

I have an original dated silk parachute for the Gibson Girl but the lines were cut and I didn't know what the chute was for for the longest time because it given to me by a friend who didn't know either and all I cared about was that it was WW II dated.

Mike

 

 

 

They called these "Gibson Girl" radios because their narrow waist reminded people of the young ladies drawn by illustrator Charles Dana Gibson:

 

post-214-1246293579.jpgpost-214-1246294146.jpg

 

Officially it was the SCR-578 emergency transmitter (there was no receiver). First made in 1942, these were in use through the 1980's in some countries.

 

They had a hand cranked generator for power and included an automatic SOS sender with an option to manually key Morse Code messages. These were inspired by a captured German survival radio. There were a few different ID numbers associated with these including BC-778-A , SCR-578, T-74/CRT-3 and AN/CRT-3. The transmitter itself was the BC-778, while the complete set including bag, radio, accessories was the SCR-578.

 

post-214-1246298923.jpg

 

I found two of these recently at an estate sale, one of them in the original case with the accessories, including antenna, balloon, life raft rations, etc.:

 

post-214-1246293973.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

Just bagged up and priced one of the parachutes with cords, and one of the rubber balloons for the Gibson Girl that I will be hauling to the SOS for $27.50 each if anybody wants to grab them and pay postage, or have me hold them for the show.

Stephen

 

Email (click here) preferred and always faster than PM.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

VP_Association

They were still training people on these things at the Naval Aircrew Candidate School in Pensacola as late as 1980. I went through then and we were shown how to use them as well as the newer seawater activated PRT-5 beacon that eventually replaced the Gibson Girl.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 years later...

I'm now on the hunt for one of these! Can anyone help me at all please ?

I have found one part ,which I believe is the parachute pack .

 

LB

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I found two of these recently at an estate sale, one of them in the original case with the accessories, including antenna, balloon, life raft rations, etc."

 

Holy, moly!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 years later...
  • 8 months later...
Hue Miller

All the few anecdotes i have reaf, strange as it seems, have the BC-778 being dropped by a rescue plane, not provided in the survival equipment carried on the downed plane.

One of the wartime 'Radio News' magazines mentioned a WW2 informal association of people who had actually used the set in their at sea rescue. There may have been some kind of 'Certificate' even issued, this all in fun of course. I never did find any other reference to that. 

Around 1962 my father took us to the NAS Sandpoint, Seattle WA for some kind of Navy Day or Armed Forces day. My brother and i went into some hangar and there was a liferaft with a mannakin in it, set up like using a BC-778. I looked around and there was no one else around, so i went under the viewer rope and went to the raft and stared cranking the BC-778. After a bit of this we hurried out of there fast. Some Navy truck was pulling up to the hangar and i thought they had picked up our 'SOS', so we ducked into some Navy communications truck that really wasn't part of the visitor display and we stayed there til we thought the coast was clear. But now i think the transmitter wasn't cranked long enough to warm up and the truck arriving was not the S.P. and just a coincidence. I should have cranked it longer. The antenna only went up a few yards and it would only be heard in the control tower. I was maybe 13 years old, so what could they do to me anyway, send me to the infantry?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...