International Broadcast Station KGEI was established by General Electric Company in 1939, a high frequency (HF) short wave station known initially as W6XBE. Its 20 kW transmitter was an advanced technological display located at the Golden Gate International Exposition, held on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay in 1939 and 1940. After the Exposition's closed, the studio was moved to the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. The transmitter was relocated to a 50-acre site three miles east of Belmont, shared with KPO (eventually KNBC, now KNBR), where a more powerful 50 kW transmitter was installed.
KGEI became a crucial resource of the U.S. government during World War II, as it was initially the only U.S. shortwave station heard in the Pacific. It was a key facility in the radio operations of the Office of War Information, which was the genesis of the Voice of America. After the war, General Electric continued to operate KGEI as a private shortwave station until 1960, when the Far East Broadcasting Corporation purchased the station. They operated it as a private and religious cultural station serving Latin America until 1994.
KGEI at the Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939-40:
An aerial map of GGIE fair on Treasure Island, in San Francisco Bay.
Detailed map of GGIE grounds. KGEI was in the Electricity and Communications Building at bottom center; the antenna was on the roof of the Ferry Building, at the extreme bottom
Shortwave station W6XBE at Golden Gate International Exposition - a part of the larger General Electric exhibit in the Electricity and Communications Building.
Another view of W6XBE, showing the transmitter and the transmitter control room. High voltage rectifier tubes are in the window at far left.
W6XBE in operation. A transmitter power tube is displayed in the center.
A view of the W6XBE studio at the Golden Gate Expo. The studio control room is at the left rear.
Station manager E.T. "Buck" Harris reads news from the I.N.S. Teletype. The wall map shows the W6XBE coverage area.
W6XBE English announcer Emerson Smith broadcasts news to Asia and South Africa from the studio control room.
W6XBE Spanish announcers Juan Trevina (L) and Carlos U. Benedetti (R).
Hollywood stars Cesar Romero and Sally Eilers give their greetings over W6XBE.
Michelle Magnin and Yvonne Bale of the Folies Bergere change the call letters from W6XBE to KGEI - August, 1939.
Another view of the shortwave exhibit after the call letters changed to KGEI.
A view of the exhibit from the opposite side, showing the studio, control room, transmitter, and teletype.
The public viewing the KGEI operation during fair hours.
The crowd views a special broadcast to Brazil on June 6, 1939.
KGEI manager Buck Harris interviews Thomas J. Watson, president of I.B.M., 1939.
KGEI English announcer Norman Paige in the control room.
KGEI English announcer Norman Paige in the studio, with the control room at rear.
The KGEI antenna on roof of ferry building. The 9,530 kHz antenna is at left, the 15,330 kHz antenna at right. The man at right is changing the antenna connection to the transmitter. The antennas are aimed at Asia and South America.
The transmission line is shown exiting the roof of the Communications Building, from where it was carried on wooden supports to the Ferry Building.
This map shows the target coverage areas of General Electric's two shortwave stations, KGEI, and WGEO in Schenectady, NY.
Original KGEI 20 kW Transmitter Photographs:
KGEI Studio in the Fairmont Hotel, 1942:
KGEI Transmitter in Belmont, 1942:
The KGEI transmitter building in Belmont, was built with three-foot reinforced concrete walls.
Another view of the KGEI transmitter building, with one of the towers for NBC's station KPO in the background.
Installing transformers behind the KGEI building, still under construction. KPO building at rear.
Completion of construction project, showing transformer rack at rear of transmitter building.
Antenna towers under construction, 1941.
Transmitter rectifier tube rack under construction.
New 50 kW transmitter and operating console, with speech racks at right, and 'Memovox' recording machine at left - October 1941.
Another view of the transmitter and control desk, 1941.
KGEI Staff, two hours after moving from Treasure Island to Belmont - June 12, 1941.
Transmitter water cooling tank, in the basement of the KGEI building. Water was pumped from here through a radiator to cool the transmitter's PA tubes.
Machine room in the basement, showing power distribution and contactor panels, water pumps, bias motor-generator, and window into rectifier room.
Electrical and machine shop
Interior view of KGEI 50 kW transmitter - modulators in center, RF power tube at left.
Another interior view showing final amplifier tube, with copper pipes leading to the water cooling jacket below.
Serial number plate from KGEI's 50 kW transmitter, which was in service from 1941 to 1994.
Aerial view of KGEI and KPO/KNBC shared transmitter site at Belmont, California, 1968. KGEI's antennas are at left, KNBC's two towers at right.
This 1938 G. E. blueprint shows the layout of the 50 acre Belmont property as it was initially used by the two stations.
KGEI Transmission lines and its three "curtain" antennas for 19, 25 and 49 meters, which were perfectly aligned (126/306 degrees) with the capitals of Latin America and Asia.
Another view of the KGEI antennas in the 1940's.
This G.E. 100 kW transmitter was supplied by the federal government for the transmission of O.W.I. programs in 1943.
Another view of the 100 kW transmitter, showing the new call sign, KGEX.
A third view of the 100 kW transmitter, with trim panels installed.
KGEI Programs 1940's and 1950's:
Betty O'Lanie sends greetings to her soldier boyfriend in Alaska over the Sunday night KGEI "Musical Mailbag" program.
Mary Andrade talks to her soldier boyfriend at Hickam Field in Hawaii in September, 1941.
Mrs. Margaret Stang greets her son, stationed at Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
These sixteen people appeared on the first KGEI "Musical Mailbag" program, September 7, 1941.
Gladys Low and Lowe Yat Wan perform on the "Chinese Good Neighbor Hour", 1941
Rev. Frank Smith, formerly a missionary in Japan, speaks to listeners in Japanese over KGEI.
From 1954 tto 1955, KGEI broadcast the University of the Air under the direction of Stanford Professor Ronald Hilton.
Professor Hilton interviews Brazilian novelist Erico Verissimo, on the 'University of the Air', 1950's.
KGEI - Far East Broadcasting Company Years:
A view of KGEI building as it looked when FEBC acquired the station in 1960.
Another view of the KGEI building as it appeared in the 1960's. The Far East Broadcasting Company operated both its studio and transmitter from here.
The road to KGEI and KNBR as it appeared in the 1960's.
KGEI staff, 1972: KGEI staff. Back row: Jack Brooks, Tom Tweddell, Stan Jeter, Stan Lindvall, Jose Holowaty.Between rows: Hernan; Second row: Isabel Holowaty, Judith Shamp, Angel Bongiorno, Joao Souza; Front row: Esperanza Holowaty, Margaret Wakelee, Jim Bowman.
KGEI staff photo, from a postcard, 1970's.
Rear of postcard, identifying personnel.
Announcer in KGEI control room.
The KGEI transmitter, from a G.E. brochure in the mid 1950's.
Another view of KGEI's 1939 50 kW transmitter, after numerous modifications.
A view of the KGEI curtain antenna, looking towards the northwest, with the KNBC (formerly KPO) antenna in the background, 1960.
Another antenna view, about 1950.
KGEI antenna in 1960. The antennas were constructed by General Electric, and are, from left to right, for 19, 25 and 31 meters. A WWII era guard shack can be seen at the base of the third tower.
KGEI antenna field in 1961, showing 31 meter antenna and the World War II Marine guardhouse.
KGEI antenna field, showing in the foreground the radiating element of a temporary corner reflector antenna for the new Russian service.
A KGEI "Friendship diploma" sent to a listener in Latin America
A KGEI souvenir pennant.
A KGEI souvenir flag.
A KGEI QSL card, 1976.
A view of the KGEI building, as it appears today. It is now the headquarters of Silicon Valley Clean Water, a wastewater treatment facility.
More KGEI Resources:
KGEI History by Jim Bowman
Early shortwave radio on the West Coast
Audio Recordings of KGEI
PHOTO CREDITS: Jim Bowman, Far East Broadcasting Company; Chris Hunter, Museum of Innovation and Science; The Treasure Island Museum; Bill Ruck; and Reid Brandon.