RUSSELL COUNTY, KANSAS

GERMAN CAVES



The oft-told story of the German Caves, as they are called, has been handed down over the generations, and says the caves were dug by Nazi German spies who operated a radio transmitter there during WWII. The location gives a clear view (albeit from a long distance) of the old Walker Air Base, used for pilot training. There were two caves originally, but one collapsed... one remains to this day.

The caves were actually built by Alex R. Meier, an electrician in Russell. Meier and his brother Carl operated Meier Electric in Russell, which they opened in 1924. Meier had an intense curiosity about radio communication which was in its infancy in 1922, when he obtained a radio operator's license for a transceiver at 342 W. 11th St. in Russell. He actually started radio operations from his home at 648 E. 7th St., with the call letters W9CKJ.

In 1924, Meier missed an opportunity to put Russell "on the map". He had obtained one of the first broadcasting licenses in Kansas. The license was authorized on a 90-day trial basis with the call letters KFQ0. Many difficulties arose concerning the operation of a radio station, not the least of which was an absence of any radio listeners. He estimated that only about 10 radios existed in Russell in 1924. Among those owning radios in those days were Lawrence Walizer, Jessie Justin, Mike Gernon, Dr. Jay Link, Ben Phlegar, Ben Strecker, and Robert Heffel.

Live broadcasting from KFQ0 originated in the old Mainstreet Theater (now the Dream Theater) at 629 Main St. One of the major technical problems which existed was the lack of a microphone. To solve the problem, 2 telephone microphones were used. Telephone microphones became overheated quickly, making it necessary to cool one outside while the other was in use.

As the number of radios grew and the number of radio operators increased, they began to interfere with local reception of the few regular radio programs which were available at the time. Ham operators were adding more power to their stations, resulting in complaints from local listeners.

In order to obtain better receiving and transmitting conditions, Meier allowed his license to expire, and acquired a new one to operate from a high hill on the old Woelk Ranch. He dug 2 caves, one of which contained his receiving and transmitting equipment, and the other which housed the power plant, a 4 kilowatt generator. A 230-foot rigid pipe tower was constructed on top of the hill.

In 1939, the station was completed. Twice during the winter of 1939 the station was buried beneath snow drifts, rendering it inoperable, and the tower collapsed under strong Kansas winds. Cost of the operation was prohibitive, so Meier abandoned the station in 1940.


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