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Bootleggers' Use of Unlicensed Short Wave Transmitter Proved Their Undoing When Traced by Means of Direction-Finding Receivers.

Map shows how direction-finders located outlaws' base, from which they flashed radio and light signals to ships at sea.

Trapped by Radio!
Radio News, January 1930

A "piratical" stronghold heavily armed and nestled high on a promontory overlooking the sea--smugglers running in their burdens under cover of night--speedboats loading up in the fog, hastily returning to their bases before dawn--heavily laden ships meeting by previous arrangement in sheltered coves--then, suddenly, the long-planned raid, with its simultaneous assaults on widely separated smugglers' retreats scattered along miles of coast-line. Brigands under arrest!

Then, the discovery that radio had trapped them!
It sounds like a page out of Stevenson!

Smugglers, guns, hidden caves, forbidden bounty, night watches, running chases, revolvers, and old swords ... all the s

But this is no story out of fiction. It is an actual happening, a thrilling narrative of modern piracy, with the cunning law evader outwitted by the modern use of radio.

The episode has all the dramatic suddenness of the fanciful variations of a Stevensonian adventure, brought up to date by the introduction of high-speed boats, machine guns with concrete defenses, and radio. It was enacted only a short time ago along the Atlantic Coast within a few miles of the busy metropolis of New York.

At thirty-five different points along the shore, from Atlantic City to the eastern end of Long Island, probably old haunts of the smugglers of yore, the government agents swooped down at the "zero hour" of four-thirty p.m. to surprise the lawbreakers. By six o'clock that same evening, the job was done, and thirty-two alleged bootleggers were in the hands of the law.

Some of the parapherlia discovered by officers.

Among their booty prohibition officers found cases of liquor, pistols, guns, magazines, automobiles, records, books, boats and a real "stronghold." But most interesting was the wireless equipment discovered in the mansion of the "million dollar outfit" that operated six boats, a fleet of speedboats, and a trucking system for transporting the liquid goods. Among the prisoners was the radio operator of the alleged bootleggers' station that directed the fleet for the mastermind of the rum ring ...

As details of the sensational raid were disclosed, it became evident that radio had played a big part in the location of the various rum quarters, revealed its operations, and finally helped to close-in on them. It is probably the first time that radio has been used on such a big scale, both by the bootleggers, for their alleged criminal practices, and by the Government for their location and apprehension.

The lawbreakers headquarters. Former home of Oscar Hammerstein.

Atop Beacon Hill stands the "mansion." It was there that the radio station, with the operator at the key, was found. The three-storied house contains twenty rooms, and is built in the American rococo style of the 80's. This emphasizes its brazenness, perched as it is on the hilltop, with a view commanding not only the hilly south shore of Staten Island and the wide banks of the Shrewsbury River, but also, to the right, Sandy Hook Bay and the great ocean. It is plainly visible from the open road that approaches it.

To the average person it is an ugly, lone house, left unoccupied for the last 15 years, and certainly too unlovely for its former owner, Oscar Hammerstein. That single wire, coming out of a window and running to a thirty-foot pole on the estate might have been anything, including an aerial to pick up broadcast programs. When government sleuths got right up to it, and watched the operator at the key, they knew, from the information provided by the Radio Service of the Department of Commerce, that this was the transmitting station.

Story Continues


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