1917, Americans enter in the war. There is a need to maintain reliable and continuous communications between american forces in France and the United States.
Because of the sub-marine war, the transatlantic cables are unreliable.
The LYON-LA-DOUA telegraphic station has just been completed by french Marine but is already very busy/loaded. In addition it does not guarantee communication at any time with America.
Sept 1917, french General Ferrie sees two solutions:
1st- increase power of Lyon station and increase height of its towers.
2nd- build a new station able to ensure that communication any hour, any season.
This is what is requested by US General Pershing, responsible for US troops supplies.
This solution receives the agreement of US high authority represented by Admiral Simpson.
A french delegation leaves for the US. On October 4th 1917 an agreement is signed in New London, CT between the US Government and this delegation Tardieu. This agreement establishes the principle of creation of a powerfull radio station. On January 9th 1918 the french President du Conseil, minister of war, prescribes immediate creation of a high power radiotelegraphic station able to ensure communication with America day and night.
The inter-allied radiotelegraphic commission decides the station will be built on Croix d'Hins former flying ground. It is far from place of military operations, close to the harbour of Bordeaux, it is near a railway and has the highest altitude in the region.
The US Marine will supply the transmitting equipment and the metal towers. The french "Radiotelegraphie militaire" will establish the general layout of the station, define the kind of antenna and ground plan, build the groundwork (base) of the towers, build the buildings and energy supply.
To remind of its origin, franco-american friendship and cooperation, the station will be called LAFAYETTE Radiotelegraphic station.
The first work done by France is started March 7th 1918. The american team of 750 Marines is sent to build the towers, as per the original agreement. It is managed by post-captain
SAINT CLAIR SMITH and commanders SWEET and HICKEY. This team will start its work on MAY 28, 1918, that is once the towers base/groundworks have been completed by the French.
The station is to be equiped with a geant antenna covering an area 400 meters X 1200 meters. Its installation requires to build eight geant 250 meters high towers. Material is huge and heavy. To allow its transport, a railway is built. Starting from the nearby Croix d'Hins railway station, this railway goes all around the station area and goes to each of the future towers. It also goes inside the future main building where the radio transmitter will sit. Is also enters the coal warehouse/building.
The locomotive carrying material has a weight of 15-20 tons. The crane weights 60 tons. Work progresses at good speed.
On the day of the end of the war, November 11th 1918, the groundwork of the towers and of the technical buildings are completed and six of the eight towers have been started.
Based on the agreement signed october 1917, the american involvement is stopped. The work is stopped and new negociations start and a new agreement is signed on February 11th 1919. According to this agreement, the station will be finished/built by those who have started it, and once completed, it will be handled to the french Post and Telegraphs administration.
Work resumes in March 1919. The towers are completed in November 1919, the first tests are done April 1920.
The towers were manufactured by Pittsburg Des Moines Co. They will be 250 m high.
Informations or documents about Lafayette Station are welcome at : email@example.com
Aug 2000 - 80th anniversary