HAM Radio 101

Hams You Should Know: General Loren Windom, W8GZ, Inventor of the Windom Antenna

An Ohio native born on August 12, 1905, General Loren Windom, W8GZ, was a highly esteemed member of the National Guard with an impressive military record who also earned acclaim in the amateur radio community for his experimentation with antennas. He is credited with developing the Windom dipole antenna—a single-wire, off-center-fed antenna which evolved into modern variations such as the Carolina Windom (read more about it here)—although it was really his own work, the work of fellow students, and, in particular, the work of his good friend John Byrne, W8DKZ, as well as several innovative minds before him that led to the eventual discovery.

The Lead Up

CW was relatively commonly understood in the 1920s, and by 1924 the 80, 40, and 20 meter bands were used by amateur radio operators in the United Kingdom. The United States would soon catch up after the founding of the Amateur Radio Union in 1925. And two years later, on October 4, 1927, the 10 meter band was adopted on a worldwide basis by the Radiotelegraph Conference in Washington, D.C. The frequency allocation at the time was 28-30 MHz. Ten meters was a very wide band in HF terms that included Morse code and other narrowband modes near the bottom, SSB from 28.300 MHz on up, and wideband modes like AM and FM radio near the upper portion of the band.

The Issue

The problem with working the HF bands was that simple wires and ground systems were not able to transmit on more than one band, so Frank Conrad, W8KX, developed the idea of using a single wire as a feedline. Then two brothers, V.D. Landon and E.B. Landon, W8VN, went a few steps further to connect a single wire feedline to a system comprised of an aerial and a counterpoise. But it wasn’t until Howard M. Williams, W9BXQ, first fed a half wavelength horizontal wire off-center using a single feedline that a Windom dipole antenna was truly achieved—although as the name suggests, it wasn’t Williams who would gain credit for the idea. Instead, it would be Windom, who would publish the work based off of his own contributions, those of fellow students, and the work of Byrne.

Best Friends Make History

Byrne was a student studying electronic engineering at Ohio State, where he was best friends with Windom. The students jointly operated W8GZ, one of the most powerful amateur radio stations of the time. It was Byrne’s professor, William Everitt, W8CR, who suggested that Byrne investigate the single-wire-fed Hertz antenna—an idea originally thought up by Windom—as part of Byrne’s 1925-1926 thesis paper. So Byrne and fellow student, E.F. Brooke, W9DEM, got to it and wrote a paper on the single-wire feedline. Then, when nothing came of it, Byrne again wrote about the topic in greater detail in 1927/1928 with the help of A.B. Crawford. The work was published in the Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers (PIRE) under the names of Byrne, Brooke, and Everitt—but as the first author listed, Everitt was the only contributor to ever receive any acclaim. However, Windom was a huge fan of the work, so much so that he tried to persuade Byrne to publish it in an upcoming issue of QST Magazine. Byrne, who was busy rewriting his existing article for PIRE, refused but suggested that Windom write it instead. Windom did just that and due to a long editing process with Byrne’s article, Windom’s article was the first to be published, and as such, he was the one credited as the antenna’s namesake—although there is no doubt that Byrne’s contributions to the material were highly notable.

Military and Collegiate Life

Windom wasn’t just well known for his work with antennas, however. He was an active and influential officer in the National Guard who first became a Major General and then the Ohio Adjutant General—the most senior officer position in the National Guard. He served in this role from 1959 to 1963, commanding the 37th infantry division during this time and for two years after. During WWII, Windom served in the Philippines and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in battle. He would also study law at the Ohio State University College of Law and later become Attorney of the Southern District of Ohio.

A Life Well Lived

Windom passed away on February 1, 1988. During his time as an amateur radio operator he held the call signs of W8GZ, W8ZG, 8AOI, 8ZO, 8GZ, and 8ZG. He was inducted into the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame in 2002, where he is fondly remembered both for his service to the United States military and his achievements in amateur radio.

You can honor Windom’s work in true ham style when you build your own Windom antenna using the DX Engineering EZ-Build ® UWA Center-T and End Insulator Kit. It contains everything you need to build wire antennas for high-power operations and can be mounted to any DX Engineering Balun or used directly with the DX Engineering 300 Ohm Ladder Line for a non-resonant multi-band dipole. 

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