IRAN RADIO WAS ON THE AIR BEFORE YOU COULD SAY ‘TAINTON-POTTBERG’

By Sgt. Al Hine

YANK Staff Correspondent

NORTHERN IRAN—Behind the rather terrifying moniker of T-4 Alaric Clifton Tainton-Pottberg lies a career of radio-script writing in New York City and Baltimore, Md. In front of Tainton-Pottberg stretches a great future on the staff of the GI radio station in Iran, “Radio America.”

Directing the broadcasting network, heard nightly the length and breadth of Iran with news and variety programs, is Lt. Leon A. Arkus of New York, who originally came to the Persian Gulf as personnel manager for an American construction company. The lieutenant’s previous radio work was highly technical; he used to snap the dial on his set in New York whenever Uncle Don came on the air.



Undaunted by his orders to put together a radio show, Lt. Arkus rounded up Tainton-Pottberg and a handful of soldiers with radio and news experience, including Pvt. Frank Plesha, who used to report for the Duluth New Tribune in Minnesota. Plesha was set to work listening in on short-wave broadcasts and relaying his findings to Tainton-Pottberg, who whipped them into sample scripts.

Meanwhile Lt. Arkus argued with the local Iranian radio station for time and studio facilities. From the local station he picked up a civilian assistant named F. Namdar, who speaks Persian and English with equal fluency. Namdar helped iron out some of the technical difficulties. The show was scheduled to start in a matter of days.

Then, like nickels from heaven, came two Special Service announcers. T-4 Frank P. McDonald used to be a newscaster on the Boston (Mass.) station WRL. With enough all-around radio experience to fill in at a dozen different jobs, he supplied the unctuous voice that would put the programs on and off the air. Alongside McDonald came T-5 Bill Palmer, composer, pianist-announcer from WJAC, Johnstown, Pa.

Two weeks after Lt. Arkus was ordered to produce a radio program, “Radio America” went on the air. It has been on six nights a week ever since, and it’s like manna to soldiers in Iran.

The first half of the show is straight news. The second half is American music, ranging from Glenn Miller to Stephen Foster, and recordings of top U.S. radio shows like Charlie McCarthy and Bob Hope. Live soldier-talent has appeared on the show, and the local GI orchestra can swing with the best.



bob hope radio uso

Bob Hope entertaining GIs with the USO

The Iranian station is well supplied with equipment from everywhere. Western Electric gadgets nestle alongside the creations of the Nazi Telefunken, But the station has only one studio and everyone has to use it. Traffic control is as confused as Times Square before gas rationing.

As “Radio America” signs off, an Iranian long-haired string ensemble tunes up. “It’s a little complicated,” say announcer McDonald, “to deliver a dignified signature when you’re being jabbed by three ‘cellos, but it’s all in a day’s work.



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