About My Callsign

New callsign, new name badge!

This entry was originally posted to my personal website on February 27th, 2019. I was granted my current callsign, KØRQ on February 14th, 2019. 

So a few weeks ago I changed my ham radio callsign. I’ve kinda wanted a vanity call ever since I got my license, but when I was originally assigned KDØTGA I grew to like it. After getting my General ticket I decided I would hang on to that call sign until I was an Extra and get a short call. I became an Extra almost immediately, but the short call sign did not materialize…. mainly because I was fussy and wanted something really good.

After holding out for several really good options that I did not get, I decided to apply for KØRQ at the end of 2018. Literally. The date the call sign became available was 12/31/18. This worked to my advantage, as only me and two other people applied for that callsign on the day of. One of the other applicants had a few callsigns on his list, and would get assigned something else. After waiting for the Government Shutdown to clear, I found out the other applicant I was competing against had applied for KØLY and won that competition. Which basically meant I got KØRQ by default. Sweet.

But since it was a 50/50 shot of getting KØRQ until he was assigned KØLY, the other applicant decided to do some research into the previous holder of KØRQ. Once he was awarded his new callsign and saw I got KØRQ, he forwarded his research on to me. Now, when I’ve been applying for these other short callsigns, I honestly haven’t put a whole lot of thought into the previous holder. And KØRQ was no different, until KØLY sent me his findings.

Harold Leith, WWII vet and former holder of callsign KØRQ. Credit: Library of Congress.

So as it turns out, I am only the second person to have KØRQ. The previous holder is a gentleman named Harold B. Leith of Golden, CO who was assigned that call many years ago… I would assume in the 60s or 70s when it was still possible to get a 1×2 or 2×1 callsign sequentially as an Extra. He became a silent key in 2013 at the age of 94, and his license expired at the end of 2016.

Back in 2006, he did an interview for the Veterans History Project. I was having some sinus issues and couldn’t sleep last night, so out of boredom I decided to start watching it. Holy. Cow.

I’ll spare you all the details (go watch the interview!), but essentially Mr. Leith was recruited to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II and was deployed into Japanese controlled areas of China to rescue some pretty high ranking Prisoners Of War, including General Wainwright and others. His timing was impeccable, as the Japanese were planning on executing 300 or so POW’s the day he arrived, but his arrival spooked them into not doing it. The next day, the Japanese troops running the camp where the POW’s were being detained received orders to surrender. While he never participated in any real combat, his efforts saved the lives of many hundreds of US POW’s on the Japanese front.

After WWII he stayed on with the OSS, which a few years a later would become known as the CIA. He continued his work with them until he retired in 1975.

I was truly in disbelief after watching Mr. Leith’s interview last night. He really had an important role in saving the lives of hundreds of US Soldiers, and tells the story in the most classy way possible. What a guy.

My grandfather, Harold Bechtold, in front of an aircraft in World War II.

Then I started thinking a little bit about my paternal grandfather. His name was also Harold (though everyone called him Duffy) and was born two years after Mr. Leith in 1921. He also served in World War II, but in the Air Force. He served in Eurpoe, mainly in Italy. He passed away from cancer in 1994 so I never really got to know him super well (although there is home video of him at his last Christmas in 1993 teaching me how to swear in German. I need to dig this back up, its been 15 or 20 years since I’ve watched it. Priceless). And while Duffy was never a Ham, my maternal grandfather is. So I guess that counts for something.

It’s really funny, and borderline scary, the parallels between me and the previous holder of KØRQ. While I didn’t become a ham until shortly before he became a silent key, I would have loved to have had the opportunity to meet Mr. Leith or talk with him on the air. He seems like the kind of guy that could go on and on about stories from WWII for hours. And they’re probably so good you would keep listening.

I was not able to dig up his old QRZ page, or any other info about things he did as Ham. If anyone either worked Mr. Leith or even knew him as a Ham let me know. Seeing as I am following his footsteps (or more specially, his callsign), I would love to know what parts of Amateur Radio he was into and what he liked to do on the air.

So thank you, Harold Leith, for all of your service to our country while you were on this earth. And thank you for being a great steward of Amateur Radio callsign KØRQ; you embodied everything Amateur Radio is about.

Seeing as I’m only 28 years old, I plan on keeping this callsign for a long long time. And I hope I can treat it just as well as you did.

– Jake