Summer 2007 Issue

Remembering W2UK/KH6UK

Tommy Thomas, W2UK/KH6UK, was one of the most accomplished
VHF-plus operators of the 1950s and ’60s. Here, thanks to some
assistance from his nephew Mark Shultise, WA3ZLB, is a brief history
of this world-renowned amateur radio operator.


By Joe Lynch, N6CL

The following are excerpts from my September 2005 and November 2005 “VHF Plus” columns in CQ magazine, along with a couple of minor updates since their publication.

As they do almost every year, over this summer Chip Angle, N6CA, and Paul Lieb, KH6HME, again have been working on setting a new 10-GHz record between California and Hawaii via the now well-known tropospheric duct between the West Coast and Hawaii. As of this writing, it is not known if their attempt has been successful. The attempt was made possible because of the pioneering work of John Chambers, W6NLZ, and Ralph E. “Tommy” Thomas, W2UK.

It was on July 8, 1957 that John and Tommy (using the call KH6UK) made contact on 2 meters. It would be about two years later, on June 22, 1959, when they again would set a record by making another contact, this time on 220 MHz.

Who was Tommy Thomas and how was it that he ended up in Hawaii to set these records? What follows are the results of some sleuthing and at least one fortunate coincidence of history that opened a major door, which is where I need to begin my story:

When I first looked up KH6UK in preparation for this piece, there was a note on the website that he was a Silent Key. I contacted Fred Lloyd, AA7QB, the owner of QRZ.com, who graciously supplied me with the information as to who inserted the note. It turned out to be Tommy’s nephew, Mark Shultise, WA3ZLB, the son of Tommy’s sister, Freda Shultise. Mark, like his uncle, had moved to Hawaii in 2003, approximately 48 years after Tommy’s relocation. I am deeply indebted to Fred for assistance in contacting Mark.

Now to some history that I uncovered as a result of Mark’s assistance and my on-again and off-again years of investigation of Tommy’s accomplishments.

A Bit of History

Ralph E. “Tommy” Thomas was born on December 22, 1903 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert L. Thomas. Tommy’s ham radio accomplishments were first on HF. According to Philip Peterson, W2DME, Tommy started his ham radio career in the spark-gap days. During the 1920s and 1930s Tommy “was constantly improving his equipment and was recognized for his special ability in radio communications.”1 According to The Sunday Home News, New Brunswick, NJ, Sunday August 4, 1957, these accomplishments included:

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