Hiroshima to CTV: Quite A Story

by Jeb Bing
Friday, August 15, 2003

Today marks the 58th anniversary of the surrender of Japan, ending World War II. Jack Oliver, engineering chief and a founder of CTV Community Television in Pleasanton, remembers it well. Oliver battled the Japanese across the Pacific as a radar operator - and sometimes a gunner - on a Naval Air torpedo squadron from January 1942 until the war ended. Promoted the chief officer, he was assigned to the Privateers, an elite group of highly sophisticated aircraft packed with the best radar detection and jamming equipment at the time, whose job was to jam Japanese radar during bombing missions by other aircraft.

On the morning of Aug. 6, his seven-man crew was patrolling over Okinawa when the pilot heard about a major bombing in Hiroshima, so he flew the patrol plane over the city - just hours after the Enola Gay had dropped an 8,900-pound atomic bomb on the city. Oliver recalls that 90 percent of the city looked leveled as they swung around the perimeter, too high to see any of the devastation in detail. On Aug. 9, another B-29, the Bockscar, dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Oliver recalls that his crew saw the Japanese defense disintegrating, and finally the surrender came, a relief to him and the rest of the military which had suffered huge losses in the Okinawa invasion and were preparing for even more as they readied their move to the mainland.

After the war, Oliver came home, but he never stopped flying or tinkering with radar, electronics and his favorite hobby, photography. Called back to serve in the Korean War, Oliver returned again and went to work for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. One of his early assignments had him combining his radar experience and photography as part of a team that used high-speed processes to record nuclear bomb tests in the Pacific and Nevada.

After retiring from the Lab in 1974, Oliver joined a Tri-Valley effort to develop community television, made possible as part of franchise agreements between early cable operators and the cities of Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and San Ramon. Operating out of an old house at Abbie and First streets, he led the effort to wire rooms for studios and broadcasts that were limited to a few hours a day on one of 12-15 channels available on cable. Because of his contacts at the Lab, he was able to gain donations of used video cameras, broadcast equipment and other materials to set up the operation. Since then, Oliver has helped CTV expand into larger studios and to offer more broadcast services, although much of the equipment is still hand-me-downs from the Lab and commercial stations.

Today, CTV airs on Channel 30 from early morning to midnight with a number of live and studio-produced productions, and has cameras and crews covering community events throughout the Valley, including live broadcasts and follow-up re-broadcasts of both the Pleasanton City Council and school board meetings.

Oliver suffered a stroke six years ago that left him partly paralyzed, but he still comes to work every day, sitting across from CTV Executive Director Darla Stevens. And CTV still needs him. After all, he installed most of the wiring and knows how and where everything connects. It's good he's there.

This article by Mr. Bing appeared in the Pleasanton Weekly, a newspaper focusing on people and events in Pleasanton. Dad was interviewed a little, but doesn't know how he became the focus of an article!