All US Navy vessels have a unique call sign beginning with the letter “N” for use in radio and other communications. The call sign for the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) is NUGW (November Uniform Golf Whiskey). Such call signs were generally used for unclassified and navigation communications with other vessels. Tactical call signs would also have been used that varied with the mission. NUGW was used by the ship’s Radiomen in Morse Code radio transmissions and by Signalmen using flashing lights and hoist flag signals.
US Navy call signs are assigned in accordance with the following plan:
a. Three-letter N calls represent shore radio stations. For example, Naval Station Norfolk uses the call sign NMN. A three-letter N call with a numeral preceding or following represents a sub-assignment within the area controlled by a major shore station.
b. Four-letter N calls represent ships. A portable station under the control of a naval vessel has the call of the vessel with a numeral added. For example, a shore party from the USS Wisconsin might use the call sign NUGW2.
c. Letter-numeral-letter calls denote units which have facilities for answering calls direct.
d. Four-letter pronounceable calls, other than those starting with N, represent shore stations or units which do not have facilities for answering calls direct.
e. Five-letter N calls represent aircraft.
f. Call signs consisting of two, three, or four numerals plus a letter are assigned by blocks to aircraft.
g. Other combinations of letters, numerals, or both are used as visual call signs for ships, aircraft, tactical organizations, and task forces.
Further information regarding assignment of call signs can be found in the U.S. Navy Call Sign Book.
This naming convention influenced the USS Wisconsin Radio Club in its choice of N4WIS as our amateur radio call sign. We could have used a call sign beginning in A, K, N, or W – but we chose “N” as our prefix for its affiliation with the Navy. We are in the 4th call sign area. WIS was a natural for the suffix.
The N4WIS radio shack is located on the Hoist Flag 03 Deck. The ship’s signal flag storage racks are located just aft of our shack. These lockers contain international maritime signal flags representing individual letters of the alphabet which Navy Signalmen used to communicate visually with other ships. These flags are displayed today in the USS Wisconsin’s role as a museum ship. Docents hoist signal flags each day during the opening times of the ship to the public. The NUGW call sign is displayed by the signal flags shown at the top of this web page.