Not Ready for Prime Time?
USO radio show, AFVN-Saigon 1972: I played songs, read letters and did ads for the USO and the military. My engineer was John Noonan who was a great guy, but I wanted to kill him one day. While I was getting my next record ready to play, I was also singing along with Roberta Flack to the song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." To say I cannot sing is a drastic understatement. But I love to try. As I am trying to hit a high note, I notice that John is almost falling out of his seat with laughter. I glanced up at my light - - it is GREEN, which means I am going out live over the air! Live over all of Southeast Asia! I got more letters about my singing than any other subject.
-- Jan Grannemann
A Thanksgiving Encounter with . . . Sergeant Bilko ?
I was a career soldier on my second enlistment when I volunteered to go to Vietnam as a Tank Commander and was assigned to 1/77th Armor. Before I finished in-processing, the Operations Sergeant asked me to stay at the Replacement Detachment in Quang Tri as an Instructor, leveraging the deal with promises of cold beer and a warm, dry bed if I agreed. And to be honest I was young and dumb, so he had to tell me I wouldn't see cold beer for weeks, and would sleep when I could, where I could if I went to 1/77 Armor.
Since the Replacement Detachment was just across the street from the AFVN TV tower and the big generator, we had plenty of electricity and electrical appliances. Claymore wire was about like appliance cord, so with a few plugs and sockets we put light bulbs in grenade boxes to dry our boots and clothes. In my hooch we had a refrigerator, broiler oven, box fans, TV and powerful shortwave radios. With the radios I was able to pull in many major sporting events as they were being played rather than waiting for the tape delay rebroadcast from AFVN.
Many sporting events were relayed live from AFRTS Los Angeles on shortwave, taped and then in a delayed-broadcast retransmitted over AFVN during the following afternoon (Vietnam time). The local AFVN site had an R-390 general coverage receiver which could be used to tune in AFRTS and other transmissions.
At the Replacement Detachment where I lived and worked, we had a few NCOs who liked to bet on sporting events. What was not known was one senior NCO was going to the AFVN station late at night/early morning and was getting the daily scores or was listening to the closing minutes of the big games on their R-390. With the scores already known, he would go to breakfast and make his bets on the "afternoon" game transmitted on AFVN. This went on for months before he learned I had the capability to receive AFRTS in my hooch.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1969, there was a big football game which since it was played in the evening, was not completed by breakfast time in Quang Tri. The Senior NCO stopped by my hooch before going to breakfast and asked me to tune in AFRTS on my shortwave receivers so he could listen to the game in progress which was in the last few minutes of the last quarter. Shortly after the Senior NCO left to make his bets with a point spread, the team which had been behind, 90 yards from their goal, recovered the ball and ran for a touch down, made the extra point, did an onside kick, got the ball, made a touchdown and won by 13-14 points! The Senior NCO lost a lot of money that day when AFVN transmitted the game and decided to quit betting before he was caught cheating. At least he never came back to my hooch to catch a game or scores before breakfast.
-- contributed by Command Sergeant Major Gary Huber, US Army (Ret)
Making Merry until Merry Left
Christmas '63 - considering all that had happened in the past couple of months, AFVN management decided to go on the air all night Christmas Eve. Since I was the only Jewish guy there, I took the shift, beginning at 9 PM and working my way through until 6 in the morning. The first 3 hours were all the novelty holiday songs I could find, such as Pearl Bailey's "All I Want for Christmas is a Five-Pound Box of Money" and the like. At about 11:45 I put on a medley of Christmas Carols by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, followed by 12 strokes of Big Ben, then Crosby's "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas." The rest of the night was traditional carols, some repeated a couple of times. Left at 6, went over to one of the contract hotels for breakfast and fell asleep at the table . . . until about 3 pm. Someone later told me that my show was on at the Embassy party and everyone was enjoying themselves until "White Christmas" aired. Only time I ever heard of that song being a downer.
-- Lee Maltenfort
LIVE from Las Vegas!
We (Radio Saigon -- AFRS --) operated 18/7 (in 1963) and created about half the programming. For fun on weekends when we had a shortwave feed, we would re-create and broadcast "live" major league baseball games. Problem was much of the shortwave teletype copy was garbled. So we had to make some of it up as we went along. Even using AFRTS-LA announcements between innings and lots of crowd noise after every hit, we only had enough copy to make innings last five minutes or so. Our "games" were over in less than an hour. We re-created the Sonny Liston vs. Floyd Patterson championship fight held in Las Vegas in July 1963. We hyped it all week. Knowing the teletype copy would be sparse, Steve Southerland, doing the blow-by-blow, practiced ad libbing to stretch out the rounds. So what happened? The teletype came in perfectly, but Liston knocked out Patterson in two minutes of the first round. So to lengthen the broadcast, we ad libbed a long post-fight show. In it, Muhammad Ali showed up at the arena and, with Army SFC Jack Brice as Ali, created a lot of commotion and kept interrupting the "ring announcer" by yelling from the background, "I am the greatest." It was so realistic that in the following days many GIs asked how we got to go to Las Vegas for a prize fight.
-- Don Kirtley
A Tribute to Pam
In early '71, I got hit and Medevaced from the field to a hospital. I had a severed artery, and clinically, I was dead. The correct term was "exsanguinated." (Exsanguination is the fatal process of total hypovolemia, blood loss. It is most commonly known as "bleeding to death.") I don't remember all that much about what happened for about the next three months, and am pretty fuzzy about the three after that also.
For some reason, I remembered one face, that of an Army Nurse.
Fast forward to 1975, and I'm stationed at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center in Denver, going to the Army's Nursing School (MOS 91C ). Have to go through all this PC BS of being introduced to the instructors, and, in turn, giving brief oral bios about ourselves.
The instructors went through their bit, and one face looked familiar. Real familiar.
When it was my turn to give my yak, I did what was required, then looked at this Captain and asked her if she had been assigned in the area where I thought I was stationed. She replied that she had been, and then she got a funny look on her face.
Without any other comment about our previous meeting, I said, "Ma'am, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for what you did that day." Then I shut up and sat down.
Now, although no one else needed to know, that Captain knew what I was saying.
I have seen her a few times since, the last time during my tour at Ft. Sam Houston. Every year on Memorial Day I say a silent prayer for all those I have "lost" (although they are not really gone, ever), for those enemy that I have had the duty of bringing war's worst to, and for all of the Medics and Nurses from so long ago.
So, Pam, wherever you are, bless you.
-- Guy Slater
'bye, and Don't Let the Door Hit You on your Way Out
During my final briefing to the press in January 1973, I told the gathered news reporters that I was glad that during my tour, I was able to give them the information they needed to file their stories. I added that I regretted those few times when I couldn't give them all they needed to know, due to ongoing operations and security reasons. I then said "Good-bye" to them. The next day, on the front page of a major newspaper, appeared the headlines, "US Spokesman in Vietnam Admits Lying to the Press for the Last Year."
-- the late Gil Whiteman
A Dog Story
I had a dog at AFVN. I got her from a GI whose mama-san gave it to him. She had been taken before being weaned, and was itty-bitty and swollen from malnutrition. I took her to my room and force fed her dried beef soaked in sugar water, realizing that she would either live or die that night. Next morning I had little poops all over my room. I took her to AFVN and named her Co-Yeu (loosely translated "Miss Love" in Vietnamese). She was a small, white haired, pink nosed cutie of indeterminate breed. She loved Viet females, but hated Viet males and would try to bite them. Self-preservation, I guess. She loved french fries but only if they had catsup. Co-Yeu made it her mission to poop once in every office and studio at AFVN. Col. Casipit knew this and fought her at every turn, his office being the final bastion. Finally, one day over the PA system, Col Casipit called out, "Sgt Clemons, report to my office for clean up. Your dog has won." A cheer went up all over the station. Co-Yeu never used the inside of AFVN as her toilet after that day. Col Casipit knew that keeping Co-Yeu there was a morale boost for his personnel. One of the guys sent her to me in Alaska shortly after my discharge. She was a great pet and companion. We were together for years.
-- Laurie Clemons
Drat! Foiled Again.
During my first tour in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, I commanded the Division base defense as an additional duty. We sent out patrols every night, made up of odds and ends of troops in the Division Artillery Headquarters. I varied the routes to keep potential mortar and rocket attacks away from the base, but I needed to be sure that the patrols covered the assigned routes, which changed daily. To accomplish this, as the patrols left each day an NCO would slap a piece of foil on all the backpacks. We then monitored the patrols with a TPSI-25 Radar. When they reported in with their position, I knew immediately whether the position report was accurate, and very often I would get on the radio and say, "The hell you are there. Get to the designated point, and fast!" They never figured out how I knew.
-- BG Joe Cutrona
While I was on R&R the military had one of their many MPC changeovers. I had to take my money out to headquarters after-the-fact to get the new Monopoly money. When I emptied my wallet of maybe 50 bucks of the old funny-money, a $5 greenback fell out. My grandmother had sent it to me for my birthday. Suddenly, I became the obvious head of a black market operation. The interrogation began. I was held while staff went back to the Kyson to search my room for suitcases loaded with cash.
Well . . . of course there was nothing . . . except lizards on the ceiling. The "hearts and minds" strategy flopped on all fronts.
-- Larry Green
MACOI Spirit and the B-52s Over North Vietnam
The scene was Saigon, late 1972. Barbara Treaster, a photo-journalist with the New York Times, kept bugging me, as the U.S. press spokesman, to let her ride a B-52 in a raid over North Vietnam. I kept telling her that she didn't want to do that, that the B-52s made a boring 14-hour round trip from Guam, and that there was nothing to see.
When she ultimately accused me of "hiding something," that did it. I said, "Okay, but hang on to your drollies. I'll let you know the details tomorrow."
The next morning, I went over to the B-52 section in MACV headquarters to arrange for Barbara's trip, to include a ride from Saigon to Guam and back. The colonel in charge said, "I'll take care of everything -- under one condition."
"What's that?" I asked.
He smirked, "I'll do it if you won't tell her there is no latrine on a B-52."
I thought, "Damn, that's the old MACOI spirit at work if I ever saw it." I quickly agreed to the terms.
Some three days later, and after Barbara's ride, as I arrived to do battle at the daily Five O'clock Follies, I saw Barbara coming at me from shouting distance. And she was shouting all right -- every invective imaginable. I mean she was directing harsh and abusive language at me.
When she got nose-to-nose, she inquired, "And just why didn't you tell me there wasn't a bathroom on those damned B-52s?"
Naturally, I gave her the traditional spin-doctor answer, "Why, Barbara, you didn't ask me."
A postscript to this is that Barbara (now dba "Barbara Gluck Photography) is presently still boasting about being the only woman to make a B-52 raid over North Vietnam and selling photographs taken in the cockpit of that B-52. There are, alas, no pictures of the "powder room."
-- Jere Forbus
Who's on First?
During the 1963 coup, the Saigon phone system was down but our military system was up and people began calling into the AFVN radio station to identify themselves and where they were. We actually had one situation where the wife of one officer called in to say she and her child were at the home of another officer, which we dutifully announced. About an hour later, the wife of the hosting officer called in to say she was safe and in the home of the woman and child who were staying with her husband.
-- Lee Maltenfort
An Alarming Story
Administrator's Note: Steve Sevits was stationed in Okinawa from late 1962 to early 1964, but in the summer of 1963, when AFVN's predecessor, AFRS, was still new, Steve was assigned temporary duty in Saigon. Since he'd be on duty every morning at 0600 hours, he bought an electric alarm clock before leaving Okinawa. Here's Steve's story:
Okinawa ran on the American electrical system, 60 cycles, 110 volts. I brought an inexpensive electric alarm clock with me. Saigon was 50 cycle electricity. Electric clocks are keyed to the number of cycles rather than voltage, and as a result my clock lost exactly 12 minutes per hour (as it ran on 5/6 of 60 cycles). If I intended to sleep for eight hours, I would set the clock 96 minutes ahead of the current time, so in losing 12 minutes per hour after 8 hours it would momentarily indicate the correct time when the alarm went off. This experience begs the question as to why I never bought a local alarm clock, or even better yet a windup clock. Being TDY, I reasoned there were better things to spend my advanced TDY money on than such mundane things as clocks.
I understood that all the equipment at the radio station also had to be converted to run on 50 cycles rather than 60 cycles for which it had been made in the US. That had to be a complicated and expensive job. I would have thought running everything on a generator would have been more logical.
-- Steve Sevits
MACV Observer -- the Deep Six Edition
The MACV Observer was a weekly newspaper published by the Command Information Division of MACOI. It was the official organ of the Military Assistance Command, and it carried official news about and for American troops in Vietnam. As such, it goes without saying that it was carefully edited to make certain it did not print news articles favorable to our enemy.
One edition, back in the 1960s, went through layout carrying a front-page story concerning a new US-funded civilian bank in Saigon which would specialize in agricultural loans. The banner headline announced the establishment of a VN (Vietnamese) Agricultural Bank, but, somehow, something happened when the boards were sent to the printer. The printing was done in Tokyo, and the newspaper run was returned with the letters "VC" (Viet Cong) accidentally inserted where the "VN" should have been. It would have been obvious to any reader that the headline was erroneous, if for no other reason because it would be difficult to obtain SEC approval for a merger of the Viet Cong and the US government to go into the banking business. The two alleged business partners were, after all, lobbing grenades at each other at the time. But the US Command had to consider the political repercussions of looking ridiculous, and they quickly had to decide what to do.
Following a rigorous series of meetings that definitely involved the higher-ups, it was decided that the Air Force would load up the entire run and dump them into the placid waters of the South China Sea.
MACV at that time spread 80,000 weekly Observers among all points in Vietnam in which American troops were domiciled. Military personnel were urged to share the newspapers, and it was expected that each paper would be read by five people. Thus, in that particular week, 400,000 Americans had to make do without their newspapers. Undoubtedly a Neilsen sweeps survey during that paperless week would have detected a dramatic increase in the number of AFVN listeners and viewers.
--based on recollections of Les Payne
Clothes Make the Man
AFVN was a professional operation, but kind of loosy-goosy when it came to regulations. It was kind of like working in our own cocoon. Our on-air product was our prime concern. Late in my first year, I was working the early evening on FM. To get to the FM studio, you had to walk past the AM studio into the front lobby, and then turn left. Now there came a time when I had an ingrown toenail. Painful. Went to a local field hospital and they said it had to be cut off. So on this particular early evening, I was walking with one boot and one sandal, with my big toe wrapped and bandaged. In the front lobby sat a MACV captain who stopped me to inquire about my situation. I explained. He told me I was out of uniform and should be confined to barracks until I was able to report to work in full uniform. I thought he was kidding. Oh, no. I told him that if I didn't pull my shift, someone else would have to work extra hours, but that didn't fly. Since it was early evening, however, there wasn't anybody around to relieve me that night. About an hour later, I'm on the air . . . and he barges into the studio, ignoring the ON AIR light. Now, it might have been because my toe was throbbing, but probably not. I ranted as much as an E5 could. The next few days, the radio station was under close scrutiny. We all had to be in proper uniform. I jammed a buddy's size 12 boot over my toe until I entered the studio. Then I kicked it off, put my foot on the console to help reduce the throbbing, and proceeded to entertain the troops. The uniform hullabaloo lasted about two days.
-- Larry Green
A Near-Death Experience?
After the nightly 1000 hours AFVN newscast was finished at Det 5 in Quang Tri, some of us enlisted men would climb the water tower behind the trailer holding the station's electronic guts and "watch the war go by." From up there we could see occasional tracer rounds in the distance and a huge sky filled with stars. (It was a feeling best described in the Drifters' old hit song, "Up on the Roof"). One night a sergeant (whose name I thankfully don't remember) showed up at the bottom of the ladder with M-16 in hand cussing at us to come down. All of us were frightened because the good sergeant was obviously drunk AND he was armed. After a moment or two of hesitation we made our way down, listening to his continuing verbal abuse and trembling anew as our feet touched each rung. I was so worried he might act on his drunken anger that I later complained to the lieutenant and warned him of the possibility of a "friendly fire" incident! Of course, as all enlisted vets know, any M-16 firing done by a drunk, belligerent, foul-mouthed senior NCO could never be labeled "friendly." In retrospect, I think it's possible MACV might have awarded us Purple Hearts, perhaps at a magnificent posthumous ceremony with 21-gun salutes and the US Army Band.
-- Tim Lennox
Here's why AFVN Duty was GOOD Duty
The Navy assigned John Thomas to riverboat patrol in Vietnam's Delta prior to his transfer to a far more sedate job at AFVN. Here he recounts an incident from that earlier assignment.
We were on our way from Long Phu to Soc Trang in our jeep. We went by jeep about as often as we went by the Boston Whaler we had. Soc Trang was where we picked up our mail and things from the PX. We also took all the canteens we could carry to bring back some decent drinking water.
It was afternoon and we were headed back down the rice paddy roads when the jeep had problems. A U-Joint went out. That should not have been a problem since this was a four-wheel drive vehicle, but for some reason this jeep wouldn't move. The sun was going down!
We were lucky in that we estimated that we were only a few clicks from an Army artillery base. The sun was going down!
Since I was the senior NCO, I made the decision to start walking toward the artillery base. Down the road a bit, we got lucky. Along came one of those Vietnamese buses -- an old Renault held together with baling wire and spit, and a roof covered with all kinds of boxes and chicken cages while the inside was stuffed with people. We flagged the bus down and one of our men volunteered to ride to the artillery base where he could radio our unit and get us some help. We returned to our jeep to await our rescue. The sun was going down!
About an hour later we heard engines! Here came two deuce-and-a-halfs and another jeep from our base. We were rescued! They fixed the jeep and everyone piled back into the vehicles to head back to Long Phu. I decided to ride in the last truck along with two of my comrades. The sun was going down!
A little background: all of the vehicles on our base with the exception of the jeep we had been riding in belonged to the Vietnamese, and they were proud of those vehicles. Well, rice paddy roads are not very wide, and by the time our driver started to turn the truck around the others were down the road and out of sight. Despite our hollering, our driver proceeded to back too far into the nearest rice paddy and we were stuck! The sun was going down!
Well, I made another decision. We got out of the truck and began to walk toward Long Phu as quickly as possible. It was really getting dark, and the road ran along some areas that we did not want to be in after dark. However, like the courageous captain of a sinking ship, our driver refused to leave his truck. I patiently explained that we could always get a new truck if something happened to this one, but this was not the place to be after dark! We left him!
After we had hoofed it for about 30 minutes we got picked up by another Vietnamese bus headed toward the artillery base. When we arrived, we radioed our status to Long Phu. About 30 minutes later, here comes another deuce-and-a-half and a jeep heading back to free the other truck. Our jeep came and got us. By this time it was dark.
The next morning I was very unpopular. Every Vietnamese on the base glared at me. I was called into the CO's office and after I explained what happened, I told him if I were faced with such a problem in the future, I would do it the same way again. People are more important than trucks.
A Two-Year Campout
My room reminds me of the family campouts we had where everyone slept in tents. There is no air conditioning, my window is right above the generator (which is deafening), I see lizards crawling all over the ceiling all times of the night & day, and my "shower" consists of a tap, waist high, that I have to squat under to get wet. The funny thing here is that just as I get sudsed down they turn the water off & there I sit covered with sticky soap. But don't let me give you the impression that Saigon is all bad because I really love it & wouldn't trade this experience for anything in the world.
-- the late Bobbie Oberhansly (excerpted from a letter to her grandmother)
Leavin' on a Jet Plane
The night the USO held its grand opening in 1963, a lot of us AFVNers went. I met a young professional USO staffer who was from my home town. About two hours into the opening event, we were told there were some VC across the street with grenades. A couple of Army guys got their weapons out of the locker and went outside and the VC fled. So did the USO lady, the next morning on the first commercial plane out.
-- Lee Maltenfort
Ghost of a Pink Elephant?
Some kid wrote our Vietnam Veterans website and wanted to know if any of us had a ghost story from Vietnam. I responded with this story.
I never saw any ghosts but I did see a pink elephant.
Part of my duties with the American Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN-Radio and TV) was to go out into the boonies on the weekends with a tape recorder, 16-mm movie camera and my personal 35-mm camera and bring back a few stories for the next week. I was part combat correspondent and part photographer. While up in the highlands during the dry season, flying with a combat group and shooting some film, I saw an elephant that the North Vietnamese were using as a pack animal to bring artillery pieces and other heavy equipment down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
There were only two seasons in Vietnam; no winter or summer, but only wet season and dry season. The temperatures stayed the same most of the time. This being the dry season, the red clay would dry and blow around like flour, and the gray elephant had a coating of dust that made him PINK.
SOP required that the "slicks" (gun choppers) destroy any enemy materiel they might discover, and the pink elephant was no exception. He was immediately put down to keep the VC and NVA from continuing to use him as a weapon.
-- Dick Ellis
. . . in Lieu of a Medal, Please Accept our Sincere Appreciation !
AFVN Det #3 on Dragon Mountain near Pleiku came under enemy fire on more than one occasion during the first half of 1969. On one such occasion, using heavy rain as cover a team of sappers penetrated the perimeter and overran the compound. The enemy had disabled the Claymores and managed to crawl through the concertina. The main thrust of the attack was the west end of the compound, and AFVN personnel were assisting defenders from other units in trying to repel the attack. I was detachment machine gunner, and was assisted by a Marine gunnery sergeant in deploying the M60. Rich Brooks was armed with an M79, and all Det 3 personnel were in the bunkers with M16's. As the enemy breached our defenses, they managed to cut the land line to the field phones we used to contact the Army IV Division headquarters assigned to assist in our defense. They dispatched Cobra gunships, which focused their assault on what we believed to be the main force, but their efforts were hampered by rain and darkness. One gunship crashed in the side of the mountain during this defense. We don't know what their real target was, as AFVN shared the mountain top on the south half of the ridge with other service signal and intelligence personnel, but AFVN sustained the most damage. Satchel charges destroyed the small studio building, and the co-axial cable running from the transmitter in the back of the van to the studio was nearly severed. We found out later we could broadcast audio, but no video.
The next day, Brooks and I were fully dressed out in helmet, flak jackets, weapons and ammunition, reading news and sports into the disabled camera, with nothing but open spaces and blue sky behind us in the ruined studio, when an engineer managed to repair the co-ax and there we were, live to the world! It was obvious to all what had happened.
Detachment CO Lt. Homer S. Cutlip later told us he'd submitted all Det 3 personnel for Bronze Stars, but the recommendation was rejected as "we were only doing what we had been trained to do." To this day, I get irritated when AFVN personnel are referred to as "non-combat."
When my aircraft lifted off leaving Vietnam, there was a huge cheer on the plane. We were going home!! The mood in the place was nothing short of euphoric. When we landed in Honolulu there was cheering, throwing of pillows, grab-assing the stewardesses, general hi-jinx. The plane landed a distance from the main terminal. We were being put into a separate building because U.S. customs was not until we landed at Travis AFB, California, our final stop. We got off the plane to find yellow footprints painted on the ground, flanked by a series of red ropes meant to confine us to the footprints. It led to the building we were to be held in until the final leg of our flight. I happened to notice a small jet aircraft not too far from us, with hula girls handing out leis to the passengers. I stepped beyond the ropes to get a better look. The next thing I knew, I was grabbed by the shoulders, lifted off the ground and I was literally thrown back into the line. If the guys hadn't caught me, I'd have hit the ground hard. A huge, mean looking Samoan, wearing a red Honolulu Airport jacket, stepped up to me, jabbed his finger in my face and said "Stay away from the tourists. We don't want your kind near the tourists." All joy at coming home ceased. Our time at Honolulu holding was somber. The flight home was quiet. The landing at Travis brought no cheers. We now knew the real reception that was waiting for us. It took 30 years before I could be convinced to return to Hawaii.
-- Laurie Clemons
Pet of Sergeants Proves Lot of Bull
The title was the headline on a story in the 2 January 1968 edition of the Union-Sun Journal of Lockport, New York. A human interest story, the article related events surrounding the "adoption" of a bull by four Air Force NCO's, including Senior (later Chief) Master Sergeant Armour Treadwell at his final duty station before his 1968-69 AFVN assignment.
It seems the four men (an E-4, two E-5s, and our E-8) wanted to throw a big celebratory barbecue, and they began to prepare for it eight months early by pooling their paychecks to buy a baby bull with the intention of raising it for butchering. By doing the job themselves, they figured they could save a ton of money. Only problem was by the time the bull was weaned, he had developed a noticeable fondness for his adoptive "parents." To make matters worse, they had given their pet a name. He had been christened "Isaac Percival Hayes." Isaac was the middle name of one of the staff sergeants, Percival was the last name of the other staff sergeant, and Hayes was an homage to a fellow NCO who always seemed to be in a haze. The benefactors used their engineering and carpentry skills to build an attractive heated domicile for their charge, and they took turns feeding him grain and hay. The bigger he grew, the more friendly he became and the feeling between beast and men rapidly became mutual.
When SMSgt Treadwell left for his Vietnam duty, he lost contact with Isaac Percival Hayes, but it's a safe bet that the four-legged fellow lived a long and pampered life. The average lifespan for an unbutchered bull is about 28 years (six years longer than a cow) , but with the unprecedented care heaped upon this creature, he might STILL be roaming that pasture in upstate New York.
You Can't Get There from Here
I departed the States in late May 1963 and arrived at Clark Field in the Philippines for in-processing. The flight surgeon noticed there was no bubonic plague vaccination on my shot record and ordered one. It was a two-step process requiring several days of quarantine. A weather disturbance came through the area and most aircraft left Clark for Kadena, Okinawa. So after quarantine I sat several days waiting for a hop to Tan Son Nhut. Finally, a C-130 arrived to pick up earth moving equipment for the Green Beret base at Nha Trang. One piece of equipment was a front-end loader/backhoe. There were no seats on the plane, so I sat in the operator's seat of the equipment. When I finally got to Tan Son Nhut someone asked how, with no planes at Clark, I was able to get in. I said, "From Clark to Nha Trang I flew in on a front-end loader and after that it was a piece of cake."
-- Don Kirtley
Would You Like Fries with That?
Military dining facilities in Saigon during 1963 were "contract hotels" as I remember. We would purchase a book of tickets monthly, and at the dining hall we would surrender a ticket at each meal. The service staff were usually young Vietnamese girls whose basic understanding of the English language was enough to accept our requests from the limited daily menu. Selections might be peanut butter sandwich, soup or salad or something of that order.
One day Jack Brice, at the time an SFC and my boss at AFRS, and I went to lunch. There were probably 300 other military members having lunch at the same time in this gigantic dining room. When it came time for our order to be taken, I suddenly felt the urge to be silly and requested "saute of unborn squid on rye toast." The waitress who had a limited command of English gave me a blank stare as she had no idea what I was talking about. My dining companion, however, Jack Brice, was never at a loss for words. He immediately jumped up, stood on his chair, and shrieked to the world at the top of his lungs, "But I don't like rye toast!"
I felt like crawling under the table. Few other people in the dining room paid any attention.
In a single instant Jack taught me what my father had been trying to get across for years -- to think before saying something stupid. I got the message that day, but now, decades later, I find I have reverted. I occasionally give in to the urge to say inappropriate and outrageous things. Where are you, Jack, now that I need you?
-- Steve Sevits
Bump in the Night
It was early 1965, and Rich Randall had just arrived in Saigon where he was working as a deejay in a hastily reconstructed studio which had been bombed out of existence just a few months before. The studio was temporarily located on the top floor of a multi-story building which housed an officers' barracks. The tin roof was just above his head, and Rich was working the night shift.
Suddenly there was a loud THUD on the roof directly over his head. Certain he was about to die from some sort of enemy explosive device, Rich jumped from his seat and crawled under the control board desk. A few seconds later, the engineer who had been watching through the control window stepped into the room laughing hysterically. Helping Rich back into his chair, he explained that the THUD had signalled the arrival of a call-in request from a field unit which was without telephone service. The resourceful infantry guys had devised a system in which they'd give their song requests to a chopper crew who would tie the note to a rock or a C-Rat can or an ammo cannister and drop it off on their next flight over Saigon.
Rich learned something that night. "I learned two things," he said. "Any noise that doesn't kill you immediately is probably not going to kill you at all, and always carry a spare pair of underwear and pants with you when broadcasting in a combat zone."
--based on recollections of Rich Randall
Live from Saigon: The 1968 Election
As an Army Signal Corps Captain and news director of the American Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN) in Saigon, it was my job to insure that our special audience of 500,000 American military (and many interested Vietnamese) got the 1968 presidential, House, Senate and stateside election results in a timely, effective manner. Remember, this was before the days of instantaneous satellite, video and e-mail communication. We relied on teletype and video tape tucked in the cargo hold of airplanes from the U.S. as the source of news to be delivered over the air through six radio and eight television stations in South Vietnam.
What resulted from a hand-built set in a Saigon studio was probably the first and last live television election coverage from a war zone beamed to troops in combat. And it was a popular program. Just about every GI was interested in who the new president would be. Would he bring them home soon? Would he step up the war? Would he stop the bombing?
1968 had been a tumultuous year. Anti-war Sen. Eugene McCarthy challenged President Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire primary, and nearly won. Johnson announced he would not run again, shocking the nation. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. Vice President Hubert Humphrey did not enter a single primary, yet won the Democratic presidential nomination in riot-torn Chicago. Gov. George Wallace was a candidate capitalizing on blue collar and anti-civil rights discontent. Richard Nixon, making one of America's greatest political comebacks, turned back a mild challenge from fellow Californian Ronald Reagan to get the Republican nomination.
The stage was set for election night and the returns. For the audience in Vietnam, election night became election day because of the 12-hour time difference. As it turned out, the outcome of the presidential race wasn't known until 2 a.m. the following day.
Our TV production didn't just happen overnight. Our audience, a cross-section of American troops from Maine to California, Washington to Florida, would be interested in many state elections, as well. This meant that not only was the presidential race reported, but also the 435 House contests, the Senate races and gubernatorial and other elections of special interest.
Four military news-anchormen were assigned weeks before to research and write background material, assemble visuals and know the political contests, which they would broadcast live before the cameras as the results came in. Three reels of news film culled from the U.S. commercial networks campaign coverage of the presidential candidates were assembled to be used as "fill" when results were slow coming in over the clacking teletype machines which were set up in the studio to provide some "noise." Hand-painted sets included huge pictures of the three major presidential candidates, a map of the U.S., clocks depicting the different time zones in the States, and a big state-by-state scoreboard. The copy that came from the U.S. on high-priority circuits was ripped from the teletype and delivered to me and an assistant for editing and delivery to one of the four anchors for reporting, when I indicated through their earpieces, that they were on-camera.
These efforts to deliver the news became newsworthy itself. Within an hour of our sign-on, the studio was full of ABC, NBC and CBS network newsmen and cameramen shooting film and interviewing us as we reported the election results. By creating an Election Central for the GIs in Vietnam, we became another filmed report from the war zone to be seen by the American public.
In 1960, Illinois went to John Kennedy and Richard Nixon went home to California. In 1968, Illinois went to Nixon and Hubert Humphrey was sunk. Wallace won almost 10 million popular votes and 45 electoral votes.
All over Vietnam, the GIs wondered what all this meant to them. In 1969, President Nixon began bringing the troops home, but stepped up the bombing. The war was not over for another six years. It's 40 years later, and I am sure our military men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan are wondering what this election will bring.
-- Randy Moody (written during the 2008 election campaign)
Help Wanted - Experience Required
I was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division in Pleiku in June 1969, and attached, without orders, to AFVN, Det 3 on Dragon Mountain in January 1970. I stayed with the Detachment until recalled by Division in March 1970. I was never really a PIO-type. I finessed my way into the temporary position at the station by saying that I had "radio experience." My "experience" was as a high schooler working over the school PA system!
-- Guy Slater
"Follow Me, Boys!"
One of my funniest and most memorable experiences in Vietnam occurred during Tet of 1971. Sometimes it seemed as if AFVN was the only unit in Saigon to remember Tet of 1968, and we seemed to be in a higher state of alert during Tet than most other units. We did various things to prepare ourselves to possibly defend the station. If memory serves me right, during the Tet holidays we were required to wear our steel pots and carry our M-16s. This produced a lot of bitching from the troops in that we were the only ones wearing them and I guess we all thought that we wouldn't make very good fighters anyway. During Tet of 1970 I can remember pulling guard duty all night. This consisted of climbing up into a tower on the border of the AFVN compound and watching for any suspicious movement. As I think back at the way we sat in that tower it scares me to think of what an easy target I must have been sitting up there.
For Tet of 1971 I can't remember having to pull guard duty; however, I alternated nights on standby back at the Plaza BEQ. This consisted of simply staying in our hotel rooms and remaining sober in case we were needed to defend AFVN, in which case somebody would knock on our doors and we would jump in a truck and head off to help defend the station. So one of those nights on standby somebody pounds on my door and yells "Let's go!"
I grabbed my weapon and my helmet and ran down to the lobby to join 10 or 12 others that were on standby. We jumped into the back of an open-bed truck and left the Plaza. Captain Hugh Hastings, the AFVN Admin Officer, rode in the cab of the truck. I remember that we were getting a few curious stares as we sped past the Presidential Palace onto Thong Nhat. From here it was simply a drive past the US Embassy to Cuong De, take a left to Hong Thap Tu and then a right to AFVN. This is where the trouble started. About halfway between the Presidential Palace and the US Embassy the truck balked, choked, and sputtered to a stop.
I'll never forget the look on the Captain's face and the panic in his voice when he exited the truck and shouted, "We're out of gas! (expletives deleted)." Being the fine Army officer that Captain Hastings was, he immediately took charge of the situation. He ordered us from the back of the truck and barked at us to double time to AFVN. It became apparent as we ran past the US Embassy and the Marine guards peered at us from their guard towers that nothing was going on and that this surely was a drill. I've often wondered what was going through their minds watching this ragtag bunch run past the embassy. About this time it also became apparent that the Captain had not kept up on his conditioning. He was far behind the group and seemed to be dying back there.
Without even saying anything to each other, I think the same idea crossed all of our military minds at the very same time, and we began to increase the speed of our double time. Heck, some of us became world class runners that night, and soon we could hardly see Captain Hastings back there. We headed down Hong Thap Tu towards AFVN and if I remember right the MP on duty was expecting us and held the gate open for us.
There were several officers awaiting our arrival, and I remember at least one full bird Colonel from MACV. We were placed in formation in the AFVN driveway and you could just tell that those MACV types were unhappy. Just as we prepared for a good butt chewing, Captain Hastings came huffing and puffing through the gate.
We were dismissed pretty quickly and as we entered the AFVN building there were several officers gathered around the captain. Never heard much about it again. It was always like everybody involved knew that it was better not to bring up AFVN's emergency response that night in 1971, but nearly four decades later I remember it as vividly as if it were yesterday.
-- Jerry Nelson
The Five O'Clock Frenzy?
While at AFVN Saigon in 1970-71, I was assigned to record the "Follies" only one time; it was a regular duty that rotated among the staff. We were instructed to make a good recording that day. I don't remember the exact words, but it was something to the effect that "they're going after him (the briefing officer) today."
My partner and I knew immediately by the atmosphere in the room that it was not going to be the usual gathering to hear the daily report of events, which the press corps were to feed back to their organizations. The briefing room was packed, and the press personnel were talking among themselves and laughing before the briefing began. A coordinated attack was coming and they were all "in on it." I would be surprised if they hadn't already written their stories. They knew in advance how the briefer would "spin out" the official response to their questions, which had been asked previously, so they could build the case for American viewers that the US Command was "censoring" the news. All the briefer could do to keep from falling into the trap was read out his programmed response, almost in "rote" fashion and not get involved in any "off the cuff" remarks.
-- Frank Rogers
Just One Day in a Long, Long War . . . of Words
I had many confrontations with the press during my briefings, and to this day I cannot understand the stance taken by The Fourth Estate during our involvement in Vietnam. And, I told them so. In one instance, a reporter was asking me about my source for a certain report, and I responded, "Through the military intelligence chain." He answered, "Isn't that an oxymoron?" I replied, "Not quite the level of oxymoron as 'journalistic integrity' is."
-- the late Gil Whiteman