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1st Mob Radio Maintenance, TRC-32 Section, June, 1964 - June, 1969
P.I. CHERRY (NOT CHERRY PIE)
After a long 17 hour flight, I arrived at Clark in June, 1964 de-planed, and like everyone else thought "My God, the humidity is unreal! I walked briskly off the tarmac and was soaking wet with sweat by the time I hit the air conditioned terminal building. As much as I hate hot sticky weather, I should have known what to expect from my assignments in Biloxi and Key West.
Coming to the First Mob from a radar site near Albuquerque was as close to Vietnam as I figured I'd ever get. I kinda liked the idea that there was a 700 mile buffer zone called the South China Sea, between the P.I. and Southeast Asia.
Upon my arrival, I did the usual G.I. routine...bitched about the heat, checked in to the orderly room, got my bedding and room assignment, dumped my stuff and headed for the Mob Room. I couldn't believe how hot and sticky the climate was, so an air conditioned bar was calling out to me. Being a San Miguel virgin, I ordered my first one and it was love at first gulp. I'd have been OK going just that far. Barracks, Mob Room, maybe a trip to the NCO club, and after a couple of weeks, venture off base to discover the delights of Angeles City.
To me, checking in to the Radio Maintenance Section was for lifers and other types that got off on fixin' stuff, like radios. But orders were orders, so I trudged into what seemed a very alien warehouse, consisting chain-link cubicles and sheet-rocked, air conditioned offices. I was to check in with Section Supervisor, Bob Spencer, who promptly sent me to the TRC-32 work-center. I met Staff Sergeant Ron Phelps was the NCOIC of the section, and he introduced me to several of the guys in the work-center. They were very upbeat, and the workbenches and desks were all in the large, open warehouse area. Floor fans were strategically placed and blowing like crazy. It was different than anything I'd worked in before, but after a little time, it seemed quite normal.
After about two weeks, I had fallen into a routine of 06:00 to 15:00 hour workdays, the NCO club, Mob Room hall for beer, and I had even made a few friends. I gathered enough nerve to make my first daylight forage to Angeles City. I didn't team up with anyone, so I was on my own. The bars, the beer and the girls were all of interest to me, and I Jeepney'd my way down the line of bars eventually discovering Pauline's Day and Night Club. The San Miguel had done its job, and I was pretty relaxed, especially with the English speaking ladies that I had met.
TASTES A BIT LIKE MONKEY!
I was sitting at the bar, when I learned my first Tagalog word while sippin' on my beer. This little kid came up to me and said, "Hey, GI, you want some barbeque?" I looked what he was handing me, and it was a tempting display of about five pieces of browned meat on a bamboo stick. I thought, why not? I gave the kid a Peso, and tried it. It was pretty good, a bit spicy, but good. A couple of G.I.'s at the other end of the bar were looking my way and chuckling. I asked them what was so funny and they said do you know the Filipino name for what you just ate? I replied, no, so they told me it was asso. Then they asked me if I know what "asso" meant. I said no, so they told me that too. Asso means dog, umm good, a lot like monkey. Hell, I just ate some Diamond Subdivision dependant kids poodle. The rest of the day wore on, and by the days end, I concluded that the P.I. was a good place to work and play, as long as you avoid eating on the economy.
THE REAL WORLD BITES ME
The following Monday, I found my stay there was not as secure as I had earlier thought. It seems that Sergeant Phelps had sided up to some guy named Bird-tee or Birdy, or something like that and the two of them decided that my services were more desired in a place called Tan Son Nhut. I had discovered that the operative word in our organizational name was "mobile." I was given my ORDERS TO VIETNAM! Before I had time to come up with a good argument why I shouldn't go, I was crammed in a C-130 and flying over that ocean buffer that I had counted on to keep my butt out of harms way. It didn't help knowing that the South China Sea was known for its heavy shark population, so I spent the three hours listening for an engine to sputter.
The aircraft landed at a lovely little seaside spot called Nha Trang, before continuing on to Saigon (I to this day refuse to call it Ho Chi Minh City). The pilot did an OK job flying that bird, but needed more practice landing. The touchdown was more of a slamdown. I found out later that we had made something called "a combat approach." The 130 taxied across the apron lowering the back cargo hatch and I had my first close up and personal sight of the Republic of Vietnam.
There was something very wrong with that picture. There were several little holes in the concrete tarmac, and there was smoke coming out of those holes. Not a lot of smoke, mind you, but enough to get me to ask the load master what they were. He told me that they were spent mortar rounds. I was sorry I asked. My first thought why would our guys mortar our own base, then it dawned on me, that it wasn't our guys, it was those other guys! I remember thinking how big a C-130's wings are, and how they carried a lot of fuel in them. Great, just great, welcome to Vietnam, G.I., five minutes in country and they were already gunning for me. After a quick offload of a generator, were again airborne, getting' the hell out of Dodge. I was looking for the relative safety of a nice, big base in a nice, safe Saigon.
My assignment was to augment, the 1865th Communications Squadron, for 179 days. By then I was considered to be a hot shot on the GRC-27, so one of my jobs was to train two South Vietnamese airmen the finer points about how to repair that equipment. The transmitter contained 2,400 moving parts most electro-mechanically driven. I'm supposed to teach two guys, who spoke next to no English, how to fix that thing? "Sin loi, sorry bout' that, Airmen." It was all I could do to hold my own with that monster.
Actually, they did pick up some of the alignment procedures pretty well, and probably would have become buds if it weren't for the language and cultural differences. My Vietnamese is very limited amounting to "Choi Oi!" and "dung loi." Everybody knows what "choi oi" is, and "dung loi" means "stop," and I later learned that if backed up with an M-16 it works (almost always). The routine was just that, routine, so there isn't much to say for the job, but off base was interesting.
GOIN' DOWN TOWN
I developed a friendship with a co-worker named A1C Ed Jenkins. A great guy and we worked and frequently went to Saigon on our Sunday off. One day, were in a small bar, and a Vietnamese band was killing "Jail House Rock." I was convinced that they were a V.C. band applying psy-war back at us, by luring us in with the bar girls, then force us to listen to bad music, while drinking warm, formaldehyde based beer. Ed, showing his exasperation, finally stood up and walked over to the band and asked if he could sit in. Turns out he was a professional drummer back in the world. Even with a great rhythm section, they still were lousy, but we had a good time.
On another occasion, we decided we wanted to try a steak dinner at the Me Cong, floating restaurant. I figured it was caribou steak with that (ugh!) French/Asian taste, but would be a break from the roast beef they served every day at the chow hall. So we planned to make a night of it on Saturday. By the time Saturday came, I had developed a lousy cold, so we cancelled our plans. Lucky for us we did because that happened to be the night "Charley" decided to blow that restaurant out of the water, changing the name from floating restaurant to sunken restaurant.
I recall how pleasant it was going to the Continental Hotel and having horrible coffee while watching the beautiful Vietnamese women riding their bikes up and down the Street of Flowers. As the day wore on, the coffee was replaced with a delightful little drink, served warm, called Ba Muoi Ba, or Vietnamese for good ol' 33. Who, I ask you, would import that stuff?
There was a similar hustle and bustle of Tan Son Nhut's military business district around 7th Air Force headquarters. We were even blessed to see President Nguyen Cao Ky, and his lovely wife dressed in the traditional Vietnamese ao dia putting around the base on a motor scooter from time to time. Near 7th Air Force was an assortment of facilities including the enlisted tent city, a chopper pad, the NCO club, a chapel, augmented with little cubicles selling go to hell hats, embroidered patches and the like. Jeeps, trucks and even ammo convoys sped up and down the main road, spewing out diesel fumes. Hundreds of fatigue and tiger cammo clad guys with rifles and side arms were scurrying all about. It was always active, hot, hectic and very dusty.
Another beehive was the collocated civilian air terminal, but that proved to be a great place to avoid due to the occasional satchel charge threats. There was one occasion where I was at the civilian terminal and this beautiful Pan Am stewardess (I know, flight attendant) was walking by. I approached her and told her, "Thank you for being here." I told her that I thought she was beautiful, and with her blue eyes and blond hair, and sweet smile, that she was as American as apple pie. I told her that seeing her brought back fond memories of America. She blushed, and asked, "You poor guy, how long have you been in Vietnam?" I replied, "All week, and its killing me!" She shot me a look that she didn't learn in Pan Am charm school, but finally laughed.
One Saturday night I got caught up in the thrill of Saigon's night life, and stayed out past curfew. You couldn't get a cab or bus back to base, the bars closed, and I was out in the street and very much on my own. I remember spending the night huddled in a damp concrete doorway, in an ally, praying that Charlie wasn't around and packin. It was a miserable, drizzly night, and that hot 6AM shower in the barracks was the Almighty's answer to that prayer.
You would think I'd have learned to stay out of town, but several weeks later I was visiting a G.I. friend of mine in the Mekong Hotel. He said he had room and that I could crash overnight in his hooch. The beer was cold, and American, so I couldn't resist. That was the night that the V.C. decided to drive into the lobby with a van full of high explosives. The detonation was unbelievably violent and loud. Everyone was panicked, and we were ordered to assemble in front of the hotel for a head count. I said to hell with that, they didn't know I was there anyway, so I took a few pictures with my little 8MM camera, and headed for base. I found out from my friend that the security guys discovered a dud claymore mine pointing where those men had been assembled. Ugh! It coulda' been ugly.
It was a typical Sunday in Saigon, with street vendors pushing carts full of cooking food (Howard Johnson's, remember?) I had been in town shopping for things to send home, when I came up to this little stand where one of the locals was selling an assortment of bracelets, rings and other "souvenirs." A little brass Buddha caught my eye. I asked the guy how much and he said 200 Piaster's ($20.00). I said, Number ten, poo-chai, too much, "I give you 100 Piaster's." "No, can do, G.I., I take, hummm, 180 Piaster's." We dickered back and forth, and I noted that we were gathering a crowd. Remembering an on base briefing about avoiding crowds, I looked around and there were, maybe 25 Vietnamese in that crowd. I also remembered my Christian upbringing, remembering the Commandment about idols. Common sense said "Spiry, get out of there, pride and determination said stay and argue it out. When I finally got the little fella down to 120 Piaster's, I paid him and left. Much to my surprise, those onlookers were laughing and applauding the deal.
We had a briefing on "Charlies" dirty little tricks. It seems that they were using kids to mess with us. The briefer told us that a grenade hitting a sidewalk sounded like a can of beans, and if you hear it, hit the dirt. They handed out a little Army manual with other VC goodies and sent us on our way. I didn't give it much thought, but while in Saigon that Sunday, I was walking in and out of shops and working thru crowds of locals, when, I heard it. Just like a can of beans. I instinctively dove for the gutter. Nothing happened except I heard a bunch of people laughing. Lifting my head over the curve, all I saw was the laughing locals, no grenade, no can of beans, nothing! I was wearing slacks and a nice shirt, but it wasn't so nice after being soaked in whatever in God's name was in that gutter. I took the first cab back, drawing strange looks from Vietnamese and American's alike.
Finally, my 179 days were up, and I was offered the opportunity to extend and convert to a PCS assignment with the squadron. I opted not to because it was getting close to the time my family would be joining me. I returned to Clark, cleared in and noted when I turned in my travel voucher, that there was a special feeling of pride when I made my first entry "MMC" or mission accomplished on a travel voucher. It was a feeling that would reoccur time and time again over the next four and a half years.
"WELL, SHUT MY MOUTH"
The ink of my return orders barely had time to dry, when I was told to report to Group for a mission briefing. I was on my way to a classified place north of Udorn, Thailand, with a TRC-32 painted black and no other markings, humm. We set up an antenna team and ground power guy, to go with me on the deployment, and off we went into the wild blue yonder. Arriving at Udorn, Thailand, the van was offloaded onto a "K" loader, and immediately put it in another C-130, with the markings Continental Airlines. Ten minutes later we landed in Vientiane, Laos, offloaded, and whisked off to the American embassy. I was not allowed to wear my uniform, so here was this guy, with a crew cut and white sox, pretending to be a civilian. I was given a sanitized semi-automatic weapon with the serial number rubbed off, and "Good Luck, Comrade" stamped in Chinese on the slide. Lovely!
We placed the van in the embassy compound, got the equipment up and running and had nothing to do but check it daily. I did have the opportunity to tour the city of Vientiane with my brand new camera that I brought with me from the P.I. I took a picture of the three elephant statue logo of the nation on the main boulevard, visit a bar called the "White House," and then to an impressive building that I thought to be a civic building. Turned out that while I was focusing thru the view finder, a soldier with a weapon came in to view. The weapon turned out to be an AK-47 pointed at me, the soldier was Chinese wearing his best "war face," and the building was their embassy. He know what I was, and I sure as hell knew what he was, Sooo, I did what any red blooded GI would do. I set the camera at my feet, stood at attention, saluted smartly, did an about face and walked away, waiting for a 7.62 mm to burn its way thru me. He didn't fire, thank God. I have often wondered if he kept the camera or turned it over to a Commissar. Hope he kept it.
A PUTTING GREEN LZ!
One day, one of the Army types got sick, and asked me if I would consider delivering a small transceiver (PRC-21) to a guy up country. I said "sure." The next morning I hoped aboard an Air America C-47, and found "up-country" to be the Plain of Jars, just a tad south of mainland China. A crew member came back to brief me on procedure. He said, "We're going to make a pass over the field, if we don't draw fire we will make a second pass and then land, then touch down keeping the engines running." I looked out the port hole, and at a thousand feet up, the landing strip looked like a putting green. The good guys down there were supposed to put out a signal flag telling us that it was OK to land. They forgot, or couldn't be bothered! The crewman said "If we don't see anything unusual, we will feather the engines."
We landed, waited a bit, then shut down, and it got very quiet. We deplaned and suddenly the field was surrounded by a bunch of little people in loin cloths and crossbows who simultaneously exited the jungle. They did not appear to be hostile, or overly friendly either, for that matter, and it crossed my mind that the Mob leadership would tell my wife that John just had to screw around and get in trouble going where he didn't belong. Then we heard a jeep breaking thru the thick bush, and in it was a chubby little fellow in an army uniform jacket. Turned out he was a Laotian Colonel. He said in perfect English, "hop in, gentlemen." We did, and ended up in his hooch. It was a nepa hut, with a small generator powering a single light bulb and a small refrigerator. We drank his beer...not 33 but Kirin from Japan. Chatted a bit, returned to our bird and got the hell out of there before dark.
While in Vientiane, I stayed in a villa. I'd never been in one, but it turned out to be a really big house with really big rooms and not much in the way of furniture. Basically, and open bay barracks, Laotian (or French) style. Every morning, while walking to the embassy, I passed a Buddhist temple, and frequently said "hi" to the guys. They politely bowed with their hands together replying good morning in English. I could have taken the time to strike up a conversation with them, but with the influence of Communists in Laos, I wasn't comfortable getting into long drawn out discussions. Probably a missed opportunity for me.
MILITARY INTELLIGENCE...TRULY A CONFLICT IN TERMS
Sitting in the embassy waiting for a radio to crash, was boring, but gave me the time and opportunity to write the wife. I found out later that the Mob had informed her of my classified assignment, and wouldn't tell her where. She was told that if I didn't come back, she would never know. They carefully blacked out any references to location that I made in my letters. One time I decided to send her samples of the local currency, kip. They let that pass through. It had Laos written all over it, but they still blacked out parts of the adjoining letter. Rocket Science!
I did get to know some of the locals and ended up being invited to one of the "White House" lounge ladies wedding. It was held in a bar, and the table that was set out was enormous, probably...30 feet long, covered with an oriental feast of anything and everything imaginable. I gulped, and started filling my plate. The taste? Outstanding! What I consumed? Scary to even think about!
I'd been there about a month, when a twx came in and I was ordered to return to Clark. My family was on their way, and I being recalled to meet them. It was late August, 1965, and just as hot as it was when I had arrived. When my wife and two daughters stepped off the "Blue Ball," she had a horrified look, on her face. As she came down the mobile stairs, like she was melting in the humidity. I put my hands together bowing in the Buddhist prayer manor, and said "Sawadee, Pooyang, I rove you mach, mach. She didn't appreciate my humor any more than that stewardess at Tan Son Nhut. All she could say was "My God, the humidity is unreal!
I took them to our off base rental in Marrisol Manor. My wife, Onya and older daughter, Karen had a problem with the open cinderblock venting, which gave geckos free access to the house, wicker furniture and rugs, and a red cement floor. I introduced them to our house girl, Mary, and Johnny, our yard boy. They liked that part. We went to a nearby sari-sari store for a cold one, and lots of conversation, at which time I told her to ignore the humidity, she'd adjust, and besides, when we get back home she can take a nice cool shower. I didn't mention that the house was not equipped with such luxuries as a water heater. She was not a happy camper when they found out!
A month or so passed by, and, you guessed it, another deployment to 'Nam. This one was to An Khe, where the Army was giving up its maintenance management of their fixed wing CV-7'cargo aircraft. We were supposed to deploy with a TRC-32, set up ground power, stick an AT-197 on a GRA-4 mast, and turn it over after a two week shake down. Col. Bertie (finally learned who he was) set up the deployment with a pallet of rice to pay the locals to build a sand bag revetment for the van. A few things of interest developed that are worth mentioning. First of all, after offloading, placing and securing the equipment for the night, my team was driven to our billets.
Our team expected tents like those scattered all over the base, but pulled up into an area having three or four wood buildings, with pallet sidewalks leading to wood outhouses. I was told that when the Air Force arrived to take on the mission, Civil Engineers flew in from Da Nang with building materials, equipment and manpower to build "Zoomie Village." They were painted bright white and trimmed in Air Force blue. Truly a pretty sight to see. Pretty to everyone but the 7th Cavalry commanding general who while on tour of his base asked his aide about the wooden buildings. The aide told him that it was Zoomie Village. The story goes that the general had a fit, exclaiming "You mean to tell me that Air Force officers are billeted in wood barracks while I'm living in a tent? The aide replied, no sir, gulp, those are Air Force enlisted men. Oohyah! Don't ya just love it. He was so ticked off that he ordered a Redman Trailer from the states for his hooch.
Next, the rice turned out to be American polished rice. No self respecting Asian would think of eating that stuff. They liked the kind they picked and dried on a blacktop street, tooth cracking gravel and all. After several attempts with the locals, I finally approached the Army Mess Sergeant, who traded me two fifths of Jack Daniels for the rice. I ended up going to town and selling the boose at a local bar, taking the Piasters to the base and buying the help, that were probably base workers during the day, and Victor Charlie's at night, but at least we didn't have to build a revetment for the thing.
The third noteworthy event was the truce that was called during the Tet New Year and our Christmas. All was dead quiet (probably a poor choice of words) for a change, and I recall crashing at about 22:00 hrs. on New Years eve. I was deep in slumber when midnight came. Suddenly, every 105 mm and 155 mm Howitzer fired simultaneously. I hit the wood floor so fast and so hard that I left both a dent and a wet spot. So much for Silent Nights!
We left An Khe after the two week cook-in period, and flew a CV-7 to Pleiku, than a C-130 to good ol' Clark and another "MMC."
After about six months living in Angeles City, we were approved for the brand new apartments behind 13th Air Force HQ. We gleefully moved on base and settled down in the luxury of air conditioned billets, they even had hot water. Life settled down to a pleasant routine of work and a new found group of friends who called ourselves, "The Hard Corps." Chief John and Del Davis, Jerry & Ursella Stovall, Don and Peggy Mc Cormick, and a couple that I (can't recall their names) Mc Something, and Onya and I gathered every Friday for a party on a rotating basis. The following Saturday morning we had a get well breakfast at the next scheduled home.
One such party, I was hosting, and we introduced Ursella to "Black Russians." Three parts (shots) Vodka, one part (shot) Kaluah. She loved em' and after 6, she crashed and burned. Jerry had to carry her to the car and into their home. Poor baby, the following morning at 8 AM the gang showed up at the Stovall's for breakfast. She had a hang-over from Hell, but managed to cook breakfast for all of us.
Somewhere in all of this I was elevated to the TRC-32 work-center supervisor. There were some thirty guys in that section, and we were constantly on and off deployment. I got lucky when a young Staff Sergeant named Roy Squires was assigned to us. Roy was a special breed of cat. Intelligent, military in bearing, and an excellent radio tech. We shared many hours on the workbench repairing and preparing my old friend, the GRC-27 to be installed in the vans for deployment. Roy mastered the intricacies of that equipment, and I soon felt confident leaving him in charge of the work-center while I went on a short (2 week) deployment with a van. It was usually running smoother when I returned than when I left it.
We traded off tdy's every month or so to get combat pay and no tax on that month's income. On one trip, we teamed up flying out to Nakhon Phanom, Thailand (NKP). The mission was to install a TRC-32 for an intelligence outfit that dropped little plastic plants (twiggies) along the Ho Chi Minh trail. Those "plants" were actually audio receivers and transmitters that would transmit modulated r.f. signals to an orbiting C-130 that would relay the signal to a central computerized communications center, where they could analyze the signal to determine if it was a guy on a bike, a tank, or an NVA company heading south. There was no GPS in those days, but they could be pinpointed quite accurately, and if deemed a sweet enough target, a flight of F-89 Scorpions would be launched from NKP, and bomb the enemy position. Pretty cool. Our equipment was used to vector those strikes.
During that trip, one of our T-217 transmitters developed power amplifier problems. The damage turned out to be a servo amplifier and tuned output circuit that was thrashed. We would have to have a replacement shipped out of Clark if we couldn't fix it. We called the on base comm. Squadron Chief of Maintenance asking for a replacement. There were none to be had, so we asked if there was a NRTS'd power amp that we could work with. They had one and within a couple of hours we had our transmitter back on line by fixing a relative simple problem with that sub-assembly. Al that workbench analysis time at Clark really paid off.
One of the other novelties of that assignment was that we had to bulldoze a path thru a forest of saplings (more twiggies) for the land lines to be trenched in. Seems the locals got wind of the plan and put a stop to our work. Come to find out that Thai's believe that when they die their spirits occupy a tree. We actually had to have a Buddhist monk come in and chant and sprinkle holy water on the trees to get the spirits to move. He did, and we did and I met my first cobra while stomping thru the shrubs. Scared the hell out of me. Learned that you don't mess with Buddah.
When deploying to Thailand, I always tried to return with a goody for the wife. Once I made it back with a beautifully made blown glass replica of the royal barge. I carried it on my lap from Bangkok to Clark, and on to home. I didn't have my keys with me so I had to knock on the door to get in. My wife opened the door just in time to see the screen door close and hit my barge. You guessed it, nothing but tiny little pieces.
I remember coming home from Vietnam and brought home a ceramic elephant. I had to carry the damn thing on my lap on the commercial flight from Saigon. When my wife saw it, she exclaimed, "It's the wrong color."
I was ordered on a run to Da Nang to deliver and install a GRA-53 transceiver to a air rescue chopper outfit on base. Two interesting things happened on what would normally be a boring trip in-country. First off, when I boarded the C-130 at Clark, we promptly got the pallet loaded and off we went. We had just passed over the Luzon seacoast, when the loadmaster said they wanted me up front. I complied, and the Aircraft Commander asked me if I had any flying experience. I said no, and he said sit down, your gonna' learn. I sat and he showed me how to have the bird on autopilot, and still maneuver around clouds. When he was satisfied that I had the basics down, he told me to maintain the current heading, and but dodge the clouds. Then he said were going to catch 40 winks. We were him and the co-pilot. At last, after 10 years in the Air Force, I was a pilot! I was told to keep an eye on the horizon, and when I saw land, get them up. I had a blast and we got there in one piece.
After putting in the radio, setting up the antenna, and hooking up the field-wire to the communications consol, I powered the radio up, and immediately heard a mayday message coming in on guard channel. Seems a Marine Recon squad was under attack outside of Da Nang. They were surrounded by an estimated company strength of NVA, and were on top of a hill. They had been brought down by an RPG, and were running low on ammo. They gave the grid coordinates of their location. The chopper pilots were on their way to their bird, when over the radio came this real deep voice (kinda' like John Wayne, pilgrum!), saying "Marine Recon, this is the Air Force flight of F-105 over your position. We are fully armed and fueled...can we offer our assistance?" The marine radio operator hollered "thank God, burn em' out, Air Force." Before too long the guys were brought in by the rescue Jolly Green, and we went to the nearest club and pigged out on beer.
The point of this story is that several years ago, I developed Peripheral Neuropathy witch is the medical term for sore feet. I like lightweight shoes, and the Prescott, Arizona Sears store was relocating to a new mall. They were having serious discounts on their stock, so I went in looking for some new loafers. The guy helping me was about my age and had an anchor, ball and bird, Marine tattoo. I asked him if he served in Nam, he said he had, and I asked him where. He replied in the Da Nang area. I said I only had one war story from there, and told him about the rescue operation. Are you ready for this? He stood up grabbed my left shoulder with one hand and pumping my right hand, exclaimed "My God, I was one of those Marines! Who says that the Mob didn't travel in good circles?
Roy went on one deployment, installing a GRA-53 transceiver at Da Nang. Basically a milk run, he had it up and running in no time and was just waiting around for our usual two week bake in period. About that time, I was called over to the Command Post for an interview with Col. Urban and a very impressive SAC full Colonel. It seemed that SAC was using a Targeting Radar sited at Bien Hoa, to precisely "hack' bomb delivery for a flight of B-52's. The problem was that each of the flight had to receive the hack command simultaneously to release. If they didn't they had to abort their mission and drop their weapons in the ocean. Several deployments had been aborted, and the Colonel had been advised that he probably had a bad AT-197 antenna at the targeting transmitter site.
Roy and I had worked together developing what we called an exact frequency alignment method where an oscillator's output was adjusted for the desired grid voltage at a test point, but also for a zero beat further down line after the signal hade been multiplied up from 30 mhz to uhf, measurable at a mixer tube using an FR-6 frequency meter. I proposed that the propagation pattern of the AT-197 would probably be the same with all aircraft, but that the ARC-27 the aircraft used, and their GRC-27 counterparts both had a frequency accuracy of + or - 10 khz. If the aircraft happened to be on the high side and the transmitter on the low, intermittent reception was a very high probability with distant aircraft. Col. Urban said he concurred with my recommendation, and told me to saddle up for a trip to Bien Hoa.
I advised him that we had a man in-country with tools and test equipment that was trained in the procedure. Roy had variations in his orders, and was billeted with a 1st Mob unit with single sideband communications to the Mob unit in-country. I urged to re-direct him to Bien Hoa, the Colonels concurred, and we radioed the change the assignment to him. I always requested "variations authorized" on any of our teams deploying. This time it paid off. Roy got the job done in typical "can do" fashion, promptly returning to Clark, again, "MMC." SAC launched their next mission and every bird got their hack, every bomb took out its target, and a very proud Colonel Urban reflected on the significance of that mission to SSgt Squires and me.
HAPPY EASTER, BABY!
It was April, 1968 as I recall. I was ordered on a trip to deliver and install a TRC-32 to Camron Bay. Same ol' routine. I had gotten into the habit of calling my wife when I got in country to let her know everything was fine. I got thru on the Autovon network on Sunday afternoon. I told the wife that all was well, and she informed me that she had taken the girls to Easter sunrise services. When she returned home with them, the place was crawling with security personnel. One of the horseback mounted security men on base, was found decapitated in our dumpster. I was able to quickly turn the van over to the gaining Comm. Squadron and head home.
The return flight was a gem. The only bird out of CRB was a shot up C-130 with two engines disabled and flaps that really flapped. The hydraulics were barely hanging in there and we flew to Clark at an elevation of about 100 feet. Thought a lot more about those sharks.
FIRST IN...LAST OUT!
On yet another occasion, I remember returning alone from a deployment to somewhere in Vietnam, Qui Nhon or Hua, I think, it was 21:00 hours and I was beat, dirty as usual with that damn red dust, sweaty from the flight back, with my M-16, helmet and tool box. I called my wife (now on base) asking her to pick me up at the terminal. I sat on my tool box that had 1 MOB stenciled to it, and waited. I guess I dozed off, but awoke listening two guys talking in Tagalog. I didn't know what they were saying, they were glancing my way, but I heard the English words "First Mob." I felt that same "MMC' pride I mentioned earlier, and I guess you would call it, sitting at attention. I squared myself away, and thought, "1st Mob is right, by God, First in, last out!"
GETTING TO OLD FOR THIS STUFF
In 1969 I entered the latter part of my fifth year in the Mob. As much as I liked Clark, my job, and even the deployments, I started wondering if I wasn't tempting fate by my many trips into Southeast Asia. They had totaled up to 30 by that time, and I was starting to think I was pushing my luck. I decided not extend again, and we started getting ready to head back to the world. A new mission briefing came up, and it was my turn to go, and I had identified myself for the deployment orders.
That's it, I'm out of war stories, so I'll leave the rest up to Oliver North. But I will end by saying that I'll never forget the Mob, its men and their families, and the adventures and experiences we shared in that strange place in time. These have been some of my more vivid memories. I consider those years the epitome of my military career, and treasure each and every memory of those days of glory, adventure, hardships, and the danger. Perhaps my story will bring back similar memories for some of you. We truly were, in our own special way, a "band of brothers," as we are to this day to our replacements in Afghanistan and Iraq. I pray that the Almighty blesses them as He did us in our war.
1st Mob Radio Maintenance, TRC-32 Section, June, 1964 - June, 1969
(For John's contact information email Don.)
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