5th/83rd Stories

Dean Barrett 1966 - 1968

IN SEARCH OF SERI COURT

 By   Dean Barrett

In the glare of the afternoon sun, the fruit and vegetable sellers of Bangkok's Sapankwai (Buffalo Bridge) area gathered around the Thai driver and myself and stared as if we were from another planet. And, indeed, when none of the sellers -- not the middle-aged lady selling durian, not the old man selling mangos, not the elderly rambutan sellers -- remembered Seri Court or any American soldiers stationed in their area, I definitely felt as if I were from another world.

It had been the world of the sixties -- where for over two years beginning in early 1966 -- I had been stationed as a GI during the Vietnam War. American military personnel left Seri Court forever in 1970 and the war ended in 1975 but now, nearly 34 years later, it was my intention to try to find some of the places I had known in a very different and far more innocent Bangkok. Especially Seri Court.

Seri Court, on Patipat Road, had been home to hundreds of American servicemen stationed with the Army Security Agency's 5th Radio Research and Special Operations Unit (RRSOU) and, with its name change just before I arrived, the 83rd RRSOU. It was my intention to see what, if anything, was left of what had been my home for two years. While our counterparts stationed in Vietnam had been concerned about survival, we had been more concerned about whether we could complete our basketball games without fainting in the heat, whether the creaking swimming pool gate would keep us awake during afternoon naps, or whether, on our slim paychecks, we could afford to go into “downtown” Bangkok on the weekend.

During our off-duty hours, our sanctuary from the heat and humidity was our dayroom, which we had named Club Keemow (Club Drunkard). Inside the dayroom was the welcome sound of the always smiling Thai bartender putting cold Singhai beers on the counter, GI's arguing over card games or embroidering their latest nocturnal adventures on Patpong Road, and, at the back, the incessant whirring sound of three slot machines.

One day while several of us were, as usual, losing money to these slot machines, it occurred to me that we might take a small portion of the slot machine profits each month and donate it to a worthy cause. After some discussion with a few buddies -- you, dear reader -- may have “friends” or, if quite successful, you may have “colleagues,” but, in unwritten American law, GI's may have only "buddies" - that worthy cause turned out to be an orphanage on Sathorn Road.

Our fellow GI's not only agreed, but in their spare time, went down to the orphanage to cut grass, do some minor repairs and play with the children.   In no time at all the money donated largely from the profits of Seri Court slot machines allowed the orphanage to build a wading pool for the kids and a medium-sized wooden building.

I had been transferred to Taiwan just before the completion ceremony but the sign placed on the side of the building had read something to the effect that the building had been financed by men of the 83rd RRSOU. A friend -- sorry, I mean, buddy -- had sent the article and photograph as they had appeared in the Bangkok Post, and there was our Commanding Officer, no doubt buoyed by the good works his men were doing and by the chances that his superiors would not fail to notice the favorable publicity his unit had achieved for Americans stationed in Southeast Asia.

So, now, thirty-four years later, I was off to Sathorn Road in search of the orphanage, expecting it would not be difficult to find a place I had visited so many times before. Over two frustrating hours later, I found myself in the hallways and driveways of modern buildings desperately trying to explain what I was looking for while my driver went off searching the area. No doubt I was perceived as a mad farang (foreigner), and, not unlike the Ancient Mariner, a bit “tetched.” But at last we learned the truth: sometime during the recent economic boom, the orphanage buildings had been torn down and the children moved into a new building somewhere else in Bangkok. I was standing not far from a half-built building where, to the best of my memory, the orphanage had stood.   Still, our building had probably survived and functioned for nearly three decades. I could ask no more than that.

It was then I remembered that this was not the first time my past had been wiped out. In 1970, while at the University of Hawaii, I had lived in Waikiki at the Coco Palms Hotel, more of a hippyish, motel for laid-back college students and diehard surfers. When in 1980 on a visit I could find no sign of it, I asked a parking lot attendant if he knew where it was. He informed me that I was standing on it. As Thomas Wolfe said, "You can't go home again.”

Still, I was not ready to give up. While a GI, several nights a week, in sweltering heat, I had taken a bus from Sapankwai, then changed busses, then finally arrived in an area close by the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Here, secluded from nearby traffic and noise, was Dr. Chalao's English School. Dr. Chalao taught at nearby Thammasatt University and was highly respected among students. During my year or more at the school, I had taught both   adult and children classes and will never forget my first class of children, all on their knees with the palms of their hands pressed together, “waiing” me, their teacher. It was as if the musical, The King and I, had suddenly burst into life. And, if that wasn't enough, once a year the wooden rooms were disassembled and the yard became the venue for the Miss Thailand contest.

But when the driver pulled into the side street, my heart sank. Where the wooden school had once been, a large Thai-style concrete building had risen. I walked from the car and inquired about Dr. Chalao's English School. I already knew that Dr. Chalao had died long ago of cancer and now I was told that the school had been pulled down and replaced by -- if my rusty Thai served me correctly - the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The orphanage and the school were gone; and now I was in Sapankwai, on Patipat Road, somewhere close to where Seri Court was (or had been) yet I could find no trace of it and no one remembered it. Finally, a very old woman with short white hair and nut-brown skin mentioned that Americans had been stationed at the Capitol Hotel around the corner. Only officers had stayed there but at least I now knew I wasn't mad. Americans had been here before.

It was late afternoon when someone on the street pointed down a lane and suggested we ask the teacher who had lived here for many years. After a great deal of knocking and dog barking, a late middle-aged Thai woman appeared. My driver spoke to her at length and the woman nodded. "Wong Seri, Madame Seri." Yes, I remembered! The court had been named after a khunying, an upper class Thai woman, who owned it. The teacher informed us that Madame Seri had died but the court was very close. She would take us.

Within five minutes, we had walked to the driveway of the court which curved to the right making it impossible to see what was now inside. She said she would leave us here and I thanked her profusely.

As the driver and I followed the curve of the wide driveway, we passed by women who seemed to be maids, and finally Seri Court came into view. We passed small rooms on both sides with curtains covering car parks and then passed under the four-story concrete structure which had served as rooms for American servicemen. The wooden mess hall -- where we had pinched apples to give to taxi drivers in lieu of money -- had disappeared as had Club Keemow, as had the sleepy Thai guard and the wooden vehicle barrier. (The guard and barrier served less to check vehicles than to keep out young ladies who believed that one of the Cheap Charlie GI's inside had "done them wrong." But the three concrete buildings remained. Greenish-black streaks and blotches   staining them like a horrible disease. Discolored with decades of dirt and partly overrun with weeds. Filthy, neglected, decrepit, weather-beaten; looking almost as forlorn and abandoned as the ruined temples of Ayudhya and Sukhothai. But there they were. And I could again hear the laughter of men waiting to get on the bus to go to our “site” in Minburi; I could feel the fear of not being ready for an inspection; and I could again see the tension in the Colonel's face when news of the Tet Offensive first reached us.

And the faces of those I would later write about in the novel, Memoirs of a Bangkok Warrior, came back in a rush: Hogbody, Butterball, Blinky, Bumbles, Whore House Charlie, Noy the Laundry Girl, Corporal Comatose, Boonrawd, Lieutenant Pearshape, Corporal Napalm and Agent Orange. Memories of men and events I had forgotten came back as clear as the events of yesterday.

And then I walked to the last of the three decrepit buildings where the Colonel's office had been. I walked up the stairs and I looked out over the top balcony upon a Bangkok that had changed forever. The Colonel's office was where I had been called to account for some infraction of military rules more times than I cared to remember. And yet, as I exited the forlorn building, I suddenly turned, stood at attention, and saluted. Why I did that, I'm not certain. It might have been a salute to simply acknowledge the joys and sorrows of the past, or an attempt to put the past to rest, or a gesture of respect to the men who had once lived at Seri Court, especially those who had transferred to Vietnam and never returned.

I noticed the Thai driver saluting also. He smiled. "Big boss was here?”     I nodded. "Big boss was here."

On the way out I enquired from one of the women working there if she knew a Boonrawd, long ago the Thai assistant to our sergeant who fixed things in Seri Court. She did. He still worked there but "He is very old now."

I gave her my name card to give to him and then left. He would not know my name but he would know that he had been remembered.

As we again passed the small rooms with the curtains, I understood why the teacher had left us at the gate. And I noticed my driver's embarrassment. I smiled. "It's a love hotel now, isn't it?”

He smiled. "Yes. Love hotel. People come here to be happy."

And so the Sixties with the students' slogan of "Make Love not War” had come full circle. And here in Seri Court at least the ideal had been put into practice. I found myself chuckling, laughing. My driver laughed. And together we walked off into the growing darkness.

 DEAN BARRETT  deanbarr@loxinfo.co.th

Visit Dean Barrett's Web Site: http://www.angelfire.com/de/YumCha/Novels.html

Al Bertini 1965 - 1967

Comm Center Memoirs

The KW-26 was an on-line crypto receiver for teleprinters and could run at speeds up to 74.2 baud.

When I left Thailand, I was sent to Homestead A.F.B., Florida, working in conjunction Naval intelligence.  They had a large facility located 15 miles south off A1A on a desolate road “Card Sound” another 10 miles south in the boonies of South Florida.  There was a barbed wire fenced perimeter with signs everywhere, akin to area 51.  It was a highly violated, no-fly-zone; with frequent occurrences of Phantoms dispatched from the air base to chase violating aircraft.  There was one incident of an accident (NOT) when a small Cessna crashed, for no apparent reason…

I received orders and $400.00 from Cpt Johnson sending me to purchase civilian clothing for the 90-day stay on the Island of Eleuthera, Grand Bahamas (we were not supposed to be there since it is owned by England and no military personnel were allowed there).  I was supplied with a Pan American Airlines ID (with photo of mufcan).  I spent all but $110.00 of the money and when I tried bringing it back Cpt. Johnson told me that he could not take it.  I went out and purchased scuba gear that I still have today.  I had it made…  I flew over on Pan Am with my scuba gear and new spear gun.  I did not know that they were illegal there, and when they inspected me, the guy looked the other way..  You know, one Pan Am good deed to another employee of the airline…   I used it anyway.  I was there working in the comm. center.  The following equipment was used then.  For you comm’ies, you will know this….

The first one shown was the vintage of machine we used in the Bahamas…. 

Five minutes before "HJ" or crypto restart, the transmitter was recarded (encryption algorithm) and a phase put up by the sending station. The term HJ's was used initially with the 26, but later became accepted as the term for timed restarts for any system. One hoped that the receiving station was using the same sequential card deck and placed the right card in the reader of their receiver.  If not, well, you can bet what fun that was. The receiving station upon receiving a phase would get an alarm indicating that the circuit was not synchronized. The receiving station replaced their card and would in turn place the transmitter in phase and replace the card. 

To communicate in the clear, a series of operating conditions were created. First, a FOX test would be run until the distortion/interference returned to an acceptable level. Then the distant end would ask to "GO HI" "BRAVO INDIA" (transmitter send revs from standby). When sync was achieved, receiver would send "HOTEL CHARLIE 2 (go to transmit). Then the operation was repeated on the other side of the circuit. The equipment was also susceptible to unstable power supply, and between power failure and distortion, it was not unusual to go through an entire book of key cards in 36 hours on the more unstable circuits.

After you synched the circuit, you were required to rotate the alarm switch through all of its positions.  (I don't recall the exact number, 12 or 14 or so.)  You were required to stop at each position and press the clear switch. The alarm would clear and then you would go to the next position and repeat. The last few positions were designed so that they would NOT clear when the clear switch was pressed.  The purpose of the alarm switch was to ensure that the encryption and alarm circuits were functional.

Once both units were sending a phase to each other and at the appointed HJ time, each would go to live traffic.  If everything worked as intended, the systems would synchronize and traffic would start pouring out of the Model 28 or Model 40 Teletype machines. If not, a lot of secure voice coordination went on verifying the right key cards and numbers.

The annoying problem was with the card readers. They were designed for one-time-use". Once the card reader was closed, it cut the key card in half. Well, on more than one occasion, a card would slip while closing the reader door and would spoil a card in sequence.  When that happened, a secure voice coordination link was immediately set up to coordinate card replacement. You knew the key card slipped when you could see the corner of the card protruding from the side of the reader.  If all went well, only two cards were used during a 24 hour period.

There was a small hammer hung on the latching handle.  Upon closing the door, the hammer was used to tap the surface of the card reader to make sure the pins made contact with the other side of the reader.  I had it tough… 

Doug Bridges 1969 - 1971
Thanks for your reply.

I arrived at the 83d in November 1969 as a Sp4 Cambodian linguist, hot to go to work using the language. I was told there were no openings for another Cambod lingie so they offered to make me the TSSCO guy.

When the army offers, who can refuse? When the unit was shut down and most people shipped out on Oct. 1, 1970, I was kept behind to help ship out the classified materials.

I then went to Udorn on Dec. 1, having made Sp5 in the meantime (undoubtedly due to the copious alcohol I consumed at the EM club--those who support the army are rewarded.)

The folks at Udorn were so glad to have another short-timer that they kinda pretended I was not there. I did not have an official job, although I had to go to the ops center like everyone else. One day a young lieutenant asked me what I was reading. I said, "The dictionary, Sir."  He ordered, "Carry on."

I rotated to the world in March 71 for a delightful several months at Ft. Hood, then ETS 28 Jan 72. Being in Thailand was a thoroughly fine experience, but I am still pissed that I did not get to use the language that I had spent 37 weeks studying (I actually worked hard at it) at DLI Ft. Myer.

The army years are some of my finest memories, especially the fine men I met in ASA. In general, they were a clear cut above the average GI. But I was glad to escape the army for college life. I have been an English teacher for many years now, and I live in the mountains of North Carolina, which is really heaven. I hope some of the guys I served with see this note and drop me a line.

Carry on, soldier!           Doug Bridges

 

Don Collins 1965 - 1966 - Beginning of Det D
6 Guys and a 3/4 Ton Truck
     In June of 1964, fresh out of high school, I joined the Army to be a tank crewman. While processing through the Cleveland, Ohio induction center I was talked into joining the ASA. Being thoroughly fed up with school, I picked Ditty Bopper as a MOS, because it was the shortest course I saw that interested me. I went through basic at Fort Dix, and went on to Fort Devens.     While waiting in the holding company for a Ditty Bopper course to start, I was called into the office with five other guys. It turned out that they had six openings in the next electronics course that they needed to fill, and they had looked through the records of everyone in the holding company to find the six people with the highest electrical aptitude test scores. I had taken electricity in high school, and knew how a flashlight worked. Apparently that was enough. Anyway, they talked us into changing to radio repair. The school was nine months, which I really didn't want to do, but they talked me into it anyway.

     Toward the end of the course I got orders to go to the 7th Radio Research Unit in Bangkok, Thailand, along with four others in the class, AND our instructor. The instructor had almost ten years in the Army, had never left the states, and had been in a very cushy teaching job for four or five years. He was very unhappy!

     In March 1965 we all went to the Oakland Army Terminal. We were supposed to fly Pan Am to Bangkok, but Pan Am was on strike. After sitting there a week, they put us on a Continental charter to Saigon. After everyone else got off in Saigon, we (six of us) flew in the DC-8 to Bangkok.

     Reaching Bangkok, I was assigned to the advanced party going to Udorn to start Detachment D up there. Six of us (not the ones I came over with), flew up to Udorn. There we found the CO, Captain Ivan Pavelin (neat name for an American Intelligence Officer), a very tired ¾ ton truck, and a WWII jeep that the Captain had acquired in the Philippines. Udorn airbase had originally been a Japanese base in WWII, and the Air Force put us up in the old Japanese Officers Barracks. I hate to imagine where the Japanese enlisted men had been sleeping.

     There was an Army Signal Corp unit just south of the airbase, and the following night a few of us were over there having some beers when the Air Force called, informing us that some of our trucks had arrived at the base. Would we please come and get them. Well, everyone else was in town, checking out the place, so the three of us got in the truck and went over there. It took us a while to find them, because we didn't know our way around the base, but we finally did. When we got there they were unloading a couple of very large M-292 vans from some old Globemasters. The vans were so large that the only way they could get them into the plane was to let the air out of the tires. This also meant that we couldn't drive them very far. The mechanic was in town, and there were no hoses to blow the tires up with, so we decided to park them, and come back with the mechanic the next day. We looked around and found a nice piece of concrete, moved the trucks over there, lined them up all neat and pretty, made sure they were locked-up, and went back to our beers. The next morning it was explained to us, in no uncertain terms, that the piece of concrete we had parked the trucks on, was actually the end of the main runway, and we had placed a great deal of undo stress on the next pilot that tried to land, but he was expected to recover.

     The rest of the detachment arrived the following day, after driving the rest of the trucks up from Bangkok. A day or so later the Air Force contingent arrived. They came from a unit at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. They apparently didn't know what to expect, and got off the plane in full combat gear, including weapons, stating that they were here for Operation Pepper grinder, which totally freaked-out the airman at the airbase.

     We were originally supposed to set up at the base ammo dump, named Pepper grinder, about eight or ten miles south of the airbase. Stacks of 500-pound bombs surrounded the area reserved for us, and someone decided that maybe this really wasn't a good idea. Trouble was, we were expected to get up and running quickly. While they were deciding what to do the vans had been temporarily parked in the Signal Corps parking lot. Finally it was decided to set up there. We opened up the vans, put barbed wire around them, and went to work. An antenna team from Okinawa(?) showed up, and in a few days we were in business. We moved into an unused building on the compound, but there wasn't enough room, so everyone E5 and above was given per diem and expected to fend for themselves. Most moved into the local house of ill repute, right across the road from the Thai Army base.

     When I first got there the war had not started yet. I had two months in grade as a PFC, and could expect to wait another fourteen months to make Spec 4. With a little luck, I might be able to spend the last six months of the four-year hitch as a Spec 5. That all changed when the war started.

     A few months after we got there, the Captain decided to hold a full dress inspection. We all knew the drill, and worked hard getting ready for it. When the inspection started Capt. Pavelin really started ripping people up. No one was left unscathed. When they couldn't find anything wrong with one PFC, the XO jammed his thumb in the polished belt buckle, and told the First Sergeant to gig him for having a thumbprint on his buckle. I was terrified, but strangely when he got to me, he just looked and moved on, which surprised the heck out of me.

     Later he had us form up outside in formation. The six of us that hadn't been gigged were pulled to one side, away from the formation, very strange. The CO then spent about ten minutes chewing them out horribly. My group was cringing, and wondering why we had escaped the wrath so easily. Finally, when the CO was running out of steam, he finished up by saying that "you are absolutely the sorriest bunch of Spec 4's that I have ever seen." He had just promoted almost the entire unit in one stroke. The six of us that were pulled to the side didn't have four months in grade yet. The rest of us were promoted as soon as we hit four months in grade.

     Captain Pavelin was an excellent officer, with a very keen sense of humor.

     Eventually a deal was worked out to move to an area north of the Pepper grinder, next to a village called Non Soon. I believe that this is the same place that the Marines set up shop in 1962, when they were backing-up the Laotian government during the Pathet Lao offensive that year.

     At first we just had a concrete pad to set the vans on, and the antennas. We took a bus back and forth from the Signal Corp compound to go to work. Then they started building us a better compound closer to the village. This had a high roof to cover the vans, keeping them cooler, and a tent city for us to live in. We moved in there just a few days before the end of my tour. I don't think I even spent a week in the tents.

     The move to the new site was done at night, so that no one would notice. When I got up the next morning I walked out of the tent and saw several hundred Thai's at the main gate. It seems the local radio station had announced it on the air, and they were all applying for jobs. You just cannot keep a secret in Thailand.

     Towards the end of the tour, we were asked to fill out our dream sheets, and I volunteered to go to Viet Nam. I was young, and dumb, and looking for some excitement. Everyone else told me how stupid I was. Udorn was a hardship tour, and I was entitled to go back to the states, or Europe. When the orders came down, I was assigned to the 3rd Radio Research Unit at Tan Son Nhut Airbase in Saigon. A few other support types were sent to nice duty stations, but ALL of the operations personnel were involuntarily extended for six months. Six months later I would happen to be at battalion headquarters at Long Binh, when a truck pulled in, and a lot of these same guys got off the truck. It seems that after the involuntary extension, they were involuntarily transferred to Viet Nam.

     Meanwhile, back in Bangkok, my former electronics instructor was coming to the end of his enlistment. He was still mad about being overseas, and was not going to re-enlist. Trouble was, he had brought his family with him, and an E5 with a housing allowance could live very well in Bangkok. They had a nice house, a car, servants, and a very comfortable life style. When his wife thought of going back to the states, where she would have to cook, wash, clean, etc. she decided that he was going to re-enlist. He may have still been there when they closed the place.

     Actually that wasn't at all unusual. Bangkok was a very good duty station, and people would keep extending there. It was not at all unusual to find people that had been there seven or eight years. A few even retired there.

     I left Detachment D in March of 1966, just after moving into the new compound. Later it grew into the 7th Field Station, but I'll always remember the six guys in the tired old ¾ ton truck.

Lew Drake 1961
The Great Adventure at the 5th RRU(P) – 1961 era

I remember well my arrival at the 9th USASAFS located on Clark AB in the PI. My buddy and I had been fortunate to get the last seats on a Super Constellation (Navy MATS) flight across the South Pacific (they even called it the South Pacific Express). The route was from Travis AB near San Fran to Hickam in Hawaii to Wake Island to Guam and finally to Clark AB in PI. Shortly after arrival I was given notice that I was on a list to go on TDY to Bangkok. A situation required an ASA unit to be based in Bangkok. We were told that we would be required to wear civilian clothes ("civvies" we called them) and live in regular houses. We would need a passport and would have to store our military issued clothing and other items in the "hot room" (to prevent mildew due to tropical climate). Being a new guy (nug), I wasn't familiar yet with being a "townie" at the 9th FS. Well, once the final list came out my name was not on it after all. So, what else, I became a "townie" eventually. I recall one trip to Manila with a couple buddies. There was a big banner over McArthur Blvd. (now called Rizal Blvd. I believe) which said "Mabuhey Ike". President Eisenhower was coming to the PI on a state visit. I wasn't there when he came to Manila but saw the new AF1 (707)  which had to land at Clark since Manila Inter not able to support it's landing there.

Well these little "adventures" continued for the next 19 months until I got lucky and was selected to go to Bangkok again. Had already extended at the 9th to get a 3 month early out but had to extend 2 more months to get to go to the 5th RRU(P). Had heard so many great things from the ones who had gone earlier that it was a no-brainer to do the extra 2 months. Plus, lots of buddies already there and anxious to join them. Thus, the next great "adventure" began.

Arrived in Bangkok in early February 1961. They met us at Don Muang airport and took us to a small hotel on Soi Nana called the Atlanta. (owned by a German who passed away a couple years ago – still running the same hotel till his death). Stayed there for a few days and got assigned to live in the "Palace House" on Soi Prompong. That same night there was a party and I met some buddies from our training class at Devens. That had got assignments to Okinawa and hadn't heard from them since. It was a most enjoyable party and great to be united with old buddies again. It was quite amazing to be in such a large civilian house with many bedrooms. Each room had several standard army cots for beds. There were house maids, laundry girls, shoeshine boy, cooks, gardeners, etc. We shared the cost of everything from our per diem of $19/day (roughly $570/month). It was usually around $125/month. The remainder was ours for being in a "hardship" posting (LOL). They were still using the VW vans to bus us back and forth to the operations site on Ram Inthra Road (near Don Muang airport). By the time I got there they had already constructed permanent buildings to work in and no longer used the comm vans.

Thus began an even greater amazing adventure – at the time that is - until I "mustered out" in September 1961. Had to return to the 9th to clear everything and get the military uniforms (which were a little bit "tight" fitting by then – civilian living at the 5th caused that). Arrived at Oakland Army Terminal for final checking out. And on to even newer great adventures.

That is a short overview of my adventures at the 5th – so many happenings that may post follow up stories as can get them in writing.

Lew Drake - Sp5 - 058

Robert Gatz 1966 - 1967
I've been trying to find anybody that remembered the 5th.  I graduated from Fort Devens, Company E, 2d Battalion around 26 May 66 MOS 05H20, don't remember why the designation change from 058 but I was a 05H.  I was ordered to Bangkok (actually my choice - back then cause I finished 2nd in the 05 class I got to choose assignment).  

One day after I got in country I was told that I was being reassigned to a place called Non Sung - never heard of it - turned out it was about 18 clicks from a town called Udorn.  We were pretty close to an Air Force Base where I was picked up by a CPT and SGT as the new kid. Non Sung/Udorn was a tent city when I got there in or around late May early June of '66.  

When you entered camp all you saw was tents.  Personnel tents on wooden flooring held I think about 20 or so guys.  The mess hall I think was big and I think more permanent that the tents were we lived.  The communication compound consisted of a bunch of deuce and a half's outfitted with radios and mills. I think 6 or 8 stations not sure per truck.  Another one was used by the interpreters can't remember the MOS.  We had a large antennae field out about half way to the AFB.  We took turns as I recall working the DF, that was kind of scary specially when the called alert as to something going down at the AFB and we should watch it.  I remember the NCO club, quite well it was small but a place of relief from either the heat or the dust or the rain.  I remember a big old dowg used to just law around the outside of the club and we had to wake it up once in awhile cause some vultures hovered above it to see if it was a meal.  I remember two guys that I hung with - Chuck Baker - from Texas and Bob Davenport - from California.  There was another guy name I can't remember however he was a big blonde kid from Oshkosh, WI.


Bob Davenport and I had a hootch downtown Udorn.  At first we had to wear civies when we went to town then that changed a little later.  Chuck Baker and I used to croon some old tunes at a place called the Tip Top club. A bunch of us actually got together and formed sorta a radio station right there in camp.  We called it WAPE cause Baker could do a real good Tarzan yell.  We would broadcast everyday, one of the guys made the transmitter from scrap he found.  We thought that only the camp could hear the radio but I guess it was strong enough to be picked up in Udorn so we eventually had to stop.  Too Bad.  There was something else that happened back then that I haven't seen much talk about.  Me and a couple of the so called better 05's were asked to volunteer to train for and eventually do intercept from small/light aircraft.  I jumped at the chance cause I thought it would be cool and we would get a chance to fly over Laos and maybe even back and forth from Nam'.  When taking the physical I was diagnosed with TB and was rushed out of Non Sung sometime in Apr 67 and never saw or heard from anyone again.. Oh well - hope this wasn't to long and I hope to hear from someone..

Robert Gatz robert@sweethomeschicago.com

Richard W. Jaslovsky
United States Army Security Agency
 History of the 5th RRU & 83rd RRSOU
Thailand 1959 to 1973
I was in the US Army from July 23, 1965 to July 7, 1971 and served with the Army Security Agency for most of those 6 years.  Listed below is where I served during this period.

07/23/65 - 10/13/65 - Bravo Company 2nd Training Regiment, Fort Dix, NJ
10/14/65 - 06/01/66 - Company H USASATR, Fort Devens, Mass
06/02/66 - 09/01/66 - 5th RRU, Bangkok, Thailand
09/02/66 - 09/26/68 - 83rd RRSOU, Bangkok, Thailand
09/27/68 - 07/31/70 - 83rd RRSOU Det. B/J, Ubon, Thailand
08/01/70 - 07/07/71 - 7th RRFS Det. C/J, Ubon, Thailand


Here is a list of the members that graduated from Class 18A-05H20-66, on April 7, 1966 - Fort Devens, Massachusetts
.
Everyone was a PVT E2 except SP4 Arce-Hernandez.  We were all assigned to Co H USASATR.
Arce-Hernandez, Luis L Balch, Robert T Baldwin, William D Bauer, David J Buening, Darwin J
Bowman, William J Baird, Norman T Jr. Backstrom, Kent W Birmingham, Larry A Bennett, Kenneth W
Baker, Lewis F Beeler, Kerry Garey, Robert N Clark, Raymond J Debnam, Alan C
Denault, Steven J Dewarf, Henry R JR Fussell, Robert L JR Fielder, Peter W Grant, Eugene E
Hincker, Lawrence L Holloway, Brooke D Horst, Jay C Hamilton, Ernest A Henry, Andrew J
Jackson, Maurice Jaslovsky, Richard W Jones, Maurice P Klewin, Ronald L Kuroda, Alan K
LaForest, David N Lindsey, Daniel Moffett, Larry D Maurice, Lawrence R Nealey, James E
Nelson, Virgil J Oliver, Carl S Patzer, Charles P Price, Wilkes, B Presley, Arthur L
Rosales, Jose E Roberts, Chester H Roberts, Tommy J Salter, Johnny A Soto, Philip L
Schmidt, Thomas C Semmler, James, W Twaddell, William B Tew, William L Thomas, Samuel R
Torre, Anthony M Vannoy, Noel L Wagley, Frank T Waller, Ronald O Wildemuth, Richard A
Woods, Gordon D Zirkle, Frank T

The Lucky Few That Went To The Tactical Training Course. 

Attached to; HQ 1st Bn USASATR NLT 1400 hrs on 9 April 66 Until 16 April 66
Speaks, Alton Arce-Hernandez, Luis Balch, Robert T Balwin, William D Bauer, David J
Bruning, Darwin H Bowman, William J Baird, Norman T Jr Backstrom, Kent W Birmingham, Larry A
Bennett, Kenneth W Carey, Robert N Fussell, Robert L Jr Jaslovsky, Richard W Kuroda, Alan K
LaForest, David N Moffett, Larry D Maurice, Lawrence R Nealey, James R Nelson, Virgil J
Oliver, Carl S Presley, Arthur L Rosales, Jose E Roberts, Tommy J Vannoy, Noel L
Wildemuth, Richard A Wagley, Frank O
Group that traveled from Oakland Army Terminal to the 5th RRU - Bankgok, Thailand - June 1, 1966
We were all 05H20's
SP5 Bellew, John C PVT Caldwell, Harry G PFC DeFontes, Timothy PVT Fussell, Robert L PVT Hill, Gary E
PFC Jaslovsky, Richard W PVT Konarik, Ronald B PVT LaForest, David N PVT Maidel, Paul A Jr PVT Maurice, Lawrence R
PVT Moffett, Larry D
83rd RRSOU Detachment B/J

· On 27 September 1968 I was sent, along with 3 other 05H's, TDY to Detachment B (DF) of the 83rd RRSOU in Ubon. We were there is see the feasibility of intercepting our targets in the Vietnam theater of operations . Our initial intercept site was located at Detachment B. As you entered the driveway to Detachment B the intercept trailer was setup to the left just outside of the antenna array.   All went well with the test and the permanent site, Detachment J, was eventfully setup at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base.

· On 2 May 1969 we were officially assigned to Detachment B of the 83rd RRSOU.  We moved the site to the Air Force base and set up at the opposite end of the runway from the main entrance and flight line. The trailers were set on a concrete pad.  We used diesel generators for power until the Air Force was able to provide us with power from the base.

· Around July / August 1969, Detachment J (Intercept) of the 83rd was formerly established joining Detachment B (DF).

· On August 1, 1970 the remaining personnel attached to the 83rd RRSOU Detachment B/J were reassigned to the 7th RRFS Detachment C/J as the 83rd was being downsized and the 7th RRFS was designated as the new HQ.

When we first arrived in Ubon we stayed at a 9 bungalow complex called "Sang Siri". One of the buildings was our kitchen/mess hall.  At night we used to show movies from that building.  We also had a bar in the 1st floor of one of the bungalows.  The bar was named "The ETAH Club".  

We outgrew the bungalows and had to move to the Siam Hotel. We took over 2 floors. The top floor was our Kitchen and Bar and day room.  The floor below that was used for housing.  Since I married a Thai national in June of 70 I lost my security clearance until there was a background check done on my wife.  During this period I ran the House.  I collected money from all the men to pay for the housing, food and Thai help.  I would order food for the following month from the commissary in Bangkok.  

Once a month another person and I would drive if a 5 ton truck from Ubon to HQ of the 83rd in Bangkok.  We would leave early in the morning to arrive in Bangkok by late afternoon.  The next day we would make the rounds picking up food and any other items that had to go to Ubon.  On the return trip we would leave Bangkok in the early evening and arrive in Ubon by mid morning.  We had 2 fifty five gallon drums tied to the bed of the truck that held enough gas to make the trip non stop. 

We usually carried a 45cal pistol and a M16 with 10 magazines for protection.  I never had any trouble with the trips but one day when we left Bangkok later than expected  we stopped at the base in Korat for the evening.  The next morning we went to the motor pool to fill the fuel tank.  While there a convoy was just arriving from up north.  There were holes in the side of a few trucks.  The drivers said they received sniper fire between Udorn and Korat.  There were stories of trucks leaving Korat with supplies for the NCO/Officers clubs in the northern bases never showing up.  They had American drivers with Thai guards.  The trucks, drivers and guards disappeared. 

One day a couple of months after moving into the Siam Hotel, Thai police raided us.  They said we were an unauthorized bar that was selling booze to the local Thais.  They confiscated all of the booze, beer, wine and any food that we had stored there.  After the raid we set up food storage at the DF site and brought to the hotel only enough food to last a few days at a time.

The base was attacked a couple of times.

In July 1969 a couple of sappers came onto the base and set satchel charges on a C47 and destroyed it. At that time we had no protection at the site for our guys so we installed a perimeter consisting of a two rows of triple concertina wire.

The Air Force did not have much in the way of perimeter protection at that time. There was only a barbed wire fence for a perimeter. They started building a perimeter with two rows of triple concertina wire with a cleared middle area and trip flares. They also built guard towers and a row of bunkers parallel to the perimeter.  

After this attack I was able to have the Air Force drop off a few truck loads of sand and sand bags.  I had permission from the Air Police to take as much concertina wire I needed to complete our perimeters.  I just had to tell them how much I took so they could replace the rolls so that they could complete the base perimeter.  I went to the bomb dump and procured wooden bomb crates.  One of the maintenance guys was able to get 4x4's and sheets of steel that was used for the taxiways on the base.

When all this procurement was done we built a perimeter around the communications trailers that consisted of two rows of triple concertina.  We also built 2 bunkers outside this perimeter.  The maintenance guys would put support posts in the ground for the perimeter.  After each trick the guys would stay for a while and put the triple concertina up.  There was only one pair of protective gloves and most of us got cut up laying the wire.

After the both perimeters were up and the gates secured we started building the bunkers.  Once again after each trick the guys stayed to fill sandbags.  While this was being done the maintenance guys would be setting the posts for the steel roof of the bunker and set the bomb crates for the bunker walls and fill them with sand.  After that was done we then put the sandbags around the crates and finished off the bunkers.

In January 1970 about 10 sappers infiltrated the first perimeter of the base, across from our site, and worked their way parallel to the runway. When they were across from the flight line they crossed through the 2nd perimeter where an Airman on Canine patrol spotted them. At around 1:30am all hell broke loose. All of the Air Force machine-guns in that area opened up and all of the infiltrators were killed. The Airman and his dog were wounded.

I had 10 guys jammed into a Bronco driving to the base to help the 2 men at the Intercept site.  Some of the other guys took their motorcycles and went to the DF site.  When we got to the Intercept site, there was only 1 magazine loaded for the M14's that we had so needless to say we set up a line and loaded every magazine that we had with a full load of 20 rounds.  For the rest of the night the Thai's were popping mortar flares, and a C130 was circling the base dropping flares. The Air Force personnel in the bunkers behind us were very nervous. This made all of us, that made it to the site, very uncomfortable since we were between Air Force machine-guns and the perimeter. After that, all was quiet for the rest of the night.


Members of the 83rd RRSOU Detachment B/J on June 4, 1969
PFC Alexander, William K SP4 Anders, Donald W SP4 Barlkey, James R PFC Barnet, Kenneth R PFC Bedard, Paul G
SP5 Blount, Carey S SP4 Bolden, Dennis B SP5 Brown, James F CPT Caylor, Larry E 2LT Conway, Robert M
MSG Dunn, Joe T SP5 Fix, Louis X SP5 Floyd, Kenneth C SP4 Foster, Robert P SP4 Freese, Gary E
SP5 Fryer, Eric P SP5 Futchko, Bernard J SP4 Georgi, Robert P SP4 Guerrero, Raymond J SP4 Georgi, Robert P
SP4 Guerrero, Raymond J SP4 Hammond, William H SP4 Hayes, Charles W SP5 Jaslovsky, Richard W SP4 Johnson, Russell E
SP5 Kinahan, John G SP4 LeFrancois, Richard J SP5 Levie, Harold C SP5 Mc Daniel, Bryon E SP4 Miller, Michael L
SP4 Morton, Larry L SP4 Panacy, James G Jr SSG Poole, Robert W SP5 Puritun, Larry L SP5 Reichhardt, John R
SP4 Sanchez, Ruben SP5 Scott, Randall N SP4 Shea, Dennis R SSG Smith, Robert L SP4 Spurlin, Clifford L
PFC Sutton, Raymond J SP5 Todd, Wilber L SP4 Vaughan, Stephen M SP5 Wilber, George G SP5 Wiswell, Norman H

 

 

 

 

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