-- Radio Researcher
After a stop in Subic Bay, we proceeded to Da Nang to disembark on LSTs to Chu Lai. Of course the Army in their infinite wisdom announced on the Gordan's public address system for the 601st Army Security Agency Detachment to disembark on the LSTs. After we arrived in Chu Lai, I am told that Hanoi Hanna welcomed the 198 Light Infantry Brigade to Viet Nam and a special welcome to the 601st Army Security Agency Detachment. The Army did not know that the 601st ASA became the 601st Radio Research Detachment as a part of the Signal Corps enroute to country. So much for the Geneva Convention about ASA units being deployed in RVN.
When we arrived in Chu Lai, we could not locate our base camp. We located a jeep and wound up with the 196 that I think was located on the western perimeter of the airport. We helped the grunts by drawing sniper fire under a yellow alert. Needless to say, we bailed out of that jeep only to hear a mortar and some small arms fire. Later, we spent the night in a hooch when some grunts came in and asked who those idiots were that came driving into the camp during a yellow alert. We remained quiet and humble even though they thanked us for locating the snipers.
We eventually found our base camp which was located on the north side of the airport next to the 101st Airborne. We were not that far from the hospital that became a part of the unrealistic TV show "China Beach". [Note: Not sure about this. The actual China Beach in Vietnam was near DaNang. --RR]
We were in a compound with a Marine Security Group in which they had constructed a white fiber glass dome that contained R390s and voice scramblers etc. We spent much of our time in tents until we could procure water buffaloes or wood from the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Army Corps of Engineers were worthless and so we made numerous raids at night to procure building materials. However, our CO, Major Kane, was promoted to Lt Colonel and we were assigned to support S2 of the Americal Division. He pleaded at the Divisional level that our operators could not hear too well by living in tents and perform mission objectives under such circumstances. We did receive some support, but most of our materials came from unorthodox means. For example, four of us went to the motor pool, at night, and procured a water buffalo that we mounted on a jeep. Hauling a water buffalo on a jeep was not a good design practice, but we got away with it. Our compound was guarded by our own MPs and I am sure that we drove them nuts by covering our "midnight requisitions" by keeping out unauthorized persons following our activities. Once we procured our buffalo, we had stencils and paint to claim them as unit ownership.
We had an 'in' for obtaining an abundant supply of beer from our contacts at the docks. We used the beer in exchange for materials to build our EM club but that twisted the nose of our First Shirt.
We had to complete the building of the orderly room before we completed the club.
With a case of beer, the Seabees gave us everything we needed to finish both structures in a short period of time. We even procured mess hall emersion heaters, expended F4 fuel tanks and some wood to build a shower with hot and cold water.
Our Detachment had seven KY9 scramblers and the only electronic technicians in the 198th to install and repair them. One of our mission objectives was to locate targets and call for BUFF or F4 suppression. (As Dr. McCoy on Start Trek would say: "For goodness sake Jim, I'm an 058 not an 054!"). Charlie or the NVA soon learned it was not alway wise to try and take out Beavers or Mohawks unless they enjoyed air strikes. We could feel the B52 strike 40 clicks away and it was always neat to know what time the action would begin. However, it was always disturbing to hear your target sending XGC and continue traffic.
Although I left Chu Lai in February of 1968, I left feeling that there was not enough time to learn the targets much less to pass on my experience to the NUGs. There is a wide gulf between working a strategic mission and a tactical mission. Although my brief descriptions of these experiences may not be appropriate for military history, they are nonetheless true accounts of the start of the 601st RRD. We were very creative individuals that did not fit the typical warriors of the military. --David Blakeslee
SP4, 98C20 (Radio Traffic Analyst)
408th RR Det/Americal RR Co (Prov)
Chu Lai, RVN, 1967-1968
- Vietnam Veteran
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