"Stories from 1967 Phu Lamers"

Click on any of the names below to go to their story. When you are finished reading that story, you will notice a text saying, "Return To The Top". When you click on that it will bring you back to the top of the page, in case you would like to view another story by another Phu Lamer. At the very end of this story page is a Home button to return you to the Main Stories page.

Alan Dawson Wayne Piercy Bill Seater Jim Moore
Willie Doughterty Mike Ducey John Walkup Patrick Murray
Joe Rokus Bruce Shimala Frank Allen Larry Carlson
Gary Wargo Paul DelMastro Bob Rutt John Steele
Richard Paluski Thomas Lassek David Lopez John Martin
William Freetage Paul R Smith Brian Viche Duane Rostberg
Stan Grieco Zoltan Andahazy Burt Stigan Robert Torchia
Virgel "Wayne" Luck Dennis Perry George Fanning Russ Heeshen
Mike Hartsook John Foulks Jim Stevens John Walker-2nd Story
Jim Douglas Bob Beard

<BGSOUND SRC="f-16-1.wav">
1. ALAN DAWSON 6/67 -9/67 (Saigon 68-75)

Phu Lam raises a few memories, for sure. The bogus Purple Hearts, a fight with a taxi driver, trips to Cholon.... I even met my ex-wife there. She was the secretary to the CO -- we had 10 very happy years of marriage, too. Only trouble was we were married for 13 years. I kind of liked Phu Lam, truth be told. When I went to 1st Sig HQ for the information office, we were based in Saigon for a couple of months and that was great -- private room in a Cholon hotel, and very spiffy it was, too. Not bad for a PFC with only hazy thoughts of being a PFC. Then we moved to Long Binh. Sheesh.

I arrived at Phu Lam about mid-June 1967 from Cam Ranh Bay. I moved out to Brigade HQ about... lessee, October? Maybe September. I remember especially a Sgt Lee Hastings, a budding lifer, and a Spec 4 named Bo... something. Bo was THE best scrounger I have ever met, before or since. Had a lot of fun with Bo, steali.... um that is, scrounging stuff from steaks to jeeps.
>Alan, are you the author of 55 Days?

Yes, 55 Days is me.

When I got out in June 68, the day Bobby Kennedy was shot, I went to Seattle and got out of the army, then caught the next plane back to Saigon where I went to work for a radio outfit (Metromedia) and then, in 1970, for UPI. I stayed in Saigon through the fall, and came to Bangkok four months later, where I've been living since.

I was last in Phu Lam itself in 1984. They appeared to be using the base for something of their own, and I didn't get very close to it.

Return To Top

2. WAYNE PIERCY 3/67 to 3/69

Well.. where do I start. How bout my first day, it was dark at Ton Snut airbase in March of 67. Morter fire in the distance said welcome as I stepped out of the charter airline. After a couple of days of in country processing Phu Lam looked like a country club.

I also worked in the manual relay in maintence, I repaired the IBM equipment that used cards. Some time in the Fall I went to work on Autodin, the first Internet. That kept me busy on TDY most of my tour.

No there was no two story barracks when I was there. I have some pictures I could send you if you like. I bought a camera first thing and shot everything, I even got a shot of the Futo race track the day before Tet.

During my tour there I had a buddy named Howard Hutchison, nickname Hutch we went to Sydney for R&R . Have not heard from him since then. There is one here in Columbus that I know and his name is Dick Hiem. The only other name I can remember is Willy Coe, Looks and sings like Billy Ocean. He use to sing in the band in the open mess there. ---------------------------- Some one asked about the beer run shortly after Tet. I remember going to the US embassy and loading kegs of beer into a duce & a half and the holes in the facade of the embassy, I remember the traffic circle in Cholon, the overturned burned out bus. Also I remember when the c47 dropped VC free conduct passes on Phu Lam.-
Yes I remember one Sunday morning I was sleeping late in a top bunk when a long rapid series of heavy concussions almost shook me out of bed. Later I heard the B52s Rolling Thunder was 12 miles away. Also the prop driven dive bombers dropping napalm just to the south of Phu Lam. The morter that hit the club but didn't explode because it landed in a cushion chair.

Return To Top

3. BILL SEATER 9/67 to 9/68

My memories of PhuLam.

It was Sept. 21, 1967, my first day in Vietnam. We were bussed from Tan Son Nhut to Long Bien and arrived about 2 am. Of course in was pitch black. No lights were allowed in the barracks. On top of that, we were told we would be rousted at 6 am and to be dressed in fatigues before standing in formation. Like an idiot I traveled in khakis so I had to find the proper clothes by feel. After breakfast, I wandered on down to the formation site. Before formation, I heard my name over the loudspeaker. I walked over and announced my name at the E4 behind the counter. "Your ride's here" he said pointing to a jeep behind the hut.

I threw my duffel in the back and jumped in. After about an hour ride with a few stops in between we arrived at a small compound somewhere in Saigon. I sat around for about 4 hours and then a E5 handed me a booklet of what looked like tickets. "Go to lunch" he said. He gave me directions to a spot a couple blocks away. I had some real concerns when I realized I couldn't read anything along the way. I came to what I thought was the place. I looked in and, thank God, there were a couple of GI's there so I figured I was in the right place. As soon as I returned to the compound there was duce-and-a-half parked there with 5 or 6 other guys in the back. The E5 directed me to throw my bags on climb aboard.

It took about 30 minutes and then I saw those unmistakable 4 radar screens come into sight. The truck pulled up to the gate and ordered everyone out. I walked into the security shack and presented my orders. I was directed to a chair in front of a screen where my picture was taken. I was then given a temporary ID tag and told to report to base HQ.

After turning in my orders to HQ I was directed to take my bags to billet number 302, find a bunk and get squared away and come back to the HQ. When I returned I was issued a M14 (but no ammo) and taken to the far end of the comm center in a section known as Data Relay. The purpose of Data Relay was to receive and send messages via punch cards to and from various sites in Vietnam and to and from the US. My duties were to operate 4 of the IBM transceivers and occasionally one of the Univac 1004's.

It wasn't long before I realized that some of the guys in my section were living off base at a BEQ. I let it be known to the Sgt of the BEQ that I was interested in moving as soon as a space opened up. About 3 weeks later I was able to move into the Kingsport BEQ. It wasn't the best room in the place by a long shot. It was an outside 1st floor room where the noise from street was, at times, unbearable. I soon learned from a friend on the 3rd floor that one of the guys was being transferred to Phu Bai so I put dibs on the bed and pretty soon I moved to a 3rd floor inside room. Ah, peace and quiet.

Living at the Kingsport had many advantages. No formation, no inspections, maid service for $6 a month, the Cholon PX was a short walk away. I shared the room with 2 other guys, Bruce and Randy. Later on we pitched in and bought a small refrigerator.

It was now December of 67. Times were a little more relaxed now. During off duty hours we frequented some of the bars in Cholon. Each section staked out their own bar. For Data Relay, it was the Oscar bar, a small hole-in-the-wall bar with small booths and roaches crawling everywhere. Of coarse there was the constant stream of bar girls wanting you to buy them a "Saigon Tea".

The end of January of 68 would change things abruptly. I was working the night shift at the time. Stories started flying about major attacks in Saigon. The buses were not running to take us back to the Kingsport in the morning. Up to this time we were required to carry around the M14 without ammo, but now we could carry all the ammo we wanted. I carried 3 mags. While other bases were getting blasted, nothing happened at PhuLam for several weeks.

Then one night around 1 in the morning I heard a series of "thumps" about 3 seconds apart. At first I thought someone was stomping on the raised floor. Then Sgt. Welsh came running into the room yelling "mortars, send the attack message and get to the bunkers". I yanked out the one card message from it's holder on each machine, placed it in the hopper and hit SEND. As soon as I set one step out the door another mortar hit. It was so close the sound numbed my ears. I couldn't hear my footsteps anymore. And one more thing, the outside floodlights had been turned off. It was pitch black. I remembered there was a bunker about 70 feet from the door. I had to feel my way to the corner of the building, then to the corner of the air conditioning units. I then moved across the open area until I found the sandbag wall, located the opening to the bunker and dove in. There was about 5 guys there already and I could hear someone trying to load the 50 cal in the dark.

I guess it was about a half hour later the all-clear was given. It turned out that not a single mortar landed inside the perimeter.

I think it was about a month later that the base was hit again. I was at the Kingsport at the time. This time some of the mortars did land on the base although the damage was light. This was the last time there was an attack on PhuLam during my tour.

Sometime in April when I returned to the Kingsport one morning I noticed some MP jeeps parked in front. "What's going on?" I asked one of the guys I knew. "Campy (Luis Campos) fell off the roof this morning. I think he's dead." He was. It seems he had been not showing up for work and had been restricted to quarters. Early in the morning he tried to climb down a wire on the back side of the Kingsport and the wire broke. Rumor had it he was trying to sneak out to get some nooky.

Around this same time there was an E6 who had a room across from me. One evening he came in totally wasted and locked himself in his room. Later when he wanted to leave he couldn't find the key so he loaded his M14 and shot the lock off the door. The round also severed a 2 inch pipe railing and left gouges in two walls outside his door. I never saw the Sarg after that.

Not long after, things would change for me. The AUTODIN was about to come on-line. This means I would be out of a job. Because I had more time in rank (Spec 4) I had first choice of other jobs. I chose the Saigon Overseas telephone switchboard. This was both a challenging and sometimes fun job. For one thing, I was able to call home anytime I wanted. I usually only did that once a week.

The first few weeks were rough. There was barely enough operators to cover two 12 hour shifts. There were no days off and when even one of us were on guard duty it was a real scramble to keep up with the calls. Guys were rotating out like crazy. After only 6 weeks, I had more time on the job than anyone else. I was even acting NCOIC of my shift for a while. Then the FNG's starting rolling in and in less than a month there were enough operators to have 3 8-hour shifts with a rotating day off.

With things pretty much under control, I and my roommate Bruce planned our R&R in Bangkok. When the confirmation came back, we were on different flights. I then used the power of the switchboard to get us back on the same flight. I called the Lt. in charge of R&R and made a deal with him. If he would get us on the same flight, I would pass a personal call for him to the States. No problem!

After R&R I cruised thru the rest of my tour uneventfully. I left PhuLam on Sept. 6, 1968 and ETS'd in Oakland on the 8th.

Data Relay........

Z Messages
Pony Circuit and winding the tape.
Huey ride to Long Binh to deliver cards.
PhuLam Christmas cards (I still have mine.)
Sending Bob H. down to Long Lines to get a box of dial tones. Bob H. sending blank cards to Nha Trang.
Mulching the used cards and tapes.
The IBM 084 sorter/counter.
Faking a card jam on the IBMs to stop the clock.


Red Rocket or Red Arrow calls.
Interrupt circuits (red light)
Captain Kim (from Korea)
Saigon LD guys riding back the lines (and trying to catch them at it).
Tiger 2 (girl operator)
WATTS line (to the World)
Calling places all over the world just for the hell of it. Jewel in St. Louis (she needs to get an award)
That crappy PhuLam local switchboard (installed around July 68) Satellite lines to Hawaii (like standing under Niagara Falls)
Control number for commercial users.
The secure board (#1)
Wayne Hyde from VOA (I wonder where he is now)
Personal calls I put through (especially to Hospital Maternity wards.)

The Base..........

The little brown dog that only barked at the Vietnamese.
Duty roster hut.
Day Room (only TV on the base)
Mamasan in the mess hall with the cataract in the right eye.(rumor had it that she offered some guy 500 P to take her into the bunker)
Gainsburgers Getting used to showering in front of the mamasans.
Those plastic barrel caps we put on our M14s.
Blue ID tags.
Lizzards on the ceilings of the barracks.
Smuggling radios into the towers when on guard.
Underwear inspections (don't get caught with white shorts.)
Milk flavored water.


Those cartoons someone drew on the roof.
Connie Lin the desk clerk.
Sneaking girls into/out of your room.
Beer parties.
Steak cookouts on the roof.
Fresh hot French bread.
Bananas with those rock-hard pits.
This is where I learned to love ceiling fans.
Rats as big as cats.
Doh? the cute girl next door (Airline stewardess) and her older sister who almost never wore a bra.
During the second attack after Tet 68, I remember some of the guys saying that the first mortar hit just as "THE END" appeared at the end of the movie. The joke was that the VC were so close that they were watching the movie too and wanted to see how it ended.

Also, there was a guy, I believe his name was Donald Gay (really), went into a bunker and loaded the 50 cal and opened fire on some vehicles out on the highway. Unfortunately, they were ours. I seem to remember there was one killed and one badly hurt. I guess a 50 cal will do that to you.

There was a 3rd and much smaller attack that occurred later. I and some others were getting on the truck for the trip to the Kingsport when, what was assumed to be a recoilless rifle shell landed on top of the AUTODIN building. I remember the sheet metal peeling back like the petals of a flower. The driver floored it and we got the hell out of there. On more humorous note, on an early Thursday morning (my day off) at the Kingsport I heard someone from the 4th floor above asking for anyone who was not going out to the base that morning. So I said I wasn't going. He said he needed a big favor. He and his roommates had smuggled in 3 girls for the night but they all had to leave on the truck before the curfew ended (I believe at 6 am). They needed someone to escort the girls down to front gate after 6 am. OK, I guess I could do that. So 6 am rolled around and I went up to the room and told the girls to follow me down. We were just about to the ground floor when a guy I vaguely knew and who didn't know what was going on passed us going up. He got to the top of the stairs, turned around and said, "Goooooood, what a stud"!! I had to live with some fairly fierce kidding after that.

And then there was this huge guy who was a pro football player, I believe for the Steelers. He had this extremely loud voice you could hear all over the Kingsport. Sometimes he would go out on the front walkway and do the Tarzan yell. It would bring the traffic to a screeching halt. When I was operating the switchboard, I, like most passed many calls that I knew were personal. And that was OK as long as I knew from the start that was what they were. But what really ticked me off was those who would sneak through a call as official only to end up as personal.
Usually when I discovered this kind of call I would reach up and yank the cords out, thereby ending the call. On one such occasion I had my hands on the plugs and was just about to pull the cords when the conversation, presumably between a guy and his girlfriend, began to get a little steamy. Finally he said, "By the way, when are you going marry me"?
So she said, "Well, when are you going to ask me"?
Then he said, "OK, I'm asking. Will you marry me"?
I have finished reading the two books on signal and will now give you a report.

The book Military Communications: A Test for Technology by John Bergen is excellent reading for those interested in signal in Vietnam only. Almost all signal units are mentioned in one way or other. Phu Lam mentioned many times. A couple of pictures are listed as being from Phu Lam. One of those I and Wayne Piercy recognize as DATA RELAY. Another may be Tape Relay. The book Getting the Message Through by Rebecca Raines covers a much wider range, from the Civil War thru Persian Gulf. Only 1 chapter is about Vietnam and much of that chapter references the John Bergen book. Its one saving grace is that it has a pretty good, although somewhat dark, aerial photo of Phu Lam. I would guess it was taken sometime after mid year 1969.

When AUTODIN started up for the first time and Data Relay shut down, I was transferred to Overseas Switchboard. It was a good deal for me. But from time to time they would have trouble with AUTODIN and they would restart Data Relay and some guys would get called back to run the IBM 1013s. A friend of mine wasn't so lucky. With only about 8 weeks left in his tour he was transferred to Long Binh.
I don't remember sandwiches but I do remember Bruce and I flagging down the papasans who would ride by the Kingsport with a basket of bread. Loaves about 2 feet long and still warm. I think we paid about 25 cents a loaf. Really good when fresh but let them sit around for 3 or 4 hours and they turned into baseball bats.
Bill discovered, from the following two web postings, that one Phu Lam'er was killed in action and another Phu Lam'er is still listed as "missing":
http://hmepage.twd.net/MPBn336/bio.html(p1 of 6)
Actually, I found 3 books on signal in Vietnam. 2 mention History of The Phu Lam SignalBattalion.

The best (I think) is Military Electronics: A Test For Technology by John Bergen. 1984ish. Covers signal in Vietnam start to finish.

2nd. Communications-Electronics 1962-1970, by Thomas Rienzi. Info very fresh and detailed. It was written in 1972 while Vietnam was still "hot". This is one of the books referenced in the other two books. Some of the information is written in more detail than the others. There are two photos from Phu Lam. One is of an IBM 1013 and the other is the console in the AUTODIN.There is also some nice maps.

3rd Getting The Message Through by Rebecca Raines. 1996ish. Only 1 chapter on signal in Vietnam but does have a killer photo of Phu Lam of which I have ordered a reproduction color negative.

All things considered, I would still recommend the John Bergen book if I was only going to read one book.
Wow, great stuff in the Flashback file. I was finally reminded of the name of the commander that took over in early 68. It was LTC Reilly. He was the one who invented underwear inspections, policing up the brass while the firefight was going on, and God knows what else. I do give him credit for one thing, he did whip the mess hall into shape. Up til then it was truly a disgrace. Cold "hot dogs" for the evening meal was pretty much the usual. Pretty soon we were having cookouts etc and there was usually something to eat for guys getting off guard at 3 am. One day I believe in August of 68 the OIC if switchboard came in as said to put through a call to Reilly's wife. I seem to remember it was to someplace like Mountain Home Tennessee. Of course everyone on the board took it upon themselves to check the line. Reilly was telling his wife that he had just got orders for his next assignment, the Pentagon no less. I remember all our jaws dropped when he said, "You know what they say, you can't make General unless you've done a stint at the Pentagon." God help us all!!
I have ironed out all the details of reproducing the Phu Lam photo several of you have expressed an interest in. The following figures are tax included where aplicable and rounded to the next 5 cents.
Size Photo Mailer Postage Total
11x14 4.25 .80 1.90 6.95
20x30 16.90 1.40 3.20 21.50
For those who want a copy send your check to:
William Seater
5162 Highland Dr
Traverse City MI 49684
What ever I have in hand on June 14th (Flag day) Is what will be ordered.

Return To Top

4. JIM MOORE fall'67 to fall'68

I was in comsec. Some of the guys that I served with were: W.J. Ball, Neil Scherrer, Steve Schultz, Pat Murray, Fred French, Joe Rudi, P.J. Borter, and many others. Our CO was CWO Dahlgren and our NCOIC was SSGT Araki. In 1995 a few of us met in Las Vegas for aweekend.

NCOIC of COMSEC when I was there was Sgt. Araki. But I don't remember Sgt. Hurst. I also remember Carl Glander who you just forwarded. He was a short-timer when I got to Phu Lam. I remember all of the mortar stuff cause I was in a guard tower near the EM club when the came in. There was a greenie with me that night and he let off a whole mag of 7.62 through the tower and nearly killed me. then every one on that whole side of the compound that every round they had into the swamp. Quite loud, quite harmless.

Return To Top

5. WILLIE DOUGHERTY 7/67 to 6/68

When I first got there was assigned to Supply. I was sent over as a 71C which I had never even seen a switchboard, I was a 71G Medical Corp, when I got orders as I had pissed off the NCOIC of personnel off. Well when I got to Stratcom, they said let PhuLam worry about it. Well got assigned to the Supply room.

On Dec 3, 1967 I flipped over a jeep and total it out just out side base. Soon after that was when they started having morning formations. Not long after the Supply NCOIC and I had words and he took me to the First Sgt (remember his name? Know he was black and had been there awhile), anyhow told top I was on the verge of being insubornate, (think that is like I am thinking about killing you), I was assigned to the Motor Pool with Sgt Cox.; I was told that I could work there but couldn't drive anything. That lasted till the Christmas party and everyone got smashed, I didn't drink cause I was already having Migraine headaches from the head concussion, so I was order to drive the Bus into town to the hotels. Well that was what I did everyday after that till Tet 68 hit. When they finally let us convoy out to bring people in, I was the lucky fool that got to man the 50 Cal on the lead 2 ton (was the only one in the unit I think that was qualified with the weapon).  When we had the major mortar attack Feb 18th, I was trying to get from the bunker outside the barracks during the lull to the premier outside the motor pool to man machine gun. About the time I got to the mess hall the shells came in again. Crawling across the pcp, heard cries for help by the water treatment plant. Two civilians had been wounded one with a chest wound and the other half his butt blown off.; Rendered First aid, unaware that I was bleeding myself.  Anyhow that was the evening that we had gotten word that we would be hit and the BN Commander insisted that the vehicles be lined in formation instead of spread out. We were only able to get a jeep my 2 and I think a 3/4 ton that were road ready to get the injured into Saigon.
I was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor as result of the Feb 18, 68 attack for pulling and rendering first aid to two locals that worked at the water plant. This would be the same attack that the CO demanded that all vehicles be lined up in formation even with MI, saying we would be attacked that night. I think we got like the 2 that had the 50 cal mounted on it, which I manned and maybe a jeep and 3/4 ton that night. Anyhow I have been for years trying to find out who was with me that night or if there was in fact someone there too. The orders were not cut till like July 8 for the Bronze Star, which was a week before I was to ETS.
I remember one night walking around to the movie and just as "The End" came on the screen, incoming mortars hit. Talk about a mass panic of guys trying to get out of the lean to and tripping over chairs. Think that night only a few rounds came in, but we stayed on alert all night.
Paul, welcome to the group! Boy just popped 2 names that I actually remember. Ron and Rodney. About the second or third day that we ran convoys after Tet, Rodney took over driving the 2.5 with the 50 cal that I had the "Honor" of manning. Remember the motor Sgt. (Cox, I think), telling me to tie a rope around my waist to the ring. Told him Rodney wasn't that bad of driver, "just don't want to stop and pick you up if you got hit," was the reply. Don't think there were two us (Dougherty) especially in the Motor Pool, I do remember play music on the intercom ;-) Than we had the XMAS party and all the guys got drunk, except me as I already was suffering from headaches, so had to drive the bus to the hotels that evening and did that from then on till Tet.
I remember going down and picking up the jeep and at the beginning of Tet there were some scared Philco Ford people in the villa across from the race track. I think we were told that the guys were in the hospital, but couldn't swear to it. I will have to see if I can locate a report I got when I was working on my claim that I think a LT or Capt wrote on the effects of Tet 68 on the 1st Signal Bn. I know there were some incorrect information in the report. Don't recall either of them being mention in this report. Maybe someone else has this report also. At the time I figured would never locate anyone that had served there, but thanks to Howdy and everyone else efforts that has changed. But like I said there were several parts that showed another unit doing things when I know it was handled by guys from Phu Lam. I never forget the attack on Feb 18th. We got a pretty good number of rounds in and than they stopped and two of us decided that we needed to get to the bunker outside of the motor pool to man the machine gun. Just as we reached the PCP at the beginning of the motor pool, rounds started falling all around us. Got as far as the elevated grease rack and hurt calls for help. Two civilian workers had been hit at the water plant. I remember the panic trying to get things together after that attack to get the wounded to the hospital. We had gotten word that we were going to be hit that night but the BN CO insisted that the vehicles be lined information. Well the end result was we found a jeep, 3/4 ton and the dunce and half that had the 50 cal mounted on it that I maned. What was neat and at the same time comical was when we arrived at the civilian hospital was that you would have thought this was a well trained infantry unit as guys deployed to the corners and such. Hey guess those hours of watching Combat paid off.

Return To Top

6. MIKE DUCEY 5/67 to 5/68

[Letter transcribed by Howard Hickman]

I arrived May 2, 1967, the plane landing at Long Bien. At that time there was no electricity and we were still burning shit, that was my first detail. Next day we went to a place around Tan Son Nhut. I remember it had an open swimming pool and lots of Vietnamese civilians, slot machines & of course beer, etc. From there we made the trip to Phu Lam. I slept on a cot in a barracks till the next day when a guy was going back to the world the next day. As I was there before you, I'll tell you how the facility was when I first got there.

We had a small room for the EM Club. The new expanded EM Club was complete about Feb-March of '68 I think. They served beer, hamburgers. I remember a little Coe (girl) made ammean egg & bacon sandwich. We had bands in and of course we got drunk just about every night we didn't have to work in communications center.

My first 6 months were good, no incoming, just work, drink & go to Saigon to party. I remember the President Hotel in Cholon, I think it was the one with the pool on the top floor. I remember being up there and watching helicopters with their tracers shooting like falling stars. People were getting killed and I was safe partying, just didn't seem right.

Back to Phu Lam, I started my job at the ComCenter as a Tape Hanger. After 4 mo. I was trained at the otto [sp?] were [sp?] That's the guy that relayed to the back by the olton [sp] were or teletype writer when the tape came in garbled. GRGGR

The guys called my O.D. King of the otto [sp?] were [sp?] because back then I could type really fast. I also more or less was in charge of the guys to make sure they didn't get a backlog of tape. There was a black lifer Sgt. over me and at one time the Company Commander was black. I forgot their names.

Yes, I remember the smell, heat, rain for 6 months, lizards on the walls, mama sons cleaning the barracks. And the Bomi Bomi "33" beer we drank in Saigon, the girls wanting to buy Saigon tea. Before checking at the MP shack to go to Saigon, there was always a box of rubbers. I remember many a guy that go the clap. (not me.)

Yes, I remember Didi mao, Fini, No#1 & #10, steam & cream, Boo Koo Dep wha meant very nice looking. Dung Lie. Phu Lam steak, which was roast beef. One of the letters you sent talked about 2 guys taking a jeep to deliver communications dispatch and one got killed & the other never returned. I was there when that happened and also I remember an American convoy going by when we had a practice alert. One guy jumped into one of the bunkers with a 50 Cal machine gun, some how a round went off and killed one of the G.I.'s One of your letters, a guy wrote you about that, it's true that guy was there same time as I was but I don't remember Bill Seater. If you write back to him, see if he remembers me or Joe DeJorbo. I was from Springfield, Ill. and Joe was from Albany, New York.

A month before Tet I was in Cholon at a bar. About 3 buildings before the bar someone put a bomb on a bicycle that blew up while I was in having a drink. I was lucky.

Also, back to Phu Lam, I also volunteered along with a buddy to go to Tan Son Nhut to deliver a Col. that wanted to visit his girl. It was before Tet. I'm riding shotgun with a small submachingun. We delivered the Col. but on the way back about 11:30 p.m. we had a flat tire right by the race track. I'll tell you I was scared but we made it back, those other two guys weren't so lucky.

[Michael sent xeroxed copies of some of his photos of Phu Lam, one of which is identified as "Barry Jacobs working on New EM Club"]
I bet guys in the Com Center would remember me cause I was the floor person on the Otto wire. My handle was "OD" king of the Otto wire. If a tape hanger had a problem with their T.D., came in garbled, etc, I would relay to the guys in the back that controlled the signal. Also kept in touch with other Com centers via the Otto wire all over Vietnam.

As for stories, I have many. Lots of youthful days and nights in Cholon and Saigon like at the President hotel on top of the roof with the pool getting drunk with guys and the coes or girls, watching the helicopters shooting tracers down in a fire fight while we partied. But I remember working at the Com center. 12 hour shifts and pulling guard duty every 10 days if I remember right.

Return To Top

7. JOHN WALKUP 3/67-11/68

Dear Howard, I see you were at Phu Lam after I had left. I did go back there just once, for a couple of hours, in 1971. I noticed the major change was the addition of a chapel with a nearly all blue "stained glass" window, across the street from the HQ (I think). I also met a couple of the women that worked in the club when I was there 1967-1968. One of them was named Thuong, was about 30 or 35, very nice looking, not skinny, not vivacious but sweet, round, shy face, pronounced fold of skin around the eyes. She always seemed basically morose. I never touched her, by the way.. I knew a guy that had been seeing her, but I don't know the details of that relationship. I think it was platonic. I also remember another girl who had been seeing one of my ciphony coworkers.. I don't remember his name. I also don't remember hers, but I remember her face. She said they had shacked up or married, had a kid, and then he disappeared on her, the baby got a fever and died for lack of adequate medical care that its father should have provided.. she hated him. Heavy stuff but not unusual.

The favorite stomping grounds was Cholon.. it was closer. That is not to say that we didn't go to downtown Saigon in search of entertainment. I don't remember the name of the Saigon street that had a few bars we liked.. Nguyen Hue, maybe. I am sure about the parallel street Hai Ba Trung. The bars there were way too crass and were generally aimed at the drunken fools coming into Saigon for an in-country R&R. There were bars all over the place in neighborhoods we never went to. Anyway. about Cholon.. that was our favorite. For a time we were fed up with the rate at which the girls were soliciting Saigon-Tea and we organized S.T.I.F... Saigon Tea Is Fini. This was effective for a while. As I remember, most of us were interested in partying with our buddies and supported the bar girls only sporadically. Now the Aussies we ran into were even more celibate.. they were universally drunk and were totally dedicated to their mates, from whom they got separated often, because they roved around a lot. At least until they fell down.
I used to talk over the TRY with Lacey. He always signed LAC. I remember one guy who got busted for petty black marketing but he was just a PFC I think. I believe his daddy was a Lt. General. I remember that because I was impressed by the connection. I remembered a hotel about halfway to Saigon, but I never knew the name Kingsport. I figured out that the Kingsport was the Khach-San Cay Mai. I paid attention to those things because I learned to speak Vietnamese. My good Buddy Bob Strom moved there and was rooming with Fetter I believe. Fleenor seems like it could have been his name too..

Strom married a Chinese girl who knew Connie, the Chinese girl from the desk at the BEQ. I visited Strom in Seattle in 1979 or so. She told me that Connie married and was living in Florida. I returned in 1971 to work in Da Nang and visited Saigon and Vung Tau for about a week. I stopped by the house right next door to the Cay Mai (Kingsport) and inquired after one of the girls living there. I can't remember how I came to be doing this, since I am sure I did not know anyone there. Probably Ly Ping (Mrs. Strom) asked me to drop in for something. I was met at the door and inquired in Vietnamese about Miss X. Then an attractive young woman excitedly came forward. She assumed I was Captain someone-or-other. She spoke in English. I asked again about the girl whose name I have now long forgotten. She was just recently dead and they were in mourning. I asked what happened and she said in English, "Why, she has killed herself." I remember those exact words. I believe I remember she was 17 when she died, that sticks pretty well in my mind.

Some people must have kept diaries, to remember dates of attacks so well. I do remember the incident with the 50-caliber and the convoy. We all got 50-cal training after that. I also remember a tech Sgt. E6 who was around the club a lot, named Cullen. He was gruff and basically unfriendly. He got excited once during a nearby firefight sometime around Tet and started shooting at what he though was the enemy. Only it wasn't the enemy. Here is something that had to have happened just about exactly 30 years ago. I was in the old NARC with Bartels (Bartell?) one night when it got noisy. Something hit the corner of the building and really woke us up. I had been thinking the steel desk would make a nice armored bunker. After the shell exploded and we calmed down we found a nice hole in the desk where a fragment had gone through. This little dime-sized piece of metal would have stung if I had been under the desk, but the desk did its job and the fragment did no more damage that we could see, after piercing the desk. It had gone through the outer wall of the building and the double wall of the crypto area and through a big Valentine that Bartell had gotten from his VN sweetie.

The only instructions we had on what to do in case of attack was to wire up the thermite grenades. So I started to do it, but I was so excited that I dumped one on the floor and bent the ignter head. Then I was really really excited waiting for the damn thing to burn the whole place down. The policy changed after that.

There was a little older guy named Ralph Cha, could have been Chinese or Korean, working for P.A.&E. who stepped outside to investigate the loud noises and a mortar struck in the street right in front of him and sent fragments through his neck. He was gone a couple of months and then he was back good as new.

One time there was a scare, an attack was believed imminent. I somehow managed to draw the responsibility of manning an M60 machine gun, alone, with the ammo getting sucked up out of an ammo box. Now M60's are really a great gun, but when I was shown my post I about crapped. There was an inner perimeter and an outer perimeter. The space in between was basically a swamp in wet season and gooey bottom land in dry season, so to cross it you walked on a causeway with a little concrete sidewalk on the top. There was an X or a Y (I forget which) where sidewalks met, halfway out across no-man's land and the whole setup was illuminated bright as day by the lights. The M60 was set up right at the center, on the X (or Y). I did not complain, I just went out and sat down by the gun and waited for targets to run into no-man's land so I could shoot them. For some strange reason, I had to stay by the gun but it was O.K. to sleep. So I did sleep, using my steel pot for a pillow. This was possible because the flak jacket elevated the rest of my body enough to put the steel pot at just the right level. Why not sleep? Staying awake would not have done any damn good anyway. I still have this attitude to this day. I only lose sleep when I go to Las Vegas.

I worked in the Autodin for a couple months and didn't like it. The character of Phu Lam had changed. I don't remember just why. I think it was because of Tet. The neatest thing about the Autodin was the UPS Uninterruptable Power Source. It was really neat and ran all the time, sounding mean and powerful. As the war heated up, we started caching C-rations. There were hundreds and hundreds of cases of them all monolithically piled up in a big area with the UPS (I think in the same room). Now C-rations really suck, but we were bored and used to sample them. I understand there was a big big stink when it was discovered that some people had built a fort out of C-ration boxes, to disguise their activities, and supposedly were having C-ration parties in their fort.

Part of the year was prime frog season and they were really noisy. I tried clapping to shut them up. It worked well enough to fall -asleep before they got noisy again. I got friendly with some of the women working around the barracks. One of them was called Popeye. She was maybe 16-18 years old. She had a deformity of her face and a very brash nature. I was asleep in my bunk one afternoon. I woke up and there she was, resting her arms and her chin on the window sill right next to my bunk, staring and grinning at me. Then we spoke and she acted real sweet. That was very close to my last days at Phu Lam. I can't remember a single one of the officers' names. I do remember that we had about 3 or 4 commandants. The first one was a Brian Keith type of guy, fun loving, party animal from what I heard. I ran into him and his officer drinking buddies in the China Doll lounge upstairs at the Dong Khanh hotel in Cho Lon. Up until that moment, in all my then-24 years, I had assumed that only enlisted men were ever rowdy and chased whores, and that officers were tough and disciplined and straight arrows.. I figured out that I was supposed to continue assuming in the same way, and so I never went back to that place again. The next commandant was real chickenshit, I think. There were too many times that night-shifters were called out of their bunks into formations, and overworked in other ways, and a strike or at least a slow-down was staged. I think that commander was replaced in disgrace. His replacement was wise enough to beg everyone to cooperate, for just a few months until his tour was over, or his career would be ruined. What a bizarre occurrence. A different commander.. I don't remember which commander it was, but I saw this with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears.. he already had a reputation as a head case. A few career NCO's of about E7 were walking on a sidewalk in the vicinity of the commandant's hooch. The commandant was in his underwear, WHITE tee-shirt and WHITE boxers (not green) riding a bicycle around, and rode right into one of the NCO's, bang!. The NCO had a lot of control. Probably he was so amazed that he did not get abusively angry, but he did get pink. The commandant began lecturing the NCO's on the benefits of exercise, which is what he was doing out on his bicycle. "Sir, you bumped INTO ME!" "You were in the way." Something like that. I might be a little fuzzy on whether the commandant ever apologized. But I am absolutely certain of the underwear, the bike, the collision, and the exercise excuse. I think this took place in late '68. Again, foggy on just when.
I just read about the Major who lost his jeep.. I remember staring at this guy wondering how he ever made it past 1st Lieutenant. The story I got was that he told his driver it was O.K. to leave the jeep. That could have gotten him blown up, at one time. At least there were rules about leaving vehicles unattended, and bombs were a major reason for the rule. We can take comfort in one thing.. the enlisted guy probably didn't have to pay for his jeep, but the major almost certainly did. People laughed at him after the incident, of course not to his face, but he knew it certainly. He was almost always red after that. He somehow got a volleyball game scheduled with mandatory attendance, or he tried to make it mandatory. There was a scheme to charge tickets to this sporting event, with his missing jeep the benefactor. I dropped by the venue of the volleyball game, (or was it a tournament), and sure enough people were playing volleyball. The major was there, playing volleyball. Was it officers vs. enlisted? Maybe so. Anyhow I didn't contribute anything. Either that was very late in my stay at Phu Lam or the major left shortly thereafter.

I have to say something about the change in the nature of Phu Lam, the soldiers, and the Army, which I began to see late in '68. I have read the contributions of some of the PhuLamers that were there later. I have integrated those impressions with my impressions I got when I visited PhuLam again in 1971. The life was gone. I ran into the Vietnamese woman Thuong, who never had really been my friend, but she brightened way up when she saw me. She said she was happy because she thought I was going to stay. She said people were different. I saw it myself. Saigon was different. Americans had given up on themselves. Apparently drug use went way up, a sure sign of the lowest morale. During my entire 19 months of 1967-1968 I only heard of one user being caught. Once I did smell funny fumes and I was told it was marijuana. If it was, it was the only time in my life I have ever smelled the stuff. Nobody I knew even talked about drugs. We did all drink, even got drunk, but none of us was alcoholic. I am talking about enlisted men E5 or maybe E6 and below. You guys who were there in 71-73 or whenever the place died missed most of the real greatness of the place, in my opinion. If I'm wrong I apologize for seeming to accuse you.
All I remember about that place [orphanage] was what I saw when I went on an organized trip there, mid-1967. I remember there was a small aviary in the courtyard, a birdcage, actually, with a sign saying Cap Bo Cau = pair of doves. They had been a gift of Edward Kennedy. Some of the kids were unbelievably screwed up but all responded to attention. After Tet 1968 everybody I knew forgot about the place. That's all.

Return To Top

8. PATRICK H. MURRAY 9/67 to 9/68

I served with the Phu Lam Signal Bn. from Sept 67 to Sept 68 and was a 32G20 MOS, Fixed Crytographic Repair. When I first arrived at Phu Lam, I worked at the Comm Center and after a couple of months was transferred over to AUTODIN.. I was a "creep" and I enjoyed working with all the people that were involved in our effort over there. I'd be interested in hearing from Gary Pitts, Robert Hamilton, Ken Gordon, Bill Ostroski and the other guys from Autodin that I can't think of there names right now.

Return To Top

9. JOSEF W. ROKUS 3/67 to 3/68

I was stationed at Phu Lam from March 1967 until February 1968 as the Assistant Operations Officer, leaving just after/during the Tet Offensive. I have an extensive set of slides I took of Saigon and of the base as well as some other souvenirs.
Joe Rukus saved one of the pamphlets printed for the dedication of the Phu Lam Memorial Chapel built in 1968.

The back reads as follows:
"The Phu Lam Memorial Chapel culminates over two years of effort by the men assigned to the US Army Strategic Communication Facility, Phu Lam. It is dedicated to the memory of the soldiers who have served at Phu Lam and died while serving country in the Republic of Vietnam.

The idea of the Chapel originated in 1966 when an attempt was made to obtain appropriated funds for its construction. The project was disapproved due to lack of funds, however, the idea did not die. A Chapel fund was established at this time and voluntary contributions began to build up. Late in 1967, the project was submitted and approved. The monies previously collected were held and used to purchase the blue stained glass windows, the six hand made chandeliers and the red carpet for the altar and aisle floor.

The building of the Chapel began in the spring of 1968 and although not completed, worship services commenced in September. A bell tower, complete with bell will soon be added to the Chapel and the ringing of the bell will be heard by each and every ear of the post."

The following names are also listed on the pamphlet:
LTC John S. Eberle Commanding Officer
CPT Joseph T. Gaddis CO, A Co.
1LT John Kmiecz CO, HHC
1LT Paschal J. Hughes CO, B Co.
1LT Willima P. Jones CO C. Co.
1LT John W. Gilbert OIC, LID Plm

LTC Sterling L. Long 1st Signal Brigade
Maj Frank J. Knab 160th Signal Group
Maj John W. Edgar Regional Comm Group
CPT Bruce M. Freyer USA Support Command
Organist: Mr. Mach To Tu
I finally dug out my Viet Nam "box". As I thought, it contained all kinds of treasures, including some shrapnel from the attack in early Feb. 1968.

The item I thought might be of interest to the other Phu Lamers is a fairly detailed history I wrote in my spare time. It is 16 pages long, mostly single-spaced but in caps! I reread it again tonight, and I am surprised how much information it contains. I frankly don't remember where I got all the information, but I believe that it is very accurate. I remember we sent it the some "history" office of the Signal Corps at the Pentagon, but I don't think anything ever became of it.

Of course you remember KO41 - the circuit (off a side lobe to Oki that we used to run a data circuit off of - used the Codex CT3 as a forward error correction device - that tells you how much I feared it to remember it after all these years) that used to strike fear in our hearts every morning walking up 'the street'.

I used to live in the main Officer's hutch. John Brown was at the end, Bob Snead was at one side along with Bently and I was on the other side with what was the XO's name. Burke moved into Bently's room and then Steele ("Papa Bear") moved into the XO's room. Mel Fowler moved into Snead's room after he left.

Return To Top

10. BRUCE SHIMALA 11/67 to about 8/68

Do you remember the name of the 1st sargent? He was the clown that wanted us to stand formation the next time we got attacked!!! Remember we let all the guys at Phu Bi ( pfc's on up to the commanding colonel) call home because Delagarza went up there. They took a collection for us and Charlie came back to PhuLam with this wad of $$$$ for us and we said we did not want it...SOOOOOO we thru one hell of a party on top of that roof. I also remember the ARVN school across the street. we invited the guy on guard duty over (teasing) and he was already drinking.,.,
1st attack I was in data center.... second attack I was sleeping in the barracks (refused to work 24 hrs so they let me off after 18.. I worked with a guy in Chicago when I returned to my job who was a repairman for the data ctrs equip (small world) his name was Ken Kwiatkowski.. lives somewhere around Tulsa now. How about all the acts in the enlisted men's club!!! Wow.... How about at the Cholum PX Cheeseburgers with mayo..yummy yummy. Of course like you said the food at the Capital hotel (home of the m.p. s ) was GREAT ...T bone , fries and REAL milk all for around $3.50. Don't remember 1st Sgt.'s name, but remember his stupid banana plants....
Another SMALL WORLD item. The priest who came from Tan son nut air base on Sundays was Father Mike Homco... He came from my church in Whiting, Indiana... His brother was the pastor of that church. Really a small world. Also the Sgt. who was a supervisor in data den (?) was from Gary, In the city right next door to where I lived.... Remember it cost us just $6.00 to have the mamasun keep our room clean, do laundry and polish our shoes...
I remember the Pueblo incident. A bunch of guys thought there were going to get out of Nam and go to Korea and get the Pueblo back... They ended up by the DMA (Phu Bai).... Remember seeing the captured V.C. who were kept in a barbed wire cage in the ARVN's compound.....Anyone remember the SNAKE PIT? that was the officers club.
I remember pulling guard duty at my hotel (Kingsport or Kingston) in Cholon. I remember the VC running across the intersection 1 block behind us & as they crossed the intersection they would fire rounds off at the ARVN school (?) across the street from us. I remember hiding behind the 55 gal drums all night only to find out in the morning they were NOT filled with sand. Also remember the air force jets dropping their bombs about 2 blocks away from the hotel. The choppers hovering and landing in front of the hotel.

Was it the diplomat hotel that had a bomb go off on the inside of it (late 67)? Who remembers the 2nd mortar attack on Phulam in Feb of 68? I believe someone pulling guard duty saw the VC preparing for the attack and when he reported it... the story goes... the powers to be blew him off. Also the VC digging a tunnel to the compound only as luck would have it they used someone's house who worked in Phulam...
Do I remember motorized cyclos?> do I remember that... SURE DO... Does anyone remember Charlie Dela Garza? He was there end of 67 and beginning of 68.. then he went to Phu bi. ANYWAY he wanted to go back to his hotel the Kingston in Cholam) and the papasams were giving him a hard time about price so he threw the driver in the rice paddy and took the motorized one.... funny sight seeing Charlie trying to start it and them watching him drive away with the papasam running behind him.,.,.,.,

Return To Top

11. FRANK ALLEN 67 to May 68

I have not been in contact with anyone since I left there in 1968. My home address is 1004 Delmas Ave, Nashville, Tn, 37216.

The firstname that come to my mind is John Paul Michael MCgrath III. I also just remembered a guy name Gault that was a chicken farmer from del I think that dropped 20 rolls of tape on a generals feet on Christmas eve to shake his hand. We both worked in tape repair.

Remembering the night I was on guard duty but off duty when they starting mortoring and I had to run from the guard bunk house to the tower at the far end of the compound. Remembering things like when a guy in our barracks tried to or did kill himself. Some guy took his rifle out of his locker, went to his bed, sat down, put the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger started a fight with a french guy, la something and then went and shot himself they evac him out and we never heard anything else except that he had gotten a Dear John letter. We were all diving out through the screen windows because we first thought he was shooting at us.

I worked in the tape relay in the repair dept, look up and find messages that had been garbled and re-send and such. zz's were top priority messages, usually top secret coming through that set off bells and such on the machines.

They were building the new club when we got motorars -one landed right in the middle but didn't go off, sure was a lot of shrapnel around from the others that did go off though The day I was to leave [Phu Lam] no trucks could get out and I thought I was not leaving. Then the Sgt Major came running in and said grab bag and baggage and go the helipad, sniper bullets were going over every few minutes--chopper came in. I and two others got on and we were gone.

I also remember when the USS Pueblo was captured by North Korea and we were told to pack and be ready to leave in two hours. Turned out only a few left for that trip that wound up somewhere around Da-Nang--I got a motorcycle out of that from a guy, John something that had to leave in the middle of the night.
I also remember seeing the V.C. the rvns soldiers had captured being held in the pens and also seeing them torture them for information using the field phones and the rvns walking the VC around blind folded for thirty min or so then walking them into the corner of a steel bunker and several other things they did to torture them.

I also remember a arvn soldier teaching several of us to write Chinese. Does anyone remember the night a guy in one of the short guard towers down by the fuel tanks that thought he saw something out in one of the patties and decided to shoot a flare up with the flare gun and shot a grenade off instead. Put the whole base on red alert in the middle of the night.

Something no one else has mentioned is standing outside and feeling the con-cussions vibrate you pants legs from the bombs the b-52s were dropping way off in the distance.

Return To Top

12. LARRY CARLSON May 67 to May 68

There must be many stories to tell of my short stay at Phu Lam (it didn't seem short, then)...firefighters who came back from burning weeds in the "perimeter" totally stoned out of their minds... pulling back-to-back 12hr shifts on guard duty, commo ctr, and KP ('cause the locals don't show when we're gonna get 'hit')..

Return To Top

13. GARY WARGO Feb 67 - Jan 68

I am particularly interested in the Crypto people from the KW26 area during that period. Unfortunately I have lost all contact with any of them.
Gary Wargo
SP5 Crypto

Return To Top

14. PAUL M. DELMASTRO 9/67 - 4/68

I was at PhuLam from Sept. 1967 to April 1968. Put me on your roster - spec 4 Paul M. DelMastro HQ and Motor Pool and all around golfer.
Guy's I remember - Ron Dunns from Ohio truck driver motor pool , Rodney Chunn from Hawaii his mother played in all those Elvis movies, and all those "care" packages from his mother. George Grimmes a big dude, he and I brought a lot of wounded guys that slept through the mortar and rocket attack the night of "TET", to a Saigon Medical unit . Dougherty the motor pool dispatcher from Connecticut, He played rock & roll music over the motor pool intercom, broke his leg in a jeep accident on the ChoLon bridge a day before he was going home. I still have a security unit patch, you couldn't get through the front gate without it.

The guy who broke his nose running out of the tape data relay room and smacked right into one of those pillions in front of the place. I only had six months to do in the Army, when they sent me to the 52nd at CanTo in the big French bank in the Delta from Ft. Lewis, Wash. They sent me to the wrong place and they sent me back to PhuLam to finish out my time. There's a lot more to that story. I was from Manchester , Connecticut then , now my wife and I live in Spring Hill, Florida.!.
Paul "Target " DelMastro US51598275.
I remember one day when they sprayed our compound by mistake . The sirens went off and everyone came running out of there barracks with there gas masks on, and locked and loaded to see what the hell was going on , all this orange stuff was floating down. Oh Ya, those were the good old days alright !!.

Return To Top

15. BOB RUTT 67-'68

I actually served in a provisional company called AUTOSEVOCOM housed in Saigon's Cholon section in some old French hotels. Worked all over Saigon, MACV, Tan SonNut, and was TDY to II Field Force Hqts. at Long Bihn. Didn't spend a lot of time at Phulam, just remember it was out in the middle of paddies.
Bob Rutt

Return To Top

16. JOHN STEELE 7/67 to 6/68

I was there 7/67 thru 6/68. I was Deputy Co of the Battalion there in 67-68 period.
Yes. I am the 7th from the left front row. facing the picture I am on the right of LTC Brown, the CO, behind the sign (in the 1967 Phu Lam Officers photo) I went directly to CONARC Hq in Virginia when I left Nam. I retired from the military at that location. GE offered me job in Bloomington, In and I went straight there. After 24 years with GE, I retired in 1992 and have stayed in Bloomington ever since. Capt McAtee was in Indianapolis 20 some years ago.
When I got my Lt bars I served in Communication centers and Staff Jobs except for my Command assignment. When I arrived at Phu Lam I found out that I had been scheduled to go to the Long Lines Bn but LTC Chance knew me from Europe and traded me to LTC Brown at Phu Lam for a Capt and a Lt. I don't know who but it was my Lucky day. I remember living down town Cholon. We had three or four hotels, Officers in one, NCO's in one, and one or two for lower grades. That was before the added qtrs were built at Phu Lam. There was a small village on the way to Cholon with a Bridge over a stream. A Viet Cong use to shoot at us as we went over the bridge. He was careful to never hit anyone so he wouldn't be hunted down. Also as the VC came in at night to attack places in town along a road behind the compound they would wave at our guards but not bother us. From when I arrived in June 67 until Nov or Dec we used to play 18 holes at least once every other week. After that it got too dangerous as the VC would booby trap the course. During an attack on the Air Base the inflated cover on our sattlelite dish got 118 holes in it from a rocket that went off close by. During the TET offensive Phu Lam was attacked once by rocker and mortar. We had tapes prepared to stop traffic if this happened. The OIC sent out the msg and the OIC in Hawaii called up and told our OIC that he couldn't do that. Needless to say we did. We had 38 I believe wounded during this attack. That is the only wounded that I remember. I remember taking a convey down town to rescue the civilian workers at the AUTODIN site that was under construction. I also remember many holes in it during this time frame.
John Steele

Return To Top

17. RICHARD PALUSAKI Phu Lam 2/67 to 2/68

I was at Phu Lam from Feb of 67 to Feb of 68. I left a couple of weeks after TET offensive. I was Fixed Crypto Repair , lived on the base as a SP4.Your name is not familiar to me, some of the guys I worked with were Lee Enouf, Bruce Cohen, John O'Kane, Dan Kaye, a guy that I can't remember his first name but we called him Diaz. Another was Bob Orpin I think.

Return To Top

18. THOMAS LASSEK 10/67 to 9/68

8 October 1967 through 12 September 1968. I worked at the "EE" building, sometimes called the "IWCS" (integrated wideband communications system) building. Part of the Long Lines Detachment there.
Got some pictures of what everyone did to "enhance security" after the Tet offensive. I'll forward these on to Howard as I can. Mainly consisted of erecting PSP in a perpendicular manner around the buildings, I'm speaking of the EE building. Also on that portion of the perimeter we were responsible for we had to double the sandbags - what a pain in the ass since I had to do a lot of it. After Tet, as I recall, they stopped dropping the 40mm mortars and started with the rockets. Bad deal, but the lifers knew what they were doing. The double sandbags stopped the damn things.

Do you remember the dog's "concho" and "Xin Loi" ? Amazing how I remember them but they were my "buds" since they "worked" night shift with me, eheheheheheh.

Return To Top

19. DAVID LOPEZ: June 67 to August 69

Hello Howard, my name is David NMI Lopez, good to hear form you. I guess a little history to start with. I was trained as a tape ape., after getting my clearence , I went through at Fort Gordan,Ga. I have a reminder of Eddie's tatoo palor { Augusta} on my arm. Any way went I arrived in country, my records went one way and I went another, thank God, Phu Lam was a nice place to be. From late June to early Sep. I built bunkers form Phu Lam to Tan Son Nunt. I felt very lucky to get into Tech Supply, working 10 hour days. The EM club was still under construction at the time. When I arrived, there was no room at the inn so to speak, we were put up in a warehouse just arount the corner from the PX. lLater around late Sep or early Oct we were moved to a BEQ around 3 or 4 blocks from the PX. Later on late 67 there was another BEQ but I can't remember the name of either one. If any one can remember, there was a young man by the name of Spec 4 Campos who was from Texas who died at the BEQ. His name is on the wall, anyway we sandbagged together for a while. I don't remember the cause of death, but it was April of 68 and he was short, a two digit miget. In May of 68 I extended my tour and again in Dec. I went from pvt to Sgt in two years. Not as good as some but better then others. I remember the swiming pool going in, it took forever to get it filled. The one thing I dont' remember is the chapel' I remember mass in the mess hall..

Hi Howard, when I arrived at Phu Lam, there was a company clerk by the name of Sgt Cade. He left in 67 some time. If it is possible to locate him, he maybe of some help. In June of 67 when I arrived there, there was only one ordly room, that was located in the building that ended up being the arms room. We also had one 1sgt and one company commander. There was also a company bulletin room by the orderly room. The btn commander was Ltc Brown and the Sgtmaj was a fellow by the name of Castallo, not to sure of the spelling, but he was Italian, hope that this will help some.

I just looked at my mail and saw the picture of the officers playing volleyball. I did know Lt Albee. If I remember correctly, Lt Albee was a WEST POINTER and was on the USA Olympic Fencing Team, does anyone out there know what happened to him?

Does anyone out the remember miss Trinh, I dated her for well over her for a year. She worked in tech supply.

Return To Top

20. JOHN MARTIN: October 1967 to May 1968

I arrived in October of 67. I was a 32F (Fixed Cryptographic Repair) and worked in the NARC (Non-Automatic Relay Center). I maintained the CRYPTO equipment (KG-13) in the area behind the card readers and tape machines. In May 68, after AUTODIN came up and was working, I was transferred to MAC-V HQ.

I knew Richard Lacey; he was a good guy. We often worked together trying to figure out why the lines were down. He helped me get a call through to my parents on Christmas day.

I was also a driver, and because I had a Top Secret clearance, I was often told to deliver classified messages. I clearly remember the morning that Lacey and Behrens left; I could have easily been driving that jeep. We all knew what was happening around us, and why someone sent them out that morning has really troubled me all these years. What a waste!

Return To Top

21. William Freetage 6/67-6/68

I served at Phu-Lam from June 67-June 68. I was a teletype operator in the communication center. I was working in the Communication Center the early morning we were hit. A 80 mm mortar struck directly over my head as four of us were drinking coffee in the break room. It struck a steel beam in the ceiling and most of the scrape metal went out side. I thank the good Lord every day for placing that beam in the right place.

I remember the Comm. Center being hit by that mortar, during the Tet offensive. I had bucker guard at the same time and I'm sure ran the 100 yard dash in less then 10 sec. The mortars seem to be landing every where. I was on the wall where not a shot was fired. I'm glad cause I was very scared! The attack by us happen on Phu lam village during the second attack. No one was hurt as far as I know. We shot the hell out of one of the buildings that was on the left side of Phu Lam, facing from the front gate. I looked at it the next day through binoculars.

Return To Top

22. Paul R Smith 12/67-12/68

I served at Phu Lam with the Long Lines Battalion from Dec 67 to Dec 68.

I remember Melvin Ferguson from Flatwoods, KY in our Long Lines Battalion South detachment. We were the guys at the back of the compound. There was also a Hispanic fella last name Gonzales who worked in the power plant for Long Lines. He was from Lubbock TX. And James J Jarvis of Watertown NY.

Also I remember a black guy named Eugene P Watts who was in our Long Lines. I was a 32 something MOS and was trained on the LRC3 equipment but they put me in this semi van at theback of the compound and I sat out there for a month with a civilian who seemed to like to sit around and do nothing. I couldn't stand it and complained bitterly to our 1st Sgt. He then made me the detachment driver and up until my last two months in country that is what I did. Out to Ton Sa Nhut frequently and hauling our guys and visitors all over the place. Watts was my frequent shotgun on runs. I remember one time when the fighting was pretty heavy in Phu Lam that we took a back route around Phu Lam and traffic was terrible because everyone else was avoiding Phu Lam. We were going through some major intersection and the locals began running away from our jeep and yelling and Watts noticed it first and screamed for me to get the hell out. I gunned it and took off down the street with people jumping out of the way. I still think we were targeted for a grenade that day and will forever remember Watts alerting me. He and I were real good friends but he and a few others in Long Lines got shipped off to another Long Lines detachment in country and I never heard from him again.

I also remember an oriental from California. I think his name was Gary Marumoto or Matsumoto. He was really thin. He got a big salami shipped to him and was real excited about it. Being a young and naive Indiana farm boy I didn't know what it was and had never seen one.

There was another guy who shipped out about mid 67. His last name was Woods and he was from Chicago. He had been in country for at least a year and a half but when time came to ship out he was gone. I don't know anything about the rest.

There was a group of us who would play Bridge in the EE building where most of our equipment was. That is #39 on the aerial photo. There was one guy who was the instigator of the Bridge games and taught me to play but I just can't remember his name. He was really a decent person and I wish I could remember him. There was also a girl who worked in the front office of the EE building. She was Vietnamese and was really a nice girl. I wonder what happened to her. I think Christiansen was our first sergeant.

I distinctly remember Look or Life magazine carry a photo series on the fighting in Phu Lam in 68. There was some major tank activity in the town. They used them to get the Cong and NVA out of the buildings and blew big holes in a lot of the Phu Lam buildings. Maybe someone could check that out. I remember quite a few of the mortar attacks. We had the spring offensive in April & May and I recall us getting hit with mortars during that time. Then there was another one in July with more mortar attacks. I remember a helicopter coming in after one attack and lifting out some wounded guys. The chopper landed just outside the compound in the back of the compound. I don't think the pad up front was built then.

Me and another guy had to pack up William Behrens belongings for shipment back to the states after he and Lacey were killed. I remember seeing a lot of photos that he had and it was really sad. I remember it as if it were yesterday. Somebody brought all his stuff to the Long Lines Battalion and we packed it up in a shed at the back of the compound. I went to the Wall in DC and looked up him and Lacey and a hometown friend of mine who was with the AF and was killed while I was over there.

We had a dog that lived back at the Long Lines area and we called Concho, which I think Con Choa means dog in Vietnamese. He always barked at the ARVN and we figured he had reasons for that. Does anyone remember the extensive helicopter assault activity just off our perimeter and the F4 activity, all at the rear of the compound behind Long Lines? It went on for days and I think it was in February. We also used to sit out at night and watch Puff circle the area out past Phu Lam. One night a burst of fire came from the ground up toward Puff and Puff returned fire. That was a dumb move by the Cong. I also remember several helicopter assaults across the road from Phu Lam toward the edge of Phu Lam. The helicopters just kept coming in firing from their pods.

Return To Top

23. BRIAN VICHE 7/67 to 3/68

I was at Phu Lam at the AUTODIN switch during construction. I arrived sometime in the summer of "67" and left in Mar 68. Our Site Resident Engineer (OIC) was Cpt Robert Cuce. I think I still have some pictures hidden away and would like to put them on your WEB site. Let me know what you would like/need/etc. Brian J. Viche (SP6)

Return To Top


When I got there in January of 1967, the Phu Lam site was divided. I was assigned to an area in the rear of the compound which was called the First Signal Command. We were seperated by a fence from the rest of the compound (although the gate was always open). We had no barracks on our section and everyone was living in BEQ's in Saigon. I lived at the Capital hotel in Cholon for six months and at the Hung Dao for the other six months. We ate at the open messes in Saigon but ate in the mess hall at Phu Lam at noon if on the day shift or midnight if on the night shift. Our unit never had a headcount of more than about 25 or 30 men in 1967. I worked with Richard Lacey and Bill Behrens often and got to know Behrens quite well. He was from Two Rivers, Wisc. and Lacey was from somewhere in Kentucky, I think. My friend, Ora Pennington, was lined up to date his sister once he got home.

Our first job in 1967 was to sandbag the fuel tanks next to the power plant. This took about a month of steady work. I worked in the power plant and rarely went into the other building. I do remember two semi-trailers on the site located next to the tropo screens being called Wet Wash and Backporch. Most of the communications to our site was done through these two trailers early in ' 67.

Return To Top

25. STAN GRIECO 6/67-6/68

I was at the Kingsport and remembered Miss Connie [receptionist Kingsport Hotel] I corresponded with her after I got back to the world. She even sent my wife and I a wedding present. I worked in tape relay, in the service section. My MOS was 72B20. I can remember the NCOIC of our shift, Sgt. Ortiz and the two guys I worked with Denny Stevens and Ira Daniels . There was one other name Jesse Gomez, his name I won't forget because, we were traveling back to the Kingsport on his girlfriends motorcycle when a Vietnamese cab drove us into the path of a duce and a half. I was laid up in the 17th Field Hospital over Christmas.

Return To Top

26. ZOLTAN ANDAHAZY 4/67-3/69

I was assigned to Phu Lam Signal Bn from (Official dates-13 April 1967 to 29 March 1969). Tape Relay, (Order Wire, Nights 1800-0600 Hrs) You know,--Tape Apes. Was There Through TeT. Remember, we got hit those nights. I was probably stoned or else I'd've panicked. But no, of course, I was tooo cool--. Remember, the ambassador was trapped on the top floor of the embassy and we had to courier messages to get him off the roof or something....

Return To Top

27. BURT STIGEN 67-68

I was in Phulam in '67-68 as a civilian with PA&E (Pacific Architects & Engineers or Promises Alibies & and Excuses, whatever) I was operating the power plant the night Phu Lam "lost her cherry" and the first rocket attack came in. Later during the Tet offensive I was living in an apartment in the Phu Tho race track district, and was under house arrest by the VC that had set up under the race track bleachers. Some real nice guys from Phu Lam came in APCs and sprung us free.

In photos of Phulam the Place, picture of the chapel I remember real well as it was built by PA&E.

In the Phulamers off duty on page 1 of 7 in the next to the last frame, there is a picture of a waitress serving breakfast in the mess hall. Her name is/was "Bui-Thi-Minh-Phoung" After the Tet Offensive, she moved to Vung Tau to take care of her elderly grandmother..

I am a pastor now and I operate a homeless shelter for Vietnam Veterans. I live in Vinton,LA.

Return To Top

28. ROBERT TORCHIA 11/67-1/69

Served there from nov 67 to jan 69. Started on recieve board in com room and ended up as Sarge shift leader in service section.

I remember the time the slot machine in the club just kept paying off until there was no money in it. I think thats when we told the Ncoic that the machine wasn't working or the time me and a good buddy of mind decided to go to the club in formal japanese komona's. Then there was the time when a group of us were by the swimming pool and the major came by. A few of the guys were not drunk but high. He had a strange look on his face, than asked us how we were doing, we replied find sir than he said good and left. We were sure we were busted but nothing happened. I was sure he knew even to this day I still think he knew. In 66 I got to see the Bob Hope Show which was a thill after seeing them on TV and finally getting to see the show in person. Ah yes the time we decided to hang the flag in the center walk way(and you that lived in the little barracks know how narrow that was) just before inspection forcing Top and the rest to side step the flag without touching it. For some reason or other we were at war with them. Than there was the time when Some Red Cross message got lost. There was hell to pay. To me.

Return To Top

29. VIRGEL "WAYNE" LUCK 5/67-68

I was sent to Phu Lam the middle of May 67 to operate a switchboard, myself and eight other men. Well when we arrived there the positions were taken. That was my MOS 72C20. For several days the only thing they had for us to do was guard duty and sand bagging. Finally they put us in this Comm Center, relaying messages out of these machines. Never done this before. This MOS was 72B20. Caught on fast but did not like it, twelve hours a day, six days a week. We worked one week days and the next week at night. Working like that was hard to get some sleep.

Return To Top

30. DENNIS PERRY 5/67-11/67

I worked receive most of the time. I helped burn alot of tape. Remember the grease gun that we used to guard the door? I worked send a few times and I pulled tape off reels for retransmission. I also filled in for the ZFX clerk on occasion. I also ran tape thru the multiple address machine.

I think my barracks was somewhere in the middle. I also lived in the BEQ that looked like it was in an alley. There was a little bar across the alley. I remember cockroaches the size of my thumb or bigger in the bathroom.

Return To Top

31. GEORGE FANNING 1/67-8/68

My barracks was next to the outside stage. I moved down to the Mercury BEQ the last six months of my tour.. I worked the receive bank at first and then went to the send side for awhile. Worked the HP Log, Oderwire position and reels man. I worked the service section during the heavy backlog times. Did you ever have to burn the bags of old messages at nights??

Return To Top

32. RUSS HEESHEN 11/67-5/68

32F20 at AUTODIN, worked in the security room in the back (with the KG-13s etc.). I remember working hard with Mark Volkoff to dig a really fine underground bunker next to AUTODIN building, covering it with an "appropriated" airdrop palette & sandbags, only to have the bunker commandeered by our captain as the command bunker. During that time at some point AUTODIN was running on an "extension cord", 'cause the underground wiring shorted out. I also recall that one of the VN maintenance men was nearly killed when he tried to clean the banks of lead-acid backup batteries using a water hose... some of them exploded. On one occasion I met an ARVN soldier & we ate lunch in the ARVN mess hall -- fried snails & onions with "33". I can still hear the hiss of sniper bullets during Tet, and the groaning sound of Puff the Magic Dragon. During Tet I remember being locked into the secure room at AUTODIN for at least 48 hours, just two of us, a SP/5 named Hladik and me. At least twice we had to haul out the Thermite grenades from under the raised flooring, wire them up, then a couple hours later unwire them & put them away. They were heavy!

Once when I was on guard duty at the perimeter by AUTODIN the captain in charge had an idea to fortify the outlying rice paddies. He wanted to place oil cans filled with gasoline or kerosene around them and use Thermite grenades to set them off. (For those who don't know about thermite grenades, they're used to melt electronic equipment. They are about 2-3" thick, and maybe 18" by 24", and weigh 50 pounds or more. They are set off using a battery, and burn slow & hot.) So the captain thought the thermite would melt the oil can, ignite the gas, cause an explosion, and set the bad guys on fire. He tried 4 or 5 different ways of positioning the grenades on/under/leaning against the oil cans, but every time it just resulted in a burning puddle of gas. It made for an interesting afternoon, though.

Return To Top

33. MIKE HARTSOOK 1/67-68

We landed at Bien Hoa Airport and were taken to the resort of Long Bihn. We stayed there 2 days and then were taken to Phulam. After about 1 week they shipped myself and 6 others to the detachment center at Long Bihn to be security guards. The CO. at that time was LT. Friedman. After a few days us getting us familiar with the layout we began building bunkers and doing guard duty. It was the hardest work I had ever done since being in the ARMY. DAMN THOSE SANDBAGS. Later on the new replacements arrived and the fun began.

Return To Top

34. JOHN FOULKS 6/67-6/68

I worked in the Communication Center as a 72B20 ( Teletype Operator). . What I remember about phu lam was the E-M Club and when we sang "We got to get out of this place", I also remember the steak and beer we sometimes have outside, the movies, shows, going downtown to Cholon and the bars before the Tet offenses. What is vivid in my mind is the time when we got hit in February and a mortar round landed in the exact spot I just passed, and a guy named Shaffer who ran into a wall and broke his nose and got the purple heart. Also Being a Black Viet-Nam Veteran I always liked the unity and togetherness we had over there, that is another thing that come to mind.

Return To Top

35. JIM STEVENS 4/67-4/68

I was sent to Sai Gon and ended up at Phu Lam Signal Battalion. When I arrived, I found out that they were looking for a Legal Clerk, and were disappointed to learn that I had no training in that area. I asked what I needed to know, and was shown a copy of the UCMJ. I've always been an avid reader and quick learner, so I got the book and headed for my new bunk. For the first few days, I typed up mundane reports and correspondence while I poured over the book, and, within a week was a fairly accomplished barracks lawyer (regarding military law, of course). I then spent the next ten months preparing charges and specifications for courts-martial (for officers who, with all due respect, were engineers, administrators, and signalmen one day and, heaven forbid, your defense counsel the next), attending the "trials", typing up transcripts, delivering the finished documents (and the occasional prisoner) to "LBJ", and, when I thought appropriate, advising the poor sap regarding his rights to appeal. I started transcribing the proceedings in my scribbled "shorthand", but quickly found that, if I didn't type it up quickly, I couldn't read my own writing, which often required that I return to the office and work through the night typing up the transcript. Concerned about the accuracy of a trial record so produced, I requisitioned a beautiful, new reel-to-reel tape recorder. Within a few days, I had received a nice, big stereo unit, so that I could place a microphone in front of both the prosecution and the defense, record exactly what transpired, and present, still within a day or two (I was able to type some 80 words per minute on my new IBM Selectric typewriter), a complete and (presumably) accurate transcript of the proceedings. Tape recorders of this quality were hard to come by, apparently, since the supply sergeant expressed his gratitude for my ordering one, which allowed him to (somehow) justify ordering two, one of which he promptly sent to his parents in the States. I later learned that they also enjoyed corresponding with their son in Viet Nam on their new IBM Selectric typewriter.

John Abstein (who typed a lot of correspondence for LTC Brown, then our CO.) was one of the neatest guys...once, the morning after a particularly grueling celebration at the EM Club, John was a little late producing a piece of correspondence for the Colonel. Colonel Brown called (down the hall) to, I think, LT John Silver, who called from his office across the hall to John, "...where's my letter?". John, barfing into the wastebasket, replied, "I'm working on it right now!". Letters from the colonel had to be typed perfectly, no corrections, no errors. As I remember, this one-paragraph letter took the better part of a day to complete).

SFC Reed, who "volunteered" me to help him with some deliveries to the Hoi Duc Anh orphanage (the visit to which remains a vivid --and gratifying -- memory to this day), was later replaced by SFC Isley. Reed was fun; circumstantial evidence indicated that he was a serious card player who dealt a nightly game in one of the conexes, and who dated a "round-eye", I think one of the nurses at a hospital in Sai Gon. A good-looking, clever fun-seeker, I've always been disappointed that I never saw him show up later on a TV show. SGT Isley, however, had no sense of humor (from my 19-year-old, very non-military point of view). Christmas of 1967 I was about to leave for a week of R&R in Hong Kong. Being dedicated (I really was dedicated), I checked into the office just prior to leaving Phu Lam for the Tan Son Nhut airport. SGT Isley asked me about an Article 15 that I was to have typed the day before. Dispite my intricate little "snowflake" tickler system, it had slipped through the cracks and had not been completed. He took this very seriously. For those of you reading this who may not be familiar with military vernacular, I'll translate what he asked me: "Young man, I'm not certain that you believe that excrement has an odor?" I offered to stay and finish the job, but he graciously bid me farewell, and allowed me to spend two months' worth of hard-earned combat pay whoring after the heathen in a British Crown Colony. What an experience! Best friend was Vince Suhajda, from Des Plaines, IL, the Battalion mail clerk. Vince had a great personality, and could tell you that you had no mail from home and make you enjoy knowing it. His replacement was a guy named Bob - something, from Quincy, IL. Shortly before I left Phu Lam, I'd caged an Aussie out of one of them cowboy-looking hats, but didn't have the time or expertise to package it up and send it home. I asked Bob to mail it to me, but I never got it. Neither did I get the box of coffee-cup-sized Chinese firecrackers that I mailed to myself, which I did package carefully in a large cardboard box full of yellow chad (thanx, tape guys!). However, if any of you guys later became postal inspectors, please note that these were allegedly firecrackers, reportedly sent by someone with my name, to my commonly-available home of record. One night, Vince and I reportedly set one of these bad boys off in the middle of the street in front of the President Hotel, and were amazed at the speed at which dozens of ARVN troops and the "white mice" showed up to blame each other for the breach of security. The MP holed up in his sandbagged checkpoint beside the front door probably had a coronary, I'm not sure.

I assume, because I was the legal guy, and known to most of the officers (since I also helped to prepare the roster of which officer was selected as the "defense attorney"), I was once asked to bartend a party at the Officers' Club (affectionately known as "The Snake Pit"). It started out calmly enough, as I mixed a dozen of America's finest whiskeys with your choice of Coke or 7-Up, but soon turned into (imagine this!) a Rowdy Event. Names were called, rank was pulled and thrown, and the Viet Namese military was subjected to some serious verbal abuse. Eventually, I was asked to leave, since, as it was slurred to me by a drooling Captain, it was not fitting for an Enlisted Man to see this kind of behavior by the officers. I assured him that they could trust me; that I understood, that I would be discreet, and, slipping a bottle of bourbon into one fatigue leg pocket, and a bottle of scotch into the other, waddled back to the barracks. And, 32 years later, this is the first time that I've told this story.

Return To Top

36. JOHN WALKER-2nd STORY 3/67-11/68

We lived in single-storey barracks that held about 40 men, in cubicles. We had mosquito netting, and believe me, it was necessary. We had to go to another building for toilets and showers. We each had a foot locker, and a two-section wall locker. We had no other furniture, besides our bunks and some chairs. I don't remember desks. For a while we had some wooden cabinets that we paid a Vietnamese guy to make in return for cartons of cigarettes. The First Sergeant decided we were too independent so they came around, opened up all the cabinets, dumped everything out (carefully if necessary) and took the cabinets out and smashed them up. Oh well, that was one of the first very important lessons in how you have NO CONTROL over your life when you are in the Army.

Recreation consisted mostly of going to bars in Cholon, which was Saigon's Chinatown. There were occasional attempts at organizing sports but they failed miserably.

WORKING conditions were good, air-conditioned, (they weren't air-conditioning ME, but rather the electronic equipment) but the hours were long and the shifts kept changing. 12 hours on, 12 hours off, and 4 days on, two days off. We actually had it good. Others on the site were worked longer hours with no days off and were harassed by being called out of their bunks for formations. They actually went on strike, which was really a VERY big deal. They got what they wanted because the local chain of command didn't want higher-ups to find out about the strike! In a war zone, but not during an official declared war.

Return To Top

37. JIM DOUGLAS 1/67-4/67

I was the Crypto NCOIC there. I remember after a Security Inspection, I had to put my people over to operate the Secure Patch Panel. Some WO in the past had moved the Secure PP from the Secure Section over to Carrier. We received some real static about that. The Deputy Fac Comdr called me into his office and wanted to know what we could do about moving it back. I told him that we would have to order the necessary equipment, install it and wire it up and when that was done, we would take one circuit at a time and parallel it off, insure it worked and take the next one. It would be time consuming but it would not take to long. In the meantime I put my people on the Patch Panel. I left for the US prior to any resolution of the problem.

Return To Top

38. BOB BEARD 8/67-5/68

I was sent to Phu Lam after I returned from stateside leave to Nha Trang Signal BN in Jul 67. I was a school trained Univac 1004/DLT 6-4 repairman. At the time I was transferred to Phu Lam, Phu Lam had only two trained 1004 repairmen and they were both so short they hand to use an extension ladder to reach the belly of a snake. So off to Phu Lam I went (TDY). When I got there they told me I would be living at the Mercury Hotel in Cholon and as an E-5 I would be pulling CQ at the company every few weeks. That never happened because I was TDY until late September when I received PCS orders to Phu Lam and I was made ED (exempt from duty) because I was the only school trained repairman for the 5 1004 systems in the NARC. When I was promoted to SP6 in February I did go on the Staff Duty NCO roster but only pulled it once or twice before I left for the world.

For the entire period of time I was at Phu Lam until the last 10 days prior to DEROS I worked night shift at the NARC. There was one other repairman that had been OJT'ed on the equipment and all I can remember is that his name was Jones and he was a very short (height) individual. Well Jonesey worked the day shift when he could get help from the Univac Tech reps and I worked the night shift. The only way either one of us had any time off was that I would be on call for him one day a week and he would be on call for me one night a week.

When I first got to Phu Lam the EM club was a little room next to the orderly room and Co HQ that you could only put about 20 to 30 people in at a time but, thanks to Ron Mullen, we had German Draught beer in the club. That was stopped about a month after I got there and the rumor was that the trade the Ron had made to get the beer was not totally on the up and up. Not that any of us good wholesome clean-minded all-American boys would ever do anything that wasn't totally on the up and up in Nam, would we-e-e-e?

The new club was opened in Nov of 67 and we finally had a decent sized area to relax in. I do remember that for about two to three months from Dec 67 to Feb 68, the only beer they were able to get in the club was Bulletin Three Ring or Lone Star Beer. We had just received two palettes of Budweiser and it was still on the field behind the tape relay (where the pool was put in) during the first VC attack on Phu Lam. That attack landed on shell about 30 feet from the palettes and we lost almost half a palette of beer into the sand and gravel of that field. The second attack put one round through the roof of the PX and landed right on top of the Booze locker.

I was working at the NARC on the night the TET offensive started and I went back to the Mercury BEQ on the last scheduled transportation vehicle that left Phu Lam for two weeks. I had just gotten to sleep that morning when the duty guard woke me up and told me there was a call at the desk for the senior person at the BEQ and that was me. Well the First Sargent wanted to know what our security status was at the hotel and how many people were there. I called him back later and told him we had eight people at the hotel and that we all had our basic load of ammo (100 rounds) and there was no activity in the immediate area. He informed me that we had a contract with the hotel and part of the contract was to provide security for the hotel. He then asked me if we had any food at the hotel and I told him the only thing we had was some junk food and snacks. He then informed me that he would try and get us more ammo and some C-Rats but that we would have to stay there until relieved. Gee Thanks Top! Well they did get us some food and ammo that afternoon (three cases of individual meals C-Rats and 1000 rounds of 7.62 ammo in loose boxes). Five days later I was replaced at the hotel because Jones was the only 1004 tech at Phu Lam and he had reached his breaking point.

I can remember the VC taking over the area north of and west of us at the hotel. The RVN Combat police moved into the area the rout out the VC. I can remember walking out from the hotel bunker on the ground floor to get the refuges moving from in front of the alley leading into the Hotel. I also remember the fact that the mamma san at Suzanne's bar providing us with soft drinks and Chinese noodle soup to stretch out the C Rats that we had. I remember sitting on the Hotel Roof (scene of many cookouts) and watching the activity around us and praying that we had not been forgotten at our little piece of hell in Saigon. I found out later that the VC were using the area less than 2 blocks from our hotel as a rally point for two battalions of the VC. So much for ignorance in the heat of battle. We did see an individual through what we that was a grenade into the Phillapino Compound near us, but we took NO ACTION to bring any attention to ourselves at the Hotel.

I had been sent to the hotel on the night of the first attack on Phu Lam to get all my gear and move into the E6 hooch in the billet area, so I missed that little celebration. I saw the effects of the attack when I returned to the compound in the morning. There were several rounds the hit in the compound including the dud that was lodged in the false ceiling on the EM club. I remember the round that hit the top of the back wall at the NARC. If that round had been six inches shorter it would have ended up in the conex behind the NARC. The only problem with that is the fact that there were several dozen 36 pound block of thermite in that conex. If the round had been six inches longer it could have gone off under the comsec floor in the NARC and all of our crypto gear had thermite charges on them and they were wired for destruction. There was another round that let the half palette of Budweiser beer drain into the field behind the tape relay. Another round went off in front of the NARC and the OIC got hit in the elbow by a piece of shrapnel from that round. He didn't realize until later that his but had also been hit in the butt at the same time. I remember one guy got a Purple Heart for running into an air conditioning unit and breaking his nose during the attack.

I don't remember why but I was also off the compound the night of the second attack. That attack walked rounds right down the middle of the compound and did a lot of damage to vehicles and the bulletin board hut. Both ambulances were parked side by side behind the mailroom and were both damaged in this attack. The PX got hit and wouldn't you know that the Class 6 locker took most of the damage from that hit.

Return To Top

stories home

Web Author:Email Webmaster