California Bill\’s Travel \’n Other Stuff

Travels and occassional rantings of an old guy.

My Year in Thailand, 1966-67

Nam Suai FloodNam Suai Floodnam-suai-flood-2.jpgnam-suai-flood-2.jpgMe and a FriendI was drafted into the US Army in Jan 1966. That month, over 100,000 were drafted. I understood that to be the highest number ever in one month. I took basic training at Fort Ord, (Monterrey) CA, then to Ft Gordon, (Augusta) GA for training in the Signal Corp, specifically, a AN/TRC24 Radio Relay Operator, MOS: 31M20 (or was it 31M40?).  (MOS = Military Occupational Specialty) When I got orders to Siam, my wife and I had to get out a map and see where that was.

See some pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/calbillstravnstuff/sets/72057594122629485/.

For a while at Fort Gordon, I lived in a 12 man tent, which in Georgia in the middle of summer is mostly unbearable. However the build up had been so fast, most facilities were completely overtaxed. Later, my wife drove out from California and we lived in an apartment off post. Almost my entire training class went to Germany, which we had been hoping for. However, I was held back a week because I got the measles (of all things), so I was delayed finishing my MOS training. When I finally got orders to Siam, we were given two weeks to get to Oakland Army Terminal, and we enjoyed a leisurely drive across country.

I arrived in Bangkok in August 1966 and after a night or two at the Capital Hotel, rode a military bus up to Korat. A long and rough ride up the Friendship Highway, but I got to see some of what was to be my new home for a year. In Korat, I reported to the 55th Signal Company Headquarters at Camp Friendship, adjacent to Korat Royal Thai AFB, and was assigned a hootch. At Fort Gordon we lived in tents, so I considered the wooden hootches a big improvement, especially when I found out we had house girls that took care of our laundry and lizards scurrying around the ceiling and walls that ate the bugs. I had definitely moved up in life.

I really do not remember all the technical details of the AN/TRC (TRC =TeleRadio Communications) 24. It was VHF, and since it was line of sight, relays had to be located at certain distances. Relay equipment was set up in a container mounted on the back of a deuce and half ton truck.  The radio equipment was on shelves on both sides of the inside of the container, with a narrow center isle allowing access to the equipment. Our job, as trained at Ft Gordon, was to move the truck as necessary, usually in combat conditions, set up antennae (which were extremely directional), and keep the channels open.  As I recall there were 4 channels in a typical set up.  Therefore there were 8 radio sets; an “in” and “out” for each channel in each truck.

However, in Thailand, none of the relay sites were mobile. A few were in their truck type containers, but most were in small air conditioned buildings, which contained many channels.  (One site named “Peppercorn” near Udorn, was still the in the container on the truck, on jacks, under a canopy.)  Every TRC24 site I worked had become permanent. One could tell a TRC24 site by the distinctive olive drab fly swatter type antennae.                                                                                                                                                                                     

Since mobility had ceased to be a factor, our job sites were terminal locations, where the TRC 24 fed into a wider communication network of more sophisticated equipment. There were few actual relay sites. Instead of moving sites as trained, our job became one of tediously watching the equipment hum along, perform periodic maintenance and testing, replace some parts now and then, and twist a few dials when some one from somewhere called in complaining about line interference on one of the lines. This did not happen very often. Rarely, a radio set would go bad. In that event we coordinated the re-routing of radio traffic, replaced the unit and got everybody back on line. At least we never had to reset an antenna.

It was understood that we were there to support the Air Force, but we were told often not to be curious as to the nature of our business. Any questions we had about our signals were rebuffed by NCO’s and Officers alike.  We did not know to where our antennae were pointed.  We could not listen in. Very soon I got tired of asking, and just did the job.

After a few weeks in Korat, I was sent up to Udorn to a very small Army post near, but not abutting, the Air Base. I cannot remember exactly where in relation to the base we were. It seems we turned west off of Friendship Hiway just south of the city of Udorn, and passed a Thai Police or Army post. There was a large field on which soccer was frequently played.  Our post was small, with perhaps only a couple of  dozen troops. A Lieutenant was OIC, and the NCOIC was an E6. There were wooden hootches and a single mess hall for all, to which you could come and go at will, since we all had weird work schedules. Made to order breakfast cooked while you wait. (Three eggs, over easy, bacon and toast, please. You got it buddy, comin’ right up.)

There was a small bar (beer 5 cents) and adjacent movie theater. This was shaping up to be nothing like the Army I thought I was going into. The miseries of Forts Ord and Gordon drifted further back in my mind.  My wife sent me a newspaper from the states with headlines stating that there were no American troops in Thailand. We kept that up in the mess hall for a while and got some laughs.

Our hootches were infested with termites, and when it was very quiet, you could hear them munching. In the morning, all surfaces were covered with a thin layer of sawdust. I wondered how long the buildings would last.

Our job site was a short truck ride away, known as Udorn Control, a small air conditioned building. We had two or three dozen channels, and our fly swatter relay antennae were pointed in several directions.  We were set up amongst several semi trailers in an area bristling with a wide assortment of antennae. I soon figured out that we were the low ones on the hierarchy of comm equipment technology. The stuff around us was very sophisticated. But we never saw those guys. Couldn’t go in their trailers, didn’t see them much, and when we did see them, many were in civilian clothes and only nodded at our presence. I never figured out how our equipment complimented or fit in with all this other stuff.

We worked 12 hour shifts in that little building, watching our equipment and various meters. We logged meter readings, tested, dusted, and tried to keep busy during our shifts. But late one night I remember clear as it was yesterday. I was reading a book at the desk and the phone rang. A very excited voice complained about noise on a line and virtually screaming, pleaded with me to do something quick. Jumping to my feet and finding the appropriate radio set, I pulled it out of the wall on its sliding rails, and quickly began turning the knobs controlling the signal. The voice at the other end yelled happily that I’d done it and hung up. I logged the event, and tried to settle down, but the adrenalin kept me hopping the rest of the night.                                                                                                                                     

That whole episode lasted less than 20 seconds. I have wondered for 41 years what that was all about.  I did not know the guy that called or from where he was calling. Next door, or miles away? After joining TLC (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia Brotherhood), I have read more and more about what was going on up there about that time.  I want now to believe that I contributed something that night that was very, very important to someone somewhere. But I’ll never really know for sure.

The antennae pointing north relayed to an actual pure relay site up the Friendship Hiway about 2/3 of the way to Nong Khai, on the Mekong River. The Relay was manned by an E5 Sgt and three EM’s  There was a small contingent of Thai Army there, along with their wives and camp followers. The females took care of our guys’ laundry and cooked some meals.

The relay site was powered by huge towable generators. There was an outhouse and an outdoor shower served by rainwater, and several bunkers. Those antennae pointed north could have only been going to Laos, probably Vientienne, but again, hey, don’t ask.

One day some Army brass came up to Udorn to check things out, and were to also go up to the Relay. I had been up there once on a supply run, and was selected to drive a Bird Colonel and one of his entourage in a jeep.  He never said one word to me all the way north. Not one single word. He just sat there scowling, like he didn’t want to be there. (Well, join the crowd.)

About 2/3 of the way to the Relay, there is a river called Nam Suai. It was flooded. Totally covered the road for several hundred yards. There was great activity on both sides of the river, as the Friendship Highway was heavily traveled. A thriving industry of Thai long boats were ferrying people and their goods across the flooded river. I was selected to stay with the vehicles, and the rest of the party, in their finely starched uniforms piled into several long boats along with a couple of replacement radios and assorted gear. It seemed incongruous to see several high ranking sharply dressed military personnel and some very expensive radio equipment piled into a pretty shaky looking long boat.

Soon, I was surrounded by a dozen or more kids. We had a great time. Two or three would hang on my arm at a time to great gales of laughter. I would swing them around and toss them up in the air. They weighed so little, and at 6’3” I must have seemed like a giant to them. We had a little impromptu soccer game, and they all piled in the jeep, and we rough housed and laughed a lot. I spied an ice cream vendor, and bought all the kids some ice cream. Then a jolly green giant helicopter landed, and all the kids went running off toward the dust and noise. The helicopter was from the Red Cross. I talked to the RC official a bit; they were terribly frustrated with so many refugees coming Nam Suai Floodacross the Mekong River, and now the flood.

Just then I noted the brass coming back across the flooded river, and quickly returned to my vehicles, which were thankfully all accounted for.  The colonel looked at me with disdain, and I realized that my formerly stiffly starched fatigues were now crumpled and soiled with dirt, sweat, dust, and traces of ice cream.  Saying nothing, we started driving and soon passed all those kids near the helicopter. Seeing me, laughing and yelling, they swarmed around us, reaching out to touch me and the colonel with their grubby little hands and climb in the jeep. Escaping, the colonel looked at me square on and scowling, asked if they were friends of mine. I replied with a big yes, sir.  On the way back to Udorn, I thought I saw the Colonel smile a little when we passed kids, and he actually waved once or twice.  I never saw the Colonel again.

After being in Udorn a few weeks, I was sent up to the Relay to sub for a guy who had been sent to the Base Hospital with some ailment. Those guys had been together for some time, and I didn’t get a chance to fit in. This post was remote, and in addition to keeping the radios working, we had to take care of the generators. We were supplied every three or four days from Udorn.

One day a Methodist minister and his wife came into our camp. He was doing missionary work in a nearby village. His wife had made an apple pie out of a large can of apples that the guys had given her a few days before. Man, being out there in the wilderness, lonely and not quite feeling safe, that was the best apple pie I’ve ever had.

I was only up there 4 days and then returned to Udorn, where I was informed that I was going to Korat, to join a contingent of 55th Sig Co guys going TDY (Temprary Duty) to Bangkok to set up communication facilities for President Johnson’s upcoming visit to Thailand. Well, this was pretty exciting, so off I went.

We stayed for a while at the Capital  Hotel in Bangkok, but it was 8 miles away, which took about 30 minutes at rush hour. So later, we moved to another hotel, but I can’t remember the name.  We got a little tourist time the first day, then went to work every day for about 3 weeks at Borom Phimam Mansion, where the President was to stay. It is adjacent to the complex that includes the Temple of the Emerald Budha.  Our comm equipment was to be installed across from the mansion in a little utility building.  This necessitated a daily commute from our hotel to the palace, and I got my first taste of driving in Bangkok. What a hoot that was! I learned that entering one of those infamous circles was easier when you rev’d the engine and laid on the horn of the duece and half truck. It was like a parting of the waters.

There was a lot of equipment and guys from different units in that little room. But we worked well together and helped each other, working way out of our MOS’s.  I spliced cables, wired switchboards, and installed phones in the Mansion itself. Lots of channels to site in and calibrate. We got it all done in fine fashion.  Then it was just a matter of keeping it all running. We had no incidents that I know of.

The inside of the Mansion, which tourists never saw, was incredible. Intricate teak décor. Five foot elephant tusks with hanging brass gongs. We had to take our boots and shoes off inside to keep from scuffing the floor. Unfortunately, my camera with pictures from inside the mansion was later stolen.

I never saw President Johnson or much of his party. During one night shift, we had to stay inside. Secret Service didn’t want anyone wandering around. I spent a lot of time that night chatting with mysterious guys in suits and dark glasses with strange tales of far away places. Very interesting.  Night shifts were the best. No brass around. During the day, every officer remotely connected would show up and decide to exert some authority to impress the troops and Secret Service. The President’s visit ended about Oct 28. We spent a couple of days taking things down, and then I got a three day pass for some unofficial R&R in Bangkok. Then back to Korat.

I fully expected to be sent back up to Udorn, where I had felt very comfortable with some new buddies. But, it was not to be. They shanghai’d me into the company headquarters orderly room, where I spent the rest of my tour in Thailand.  At first I thought this would be good duty, but I was wrong. I soon longed to be out on a post somewhere doing something more active. I was very bored, and frankly, perhaps not a very good garrison soldier.  My first three months in country had been filled with new and exciting experiences, but the next 8 were a bit of a letdown.

Nevertheless, in March of 1967 I was selected to drive our company commander, a Captain, on a circuit route of Northeast Thailand. Why he needed to do this I do not know. I was issued a rifle and several rounds of ammo, which I hadn’t seen since Ft Ord, loaded up the jeep and off we went.

Our first stop was Roi Et, a beautiful little town that I wish I had more time to visit. We stayed there the first night in a hotel, then off to Ubon where we gassed up and got directions to the Mukdahan Army signal site. I don’t remember much of the road to Ubon, but I do remember the road to Mukdahan. It was dirt, and every bridge over every river or creek had been bombed or burned out. We had to slow down and ford the crossings. It was dry season, so I don’t remember much water.  This made us both very nervous and we had our weapons at the ready. There were no incidents but it was slow going and we arrived late at Mukdahan in the dark.

I don’t know the geography of Phu Mu and Mukdahan. The note on my Phu Mu pictures say “near Mukdahan.”  At any rate, I remember noting the direction of the flyswatter antenna, due east into Laos, and being a good trooper, didn’t ask any questions.

We stayed the night there, departing for Nakon Phanom very early in the morning. Halfway to NKP, an F 4 or 105 flew over us about 100 feet up. We saw him for about half a second. He was well in front of us before we heard the noise, which scared the hell out of us. As he disappeared behind the trees, he was wagging his wings as if to say the road is clear, you’re fine. We felt a little better all the way into NKP.

We had a great meal at the NKP Air Force mess hall, and it reminded me of the great meals I’d had at Udorn, and the not so great meals at Korat. We pressed on and passed Sakon Nakorn, on our way to Udorn, the Mekong Relay and Nong Khai.  After a night at Udorn, we drove back to Korat.

At sometime during my year, probably about Feb 1967, one of my wife’s letters announced that the B52’s had come to Thailand. She was teaching elementary school in our home town of Merced, California. Many of her kids were from nearby Castle AFB, a SAC base. One day the kids were very sad, and asking them why, they told her their daddies had gone to a place called Thailand. (I think they went to Sattahip, but I don’t know for sure.)

The rest of the time in Korat is uneventful. Somewhere along the way we moved into new barracks, and got all up tight with parades and inspections and dress uniforms and more officers. One of our lieutenants began getting us some day trips on Saturdays. I remember a major shrine at Sara Buri and a picnic place called White Falls.  In the summer I was promoted to Sargent E5, which was not well received by the other Sargents in our Company. After all, I was a draftee and I’d only been in for a year and half. I saw their point, but I didn’t turn the stripes down.

I rotated home to the 78th Signal Battalion at Ft Lewis, Washington, near Tacoma and McChord AFB. I spent the last 4 ½ months in the Army in Battalion HQ.  The Battalion Sargent-Major was very kind to me. I think I helped his work load considerably on administrative matters.  My wife and I got in several rounds of golf at the terrific Ft Lewis Golf Course.  I was discharged at Ft Lewis in January, 1968.

A few years ago, I began searching the internet for info on my time in Thailand. I wanted to know that there was some meaning to my time there. I learned more about the “secret war” in Laos and what the Air Force and other units in NE Thailand were doing.  I found and joined the Thailand, Laos, Cambodia Brotherhood and learned more about what was going on in NE Thailand at that time. I now feel some pride in my contribution during my time in Thailand.  At least I can conjure up a happy ending to that frantic call I got in Udorn on that long dark night, and have some satisfaction that I really did make a difference during our Commander in Chief’s visit to Bangkok.

I did not volunteer for the service, but when the draft notice came, I went almost eagerly. Annalee was not so happy, and says later in life she’d wished we went to Canada. I could never have done that. I was proud to serve my country, and still am.  Vietnam was a sorry mess at the end, but I believed then, and do now, that its origins were well intentioned and deemed necessary.  I did my part, be it ever so small.

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August 11, 2007 - Posted by | My Thailand Army Days

40 Comments »

  1. Was @ Phu Mu most of 1967 would like to talk to anyone else that was. Generator opp. last 30 days at Ubon both in 442 sig. and 207th. Thanks for your story.

    Comment by Wilbur Haley Phu Mu 1967 | January 12, 2008 | Reply

    • was @phu mu june 1967 thu jan 1967 mos 26l20 microwave radio repairman and operator also work as controller when short handed
      don’t remember names except chris cross the controller from Minnesota .also at bang pla microwave site feb 1968 tofeb 1969.

      Comment by carl call | December 21, 2013 | Reply

  2. Veil says : I absolutely agree with this !

    Comment by veil | June 2, 2008 | Reply

  3. Our paths probably crossed. I was at Ft Ord from Oct to Dec ’65, AIT Ft Gordon Jan ’66 to June ’66, Korat Thailand June ’66 to June ’67, & Ft Bragg July ’67 to Oct 1968.
    I was hootched at Strat Com Fac (Camp Friendship), assigned to the 1st Signal Brigade, and worked at the DCA-SAM comm site which was off by itself in low folige “jungle” (mostly 4ft tall grass with a few scrub trees). Thanks for serving.
    SP/5 Gilligan, 31J20

    Comment by Gary Gilligan | March 23, 2010 | Reply

    • Gary: Just got around to reading your comment, or did I already reply? Umhh, Senior moment. Yes, I’m sure we did cross paths. I got to Gordon in April of 66; back in Friendship in late 66. So yeah, we were there at the same time. Don’t know if you’ve been able to check out the Thailand-Laos=Cambodia Brotherhood site. It’s been a great experience for me, though I don’t really participate much. Haven’t been to any reunions. But we do a lot of very good work for kids in NE Thailand and Laos, and our contributions are really needed. The quarterly newsletter is really super.
      Anyway, check us out at http://www.tlc-brotherhood.org/. Hope to see ya there.
      Best,
      Bill

      Comment by calbillstravnstuff | May 24, 2010 | Reply

  4. I worked at Phu Mu as a civilian contractor (tech controller) from 1973 to 1974. The site is ~20 miles ssw of Mukdahan, just a couple of miles to the east of Highway 212. About 8 miles due south of Phu Mu is an abandoned airstrip, Leong Nok Tha, with a very colorful but sad history (do an internet search). When I was there, the site had a couple of LR-3s, a couple of TRC-90s, and the TRC-24 you mentioned. The latter was a line-of-site shot into Laos (site Texas, if I recall, and somewhere near Pakse).
    Mukdahan was a hot-bed of smuggling across the Mekong (in and out of Savonnakhet). Initially I was worried about safety but locals assured me that the bad guys had actually put the word out not to mess with us – we were few in number and insignificant compared to the smuggling game, so it was sort of like having Mafia protection. Still remember one hell of a party on one of the sandbars in the middle of the river (Songkran festival, low water) with extended families from both sides of the Mekong drinking fermented rice wine/fruit punch from huge clay pots, playing soccer and takraw, etc.
    Phu Mu is now a national park preserve. Its name means “Pig Mountain” in Thai, and when I was there wild boar still roamed its slopes, as did tigers and pythons, and occasionally wild elephants could be seen on the plains below. Seems like a dream now. I was 22 and that world was my oyster!

    Comment by Thomas Widmer | October 13, 2010 | Reply

    • Wow, Tom; Thanks for that info. It was quite a time in our lives.May I recommend to you that you check out http://www.tlc-brotherhood.org. TLC stands for Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. It is a veterans group that donates substantial funds for kids’ projects in Laos and Thailand. In addition, the quarterly publication contains much information about we were all doing there.This blog story was printed pretty much as is in the Dec 07 issue. Later, in the Sep 08 issue, Tom Lee answered by article with the “Rest of the Story.”Talked a lot about Phu Mu, Texas, and other things that might interest you. The issue with his report ishttp://www.tlc-brotherhood.org/MEM/93MEM_finalWeb.pdf and begins on page 6 of that issue. Hope you check us out at TLC, and decide to join. The group is mostly air force, but with some Army, Marines and some civilians also. Bill Jirsa Fresno, California

      Comment by calbillstravnstuff | October 13, 2010 | Reply

      • I certainly hope you get this. I was in Korat 442 SB from Sep 66-Nov 67. Hoping to contact someone with a better memory of Camp Friendship than me. Would appreciate hearing from you my e-mail is bobf19401@yahoo.com

        Comment by Bob Foster | June 10, 2014

      • I was at Camp Friendship Nov 1, 1966 to Nov 1, 1967, working at Jones Park on the AN/MRC-98, AN/TRC-109 and LRC-3. Just prior to Christmas 1966 the Bob Hop Show appeared featuring Joey Heatherton and Phyllis Diller. Bob Hope was so much better live that I could never fully appreciate him on TV after. He made the entire audience part of his act.

        I was HQ&HQ Co. Long Lines Battalion, 1st Signal Brigade, USASTRATCOM,

        After Thailand I was assigned to communications at East Coast Army Transmitter Station, Woodbridge Virginia (AKA Country Club of the Army) I had duties in both the Pentagon and the White House and met LBJ many times. He used to talk to me about the war like a friend and say how he would do nearly anything to get the boys out of there. But the mess had been heaped on him and he had no way out.

        I schooled at Ft Monmouth NJ which is now closed. Woodbridge is closed and now a nature park. My old high school closed and now a trade school. Two out of three grammar schooldsI attended closed.

        Comment by Ron Whisler | June 23, 2017

    • Thanks for sharing the history of our hometown. I am Phu Munian. Seeking for the story of the town. Really appreciate your tales.

      Thanks

      Wit

      Comment by Witt Wong | March 27, 2017 | Reply

  5. I was in Korat (442nd SB) April 1967-April 1968. I came back for good in 2008 and am living in Khon Kaen.

    Comment by Tony Criswell | March 26, 2012 | Reply

  6. Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after checking through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyhow, I’m definitely glad I found it and I’ll be book-marking and
    checking back often!

    Comment by Shari | June 7, 2013 | Reply

  7. I must agree, I have really enjoyed reading these stories. I was stationed in Bangkok, 29th Signal Gp. and stayed in the Chavalit Hotel, commuted to and from my assigned duty station located at Bang Pla, Thailand, south of Bangkok where I worked in the Communications Center, NARC Section. I also was in Korat on TDY mission in March 1968. I was in Thailand from April 1967 to July 1968.

    Comment by L. LeMaster | September 21, 2013 | Reply

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    Comment by high definition audio video mini holiday flags | December 31, 2013 | Reply

  9. I got to Phu Mu in 65, I was one of a 3 member air force team and there were about 20 army troops. The site was primitave at that point.
    We slept in tents and from there we built the site up. I’ll never forget Phu Mu, the troops. The air strip you spoke about we called
    Crown Strip. The Brits were building it uo, then the Aussies came and continued. Made some good friends with them. We had lots of
    wild pigs, tigars and snakes out of the wha-zoo. The road from Ubon was mostly dirt at that time, and on mail runs, we always stopped by the gold budda for some friend rice at the town nearby. We used elephants at the site for clearing and sometimes getting up and
    the mountain, the road was pure sticky mud and slippery rocks, so riding in a 4×4 was pure hell. I have lots of old slids and some
    pictures.
    Jerry E Sutton

    Comment by Eddie | July 17, 2014 | Reply

    • Hi Eddie,

      Hope you are doing well. You have made a very clear pics of former Phu Mu. Really love to hear about it more.

      Best,

      Witt

      Comment by Witt Wong | March 27, 2017 | Reply

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    Comment by Emilia | July 23, 2014 | Reply

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    Comment by Lawanna | September 19, 2014 | Reply

  14. At Phu Bi with 596 Sig accross RT-1 from base camp was a compound that had an Air Force site which quartered B-52 sticks I be leave the aircraft were from a base in Tie land bet your VHF shot had something to do with that.

    Comment by Bill | October 21, 2014 | Reply

    • Does anyone recall the name (and rank) of the commanding officer of the 207th Signal Company at Camp Friendship in Korat, Thailand during the period 1964-1965?

      Comment by Jules Bosch | January 5, 2015 | Reply

      • Sorry, Josh, just getting around to reading posts here. Suggest you look into joining the Thailand, Laos, Cambodia Brotherhood (aka: TLC Brotherhood) and inquire there. Sure to be somebody with that info. http://www.tlc-brotherhood.com

        Comment by calbillstravnstuff | February 21, 2015

  15. I arrived in Thailand Nov 1, 1966 and assigned to the LRC-3, MRC-98 and AN/FRC-109 Microwave/Tropo Radios at Jones Park outside Camp Friendship at Korat. I was assigned 1st Signal Brigade, Long Lines Battalion, HQ & HQ Company. Anyone serving there I would like to hear from, especially SP4 John Schrekengost and SSGT John Underwood.

    My name is Ron Whisler. I retired as a Physicist and currently living in Cincos Esquinas, Alajuela, Costa Rica, America Central

    Comment by Ron Whisler PhD ANP | December 25, 2015 | Reply

    • My name is Jules Bosch.

      In the autumn of 1964 I was working for Philco-Ford Corporation on a Defense Communications Agency (DCA) contract for the US Army. I was assigned to Khorat, Thailand, adjacent to Camp Friendship. At that time I was a fresh-out-of-college Civil Engineer managing the site work for a major tropospheric scatter communications station.

      As I recall, the work was being done for the 207th Signal Company at Camp Friendship. The DCA contract provided many benefits including access to the Army Post Office (APO), Post Exchange (PX) and other military facilities/services, for which I have always been grateful.

      Anyway, site development for the tropospheric communications center began in early July of 1964, just a month after my graduation from Drexel in Philly. The commander of the 207th Signal Company, a Colonel (can’t recall his name), visited the construction site a few times a week. The Colonel was keenly interested in our progress and often asked questions about the project schedule and the status of major deliveries. The Colonel was always considerate and we got along very well. Viewed in retrospect, I felt he treated me like a son.

      During this time, every week or so my mother would package up my mail into a large manila envelope and send it on to me at the San Francisco APO address for Khorat. One Saturday morning when I visited the APO to pick up my mail there was the usual large manila envelope with my most recent mail. Among the items in the envelope that day was a letter from my draft board in Harrisburg, PA. Typically, the letter stated that I had been drafted and was to report to the draft board on a date that was only a few weeks away. I immediately realized I would have to return to the USA to comply with the draft notice.

      The following Monday morning, as usual, the Colonel visited the job site. One of the questions he asked concerned the completion of the tower foundations. I provided the Colonel with an estimated completion date and then, matter-of-factly, added that I probably would not be around to see their completion since I had been drafted.

      “What!” he exclaimed, “how do you know you’ve been drafted?”

      I explained that I had received my draft notice and would be returning shortly to the USA. He asked to see the notice and I went over to our construction shack to retrieve it. I handed the envelope to the Colonel. He carefully read the notice and then folded it up, put it back in the envelope and placed it in the inside pocket of his “Ike” jacket. All he said was, “I’ll take care of this, you’re not going anywhere.” And that was that.

      Although I wondered about my draft status for some time thereafter, I never heard another word from my draft board. And, I continued to work on various tropo/microwave projects across Thailand in the ensuing years.

      in August of 1964 I was a member of a loosely-organized, unofficial, Army basketball team. One Saturday evening we were invited to play against a Thai team comprised of men from Khorat. We won the game 68-60, primarily because we were, on average, about a foot taller than the Thais. They were a scrappy bunch and it was a challenging game.

      See the attached PDF photo. The players and uniform numbers on the Army team were:

      Lt. Moss # 9
      Lt. Mullins # 7
      Lt. McGurk # 6
      Lt. Varner # 11
      Pfc. Hoyt # 5
      Pfc. Canoe # 8
      Myself # 10

      Our uniforms were shorts and white tee-shirts upon which the Thai officials painted our numbers.

      The game was played outdoors and announced over a PA system to a large crowd of Khorat citizens. At one point in the game, Tom Varner, who played football for Ohio State, drove for a layup and crushed one of the Thai players. Thereafter, the announcer referred to him as “the white elephant.”

      My recollections here may be off but, as I recall, there was a Lt. Jones (after whom “Jones Park” was later named) who was on the team but had died earlier that summer in a jeep accident.

      Comment by Jules Bosch | December 28, 2015 | Reply

    • I meant to include a PDF photo taken before the start of the basketball game. Not sure how to attach here–guess I must send it to an email address, which I will do if one is provided.

      Comment by Jules Bosch | December 28, 2015 | Reply

    • Ron Whisler here again and now living in Leon, Nicaragua. I was in HQ Co. 1st Sig Bde, LL Battalion. Our hutches were set up directly across the road of the Thai Army Queen’s Cobras. I worked MRC98, LRC-3, AN/TRC 29 and AN/TRC 109 in Jones Park November 1966 to Nov 1967.After Thailand I was briefly stationed at Ft Dietrich Maryland, but grabbed an opening at US Army Transmitter Station in Woodbridge Virginia. We provided global and tropo to both the White House and Pentagon. Jules, seems those daft notices were pretty frequent. In my case I had enlisted at 17 soon after graduation. And while in the Army in Thailand got a letter from the draft board for not registering for the Draft. I was 19 almost the entire year I served there and was 5 months away from turning 21 when my active service ended. Remember the bridge with cobra crossing signs near the base theater and px?

      Comment by Professor1 | February 6, 2017 | Reply

  16. I will regularly upload tons of stock imagery but I?m not sure what to do about the copyright issue? please help!. . Thanks!.

    Comment by technology blog | January 23, 2016 | Reply

    • The basketball pic taken in Khorat in 1964 has no Copyright info associated with it. Provide an email address and I will send a scanned copy of the photo as a PDF.

      Comment by Jules Bosch | January 29, 2016 | Reply

  17. I was in korat also in 1966 I was with the 511th general supply support my hooches were right by the front gate or should I say unit, and I really enjoyed it the housegirls, but korat didnt look like it looks now,it was mostly dirt roads ,and little shacks they called bars, except for the nightingale club I think that was the largest

    Comment by charles quarles | January 30, 2016 | Reply

    • The only nightclub i recall in Korat was “The Little Thai Hone.” At least I think that was the name. Great days gone by.

      Comment by Jules Bosch | January 30, 2016 | Reply

      • There was also a Happy Home, so I was told.

        Comment by BobM | June 4, 2016

  18. I delivered generators by truck to Phu Mu many times in 1967-68. There was a rumor going around if you got VD more then twice thats where you were sent to finish out your term. If you were there then you knew that was the worst place in Thailand to be. Phu Mu no but Bangkok yes as thats were I now live 6 months a year.

    Comment by Lee Roth | June 10, 2016 | Reply

  19. Was a 31M40 NCOIC at Camp Ruan Chit Chai in 1968-69. was a wild time just a whole in the jungle. We had a VHF shot to Phu Kheio “Camp Cloudy”. Lots of alerts during that time but very little information given to us. Was an engineer camp mostly building roads. I was assigned to no one at the camp so myself and my operators were on our own, like TDY. Good duty except being out in the boonies with very few comforts, but was a war going on after all. Our Korean era equipment worked pretty well for a short radio shot. We battled sand and mold in the equipment like most did. Those TRC-24s used tubes the size of coke bottles and got really HOT!. We Sawadee Kup……….. Company B 442Bn. 29th Signal Group 1st Signal Brig. StratCom.

    Comment by James Kilgore (Sgt. E-5) | June 14, 2016 | Reply

    • Use to go up to Camp Cloudy often knew the site chief there “Joe Bradley” as I remember and a guy named Terry Smith.

      Comment by James Kilgore | July 16, 2016 | Reply

  20. Enjoyed your story. I served in the USAF 1965th Communications Squadron (AFCS) at Don Muang RTAB in Bangkok 1966-1967 and also served on a special detail to support President Johnson’s 1966 visit. I worked on TRC-24 equipment among others, including tropospheric scatter equipment. We used TRC-24 to link Air Force One to downtown Bangkok where the President was staying. We setup in an abandoned tower at the Bangkok airport and I got to witness the Presidents arrival and initial meeting with the King of Thailand. The First Lady and the Queen were also present.

    Comment by Rich Peterson | May 19, 2017 | Reply

    • Hey, Rich, thanks for the contact. So now I know where one of those TRC-24 flyswatter antenna on the palace grounds were pointed – to AirForce 1. Neat.

      Comment by calbillstravnstuff | May 19, 2017 | Reply

  21. I was at Camp Cloudy and later the Thai Army base in Sakorn Nakorn… April 68 – April 69… started with the 55th Signal Company (HQ Korat)… we were later transfered to the 442… AIT Ft Gordon MOS 72B…

    Frank Gillern

    Comment by Frank GIllern | June 23, 2017 | Reply

  22. I was an ARMY Medic assigned to the 207th Sig Co, Det “E” at Camp Cloudy from Feb or Mar to Oct 1968. I remember that there were about 2 or 3 dozen signal troops and a couple dozen of civilian contractors working for Philco-Ford at Camp Cloudy. Sometimes I would make the 3Ms (mail, milk and movies) run to the airstrip at Nam Phung Dam near the US Special Forces Camp. My dispensary was the first hooch near the command bunker near the entrance to Camp Cloudy. I would like to hear more from anyone at Camp Cloudy during Mar-Oct 1968.
    Larry COGBURN MOS91B20

    Comment by Larry COGBURN | June 23, 2017 | Reply

  23. We may have been in Udorn at the Thai Army base there at the same time in 1966. I worked in the TRC-90A on the airbase at the end on the runway.

    I did my basic training at Fort Ord in June and July of 1965 and went to Fort Monmouth in New Jersey for advanced training MOS 32E2.

    I did your same route of Bangkok, Korat, and then Udorn. See http://skipharrison.com/Misc/Udorn_Stories.htm

    I wrote it a long time ago in MS Expression and I’ve been too lazy to update it.

    Enjoyed your story.

    Comment by Skip Harrison | September 29, 2017 | Reply


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