"Stories from 1969 Phu Lamers"

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Howard Hickman Lou Oshier Richard Drechsler
Ralph Garvey Jim Horton Jose Rivera
Ed Fisher Ed Preston Gary Farrell
Cary "Steve" Shanks Maj Gen (Ret.) Hoover Pat Breheny
Ed Keigwin Richard Dahl N/A

1. HOWARD HICKMAN 9/69 to 4/71

I arrived in Sept. 20, 1969. I saw no action, in the 18 months I was there. I remember only three serious casualties, at Phu Lam: 1) a broken leg playing basketball 2) broken back of a soldier who fell off second story landing of barracks high on L.S.D. 3) Some NCO was playing "Quick Draw McGraw" and shot himself in the foot before pulling his 45 out his holster. They took the 45's away from the NCO's after that.

The concrete barracks already built when I arrived. I guess I was lucky living in the barracks all the time, (except for a two week period when I was holed up in some small Korean Army communications room in Saigon.)

I visited the 1st Signal Brigade HQs a few times. I remember the EM Club was across the street on the second floor. The EM club at Phu Lam was expanded, I think, when I was there.To this day, every time I hear the Animals song "We've got to get out of this Place", I have flash backs to that EM Club and the Philippine bands. At the chorus "Work, Work, Work", all the shortimers would stand up and show a small gap between their thumbs and forefingers and yell "Short, Short, Short!"

My MOS was 72B20. I pushed a lot of tape. When it backed up it was all over the floor. Remember wrapping in a loop between your little finger and thumb? I remember having to memorize the alphabet by the position of the holes is the paper tape, when the printers weren't working.

I didn't mind those 12 hour days, because it was air conditioned in that relay room!!!! Eventually I got a position in a side room, compiling stats. "M&R" (Method and Results). My greatest thrill was to be selected as courier when one of the circuits went down. Sometimes by jeep...sometimes I got picked up by helicopter, to escort the "secret" messages. It was during the courier runs that I took a lot of pictures of Phu Lam from the air.

I developed the pictures at the Photo Dark Room (just beyond the medical Quonset hut). There was a craft area next to the dark Room. I made a leather wrist watch band there. I remember some of the Phu Lam Relay circuits. RUMU was our relay station. Others were RUMUBHA, RUMUTHA, etc..... for .... Bien Hoa, Tra Lang, Sa Dec, Vinh Long, Can Tho, My Tho, Tay Ninh, etc. "5x5" sometimes....."garbled other times"...........

Other Phu Lam memories:
Big portions of half melted ice cream, all you can eat.
Pay Day poker games. The night before pay day one could play poker on credit up to and including your pay check the following day. I went to bed before they finished, but I always knew the following morning who the big winners were. They would be the first through the pay line and then wait outside the exit door of the payroom to collect their winnings from the losers. One G.I. re-upped for a full 6 years, just to get his MOS bonus to pay his gambling debt. (I think 72B had the highest re-up bonus)

The Motor Pool's dog mascot was either drunk or hungover. They gave him nothing but beer to drink. How did the dogs we kept know to bark at all the Vietnamese, but not the G.I.s?

Next to the Motor Pool's barracks was the Medical Quonset hut. I heard tell that the VD rate in Phu Lam was over 100%.. enough GIs got it more than once than us who didn't get it.

The cost of the mixed drinks in the EM Club were 25 cents. I took that opportunity to experiment with all types of combinations. That's why rum and orange juice is now my drink of choice. I still have a couple of 10 cent Mess chits. You bought them in booklet and tore them out.

Case of regular beer (Flagstaff, etc.) was $2.40. The "premium beer" was $3.00/ case.

The Huey choppers overhead....to this day, every time I hear those thump,thump,thumps, I remember.

The flares in the night sky. It helped me awake in the guard tower at night. No matter what time of night, you could see at least one somewhere in the distance.

I remember hearing that one short slim guy, fired one night from the guard tower... Story was that he was high on L.S.D. and shot at the imaginary enemy.

One of my buddies was Larry Back. (Afterwards he lived in Ohio and I visited him a few years later, but have since lost track of him). He worked at the Overseas Switchboard at Phu Lam. Many traded favors to call home (the World).

Those whisk brooms that the mamasans would use to sweep up the common areas. And for a few cents you could get one to sweep your area and polish your boots.

The mosquito nets hanging over each bunk in the barracks. Now matter how hard you tried to tuck in the netting, one mosquito would get in.

Showing films in the evening on the side of one of the barracks. (perhaps that was before they built the expanded EM Club.)

Those cyclo rides!!. Screaming down the congested roads, weaving through traffic. Sometimes racing home to beat the curfew after the bars closed, drunk as a skunk. Definitely an "E" ride. The driver didn't care because he was behind with protection, but the GI was up front and vulnerable.

Guard duty. We reported just after diner. We stood in formation and got our assignments. Hoping to get assigned "supernumero". Two hour shifts. At night, if not in a tower, we slept in a room full of bunks, until we got awakened, put on our jackets and helmets and off to the tower.

I still exchange Christmas cards with my buddy Richard Lujano of Kansas. We arrived in Nam on the same plane. Lost contact with Mike Lebouef of Houma, LA.

I hung around with the drinking crowd. There were many cliques....I didn't hangd with the smokers. The back side of the barracks always seemed to smell of burning marijuana.

Stan Tavares of Fresno CA. was another buddy. He and I went together to Sydney for R&R. I remember him spending hours and hours at Phu Lam drawing "X"s and "O"s for football formations. He has been a turned out to be football coach up and down the West Coast I recently spoke to him in 1997.

I remember the standard routine for my buddies each month. I didn't remember participating in it, but I just checked by ration card and some of my cigarette rations are punched out (I don't smoke).....Take a cyclo to the Cholon PX. Buy all the cigarettes (6 cartons) and beer (3 cases) on our ration cards. Walk out the front door. Get into one of those tiny taxi cabs. Drive once around the block. Get out with beaucoup "Pi" (Spelling?), leaving the beer and cigarettes inside. The word was that it was not legal, but really not a major offense. However, selling US currency (at 3 times official rate) was a supposedly a big No-No.

I remember a E-6 who worked out of the third or fourth Company HQ, counting from the south, (I guess that would be Co. C or Co. D.) Anyway, he was caught by Investigations for getting U.S. currency mailed to him from home and then selling it on the black market. I though it was a major offense, but I apparently it wasn't because I ran into him about a year later. He was still a E-6, in charge of the EM/NCO club on our base in Karlsruhe, Germany in 1971. Remember his face, but have forgotten his name.

I remember the Lifers and Officers living in the smaller one story barracks. However, it was an open base and many GIs lived in Saigon/Cholon and commuted to work. $100 got you your own room and your own mamasan for a month.

I remember the Manual Tape Station closing down for awhile, when I was there. Many of us weregiven other duties. I distinctly remember "make work" assignments, such as sweeping the gravel off of the paved road in the compound.

I also spent some days in the Korean communications center in Saigon. I asked to be transferred to the Autodin. I remember the trauma of going in the CO's office and asking to be transferred, explaining that I had taken computer courses at Univ. Calif. Berkeley. But my request was denied.

Towards the end of the tour, I remember a couple of "attacks" on our Orderly Room, Co. A. One night someone threw a molotov cocktail on the roof, but it rolled off, with no damage. And then being told that someone put a grenade wrapped with rubber bands in a coffee can of gasoline placed under a generator or air conditioner of the Orderly Room. Apparently, someone was trying to get back at the First Sergeant. Anyone remember that?

Ex- Phu Lamer Bill Seater discovered that the U.S. Army made a film of the Signal Corps operation in Vietnam in 1966!!!!

It gives an overview of our mission in Viet Nam. It gives the official answer to the question, "So what did you do in the war, Daddy" (Or Grandad).

"The U.S. Army Communications in Vietnam" film is 16 minutes long. It shows footage of Phu Lam, both outside and inside the communication buildings. It also shows footage of communication installations in Vung Tau, Dalat (Long Binh Mt), Monkey Mt, Danang, Nah Trang and Saigon. It also shows a few communications personnel at work at each of those installations.

It is a great film for those that want to remember how it was. I obtained a video tape of the film from a company that sells old military films. (The video contains 3 other U.S. Army Viet Nam films). It is rather expensive.... $45, including tax and postage. If anyone wants the address, I'll forwarded it to you. Alternatively, I will make a free copy from my video tape for anyone who desires it. All I ask is that you send me a blank tape, and I'll dupe the 16 minute portion related to our work in Vietnam.
Howard Hickman

Excerpts from letters I sent from Phu Lam to my grandmother.
Howard Hickman

Sept 12, 1969:
I am finally stationed at my duty station, here at Phu Lam, less than ten miles south of Saigon. The last week and a half, I have spent processing, meeting mandatory shipping formations, on details, and a little traveling in between. When I arrived in Oakland, I was put on Stand-by status, not knowing when I would ship. I finally was put on a flight to Ben Hoa, Viet Nam, with stopovers in Alaska and Japan. From Ben Hoa, I went to Long Binh, then to Phu To, and finally to here - Phu Lam. The building I which I stayed in Phu To reminded me very much of France. It is the rainy season now. Intermittent sprinkles and cloud bursts day and night.....A shortage of personnel here cause long working hours. Right now, all work 12 hours a day,seven days a week. My address is Co.A, Phu Lam Sig. Bn. (Tape) APO San Francisco 96243.

Sept 18, 1969

.....At first, I didn't think I would like my job here. Everybody said they were working 12 hrs a day, and sometimes not getting their one day off a week. They said it was real tiresome standing up for 12 hrs a day, and every other month working the night shift 6pm - 6am. Luckily, the sergeant put me into the Methods & Results section, and now everybody is envious of me. I have a desk job 7:30 am - 5:00 pm days only. I compile statistics of the daily message traffic and write up reports and analyses Unfortunately, this relay station is being phased out, and I will be transferred to a relay station at Long Binh. If I had my druthers, I would rather stay as this base, despite its size (only 300 men) It has as many facilities & comforts as anywhere in Viet Nam. Some of the are: indoor plumbing, hot & cold running water, & showers, large swimming pool, a very relaxing, air-conditioned library, fabulous EM club, with a live band once a week, an outdoor theater with the latest movies shown five nights a week, basketball & tennis court, and located within 10 miles of all the action in Saigon.

Oct 23, 1969

...I have it pretty easy now. The Phu Lam communications center is phasing out now. Very few messages are being passed now - 2,500 a day compared to 7,000 a day, when I first got here.

Nov 17, 1969

...The communications center closed down completely on November 3rd. Since then, we have beenon detail (filling sand bags, painting, sweeping streets). This Friday we will be released from this company. Most of us will be probably assigned to the automatic switching center (Autodin) also located at Phu Lam Sig. Bn. There are about 15 dogs that live on base. They are fed scraps from the mess hall and sometimes food from the E.M. Club. An interesting fact I've noted that living with Americans, the dogs will, without any training, bark at any Oriental (e.g., the Vietnamese plumber, that comes on base.) They instinctively become good watch dogs.

Jan 7, 1970

....I'm working with the Koreans now, at the Korean Army Headquarters in Saigon. When the communication center closed down, the Army put me in the nearest vacancy regardless of my training. I'm an "advisor" at a technical control center. Normal Army training is over a year of training in the States!! Here, I do not know anything about this job, and the Army puts me in a job as "advisor" to others! Fortunately there is only one circuit (Saigon-Seoul) and there is very little to do. Since we have 6 G.I.s assigned there, I'm on only 2 twelve-hour shifts per week - or 5 days off a week. The communication center will start up again later this month...I've been here about 4 months now, I still can't get over, all the accommodations at Phu Lam - barracks, overhead fans, TV, movies every night, live entertainment every week, swimming pool, library.

Jan 30, 1970

...The communications center has reopened, and I'm back at the same job I had before - the Methods & Results clerk. Last week an Australian band played here at Phu Lam. They were better than the Philippines bands that usually play here. I didn't attend one Bob Hope Christmas Shows, but I did see it live on TV. Next week, we will be restricted to post, due to Tet. Normally we can go down to Saigon every day between 7 am - 10 pm. The army provides bus service every hour, but its fun to ride the cycolos. Sometimes several of us will go together on separate cycolos and get the drivers to race. Racing down Saigon streets, at break neck speed, passing all other vehicles is quite an experience, especially when you're up front on a cycle. I have a friend who works on the overseas switchboard at Phu La. He can put me through for free! I think one of the main reasons that the moral is so high hat Phu Lam is that anyone here can call, anywhere and anyone in the world from here, most any day. I feel very ashamed sometimes when I think of all the things I have at Phu Lam, compared to those out in the field.

Feb 13, 1970

...I haven't had a chance to go out and mingle among the natives yet. Our passes are restricted to Saigon and to Cholon, a large suburb on this side of Saigon. There is a village just outside of the post, but it is off-limits to U.S. personnel. We pass through it on the way to the rifle range. I've signed up for a twelve-day NCO course, which will be probably be out in the boonies. Also, I have trying to get a courier run in a helicopter, when one of our circuits goes down. None of the troops here listen closely to any troop withdrawals, because they know that it would affect us very little. If only 10, 000 U.S. troops were to remain, Phu Lam Sig. Bn would still be at full strength.

April 8, 1970

...I have only 5 months left in my obligatory tour. I've decided to apply for an extension of 6 months here. I'm not sure my application will be granted, though. Due to the troop reduction, the 1st Signal Brigade is over strength by 5,000 and Phu Lam has 200 too many. So, at present they are approving very few extensions....We haven't much rain here - only about five times in the last five months. However, we will get more than our a share, when the monsoon season comes in about month or so from now....Four of my buddies and I pooled our resources and purchased a refrigerator and an electric frying pan. We keep the refrigerator stocked full of drinks and whenever one of us gets a package from home, we use the frying pan and share it among us. It's a good break from the mess hall food. Although the quality of the Army chow isn't too bad, it's the fact the Army has only ten to fifteen different meals and after seven months, a change of pace is sure appreciated. My new address for Phu Lam is Co.A, S.I.G.S.U.P.A. Phu Lam, APO S.F. 96243.

Dec 10, 1970

...Thank you for the comic strips "Tumbleweeds." Many times it shows problems in communications (tom-tom or smoke signal) and is so similar to the problems in our communication center. I cut it out put it up on the bulletin board and everybody enjoys reading the satire. I'm leaving for Sydney on Dec 15th for a seven-day R &R. I applied to go during Christmas, but as usual, what a soldier requests and what the Army says are rarely the same.

Jan 5, 1970 ...We had a little excitement at our communications center relay for the first time. With thirty different stations, our relay depends on an elaborate data processing system. When we receive a message from one of our stations, we feed it into the common receive unit of the automatic system. The equipment will automatically send it to the station it is supposed to go to. Briefly then, due to the volume of messages we are solely dependant on this equipment. Last week, the equipment broke down. Maintenance men form all over Viet Nam tried to fix it. It is now operating but it wasn't working for a whole week. Our usually quiet relay became crowded with officers scratching their heads, trying to figure what to do with the messages that kept stacking up at Phu Lam.

Feb 16, 1971

...I've been over here for sixteen months and nothing happened and then two months to go I have to break my ankle. I was running around the base for exercise and I fell into a hole, that I didn't see in the dark. The doctor put a cast on my leg and it will remain on until March. Hopefully it will be completely healed when I return to the States in April.

End of excerpts of letters.

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2. LOU OSHIER Apri 69 to April 70
Lou Oshier at Phu Lam from 18 April 69 to 3 April 70
Cam Ranh Bay 7 Oct 67 to 19 Sept 68

I worked at the transmitter building that was behind your com-center under the big tower. The transmitter site was originally built by the French and was used for their communications when they were in Vietnam and it was also used as an AM radio station according to the Vietnamese Radio technician that was working with us. I was a SSG and worked as a 32c40 Fixed station transmitter repairman supervisor.

I remember fishing in the rice paddies behind the tropo Antennas facing the Buddhist temple There was a guard tower there also. I also remember riding a cyclo from downtown to Phu Lam with a movie camera running will have to see what kind of shape the film is in. The club and the Pool were in full operation in 69-70 . The 2 story buildings were completed and for the first month I was there I was in charge of the sand bag detail making the bunkers around the conex containers between the 2 story barracks and setting up claymores in the rice paddies. We filled so many sand bags we ran out of sand and had to go about ten mile away to fill the bags.

I remember the chapel when I was there we use to have a French priest come and say mass .

One of my extra duties while I was at Phu Lam was to serve on the Board of Directors of the Phu Lam Mess association which was responsible for running the clubs . We had three clubs the one at Phu Lam , Regional Comm Group on the roof and one at the Long Binh Receiver site. We use to review the bands to see if we would book them into the clubs.

I also remember all the palm tree planted around the New barracks . I guess some general was coming and they wanted it to look nice. They would plant then and at night when the club closed they would get knocked over or pulled out next day they would re-plant them .

Some good duty I had was being sent TDY from Phu Lam to Korea to set up a transmitter site and train Korean transmitter Repairman that lasted for 2 months. We had a Korean transmitter site on Plantation Road we also supported so spent a lot of time on the road.

I didn't go to the EM club much we had an NCO club over near the NCO Barracks Spent most of my time there Drinking OJ AND RUM and playing Cards. Camp was kind of split in two groups ,guys sitting on the sand bags behind the new barracks smoking dope and the rest in the club getting juiced and nobody cared as long as you did your work and didn't cause any trouble.

I am really bad with names its been a long time I remember one Sgt. we had who use to sleep with his eyes wide open. I thought the guy was dead the first time I saw him. Had this other guy who use to own a hobby shop in the world and use to fly remote control Model planes.

Around July 69 we took a couple of rounds they landed between the new barracks and the club I think they were trying to hit the club or the pool. I was on R & R in Sydney then. I do remember " I want to get out of this place" and being short.

Do any of you guys ever go to The MACV compound they had a huge pool there and a golf course. Was kind of lucky I always worked nights and could lay in the sun all day. Nam wastough.

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3. RICHARD DRECHSLER 4/69 to 3/70

I think I was stationed at Phu Lam about April 69 to March 70 when I was rotated to Pirmasens Germany ( I was RA). It was such a long time ago, 29 years, that I can't remember my company. Think I was in Bravo company. I remember my old 1st Sgt very well. Sgt Alvin Bryant. I believe he was in 3 wars. I wonder if he is still around. I also had a buddy, Charlie Kelly from Philadelphia. I haven't heard of him since 'Nam.

I remember I was assigned to the fixed STA transmitter site. Later I was an S.P. and was in charge of the front gate. I was also assigned to the ROK's sig company in Cholon for a few months. I was also on a special guard detail. My last month I remember being on two hrs on and four hrs off. I did this detail for almost four weeks until I got my orders for Germany. I remember being chewed out by one of General Reienze's aid for not wearing my steel pot. The General spotted us when he was flying in from his chopper.

While I was at Phu Lam I think there were two rocket attacks. The one I remember most was early in my tour and it landed just in front of my barracks at night about 10 ft. from where I was sleeping.

Yours Truly
Richard Drechsler
9 Fern Terrace
West Babylon NY 11707 8103

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4. RALPH GARVEY 7/69 to 3/71

I was in Phu Lam several times when I was with USASTRATCOM Regional Communications Group Viet Nam I.C.S. Operations. Between July 1969 and Mar 1971.
I was going through a 1993 veterans Directory for Bell Atlantic North ( NYNEX ) and found the names of four Phu Lam Signal Battalion members.

Richard L Drechsler SP-5 1969 - 1970
Richard A Miskovsky SP- 4 1968 - 1969
Bob Poznauski SP-4 1968 - 1969
George F Reichert SP-4 1967 - 1968
I don't have e-mail addresses for them but I do have the work address and phone numbers.

Ralph L Garvey (32D20TH)
Trick Chief RCGRVN ICS Operations 1969 - 1971

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5. Capt. JIM HORTON Jun'69 to Dec'69

I was in Phu Lam 6/69-12/69. I was a Captain at the time and was in charge of the microwave radio site there. It had the overseas switchboard and tech control. If you made any calls home, it was thru my site. Don't have time now to dig out pictures and records to pass on names, etc. I will be happy to participate though.

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6. JOSE RIVERA 7/69 to 12/69

From: Tri J1@cs.com
Yes it's true V.D was very popular with many of the guys, some of them were frequent flyers, in fact we had a few officers who made midnite calls to the Med hut.I was at Phu Lam , from July 69 till Dec 69, when I was assigned to the 2/16 th Inf. Bn. as a Platoon Medic.I am currently living in Orlando Florida, enjoying the sunshine. I hope that we all continue to remember our fallen fellow warriors.
From The Papa Bear

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7. ED FISHER 5/69 to 12/69

I arrived at Phu Lam in May 1969 retrained from a 26L20 "microwave repairman" to a 32D20. I spent my entire tour working 6:00pm to 6:00am in the Transmitter / EE building.

I remember the Asian technicians that worked there. I think there were two. They worked in the transmitter room mostly and I worked in the VF equipment room on the other end of the building.... I'm so glad to here that Mr. Taoi is safe. There was another civilian advisor from the UK that also worked in the RF room.

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8. ED PRESTON 7/69 to 7/70

I was in the Phu Lam Signal Battalion from July, 1969 to July of 1970. I started out as the Bn. Operations Officer and moved to the Bn. XO position for my last five months.

I don't have many "big" memories of :Phu Lam. A 122mm rocket came down in the street between the EM club and the barracks about a week or two before I arrived. An 8" howitzer round landed in the mud behind the officers club one night. The most exciting thing that happened was a fire in the cable trench of the power house between the Transmitter building and the Autodin Building. It put the Autodin on battery power for about 5 hours which surprised us all since the UPS was only rated for about 1 hour carrying Autodin. Then again, there are secret stories about the shenanigans of the JOSS operators and how they managed to come up with crates and crates of lobster every time C Company had a picnic. My worst nightmare of the whole tour there was being assigned as an investigating officer for an inventory variance at the Saigon PX Depot. It turned into a six months investigation of massive losses of inventory over years.

The biggest technical event I can remember during Jul69 to Jul70 was a JOSS outage that began when a 600 pair cable laid underground between the Tropo Scatter bldg and the JOSS building began to take on water. It was in the middle of the Monsoon so I would think it was about Dec69 or Jan-Feb70. We began to have individual JOSS circuits go out, one at a time, about 1:00 one afternoon. By 6:00 we had about 30 out with no explanation. By midnight most of the in-country circuits to JOSS were out. Toward morning we began to suspect the underground cable and began to pump the water out of the man hole outside the Tape Relay building. It took hours to get the water down below the cable splice case so we could examine it. We found the splice case to be full of water so we kept pumping to keep the water down for two days while we respliced the cable and resealed the case. When we brought it back up, only some of the circuits came back in. With much twiddling we got some more to come up. It took about four more days to get all the circuits back in. It turned out that there was also a heavy, external ground cable that had been run through the underground conduit to connect the frame ground in the Tropo building to the frame ground in the JOSS. That ground cable had also been broken. Even though both buildings had a deep ground of their own, we found that there was about 8 ohms of resistance in the real ground between the buildings so without the interconnecting ground cable, things didn't work too well. When we fixed that and then went through and cleaned and decorroded every ground connection in both buildings, the circuits began to come back. In all, we had all in-country JOSS circuits out for about 36 hours and many of them out for almost five days. It was the biggest Comm. outage we had while I was there. We had half of the staff of 1st Sig Bde down there watching everything that went on, including Tom Rienzi.

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9. GARY FARRELL 8/69 to 11/69

I was in Phu Lam in 1969. Actually, I was a member of an artillery unit that was billeted there but served about twenty miles south of Phu Lam at the Binh Dinh Bridge. Hence, the truck that picked us up and took us back and forth each morning and night.

I was with the Capital Military Assistance Command (CMAC) whose job it was to protect Saigon. We had artillery observers and radar sites all around Saigon. Two of the groups were billeted at Phu Lam. My group worked at the Binh Dinh Bridge. My specific job was as an artillery observer who spent the nights trying to find rocket sights that fired on the city.

My unit was at Phu Lam for at least a year, from late 1968 to about November or December 1969. I was there from about August, 1969 to November.

Also, we had a monkey at Phu Lam. It was a filthy beast. One of our drivers owned it. The C.O. made him get rid of it after a few weeks because it was so dirty. The C.O. did not want it in the barracks. It was taken out to the bridge and chained to a tower support. Next day it was gone.

If you would like to read the poem that I wrote that refers to Phu Lam, it is "Shakespeare in the Morning" posted at: http://homepages.go.com/~lgfd/Poems.htm

The movie referred to in the poem was Franco Zefferelli's "Romeo & Juliet" which I saw there. I remember the E.M. club with its slots and burgers and juke box (Whenever I hear Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man", the Beatles "Get Back" or "Nowhere Man" I think of the E.M. club at Phu Lam.).
Shakespeare in the Morning
The heat rose with the Eastern sun That burnt off the night mist and morning fog,
While we waited by the river's run
And listened to the barking dogs.
When the truck arrived, a man jumped out
And climbed the ladder above the bridge.
During the day but a single lookout
Was needed from Saigon to the Northern ridge.
We six climbed aboard, weary, sweaty,
Dirty from the night, the heat, the fear.
Thirty minutes it took to Phu Lam,
Time enough for the tension to clear. The club there showed a movie each morning at eight.
It was filled with those who worked and fought
And now sought a moment's peace from the war
That was always there, always everywhere.
The men were loud and coarse, some profane.
But then, gentlemen and scholars were deferred.
When the lights went off and we saw the name,
A groan arose at the famous word.
"Romeo & Juliet" was at Phu Lam
But the troops did not approve.
Yet when the story there began,
All of us were deeply moved.
Even the roughest, even the toughest,
Knows of love, a soldier not least.
Indeed, he perhaps knows best
How strife doth spoil love's feast.
The movie played, the silence was deep.
Cheeks were wet, with perspiration of course,
And not a single trooper fell asleep.
When the lovers perished, we returned to the war.

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10. CARY "STEVE" SHANKS 2/69 to 70

I arrived at Phu Lam on Feb. 2, 1969, and was assigned to C Company. I worked in the Traffic Service Section of the ADMSC (Automatic Digital Message Switching Center). I operated an IBM 360-20/20 and various Cryptographic equipment..

I recall an event where a soldier at Phu Lam killed a Cobra (Snake) with a bayonet, pinning it to the inside wall of the Personnel Sections' outside storage area. I also remember the bus runs to the Capitol Hotel in the Cho Lon suburb of Saigon, as well as buying flower necklaces from vietnamese kids on the streets and long, french bread type submarine sandwiches from street vendors. They were always a treat. Back at the base, I remember the outdoor movies (bring your own folding chair and mosquito repellant - if you were lucky enough to have any) and the hoards of mosquitoes that we sometimes referred to as the "North Vietnamese Air Force". I also remember when our wells at Phu Lam caved in and we had no water for showers. When it rained, everyone gabbed their wash cloths and soap and ran outside, butt-ass naked, wearing only dog tags and shower tongs or Ho-Chi-Minh Sandals, and took their showers, standing under the eaves of the barracks, catching the water as it ran off the roofs. That was a sight to see! Thankfully, new wells got put in relatively soon. I also seem to remember that one of the two water- tanker trucks flipped over early one morning, hauling water back to Phu Lam when the wells were out. It seems that I heard the two tank-truck drivers were racing and one failed to negotiate a curve, at least that's the way I heard it at the time! Also, I recall being on Guard Duty in one of the Towers on the opposite side of the compound from the barracks. It was the 3rd of July, 1969. A little after midnight, now the 4th, flares started going up on the other side of the barracks, close to the far perimeter. It scared the crap out of me, because I thought we were being infiltrated or attacked. I was finally able to find out later, thru the Officer of the Day, that it was only some GI's celebrating by shooting off flares from the second story balconies or landings.

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One of my fondest memories of Phu Lam occurred when the security commander of the Saigon area paid a visit to Phu Lam to make a security inspection. He arrived by helicopter and about the time he hit the ground I called an alert. Everyone hit the ground running and our defenses were manned in minutes. When the guy left he told me that Phu Lam was the safest place in the Saigon area! If things had really gotten tough around Saigon, he probably would have shown up on our door step!

I had an interesting introduction to the RCG since I took command on the 1st of April 1969, and on the 1st of May I had to conduct an hour long briefing on the Brigade commander, General Tom Rienzi, on the performance of the group for the January-March quarter under the preceding commander. At the end of the briefing I told Rienzi that I had difficulty understanding what was going on since it seemed to me like just about every day I would get a message from DCA saying we had just sent a new record for AUTODIN Switch performance, or satellite terminal availability and I knew that the IWCS was operating at about 99.9 percent availability, and yet every day or so I would get a report as a result of a visit from a member of his staff and those reports were always negative.

Gen Rienzi went back to Long Binh and that evening I got a call from his Chief of Staff who wanted to know what in the world I had told the General! He reported that he had been ordered to have a memo on the desk of everybody in Brigade Hqs before morning that directed that if they couldn't report something good about the RCG they should make no report!

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12. PAT BREHENY 7/69-6/70

+ MAC "C" day, with all the women at the fences literally giving their MPC away + being the top secret crypto office for the largest crypto account in RVN (and knowing nothing about crypto - thank God for good NCOs and warrant offices) + serving as the front bumper of the three wheel "taxis" + copying audio tapes at the Tan San Nhut (sp?) Air Force base on the half-day a week I had off from duty, + touring the "Generals only" Officers Club at Long Bin (and being stopped by the MPs for taking pictures) + checking the guard towers as officer of the day (night) and getting no response from the guard, climbing up the tower and taking his rifle and still did not awakening him - I can only image how he felt when he woke up without the rifle. + my first hair cut in the post barber shop and the "neck twist' by the local VN barber - thought he was trying to break my neck + being investigating officer on a stolen 50 cal. machine gun., base plate and all - this must have weighed over a 100 pounds; cost the Army about $300 and had a black market value of over $10,000 + having to wear gloves and a coat in the ASC because there was no way to reset the temperature - it must have been 50 degrees inside and 100 degrees outside!!! etc., etc., etc.

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13. ED KEIGWIN 1/69-12/69

I served in Phu Lam all of 69 in security as a desk Sgt. and on the roving patrol, I will always remember walking around the base in the middle of the night the wildass bus rides with all the drunks from town and the phone call from the Col. this is hotel 1 sound the alert.

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14. RICHARD DAHL 4/69-10/69

I came into Phu Lam under most unusual circumstances in APR of 1969, leaving for the states in OCT 1969. While I worked in AUTODIN, I was also in Phu Lam Security. What I did no one even the Bde commander knew until the day I left, and I left in a hurry. The commander referred too me as a "SPY," parting words were, "One thing I do not need is a SPY within this installation." On the day this conversation took play, I had just returned to the site after being kidnapped in Saigon and my captors were waiting out side the site, on the main road, waiting for me to deliver one of our soldiers into their arms. Had I done that, one Phu Lamer from York, PA. would never have made it back to the states alive. I had saved this Phu Lamers body only about a month before during a shoot out in Cholon PX area. Saigon CID and I ran a joint effort that day. My Phu Lam buddy, who was visiting me a few days ago, could have been killed had I not jerked his feet out from under him knocking him to the ground as the bullets whizzed by. I got my buddy out of the area and line of fire. After it was over, CID took their jeep as I took the guilty Phu Lamer back to Phu Lam. Nothing was ever mentioned about the incident. So, When I got kidnapped, I had to inform the Bde Commander right away because the Company Commander was a bit dense and disliked me to the point where I was awarded no medals, citations, or promotions while at Phu Lam. He was frustrated with all the turn down of paperwork against me once it hit Long Binh. What he did not know at the time was that while at Long Binh, I not only worked my MOS, but I was also on loan to the Military Police and was incharge of the Long Binh Security Police, separate from CID.

A driver was driving us to the M60 firing range so AUTODIN troops could learn to fire hit and attach and detach barrels. This was the biggest weapon we had within the AUTODIN for protection, not to mention what Crypto had. Anyway, the drive was trying to turn the bus around on a paddy dike and the Lt. asked him if he knew what he was doing. The kid stopped the bus and said, "Sir, who is in charge of this bus, me or your?", the Lt. backed off, but we were all very apprehensive about the driver. He got the bus half turned around then the dike caved away dropping the back of the bus into the paddy, raising the front end into the air. We gathered our equipment and went on to the firing range by foot and did our thing. By the time we were ready to leave, the bus was ready to take us back. Driver and the Lt. did not talk all the way back to Phu Lam. The driver had a tough time living this down.

Anyway, it took me a two months working in AUTODIN to finally get the CO so mad at me he put me on permanent security guard duty; a place that I was trying to secure because of the time it gave me to check out various things I could not do while in AUTODIN functions.

One critical thing that happened at Phu Lam was the theft of our 50Cal mounted in a bunker to protect the AUTODIN building should our troops exit during an attack. I figured how and who did the deed. They put a new LT. in charge of finding out. He was getting nowhere until he talked to me on the QT. I never saw his full report. Then there was the night of Jane Fonda movie called "Barbarella". We got shelled right after the movie. A lot of strange things happened, thankfully no one was hurt although one guy sleeping out doors on his mattress had the mattress sliced in half horizontally. Scared the H... out of him; rightfully so. The CQ was leaning his chair against the outside of the orderly room and was knocked to the ground. One club girl was so scared she had a heart attack (the only causality) but lived.

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