May 19 2003
Ms. Nancy Kott, WZ8C, Editor
P.O. Box #189490
Sacramento, Ca. 95818
I have done half a dozen articles for
QST and over the years have nagged Steve Ford, the Managing Editor, to let
me do a piece on the Vietnam phone patches. During the Vietnam war, I was
in that MARS project deeper than a family man with a big family and a
bigger mortgage, should ever have been.
Steve finally said go ahead, but keep it
short. Well, I couldn't keep it short, and when the thing went to QST back
in 1998, it was 13 pages long - and you guessed it, I got it back - with a
pencil note that said, "I said "SHORT".
In 2001, thinking he might have
forgotten, I sent it in again. He hadn't forgotten. This time his pencil
note was twice as long as his first, and said, "It's too DAM long". So
what you have here Nancy, is the 13 page piece that has been back and
forth twice to QST.
Amateur radio has done some great things
in the last hundred years, and if this Vietnam MARS project doesn't rank
as it's most outstanding, it's certainly one of its very best. It's sad
that today so few amateurs know of this remarkable project.
For ten years, during the Vietnam War,
working against almost impossible odds, radio amateurs maintained a
fragile 9,000 mile communication link that stretched halfway around the
world. Compassionate traffic between service men in Vietnam and their
wives and families in the States, flowed unnoticed over
the North Pole, parts of Siberia,
China, and all of North Vietnam.
The only friendly country it passed over was Canada. After the war, this
MARS project was read into the Congressional Record as one of the finest
humanitarian projects to come out of the Vietnam conflict.
Back in the 1960's, and in the early
days of side band, the government challenged the radio amateurs to devise
a way of running a high volume of phone patch traffic into the States from
Vietnam, half a world away. It's not difficult for an amateur to contact a
station 9,000 miles away. The challenge came in being able to do this day
after day - and in running hundreds of patches at first, and later
This challenge placed before the
amateurs was accepted by a hard core group of “DXers" and they made the
impossible - possible. They DID IT, and to their credit, no one got paid,
there was no glory in it, and they did this, not for a few months, but for
ten - long - years.
I think this is a story worth telling,
and if you agree, one way might be- - -
TO get the thinking of the top people
in the MARS program, I suggest Navy MARS, - and hopefully, get some
illustrations from them, and
TO run the article in two issues of
the magazine. Would be interested to know what you think of this.
Thank you Nancy, and 73
Hugh Tinley, KOGHK, ex Navy MARS,