Navy-Marine Corps MARS in Vietnam


Original Cover letter to World Radio

May 19 2003


Ms. Nancy Kott, WZ8C, Editor


P.O. Box #189490

Sacramento, Ca. 95818

Dear Nancy:

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 Canada, 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 thousands.

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, NNNOHFO