Rosenberg was at 29 Palms when I bounced into the station, all of 13,
wanting to get my license. He and several others helped me with code
practice to 5WPM, and administered the Novice exam in '59, so I could be
WV6DZS. Bill Richardson (callsign??) from Odessa TX) was Elmering me with
a 40M transmitter, single-band version of a WRL Globe [Chief or Scout?], a
6AG7 driving a pair of 6125's (12V 807's.) Bill got transferred, I wound
a final tank coil good for probably 15 meters, and had a nice TVI
generator. Never did get on as a Novice. In '60 we got orders to El
Toro, and Don Salisbury there helped me get the Technician license.
camp, ITR and avionics school in Memphis ('64 and '65) I went from El Toro
(H&MS-13) to Iwakuni. Who do I run into there but Bud?
at Division in DaNang has a MARS station. The General here at Wing wants
one too. We're going to clean up and fit out a Mark-32 van and go down
there and run some phone patches for the troops. Don't worry about the
Phantoms or the radar shop, I've got some friends in G-1."
later, my orders were in. We got the van out of Okinawa, cleaned it up,
painted it aluminum (why try to hide with green? We were going to be in a
Wing headquarters area - an old French compound.) A couple of Japanese
carpenters came over from the Iwakuni boat ramp, and measuring with
unmarked wood slats, cut two holes in the van, welded up angle frames, and
slid two (different-make) air conditioners into the frames - they fit with
black-painted plywood over the teletype mounts for a tabletop, with
Plexiglas over that (a place for references.) We stripped the station and
filled up the remaining space with trading goods from ServMart - we were
going to an admin outfit, after all. Bud's fridge, my bike and seabag,
and we were on our way.
from the C-130 on the dusty ramp in DaNang, outside a tin shed that was
the transient terminal, we made our way to the Wing HQ. We were told that
it would be a few weeks before we could situate our station. Bud
disappeared into the Staff Club, and the next day, we had a spot, on the
slab that had once been a garage (sloped on one side) across from the old
French mess-hall. With a canvas fly over the van, and one (never both) of
the A/C's on, it was pretty nice.
started about 3 in the afternoon, and 20 was opening up to our gateway at
NAS North Island (San Diego) at 9 or 10 at night. I had to transfer to
H&MS-11 to the Radar Shop to keep drawing pro-pay, so I'd work the
three-thirty to twelve, ride the bus back around the airfield, get some
mid-rats at the mess-hall, and come back to the station to work the last
half. At 1 or 2 AM, 20 would fizzle out, and 15 would open to Hawaii,
which was great for some of the folks from Kaneohe, with family still
there. It was tolerable for the desperate customers, who couldn't reach
home earlier, since a call from Hawaii was still cheaper and more likely.
that got me were the Hospital Corpsmen over at (was Charlie Med really at
China Beach?) They saw the possibilities and ran with it. We had a EE-8
crank phone (in a green bag) on the bench. Many attempts at a patch ended
with "Moment Operator, sir, are you working? 'click'" but some really
memorable patches came from the HM2's who lined up the listings
bed-by-bed, put the phone on a trolley, and ran it down the line, week
after week. These guys were shot-up, going to be heading to a
hospital, but at least back in the World, and the line that most sticks in
my memory is, "I'm all right, Jeez, they're only holes, Ma! Uh - Over!"
Gen. Bruno Hochmuth had to come see us, and had his picture taken at the
mike. Most of our patches were in person, not over the (somewhat
unreliable) phone system, so customers sat around outside smoking and
shooting the breeze until it was time, and they climbed over the
bottom-door (this van thing used to sit in the bed of a six-by, right?) to
get in, sit down in front of the mike and talk to loved ones.
along a Drake 2B with the S-Line and 30S-1. It turned out the passband
tuning on the Drake could nail a woman's voice on SSB and the sensitivity
was better than the 75S-1. We proved it to ourselves many times, by
swapping the phone plug between the two during a patch.
Many years later now, of course, but even some at the
time, I appreciated the fact that we got people talking to each
other rather than shooting at each other. Even the couples
on the verge of divorce could patch things up in real-time; like the
entire CONEX box of mail that was lost over the side of the ship down in
Cam Rahn Bay (so we heard) became part of the fix-up. "I been writing
every week, Honey, and I don't get any from you, either, then suddenly
it's a bunch all at once." And one divorce that was sort of consummated by
patch; this NCO and his (almost)-ex had just a few loose ends of business
to clear up, and it was Sayonara time. Sad, but it takes all of it
together to make a world. Some come, some go. Some learn. Ham Radio
changed my life so much, I had to get back into it and give a little back.
I teach a little (General upgrade), hold an occasional J-Pole
workshop, serve in the local club (W6KA, Pasadena Radio Club.)