Navy-Marine Corps MARS in Vietnam

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Lovers, Dancers and Drinkers

I was a MARS operator when I returned from Nam (19 months with 1st Mar Div).  At N0RTW Sgt Jim Kuhl from Montana, Cpl John "Chris" Christianson from Minnesota and SSgt Doug Thomas, oh yeah and John Horton from Texas were there at first.  Let's see, I got back in the world and stationed in Barstow in April of '70.  Pulled some time in the Repair Facility, then coached on the range.  I think about mid-August is when I went to N0RTW.  Funny, when I was in-country I really didn't know about MARS.  Got there in early '68. Was officially with 1st MARDIV Comm (Radio Relay), but mostly had teams out with the regiments and battalions. Spent time with 5th, 7th, 11th (An Hoa, Phu Bai, Hill 55, Hill 10, LZ Baldy, FSB Ross, Marble Mountain).  Some time with the Koreans and ARVNs also. I think the MARS station was on the way up the hill by division HQ. Hill 244? Anyway, once I started at RTW, I called my Marines in Nam and we set up patches from the teams, to division, to the MARS Ops at Division (N0EFD) to us in Barstow and out to the world whenever we could.  Once we got all the logistics figured out we tried to do it a couple of times a week and let the grunts know and use the service.  Lots of good people, both military and civilian in the organization.  We did daily work with a retired Navy Captain (Glen Glascock) in Denver, a lady just south of Chicago (Yolanda Weisshappel) as well as the military stations.  On Sundays, some Hams would take our patches.  They worked for one of Howard Hughes' outfits and the company paid for the calls (N0JPJ Fullerton).  Also, sometimes the phone company operators would tell us after a patch session was over, "This one was on us" or "These calls were a present from Ma Bell."  The ARRL held it's annual conference in Las Vegas (don't remember if it was late '70 or in '71).  Anyway we got to go set up a station in the lobby of the Tropicana Hotel.  Phil Harris and others came over and talked to the guys in Nam and we ran patches. We got "comps" to just about the whole town.

 We (Jim & Chris) also went out to the San Fernando area after the Sylmar earthquake in Feb of '71, set up patches and sent MARSgrams for people so they could let friends and family know they were safe.  On the way back to Barstow, was a stop for refreshments at a roadside tavern. Inside, people were walking around whacking each other on the back and calling each other "Old Bastard".  It was soon found out this was because they were all part of the International Order of Old Bastards, started by an Army dude (Bruce Kibbe) in WWII in Australia, then headquartered in Florida.  Well, we gathered all the information we could and before long we had started our own chapter at The Frosted Mug in Daggett CA, a beer bar run by a retired MSgt and his wife (Tom & Margaret Morrison).  We signed up guys all up and down the net and had a big chapter inauguration party in March.  Had people coming from all over.  It was a great time.  Chris got out shortly thereafter, Jim got orders for Okinawa and my 4 year cruise on active duty was up the end of April.  I can still remember the early morning searches for clear frequencies.  Also the joy and sometimes heartbreak and pathos of the phone patches.

They started renaming the stations and we lost RTW (Romeo, Tango, Whiskey - the station of lovers, dancers and drinkers in the middle of the Mojave high Desert!) and became N0MBA.  Too bad.

Dan Borgman WB0ERA    Back to Top