Navy-Marine Corps MARS in Vietnam

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N0EFA Unauthorized in Grenada!

N0EFA rides again…  or the world is really smaller than you think.  A two-part story.

Part 1. 

In late October of 1983 I was stuck at a desk in a small, mostly unknown State Department office in Northern Virginia.  It wasn’t the best Foreign Service assignment I’d ever had, but one afternoon my boss suggested I pack light for a long visit to a tropical place.  I was at Dulles the next morning with a ticket for the first flight to Miami with connections to Barbados.  I checked in at the embassy there and was transported to a great hotel on the beach with orders to be ready to travel at 0400. 

The embassy Burb took five or six of us back to the airport, but we didn’t go to customs.  We climbed aboard a C-130 (did THAT bring back memories!) and strapped into the sling seats with lots of other really confused people.  Once aboard we were briefed… U.S. Army Rangers had captured the airport in Grenada and we were going to set up an embassy.  Huh?  Captured?  From who?  Where? Why? 

The first week was busy.  After a couple of false starts in different locations we managed to lease the Spice Island Inn on the beach in St. Georges.  There were no employees, but each of us had a cabana with it’s own little swimming pool.  No electricity or hot water and more than a few sniper rounds, but the weather was perfect and we became “AMEMBASSY ST. GEORGES”. 

I eventually had time to explore the area, and when I saw the tri-bander on the apartment house, I knew what I had to do.  I convinced the Rangers guarding the apartment house that I needed access to the apartment “where that wire from that big antenna goes”.  I’m sure my official Foreign Service uniform, Hawaiian shirt, Bermuda shorts, tennis shoes and LA Dodgers hat, impressed them.  The suggestion they might be able to call home didn’t hurt, either, because there was no phone service on the island at the time.  The occupants had been evacuated and the place searched, and the doors were unlocked.  I came back about the time I thought the band might be open, fired up the Kenwood in the shack, and prowled around outside the edges of 15 and 20 meters.  It wasn’t too long before I found what I wanted.  Navy ships running phone patches!  I jumped in as “Echo Foxtrot Alpha with phone patch traffic from troops in Grenada” and was immediately answered with “List your traffic”.  I think I ran 10 to 20 calls a night for a week or so from soldiers, sailors, airmen, civilians, and of course, preference was always given to Marines.  Of course there were calls to Delrae, and on the first one I heard the op on the other end asking if she had ever spoken by MARS radio.  When she finally stopped laughing, she said something like, “Why didn’t I know he’d do this?”  And never once was my venerable old call questioned.  I left the owner of the apartment a couple of bottles of rum and a thank you note, but didn’t sign it.  

Initially a platoon from the 2nd Ranger Battalion guarded the embassy.  Great guys.  Watching them get fired up to go out on patrols at night brought back memories.  But they came too close to shooting a few diplomats, so we were sent a contingent of standard issue Marine Security Guards.  I spent a lot of time hanging out with them and got to be good friends with Sgt. “Boze”.  We caught and ate lot of delicious fish and might have consumed a little Spiritus Fermentus together.   

But eventually my vacation in paradise came to an end.  I’d finally been in a war we won but it was time to go home to the snow in Virginia.  I was looking forward to it so much I went up to the comm. center to hear when the bird landed to take me home  (the expression “back to the world” was never used).  I was listening to the navy tactical traffic and heard a great conversation.  No vessels other than military were allowed in the harbor and someone reported, “We have an approximately 36 foot sloop sailing into the harbor.  There is an older man and a woman on board and they are flying the American Flag over a Marine Corps flag.  We’ve warned them off every way we can and have buzzed them with the Tomcats, but they’re coming in anyway.  Please advise.” 

The answer was, “Don’t sink ‘em.  We’ve got enough trouble with the Marine Corps already.” 

My plane arrived and I departed. 

Part 2. 

Several years later Delrae and I (and Tommy) were living in Abidjan, Ivory Coast where I was assigned to the embassy and Delrae worked for USAID.  Of course I was always close to the Marine Security Guards at any embassy, and when a Marine was rotated out we usually threw a party for him.  When his replacement arrived we threw him a party, too.  May sound like a tough job, but we considered our MSGs worth it.  We were expecting a new Marine, but when I walked into the embassy lobby and saw Boze in his dress blues I couldn’t believe it.  It was time for a real party! 

We ate copious quantities of Mexican food made from the finest African ingredients and washed it down with Flag beer.  Boze and I broke out our Grenada pictures and proceeded to explain to everyone how the two of us had captured the entire island by ourselves.  Then Boze asked me if I had been there when that retired Marine Sgt. Major and his wife had sailed in.  He had stayed a week or so and had taken all the Marines sailing and fishing.  I said I hadn’t, but had heard his entrance on the radio.  He pulled out a picture of an older couple on a sailboat and I almost croaked.  I said, “That’s Harry Boggs.  He was my Gunny in Vietnam.”  Everyone else said, sure, we believe you two won the war, but there’s no way you know that guy.  Boze flipped the picture over and on the back was ‘Harry and Bonnie Boggs’. 


A few years ago I tracked Harry down.  After 14 years of sailing around the world, he had sold the boat and bought a motorhome.  They were staying in Yellowstone National Park in a program where retirees work part time in the park in return for an RV site and other benefits.  Delrae and I went for a visit and enjoyed it tremendously.  Harry is one of the classiest gentlemen I have ever known.  We were sorry we’d missed each other in Grenada and he was disappointed he hadn’t been there to run phone patches from EFA.  Last I heard Harry and Bonnie were managing an RV park in Utah, and we plan on stopping by when we’re up that way.

Barry Weathersby W6YDK, is once again active in MARS as NNN0JKZ     Back to Top