Navy-Marine Corps MARS in Vietnam

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United States Navy-Marine Corps MARS

The United States Navy has realized the potential of wireless communication since its inception.  Within 10 days of the United States entry into World War I the Navy had recruited 1500 of the then more than 6000 licensed Amateur Radio Operators.

The Secretary of the Navy approved the organization of Navy-Marine Corps MARS in August 1962 and the program was implemented on 1 January 1963 complimenting the Army and Air Force systems.

Both the Navy and Marine Corps had extensive ham radio operations prior to the inception of MARS.  Marine Corps hams were organized into several nets and handled emergency, morale and health and welfare messages.  Many of the Marine Corps stations and operators were already members of either the Army or Air Force MARS programs.  In early 1962, 1st Sgt Kinsman Boso at W4NTR, realizing the potential of the Navy-Marine Corps having their own system began a newsletter "Zero Beat" which he began distributing to Marine Corps Amateurs.  He also solicited Marines to send him their license information so that an unofficial list of Marine Corps amateurs could be compiled and maintained.  Through the distribution of Zero Beat and his card file, Boso maintained a fairly large list of hams.  Once the Navy-Marine Corps program was instituted Boso encouraged all Marine stations and amateurs to sever other affiliations and join the Navy-Marine Corps system.  In December of 1962 there were about 29 Marine Corps stations. 


December of 1965 saw permission granted for MARS stations in Vietnam to begin operations.  Also that month, SSgt Harry Boggs wrote a letter to the Commandant suggesting a Class B MOS for Marine Corps MARS operators.  Marine amateurs in Okinawa readied equipment for shipment to Vietnam and in most cases accompanied the equipment to set up the initial MARS stations.  Between the Marine Corps and the Navy all 26 "Expeditionary Forces" (EF) call signs were used in Vietnam.


CWO Joseph Van Brocklin became the Marine Corps MARS Liaison Officer, N0ASB.  Gunner Van Brocklin was instrumental in assuring that "Marine Corps" became part of the standard reference to the program that had initially been referred to as Navy MARS, constantly encouraging everyone to use the phrase Navy-Marine Corps MARS.  The consummate Marine, he was a wise, genuine leader and a constant advocate and ally of the Marine amateur.  In March of 1968 he announced that the Commandant had approved the MARS MOS 8981 for Marines.  The Corps became the only service to designate MARS as an Occupational Specialty.  Marines licensed with any class of amateur license could apply for the secondary MOS.  Orders were then issued and tracked through the Commandant's office via the Marine Corps MARS Liaison Officer.