Bill Burke (70-71)
in the Battalion FDC could produce some surprises. It was always amazing who
would come onto our “push” to communicate. Often it was just a mistake in
setting a frequency. It wasn't unusual to hear a strange voice and call sign on
our nets. One of the most unusual conversions came one, rain-soaked, monsoon
The voice on the
radio was clear and strong, perhaps close by. SP/4 Sid Johnston, our Battalion
FDC RTO, picked up the microphone and told the other unit they were on the wrong
frequency, to check their SOI. The other voice calmly stated that we were on the
wrong frequency. From our point of view, this could not be right because we had
been using the frequency for a fairly long time. Telling them this got a reply
that they had been using the frequency for a while also.
We thought, OK,
just the weather doing funny things with the radio waves, it had happened
before, it will not last long. Interested in how far away they were, Sid asked
what their location was, which they were reluctant to give, as they should have
been. But in Vietnam, sometimes we broke the rules and we volunteered, using
our own, made up, violation of all communication security rules, code that we
were just south of the city of “Hotel” (Hue). They did not understand our
unauthorized code and not catching on to where this Hotel city was, we further
clarified that we were at the “Big E” (Camp Eagle), certainly known by everyone
in Vietnam. This did not work either.
Still wanting to
know how far away the other station was and ignoring all communication security,
we finally, in clear language, told them we were at Camp Eagle, just south of
Hue. Unbelievably, this invoked the response of, “Are you in Vietnam?” “Yes,”
we replied, thinking, well aren’t we are all in Vietnam? But as it turned out,
this was not the case. Our answer of yes, must have loosened their security
conscientiousness, because finally they volunteered that they were in Korea.
They probably told us where, but I don't remember.
As it turned
out, the other unit was a Field Artillery battery and they were just as
surprised as we were that we could talk to each other just like we were a mile
or two apart. When we found out they were a FA unit, neither of us minded being
on each other’s net, both of us enjoying an unusual chat. Their battalion FDC/headquarters
broke in at some point and wanted to know who they were talking to. Evidently,
their battalion FDC couldn’t hear us.
conversation was interrupted by the 101st DIVARTY calling in a fire
mission. As we would expect from another Field Artillery unit, they were quiet
during the fire mission, respecting the priority of the mission. A few minutes
after End of Mission, they came back and meekly asked, “Was that a real fire
mission?” I chuckled, I guess the reality of our location had sunk in.
The ability to
talk to the unit in Korea lasted for a while longer, but eventually their signal
faded out and we lost contact with our FA friends, ending a short, but
interesting segment of my time in the Battalion FDC. Years later, I later
measured the distance from Hue to Seoul, South Korea. Our little chat covered
approximately 3,020 kilometers or 1,876 miles."