1/83rd Radio Communications from Afar


Bill Burke (70-71)
"HQ" Battery

"Duty 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 night.

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.

This friendly 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."


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