“From Saigon, Ladies & Gentlemen, the Beat Goes On”

Billy Williams, Army AFVN Radio disc jockey

Billy Williams worked at WJAX in Jacksonville before being drafted in the Army. He was trained at Ft. Gordon and received a 35L20 MOS. Of course he was then sent to Vietnam where, in October 1971 he joined Avel Central at Phu Loi. When a slot opened up at AFVN Billy enlisted the help of his CO, Major Joe Matos. Billy got the job and left Avel Central in November 1971. The following is from an article he wrote for the North Florida Amateur Radio Society.

After being drafted away by the Army from a daily shift at WJAX, he wound up doing music radio on AFVN-AM starting at the station on Monkey Mountain near Da Nang then going to network HQ in Saigon, the capital city.

From Saigon for six hours daily, his broadcasts went out over a chain of 50 KW and 10 KW AM transmitters covering South Vietnam from the Mekong Delta at the southern tip of Vietnam to the demilitarized zone bordering North Vietnam.

The Saigon-area transmitter was 50KW on 540 kHz. located in Cat Lo near Vung Tau, a seaside resort area on the South China Sea which was also a popular in-country R&R spot. Its signal strength provided booming coverage over a wide area. At night, signals reached Australia, India, Indonesia and even Hawaii occasionally. They got a reception report from California at least once. Along with other powerful transmitters on several frequencies in the Central Highlands and Da Nang, over 90% of South Vietnam was within AFVN’s beam. AFVN had a staff of military and civilian broadcast engineers to maintain these far-flung detachment sites. Several were also American Amateur Radio operators.

Several AFVN detachments were located near mountaintop Signal Corps sites close to larger towns. These were not huge mountains, maybe 2,000 or 3,000 ft. elevation. Driving a jeep or truck from ground level up a winding clay hardpan road took 20 minutes or so. But the added altitude enhanced signal propagation. Some signal sites and AFVN detachments had occasional danger from infiltrators, snipers, rocket and mortar attacks. Other hazards included mines, booby traps, B40 RPGs and exploding taxi cabs.

Few aural entertainment alternatives existed for Americans in the Vietnam combat zone. A few soldiers owned short wave receivers. Some listened to records and tapes purchased at the PX or sent from home. But for most, a small AM transistor radio tuned to AFVN was the link to current hit music and to what was happening back in “the world.”

Besides American & Allied military along with civilian contractors, a huge shadow audience of Asians who adored American music listened to AFVN-AM. Close to three million residents lived in or near Saigon and the station sound played everywhere.

Besides hosting a daily music DJ program live on AFVN-AM, his shift also included airing prerecorded music program segments from stateside luminaries including Wolfman Jack and Casey Kasem.

On AM, we rocked to Led Zeppelin, Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, Animals, CCR, Rolling Stones and the like. The Vietnam War had its anthems which generated requests from the troops and these songs played on AFVN-AM. Hits like We Gotta Get Out Of This Place….Magic Carpet Ride….All Along The Watchtower….The Letter and Paint It Black which also were hits in the United States. Let’s not forget Peter Paul & Mary’s Leaving on a Jet Plane and yes, Barry Sadler’s Ballad of the Green Berets, another favorite that produced numerous requests which were honored often.

Also, popular “regional” favorites. Jimmy Cliff’s 1970 rendition of Vietnam comes to mind along with Cathy Gregory’s After Cambodia and Jaimie Brocket’s Talkin’ Green Beret New Yellow Hydraulic Banana Teeny Bopper Blues–a challenge to say in one breath.

To country music listeners, Merle Haggard’s Okie From Muskogee appealed on multiple levels both to those with pro-war outlooks and others with anti-war sentiments. For comic relief, AFVN-AM transmitted daily short serials like Chickenman and the Tooth Fairy–Benton Harbor and Newton Snookers respectively.

By 1972, progress in stabilizing the Thieu administration and South Vietnamese military was minimal at best. The Paris Peace Agreement took effect in early 1973. All AFVN detachments closed. AFVN-AM and TV signed off. AFVN-FM Saigon became the American Radio Service to serve a small residual group of Americans allowed to remain under terms of the peace agreement.

Take a trip back in time and enjoy some of these AFVN radio broadcasts.

AFVN Vietnam Radio Montage

AFVN Da Nang Dawn Buster Show with Billy Williams

Billy Williams: November 27, 1970

AFVN Commercials

48 hours later… ALONE…

One of the things I hear the least about when discussing Vietnam service and all of its issues is the fact that unless you had the fortune to be assigned to a unit when it was ordered to Vietnam and returned,the individual went alone and came home alone. Oh he may have had some of his AIT class fly over with him but once they arrived at the repo depot, you were pretty much on your own. Consider for a second that for most servicemen it was their first time in a foreign country…and Vietnam certainly was a hell of a strange cultural environment… “falling down the rabbit hole” is a phrase that comes to mind. And then in the case of most field folks, they left the mud and weirdness and were “home” 48 hours later… ALONE… trying to figure out exactly what was real… no wonder we Vietnam vets have so many issues…  by Bud Alley

Happy Birthday Jan Scruggs

In 1979, Jan Scruggs conceived the idea of building the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., as a tribute to all who served during one of the longest wars in American history. Today, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is among the most visited memorials in the nation’s capital.

Scruggs was a wounded and decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, having served in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade of the U.S. Army. He felt a memorial would serve as a healing device for a different kind of wound—that inflicted on our national psyche by the long and controversial Asian war.

Scruggs launched the effort with $2,800 of his own money and gradually gained the support of other Vietnam veterans in persuading Congress to provide a prominent location on federal government property somewhere in Washington, D.C. After a difficult struggle, Congress responded, and the site chosen was on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial.

As president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Inc., the nonprofit organization created to build and maintain the Memorial, Scruggs headed up the effort that raised $8.4 million and saw the Memorial completed in just two years. It was dedicated on November 13, 1982, during a week-long national salute to Vietnam veterans in the nation’s capital.

After the completion of the Memorial, Scruggs, along with author Joel L. Swerdlow, put to paper To Heal a Nation—the moving story of Scruggs’ efforts to build The Wall. In May 1988, it became an “NBC Movie of the Week.”

Scruggs’ mission to remember those who sacrificed in Vietnam continues on with the campaign to build the Education Center at The Wall. The Education Center will show the photos and tell the stories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War, as well as celebrate the values embodied by American service members in all of our nation’s wars.

He has appeared on 60 Minutes, Nightline, Good Morning America, and The Today Show as well as C-SPAN, CNN, and FOX. He has written opinion articles for The Washington Post, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Times and other national and regional publications. A national speaker and author, Scruggs has written articles on a wide range of topics, including the Civil War and the battle of Gettysburg.

Scruggs is a native of Washington, D.C, and grew up in Bowie, Md. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from American University in Washington, D.C., and his law degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

For Love Of Country

“I am not a veteran but I come from a family of veterans.
I have always been very much aware of the many sacrifices our soldiers make on behalf of our freedoms.

My grandfather is Belgian and was a small child when liberated during WWI before coming to the United States. My father served in the Korean War and my uncle was with the National Guard during the Vietnam War.

While studying at NYU, I came across a homeless man on the sidewalk and listened to his poetry. He sounded intelligent and educated. After listening to his life story of hardships and drug addiction, I was surprised to also learn that he was a veteran.
Storytelling through filmmaking is my way of honoring those who have fought for the freedoms we all enjoy.

Our soldiers are coming home from the battlefield only to find the battle isn’t over, for them, or their loved ones – and all too often, no one seems to be on their side. Veteran care has become a political football with the focus on debate rather than solutions. In the meantime, the brave men and women who volunteered to defend our freedoms continue to suffer from wounds of body, mind, and spirit. They cannot and should not wait through endless election cycles and Congressional hearings that yield nothing but blame year after year.

They need—and deserve—our help.”
~ Michael DeRoker, Director/Producer, For Love of Country, The Battle Within

God Bless all who serve and keep us safe.
‪#‎PTSD‬ ‪#‎Suicide‬ ‪#‎Veterans‬

Please watch For Love of Country trailer

For Love Of Country Trailer

Wes Studi at the Oscars

Wes Studi made history Sunday night becoming the first Native American presenter on the Oscar stage.

The Oklahoma native and Cherokee citizen introduced a montage of military movies during the 90th Academy Awards, thanking veterans for their service. Studi himself served 18 months in Vietman with the Army’s 9th Infantry Division.

Before beginning the montage, Studi gave his thanks to his fellow veterans, speaking in the Cherokee language: “Hello. Appreciation to all veterans and Cherokees who’ve served. Thank you!”

Click to see Wes at the Oscars