Friday, 20 February 2009
Odd notes & photos from the lives of Decca personnel in Vietnam
Photos courtesy of John Hansen
More from Van Kiep. part 1
The buildup of US forces was slowly catching up with us. I mentioned earlier that we had received a 3/4 ton but not our jeep. We also received our own GI. I'm not quite sure what he was there for. The only time he wore a uniform was when his major showed up to pay him. He lived somewhere in Vung Tau and more or less kept the same hours as we did.
Speaking of the major. A new one, not the one we first had who had kept a discreet distance. This one showed up one day un-anounced and walked in to the op's room to find our station chief, John, relaxed in his chair, feet up on the desk, a cold beer in his hand. In other words what was understood to be a normal state of readiness. The major was evidently none too pleased. John though had a grade of GS13 which outranked the major. Another source for friction. There had been a station chief on Green Slave in the Bahamas who kept the fridge locked throughout the day and only unlocked it at six o'clock in the evening. Not that I was there at the time, so there was no mutiny. There was of course the station chief of Green Slave in Phan Thiet, who was found passed out amongst a pile of empty beer cans on the op's room floor. He was fired and later died of cirrhosis in Thailand. In Van Kiep we kept a sensible level. I cannot remember the station ever being off the air. Duty always came first. We had all been in the services but were no longer mad. In the Bahamas we used to paint the diesel house floor when there were inspections. But that was for the US navy.
More from Van Kiep. part 2. Memories of Vietnam
Somewhere the decision had been taken to upgrade the system and to install another Decca chain. The new chain, consisting of the usual master and three slave stations would become the central chain and we would become the southern. Was there some vague hope somewhere that one day there would be a northern chain around Hanoi? We would convert from the Mark 5 to the Mark 12 that I had used in the Bahamas. For technical details on all the different systems I again refer you to Jerry Proc's excellent site which you will find in my "Links".
All of this meant we had to do a fair amount of work. We might have had it easy for a couple of years but when the company said all work and no play everybody had to set to.
My own view is that it was a strategic mistake. Before, we had been a small project, lost in the mass of general accounting. Vietnam was full of projects. But when one became Big one got noticed and people asked how much you cost etc.
Once this new system had been installed and the central chain set up the military would take over the running of everything and we would have more of an advisorial role. Whereas Decca ran the stations with three or four people ( two or three in the Bahamas) the military would require ten. If you have ten per station you need a support company at base to supply them. If we could go a year or two without leave they were always off on R&R. We would often spend three or four years on a posting whereas the military rotated every year in Vietnam. Of course all of this needed transport and logistics.
It was naturally all part of the grand scheme of might is right and therefore must prevail. Tet was waiting round the corner but was of course not an expected guest.