American Television started in Vietnam in 1965 with transmission of the World Series. No permanent studio had been built, so three C-121 Super Constellation aircraft were specially outfitted with film projectors and transmitters.
Circling high over South Vietnam and transmitting on Channel 11, the Blue Eagles provided extended coverage to Americans who were arriving in increasing numbers.
In 1966, a permanent TV station was completed at 9 Hong Thap Tu in Saigon. A huge antenna provided more reliable coverage. Hours were expanded and daily newscasts began.
Concurrently, several detachments added television. A complete station was mounted in a van the size of a large semi trailer. The mountaintop locations of some detachments provided excellent coverage.
But unlike radio, AFVN television programming could not be fed directly from the Saigon key station to detachments. Wideband technology still was primitive in the late '60s.
Programs on videotape and film were rotated among detachments using a weekly film flight and postal mail. In Saigon, sign-on was around noon daily while most detachments started transmissions around 4PM on weekdays and at noon on Saturday and Sunday. Troops watched favorite stateside series such as Bonanza, Mission Impossible, Gunsmoke, Laugh-In and Hawaii Five-O. Tape-delayed NFL football games and the ever-popular Roller Derby were other highlights. A soldier could even watch the series Combat on AFVN-TV. When Archie Bunker and All In The Family broke new ground, Archie's antics could be witnessed on AFVN-TV.
Television service continued until the American troop population dropped in 1971-72. Detachments were closed and AFVN-TV left the air in early 1973 as the Paris Peace Accords took effect. Most equipment and facilities were transferred to THVN, the South Vietnamese TV Network.
A Short Narrative History of Television in Vietnam
Submitted by BIlly Williams, SP4, USA, 1971-1972