I arrived in Saigon on July 30th, 1970. The next day I was told that I would be assigned to AFVN as the Administrative NCO. I took a bus out to the Station on the 31st and met Army SFC Acy Delaughter and Marine CPT John Lamson, the Administrative Officer. I was interviewed by Army LTC Frank Price, Officer-in-Charge and Air Force Major Edgar Dove, the Deputy Officer-in-Charge and accepted for the job. Spent the next couple of days getting processing in, my new gear and waiting to move out of the transit barracks on the MACV Compound.
My orders were issued the next day and I went back to the AFVN Compound just in time for a party celebrating the 8th year since the founding of the Network. Had a nice time and got to meet a lot of the people I would be working with over the coming year.
Marcia, Jerry's wife, Jerry, Pat Saylor, a friend of Acy's, and Acy.
Somehow Jerry Nelson had located John Lamson, Captain Lamson's son, and in November 2005 had gotten a message from John saying that: "My Dad (Captain Lamson) died of a heart attack on November 20th, 1989. His last post was as a CWO at Camp Lejeune where he was in charge of the Brig. He retired from the USMC in April 1974 at the rank of Captain. After retirement he moved to Massachusetts, not far from where his wife had grown up and had a second career working as a night shift supervisor and then as director of operations for a company that made arts supplies." He worked there until he died of a heart attack on November 20th, 1989. John also mentioned that he knew very little about his father's past. From Loveland, Jerry, Marcia and I flew out to Durango, CO, to see John Lamson, the son of Marine Captain John Lamson, and to tell him what we knew about his father. After this visit, again, Jerry and I felt we had done "something good."
In Frank Roger's Photos and Stories page, there are two messages between Frank and Jim White
talking about their experiences at the Fort Bragg school for military advisers. Click Here
Individual Photo Albums & Stories
Me, SSG Nicholas Palladino, USA; SSG Joe Falconer, USA and Major James T. Van Orden, USMC
PFC Jim Jonas, USA is in back, facting the camera.
Due to the weekend plus the fact I had a lot of in-processing left to do, I didn't get moved to the Iowa BEQ and begin working until August 4th. At this time the E-6's and below lived in a barracks on the MACV Compound while those E-7 and above lived in various BEQs but with most of us in the Iowa.
As "de facto" First Sergeant, I called "Attention" at the start of an "Officer-in-Charge Hour" and was introduced to everyone present. From then on my usual routine was to get the AFVN bus at 0730 or so, have a cup of coffee and something for breakfast before starting work at 0800. Eat lunch at the AFVN snack bar and then getting the bus back to the Iowa BEQ or MACV at 1800.
AFVN was very lucky in one respect. We had the only "24-hour-a-day" snack bar in Saigon. And the MPs out on roving patrol all liked stopping by at times. However, at one point during my tour I recall that the Vietnamese snack bar staff began to complain about the MPs messing up the snack bar. Finally Marine MSgt Tom Segel and I went over to the MP Detachment and asked that they "control their men" a little better. They did! After all, they didn't want to loose their snack bar privileges.
When I got to AFVN, the Administrative Office personnel included Army SFC Acy Delaughter, as my assistant, Clerk Typists Army Sp5 Paul Miano and Army Sp4 Jerry Nelson, and Mail Clerk Army PFC Jim Jonas. Not too long thereafter, Air Force SSgt Larry Scoggins was assigned to work primarily with the Air Force personnel at AFVN. But, in fact, he also helped out a great deal with a lot of the other administrative work.
Left to right: Jerry Nelson, me, Acy Delaughter, Paul Miano, Jim Jonas and Larry Scoggins.
On August 10th, 1970 I went to the Cholon PX barbershop and got my first "in Vietnam" haircut. The haircut cost $0.40 so I decided to give the barber a 40 Piaster tip. However, I was not yet used to either the Piaster or the MPC so I accidentally gave him a US MPC $40.00 tip. Ouch, that was an expensive haircut! I didn't notice my error until I got back to my room that evening. Also, I never saw that barber again. He must have thought (1) that he made his fortune and could retire or (2) that he was being "paid off as a warning to disappear."
AFVN was planning to take another listener survey, so, also on the 10th, 1LT Steve Wiltsie, USA, and I went to the MACV Automatic Data Processing unit to talk about the survey and survey methods. Since I had a Master's Degree in Education and a PhD Candidacy in Educational Broadcasting, this was a project I would continue to be involved in from time to time for the rest of the time I was with AFVN. And, while I know that I am bragging, my educational background was very useful in dealing with the some of the others at AFVN. I had been told that my predecessor had been a rather typical Army MSG--i.e. lots of service and not all that much formal education. For this reason, many of the younger (and more educated enlisted men) had decided they really didn't need to listen to him. This was somewhat understandable in that I think that the average educational level of the enlisted men at AFVN was something like two-plus years of college. However, I not only had the rank, I also had the education and this made my job a little easier.
Sometimes I would have to try to round up an AWOL. One, an Army SFC B disappeared for about five days but he finally came to see me at the Iowa BEQ and was very contrite about being missing or even AWOL. His "punishment" was relatively light: he was assigned to be the permanent AFVN Night Staff Duty NCO. And, speaking of trying to keep the "baddies" under control, I was also the Senior NCO at the Iowa BEQ for several months and had problems with people being unhappy about being assigned to Charge of Quarters or to guard duty on their birthdays, etc. And, another time an Army MSG had fallen asleep while serving as Charge of Quarters. He accepted the letter of reprimand I recommended as punishment rather gracefully because he knew I could have recommended something much more drastic. Fortunately, I had this position for only two months.
September 11th, was a day to remember. Acy Delaughter had been sent to the Tuy Hoa Detachment and this greatly increased my work load. Six new men arrived and had to be processd in. There was a mix-up on the morning report. I couldn't tell if an Sp5 (who was supposed to be repairing our ammunition bunker) was high or not. Capt Lamson "flared" a couple of times, something he seldom did, and SFC B rather grudgingly pulled his first Staff Duty NCO tour.
At 0520 on October 7th, 1970 Acy Delaughter woke me up and said that everyone was to come in on the 0605 bus. I woke up everyone in the Iowa BEQ who was from AFVN. After we got to the Compound CPT Lamson and I collected everyone's MPC. We got about $13,000 from 90 or so people or nearly $150 each. Since many of those in AFVN worked night shifts, etc. and were therefore hard to get hold of it proved to be a rather hectic process.
From October 8th to 11th, I was a member of an inspection team that toured the AFVN Detachments. On the 8th we flew from Tan Son Nhut to Da Nang Air Base, on the 9th from Da Nang to Quang Tri, on the 10th from Quang Tri to Chu Lai then on the 11th from Chu Lai back to Tan Son Nhut. We left again on October 13th and flew to Pleiku, then on the 14th to Qui Nhon, and on the 15th to Tuy Hoa where we stayed two nights. On October 17th we went to Nha Trang and then back to Tan Son Nhut on the 18th. We sometimes traveled by C-130 and sometimes by helicopter--in other words, whatever we could get. I found the trips both interesting and tiring, as well as a quick way to see a lot of Vietnamese real estate from the air.
In mid-October 1970, AFVN finally got permission to move all of its Saigon enlisted personnel to the Plaza Hotel which was downtown and much closer to the station. This made most everyone happy--particularly the lower ranks who had been living in the barracks on Tan Son Nhut. I had the job of coordinating everything with the MACV Billeting Office, etc. But, it was worth it. I moved into the Plaza Hotel on October 23rd. I had a room with two beds. Part of the time I had the room to myself so the extra bunk could be used by NCOs coming in from the detachments. However, I shared the room with Army MSG Paul Van Dyke from November 11th until he left in early January 1970 and right afterwards Army SFC Garry Lyon moved in. He stayed until he left for Germany on April 12th, 1971. It was on the 3rd floor so I could walk up whenever the elevator was out of order. Only later did I learn that my room was directly above the ammunition storage room-Ouch, a prime target!
In early November, after waiting for over 20 minutes for a bus to show up, I finally walked from the Plaza Hotel to the AFVN Compound. It was only about two miles and took about 35 minutes. I needed the exercise and would like to have made it a daily habit but walking alone in Saigon was not all that safe so I did it only that once. I have often wondered how many days a Viet Cong might have waited for me to do it again before he finally gave up.
Capt Lamson departed AFVN and Army CPT Hugh Hastings became his replacement around the last part of October.
In mid-November, someone remembered my education background so I was asked to prepare a "Safe Driving" video. Since we had only B&W cameras, I started taking some B&W photos of the Saigon traffic in hopes that they would help reinforce my points. By November 21st I had a draft script and the visuals completed and gave them to CPT Hasting for approval. Later that day the script somehow disappeared (or, perhaps I was sabotaged?) Made me rather sick to my stomach to think I had to do it all over--but it had to be done so I did it. Also in November 1970, AFVN was told that we were loosing our Protective Defense Force and would have to set up our own Reaction Force in case of an attack. Talk about adding to my duties and headaches! Since our Operations Section was "Broadcasting Operations," setting up the plan for the Reaction Force was left up to CPT Hastings and I. And, while I'll admit that while I wasn't that much of a "combat NCO," CPT Hastings was perhaps even less of a "combat officer."
I had re-enlisted the end of August but wasn't able to take a re-enlistment leave to Japan (where my wife was living) until November. Part of this was because Acy Delaughter had gone on emergency leave when his father became very ill. After Acy got back I flew out of Tan Son Nhut early the morning of November 25th and got to Yokota Air Base in Japan by about noon. My biggest impression when I got there was that Tokyo in late November was "very cold"! I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and trousers without a coat. I spent the next few days seeing relatives, friends and teachers. I left from Yokota Air Base on December 9th and flew through Kadena, Taipei and Clark to Tan Son Nhut. Got back to the AFVN Compound by 1700. Acy seemed to be so happy to see me back that, for a minute, I thought that he was going to kiss me!
On December 23rd, then South Vietnam President Theiu came to the studio to tape a speech so we had lots of extra guards, etc. That evening we had a unit Christmas Party "out back" by the snack bar. Had lots of steaks and beer and I think that everyone had a good time. But the next day, I got some sad news. Someone told me that Mr. Pak, a local Korean reporter for the American Forces Korean Network, had been killed in an auto accident in Korea. He had worked for me as a bartender when I was in the 528th MI in 1959 and 1960.
January 1st and the start of another year--as if it made much difference. A few days later I got the last of the AFVN men out of the MACV barracks and moved into hotels. Some of them had only a few days to go on their tours so they weren't happy about having to move and then depart just a few days or few weeks later.
For some reason, the Viet Cong became a little more active in Saigon during the first part of 1971. At 2130 on January 22nd, a jeep exploded outside the entrance to the Plaza Hotel. Evidently a VC had thrown a grenade as he went by on a motor scooter. It really made a mess out of that jeep. The AFVN Broadcast Operations jeep was parked right next to it but it hadn't been touched. Had a huge crowd gather in the lobby and everyone was excited. The Military Police and the Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team came, etc.
Then on the 24th, there was a big fire not too far from the Plaza Hotel. I went up on the roof and took some pictures. You could hear small arms rounds going off, perhaps from the heat of the fire. Then, from January 25th we went on a "Tet Alert Schedule." Everyone carried their gear, an M-16 and some ammunition. This continued through January 28th. During this period we worked a "half at the compound and half off" schedule and on the 27th had a supply of sandwiches brought in. Since none of the Vietnamese staff came to work-including the snack bar cooks and cashier, I had to put one of Admin men in "charge of the food."
On January 30th I went to USAID #1 to arrange a party for LTC Price who would be departing shortly. We had the party on the 31st. All went well except that the Duty Driver got lost and couldn't find LTC Price's BOQ. Finally, after everyone had arrived and the "guest of honor" was still missing I grabbed a jeep and went after him.
The new AFVN OIC, Army LTC Lawrence Souville, arrived on February 9th. We had a Change of Command ceremony at 1700. Then we had a beer and steak party to welcome LTC Souville. The Vietnamese employees joined us. "Pop" Nyung got rather loaded and insisted he was going to take Jerry Nelson to a Vietnamese "cat house." That would have been a real experience for Jerry, but I finally talked Nyung out of the idea.
John Scales, a civilian, had been the Chief Engineer for AFVN for many years. While I didn't have much contact with him on a day-to-day basis, on January 16th I took him to the American Express Bank in the COFAT (Saigon Exchange) Compound and then to his house on Tan Son Nhut Air Base. At that time he told me that he hadn't been feeling well. Then, on Sunday, February 14th he died quietly at his quarters. His maid found his body Monday morning. For the next several days I was busy preparing a casualty report and arranging for his body and personal effects to be returned to the U.S. I have heard that some people think that he was buried in Saigon. He was not--he is buried in a cemetery near Los Angeles.
On February 26th, Acy Delaughter fell and broke his right wrist rather seriously. He was in the 3rd Field Hospital a few days and then medically evacuated to the U.S. On February 27th, 1971 I showed Army MSG Chester McNeese, Acy's replacement what to watch out for while I was on R&R in Bangkok. I left the next day but stopped at the 3rd Field Hospital to see Acy on the way to Tan Son Nhut Airport because I knew that he would be gone by the time I got back. I arrived in Bangkok about 1700. Got a room at the Fortuna Hotel and signed up for six bus tours totaling 32 hours for just $35.50. I spent the next several days on these tours plus did some other sight-seeing on my own and otherwise not worrying about very much of anything. When I got back I went to the AFVN Compound I learned that CPT Hastings was "rearranging" the Administrative office (for reasons known only unto him). Then, on March 10th, 1971 we began painting the Administration Offices as Captain Hasting had requested be done while he was on R&R. Got it completed on the 17th.
On March 12th the Admin Section had a "goodbye party" for Jerry Nelson. His replacement was an Army PFC Pruis. While Jerry looked more like he belonged in the Boy Scouts and not the Army, he had been one of my best workers and I was going to miss him sorely. One reason that I was going to miss Jerry Nelson was that Sp5 Paul Miano was a real slacker. He was a good typist but "getting him to type" was a problem at times. More than once I would give him some work only to find a little while later that he had passed it on to Jerry Nelson. And, more than once I took it off of Jerry's desk and gave it back to Paul with a strong suggestion that he "get to work." Otherwise, he would always talk with friends and otherwise would not get much done. Paul got to AFVN in 1969 and stayed a total of two years. I think that one of his problems was that he was at AFVN so long that he finally began to feel that he "owned the place." (I could go on some more but I won't.)
I almost got called on the carpet on March 14th. I had been with a friend the previous evening and a practice Quick Reaction Force Alert for AFVN had been called late the 13th when I wasn't available. CPT Hasting was very upset with me because I had changed the security safe combination as requested but hadn't given the new combination to anyone. Therefore no one could open the safe where the classified (alert) "Letter of Instruction" was kept. That wasn't true because I had written the new combination down and had shown it to Major Dove. (We were the only two authorized to know the safe number.) I asked him if he had it memorized. He shook his head "Yes" and I burned the paper. Later on Major Dove said that he didn't realize that "those numbers were for real." Why did he think I showed them to him? It was a big flap, and not one that was entirely of my making. It was also quickly squelched.
On March 24th I learned the Navy would be taking over the Plaza Hotel and that all of the Army and Air Force personnel would have to move out. My gut reaction was that someone in the Navy had done a "snow job" on the other services
On April 6th SFC Frank Crown (sometimes also known as "Kenneth Crown") showed up looking for a job. He had an administrative background as well as had been with the Armed Forces Radio/TV Service elsewhere so I accepted him as Acy's replacement.
On April 10th I hosted a "Detachment NCOIC Conference" with all of the detachment NCOICs plus some Saigon Station personnel in attendance. Then, on April 14th I went to the Ky Son Annex and secured 25 rooms for AFVN personnel. Now I had to start moving people. I finally got myself moved on May 10th.
On April 16th I took another leave to Japan. I got as far as Kadena Air Base in Okinawa and then got "stuck" by an approaching typhoon. However I was able to get a Japan Air Lines flight to Fukuoka and from there on to Tokyo International (Haneda) Airport by the next day. From then until April 29th, I visited relatives and friends and saw some of my professors at International Christian University.
On May 2nd, 1971, LTC Souville asked I take the AFVN listener survey over from 1LT Wiltsie. By this time I already knew that my next assignment would be with the Military Assistance and Advisory Group in Taiwan (MAAG-T). On May 6th I got a call from Army MAJ Rogers, the Secretary Joint Staff at MAAG-T. They wanted me to arrive as early as June 15th if possible and not later than July 15th, 1971. On May 8th AFVN got MAAG-T's official request that I be given an early release., AFVN replied that they were in the middle of an annual audience survey and I could be released only if there was someone who could replace me. But things worked out and I did leave early.
On May 18th, 1971 I bought my air tickets to the U.S. and back and ordered a 1971 Ford Torino to be delivered in Taipei. [I cancelled the order later when I was told that they couldn't provide one with a heavy duty suspension.] The "R&R" tickets were $350 from Saigon to San Francisco and back plus another $110 from San Francisco to Wichita, Kansas and back. [Those were really the "good old days!"] Buying my own ticket for returning from Vietnam might sound strange, but if I had relied upon the standard returnee system I would have gone back to the U.S. for free but then ending up paying a lot more for a ticket back to Japan. I used the R&R ticket from Saigon to San Francisco and then back as far as Yokota Air Base where we had a refueling stop. Everyone would have a chance to stretch their legs and-since I would have legitimate leave orders for Japan--I could simply keep walking. (A week or so later, my wife and I traveled from Tokyo to Taipei on official orders issued by US Army Japan.)
As a final "farewell gesture (?)" to everyone, on May 13th I arranged for all seven of the Vietnamese woman clerical staff to help collate the AFVN Audience Survey. None of the section OIC's or NCOIC's were happy with me. The next day I put the clerks to work and we got 2,900 of the 3,000 surveys collated, enveloped and addresses in one day. I did the last 100 by myself the next day.
The next couple of weeks were busy working on the AFVN Audience Survey, including going to the MACV Defense Management Agency (MACV Computer Center) and coordinating some changes to the way the survey was to be complied, etc, writing friends about my new assignment and seeing some of my Saigon friends for the last time.
On June 1st some "Saigon Cowboys" were trying to get Army SSG H off the AFVN work bus and were yelling that he owed them $100. They were banging on the side and door of the bus and yelling "Stop." I stood by the door to keep them from getting it open. As I recall, SSGT H was very quickly sent to a detachment and away from Saigon so the "cowboys" wouldn't be able to get to him.
Early on June 8th, 1971 I went to the AFVN Compound for the last time and signed out. Then I went to Tan Son Nhut Airport. Took two hours to clear a very thorough customs check-sniffer dogs, electronic prods, etc. Boarded at 1200 and it was "Goodbye Vietnam and AFVN." The AFVN Admin Office upon my departure included CPT Hastings, MSG Logsdon, SFC Frank Crown, Sp4 Stuart Wagner and (now Sp4) Pruis.
My early departure meant that I had a lot of things fall on "June 8th." My birthday was June 8th, 1934, my Basic Pay Entry Date was June 8th, 1951, my Date of Rank as a Master Sergeant, E-8, was June 8th, 1966 and my departure from Vietnam was June 8th, 1971. At the time, the Army Times had a column on "Can You Beat This?" for such coincidences. I thought about sending this in but never did.
SFC Frank Crown came to Taipei on leave in July 1971 and visited me at the Navy Hospital on the 17th. (I had been admitted on July 14th for water on the lung--reasons unknown--and was released with a clean bill of health on the 19th.) He told me that he had a 90-day early departure from Vietnam. Also said that AFVN Admin Section had fallen apart. MSG Logsdon had become too "spit and polish." Sp5 Paul Miano was loafing as always. Sp4 Stuart Wagner was doing only the mail runs and Sp4 Pruis was stuck with doing all of the work. Everyone has to go straight to CPT Hastings in order to get anything done.
Jerry Nelson went back to Kokomo, Indiana after getting out of the Army. We got in touch with each other again through the AFVN Web Page in March 2005 and have since become good friends and stayed in touch. That September, while back in the states for a few weeks, I went to Kokomo to see Jerry and his wife, Marcia. They are both working for the US Postal Service. On September 25th, Marcia prepared a mid-afternoon dinner. Garry Lyon came over and he, Jerry and I talked over old times.
Jerry, Marcia and I were able to get together during the 2012 AFVN Reunion in Memphis and we are looking forward to seeing each other again in San Diego in October 2014.
My Tour with AFVN
Jim White, MSG, USA Admin NCO, Saigon (1970-71)
Captain Lamson at his retirement.
Garry Lyon stayed in the Army a few more years, then retired with 24 years service and moved to Indianapolis, IN, in 1977, worked for the military as a civilian for another 16 years and, in 2005 began driving a bus for a local school district. In late 2009 he published a book about his military service. The title is "Autobiography of a Soldier: Microphone in Hand." As of April 2011, it was available on Amazon.com. Garry and I are still in touch as of the end of 2013.
John "Jay" Lehman (Army SFC) got a 30-day drop and left AFVN on January 30th, 1972. He was stationed at Headquarters, 5th Army in Chicago, IL, and then at Fort Monroe, VA. He retired on April 30th, 1974. Worked as a News Director in Spartanburg, SC for a while and then went back to college. Got an AS in Human Services and began working in a psychological unit and then as an Alcohol Counselor in Florida. Retired again in 1989 and started doing a lot of traveling. John and I are still in touch through the AFVN Yahoo Group.
Frank "Larry" Rogers (Army SFC) and I saw each other in Taipei on November 22nd, 1971. Frank was at the Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, IN, from 1974 or so. I recall that he worked as a volunteer policeman for a while after he retired. He moved to the Philippines during the second half of 2012 and we are still in touch through the AFVN Yahoo Group.
I spent 2 1/2 years as the Administrative NCO in the Office of the Secretary of the Joint Staff, Military Assistance and Advisory Group-Taiwan, located in Taipei, and retired as a SGM in January 1974. In April 1974 I became a professor at Tezukayama Gakuin University, a private girls' four-year college near Osaka, Japan where I taught English, Basic Computering, and American and Canadian History and Society. I also, at various times, served as the Director of the Audiovisual Center, Director of the Student Exchange Center, Department Chair, and Dean of the Academic Office. Also, while at Tezukayama Gakuin University and for several years thereafter, I was on the boards of directors of several different academic societies, all of which were involved in teaching and education, as well as served as president of one such organization. Since retiring as a Professor Emeritus in March 2002. From November 2012, after attending the October 2012 AFVN Reunion in Memphis, I have also been busy serving as the Webmaster for this site. My wife and I, now married for over 61 years (as of June 2017), are still living in Osaka.
Garry Lyon, Jerry Nelson and Jim White (The cat belongs to Marcia, not Garry.)
Also note that I am "shoeless." One would think I was from Japan or something?
Then from September 27th to October 2nd, 2005 Jerry, Marcia and I flew to Denver, drove to Loveland, CO, and saw Acy Delaughter for a few days. Acy insisted that he had stayed in his room every night eating Spam and bread while in Vietnam. Anyone who knew Acy at all knew better than that! When we were both living in the Iowa BEQ I knew that the best place to find Acy during the evening was at the Vietnamese bar next door. It took a long time, but Acy finally got the use of his right wrist back. He was promoted to MSG sometime in 1971 after he left AFVN. Jerry and I were both happy to have seen Acy again and when we left we felt we had "done something good." And, perhaps we did, because within a year, on May 27th, 2006, Acy died of heart failure.