Note: The intent of this section is to document the "official" as well as the "unofficial-but more fun" aspects of " Project Jenny". Please provide any information to Steve Robbins at firstname.lastname@example.org. A great deal of information is missing about the real history of Project Jenny, and most of the unofficial stories remain to be told. the 1960-1962 section comes from information provided by Mr. Neil Vanderdusen, RCA Project Manager at RCA Camden during a briefing that he gave to the 1st Tech Crew in training in early 1965 and is dependent upon the memories of the author.
1960-1962 (?): Under contract to US Navy, Northwestern US University builds and tests the first airborne TV broadcast test platform using an R-5 (DC-5) aircraft and VHF broadcast frequencies. The Chiefs of Staff had given an assignment to the Navy Oceanographic Air Survey Unit at Patuxent River, Maryland. They were to develop a "flying television station". Note: this had been tried before under a program called the "Indiana Project", but had failed. Then they had used an old C-54 with two video playback machines and a transmitter. The idea behind the test was to fly over a three-state area and provide educational material to the school systems in the flight area. It did work to a point, but the problems with equipment upkeep and replacement of antennas that kept burning out. The project was closed after a short time period. This effort becomes the "Proof of Concept" for future Project Jenny efforts.
1962: The US Navy temporarily installs RCA radio/TV broadcast equipment in two R6D (C-118) aircraft with the intent of using the capabilities during the Cuban Missile Crises. Installation was not completed in time to use, so the aircraft were put in storage for use at a later date. These aircraft were assigned to VR-1 and were given nose numbers 611 and 429.
Late 1964 (?): DOD formulates plan to develop airborne radio/TV broadcast capabilities to be used in the Southeast Asia conflict in Psychological Warfare Operations.
Nov/Dec 1964: Navy Capt. George Dixon is recalled to active duty to become Project Manager. Capt. Dixon had previously retired from The Office of Director of Naval Communications and was functioning as a Vice President of TMC Corp. in New York. Capt. Dixon was an ex-navy RM and WW II enlisted pilot who was commissioned (but not in the aviation field) after crashing a seaplane. He went on to become one of the founding fathers of the current naval communications system. Capt. Dixon holds discussions with RCA concerning the feasibility of building Project Jenny. RCA states that the project is probably not feasible, but that they will provide equipment and technical expertise to support project completion. Initial plans are developed to start the project with technical assistance from TMC and RCA but primarily using navy enlisted crews to build the project.
Jan 1965: Construction of the first Blue Eagle aircraft started at Andrews AFB, based out of Lockheed, JFK & NAS Patuxent River). Blue Eagle I (BUNO 131726) provided by the AEWTULANT Pax River becomes the first project aircraft and is configured to do only radio broadcast missions (AM, FM and SW). At the same time two R6D's (BUNO's 131611 and 131429) provided by VR-1 Pax River are temporarily configured as TV Test Platforms are used to test the design of various TV broadcast antennas. Initial fabrication efforts for Blue Eagle I were provided by enlisted ET's and SK from the Naval Communications Systems HQ and by aircrew members from AEWTULANT and VR-1. Footnote : The author is looking for information on exactly where the first birds were built and the names of the crewmen who were involved. Those remembered are ADRC George Orlandi, ET1 Bruce Parett, ET2 Herbie Braun, AT1 Kelly Goode, SKC Jim James and ATC Doug Naylor.
May 20, 1965: Technical training begins. Two groups of navy personnel are ordered to factory schools to train as crewmembers for Project Jenny. One group of 6 EM's and EN's are assigned to the TMC plant in Alexandria VA to learn the diesel generator that was initially used as a power source aboard the aircraft. One group of 6 officers and approximately 20 enlisted were assigned to go to broadcast engineering school at RCA Camden, NJ/RCA Meadowlands PA. Of the officers selected, two were Intelligence types from the Naval Security Group in DC and 4 were NFO's from VW-4. The enlisted selected to attend broadcast engineering school were primarily ET's mostly from the Nuclear Power School at Groton CT, 3 RM's who had commercial FCC licenses and 2 navy photographers. Footnote: all orders were issued on a 24-hour notice. The crew going to RCA Camden received orders to "Report to Mr. Neil Vanderdusen on the corner of Front and Cooper streets, Camden, NJ prior to 0800 the next morning" No other info was given on the orders, and by 0800 the next morning there were a bunch of very confused sailors standing on a street corner in Camden, NJ. The officers decided that they didn't like not knowing what was going on, so Lt. Harris (from theSecGru) immediately turned over control of the group to ETC Lucas who was the senior enlisted. During the whole training period the crew was not told why we were learning broadcast engineering, however given the labor mix, we rapidly determined that we were going to be flying spy missions on a nuclear powered aircraft. The project mission was explained the day we graduated from the school on June 13, 1965, and our initial estimate of what the mission was to be was not to far off.
June 14, 1965: Initial schooling completed and the crews report to VR-1 at Pax River to begin operational training and flight-testing on the two R6D's that are configured as temporary broadcast platforms. Local PaxRiv area flight-testing begins supported by RCA Tech Rep Mr. Bill Daugherty.
July 1, 1965: AEWTULANT becomes OASU (Oceanographic Air Survey Unit).
July 1965: Pax River tech crews detached from VR-1 and report to NAF Andrews AFB to commence work on construction of Blue Eagle II (BUNO 128444) and Blue Eagle III (BUNO 131641). Equipment is stripped off the R6D's to be repackaged for installation on BE II and III. Crews are transferred to OASU, TDY to Andrews AFB.
Sept 1965: Blue Eagle I ordered to NAS Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico to fly PSYOPS missions in support of the revolution going on in the Dominican Republic. BE I flies' radiobroadcast missions when the radio station in the country is taken over by rebels. Aircraft on station for approximately 2 weeks and then returns to Andrews AFB.
Oct 1965: Blue Eagle I ordered to Saigon to fly first broadcast mission (broadcasting the world series) out of Tan Son Nhut AB in Saigon RVN in support of AFVN operations on Oct 6 1965. Footnote: not sure if BEI returned to the US at the end of this broadcast mission...or whether it stays in Vietnam to commence the Da Nang Psyops mission.
Oct 1965: Aircraft BUNO 313 is used to fly the tech crews from Andrews AFB to RCA Meadowlands, Pa to observe transmitter construction techniques. The PPC lands at the wrong airport outside of Pittsburgh, PA and sets a record for the only 4 engine aircraft to land at this small airport.
Nov 1965: Fabrication of Blue Eagle II complete and first test flight of a TV mission takes place. WRC Channel 4 Washington DC goes off the air at midnight and the remaining reel of a black and white film is broadcast from BE II flying an orbital path around the DC beltway. During the test flight the 4 channel VFTG Teletype equipment is also tested in a termination with NSS (NavComSta Washington).
Dec 1965: Blue Eagle II departs for Saigon to begin operations. Problems occur when the Vietnamese government changes the frequency allocation for TV Broadcasts and the TV transmitters have to be retuned. ET2 O'Donnell is dispatched to Saigon to help with the conversion and becomes known as "Shaky" O'Donnell when he is badly burned with RF while working on the TV transmitters.
Jan 1966: Fabrication of Blue Eagle III complete and aircraft departs for Tan Son Nhut. On 21 Jan 1966, OASU Det Westpac is officially established at Tan Son Nhut AB in the Republic of Vietnam. First test flight of a Blue Eagle aircraft (BE III) in Vietnam occurs on 23 Jan 66. LCDR E.C. Henderson becomes the first OIC.
Feb 1, 1966: (approximately) Blue Eagle III moved to TSN base operations building to tape the opening broadcast message from Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, US Ambassador Lodge and Gen Westmoreland.
Feb 7, 1966: First successful dual channel AFVN and THVN TV broadcast is completed. Blue Eagles are on the air. Blue Eagles II and III flying TV broadcast missions in South Vietnam and Blue Eagle I flying PSYOPS missions in the Gulf of Tonkin over North Vietnam.
April 13, 1966: First mortar attack at Tan Son Nhut AB. Blue Eagles I and III receive minor damage from shrapnel; however Blue Eagle II receives two direct hits, one above the aft cargo hatch going directly into the GTPU that powered the broadcast systems and one in the aft vertical stabilizers. Blue Eagles I and III are repaired within days...and Blue Eagle II repairs are completed within the next month. Three officers and one enlisted receive purple hearts for wounds received during attack.
May 11, 1966: All Blue Eagle repairs completed and full broadcast schedule resumed.
Oct 25, 1966: AFVN and THVN Ground Stations in Saigon become operational. Blue Eagle TV broadcasts are shifted from the Saigon Area South into the "Delta Region."
April 1967: Blue Eagle I (BUNO 627) returns to Vietnam from PAR at JFK airport, shifts their base to the Naval Air Facility at Da Nang airbase and VXN-8 Det Da Nang is established with LT Gidge as the first OIC.
July 1, 1967: OASU re-designated as VX-8 (Air Development Squadron 8).
Jan 31, 1968: Vietnamese Tet offensive starts. AFVN Station at Hue under attack for next 4 days by North Vietnamese Regulars and VC.
Feb 4, 1968: AFVN Hue is overrun and CO and four enlisted are taken POW and two enlisted are executed by VC. VOA/USIA broadcast station in Hue also destroyed with many employees taken POW. Additional damage was received at the Da Nang AFVN station, which received over 800 hits putting it out of commission. Northern AFVN/THVN TV operations now off the air and are rapidly replaced by Blue Eagle TV birds flying broadcast missions in the I Corps Area. Footnote: I recently had a conversation the ex-CO of AFVN Hue and he and his five troops were all returned when the POW's came home.
Jan 1, 1969: VX-8 re-designated VXN-8.
Sept 30, 1970: Blue Eagles fly last regular TV broadcast missions. Note: according to information received from Mr. Jim Andrews, AFVN Broadcast Engineer 1970-1971, Project Jenny personnel stripped off some of the broadcast equipment, and left it in Saigon for AFVN/THVN use. However, one aircraft was left behind to support contingency operations. This may have been Blue Eagle VI, however [I] am not exactly sure. Disposition of the aircraft left behind may have been to turn aircraft over to US Air Force and it eventually became a part of the Air Force Project Coronet Solo, the forerunner of Project Commando Solo (the 193 Special Operations Wing of the PA Air National Guard) that provided PSYOPS radio broadcast services in Afghanistan.
If anyone knows why the Blue Eagle numbers skipped from Blue Eagle III to Blue Eagle VI, the information would be appreciated. Is it possible that someone in OASU didn't know how to count, or more realistically, someone in the Pentagon didn't know how to count.