After graduating from my army radio repair class, I spent a few months at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; then I was sent to Vietnam for one year to be a radio repairman for the military police. When I arrived in Vietnam, one of the first things I did was scan the AM and FM broadcast bands for English speaking stations. I was at Long Binh which was located close to Saigon. I found AFVN at 540 Kilocycles running 50,000 Watts. They played a lot of oldies, but they never told us the temperature. Maybe they figured we were already miserable enough from the heat, so why rub it in. On FM I found a station with Cousin Brucie of WABC. I thought it was a satellite relay of WABC in New York, but it turned out to be a low power station at Bien Hoa Air Base just playing a tape of WABC.
Shortly after that, I found one could check out tapes such as what I heard from the USO. I wrote to WCFL in Chicago to request a tape, and I was informed I could deal only with the USO. My trip to the USO yielded no results. It seems many of the larger stations sent one hour shows on tape to Vietnam. It is my guess KAAY did the same thing. They were probably aired on some of the low power stations throughout the country.
After being there awhile, I became bored with listening to AFVN. I found a couple of Vietnamese stations playing American oldies. One station announced in Vietnamese, but every few minutes they would say, “Flashlight Club.” I never figured out the significance of that. The FM station at Bien Hoa seemed to play nothing but tapes, but most of them were pretty good. Would you believe I actually longed to hear some real commercials? It seemed to me there had to be a way to hear something from the USA such as KAAY or KOMA, and I was the one to do it.
I had decent equipment in my communications shop, so I decided to string-up a long wire antenna. What a disappointment! I heard the Philippines and some other armed forces stations, but I never heard anything from the USA mainland on the AM broadcast band. Then I reasoned it wasn’t too likely I would. Since some of the stations in other countries were running higher power than our stations at home, why didn’t I ever hear a listenable signal from them at home near Chicago? If I actually could pick-up a signal from the USA, would it be strong enough to actually listen to it for pleasure. I heard a lot of static from lightning crashes. I heard some California hams on the forty meter ham band. Soon after that, the FM station at Bien Hoa started some live programming, but the prerecorded shows they were playing were funnier than one could imagine. I’ll write about that next. They were my inspiration.
I would like to hear from somebody who actually heard a listenable signal from KAAY in Vietnam. I’ll bet there were a lot of Beaker Street tapes making the rounds throughout the country.
The station at Bien Hoa was run by a gentleman in the air force; his name is Phil Lenz. More to come.
Ron Henselman W9FT