Everyone loves a good story. If you have one, and we're sure you do -- you were a member of Det J, after all -- we'd like to hear yours. Please EMAIL your narrative today (but please no Det J *&^%# language). Be sure to include your contact info.
Anderson (excerpted from the War Relics Forum)
"...My wife and I just visited a unusual attraction in Thailand, a former US signals intelligence HF direction finding station used during the Vietnam war and commonly referred to as an 'Elephant cage'."
"But first a background. This is a huge facility. The AN/FLR-9 Antenna was a large circular array built at 8 locations during the Cold War. Collectively the 8 stations could locate and intercept HF communications anywhere on the planet, an individual station had accurate direction finding up to 7,400 km away."
"The antennae was gigantic, consisting of three concentric rings with outer ring 440 metres in diameter. The antenna two outer rings were supported by 96 pillars of 40 metre height."
"In Thailand an "Elephant cage" was built in 1970 at the tiny village of Non Sung, about 15 km south of Udon Thani in the north East region. Operated by the 7th RRFS (rather blandly described as a "Radio Research Field Station") it was really a top secret intell gathering station under the command of the Army Security Agency. In fact the 7th RRFS had been operating there since 1967. By 1970 the station had a 1,000 linguists, O5H (high speed morse intercept operators), cryptologists and communication staff. The development of the 320 acre site (which cost the US $400 to buy) cost US$50 million. Primarily purpose was listening in to NVA and Viet Cong radio traffic and monitor Chinese military movements."
"But political wind changes saw the Thai Government asking the US to close the Station in 1976, and it remained of limits to civilians until September 2018 when the Thai Army opened the Ramasun Historical museum."
Sp5 RJ (Lefty) Riesterer (1972-73)
I was originally assigned to Ben Hou in Vietnam but ended up at Ramasun Station in Udorn, Thailand. I spent app. 3 months there before again being re-assigned to Det J duty at Ubon. I served out my duration there and tolerated the duty of VC low-level intercept fairly well (lousey xmiters, sloppy keyers, and lots of radio noise). I enjoyed the smaller duty station where you knew everybody. My closest friend was a fellow Ft. Devons graduate, Glen (Clem) Courtney, who joined the Det about four months after I arrived...
Two stories about Glen (aka Clem) come to mind. One day in ops (the operation building), I noticed he was typing furiously during a hot intercept and had at least ten feet of "skit" (4-ply carbon-copy paper) hanging over his "mill" (typewriter). I joked he was really on fire and lit the beginning edge of his paper on fire, thinking he would immeditely get up from his pos (interecept position) and put it out. Well, cool Clem just said he wasn't a f****** fireman and calmly walked out of the ops. I, not calm at all, quickly put out the fire which luckily burned only the first page of his typed intercept but caused a lot of smoke in the small ops building. Such practical joking was common among members of the Det -- needed to relieve the stress of long hours of duty because we were so short handed.
The second story I remember is my ETS (End Term of Service) "party" where I was put on trial for daring to leave my comrades behind to go back to the world (States). Clem served as my defense attorney while our 1st. Seargent Kirkland (Top) served as the preciding judge (Top was a grand ol' guy who we all admired). And, of course, after being found "guilty on all counts" I was led to my doom -- the burn pit where I was doused in ash and water. All in good fun and the spoofed trial did become a fond memory of the comaraderie we had at the Det.
The most exciting experience that I remember was the day I got my first “CRITIC” which was the word operators (O5H20's) shouted out when they believed they were intercepting a priority message. My critic involved my "guy" (a low-level NVN field transmitter) sending a QST (“go to voice”) which usually happened when they were preparing for an attack.
When a “Critic” was shouted out, our entire shift quickly went into “critical operations mode” which meant several other operators would tune into the same frequency and backup the primary interceptor so nothing would be lost. The DF (direction finding) specialist would alert our DF aircraft to the frequency so they could triangulate the transmitter’s location. Our translators and analysists (TA's) would decode “live” and determine the intercept’s importance and relay the traffic to our Flag (our headquarters in Udorn) who would then determine appropriate counter measures - often times an airstrike. While this was a very exciting day for us, it was a very bad day for the enemy. I only had one of these but there were other operators at the Det who had more. The following year, at Vint Hills Farm in VA, I was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for this event.
(I hope other alumni of Det J will find this site and submit their stories so all will know what we did then --both the serious and the fun-- to serve our country).
Sp5 Mike Kelley (1971-72)
November 71 - - the Kitikachorn coup.
We had no idea what was happening or who had staged the coup. We only knew we were to prepare for document destruction. After receiving no further orders we decided to join with our girlfriends at our official residence of the Bodin Hotel. We opened up the armory and grabbed all of the weapons and ammo and loaded it into our Carryall Vehicle. The base was closed so we had some difficulty getting out but we finally convinced the AP at the gate that we were on an official courier mission and we were better armed than him. On the way to the hotel, we could see unusual military activity surrounding immigrant-owned businesses. Eyeballs were popping as we invaded the Bodin Hotel and "secured" the rooftop. We then dispatched several individuals to acquire rations and equipment to include beer and my TransOceanic SW radio. Fortunately, we had a linguist that was second to none and he filled us in on who Kitikachorn was and that it was a self-coup to keep the commies out of the Thai government. It was a memorable night though. I don't remember what happened after that, but thinking back it is amazing that we did not get reprimanded for our bold actions. I also remember a lot of ETS parties at the Sanpan Bar but those memories are a bit blurry.
Sp5 Charles Jarboe (1969-?)
Our DF (direction-finding) site was located about 10 miles north of the Udorn Air Base in the middle of the boonies which had a huge antennae field and usually one man per shift.
The Det B site looked impressive with all the sand bags. But notice the perimeter fence in the back? A split rail fence would really keep everyone out. LOL. [see photo in the Image Gallery]
I was on duty when the air base was hit in 1969. I received a teletype message that the base was under attack. Here I am a 20 year old long haired, leaping gnome-like star in a Hollywood movie. By teletype I told Udorn that I was going down. I attached thermites (explosives) to all the equipment. Hell of decision to be made by a 20 year old - this had never been in my training.
There were no weapons at the site. I was on guard Duty and they gave me an empty M16 rifle. I told them I was not going to go on guard Duty with no ammo. I then received a loaded M16. The Thai guards wanted to see it as they only had M1 carbines.. one looked down the barrel and hit the bolt and loaded a round into the chamber. I immediately grabbed the weapon and kicked his ass with my boot. The other guards said “Look... just like John Wayne in the movies”. You can't make this crap up.
The Det had only had 3 ‘df'ers’ (05d30’s) even with Det B being all alone in the boonies. Our sandwiches were made by the Thai kitchen staff. We would put in a food order before we left for work. One of our guys would drive it out to us. The [Thai] staff treated us like gods so if we gave them a request they couldn't fill they’d go bananas. For instance, once I asked for a hamburger for lunch. When I bit into the sandwich that was delivered, I pulled out a paper message which said “…No have hamburger.”
I came from Homestead AFB to Udorn and immediately ran into an E-6 from Torii Station, Okinawa. We didn't get along and I agreed to be transferred to Detachment J in Ubon. Best decision I made in 4 years. Great mission and personnel made Det J a great unit.
Det J's Night Before Christmas