the Wanderling

(please click image)

For a vast number of young men growing up around the same time I did, after reaching a certain age, they were uprooted from whatever they were doing by the then in place friendly Selective Service System, otherwise known as the draft, and plunked down into the military. And so it was for me. Following a crowded ruckus-filled overnight 400 mile train ride from the induction center in Los Angeles to Fort Ord I, along with several hundred other potential GIs, at 4:00 AM in the morning, was herded into one of a whole line of cattle trucks and taken to what they called the Reception Company Area. Then, after being issued two pairs of too large boots along with several sets of too large olive drab shirts and pants, and having the good fortune of completing eight weeks of basic without incident I was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia to attend the U.S. Army Signal Corps School for what they called Advanced Individual Training, or AIT.

Graduation from the Signal Corps School with a RTT combat MOS like the one I received requires a student to fully master several prerequisites: 1) Be able to send and receive at the bare minimum 90 Morse code character words per minute. 2) Be able to fully operate independently a radio ensemble by sending and receiving three designated messages within five minutes, and 3) Complete and pass Phase Two of the training, Phase Two being the total learning and full operation of Top Secret cryptographic code machines undertaken in a specialized secure area. Both phases require an uninhibited ability in advanced Morse code, radio teletype operations, speed typing, calibration, antenna trim, network concatenation, map and coordinate reading, oscilloscope analysis, meteorology, emergency power utilization, jamming, and first echelon maintenance and repair.

Following completion of Basic Training and then Advanced Individual Training (AIT), except for a short detour to Fort Benning, Georgia, I was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas. From Riley, on TDY, I continued participating in an never ending series of so-called covert related training activities. During Christmas of 1963 I was enjoying my first two weeks of well earned leave, intended to last thru to New Years and beyond, staying mostly at my grandmother's in Redondo Beach, California. Not long into my time off than my First Sergeant called and told me to get my ass back to base. I told the Top that I had a roundtrip ticket and it would be days before I could use it. He said, "Fuck the ticket, there will be a guy at the door any minute with a new one." After my return to Riley and basically being kept in isolation for four to six weeks, sometime into the second month of 1964, traveling light and wearing my Class A uniform per verbal orders, I boarded a train to Needles, California, with the luxury of my own sleeping compartment and eating in the dining car before the hoi polloi got to. From Needles, in the darkened hours just before sunrise, after shedding my uniform, I was taken by civilians as a civilian to Norton AFB near San Bernardino and from there flew to Travis AFB. A short time later, after rout-stepping around Tan Son Nhut Air Base for awhile and visiting Saigon a few times, nearly always by myself and never having been officially assigned to a unit, found me in Long Tieng, Laos with nobody knowing I was there and having bypassed basically all military paperwork and protocol --- albeit at first in the early days at least, depending on the situation, sometimes as a civilian, sometimes as a G.I. in fully Sheep Dipped fatigues with no patches, names or identifying marks.


In the above I state that after arrival at Fort Ord for Basic Training, but before being sent to Fort Gordon for Advanced Individual Training, I had the good fortune of completing eight weeks of basic without incident. The thing is, there is a slight caveat to that statement that I typically leave unsaid most of the time because I just don't want to get into it.

Actually, part way into my eight weeks of Basic a nice little four week gap or break occurred that required me to leave, then be held over afterwards, in order to complete the rest of my training before being sent to Fort Gordon. Prior to hardly even breaking in my first brand new pair of combat boots or anything else, I was called out from role call one morning and told to report to the First Sergeant. After quick introductions to a man in a civilian suit who said he heard I was highly versed in Morse code, could type, had a clearance, and was familiar with the U-2. I told him yes to all four. The man handed some papers to the sergeant and told him they were orders to "borrow" me.

Before sundown of the next day, sporting brand new Sergeant E-6 stripes on my nearly as new, basically just issued fatigue shirt, the private slick sleeve that I was, without even being close to finishing Basic Training, and with nobody knowing it but with almost VIP treatment, I was taken to where several 1st Infantry Division 121st Signal Battalion radio rigs were set up at McCoy Air Force Base, Florida. There, in front of a rig that wasn't set up for operation, but instead road ready with a generator trailer and all, I met several high ranking officers, of which one, in civilian clothes I recognized immediately but was waved off as if I didn't. The man was introduced as Colonel Rawlston, but who I knew as Johnny Roselli. After the introductions a sergeant took me over to the driver of the rig and two radio operators. The whole show I took to be to intimidate the G.I.s as to my "importance." We were being sent down to Key West (or possibly Key Largo or Marathon Key) in conjunction with what would become known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.


Our job was to provide communication between McCoy Air Force Base and the Key and between the Key and somewhere else. That somewhere else involved Colonel Rawlston, that is Johnny Roselli, and he personally wanted me to be a member of the radio rig crew, but since I had no actual rank or time in grade, he wanted me to at least have status. The radio operators were told they were in full control to run the rig mainly because, although the crew didn't know it, I knew nothing at the time about an AN/GRC-26 radio rig. I had never seen one, heard of one, or been in one, let along having the ability to turn on or operated the equipment, something I became very good at in during the next few years. The only time I was to intercede was if anything had to do with Colonel Rawlston. After that in the Army, at least for me, TDY, i.e., Temporary Duty Assignment, became a way of life.

"No sooner had I finished eight weeks of Basic Training than I was sent to even more weeks of perhaps less physical but more intense training at the U.S. Army Southeast Signal Corps School, training that involved a whole bunch of time learning to send and receive Morse code at ever increased speeds with ever increased accuracy. I was at the Signal Corps school only a short time when, unknown to me and behind my back, it began filtering up through higher and higher levels of the upper echelon and beyond that I possessed a rather special, almost uncanny talent when it came to sending and receiving Morse code, a talent that powers that be felt was ripe for exploitation."

Morse Code, Hand Keys, and Da Vinci

(please click image)

During the early part of the year 1963 I had moved from Basic Training at Fort Ord, California to being fully ensconced in training and the goings on of the Southeast Signal Corps School in Fort Gordon, Georgia. However, even though I had only just earned my Private First Class stripes, with my acting-jack E-6 stripes long gone, because of my ability with Morse code, a near savant as my civilian instructors continued to tell my chain of command officers, before even finishing Signal School I was sent on a second TDY military experience. As the above quote attests to, speaking of as late in the year as August 1963, I was still spending a good portion of my military time on TDY, doing so practically clear through the end of my enlistment.

My TDY destination from Fort Gordon was to train cadets at West Point, or as it is more officially known, the U.S. Military Academy, as part of a several week observed study control group working initially with ten, dropping to five or six, specially selected cadets supposedly versed in the intricacies of Morse code. The idea was to find out what I had that they didn't and once found could it be taught, learned, or replicated.

The reason for the Army's excess over interest in me is because in a matter of just a few months after being drafted if not only weeks at the Signal Corps School they discovered I had developed a reputation as a notorious code sender with abilities thought by some of my superiors, thanks to my civilian instructors, to have been on par with the notorious Confederate telegrapher George A. Ellsworth. Ellsworth was known for being able to listen to another telegraph operator for just a few minutes and then mimicking that other operator's "fist" to a perfection. For the most part all telegraphers send with a distinct style, known as a fist, which other telegraphers can recognize as easily as they are able to recognize a familiar voice. Ellsworth would tap into a telegraph line used by Union forces and copy military dispatches transmitted on that line. By tapping the wire, Ellsworth's instruments became a part of the line and he could then, by blocking the downstream or incoming code at his point of entry, rewrite or send misleading or false messages downstream with the other-end recipient, listening to the fist, assuming the sender was a familiar. Certain members of the military and the Department of Defense whose central concerns were with such positive abnormalities if used on "our" side placed me on par with Ellsworth, or, just as equally if not more so, thought by the Army Security Agency as ready for the stockade.

The ASA was always after my ass for some reason or the other. In the early days if it hadn't been for higher authorities with higher priorities, ASA would have most certainly nailed me. The ASA, after I was caught goofing-off replicating the fist of a staff sergeant that unbeknownst to me at the time was actually gone from the base on leave, discovered that I, with almost a minuscule amount of practice, had an uncanny ability to accurately duplicate or counterfeit almost any Morse code operator's fist to such a point that what I sent, was totally indistinguishable for virtually anyone to differentiate between messages sent by me and that of any person I was imitating. My fate was sealed and rather than the stockade I was immediately appropriated by higher ups for other duties, I myself becoming top secret. If there were others like me I never learned, but they didn't want anybody to know my skills nor to have my whereabouts tracked.

Typically, as a two-year draftee the Army wouldn't spend much time on me or anyone, but, because I was good at what I did code-wise and because I already had a confidential clearance with so much of the investigative leg work done, it became a major key in the Army's decision to send me to the Signal Corps school and what to do with me.

Regulations in 1955 prohibited a two-year draftee from undergoing any training that exceeded sixteen weeks. Since many of the Signal Corps' very technical specialties were twenty or more weeks in length, the students for those courses had to be soldiers who enlisted for three or more years. According to Fort Monmouth's records, these soldiers' educational backgrounds were often not as strong as that of the draftee.

The Evolution of Advanced Individual Training in the U.S. Army Signal Corps

The confidential clearance came about because during the few years that transpired between graduation from high school and being drafted I was able to land a fairly high paying job for a seemingly innocuous little aerospace firm with a huge reputation. I had been hired as a trainee technical illustrator for the firm but was quickly put into a skunk-works-like smaller offshoot of the company that helped design and build human operated high altitude spying apparatus and space-oriented surveillance equipment.

"At the end of August, 1963, during the Martin Luther King speech, I was a member of a team operating classified transmitting equipment in a AN/GRC 26-D communication van parked along the beltway in Washington D.C. a few miles away from the Lincoln Memorial, the site of the King speech. Somewhere in there, either before or after the King speech, and I don't remember which because at the time I was doing all kinds of travel for the military including even to the point of being sent by the military to Panama, Cay Sal Bank off the north coast of Cuba, and Swan Island located between Cuba and Honduras. Then, along in there, besides all of the previous, for whatever reason, the Army decided they wanted me to participate in other extra-curricular military activities for a couple of weeks out west. They put me, along with a handful of other slovenly GI types, on board an unmarked company C-53 with all the windows covered over on the inside by aluminum foil and masking tape and flew us out on a cross-country middle-of-the-night flight to a place called Pinal Air Park, sometimes called Marana Air Park, near Marana, Arizona."

Don Juan Matus and the Nogales Bus Station Meeting

Somewhere in my other writings I state that not long after ending up rout-stepping around Tan Son Nhut Air Base and visiting Saigon a few times, nearly always by myself and never having been officially assigned to a unit, found me in Long Tieng, Laos. Basically what happened was, sometime toward the end of March of 1964 I boarded a USAF mule-train C-123 to Pleiku. There I transferred to a U.S. Army CV-2 which was later called a C-7 Caribou by the Air Force, flying some two hundred miles further north along the western edge of Vietnam. In that it was known a USAF single-engine light recon plane crashed in the vicinity of the Khe Sanh airstrip a day or two earlier and thought to have been pulled out of the sky because of small arms ground fire, the pilot and crew diverted the Caribou instead to a tiny rain soaked jungle-like airstrip wedged between Colonial Route 9 and the Xe Pone River along the Vietnamese Laotian border near the village of Lao Bao. Members from Special Forces Detachment A-101 or A-728 out of Khe Sanh were to pick me up, but nobody was around when we landed. The crew and I kicked back and waited.

After being informed that it wasn't a Special Forces job to provide taxi service for Regular Army and the pilot telling me we should really be getting the hell out of there because we were sitting ducks, not knowing what was beyond the tree line and all, on my own initiative and with only a side arm as protection, I made my way to the Huong Hoa District Headquarters where Army advisors, flabbergasted that I was there and wondering where I even came from or who I was, arranged a ride to the Special Forces camp just east of Khe Sanh village. The SF XO pointed out two men that had arrived earlier in the day by helicopter who were it would seem, looking for me. One of the men was a company spook, the other a non-com with the Army Security Agency. Both were out of an I Corps communication intelligence facility in Phu Bai. I joined the group of SF soldiers they were swapping lies with, telling the ASA non-com I had just been brought in from Bien Hoa in the south. The spook butted in and asked if I was the G.I. that had walked in from Lao Bao. I nodded yes. He pulled me aside putting his arm around my shoulder saying it could be a day or two before we pulled out, depending on the weather at this end and the other end. I asked if we going into North Vietnam. He answered, close.

Two days later the spook, non-com and I went to a small roughly hewn dirt airstrip just over the hill from the SF camp in Khe Sanh Valley. Sometime later a rather odd looking square tail airplane that turned out to be a Swiss made Pilatus Porter known as a STOL (Short Take Off, Landing) owned and operated by an American firm operating in Laos called Bird & Sons, sat down and picked up the three of us, arriving in Long Tieng, Laos shortly thereafter.

One of the most notorious operatives of the whole Secret War in Laos was a man by the name of Anthony Poshepny, also known as Tony Poe. He was there from the very beginning of Long Tieng (Lima Site 20A) circa 1961 training Hmong troops and going into the field with them. As the years went by, being there for such a long time and deeply immersed in the culture, even marrying a Hmong 'princess' and having children, he almost forgot who he was. The following recalls a time only a few years into Tony Poe's deployment in Laos:

"Almost the very second Poe and I made eye contact we recognized each other, Poe asking, 'What the hell are you doing here?,' with my response at nearly the exact same instant being, 'I thought you were in Tibet.'

"The last I saw Poe was in 1959 or 1960. He was in Colorado at an old onetime World War II U.S. Army facility called Camp Hale, training covertly off the books, a bunch of Tibetans to fight the Chinese. At the time I was a real civilian yet to be drafted, working instead for a small offshoot of a a major aerospace company involved with the then super-secret U-2 project. The person I worked for directly, called Harry the Man, was the top high altitude breathing equipment person in the world.

"Apparently in October of 1959 it was confirmed that China, with Soviet assistance, had established a nuclear test base at Lop Nor with all intentions of testing a nuclear device. U-2 flights over China were becoming extremely dangerous, so powers that be thought if they could put a monitoring station on top of some Himalayan mountain with a clear shot towards Lop Nor they could gather all the information they needed. Before a decision was made as to what mountain would be selected, it was a given it would be at a very high altitude. The same powers wanted to ensure that already existent equipment necessary to accomplish the mission could be modified, if need be, to operate in the rarified atmosphere OR if equipment could be designed to allow it to do so without modification. Enter Harry the Man. We were both at Area 51 at Groom Lake when the call came through for Harry to meet with some people at Camp Hale. I went along and while there met Tony Poe."



Poe had dropped out of high school to join the Marines when World War II started. He finished high school via a correspondence course and after the war graduated from San Jose State in 1950 with a degree in history and English, although in how he presented himself you would never know it. We crossed paths at Camp Hale, but it was later in Long Tieng --- and I have been told Poe never offered sage advice to anybody --- he told me to get out of this shit while I still had a chance and never look back. Go to college, make something of yourself, don't fuck up your life like I have. Your'e a cartoonist. Draw pictures. Make people laugh. Within four months of my discharge I started college and the following happened, of which I have always attributed to Tony:

"I settled in using Redondo as a central base of operations while commuting back and forth to college attempting to grab off an undergraduate degree on the G.I. Bill, and of which I was eventually able to do.

"After receiving a B.A. along with a California Secondary Teaching Credential, which required an additional fifth year beyond a bachelors as well as student teaching, I matriculated into graduate school."

The Wanderling and His High School Chums

Previously, when I had asked the spook if we going into North Vietnam he answered with, close. The same way he couldn't clarify then I still can't clarify in these days. What I am getting at is, even though I am revealing the military had a very special need for my talents duplicating and sending Morse code totally indistinguishable for virtually anyone to differentiate between messages sent by me and that of any person I was imitating, I am still not at liberty to tell for what use that talent was so needed or any implementation thereof. Without breaking any tenets on my part, the paragraphs that follow were written by the highly distinguished and well received author and researcher Alfred McCoy, and found in his book The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (1972) and are being presented for you to infer what you wish:

"From Nam Yu the teams were flown fifty-five miles due north and dropped off on the Laotian bank of the Mekong River. After inflating their rubber rafts, the teams paddled across the Mekong and hiked three miles through the Burmese jungle until they reached the joint Nationalist Chinese CIA base near Mong Hkan. It was originally established by a KMT intelligence force, the First Independent Unit, to serve as a base for its own cross-border forays into Yunnan, and as a radio post for transmitting information on the availability of opium to KMT military caravans based at Mae Salong in northern Thailand. When the CIA began sending its reconnaissance patrols into Yunnan, the First Independent Unit agreed to share the base.

"From Mong Hkan, the CIA teams hiked north for several days to one of two forward bases only a few miles from the border --- a joint CIA-KMT radio post at Mong He and a CIA station at Mong Mom.

"Using light-weight, four-pound radios with a broadcast radius of four hundred miles, the teams transmitted their top priority data directly to a powerful receiver at Nam Yu or to specially equipped Air America planes that flew back and forth along the Laotian Chinese border. Once these messages were translated at Nam Yu, they were forwarded to Vientiane for analysis and possible transmission to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The radio messages also served to pinpoint every team's position, all carefully recorded on a huge relief map of Yunnan Province mounted in a restricted operations room at Nam YU."

NAM YU: LIMA SITE 118A: Where Was It, Why Was It?

After the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in March of 1954, in order to ensure western interests would continue to be maintained in the general greater southeast Asian sphere, the U.S. and/or allies or closely allied mercenaries or surrogates continued to keep their hands in the pie at some level or the other.

One of those closely allied mercenaries relative to American interest was a man named Vang Pao, an otherwise minor Laotian warlord that through his association with the U.S. grew much more powerful than otherwise would have been ordained. Unrelated except for the striking coincidence, almost ten years to the day following the fall of the aforementioned Dien Bien Phu, through a series of events that led to and were intertwined with the events above as written about by Alfred McCoy in the quote above, I found myself in the presence of Vang Pao, events of which ended up, at least for me, even more copious series of events well beyond either of our control.

Even with U.S. using Vang Pao's military forces he still financed a good portion of his largely regional Laotian warlord activities through the use of, bartering of, or marketing of, opium. The problem with being a marketer of opium is that for any amount of it to become super-profitable on a large scale at the user end --- over any distance and to large population centers --- it quickly becomes way too bulky, heavy, difficult to transport, and hard to hide. However, processing opium into morphine base and then into heroin concentrates the power of the product into a more manageable material to transport --- that is, small amounts relative to its potentially huge worth can be moved in rather small spaces. The thing is, the refining process to turn morphine base into good stuff, say China White at 99.9% pure --- and doing it safely and expediently --- requires lots of chemicals and the experience of a master chemist. Although in later years there were eventually quite a number of highly capable heroin refineries located throughout the Golden Triangle area, at the time we are talking about here, the Laotian warlord operated one of only two known, and, even though it could process heroin, it was rudimentary at best and, mostly because of lack of sufficient amounts of opium, turned out only small amount of product.

In those days most of the opium in the Golden Triangle came down from Burma to Thailand by mule train to the railhead in Chiang Mai. Although the majority of the opium was grown or fell under the control of the Burmese strongman and warlord Khun Sa, on the long mule train trail to the railhead Khun Sa's opium was guarded by remnant soldiers of Chiang Kai Shek's old KMT, the Kuomintang. When Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist troops escaped to Taiwan a good portion of his army had been split into separate parts with large remnants remaining in the far reaches of the western provinces basically living off the land and scrounging for a living. Some of that scrounging included providing security for Khun Sa's opium being moved overland by mule to Chiang Mai. Although odd bedfellows it was done so by Khun Sa because at that point in time he was yet to build his own army --- that wouldn't come until sometime after 1966. In the meantime Khun Sa found it expedient to have the KMT on the payroll, or at least within range where he could watch them.

The people I was traveling with decided, and I am not sure of which even to this day, that it could possibly be quite lucrative on one hand or could eliminate a lot of drugs ending up on the market on the other if, rather than leaving Khun Sa's raw opium up for bid in the markets of Chiang Mai, we intercepted it sometime before arrival and making an offer that would be hard to refuse. See:


Then, with the events as described in a section titled The Monastery and Beyond: My Arrival. as found in the above link, the doors were opened to fully address the question under the graphic at the top of the page that reads "Jungles of China, Burma, India WW II, Jungles of Southeast Asia 1968. So what changed?" making reference to the expansion of the armed conflict that occurred 20 years later in the Vietnam war and throughout Southeast Asia, most especially so into Laos and later Cambodia, and during that 20 years nothing changed.

For me the Gulf of Tonkin incident came and went and so did I, leaving the rooter-rooter smelling dump of a place to others, with my mind being filled with the visions of dancing sugar plums of civilian life once again. In the process of that forthcoming civilian life and with no future in sight I began taking and getting, much to my surprise, sufficiently high enough ACT and SAT scores to attend major prestigious east coast state colleges or universities. When the visions of sugar plums began morphing into the possibilities of college campuses filled with mini skirt clad coeds I began seriously investigating the costs. Discouraged by the fees, but discovering even though I would be discharged from the Army in Fort Riley, Kansas, and would spend my last three months living there under their auspices in a holding company at Riley and hanging out full time in Junction City and Kansas State's Aggieville in Manhattan, Kansas setting the scene to upgrade my status in the eyes of others to that of the late great Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, there wasn't much to do. I was encouraged by the fact that you retain residency from the state you were drafted. Knowing a number of high quality state and private universities were within easy striking distance of where I lived in California when I was drafted, I decided to return there and my old home town of Redondo Beach.(see)

Two years to the day after having been inducted into the armed services and finishing my full time active duty as required, I was honorably discharged, or more accurately, separated, from under the Army's auspices without incident. As a requisite to that discharge/separation, in that at the time there was a six year obligation to the military, like most two year draftees, to fulfill those remaining four years, I was required to report for duty as an active reserve member to a designated Active Reserve Unit. In my case it was the 63rd Infantry Division, at the time headquartered in Los Alamitos, California, with smaller seemingly unrelated within themselves segments of said Division scattered around the state. The smaller segment I was to report to was Hq & Hq Detachment, 163rd Signal Battalion in Torrance, California.

I was on the very cusp of my final year of obligation with Uncle Sam and the reserves, expecting to walk away clean when two men in civilian suits approached me in the dark one night after having gone to the reserve site upon request. The reserve CO had only just handed me an official looking envelope when the men came up to me in the parking lot. They said I was no longer in the active or inactive reserve. Any reserve obligations I was to fulfill or meet would be taken care of having been shifted instead to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) and would be participating in a special assignment with my first orders in the envelope. Briefly, I would be reporting to Camp Roberts with further instructions to follow. Any reserve obligations I was to fulfill or meet would be taken care of, in the meantime I was released from any further obligations. Just show up at Roberts when ordered, packing all my military gear the same as I would as if I was going on a regular two weeks training session.(see)

(please click image)

As instructed I packed my gear as though I was going on regular two weeks training, arriving at Camp Roberts at the designated time and date. I barely handed my papers to the company clerk when I was told I wouldn't be staying at Camp Roberts telling me not to take anything with me when I left except a toothbrush and razor. Everything else was to remain behind because I would be traveling light and as a civilian. I got in the back of a civilian car with two Regular Army E-4's dressed in class A khakis in the front, going a hundred miles plus or so to Travis Air Force Base. Arriving at Travis I was taken to a stifling hot building near the flight line and told to wait.

I was squatting Vietnamese style outside on the tarmac leaning against the building in what shade I could find tossing rocks into a little pile when I was approached by two men in civilian clothes. Before I even had a chance to totally stand up one of the men yelled, "Hey, footprint man!" As I looked up from my semi getting up position I recognized one of the men as one of the Americans that I had gone into China with. We shook hands and I asked what the hell was going on. He told me not to worry, he figured my life was getting dull and just wanted to spice it up a little. Not much to it he said, just a quick trip into Cambodia and Laos for a few days. I told him I was a civilian now, nobody knew my past, I was in college, serious with a lady, and couldn't take the chance. He said he needed me, trusted me, and even though he couldn't tell me the nature of the job I was the only one who could do it. Besides, he said, "They didn't send you to learn all that tracker shit for nothin'." When I asked what would happen if I refused he put his hand on my shoulder and told me it was River Styx stuff, only the Boatman knew and I had to do it. I closed my eyes and shook my head in a slow motion fuck me fashion. Then he said, "See you in Phu Bai."(see)

Thirty-six hours, several plane flights and a helicopter later, just as promised, I was landing in Phu Bai. There I was issued a slant pocket type fatigue shirt along with a pair of matching side pocket fatigue pants with no patches, names or identifying marks, topped off by a near new but semi-worn tiger stripe boonie hat said to be a lucky hat. I was told the guy it belonged to left it for the next guy after he finished his tour and went home without mishap. I was also told the fatigues were new and they looked it too, but before I ever broke starch, to loosen up the stiffness and help make them breath better --- and so I wouldn't look so FNG or have to walk like some 1950's toy tin robot --- I had them washed a few times. As usual with the Army it was hurry up and wait. Finally somebody came along and told me the team I was supposed to meet wasn't in Phu Bai, but Pleiku.

I ended up on the way from Qui Nhon in the front passenger seat of a duce and a half headed toward Pleiku as part of one of the 8th Transportation Group's early morning multi-truck convoys, interceded between trucks every so often with their own defenses --- gun trucks mounted with quad-fifties. As we passed through a small hamlet the driver pointed out a house a little ways off the road that had all the outward appearances of a rundown average looking Vietnamese home. The driver told me it wasn't a home, but actually a whorehouse and that he went there when he could to get laid or just enjoy a cold drink.

Although I was a little out of practice being a civilian and all for four years I had done a lot of this shit before so I just went down to where all the aircraft was going in and out and without anybody really knowing my whereabouts and on my own, worked my way onto a southbound maintenance flight to Qui Nhon, this time in a gunship, hoping to catch a ride into Pleiku, ending up in the front passenger seat of a duce and a half. After I arrived, since the reason I was there was an "eyes only, need to know" status, no one seemed to know anything about anything or about me either. The officer whose lap I fell under the auspice of and who was only peripherally involved, after having learned my back story started yelling at me that the whole country was searching for my fuckin' ass, nobody knew if I was alive or dead and that he even had a one-star general calling him personally about me, the general being most likely Brigadier General William M. Van Harlingen, Jr. (1917-1991), Assistant Chief of Staff for Communications-Electronics at U.S. Army, Vietnam, from July 1967 through January 1969. The officer, yelling at the top of his voice, told his sergeant to get me out of his fuckin' sight and put an MP on me 24 hours a day until they came and got me --- and not let me out of his sight, knee cap me if he had too. With that I turned and walked out without a clue as to what just happened and thinking how glad I was to be in the service of my country.

Sitting around shooting the shit with the MP I told him that on the way up from Qui Nhon the driver pointed out one of the houses off the road that had all the outward appearances of a rundown average looking Vietnamese home that wasn't a home, but actually a whorehouse. The MP told me he had been there a few times and even gotten to know some of the girls. They didn't rip you off and had fair prices, especially if they knew you. Not long after that the two of us were in the house that was not a home wolfing down a few cold beers with a couple of girls on our laps and me thinking how glad I was to be in service of my country.

The MP wanted to know what was so important about me, the special treatment and all, why no name tags, unit markings, or rank. Not knowing for sure if he was a plant or not I was careful what I revealed telling him at the most I was what is known in military parlance as a dancer:

dancer [ dan-ser, dahn- ]


DANCER: In military jargon a Morse code sender/receiver, i.e., telegrapher, operator, who is extremely light or nimble in their Morse code sending abilities. From the phrase "trip the light fantastic" meaning a dancer whose abilities are graceful and light on their feet, that glides smoothly through a dance routine as though a prima ballerina assoluta. Typically applied to a telegrapher whose skills are almost savant in nature. More specifically, an operator with a rare ability to accurately duplicate or counterfeit almost any Morse code operator's "fist" to such a point that what is sent by the counterfeiter is totally indistinguishable for virtually anyone to differentiate between messages sent and the person being imitated.

THE CIVILIAN G.I, 1968 VIETNAM: Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols, the Highlands, and Cambodia

In the dark early morning hours, with no pre-warning or knock, the door to the room I was in suddenly burst open, the door ending up on an angle dangling only by the grace of the bottom hinge, a few screws, and a chair it hit. The instant the room was breached a 200 watt flashlight-like beam hit my eyes from the same direction. The light emanated from one of a group of three heavily armed men, all wearing helmets, their bodies darkly silhouetted beyond the handheld flashlight by the dim hallway back light behind them. All three instantly stopped their pushing-forward momentum, even to the point of bouncing into and off each other as well as tripping over the door when they realized one after the other that I held not a non-lethal reciprocal flashlight like their's in my hand, but a well aimed Colt .45 semi automatic. Before my eyes even narrowed from the wide open dilation of the previous darkness to the snapping narrowness from the flashlight's sudden glare I had the .45 off the stand and on them with the hammer back.

Then, almost just as quickly, a fourth man, also in a helmet but not carrying a weapon, squeezed between the other three asking to have a light turned on. The man, wearing the railroad tracks of a captain, wore freshly broken starch tailored fatigues looking all the same as a stateside STRAC trooper. He told me to put the hammer back and set the gun down saying I was pretty quick with a weapon for a dancer-ass brass pounder. I said, "Reflexes." He returned with, "That's reflexes, sir!" I dug down into my fatigue shirt pocket and pulled out some captain bars. He said, "You ain't no captain, private." I said, "We'll see what I am when you're in the stockade prickface." The captain said, "You asshole," then told one of the MP's to hold my arm down flat on top of the dresser next to the bed and said, "In a second you're not going to be anybody." He took the rifle of the MP and with the butt down wavering several inches above the top of the back of my hand, using both arms, raised the rifle above his head as though he was going to bring it down and smash my hand. I yelled if he screwed up my hand even a little bit the Army would see to it he was a dead man. The MP, releasing my arm said, "You can bet your chrome plated captain's bar ass I ain't going to be part of holding no dancer's arm while his hand was being smashed." With that the captain smiled and lowered the rifle and I put the captain bars back in my pocket. I futzed around in the pocket a few seconds and pulled out a major's gold oak leaf and said, "Maybe you're right, it could be I'm a major." The captain replied with, "Yeah, a major asshole."

The girl beside me, who had been laying on top of the bed totally nude face down and asleep, had rolled over into a sitting position putting her legs together pulling them up toward her chest under her chin while cover wrapping herself by pulling the sheet up around her neck leaving only her head, long dark hair, and feet, toes, and ankles showing. The captain, actually calling her by name, asked if I had been nice to her. The girl, uncovering her arm put it around my neck scooting closer telling the captain she was in love with me, wanted to marry me, go back to America and have my babies. The captain said that was good enough for him.

Then he said he hated to be a harbinger of such bad news, sadness and sorrow to such a remarkable couple, but he had no choice but to breakup our almost full night in depth steadfast romance and relationship because he had orders to take me with him. Looking at the captain with a slight tip-nodding of my head toward the girl while at the same time moving my eyes back and forth as if pointing he, without embarking even the slightest tendency toward leniency, told me, "Get your fuckin' clothes on soldier or I'll drag me out the fuckin' place just the way you are, Captain or not"

As for my "rank" everyone seemed so overconcerned about, I was a civilian. Otherwise, reserve-wise my rank was in limbo between the Sergeant E-5 that I was being compensated for and me receiving my B.A. degree affording me the level of a two-louie single gold bar instead, and then the ability of those so concerned to keep me forever. As an enlisted man when I was done, I was done.

"It should be noted that almost immediately upon receiving my B.A., under the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant was put into the works, primarily because of my top secret clearance and my MOS, but mostly to keep me in the Army forever."

THE CIVILIAN G.I, 1968 VIETNAM: Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols, the Highlands, and Cambodia

At the time we are talking here the U.S. military venture in Vietnam was more World War II like in it's use of technology. That is, by the time the 1990's rolled around with the Gulf War's Operation Sandstorm and eventually on into Afghanistan, people like me and my talents were quickly falling by the wayside replaced by computers and machines, especially so old China hands. Such was not the case or even in the foreseeable future back when military higher up felt a need for my type. I still have copies of U.S. Government paperwork in my name dated as late as 1977 with consideration for deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan. The only reason it wasn't put into place is because Soviet built fighter planes and Migs began strafing the capitol around midnight of April 27, 1978 in support of an overthrow of the established government. Re the following from the source so cited:

In April 1978, the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan seized power in Afghanistan in the Saur Revolution, with the help of a few airplanes of Afghanistan's military air force, which were mainly Soviet-made MiG-21 Fishbed and Su-7BMK Fitter-As. The Su-7s began the air attack on the Presidential Palace.

Forty-five combat missions were flown by Su-7s in the revolution, with eleven missions undertaken at night. These used FAB-250 bombs, about 3000 S-5 rockets, and cannon rounds. Only one Su-7 was lost during the April revolution. A pilot began to lose consciousness during takeoff and was forced to eject.(source)

After that it was too late and I was pretty much out of the picture because I was in Jamaica after having joined the Peace Corps.



(click any image)




(please click image)



(please click any insignia)












(please click)

As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS

The following comments regarding security clearances is found at the source so cited. I completed AIT (Advanced Individual Training) at the U.S. Army Signal Corps School in Fort Gordon, Georgia after going through basic at Fort Ord, California. The author writes he attended the Signal Corps School as well. Same place, same experience, seemingly the same MOS, albeit a year or two after I did. Even so, reading his piece, for me it seemed as though nothing had changed --- again same place, same experience. What the author says about security clearances, below, pretty much sums up the issue, at least as it was during the days I was dealing with it. However, again, in that I already had a confidential clearance, meaning a substantial portion of the investigative leg work was done, the Army did, in my case, rethink options:

"Of those who found the training a breeze only a few were able to go on for more complex training in other areas. A variety of reasons prevented those who didn't, or couldn't, continue.

"One reason was time. The Army required that a GI have at least 2 years service remaining after completing extensive and expensive training. Most draftees were adamantly opposed to adding more time to their '2-year sentences.'

"Another reason was security. Top Secret clearances were not as 'generally defined' as Secret clearances. Not being approved for one meant being restricted to your present level of training. Anyone holding a Secret clearance could view anything stamped 'Secret.' However, Top Secret clearances were amended with the sub-classification 'Need To Know.' Meaning, having a Top Secret clearance did not entitle the holder to view all Top Secret information. He was only allowed to view material he had a 'need to know' about. Even a General holding a Top Secret clearance was sometimes not allowed the privilege of knowing all matters under his own command, even though a lower ranking communications or intelligence officer was allowed to. The reason for limiting access was not to restrict individuals as much as it was to restrict numbers. The more people knowing about a secret, the greater the chances it might be leaked."(source)

Although not specifically applicable to security clearances per se' the following from the same source, shows how the training at Fort Gordon was applicable to the mission I was eventually assigned to. Most people have a tendency to place military communication training into Army Lite, when in reality being school trained is not necessarily a free ride:

"To graduate, a student had to fulfill several prerequisites. He had to be able to send and receive 90 Morse code characters words per minute. He had to be able to fire up a radio ensemble, send and receive 3 messages within 5 minutes, pass Phase 2, and be able to handle the control of a self-contained RTT rig, all on his own.

"We were told that some secret operations might require a rig be set up on top of a mountain, hidden in the middle of a village, or buried underground. Although 90 characters per minute was considered extremely fast, some veteran RTT jocks could handle 200 while drinking coffee.

"While the communications specialists of other MOS's were trained to work in large, fixed, multi-personnel stations well away from combat lines, the RTT graduate was trained to operate solely on his own as a primary or backup source of communications support for any level of command operations.

"Because of the occasional tactical necessity to 'bury a rig in the boonies,' far from technical support or spare parts, the single-most important factor emphasized in RTT training was that each student develop an instinctive ability to get his rig back up to full operation if anything went wrong. and being alone in a rig surrounded by fragile technology, anything and everything was expected to go wrong, most of the time.

"Personal resourcefulness and improvisation were stressed as the 2 qualities absolutely necessary to make it as a successful RTT man. The unofficial RTT motto was, 'Improvise, or Die.'"

I get emails all the time from people who say, "I was drafted and I got a security clearance, etc., etc." While some special circumstances draftees did indeed receive security clearances, like myself for example, most didn't --- especially Top Secret. Although not a set-in-stone steadfast rule, it almost always fell back onto what is found in the short paragraph above that reads:

"One reason was time. The Army required that a GI have at least 2 years service remaining after completing extensive and expensive training. Most draftees were adamantly opposed to adding more time to their '2-year sentences.'"





For the most part, all telegraphers send with a distinct style known as a "fist," a rhythmic tapping pattern that by it's own nature is individually specific to a given telegraph operator. Such patterns are, albeit not limited to, such things as spacing, time-length intervals of dots, dashes and/or the blank or empty space separations between them, lightness or heaviness of touch, innate or habitual mistakes, etc., which other telegraphers, especially particularly astute ones, can recognize as easily as they are able to recognize a familiar voice. Because of that fist a telegrapher leaves behind them a "footprint" that cumulatively leaves a trail in their wake, a trail that can be tracked. When applied to military situations, when it is discovered that a known recognizable fist continually shows up assigned to a given military unit, the footprint or trail from that specific fist can be followed, revealing troop or ship movements and locations.


"My uncle took me to the giant Palley's Surplus Store off Alameda Street and Vernon in L. A. to pick out a pair of war surplus earphones with a full set of large foam rubber ear pads. Palley's had everything and we used to go there often with me always returning with a bunch of World War II army surplus stuff --- canteens, pistol belts, parkas, infantry backpacks, army M43 folding shovels, and two of my very favorites, an Army Signal Corps J-38 Hand key, one in its own little case, the other with a leg-band, both for sending Morse code and an ESM/1 Emergency Signaling Mirror."



The field radio being operated by the Signal Corps G.I., shown using a telegraph key in the opening photo at the top of the page, is a SCR-284.

The Signal Corps Radio set SCR-284, seen a little more clearly in the photo above, as part of America's World War II effort, was manufactured by the Crosley Corporation of Cincinnati, Ohio. The set consisted of the BC-654 and associated equipment. As a Field Radio the SCR-284/BC-654 had a battery powered receiver and hand crank generator powered transmitter. As a Vehicular Radio Set it used a. 6/12 V dynamotor for power.

(for a huge full screen size click image then click again)

The SCR-284/BC-654 was first introduced under battlefield conditions in North Africa during Operation Torch and generally given credit as the first radio set used for communications from the beach to the U.S. Fleet to coordinate naval gunfire and beach radio networks. More than 50,000 sets were produced and delivered in support of Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion of Normandy, with eventually some 150,000+ units produced overall. Right after the war they could easily be found being sold as surplus for as little as $15, sometimes even less depending on condition.

Below is a close up of the J-48 handkey both covered and uncovered from it's little container as seen in the graphic above of the SCR-284.

(for larger size click image then click again)

(click any image)




(please click image)

(please click image)

(please click image)

Out of the blue my Stepmother and dad decided to head off to South America for a couple of years and when they did our de facto family broke up. My Uncle, who had been overseeing me almost exclusively over most of the previous several years, went back to Santa Fe and my younger brother and I went again to another foster couple. When we did most of my Army surplus gear got lost in the shuffle --- and as far as the couple was concerned, going to Palley's, was out of the picture.

The thing is, at the time I was a kid and I did kid things. As a kid it seems like a large portion of almost everything I learned came from reading comic books. Over and over, even today in the stuff I write I often refer back to something I read at one time or the other in a comic book, that is, except maybe for one major time when there was not just comic books involved, but the coming together of both comic books AND Saturday afternoon matinee movies of the day. That time I flew well over two-stories high in a Da Vinci-like flying machine I built myself as described in Tarzan and the Huntress.

Below is an ad from a comic book that just happened to start showing up for the first time around August 1949, just at the exact time my family was breaking up or on the verge of breaking up. On top of that, with the prospect of me not having the unfettered cash resources that had been provided me so freely in the past, my stepmother arranged for me to get a part time after school and on the weekend job working for a friend of hers who owned a place called the Normandie Club, one of six legal poker casinos in the city, with those six being practically the only legal poker clubs in the whole state. The job allowed me to be able to pick up some extra cash here and there when I needed it. With that money and the comic book ads like the one below I was never without all the Army surplus stuff I wanted.

Anybody who is familiar with or has read any amount of my online works knows that as a young boy I was big on box top and the like offers such as Ovaltine's Captain Midnight's Radio Premiums, especially Captain Midnight's Code-O-Graphs, and more specifically so the 1942-1945 Photo-Matic version that figured so prominently throughout my childhood into adulthood. As I viewed it, comic book ads were a quick jump from box top offers, falling into a similar or like category. Matter of fact the first comic book ad I ever answered was for me to become a Junior Air Raid Warden. I don't think I was even in kindergarten when I sent for the Air Raid Warden kit.

Please notice the two smaller versions of the surplus ad below the larger color surplus ad. Although similar to the color ad both offer signaling mirrors for 35 cents. Signaling mirrors played a prominent role between the famed mathematician, meteorite hunter, and astronomer Dr. Lincoln La Paz and my uncle regarding a pre-Roswell UFO encounter. Remember too, from the main text, every time I went to Palley's I always came back with a bunch of World War II army surplus stuff like canteens, pistol belts, parkas, infantry backpacks, army M43 folding shovels, and my favorite an Army Signal Corps J-38 hand key, one in its own little case, the other with a leg-band, both for sending Morse code. One day when I was scrounging through the acres and acres of military items I ran across a whole bin of World War II ESM/1 emergency signaling mirrors still in their original packaging and still unopened. Of course, since they were only a buck, I had to have one. The comic book mail order made it a lot easier. Notice as well, in those days a kid could order knives, machetes, and axes if one was so predisposed. Notice too, in the two black and white smaller ads below the full size colored ad, they were selling signaling mirrors for .35 cents. A signaling mirror played a huge role with my uncle as found in the Kensington Stone.


(for larger size click either image then click again)

"In the book SHAMBHALA: Oasis of Light, by Andrew Tomas (Sphere Books Ltd; 1977) the author, who spent many years studying the myths and legends of the Far East, writes that the Kunlun Mountains of the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai Province holds a very important place in Chinese mythology. It is in the Kunlun range that the Immortals are believed to be, living in a mysterious hermitage said to exist somewhere beyond time in a remote area known under a variety of names such as Gyanganj, Shambhala or Shangri-La and, according to Tomas in his book, ruled by Hsi Wang Mu, the Queen Mother of the West. Hsi Wang Mu, is also known as Kuan Yin the goddess of mercy and compassion."

KUAN YIN: Compassionate Saviouress

Within the Individual Ready Reserve of each reserve component there is a category of members, as designated by the Secretary concerned, who are subject to being ordered to active duty involuntarily in accordance with section 12304 of this title. A member may not be placed in that mobilization category unless:

  • the member volunteers for that category; and (more like and/or)

  • the member is selected for that category by the Secretary concerned, based upon the needs of the service and the grade and military skills of that member.

Basically, what the above means is that any person, civilian or otherwise, as a member of the Individual Ready Reserve, and thus then because of that not assigned to any other specific military component or unit either active or inactive, can be cherry-picked out on a single one-on-one individual basis from the Individual Ready Reserve manpower pool without any need to activate any given unit or military component and done so "based upon the needs of the service and the grade and military skills of that member."