Story 47 - 1ATF Comd Net (VHF) Log

 6RAR/NZ (10 Sept 1969)

By Denis Hare


The discovery recently of one of the Radio Log Books used by the 104 Sig Sqn Radio Detachment working with 6RAR/NZ on Operation (Op) Burnham in Sept 1969, gives us a look at how the detachment worked and what they reported on their radios. 

Op Burnham was a land clearing task in Area of Operation (AO) Stuart supported by reconnaissance and ambush operations.  The operation started on the 29 August 1969, with 6RAR/NZ deploying in and around Fire Support Patrol Base (FSPB) Diggers Rest.  The Operation lasted 33 days with most of the Battalion returning to Nui Dat on the 30 Sept 1969 to prepare for the next Operation.  Field living was hard as this was the wet season. 

Deploying to Diggers Rest on Op Burnham
Deploying to FSPB Diggers Rest on Op Burnham.  Photo taken by taken by Garry Swalling.  Garry dropped his
camera into his fighting pit, that had a foot of water and the film was water damage!   Hence the water marks
 (lines) on photo.

The Radio Log Book located covers the period  6 to 15 Sept 1969 and the log for the 10 Sept 1969 is displayed below to highlight a normal day working with an Infantry Battalion on operations in Vietnam for the Task Force Signals. 

Radio Detachment

The 104 Sig Sqn radio detachment working with 6RAR/NZ at the time was as follows: 

Sgt John Laurie
Sig Garry Swalling
Sig Jeff Fewson
Sig Chris Bonython

104 Sig Sqn Radio Operators worked in the underground 6RAR/NZ Command Post (CP) and passed communicating rearward back to commander at HQ 1 ATF with the 6RAR/NZ Regimental Signalers communicating forward to their troops (6RAR/NZ).

Voice Encryption Equipment KY-38The 104 Sig Sqn detachment also had a VHF secure voice link (Code named: Rare Bird in the Radio Log below) using KY-38 Encryption Equipment connected to the Radio Set AN/PRC-77 back to HQ 1 ATF.   Codes for the encryption equipment were not held at the FSPB, so a 104 Sig Sqn member would fly in by chopper, when necessary with the key, to rekey the equipment.

Radio shifts of about 6 hours were planned but weapon pits, sleeping protection had to be dug, as well as the CP, clearing patrols, etc, so the shifts were not strictly to the 6 hours.  For example, it appears the shifts on the 10 Sept from the handwriting were:

 Chris              2130-0800
Jeff                 0800-1000
Garry              1000-1300
Chris              1300-1500
Jeff                 1500-1700
Garry              1700-2105
Chris               2105-0600

104 Sig Sqn Radio Log for the 1ATF Command Network (VHF) Detachment at FSPB Diggers Rest with 6RAR/NZ on the 10 Sept 1969

Information in Radio Log below explained below Log Book

Radio Log Cover - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Log Page 1 - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Log Page 2 - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Log Page 3 - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Log Page 4 - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Log Page 5 - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Log Page 6 - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Log Page 7 - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Log Page 8 - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Log Page 9 - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Log Page 10 - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Log Page 11 - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Log Page 12 - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Log Page 13 - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Log Page 14 - 10 Sept 1969

Radio Appointments used:

Sunray      = Commander
Seagull     = Operations
Sheldrake = Artillery
Acorn        = Intelligence
Pronto       = Signals

Note 1.  Sunray refers to the formation commander, it is a synonym of leader. This could be a commander of platoon, company, combat group, battalion or battle group.

Note 2.  When you communicate thru radio to a command element you normally speak to the radio operator for the commander, the commander usually has several operators and radio nets up any one communicating with command will usually talk to the operator who then communicates the message to the commander or his designated rep, actual comes in when you are actually speaking with the commander

Code words and Terms used in the Radio Log:

0642 hour      Standard military radio formatted contact report
0915 hour      Rare Bird = VHF Secure Radio Link using Radio Set AN/PRC-77 and KY-38
                       Encryption Equipment.

Note: The new encryption equipment was provided to 104 Sig Sqn in April 1969 and was used to form an ‘on demand’ 1 ATF Comd Net Secure between the three Battalions, HQ SAS Sqn and HQ 1 ATF.  The SOI for Sept allocated freq but has no other details.

0941 hour      Trail Dust = Trail Dust missions.

Note: This was the term used in the classified messages for herbicide spray missions from Aircraft as part of Operation Ranch Hand.  Now known as Agent Orange!

1335 hour      Dust Off = Medical Evacuation by Helicopter
1423 hour      3 x Thailand Liaison Officers (LO) and 3 x Non Commission Officers (NCO)
1423 hour      Maj Ross, PRO .  Note the French visitor!
1540 hour      PW = Prisoner of War
1620 hour      M/Trap = Edge of the Area of Operation (AO); to be close or to cross a
                       boundary required permission, call a ‘mousetrap’

1811 hour      Lt Diddams = 104 Sig Sqn Radio Troop Commander
1811 hour      RSO = Regimental Signals Officer (6RAR) – Capt H. H. Kuessner (RASigs)
1911 hour      Sniffer =  Electronic device used to detect the presence of humans in the

1911 hour      VR = Visual Reconnaissance
1915 hour      Arc Light = B52 Bombing Mission
2145 hour      RFPF = Regional Forces Popular Forces.

Note:  South Vietnamese Regional Forces were roughly akin to militias. Recruited locally, they fell into two broad groups - Regional Forces and Popular Forces (The RFPF's were called Ruff-Puffs by American forces)

Numeral/Authentication Codes:

Numeral codes were used for locations and some grid references have not been decoded in the radio log.  For example see 1105 hours.

Note:  Codes series used was KAC-PJ 306 T/SEC and KAC-QK 567

Callsigns (1ATF Comd Net):

Callsign 11 = 6RAR/NZ (Manned by 104 Sig Sqn) - Log book Callsign
Callsign 29 = Liaison Officer from Bearcat (Manned 104 Sig Sqn)
Callsign 52 = LO Dat Do (Manned by 104 Sig Sqn)
Callsign 59 = HQ Company, 1ATF (Manned ?)
Callsign 61 = Horseshoe B Company, 6RAR (Manned by 104 Sig Sqn)
Callsign 64 = Commander 1ATF (104 Sig Sqn Radio Op travelling with the Brig)
Callsign 77 = HQ 1ATF (Manned by 104 Sig Sqn)

Footnote:  The radio log book detailed in this story has been presented to the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Jan 2012 for safe keeping.  Ref: AWM Acc Number PR05127

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