Story 88 - Australian Forces Radio

Vietnam (Vung Tau)

By Ian 'Bluey' Granland OAM

104 Sig Sqn - Story 88
Bluey Granland, Barman in the 104 Sig Sqn Sergeant's Mess in 1970.  
Photo supplied by Ian Granland



I was walking the dog this afternoon and listening to some music on Spotify which I found bought back some memories of Saturday Nights in South Vietnam at the 104 Sig Sqn Boozer.


Normally the Headquarter Troop (HQ Tp) which included the clerks, drivers, techs, GDs, etc, would work six days a week, then get Sunday off.   This didn’t always happen but it did leave us with a couple of options for a free Sunday.   Either travel to the 1st Australian Logistic Support Group (1ALSG) in Vung Tau by vehicle convoy, where we could have a swim in the ‘Harold Holt Memorial Pool’ (I can never work out if the naming of the pool was a joke or just an honest mistake) or in the South China Sea plus get on the grog or stay back at the unit and get some sleep plus get on the grog.


104 Sig Sqn - Story 88
104 Sig Sqn members at the bar in the boozer AKA Abraham Club. 
Photo supplied by Ian Granland


But back to Saturday Nights.  HQ Tp would knock off in the afternoon at 4:15pm then after donning long-sleeved shirt and always long trousers, to fend off the mozzies, we would make our way across to the boozer for a couple of ‘pre-dinner drinks’.


The boozer would close whilst we dined, then re-open and we would drink, play darts and drink.  At 15c per can who could blame us?  But the beer was allocated, Task Force wide, at two cans per man per day according to the strength of the unit. The fulltime boozer barman would take a Land Rover and trailer to the storage and alcohol issue unit which was behind the PX at Luscombe Bowl, each Thursday to pick up our unit’s allocation. 


What was welcomed by us drinkers, was the few, (a very few) of those who did not drink or blokes who were out with Infantry Battalions, on leave or whatever because their allocation was still counted, so we (just) had enough to go round for the seven days.


104 Sig Sqn - Story 88
104 Sig Sqn members at the bar in the boozer AKA Abraham Club. 
Photo supplied by Ian Granland


Just an aside with the beer.  Our issue would be made up with all brands of beer from the various states of Australia.  The most popular was VB, so that would be first to be consumed, then XXXX, then maybe Toohey’s, then Cascade from Tasmania, so by about Tuesday Night we were drinking Boags from South Australia and way down the list was that terribly tasting beer from WA.  It was this beer that we were left to drink on the last night before the weekly allocation was replenished.


Australian Forces Radio Vietnam


However, and to the point of my story, a little talked about social amusement was the Australian Forces Radio Vietnam (AFRV) based in Vung Tau and broadcasting  on 1040KHz Frequency Modulation (FM) with a power output of 500 watts.  We didn’t have FM in Australia then - not until 1980 was the first FM radio stations launched.


104 Sig Sqn - Story 88
  Volunteer DJ Lt Anthony Roberts (110 Sig Sqn) at AFRV Vung Tau Radio Station in 1970.

Photo supplied by Anthony 'Tony' Roberts 


AFRV was put together in 1969 by the RAAF in Vung Tau and was a great and wonderful support for the Australian troops throughout the country, even though it was ultra-small compared to the American Forces Radio Vietnam (AFVN), which broadcast right across Vietnam 24/7 and was part of the world-wide American Military Radio Network.  We also listed to AFVN because our Australian station had limited on air schedules.  Overview on AFVN is below.


Well, of a Saturday night when we were getting on the turps, AFRV had a ring-in request session and because we were a signals unit, we had no problem contacting the station in Vung Tau.


I can remember a lot of us used to ring in with the most wacko requests which included:


·        Wichita Linesman by Glen Campbell
(Good for a signals unit)

    Hit the Road Jack
by Ray Charles 
    (There were covert reasons this was requested)


·        Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog by Johnny Cash
(This one would regularly be requested and dedicated to our SSM, Brian
    Houston, and although that was announced on air, there was never
    any repercussions from the SSM)


I had a friend who used to work for the Daily Telegraph in Sydney as a sports journalist.  Un-be-known to me he was called up and ended up in the Service Corps based in Saigon doing a fair bit of work for army public relations.


The American Forces Radio always had a weekly Australian news segment and on this particular day, around lunch time I happened to be listening.  Who came on to report on what was happening at home, but my friend from the Daily Telegraph.  Trouble was, he was as blind as a bat (drink wise).  As a result, he was never asked to read the news on AFVN again. I ended up contacting him and he and a colleague came to see me at Nui Dat.


We used to listen also to Radio Australia when it was rebroadcast by AFRV, which incidentally, was a great saviour to the two soldiers in 104 Sig Sqn who separately operated an SP bookie service each Saturday on the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane races.  But that’s another story.


Broadcast Example


For an example of a AFRV broadcast from Vung Tau in the early hours of 13 June 1971, which a number of calls to 104 Sig Sqn members and others click the following slide. 

 104 Sig Sqn - Story 88
Click listen to AFRV broadcast 13 June 1971
Note:  Some calls to 104 Sig Sqn members.  Supplied by Ian Granland

104 Sig Sqn - Story 88
Click YouTube pictorial history of the Australian Forces Radio Vietnam including the
final broadcast at mid-night 14 February 1972. 
Note:  Film credits are at the end

Overview American Forces Vietnam Network

104 Sig Sqn - Story 88

As the American military presence in Vietnam increased, they opened radio and later television stations there.   During the Vietnam War, the first broadcasts were beamed to the ground from fully equipped flying studios operated by the United States Navy.   Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS)  stations in Vietnam were initially known by the name "AFRS" (Armed Forces Radio Saigon), but as the number of stations quickly expanded throughout South Vietnam became known as "AFVN" (American Forces Vietnam Network) and had several stations including Nha Trang, Pleiku, Da Nang, Vung Tau with the headquarters station in Saigon.   In Vietnam, AFVN had a number of war related casualties.   The station staff in Hue during TET 1968 were captured and spent time as prisoners of war.   At the height of American involvement in the war, AFVN served over 500,000 fighting men and women at one time.

104 Sig Sqn - Story 88

The movie "Good Morning Vietnam" staring Robin Williams told the story of US Air Force AFVN Radio Announcer, Adrian Cronauer, who used imagination and innovation to make more of a difference with his craft than his superiors felt they could tolerate.  The soldiers in the field loved his programs including the Australian Diggers.

Click Good Morning Vietnam (Soundtrack)

Click Good Morning Vietnam AFVN Network (Dawn Busters 9 Sept ?)

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