AB8AU / AB8AZ

Introduction

Old Reliables - 9th Infantry Division / 9th Signal Battalion

National Defense / Vietnam Service / Vietnam Campaign

 

US Army MARS

(Military Affiliate Radio System)

Vietnam 1967, 1968 & 1969


During the Vietnam conflict there were no individual personal cellular or landline telephones available for soldiers or sailors to use for calling family members back home. To address this, United States MARS (Military Affiliate Radio Service) stations from all branches of the service, Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, were deployed throughout Vietnam. The MARS system offered soldiers and sailors a way to personally communicate with loved ones back home via the use of a "phone-patch" telephone connection over short-wave radio. MARS stations would allow each soldier a free 5 minute personal radio telephone call home to the United States. In just about all cases, MARS was the only way soldiers could call home. In other words, "MARS was the soldiers’ Telephone Company."

The 9th Signal Battalion supplied all types of communications for the 9th Infantry Division, which included: microwave, data/computer, satellite, radio teletype, crypto, two-way radio communications between the foot-soldier in the bush and base camp, in-country military telephone and MARS.

AB8AZ at Camp Dong Tam

The 9th Infantry Division had two base camp MARS radio station locations, plus a roaming mobile unit.

The two fixed MARS locations were at the 9th Infantry Division Headquarters, Camp Bearcat, just north of Saigon, and Camp Dong Tam, just outside the City Of My Tho, ~41 miles south of Saigon along the My Tho River.

The Bearcat MARS radio callsign was AB8AU and was housed in the 9th Signal Battalion area of the compound. The Dong Tam MARS callsign was AB8AZ, and was housed in the US Navy area of the compound where armored US Navy MRF (Mobile Riverine Force) gunboats were repaired.

The MARS mobile unit traveled around the 9th Infantry Division theater of operation. This mobile MARS unit provided the capability of telephone calls home for the soldiers located in the smaller front-line field and artillery fire support bases.


My Story, By: Tom Boza

I graduated from High School in the spring of 1967 and then joined the Unites States Army. Little did I understand that by joining the army I would be going to a war in Southeast Asia.

After finishing basic training boot-camp at Ft. Knox Kentucky, I went to Ft. Ord California and attended basic radio operator training (05B20). I then attended advance radio teletype training (05C20) at Ft. Gordon Georgia, after which I was shipped out to Vietnam.

I arrived in Vietnam October 1967 at the Tan-Son-Nhut air-field outside of Saigon and was assigned to the 9th Infantry Division at Bearcat. After I arrived at Bearcat I was placed into an infantry replacement platoon waiting for a final unit assignment. During this time I went out on about five RECON night patrols carrying a PRC-25 two-way FM radio transceiver on my back. I was the lucky one who got to carry the 20 pound radio plus all my other gear and M16 since my MOS was “Signal Corps.”

I didn’t see any real combat during this time, however we did get shot at once by a sniper near a Buddhist church which scared the hell out of all us new-b-s. We also discovered multiple booby-traps during two of the patrols, one of which was a trip-wire tied between two rubber trees going across the path we were walking along. The sergeant we were with spotted and defused it before anyone got hurt.

Then after about 2 weeks of being in country I came across a MARS station on my way to the PX. I decided to stop in and send my folks a MARS gram (radio telegram) informing them that I had arrived and all was well. I filled out the MARS gram addressing it to my father and I included his amateur radio callsign WA8PYN, and then I signed the message "Your son Tom, WA8NSH". I handed the message to the Master Sergeant behind the desk and he began to proof read it. He said to me, "Oh, I see you’re an amateur radio operator" and I replied "Yes." I told the Master Sergeant that I was a General class amateur radio operator and my MOS was 05C20 (Private First Class Radio Teletype Operator). I also told the Master Sergeant that I was new in country and I was awaiting my final unit assignment. He said the MARS station was one radio operator short and wanted to know if I would like to be assigned to the MARS station running radio phone calls state-side for the troops. I said "yes" and two days later I was transferred full time to the 9th Signal Battalion “A” Company MARS station at Bearcat.

 

To this day I personally believe this chain of events saved my life. If it wasn't for me being an amateur radio operator, and if I wouldn't have stopped into the MARS station that day to send a MARS gram to my parents, I may have never made it out of Vietnam alive.

 

PFC Thomas Boza, age 19

RA11704678

 

After spending two months at AB8AU Bearcat, I was transferred to AB8AZ Dong Tam where my real Vietnam adventure began.

Besides the nightly mortar attacks which was a normal occurrence, I had a fairly safe and un-eventful tour. I drank lots of beer and ate prime thick T-bone steaks on the grill.

Follow all the eight web page links for more detail information about the 9th Infantry Division Army MARS activities in Vietnam during my tour of duty, October 1967 to November 1968.


Continue to:

     PAGE 2-of-8

 

or

Choose one of the following direct web page links:

 

Old Reliable newspaper article, Oct 2, 1968

“Home, only a phone call away”

*** Must Read Article ***

 

9th Infantry Division – Vietnam newspapers

9th Infantry Division Donut Dollies Web Site

 

Other US Army MARS station web sites

AB8AU - Dong Tam 1969

AB8AD – DiAn Vietnam

AB8AJ – Chu Chi Vietnam

AB8AQ – Phu Bai Vietnam

Tim Boyd’s web site


 

Feel free to email me any comments, suggestions, or just to say hello

MARS_Vietnam@ne7x.com

73s Tom NE7X