When you are in Maine, lots of time is spent not talking. Just gawking. Finding your special places to get away from people. Lost in nature. To unplug, recharge, relax. Spend a little quality time. Settle in with the guy or gal you brush your teeth, comb your hair with in the mirror mornings.
But radio silence. To not draw attention. Other times to clarify what was just said. That was misunderstood, garbled. Hard to hear with the background fire drowning it out.
In combat, in Vietnam to ask for a “repeat” of a message over the airwaves was extremely dangerous.
Repeat applied only to artillery requests. To lay down some more hot hot ground fire. Spray another pass overhead of napalm. Bring on another round of those artillery shells lobbed in. Showered from above. Make it rain again in a highly destructive way.
But please. Avoid any friendly fire that takes out our own soldiers. Outfitted in GI olive green drab. With the young red, white and blue blood running in their veins. Powered by prayers from family, friends, loved ones. Far, far away.
“Say again your last” was the expression, proper response when something in a broadcast transmission was lost, garbled or just misunderstood.
I talked to local New Limerick Maine store owner Doug Cameron who was drafted. Got a round trip ticket to Vietnam courtesy of Uncle Sam. Who made it back in one piece. Got to use the return ticket to the states. And once in awhile during morning stops for coffee on the way in from the lake, the days and nights spent halfway around the Globe come up.
Doug says one of his commanding officers thought he would be a good candidate as a “tunnel rat”. To slide down into a jungle hole. See just where it goes. Who is down there. What the enemy is up to. Scurry back to safety. Report back what you find.
Instead, when the platoon was asked for volunteers for radio operator, he quickly raised both hands.
Not in surrender. Relief. In eagerness to avoid being a tunnel rat as some suggested he would excel at. Be skilled and helpful in the war cause. That the black and white broadcasts with Walter did the daily reporting of casualties. Tally of each sides body count. The war, death score reports not so popular with the television audience. Watching, wringing their hands, with heavy hearts back in America.
Two days of training on radio electronics in the battlefield to understand the equipment. To develop the lingo to stay live and kicking, grinning. To not put your company in harm’s way. To help inch it back toward stateside. Meet the artillery objective for the day of keep your head down. Eyes peeled, ears to the ground.
Giving up his standard issue M-16 rifle.
Strapping on a holster for a Colt 45 mm sidearm to ride in the leather. Freeing up the other hand to run the radio. Being a shadow of the commanding officer. His right arm. That needed the radio operator to relay coordinates, make requests. Use the lingo code to not endanger American troops. In the deadly cat and mouse with the enemy. Far from American soil.
Pulling up, strapping on a heavy PRC 10 radio transmitter for the field communications. For walks through the hot sticky, humid countryside. Over hill and dale. Weighing 26 pounds, with a range of 3 to 13 miles. The PRC 10 radio operator equipment was the all important one and only link back to field headquarters. No one texting. No LOL, LMAO or OMG being tapped out by any of the troops.
To keep track of, help guide soldiers in, around, out of the bush. Delivered back to base avoiding falling into harm’s way. With back and forth communication if a sniper did not take out the radio operator. Because of the easy to see extended antennae needed. To get range to beam a strong signal that was hopefully a loud and clear tranmission. Roger wilco. Copy that.