by Gary Winn Kay

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I cannot represent that the following account of the 5th Radio Research Unit is totally accurate, and I have no doubt that errors appear in it. However, maybe it is a start for anyone who may want to pursue a more complete history of this unit in the future.

The majority of this history comes from the following former temporary or permanent members of the 5th RRU or other ASA units:
Al Turgon;
Tim Heimel;
Glenn Date;
Nelson Dionne;
Ken Floyd;
Jim Murphy;
Bill Putney;
and Mark Scott.
They provided the information necessary to complete this short history. Glenn Date was particularly helpful in filling in major gaps in time.

When this unit was activated by the ASA, it underwent training at the 9th USASAFS, Philippines, during the Fall of 1959. The initial elements of the 5th RRU consisted of personnel from the 9th, who were sent into Bangkok, Seri Court, around October 1959. When the first troops from the Philippines arrived, they worked out of big trucks without air conditioning, while the main buildings of the compound were being constructed. It was so hot in these trucks that some of the fellows bled from the nose. The men were not allowed to open the doors of these trucks during work hours except to go to the restroom, etc.

After the 5th RRU was established, a period of relative routine fell over the unit, with "Nugs" (new guys) transferring into the unit and "old timers" transferring out of the unit regularly. Those lazy, carefree days of civilian clothes were soon replaced with change dictated by developments in South Vietnam.

The main living compound was located on Soi Seri just off Pradiphat Road in the northeastern section of Bangkok. This compound consisted of the following structures during the initial years of operation: an approximately four-story apartment building on the right side; a water tower on the right side just beyond this building; an approximately five-story apartment complex/villa/office building in the rear of the compound; and--later, around 1963--a tennis court and swimming pool on the left side of the compound, across the driveway (Soi Seri) from the main apartment building. In addition to this main compound, a number of men lived in about five outlying houses, connected to the main compound by a fleet of five or six VW buses driven by Thai drivers. However, these houses were likely abandoned as new facilities were added to Seri Court.

During 1965 - 1966, new buildings were added to the compound at Seri Court. During this time, a mess hall and more barracks were added to the compound. The mess hall was on the left of the driveway, i.e. Soi Seri; and the new barracks, or apartments, spanned the width of the compound in front of the compound, just inside the main gate. A tunnel went under the new barracks building to allow access to the original buildings. There was also a small NCO club on the first floor of the new barracks, or apartment building. The mess hall was added in late 1965 or early 1966; later in 1966, the new barracks building was added, which was similar in design to the initial apartment building. Thus, an underpass/tunnel under the new apartment building was necessary to connect it to the old apartment building and the apartments/villas/offices at the far end of the compound. From my time in 1962 - 1964, the rectangular premises known as Seri Court developed into a compound lined with buildings with a courtyard in the middle. At least, that is my understanding of it, but I am not yet clear as to whether the new mess hall lay outside the new apartment building, just inside the main gate; or whether access to the mess hall was gained through the tunnel of the new apartment building.

Apparently, as you entered the front gate, you had to go under the new barracks building through an underpass to gain access to the other buildings, and there was a kind of courtyard in the middle. I am guessing that this courtyard essentially covered the area known to those in my time as the driveway into the compound, i.e. Soi Seri. That is, buildings essentially sprung up all around the perimeter of the compound, and an underpass led under the new apartment building to the outside world. I hope my understanding on this configuration is correct, but it could be wrong.

In addition to the buildings just described, more change came to the 5th RRU around 1966. An approximately 25 room complex was either built or rented from an existing structure on an adjacent soi (street) at the back of the compound to house mostly E-6s and above, as well as "SRU" personnel.

A unit known as Signal Research Unit 11, or SRU-11, was attached to the 5th RRU around 1966, and it was officially part of the Signal Corps. However, their mission was the same as that of the 5th RRU. The SRU-11 work station was located in a separate facility at the airport. It is believed that this designation, i.e. SRU-11, was necessary to obtain more "warm bodies" because the 5th RRU had "maxed out" their manpower per their agreement with the Thais.

In addition to the main unit at Bangkok, the 5th RRU had direction finding stations at Ubon, Udorn and Chieng Mai. I have received an account that Udorn was known as Detachment D of the 5th RRU; Chieng Mai was known as Detachment B of the 5th RRU; and Ubon was known as Detachment C of the 5th RRU. When the 5th RRU changed names to the 83rd RRSOU (see below), the DF group at Ubon became known as Detachment J of the 83rd RRSOU. It was later known as "Detachment C/J", also.

I have another account, from someone who actually served at Ubon, that Ubon was known as Detachment B. I suppose it is possible that Ubon was known as Detachment B at one point in time; and as Detachment C at another. However, I am not at all clear on these specific designations.

The work station of the 5th RRU was located out towards the airport from Seri Court, about 10 miles out. The bus that took each shift to the work station turned right off the main road and travelled down a small, unpaved side road about a mile or less to the work compound. The compound was to the right of this small side road, which was a dead-end road to the compound. The compound itself consisted of about four or five Quonset huts inside a high, chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. My memory is fading, and it is possible that there were other buildings that connected the Quonset huts in some fashion. Large antennas were located outside the compound on the north or northwest side of the compound.

The men went through a guard station at the front of the compound. The Air Force Security Service also used this compound, and their work area was in one of the Quonset huts--and possibly more area not presently recalled. I do not recall that we mixed very much with the Air Force personnel, but they were there. I remember that the actual work area for the Morse intercept operators was in a Quonset hut--or possibly two Quonset huts--with work stations, i.e. receivers, typewriters, etc., set along both sides of the hut. There were about six or seven positions on each side.

The outer door of the Quonset hut led into the compound and to the latrines and generators. The power for the compound was provided 24 hours per day by about four diesel generators. As I recall, the Quonset huts were air conditioned. Outside, the roar of the diesel generators was constant.

My memory as to personnel and mission is fairly limited to the work of the Morse intercept operators, although a number of MOS positions worked at the work station, including cryptographers and possibly high-speed intercept and direction findings personnel. I am not certain about the DF positions, as they were also--or possibly only--located at Chieng Mai, Udorn and Ubon. Also included were equipment repairmen, generator repairmen and military police. I know I am leaving out some MOS designations, but I was primarily associated with the Morse intercept operators.

As will be noted later in this summary, the work station was ultimately turned over entirely to the Air Force Security Service, and they expanded their mission there after the ASA left. Whether the facilities have survived to this day, I do not know, but surely the Air Force has also left. It is possible, I suppose, that the Thai military took possession of the compound, or it could have been dismantled and sold to commercial interests. I have no information on that.

In 1967, the specific date being unknown, the 5th RRU was redesignated as the 83rd Radio Research Special Operations Unit. Its mission was the same, but with fewer personnel. The major change was that the mission of the new 83rd RRSOU was downsized considerably due to the creation and buildup of the 7th Radio Research Field Station at Udorn, Thailand. During this same time, all of the RRUs worldwide were being designated as Field Stations instead of Radio Research Units.

The 83rd RRSOU was eventually downsized and only about eight or nine individuals remained in Bangkok with the 83rd, and they were attached to JUSMAGTHAI (Joint United States Military Advisory Group - Thailand) in an advisory capacity. The mission of the 83rd RRSOU was turned over to the U. S. Air Force Security Service during the 1970s, and the 83rd RRSOU was closed. The exact date of its closing is not known.

Since the 7th RRFS at Udorn was in full operation, there was no need to operate dual stations from the same country. Around 1972, the ASA began to downsize the 7th RRFS, and it eventually closed its doors in 1976. All of the personnel assigned to the 7th RRFS at Udorn; Detachments C/J, Ubon; and Detachment B, Chieng Mai, were reassigned throughout the Pacific and the United States.

The buildings of Seri Court were still standing in the latter 1980s. It is presently believed that the entire compound was turned back over to the landlord, who rented out the apartments to civilians. As far as I know, the buildings, as we knew them, are still standing today at Seri Court. However, a modern map of Bangkok does not show "Soi Seri" on it, as did maps of the 1960s. I am speculating that this extremely short "soi", or street, which consisted of the driveway into Seri Court, was eliminated with the construction of the new buildings, and it essentially became the courtyard for Seri Court.

A history of the 7th RRFS appears on the Internet at the following place:

William ("Bill") Bogart is the man who prepared this history, which shows that in 1966 a 50-man detachment from the 5th RRU was transferred to a temporary outpost 18 kilometers south of Udorn. A separate account shows that Udorn was known as Detachment D, 5th RRU, in August 1966; and that in September 1966 it became known as the 7th Radio Research Field Station. Thus, the "beginning of the end" for the 5th RRU, later known as the 83rd RRSOU, was in September 1966. The total complement of the 7th RRFS was eventually about 1,200. The 7th RRFS, or what was left of it, was officially closed in 1976.

So we see that the 5th RRU was born from elements of the 9th ASAFS, Philippines; that Detachment D of the 5th RRU, Udorn, evolved into the new 7th RRFS; that the 5th RRU officially changed its name to the 83rd RRSOU in 1967; and that the 83rd RRSOU ultimately downsized and terminated operations due to the existence of the 7th RRFS. The work station, about ten miles out towards the airport from Seri Court, off to the right, was turned over to the U. S. Air Force Security Service, which then expanded their mission there. The compound known as Seri Court is believed to have been turned back over to the landlord, and as far as I know, the buildings remain there today. Whether the work station remains or not, I do not know.

This short account of the 5th RRU is dedicated to those men--boys then--who were in my "group" of 058 Morse intercept operators out of Ft. Devens, MA who were sent to Bangkok and the 5th RRU in April 1962.
While I may not be entirely correct with this roster, their names follow:
Ken Lovitt; Gene Crews; Paul Casbarian; Bob Frame; Jim Vaughn; Bill McCoy; Bill Simpson; Tom Denehy; Wayne Ward; and Howard Bailey.

We were all there during a great time. We were initially working in civilian clothes; the only concern of the officers was the mission, not things military; and the Thai civilians still thought Americans were great people. Change came, but my group was long gone before it did.

A list of known members of the 5th RRU follows this short account of its history. Of course, this list is woefully short of the actual number of personnel who served in the 5th RRU. Those listed came from personal memory; from a list of names I made while in Bangkok; from old orders; from former members found on the Internet; and from the recollection of others. If you would like to add names to this list, please send them to me.

I would appreciate any corrections or additional information that anyone has to offer. My e-mail and mailing addresses are listed below.

Gary Winn Kay

058 - Morse Intercept Operator
5th Radio Research Unit, Mekhala Station, Bangkok, Thailand

April 1962 - April 1964

285 Viola Winn Drive
Royston, GA 30662



AL TURGON has advised the following:
" Gary, Got your history of the 5th RRU and it makes intresting reading. Just a few notes for future reference: The first men were sent over to Bangkok around the first of 1960 I believe. There may have been a officer or sgt there earlier but it was not until early 1960 that we sent over any number of people. The first group of 10 or 12 left and then my group of 12 left the Philippines in Oct of 1960. I knew most of the men already over there and they were unhappy that more of us were comming because every one had such a good thing going. When we first got there we were meet by the ambadassor U. Alex Johnson and he gave us a speech and invited us to dinner. He later became Under Sec. of State in the Johnson admin. I saw him a year later in downtown Bangkok and he remembered my name!

Our first houseing was at a apt. building on Soi Kwai. We stayed there about one month and then we split up. My group going to a house on Soi Saw Wat Dee. It had been an embassy several years earlier. Twelve of us lived there until about Jan. of 1962. That is when they opened Seri Court. Down stairs was just a large room that we used for eating and loafing etc. Our rooms were on the upper floors. As I said prior to Seri Court we lived in houses and they were well staffed with local employees. We had an Indian (from India) doorman who stood at the entrance of our driveway and let us in and out, no kidding! We had laundry girls, 2 cooks a yard man and our head house boy, Su Chin. You may have known Sue Chin as he moved to Seri Court with us. We were all getting $20 dollars a day per diem plus our Army pay. We had plenty of money to spend and it was a great life, even in the Army. We had two VW buses at our disposial and drivers to go with them. They would take us anywhere in Bangkok. Getting home was our problem.

You described the work area out near the airport to a "t". I remember the water tower at Seri Court and I remember listing to Thai music at night out in front of the Tower. Keep up the good work, it is a pleasure to reflect on my Bangkok days now. Due to the Berlin Wall problem our entire unit was extended for about 8 months. Most of us had already extended our tour 6 months so we would be discharged when we rotated back to the big Z. So I spent a total of 32 months in South East Asia. Enough is enough"!

BILL PUTNEY wrote the following:
"Gary, A few more notes... When the new buildings were added a movie theatre was built on the ground floor. This is to the right of the tunnel as you go into the complex. You can see the theatre as the ground floor windowless area. Also, SRU-11 was A.S.A. but had an Acoustint mission as apposed to the primarily Commint mission of the rest of the units housed at Seri Court. SRU-11's operations were housed in a joint Army (Signal Corps) Air Force building between the runways at Bankok International Airport (A.K.A. Don Muong RTAF Base)."

Tim Heimel wrote: "My recollection is that Det B was Ubon, Det C
was Cheing Mai and Det D was Udorn, [but] this may not be correct."

Jerry Allison, Kernesrville, NC, wrote: "I was at Clark Field in 1959. In early 1960, they called five of us to the C.O.'s office, told us we were going TDY. They took us to the Paymaster's office and each one of us was given several hundred dollars and a list of civilian clothes to buy. After the PX closed, we were let in and bought our civilian clothes. They issued us Passports and took our Army I.D. from us. We took a M.A.T.S. Flight from Clark to Saigon, to Bangkok. We lived in a huge house on Soi Pom Pom. We had a VW bus to take us to our compound. The compound was very small, about half the size of a basketball court. We had a raised porch with two trucks backed up to each side of it. The compound had a high wooden fence and outside the compound door was a small Thai M.P. Guard Post. We had three large generators in a corner of the compound and a row of about 6 outhouse Johns along the back wall. Klongs,(water) was in the back and front of the compound, and we sometimes fished. When I left six months later, we had three houses in Bangkok (two for enlisted, one for the officers), about 50 men strong. I also remember the Starlight Club and a Filipino nightclub singer named Daisy, biggest feet in Bangkok. One other name I remember was Sgt. Cumm, also the guy who relieved me, was named Robert Allison (no relation). P.S. When I was there it was called 5th Radio Recon Unit."

Lee Tucker, Pocahontas, AR, wrote the following: "Just found the history. Seems correct as far as I can remember. The names at the end are only a small fraction of the people that were there. One name for sure R. D. Mack. He was a watch NCO. I was a Trick Chief 058. My tour was during the first wave of bombers over Vietnam. In fact I was on duty at ops one Sunday when the message came in for the CO's eyes only stating that at a given hour there would be 141 sorties flown over targets. The hair raised up on the back of my neck. I knew for sure that this was the start of WWIII. Also, you should mention that there were dependents there during the heyday of the unit. I know because my family was with me. So were several others, including SGT Mack."

("LKA" = "Last Known Address"):

Ahrens, James T., 1412 NE 14th Court, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304-1342

Alexander, Doyle ("Al") - recalled by others

Andrews, Terry A., 100 Lake Stratford Ct., Fairview Hghts, IL 62208

Armstrong, George - Ubon, Det. B - recalled by others

Austin, Sene - recalled by others

Bailey, Howard H., Jr. - Sacramento - Pollock Pines, CA area

Belongin, Al - recalled by others

Black, Charles H. - shown on orders

Blake, William M., Jr. - shown on orders

Bolton, Robert - name provided by friend of father; died in VA hosp.

Bowman, Dave - shown on orders

Caninico, Chris C. - recalled by others

Casbarian, Paul W., 215 Clearbrook Court, Schaumburg, IL 60193

Case, Michael E. - LKA 164 North 18th St., East Orange, NJ

Chestnut, Henry - personally recalled - GWK

Crews, Eugene ("Gene") - LKA Valdosta, GA or Waycross, GA

Date, Glenn - provided information for unit history

Delancey, Richard C. - shown on orders

Denehy, Thomas R. - LKA 7 Gaylord St., Dorchester, MA

Dillon, Larry - LKA Gettysburg, PA

Dillon, Porter B., Capt. AGC - shown on orders

Dionne, Nelson - provided information for unit history

Dowell, William ("Bill") A. - LKA Montrose, CO

Drew, Joe - LKA Pooler, GA

Duffield, William George, 805 Kingswood Drive, Cary, NC 27513-4623

Elgin, Milton A., Jr., Major - shown on orders

Elliott, Lee - recalled by others

Flower, Bill - recalled by others

Floyd, Ken - provided information for unit history

Fowler, William O. - shown on orders

Frame, Robert ("Bob") M., 178 Goodrich Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102

Gassaway, Bod - recalled by others

Geer, "Bumpy" - full name not known

Glavach, Don - recalled by others

Haddock, Terence ("Terry") B. - LKA 1308 Barger Dr., Falls Church, VA

Harlin, Bob - recalled by others

Heimel, Tim - provided information for unit history

Hein, Joseph E., Jr. - LKA Union Avenue, Rt. 2, Newburg, MA (NY?)

Hinerth, N. A. - LKA 34 Church St., Spencer, MA

Hoa, Steve - Ubon, Det. B - recalled by others

Hubank, Robert D. ("Bob") - LKA 4273 Tolawa St., San Diego, CA

Joyner, Bill - recalled by others

Kay, Gary W., 285 Viola Winn Drive, Royston, GA 30662

Kendrick, Thomas D., 612 East Greenwood Road, Summerdale, AL 36580

Ketch, Raymond K. ("Ray"), 77 Silver Trail, North Aurora, IL 60542-1580

Kirk, Wayne - Ubon, Det. B - provided information on Ubon group

Kohl, Scott - recalled by others

Latsha, Bob - recalled by others

Lee, Daniel J. ("Dan") - LKA 1403 East Main St., Plainville, IL

Lovitt, Kenneth H. ("Ken"), 720 Ridgeview Dr., Apt. 303, Frankfort, KY 40601

Lucas, Gordon E. - LKA 4214 Upriver Road, Corpus Christi, TX

Lum, Charles W., Lt. Col. - A gentleman of the first order; outstanding commander - GWK

MacFarland, Donald H. - LKA 9392 Montrose St., Detroit, MI

Mack, R. D., Sgt. - recalled by others

Mackie, Franklin S. ("Frank"), 5 Chestnut St., Granite Falls, NC 28630

Magurany, Gerald - Ubon, Det. B - recalled by others

Mascay, David - Ubon, Det. B - recalled by others

McCoy, William R. ("Bill") - LKA 10145 Hawthorne Dr., Orland Park, IL

McCracken, Ernest L. - LKA 5800 Southwest 50th Terrace, Miami, FL

McDonnell, John - recalled by others

Meesan, Fred - recalled by others

Middle, Terrence W. ("Terry"), 516 Hunters Ridge Road, Coppell, TX 75019

Miller, Henry, Sgt. - Ubon, Det. B - recalled by others

Mitchell, Delbert - Ubon, Det. B - recalled by others

Moore, Jim - recalled by others

Murphy, Jim - provided information for unit history

Napier, Delmer G. - shown on orders

Norris, Gale - recalled by others

Parkes, John E., Jr. - shown on orders

Pecore, Joel A. - LKA 515 Thayer St., Rhienlander, WI

Phillips, Art - recalled by others - died around 1987

Pool, Jim - recalled by others

Putney, Bill - provided information for unit history

Queen, Marvin R. - LKA Montour, ID

Quinlan, Craig - LKA 88 Scales Avenue, Clifton, NJ

Ratliff, Denton L. - LKA Rt. 2, Hartford, KY

Redmond, Douglas W. ("Doug"), 7808 Towngate Place, West Bethesda, MD 20817

Schriver, George - Ubon, Det. B - recalled by others

Sensley, Albert ("Al") - possibly living in Massachusetts in 1997

Sexton, Pinkey - recalled by others

Seyle, John - recalled by others

Shea, Bernard L. - LKA 39 Myrtle Avenue, Fitchburg, MA

Sheehan, Tom - recalled by others

Sides, Ted W. - LKA Albemarle, NC - died on 10-23-1997

Stanek, Michael A. ("Mike"), 6818 Le Mans Avenue, Citrus Heights, CA 95621

Sullivan, Robert - Ubon, Det. B - recalled by others

Talbert, Bryan - recalled by others

Taylor, Frank J. - shown on orders

Temeles, David A. - LKA 6605 Nervia St., Coral Gables, FL

Tsuda, Kenneth K. ("Ken"), 1621 Dole St., Apt. 405, Honolulu, HI 96822

Tufts, Thomas E. - LKA 3912 Shroyer Road, Dayton, OH

Turgon, Al - provided information for unit history

Urbaniak, Roger D. - shown on orders

Vaughn, Jim - was in my group; he was from the north or west - GWK

Ward, Wayne - LKA Illinois

Wentz, Jerry - recalled by GWK

Wheeler, Joel B. - LKA 23 Greenwood Road, Northboro, MA

Whited, Roger O. - LKA 7305 School Avenue, Baltimore, MD

Wilson, Stan - recalled by others

Wood, Robert B. ("Bob") - LKA New York, NY - Bob was a linguist - GWK

I have received the following additional names:

William G. ("Bill") Lowe - sent e-mail message to GWK

Orville Jackson - recalled by others

Ken Gray - recalled by others

Pete Kuan - recalled by others

Burch, Jerry - Det. C, Chieng Mai - recalled by others

O'Dell, Robert - Det. B, Ubon - recalled by others

Brokaw, Marvin - in photo taken by G. W. Kay

McCarthy, Richard G. - located on Internet

Wyman, Douglas J. - located on Internet

Parker, ________ (Major) - name from 5th RRU company business card

Bailey, ________ (Captain) - name from company business card

Tucker, Lee R. - 1750 Birdell St., Pocahontas, AR 72455

Allison, James ("Jerry") - 1305 Woodlyn St., Kernersville, NC 27284

Allison, Robert - recalled by others

Cumm, ________ (Sgt.) - recalled by others

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