5TH RADIO RESEARCH UNIT
"A TICKEL IS A NICKEL"
by Gary Winn Kay
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
permanent members of the 5th RRU or other ASA units:
They provided the information necessary to complete this short
history. Glenn Date was particularly helpful in filling in major gaps in
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
while the main buildings of the compound were being constructed. It was
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
to go to the restroom, etc.
After the 5th RRU was established, a period of relative routine fell
the unit, with "Nugs" (new guys) transferring into the unit and "old
transferring out of the unit regularly. Those lazy, carefree days of
clothes were soon replaced with change dictated by developments in South
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,
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;
the new barracks, or apartments, spanned the width of the compound in
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
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
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
connect it to the old apartment building and the
at the far end of the compound. From my time in 1962 - 1964, the
premises known as Seri Court developed into a compound lined with
with a courtyard in the middle. At least, that is my understanding of
but I am not yet clear as to whether the new mess hall lay outside the
apartment building, just inside the main gate; or whether access to the
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
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
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"
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
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
that Udorn was known as Detachment D of the 5th RRU; Chieng Mai was
as Detachment B of the 5th RRU; and Ubon was known as Detachment C of
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
I have another account, from someone who actually served at Ubon, that
was known as Detachment B. I suppose it is possible that Ubon was known
Detachment B at one point in time; and as Detachment C at another.
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,
side road about a mile or less to the work compound. The compound was to
right of this small side road, which was a dead-end road to the
The compound itself consisted of about four or five Quonset huts inside
high, chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. My memory is fading, and
is possible that there were other buildings that connected the Quonset
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
Force Security Service also used this compound, and their work area was
one of the Quonset huts--and possibly more area not presently recalled.
not recall that we mixed very much with the Air Force personnel, but
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
and generators. The power for the compound was provided 24 hours per day
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
Morse intercept operators, although a number of MOS positions worked at
the work station, including cryptographers and possibly high-speed
and direction findings personnel. I am not certain about the DF
as they were also--or possibly only--located at Chieng Mai, Udorn and
Also included were equipment repairmen, generator repairmen and military
police. I know I am leaving out some MOS designations, but I was
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
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
It is possible, I suppose, that the Thai military took possession of the
compound, or it could have been dismantled and sold to commercial
I have no information on that.
In 1967, the specific date being unknown, the 5th RRU was redesignated
the 83rd Radio Research Special Operations Unit. Its mission was the
but with fewer personnel. The major change was that the mission of the
83rd RRSOU was downsized considerably due to the creation and buildup of
7th Radio Research Field Station at Udorn, Thailand. During this same
all of the RRUs worldwide were being designated as Field Stations
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
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
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
downsize the 7th RRFS, and it eventually closed its doors in 1976. All
the personnel assigned to the 7th RRFS at Udorn; Detachments C/J, Ubon;
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
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
of the 1960s. I am speculating that this extremely short "soi", or
which consisted of the driveway into Seri Court, was eliminated with the
construction of the new buildings, and it essentially became the
for Seri Court.
A history of the 7th RRFS appears on the Internet at the following
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.
may not be entirely correct with this roster, their names follow:
Gene Crews; Paul Casbarian; Bob Frame; Jim Vaughn; Bill McCoy; Bill
Tom Denehy; Wayne Ward; and Howard Bailey.
We were all there during a
time. We were initially working in civilian clothes; the only concern of
officers was the mission, not things military; and the Thai civilians
thought Americans were great people. Change came, but my group was long
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
from a list of names I made while in Bangkok; from old orders; from
members found on the Internet; and from the recollection of others. If
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
ADDENDUMS AND CORRECTIONS
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!
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."
ROSTER OF 5TH RRU MEMBERS
("LKA" = "Last Known Address"):
Ahrens, James T.,
1412 NE 14th Court,
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
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
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
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
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