Recollections of the 7th PSYOP GROUP, 1972-1973 By Jim Wilks


These are the memories and recollections of my time in military service overseas with the U.S. Army, 7th Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Group. I was assigned to various sub-units of the 7th Group between 1972 and 1973; to the 15th PSYOP Detachment, Radio Section, Machinato, Okinawa, Japan; 16th PSYOP Company, Transmitter Section and also with the Receiver Section, Aranyapathet, Thailand; 24th PSYOP Detachment, Transmitter Section at both "A" Site and "B" Site.


14th Battalion Barracks: The Replacement Depot was my first stop on Okinawa after graduating from Signal School at Ft. Monmouth, N.J. From there I was assigned to the 7th PsyOp Group, where I was housed at the 14th PSYOP Battalion's barracks in Sukiran. Ardley Cusack, from Maine was my cubicle mate. "Art" and I were assigned at several of the same places during our Army service, from Advanced Training at Ft. Monmouth to Ft. Buckner in Okinawa and then Ft. Bragg state-side. Trupedor Crump and Calvin Straight also shared time in that barracks with us, but returned home to the states early on medical discharges, I believe. The famous Sp5 Don Abbott and the unfortunate Richard "Dick" Hessling are very memorable men to me to this day. Don was a Disc Jockey (DJ) I think, and what a great personality! Dick Hessling lost his life in a motorcycle versus train accident while serving with the 16th PSYOP Company in Thailand. Dean Windom was my room-mate after I moved-up from a cubicle to a two-man room. Dean wanted to be an Ichthyologist and introduced me to the great underwater observatory at Nago, Okinawa. He had an underwater camera and took the first photos of fish up close and personal that I ever saw. Thomas Goode, from Paducah, Kentucky was with us on the 15th Detachment barracks floor, until he graduated from the Airborne Jump School on Okinawa. Then Goode moved to the "Paratrooper" unit downstairs. My good friend "Big" Al Marshall from Vermont lived up there with us and I think he worked in Mr. Copeland's Section. There were also Joe James, Ken Williams from L.A. and James " Jim" Jennings. A few guys from the Ft. Huachuca school were on the far end of the third floor with us and I recall "Dugan", "Wiley" and "Hooper". And who could ever forget SP5 Jim Yount, former Navy sailor turned soldier...anybody recall what he did? Internationally acclaimed photographer, Manny Kagan was a resident of the 15th's third floor loft. It was Manny's post on Tim Yoho's PSYOP website that influenced me to put these recollections down in writing and dig out those old negatives that I always meant to develop. Manny and I shared an interest in photography and we were both assigned to Ft. Bragg, NC stateside after Okinawa. We've renewed our friendship again and are still in touch today (December 2012).


15th PSYOP DETACHMENT
: I worked in the Radio Section at Machinato for SFC Tashiro Taira. Our task was to operate the radio equipment that received the teletype signals from the various news services, like Associate Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), and the United States Information Service (USIS). The daily news feeds were used by Mr. Peter Copeland's Propaganda Section. I think SP4 John" Ron" Leftault, who had a car and a local girlfriend (Miko?), worked in that section as a translator. There was a Broadcast Section associated with the Radio Section and I remember SSG Bob Habst was the NCOIC. There was an enlisted guy from the Philippines working as a Broadcast specialist; I don't recall his actual name, but he used the stage-name Sebastian Bach for his after-hours show-business career. SSG Ernie Harris and his wife, were kind enough to invite me to their home on post for Thanksgiving dinner. SSG Robert Henley and his wife did the same for me at Christmas. SGT Ron Newman ran the Military Affiliated Radio Station (MARS) at Machinato. Ron was also with the 16th Co. in Thailand when I was there. Major Brown and SSG Gerald Strong pinned on my new chevrons when I made Specialist 4. We worked a 24 hour 7 day rotating shift in the Radio Section, since the chow hall wasn't on our schedule and after one too many of those stale mystery meat sandwiches they packed for us, I drove the Section jeep to the A & W franchise restaurant in Naha for one of their sawdust tasting hamburgers. It was just as bad as the ones from our "Dining Facility" at Sukiran. Am I the only guy that ever did that? I met Joe James on one of those long over-night tour of duty when he scaled the fence and crashed on the floor of the latrine after a night out on the town. It was his first day with the unit and he didn't want to be late for the morning formation.


16th PSYOP COMPANY:
40 years after serving with this unit, I still regard this adventure as one of my most cherished memories in time. Boonie hats, jungle fatigues, Special Forces Medics, Tealoks and Bangkok! The Mission: "Operation Frank Approach". The job, as it was explained to me, was to receive AM radio broadcast from the Cambodian government in Phnom Penh and re-broadcast it to northern Cambodia. 1LT Tom Dolan from New York, was the Commander. Tom showed up to visit me in the Army Hospital in Bangkok after I was Medivac'd one night with a real live airline stewardess on his arm! Smooth Operator! 1LT Dale Hubere, a Mustang officer, was the XO. 2LT Dale Wittig from Canton, Ohio was the Radio Officer. Dale Wittig said after the Army he would start an electrical business in Ohio and call it "ZAP Electric". I never did find him. Hope he got his wish. Sergeant Major Anthony Galindo from the Philippines was the 1st Sarge. SSG Mike Kelly was the Supply Sergeant and I think Ron Hellwig was the assistant Supply guy. My very good friend Mike is famous in 16th Company history for telling Lt Hubere " Get out of my way or I'll punk you in the ass" for blocking his view of a girl at a Unit party. SGT Francis "Frank" X. "Doc" Roark (1SFG Abn) from Massachusetts and SGT Mike Wolfe (1SFG Abn) were our Medics. Once, Doc Roark had me evacuated by helicopter to Bangkok after misreading a glass thermometer he had sterilized in the sun all day. Doc kept saying "Wilks, I can't believe you're not convulsing!" They really shouldn't have opened that Club in the daytime. That little cold I came into the Dispensary with got me a week of paid vacation in Bangkok until they sent someone to get me. Frank said he was going into Medicine when he got out of service. Hope he made good on his desire. And I sure do hope Doc Mike Wolfe forgets about the joke I pulled on him in Aranyapathet on the barber shop run when he first got to the unit. Note: The Legendary SFC Larry Dickerson (1SFG Abn) and Norman Frisbee had departed by the time I arrived at the 16th. SFC Ben Reynolds and Mike Ellenburger ran our Dining Facility along with another fine fellow named "Tom". Ben was a good friend who took me to Korat Air Force Base and to Nakon Phnom (NKP) Air Base. I emailed Mike and his Thai wife Toye recently, but haven't heard from them yet. A fellow named John Yousey was our motor pool mechanic and SSG Nat Nalls was the NCOIC I believe. Yousey taught me the song: "My God, How the Money Rolls in." Doug Hebert, an intelligence analyst, ran our Club. What a great place that was to chill out after hours. Doug got the absolute worst sunburn I've ever seen in my life at our little above ground pool in Thailand. SSG Robert Thomas and his faithful friend young Roger Henson were always having a good time. Bob Thomas had the most tattoos I had ever seen at the time. This was in an age when only hard men had tattoos; the words "Sweet" and "Sour" appropriately placed on his chest stick-out in my memory. Bob had a friend, Bill Books, an expatriate American SF type who owned the Cellar Bar in Bangkok, which could be a very interesting place to visit if you were friends or friends of a friend of the owner. Rodger and I are still in email contact today, thanks to Tim Yoho's website. Jackie Vincent was our Courier. He loved to sing and had to negotiate with his highly spirited Thai Driver, Tin Sue to get our supplies from down south. Tim Oatman also had a place in my memories for his duty related broken leg and outstanding crab boil at his hooch in the Ville. Jim Jennings spent some time with us but was medivac'd in the middle of the night with acute appendicitis. Fortunately, two Air Force Jolly Green Giants with full surgical teams aboard were flying around Laos and swooped in to take Jennings away. I've often wondered what all that special operations talent was doing flying around Laos in the middle of the night in 1973. John Fugate and Richard Robinson (?) were our generator mechanics. Robinson, from Champaign, Ill. had a Thai wife and was the happiest person I've ever known when he was rotated back to the States. Mike Fletcher and David Graham were our resident folk singers / musicians. I recall them singing something with a verse "...Sergeant Jones, Chief of Police ... wild about my baby...". Pretty good as I recall. They were as close as peas in a pod. Both from California; Dave was from L.A.. Dave was also happily married to a woman stateside and had step-kids. He sent ever penny he had back home to his family. Real noble guy. Hope these guys lived happily ever after. Ken Williams, also from L.A. came to the 16th as a Radio Attendant. SGT Ron Newman also served with the 16th while I was there, as did Douglas Alborn - Radio Attendant, Dennis Remy -Radio Attendant, Calvin Belcher- Generator Mechanic, Art Cusack- Radio Attendant, Bobby Lemacks- Courier, Steve Kramer, Dennis Hooper (?) and "Big" Al Zimmerman, my good friend. There were others who served that I do not recall after 40 plus years away from them. But if we served together, we will always be comrades. We had a mascot: a dog named Brownie. She appeared in our Unit photo that Rodger Henson submitted on Tim Yoho's website. I'm holding her in that picture. I will submit two additional pictures from that unit photo session to compliment Roger's earlier submission. They are the same photo with everyone's names added by me at the time and another shot that proceeds the Official photo, with everyone agreeing that Brownie should be in the picture. As far as I know Brownie was assigned to continue service in Thailand after we bugged out and may still be serving there today.
And then there was the mysterious Mr. Jim Stitch, from "the Embassy". Assigned to Thai Military Intelligence and friend to us all. He'd show up at the on-post Club for Happy Hour and at the chow hall occasionally. He lived in the compound next to mine in the "Ville". His door was always open to any 16th PSYOP Warrior. He gave me an AK-47 to play with for a short period. He said if ever I wanted to find him after the war, he'd be the Sheriff of Dorothy, Michigan. Hell, I couldn't even find a town named Dorothy.


The 16th PSYOP Company leaves Thailand: I was with the unit when we stopped operations and packed up and moved back to Okinawa. Like any well rehearsed military operation, the 16th Psyop Co. had our plan for the bug-out. I was the NCOIC for the truck convoy to the deep water port at Sattahip, Thailand. Each local trucking contractor vehicle had a GI assigned to ride with the equipment to the port. Every vehicle had an assigned position in the convoy. Check points and rally spots were designated. I was assigned to ride with the arms container at the head of the column. At the point where we exited through the gates until we reached the port, it was a Chinese Air Raid Drill. Fortunately for me, everything turned out alright. Those were the last days and nights I spent in Bangkok.


24th PSYOP DETACHMENT: In July 1973 I served with the 24th in Korea at both "A" and "B" sites. Because of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) related to the Korean War Armistice, the United Nations Command (UNC) was required to rotate a body in for anybody who was out of the country on vacation. So I got the call. The sites were attended by Korean national civilians and it seemed that a U.S. GI was required to be there. The Mission was broadcasting the VOICE of AMERICA in Korean to the North. I recall SGT. McKee from "A" site and John Winslow from "B" site. McKee told me he and his sister had released a song recording and he sang it often. Winslow and I met at Advance Training in Ft. Monmouth previously. Winslow and I created quite a stir by practice firing M16s a little north of "B" site one day. The Republic of Korea (ROK) soldiers who were activated to find out what all the shooting was about, were very cordial and requested that we cease fire in the Cease Fire Zone. It was a beautiful country, but cold at night even in July. The area around "B" site was heavily mined and both sites had military check points and curfews because its proximity to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
After eighteen months overseas with the 7th PSYOP GROUP, I rotated back stateside to the 7th Special Forces Group at Ft. Bragg, N. C., where I terminated service in October 1974.

PHOTOS

As noted in my Recollections:


1) The 16th Official Photo taken by 2Lt Dale Wittig previously submitted by Roger Henson. I've added the names of everyone as noted on my original copy. Please credit Dale Wittig for this Photo. (Click Here)


2) Just prior to the Official 16th Co photo, where everyone is saying "..keep Brownie in photo". This one shows some people who are hidden in the Official picture. (Click Here)


3) Dick Hessling with Don Abbott at the 14th PSYOP BN Billets in Sukiran. Dick Hessling died after this picture was taken while serving with the 16th in Thailand. (Click Here)


4) Jim Wilks and Winslow (John???) on the day of the infamous B Site Target practice.
Except as noted, all photos are credited to me. (Click Here)

Jim Wilks
Prairieville, LA. 70769
jim.wilks@cox.net
December 2012