Vietnam War Stories

The first Vietnam War story begins in Atlanta. (bear with me here)

Camille and I were married in September 1967.  I graduated from the North Avenue Trade School in December and was commissioned.  My reporting date at Fort Gordon was Feburary 16, 1968.  So what am I going to do for 6 weeks.

I applied for a job with a small engineering/surveying firm and was hired.  I expected to be carrying a rod in a survey party.

This firm was doing a cable usage survey for Bell Atlanta and they put me to work on that.

Back in the 60s there was a pair of copper wires from the central office to your telephone.  "Your" pair left the central office in a huge cable, one of many.  The cable split into smaller cables, much like a tree trunk splits into branches.  Finally the cable was down to a 25 pair cable going down your street.  There were 3 or 4 terminals along the cable and 7 or eight pairs were terminated in these terminals. 

When a lineman went out to repair or install a telepone he had to find a good pair in the terminal.  Sometimes he couldn't find a good pair in the terminal and would reach up into the 25 pair cable and grab one.  When he was done he would call into the records office and tell them that Evergreen 2-4740 was on pair 23, for example.

I searched for one of their records to show you but couldn't find one.  There was a page for each 25 pair cable branch in a big book for that cable.  Lots of cables in

Down the left side was the cable number, indexed to it's real cable number in the big cable.  An a space for use and other information like "good" or "bad".  So it would show that pair 23 was in use for EV2-4740.  Across the top were the names (ID numbers for the terminals and columns to show what pairs appeared in that terminal.  A pair usually appeared in more than one terminal.

The firm had a folding table with lights and a camera.  At midnight we would go into the central office (one of many) and photocopy their records.  Then go through them with colored pencils to mark "In Use", "Good", "Bad", or "Lost".  Not all pairs always appeared in a terminal.  Then add them up for that page then for the cable.  I did that for 6 weeks and then went into the Army.

One year later I was the Chief of the Inside Plant Branch (consisting of me, myself and I), in the 12th Signal Group Headquarters in Phu Bai. My duties included inspecting the Inside Plants of all the sites under 12th Signal Group.  "Hello, I'm here from Headquarters to help you."

Cable records were all over the map, good, bad, nonexistant. Well having spent 6 weeks looking at Ma Bells records, and we had the same form, I wrote a group SOP on how to maintain cable records.

After seven months in Phu Bai they gave me a the new Signal Site at Hawk Hill.  The 196 Light Infantry Brigade had just moved from Hoan South to Hawk hill.  There were several new buildings including my site and the Brigade Headquarters.  There was a 25 pair cable from my frame to the Brigade Headquarters.  So only one terminal, all the pairs were terminated there.

Well here comes Group Headquarters to help me, including the Commander and the new Chief, Inside Plant Branch.  I flunked inspection, my cable records were not in compliance with the Group SOP.  The Group Commander knew me and that I had written the SOP.  He just smiled.