Phu Lam, Vietnam: AUTODIN
Data Source: Phu Lam web site (David Huntley & Mike Canada)
Note: The only information available to date is individual AUTODINER stories. Excerpts from a couple of Phu Lam stories are presented below.
A story by David Huntley: Only a portion of the story is presented.
I arrived in Phu Lam in March 1972 (this was my second tour in Vietnam, but my first at Phu Lam). I was assigned to the AUTODIN Switch, commonly referred to as the Switch, and sometimes called AUTODIN. I was initially assigned as a 72G operator, but I had been to school to learn cryptographic equipment repair, so after I'd been on Phu Lam for a few weeks, I was moved into the crypto section where I was the NCOIC.
I did manage to see Phu Lam turned over to the Vietnamese. The 15 or so guys remaining to shut down Phu Lam were known as the Roll-up Force. Major Thomas E. Johnson was the commander and SFC Leblanc was the NCOIC. Our main job was to get the AUTODIN switch dismantled, packed and shipped.
Dismantling of the site was accomplished by contractors, which I believe were from Philco-Ford. The switch components were packed into CONEX containers for shipment to their final destination, which I think was Korea. During our final few weeks at the Phu Lam site, we were moved into a hotel in town, where we stayed until we were transferred to Tan Son Nhut AB to complete our Vietnam tour. During the final phase of closing down, each night two men were required to remain as overnight guards in the AUTODIN building. I found this to be very unnerving, because the remainder of the compound was deserted and it seemed to me that these guys were very vulnerable. I can't remember why I never had to stay overnight, but I'm thankful that I didn't. Fortunately, there were no incidents during these trying times. After everything had been moved from the compound, I was there on the day when Phu Lam was "officially" turned over the ARVN. It was an amazing sight to watch those guys storm through the buildings, taking everything that was movable. They removed light fixtures, mirrors from the latrines, copper wiring from the AUTODIN building, and anything else they could carry.
After we left Phu Lam, and went to Tan Son Nhut, we became part of the 69th Signal Battalion (I think). I'm awfully fuzzy about so many details. It may have been the 39th Signal Battalion.
I'm not sure what the ARVN used the facility for, but I'm almost certain that we did not leave any communication gear there for them. I'm thinking that the only things we left there were the buildings. Everything else went with us to Tan Son Nhut for packing and shipping to other places.
A Story by Mike Canada (4/72 - 6/72):
My first memory of Phu Lam was during my first tour in VietNam (1964-1965) when I was stationed with the 232nd Signal Co at Tan Son Nhut living in a grass hut while the guys I knew at Phu Lam were living downtown in hotels and making additional money too! In 1972 I came down on orders to attend the AUTODIN Switching Center Supervisors Course and then on to Vietnam with the final destination at Phu Lam. I arrived in late April 72 and the first thing I remember is seeing someone come out of the switch and they seemed to be on fire...but later found out it was just the cold air in the ASC hitting that wonderful humid, hot, VietNam weather. I also found out the Hotel living was a thing of the past! The switch was in the process of closing and the guys were destroying manuals and classified tapes. This seemed to go around the clock for several weeks and was a lesson to me that most "emergency destruction plans" were someone's fantasy.
Several things about Phu Lam have stuck with me over the years. First was the high intelligence level of most of the ASC personnel as displayed by the level of sayings, drawings, poems, jokes, and other graffiti on the boards in the ASC toilets! I hope someone saved them when the ASC closed. The second thing I remember is when the generators failed early one morning, while I was running the guards, and half of the hooches in the area also lost their (our) power! The other item that sticks in my mind was the effort the Commanding Officer made to ensure that no one went into the overseas switchboard to make calls home...even though he called home in Hawaii all of the time. Little did he know that some NCO or group of NCO's had run a line to the frame room from a closet in the NCO club where calls were made without his knowledge. Perfect example of the NCO's taking care of the troops...kudos to those who made it possible!
My last remembrance of Phu Lam was the old dog that went around with me when I was Sergeant of the Guard. That old dog knew the routes, checked for snakes, rats, and other things that go bump in the night. My tour ended when we took most of the ASC personnel to Taegu, Korea, in late June 72. A short tour but one that was never forgotten
I was an AUTODIN Tech Controller at Ft Buckner Mar 1968 through Aug 1969. Later I was later assigned to the Phu Lam Autodin Tech Control Feb 1970 until Feb 1971. I recognize some of the names on the Ft Buckner site.
Phu Lam stories and other event descriptions are available at the following Web Sites:
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Stories from 1965 Phu Lamers
Stories from 1966 Phu Lamers"
Stories from 1970 Phu Lamers:
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