Almost 50 years after Adrian Cronauer belted out his signature "Gooooooood Morning, Vietnam!" across Southeast Asia, a Marine veteran is bringing original Armed Forces Vietnam Network broadcasts to American airwaves.
Former Sgt. sergeant Harry Simons, an AFVN disc jockey with the call sign "Your Brother" in Saigon and Da Nang from 1967 to 1969, teamed up with Florida-based WEBY radio to broadcast original AFVN radio programming in a tribute to America’s veterans.
The commemoration will air from 4-6 p.m. CST, Oct. 26 through Oct. 30, on 1330 AM in the American southeast and live-streamed on the station's website. An encore presentation will also air in its entirety from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11.
WEBY program director and talk show host Mike Bates, who produced the show, told Marine Corps Times that the goal is that the show will serve program is intended as a tribute to the 3.4 million Americans who served in Vietnam and to AFVN, which provided the "soundtrack of their lives."
"The primary goal is to share these historical tapes with the Vietnam veterans," Bates said. "There’s a lot of people that have no concept that the American military had a radio station [in Vietnam]," Bates said. "It's and it’s quite a story, so hopefully they’ll be educated about something they never knew existed."
The 10 ten-hour radio documentary, running without news or commercial interruptions, will mix original music program recordings with interviews of AFVN radio hosts and those directly impacted by AFVN programming.
The project came about when Simons dug up recordings of his program he had originally made to send home to his family.
"For 43 years I ignored the 14 to 16 hours of reel-to-reel, acetate tapes of my show I'd recorded," Simons said. "I decided to digitize them, and it took me three years."
Simons took the digitized recordings to Bates, who saw in them "extraordinary historical value."
Bates originally intended to play selections over his radio show, but hit on the idea to interview some of the other disc jockeys with AFVN at the time.
"So I started interviewing some people, and every one of them had an interesting story to tell, and every one of them opened up a new avenue that needed to be explored," Bates said. "The next thing I knew, this thing evolved into this massive production that has literally taken months to produce."
In addition to Simons, other AFVN hosts interviewed include Wheel of Fortune's Pat Sajak, Scott Manning, Joe Rowland, Alan Moore, Dick Orkin (aka "Chickenman") as well as Adrian Cronauer, on whom the 1987 Robin Williams' film "Good Morning, Vietnam" was based.
Pat Sajak, for example, relates the story of what Bates terms "the 'other' lost Nixon tape."
On Dec. 25, 1969, Sajak — a fellow AFVN radio host in Saigon — inadvertently switched off a prerecorded Christmas message by President Nixon to the troops in Vietnam. Rather than interrupting the "Dawn Busters" morning show he hosted and admitting the screw-up, he just let the music keep on playing.
Bates was able to track down a taped recording of the address through the Nixon Presidential Library, and Sajak will finally introduce the message: "Well, it’s been almost 50 fifty years, but here you go, here’s the President of the United States."
Beginning in August 1962, AFVN broadcast music, news and sports around the clock to American military and civilians throughout Southeast Asia.
AFVN was taken over by civilian contractors in March 1973, who continued broadcasting until April 1975. Their final broadcast — a looped recording of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" — served as a code for America's final evacuation of Vietnam.