War Stories

But I know Morse Code

by Terry Savely

But I know Morse Code
By Terry savely

At Fort Huachuca Arizona, my AIT training was 12 weeks of intense International Morse code training to get the coveted MOS of 05B10...RADIO OPERATOR. We also had two weeks of training with PRC-25's and ANG 87's Radios.

A few days after my 19th birthday, I arrived in beautiful Cam Rahn Bay in early August 1968 and stayed there two nights. The barracks were near the beach and I thought, "Hey, this place is going to be okay, not near what I had imagined. Of course I am wondering where the Morse code barracks are for the RTO's of my highly skilled M.O.S. Then some NCO says "grab your stuff and get ready to go." Next thing I know, I am flying in a cargo plane and wind up in Camp Enari.

I go to the replacement depot for the night and thinking in bed that this place doesn't seem so bad. Big place with lots of soldiers and everyone is nice and clean, a mess hall, PX etc. The next morning about 50 of were called out into a formation for duty assignments to be announced. While standing in formation, I was gazing on the huge antennas on top of a mountain and I am telling myself "that's gotta be where I will be sending out Morse code at a rate of 18 to 22 words per minute". I was so proud and excited.

The assignments were being handed out in order of specialties. First there was Artillery, Engineering, Communications etc. and the last was the Infantry and dozen or so of us just stood there looking at each other. Of course I am thinking a big mistake has been made. I raise my hand and asked the old sergeant with the clipboard to check for my name because it appeared I was missed on the earlier assignments. He looks down and says, "yeah, here you are Savely, you will be going to HHC 2/35th Infantry, the barracks are just down the road."

Well, I started telling him that I knew Morse code and there has to be a mistake. I also told him that in AIT we were told that when we went to Viet Nam we would likely be assigned to Divisional HQ as Morse code operators and would probably not see much action, if any at all. I also told him I was certain that I should go to the big buildings on the big mountains behind him with the big antennas. He looks at me in disbelief and doesn't quite know how to chew my ass out. He finally says, "look dumbass, they stopped using the Morse code in the Korean War, now get you ass moving". Okay, I figure the battalion I am going to will get this shit straightened out. I report to the 1st Sgt and I explain to him what I had just told the Sgt at the replacement depot. He shuffles through some paper work and says, "nope, you're right, you won't be staying here. Go next door and get your weapon, and other items you will be needing". Finally I begin to feel better about this whole thing. Minutes later I return with an M-16 and a rucksack. Gee, I am perplexed why I need these things? I had never even seen an M-16 and the rucksack was something I was not really familiar with. The 1st Sgt tells me to get a few personal things from my duffle bag because I was leaving within the hour going to a place called Ban Me Thout.

They send me and two other guys down to a helicopter [pad and off we go again high above the tree tops. Approaching we can see our new home is also a fairly large area with an airstrip, many tents, bunkers and a very large perimeter. I'm thinking, gee, this don't look too bad. The routine starts again and I explain to the sergeant that a mistake has been made and I did not know how to use the plastic rifle, and I knew Morse code. Well guess what he says to me and the other two guys to sit tight because we would be leaving in a few minutes. By now, I am starting to have doubts and that I would ever get to send a dot nor dash during my stay if things didn't change pretty darn quick.

Off we go again in a slick. As we approach this time looking down was much different than the places I had seen before. This place was just a clearing in the jungle with a few bunkers and a couple of tents and a very small perimeter and one tiny antenna. It was the 2/35th battalion CP. I reported in, walked into a tent, fell back removing by rucksack and my hand landed directly on a scorpion. It was swollen the size of a softball for thee days and I was getting plenty of care from a medic. I am sure I told him, "I know Morse code." He probably thought I was delirious.

I told this story to Maj. Gen Bill Moore at one of our reunions one evening in the hospitality room and he looked at me and said, "Well Terry, looking back now would you have rather been with those weenies back at Division in Camp Enari or would you have rather served with the CACTI?"

After a moment, I looked around in the room filled with my brothers and with a tear in my I said to Bill with a toast "Thank God I was a CACTI."

Terry Savely
Btn RTO 2/35th 8-68/8-69