Personal Accounts of 1st RB&L

Received E-mal from Ron Michaels about his experiences with the 1st RB&L. Ron appears to be a member of this unit after the reorganization in 1960 and was therefore not part of the "Ganders" that evolved into the B&VA/14th PsyWar.

From: Ron Michaels
Sent: Wed 10/10/2007 10:43 AM
To: Yoho, Tim
Subject: RE: 1st RB&L

Good to hear from you.  I'm sure we all would like to know what we did during the 60s!  I can't help you there but I think I can bring a couple of things to light about RB&L at the end of the 50s and beginning of the 60s. 

A lot of what I'll share is stuff you undoubtedly know since you were there.  Some of it, however, will add to what you've seen and heard. 

First, there were TWO 1st RB&L Battalions.  Not in men but in substance.  One was dead at the post and most of the guys just "hung out" doing nothing but fight boredom.  From what I've read that you've posted, I was apparently in the other one. 

1st RB&L was part of the Third Army.  I was part of the 5th Army.  Since I had a lot of on-air broadcasting experience (from the time I was 17), I was assigned to the Third Army after basic training and sent to Ft. Bragg to write the DOD manuals on Radio Broadcasting in Psychological Operations and to lecture to the officers of allied armies on the "hows and whys."  I graduated from college with a BS degree.  I majored in Pre-Medicine and Speech Science.  I also worked on the school's radio station every afternoon and evening as a disc jockey and announcer. 

When I signed in at the company headquarters, I was asked by the CO if I could type (he just happened to be wandering around).  When I said yes, he told me that I was the new S-1 clerk.  So, I typed orders for weeks.  Since we all were college graduates in the unit (almost all) we had a lot in common and part of that was a certain reluctance to take ourselves too seriously.  Sargeant Garcia was always cracking up the guys while we were in formation.  Of course, he had no idea that what he said was funny.  He kept telling us that he was a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico.  That was enough to get us started.  A good friend by the name of Jim Franzen could mimic Garcia perfectly.  "Where is thees people?"  Garcia would bark when a person did not respond to his name called at roll.  That phrase got to be a mantra with all the guys in the barracks.  Of course, Garcia was only referring to ONE guy and he NEVER learned that "this person" was the proper grammar.  He made sure that everyone saw his college ring with the huge stone on his left hand worn almost as a gigantic ring guard for his wedding band.  Our CO was a jerk who handed out Article 15s like candy bars to native children.  He didn't have a clue.  Yet, he was a college graduate just like the rest of us so nobody took him too seriously.  Everyone just thought that he was trying to show the "team" that he was, indeed, in charge.  People just stayed away from him. 

Garcia's main mode was "get these peoples to do work" like guard duty and KP.  Being SD and TDY, I never pulled guard or KP.  That really got under his skin.  He would push and push and put all of us on SD on the duty roster for some dumb thing or other every time the roster was posted.  We all would dutifully walk in to the CO (after requesting permission up the chain of command, of course) and point out that we were on the little man's duty roster -- again.  The CO would call Garcia in and tell him to take us off.  Garcia was not pleased.  We were not allowed to wear fatigues while teaching.  Garcia would come up to our faces (or, if you were over five feet tall, he would come up to your belt buckle) and say, "Today, jew weel ware combad buuts and fatigs!"  We then had to fall out and change every day after the little man had had his way.

We played this joyous game for weeks.  Whenever our SD would temporarily drop because of the need to wait for new trainees from other armies, Garcia would excitedly round up whatever roster he could find to stick us on.  Fortunately, we knew what was coming so we would go to the doc for something and get a buck slip for 30-days until our next appointment at the hospital.  That buck slip then was presented to Garcia just as he posted his new duty roster with all of our names on it.  His already large nose seemed to come close to exploding.  He never won but we all had to give him credit for trying.  And it seemed to give him a reason for living that went beyond the 20-or-so years he had been RA.  Every time he got "one-upped" by a college kid, however, he had to talk about his degree from the University of Puerto Rico and, as if to emphasize his accomplishment, show his big ring.

As S-1, I was TDY and SD.  During the day I worked in the office and took time in the afternoons to research my DOD assignment at the libraries of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Duke University.  In the evenings, I did the play by play announcing for the unit's ball team.  They all were evening games so I'd go down to the building in front of the diamond, use the keys I had been given to open it, shove a speaker and sound system out of a window, carry them up to the top of the bleachers, and announce the players and score during the game.  Since I had lived in front of a radio microphone for years, I was obviously assigned to every event that needed an announcer (I worked at the hospital radio station, too, for awhile).

A couple of months after I arrived, the school started.  There were just a few of us who were instructors and taught classes all day, every day.  I taught "Radio and Television Broadcasting in Psychological Operations."  Among the other "teachers" was John Brode.  He was a young man from England with a couple of masters degrees who was an acknowledged expert on Chinese Mandarin and Communist China.  Paul Jouridini, a Lebanese who also consulted to the U. S. State Department on Geopolitics.  And several others with equivalent educational achievements.  I taught during the day for 6 hours and worked at the local radio station in Fayetteville at night (from the Tower in the Sky at WFNC from the shack on top of Steve's Drive-In).  I was on four nights a week and a guy from our unit, Bill Tinker, did the other nights.  Bill was one of the artists from our pool who designed and produced all of the art for our leaflets.  I think that the name they gave me for that show was "A Guy Named Ron."  It was a request show and Friday and Saturday nights were very crazy.  Not only did we cover the base with our signal, we drew high school and college kids from everywhere within 50 miles. 

My classes at 1st RB&L were filled with officers from just about every allied army in the world.  They were sent to Ft. Bragg specifically for six weeks of classes including my subject (we taught them how to use each of the tools we had in the unit), John's stuff on China, Paul's stuff on Geopolitics, Bill's stuff on Leaflets (collateral design and production), and a couple of other subjects.  We had a very full schedule.  Since we all were SD and TDY, we were "housed" in a barracks far away from the unit.  We really didn't have to show up until classes started (at 7a) so we all got houses or apartments or duplexes off-post.  I was in a duplex with Bill and two guys from the 82nd.  The four of us (with two disc jockeys in the same house) led a very eventful life filled with the kinds of things you've always suspected a disc jockey does in his off-time.

After several months teaching and writing, I was asked to qualify with an M-1 as a "test" to determine whether I could shoot a weapon in case I was sent to Korea (we were on alert at least a half-dozen times during this period).  At 500 yards, I discovered that I was a very good shot.  As a result of that, I was pulled by XVIIIth Corps from teaching (but I still had to write all of the verbatim classroom scripts for the DOD manuals on the subject) and I was put on the U. S. Army Competitive Rifle Team.  I fired a weapon on the range all morning, every day, in all types of bad weather.  I taught and wrote all afternoon.  Still SD and TDY, I continued to live off-post and worked as a disc jockey at the local radio stations.

My best friend was Jim Arender from the 82nd.  He jumped with a group then called the U. S. Army Sport Parachute Team and he was the World Style Champion (won a gold medal in the sport in Bulgaria the year before I arrived).  The Team lived in the old hospital buildings (Womack was a big, multi-storied building -- the team lived in the one-story huts left around after the new hospital was built).  Jim asked me to move into the old hospital and live with the team.  The only requirement was that I had to qualify with a parachute.  That meant four jumps on a static line and a jump-and-pull delay on the fifth.  The team took me out to one of the DZs and, after about 10 minutes of training in how to execute a PLF, I joined them on a chopper and qualified in winds gusting up to 25 knots.  They thought it was funny watching me get caught by the wind and sail over the DZ and out of sight.  Of course these guys were just joking.  When I finally landed, they were there in a jeep to zip me back to the flight line and pick up another chopper waiting there for me so that I could qualify in one day.  We jumped with General Stillwell and his HU1A Huey.  That thing could get to 10,000 feet in no time and the general loved to jump with his giant cargo chute.  We were jumping 26-foot flat circulars with a bunch of chute cut out to make it "steerable" and he was jumping a 28-foot parabolic that would set him down like a feather.  He was a great guy who was lost a few years later flying over the Pacific.  Few people make five jumps in one day but it was worth it.  From then on, I lived and jumped with what is now called "The Golden Knights" even though I was a leg.  They were my family.  A few years after I left, many of them were killed when their plane stalled on takeoff from Pope on their way to a demonstration.  The plane dropped just after takeoff and exploded.

The end of my tour was spent with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, XVIIIth Airborne Corps and Ft. Bragg in the PIO's office.  I continued to jump with the Army Team and, in January of 1961, separated to go back to school for my masters.  In the late 60s as I was living in Manhattan and travelling to DC frequently, I learned that the DOD still was using my manuals and my verbatim transcripts from my lectures at Bragg.  Undoubtedly, that, too, has changed.  As has most everything else in life.

There's more to tell but I've rambled on too long now.  I hope that some of this brings back memories -- good memories. 



Ron Michaels