1968 Attack On Pleiku 8th PsyOp Broadcast Station and Death of 1st LT Micheal Merkel

The following includes accounts submitted by e-mail as well as story of incident by PsyWarrior.

Dave Merkel, brother of Micheal Merkel sent the following account to Col. Charlie Nahlik (Ret.). Col. Nahlik in turn submitted the account for posting on this page. The account was actually written by William W. Forgey, M.D. who was formerly a CPT Inf, USAR.

LT Micheal Merkel was a member of the 7th PsyOp Group on Okinawa and was TDY to the 8th PsyOp Bn in Vietnam when he was KIA. in 1968. A picture of LT Merkel is posted In Memoriam on "Where Are They Now Page"

Following the E-Mail account by William Fogey is a a newspaper picture and account about the attack from the PsyWarrior Page


E-Mail Account of LT Merkle and Pleiku Attack

RE: Mike Merkel (10/6/05)

I was Assistant S4 of the 2nd PSYOP Group and stationed in Saigon at the Group headquarters in March 1968. In fact I served in the S4 of the 6th Bn, which became the 2nd PSYOP Group, from August 1966 through the end of December 1968.

In my capacity I was in charge of ensuring supplies moved to each of the battalions and that local logistic support was in place for all facilities. In that capacity I made many trips to the 50,000 watt AM radio station that had been installed outside of Pleiku and which was under the command of 1LT Michael Merkle.

Visiting Mike (and staying with him at his billet when up there), was always a great experience. He was a very dedicated young man, who was in love with his wife he had left behind, was proud that he was about to be raising a family, who loved his brothers and mother. It was just great knowing him.

The radio station had it problems. It had multiple radio tube failures caused by a nearby RVN artillery battery that at times fired in the direction of the site (over it actually at its targets), but the blast from the guns would jar the site causing the carbonized filaments to fall apart. Mike was TDY in RVN from the 7th PSYOP Group in Okinawa. The 7th Group really had its act together and provided him very close support, replacing the tubes and other components immediately when needed. (In fact they helped the entire 2nd Group in many of our logistical problems).

The radio station was in a very exposed position. It had a guard tower manned by the radio station soldiers, barbed wire, and fence posts around it. The radio station was modular in vans that were partially dig into the hilltop and sandbagged. Many a time I roared up the hill to the site, with Merkle driving the jeep, as we came out from the billet in Pleiku or from the airport from picking me up, that 250 foot tower looming overhead. The station was an outpost, not located within a defensive perimeter of any unit. The nearby RVN artillery base was quite a distance away (it was a surprise to us that the concussions would bother those radio tubes). The barbed wire fence with its several rows of concertina wire was all the separated the outpost from potential annihilation. The tower could be seen for miles and was probably used as an aimning post by both sides. We were always surpirsed that the enemy didn't blast away at it with mortars. But they had other plans.

Another problem they had was jamming from Radio Hanoi. They constantly moved the transmission frequency around the jamming - but it was a continuous battle of wits. We had bought tens of thousands of radio receivers and placed them all over the country so people could listent to our broadcasts. Initially these had fixed frequency reception, but they were easily jammed. Then we provided tunable radios, taking the chance that the users would listen to some other station. It was reported to us that when the VC found any of these radios they fused the frequency to the Radio Hanoi frequency. We were certain that many people listened to our broadcasts in both North and South Vietnam.

Mike and his crew were really proud of their ability to keep that station broadcasting. It was one of the most powerful radios stations broadcasting anywhere in the world.

My last trip to the outpost was three days before the fatal night. The main request that Mike had on that trip was for the Group to obtain a .50 cal machine gun. He felt the position was completey vulnerable and without adequate protection. They were armed with M14s and a few .45 cal side arms. I presume there was a .30 machine gun in the tower, but I honestly cannot remember at this time. I spent that day at the site and flew back to Saigon the evening of my visit.

The night the enemy hit they probaby sent about 20 guys against the place. They came in guns blazing and threw satchel charges into several of the sandbagged modules. I do not remember how many of our guys were wounded, but certainly remember Mike died of his wounds shortly after the attack. I also remember seeing the photos of bodies of some of the kids that made the attack, piled in a hole dug on the radio station hill. Someone decided maybe they should take a photo of them, but the picture was made after a few shovel-fulls of dirt had been splashed on their faces. They looked like a bunch of 14 year olds and there must have been 5 or 6 of them laying there.

The tower had been blown down by satchel charges. I do not remember if there had been a mortar shelling by the enemy,  but the attack was swift, concentrated, and over-with in a short matter of time. A real professional job, be they 14 years old or not. I also remember that Radio Hanoi bragged about the attack the morning afterwards.

A new tower was shipped in from the 7th PSYOP Group, all modules replaced, and the system fully functional in exactly ten days. We had to hire civilian contractors who were flown in from the states, to erect the tower. The funds came from a special account in the DCSOPS at the Pentagon and was arranged by Harold Cotner, the DA civilian in charge of the PSYOPS support and LTC John P. Morgan, who was our greatest ally in the Pentagon.

The skill and courage of the crew that not only repaired this station, got it back on the air within ten days, but also continued to man it from the edge of civilization (as we knew it) was astonishing. Mike was the genius behind this operation. And the men working under him had to be the top guys in their profession.  Even with several .50 cal machine guns that exposed position was untenable. It was basically raw courage that kept that radio station going. Raw courage and technical expertise and leadership. Mike Merkle was a true leader and hero. He represents the very highest level of skill and courage that it takes to be a battlefield PSYOPer.

William W. Forgey, M.D. formerly, CPT, Inf, USAR.

HERE IS ANOTHER MSG FROM MICHEALS BROTHER DAVE: Hello Col. Nahlik,         Not so much bad memories, just very sad ones.  But that's okay.  When I contacted the virtualwall.org, all I gave them was Micheal's name and causality date.  They provided the info on him.  I do not know where they got it.  Some database somewhere?  To answer your other question : to my understanding, Mike had the station up and running for a while when it got hit.  Not sure how long.  I'll forward an email to you from William (Doc) Forgey who know Mike in Vietnam.  Doc sent this email to Maj. Nicholas Kinkead from Fort Bragg at my request.  Maj. Kinkead contacted me requesting any information on Mike because they were considering naming a media facility in his honor. 

MAJ Nicholas E. Kinkead
Executive Officer
3rd Psychological Operations Battalion (A)(D)
COM: (910)396-4635 DSN:236-4635

Source: Col. Charlie Nahlik (Ret.)

Account of Attack From The PsyWarrior Page

The 1968 Army publication states:

In May 1968, a field team from the 8th PSYOP Battalion, using powerful ground loudspeakers, coaxed 95 North Vietnamese soldiers from a battered village North of Hue . The scope of Group PSYOP support in Vietnam is boundless. In II Corps, an 8th PSYOP Battalion advisory team assists Vietnamese radio broadcasters in programming PSYOP messages to hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilians, NVA soldiers and Viet Cong.  8th PSYOP Battalion radio technicians man the Group's 50-thousand watt transmitter from its hilltop site outside Pleiku City . In connection with the operation, PSYOP aircraft have dropped thousands of small transistor radios to Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops. All are pretuned to the station's frequency. The 8th PSYOP Battalion provides PSYOP support for all of II Corps. To provide adequate coverage in Vietnam 's largest corps it became necessary to detach one of its companies from its headquarters in Nha Trang and station it permanently in Pleiku. The Nha Trang and Pleiku elements have printing and field team capabilities. The company at Pleiku also maintains a small PSYOP Development Center (PDC), which is an extension of the Group PDC system.

Newspaper article of the April 68 VC attack on the 8th PSYOP Bn Radio Station
(Photo courtesy of Rick Hofmann)

In addition to other duties, the 8th battalion was charged with operation of the Group's 50,000 watt AM radio station in Pleiku. The mission of the station was to broadcast to audiences in a large area in the northern provinces of South Vietnam . The radio station had it problems. It was in a very exposed position. It had a guard tower manned by its own staff, barbed wire, and fence posts around it. The station was an outpost, not located within a defensive perimeter of any unit. The station was made up of modular vans that were partially dug into the hilltop and sandbagged. Another problem they had was jamming from Radio Hanoi . The Americans had bought tens of thousands of radio receivers and placed them all over the country so people could listen to the broadcasts. Initially these had fixed frequency reception, but they were easily jammed. They later provided tunable radios, so that listeners could change stations as the Americans attempted to avoid the Communist jamming.

The Viet Cong sent about 20 sappers against the radio station on 24 March 1968 . They threw satchel charges into several of the sandbagged modules and destroyed the radio tower. 1LT Micheal Merkle was killed in the attack and the Viet Cong lost about a half dozen sappers. Radio Hanoi bragged about the attack the morning afterwards. A new tower was shipped to Vietnam from the 7th PSYOP Group in Okinawa , all modules replaced, and the radio station was back on the air and the system fully functional in exactly ten days.

Source: The PsyWarrior

Lt Michael Bercutt in Reference To Lt Merkel

EDITOR: Received e-mail from former Lt Michael Bercutt who questioned a statement he said he found concerning Lt Merkel who was KIA in Vietnam in 1968. Bercutt indicated that Merkel was listed as being TDY to Korea but was actually TDY to Vietnam. I have not found that reference and would appreciate knowing where statement was made on my page or elsewhere. Bercutt followed with another e-mail briefly describing his tour with the 7th from 1966-67.

Note: The article about Lt Merkel appears in above menu.

April 4, 2007

Some clarificaton of your listings that I discovered today.  1LT Micheal Merkel is listed as TDY Korea.  He actually was TDY to near Pleiku RVN in 1968 and commanded a mobile radio station there until he was KIA and the station destroyed.  I was TDY to Korea in suport of UNC during the same period.  Lt Col Baskin commanded Korea detachment during my second period of TDY Jan-June, 1968. 


April 6, 2007


Micheal Merkel is spelled reversed ea, not ae.  I found your list by doing a search for my last name and it popped up.  Do not remember what site I used, but it was not Google, might have been Ask.com.  Mike was never in Korea; his only TDY assignment was the one to Vietnam.  He left for Vietnam prior to my deployment to Korea.  I left for Korea with a loudspeaker team during the Pueblo incident.  Coincidentally it was also during the Tet Offensive and we flew on a decrepit C-130 which alledgedly was the first aircraft out after the shelling of Ton Son Nuit.  The wheels on the plane would not completely lower and we made an emergency landing in Osan rather than at Kimpo.  The loudspeakers were never used and I sent most of the team back to Okinawa. 

I am now pretty much retired.  Prior to joining the 7th Psyops Group, I received a BA Psychology from the University of Rochester.  I had worked the summer of my Junior year as a production assistant for Wolper Productions in Los Angeles, thus, at least in the eyes of the Army. qualifying me a a radio/TV Producer.  After receiving my draft notice, I volunteered for Signal OCS and graduated from the course in 1966.  (Class 16A-66) After, I attended Special Warfare School at Ft. Bragg and transferred to Okinawa in October, 1966 as a Radio TV production officer.  My assigned slot was occupied and they made me a Propaganda officer (Korean language) specializing in NE Asia-specifically Korea.  I also did analysis of Japan, China, and near the end of my tour Laos.  Please note that I did not speak or read Korean at the time and still do not.  When I arrived at 7th Psyop, I was the junior 2nd Lt. and thus got all the primo jobs included CBR officer, accident investigator, and meeter and greeter for incoming officers.  I was promoted to 1 Lt. after 1 year.

I turned down the offer of a Captaincy in exchange for more Army time and returned to CONUS for separation with a permanent rank of .1 Lt.   Since then, I have held a number of postions including President of my small custom building firm for 20 of the last 21 years.  I also have an MBA from Portland State University and 8 years of high tech experience including general management (a small start-up) and purchasing (Intel).

I presently live in Portland, OR with my wife and two cats.  We, sans the cats, have traveled extensively including much of Europe and I have made 11 trips to SE Asia in the last 4 years (after trying to convince my wife to go, I went on my own initially to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore (with very brief visits to Laos, Myanmar and Indonesia).  Since then, I have added Cambodia, Laos (2X including last week ago), and Vietnam (twice) as well as Malaysian Borneo, Brunei and numerous trips to Singapore and Thailand.

Michael Bercutt

SOURCE: Michael Bercutt

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