Russell Ullman 7th Group 16th PsyOp Company Okinawa 1969-1970

EDITOR: The following is background and account sent by Russell in April 2008.


Military service 1968 - 1974
Basic - Ft. Lenard Wood
Advanced training - Ft. Monmouth, NJ - MOS 84D20, audio specialist
First station - Ft. Benning, GA, Assistant Instructor at OCS.
Second station - 15th Pysop Det, VUNC studios, Okinawa  MOS changed permanently to 84D20W
Third station - 16th Psyop Co., audio engineer - AN/TRT22 transportable mobile radio unit, Okinawa
Fourth station - U.S. Army Helicopter School, Television Studios, Ft. Wolters, TX
Fifth station - USASTRATCOM, Army Operations Center, Pentagon.
Discharged July 1974

Married 35 years. Met wife while stationed in Texas.

AAS in commercial photo
BSBA in marketing

Currently working at the power and gas utilities firm Xcel Energy  in Denver, CO in their IT section providing desk side computer support.

Email is


I want to admit up front that I am confidant that my memories as written here after thirty-seven years are as accurate and honest as I could recollect. I could add a great deal more, but I do not think fellow 16th PSYOPs would be all that interested and some of it was a bit more adult than Tim Yoho wants on his site.

Arrival in Okinawa was interesting in of itself. February 1969. After a packed flight across the Pacific I ended up on a bus full of enlisted types headed to be dropped off at various units. They had no idea where my orders were to take me.

Two hours later after the last man is dropped off it is figured out that unit was the 15th PSYOP Det. I was finally billeted at Ft. Buckner. Second floor of the PSYOP barracks. (Aerial View of Ft. Buckner and Barracks)

My new job was audio engineer at the VUNC studios. It was tough to record and edit soap operas and the news when your talent speaks in Korean.  The finished program tapes were filled out with American music. I didn’t know where I was playing the tapes to. Now I know it was to the Deragawa transmitter site for replay to Korea.

It was an ordinary job other than the language issue. The hardest part was staying awake late at night, playing those tapes over and over. The only unusual thing to happen during my time at the VUNC studios was one evening on the way to the station my shift partner spun out on wet roads and sent our jeep into a full sweeping 360 across four lanes of what is now Highway 58. I thought for sure we would roll over.

In May 1969 I was transferred to the 16th. PSYOP Co.

I don’t recollect how I got to the compound that first time. I think I arrived by courier jeep. A fenced compound surrounded by tiny villages and vast fields of sugar cane. (Several Views of Compound and Area)

I was roomed with the company clerk to start with. I was one of three men in that room. And it was the only room with an AC unit.

What’s depressing is I don’t remember many names of my fellow soldiers. I do remember our CO, Captain Luke.

My first full day at the 16th PSYOP Co. we all went down to where the AN/TRT22 was set up in a swampy area by the sea.  It was near the compound, maybe a thirty minute drive, but where it was I have no idea. It could have been a rice paddy for all I know.

The four transmitter shelters, two for the studio, plus the generators made up the 50,000 watt AN/TRT22. The six shelters were setting on land filled pads beside the road, The tower was at the end of a long dirt fill road leading out into the middle of this wet, grassy mess. Grounding wires ran out from the base of the tower in all directions. We were taking the tower down I found out later. Even though the shelters were locked up at night, when someone tried to steal the huge transmitter cable and one of the portable AC units we had to post a guard 24/7 until the shelters were brought back to the compound. I ended up on the third shift. I saw quite a few sunrises.

After a few months had past I was moved to a new room in the barracks. Still three men, but I was just a few steps from the orderly room, showers and cans, and two right turns to the mess hall. This is where I lived the rest of my time on Okinawa.

The infamous pond and bridge was well established and even had fish in the pond. We had a volley ball sand court nearby. One time three of us played a local school girl’s volley ball team. Now that was fun. We lost, but who cared.

And there were also three dogs that pretty much ran the place. I was reminded by Jim D’Amato one was named Sam.

The holidays were strange.  All the U.S. holidays were strange in Okinawa. There was the usual turkey for Thanksgiving but few of us had much interest. So much food was left over that no big meal was planned for Christmas. I’m pretty sure we had ham for Christmas, but it was served in the standard meal line. Thanksgiving and Christmas were downers around the 16th. Christmas day stands out to me because I was outside in shorts working on my tan. A month later we had frost.

To keep us soldiers busy on a day to day basis, three of us were loaned out to AFTV-8. My job there was to run camera in the studio, and as assistant-floor director. I worked at AFVT Okinawa for a little over a month. One man, at his request, was offered a transfer to AFTV to their field news crew. My favorite memory was when they had this big blow out party. The reason for it escapes me. I didn’t drink at the party, but a lot of the TV people sure did. Somebody had to be sober. One hammered Marine Sergeant attacked this nasty spiked plant outside by the front door of the TV station. He paid for it later. Our on-air talent was slowly losing vertical position as he read the news. I know I had to push him back up at least once.

Back at the compound my other duties at the 16th included running the projector in the EM center showing movies on our own screen. I got to see some great flicks. A selected bunch of us from the 7th had to be qualified to run those projectors. So five or six of us met up over at the USARIS AV center for our training. The instructor wanted a little of our background. We told him what we did for the 7th PSYOP and our MOS. Once I told the guy holding class my MOS was 84D20W, audio specialist, he said I should be the one giving the class not him. Told me to go stand in a corner somewhere, I was already qualified.

Once the shelters were brought back to the 16th compound we went about trying to fire up the radio with a jury rigged antenna. But at 50KW we were blowing stations off the air in Japan. We tried several things to contain the output, but even Ampex, the builder of the transmitter and studio, gave up and turned it over to us. Huge piles of operations and confidential manuals were left behind.

We dug these five trenches for what I believe were grounding lines trying to filter the transmitter’s output and keep the static down. We used pickaxes and shovels to get through the coral just under the thin soil. It didn’t help our problem with the transmitter.

The best thing that came out of that hard physical labor was the guys that dug those trenches had the best scores at the required 7th PSYOP PT test. I never ran that fast for a mile at that time or ever again since. It helps when I dropped in behind who was known to be the fastest man of the 7th to pace me. I was able to stay with him until the last lap before my legs gave out and I had to slow down. You gotta remember we did it in combat boots and fatigues. Not in jogging sneakers with sweats.

The 16th was ordered to prep and clean up the PT field before everyone else had the test. It was in pretty bad shape. This was the one located in Machinato. What we didn’t know there had been a small landing force that came ashore right there in WWII because we dug up a live grenade in the low crawl pit. We waited an hour, the live ordinance disposal crew arrived, checked out the well rusted ball, tossed it into a steel box in the back of their jeep, and drove off.

Near the end of 1969, to occupy our time at the compound, the generators were run, transmitter was running in standby mode, and the studio men made like DJs in the two studio shelters. To make it seem more realistic I ran speaker wire from the studio external output panel to the phone panel in this hot dark room on the end of the barracks. I was a Sp/4 then and this PVT was helping me when I felt this jolt throughout my whole body. It was as if someone grabbed my arms and just yanked as hard as they could. He said later that for a split second my arms looked like Popeye the Sailors arms. Somebody was making a phone call at the same time I was attaching a line to an empty post. I must have touched something I shouldn’t or maybe there was a short in the board. That really hurt.

Anyway I mounted speakers on top of the barracks and the VUNC transmitter building, and fed the studio output through them. Only problem was, since I wasn’t allowed to secure the lines to proper line mounts, the wires kept falling down over the transmitters outgoing lines. It would cook them in a heart beat. I repaired the speaker wires at least every other day.

I know of at least two typhoons and one tropical storm during my time there. And as always the local power would go out about a day into the storm and the main compound generator would have to be fired up. But all was not lost. With the word of the approaching storm we would grab a five quarter and drive to White Beach to stock up on potables according to orders given to the ones old enough to buy heavy booze. I always seem to be the one driving there. At twenty-one, I was considered an old man for an E-4/E-5.

While on Okinawa I was at the rifle range twice. Once with the 15th qualifying with the M-14, my second time since basic training, then at the 16th when they were first issued M-16s. They were like toys to me after the big heavy M-14. In the company only a few of us had fired the M-14. Everyone else had trained on the M-16 in basic. We had a couple days of classroom on the M-16 to familiarize ourselves with it.

Once at the range us M-14 dudes grouped together. We had our feet propped up in our firing holes, plinking at the fifty and hundred yard targets occasionally holding the M-16s like pistols. And we were doing pretty good. The First Sergeant came by and said we should make it look like we were trying harder. Said he understood but we should get into our proper shooting position. Never could hit the 300 yard target. But I was real good out to 150 yards. When the range was completed and I made expert, those M-16s had to be cleaned and the CO informed us no one would be released for the day (Saturday) until the weapon passed inspection. Only two of us passed the first time, one other guy besides me.

The Philippines heard of our radio and wanted to use it against their insurgents. We packed everything up. We were told we would be issued live ammo once we landed in the Philippines. This was considered a hot zone we were headed to.

My barracks room looked pretty bare with everything stowed away. But with only
a couple days to go before we were to load up, we stood down. The Philippines wanted the station but not the men. They were told no men – no station. So we did not go.

Before we had packed it all up for the Philippines we had a field exercise to see how well we could set up the shelters, and just cope with living in the field. Seeing how we were barracks goons and not ground pounders. We were deployed onto an old WWII Japanese airfield.  It was interesting. We even had a fake attack by our top NCO’s during one night, but they didn’t try to hard.

The day the tractors came to pickup our trailers, one lost its brakes and ran off the road down an embankment. It had to be hauled out of the brush by crane.(Picture)

I was pretty much a loner. Not to say I didn’t hang out with others, I just didn’t have a standard bunch of friends. But I was asked to go along many times on evening events. As I refused to do drugs, I was what you would call the designated driver. I had the nickname of ‘Conductor’. Like a train conductor while out on the town I kept the guys in line, in their seats, out of the gutters, and got them poured into cabs back to Deragawa if they had gone too far.

I’m a red head. That made me rarer than blonds on Okinawa. You have no idea how many times at bars or riding on buses I would feel this hand slide through my hair, then this very feminine giggle. And several times a young girl would ask me if it was red everywhere.

Many a weekend I was out just doing the tourist thing taking pictures. And many an evening those last six months I was there on island I would head into Tairagawa to visit with a young lady I knew and to drink a few beers.

My mother never forgave the Japanese for WWII and made it very to me clear if I married one of them I needn’t come home. Period! That’s the only reason I didn’t pursue that young girl harder. Which is too bad, she was a one cute girl and was getting to me. Of course we were like Mutt and Jeff when walking together. I’m six foot and she was five foot nothing – if that.

When a new head cook SSgt. Willingham arrived, we started hanging together.
Why? I dunno. He was a tough old fart, a womanizer, and a hard drinker. He could drink everyone under the table and only belch a few times afterwards. He rented a room at Papa-sans place instead of staying in the barracks. But despite his appearance and heavy drinking he could cook. He started the thing where we cooked our own weekend breakfasts.

After I made Sp/5 we had a weird visit from USARIS Headquarters. They spoke to only those of us with E-5 grade. They would offer us a trade. Our E-5 for Lieutenant bars. We just had to go through charm school (OCS) and spend one tour in Vietnam in an infantry unit. Losing our Signal Corp status but gaining a sidearm and shot at by both sides.

I was on the down slide of my Okinawa tour when I had this one particular weekend duty. It was easy duty. Make yourself available to answer the phones, answer questions, check in any new people - if any should arrive - make sure those areas that had to be locked were locked. Insure the bar in the day room was secure after the last film was run.

I’m seated at the clerk’s desk doing what I don’t remember; when our local national gate guard sticks his head in and says Marines are at the gate. At the entrance is a local police car, three or four police and three or four Marine MPs with their sedan. The MP officer in charge, I think he was a Lieutenant, said he needs to check out our compound to find a black guy that had raped and attempted to kill a local teenage girl. I told him he would have to wait till our CO, XO, and First Sergeant were notified. I told our local guard to keep everyone else outside the gate; the Marine officer could come inside with me.

While I’m calling our admin he wants to know how many and where our black enlisted men were. I knew the only man still on the base at that time was on duty in the VUNC transmitter building. I had someone run tell him to stay put, lock himself in the building if he had to. All hell broke loose once the CO, XO, and First Sergeant arrived. The Marines wanted to arrest somebody, and our officers wouldn’t let them until the JAG was involved. It started in the morning with the arrival of the police, it ended in the afternoon once the dude was picked up by Army MPs.

We discover the man they wanted was our second cook. What was sad about it was he had an unofficial off-base house and a live-in girl. So we know he was getting some. The following month was ugly. We weren’t to go anywhere off-duty in our uniforms, not that we did anyway. We were besieged by protestors regularly. Big banners posted outside our compound. Dozens of locals milling around the gate (Picture). Once there was a very large and organized protest where several thousand locals participated. We had a small contingent of either rangers or Special Forces housed in our EM center during that week of the big protest. Seems it was not a big secret it was planned. This was the first time the demand for return of Okinawa to Japan was made by various Japanese groups.

The girl had survived her attack and testified at his trial from a wheelchair. He got a dishonorable discharge and big time at Leavenworth.

This was the first such attack I knew of on a young girl on Okinawa. Of course we have had several more on the island over the years since then.

This incident arose again once I was back in the states. My brother-in-law and I went out looking for a proper bar in Detroit. You know the sort. Sweet young things dancing on a stage wearing little or nothing. There was this one bar I had gone by for years and wanted to check it out. The second we walked in I knew it was a bad idea. It was a black club. He wanted to leave. I told him it would be worse as we would be followed out; just get our beers from the bar, drink, and leave. Most conversation had ended when the two white dudes walk in. Even the young ladies were not into their dancing.

I plunk down at the bar. The bartender asks for my ID. I hand him my military ID. He wants to know if I’ve been overseas. I start out telling him I’ve always wanted to see this place, I had been wondering about it. Then I tell him I just got back from Okinawa. And I remember the next conversation like it was yesterday. He asks me “You know anything about the dude that was tried for rape a few months back?”

So I tell him. “Yeah. That was my unit. He was our cook. And I was the NCO on orderly room duty that day.”

He looks across my head and waving his hand as he says to those that were in ear shot, “Hey this dude was there. We can get the truth from the horse’s mouth.” Or he said something like that. A crowd moves in around us. And I tell him the whole story, everything I knew. Even answered a few questions. Once I finished we were thanked for the truth as what they heard was not entirely what I just told them, we were given space to drink our beers and I even enjoyed the floor show that had resumed. We were not bothered by anyone and we left without incident.

The 16th PSYOP threw a big party for the surrounding villages. I do not remember if it was held before the rape or after. We showed movies in the EM for the Okinawans, I’m pretty sure we cooked up burgers, chicken, hot dogs, served cold drinks. That’s when the three of us played volley ball with the school girls. There was a baseball game. Our company team and one of their local teams played. And there was a light rain shower late in the day.

I re-enlisted while on Okinawa. Should have extended, but I didn’t. In June of 1970 I got orders to report to my next duty. I left Okinawa in late July or very early August 1970.

Though I never got another stripe after Okinawa, it was an intense time for me. I met my future wife in Texas while I was stationed at the now closed US Army Helicopter School at Ft. Wolters, TX television studios for a year. We married in 1972 and are still married. My last duty station was at the Pentagon assigned to the USASTRATCOM Army Operations Center, (War Room). I was handling AV support to the briefing teams when the Vietnam War was ended. I entered the Army in early 1968 and left the service in mid-1974, still an Sp/5. I couldn’t compete against those that served in Vietnam. If I had made E-6 I might have stayed in.

I have more pleasant and interesting memories about Okinawa than any of my other duty stations. And finding Tim Yoho’s site on the 16th PSYOP refreshed those memories that had faded with time.

Additional Pictures


SOURCE: Russell Ullman (E-mail)