As I wrote above, The Dong Ba Thin Airbase was near Nha Trang---that was Det 4. I think that as AFVN began to shrink down during the withdrawal, at least part of Det 4 was actually on Dong Ba Thin for a while.


          Go to AFVNVETS.NET and down to the bottom of the home page. You will find a ”Click Here" which will start a message to Bob Morecook so you can join the AFVN Yahoo group. Steve Thom Whetson's email address is thomas.whetston@gmail.com. Let me know if I can help in anyway.

Jim White

Individual Photo Albums & Stories

Paul W. Starnes  SP5, USA  - Page 1

Cam Ranh Bay / Hon Tre  1969-70

This is a story about Paul Starnes and his son, Steven Paul Starnes

and his search to learn more about his father's service in Vietnam.

           Used a cassette recorder for hometowners in 1970 while with the 25th Infantry Division. Was in the rear (Cu Chi, Dau Tiang, Camp BearCat and Vung Tau) the whole time, so didn't carry a weapon. Then got the call...to AFVN.

          Thank you Steve Kroft for being the middle man and making it happen!

Bob Mays

Photos from Steve Starnes

The lower left box is clearly a 5" reel, which makes the upper left a 7" reel and the lower right a 3" reel.

The upper right square box held a small cassette tape which was often used for "audio letters."  (Jim W)

Hi Steven --

          You should also join the AFVN EMAIL GROUP. One fellow on there has arranged for a museum in NY [I believe] to collect AFVN items. Please send me your email address and I can send you an INVITE. In the alternative go to groups dot yahoo dot com and search for AFVN and send a join request.

Best wishes,

Bob Morecook AFVN 72/3

          When I get off work today I will start looking in the areas you all have pointed me to. I lost a lot of sleep last night just reading all the stuff I have found here already. I can't even express the feelings I have had the past 24 hours finally connecting with this side of him. And I hate that I was unable to connect him with you guys before now. It likely would have meant the world to him.

Steve Starnes

Paul Starnes just before leaving for Vietnam


          As I wrote above, The Dong Ba Thin Airbase was near Nha Trang---that was Det 4. I think that as AFVN began to shrink down during the withdrawal, at least part of Det 4 was actually on Dong Ba Thin for a while.


          Go to AFVNVETS.NET and down to the bottom of the home page. You will find a ”Click Here" which will start a message to Bob Morecook so you can join the AFVN Yahoo group. Steve Thom Whetson's email address is thomas.whetston@gmail.com. Let me know if I can help in anyway.

Jim White

           Steven, Your father, Paul, is listed on the AFVN Roster as having been with AFVN in 1969-70. as an Army SP5, at Detachment 4, Cam Ranh Bay / Nha Trang. The Dong Ba Thin Airstrip was nearby. Too bad that your father, like so many Vietnam veterans, never shared his stories with you even though you were active duty and are now in the Iowa Air Guard. SP4 Barry Brower and SP5 Tom Benintende were at Det 4 in 69/70 and 1LT, Army James Farrell was the Officer in Charge of Det 4 in 1969. You might find it easier to reach them (and others who can give you a hand), if you post your message to AFVN@YahooGroups.com. This method reaches a larger and somewhat different audience. Since you have been "allowed to join" this should not be a problem. If it turns out that you have a problem, then contact Bob Morecook at rmorecook@hotmail.com and ask that you be permitted to join afvn@yahoogroups. Being the son of a former AFVNer, you are a shoo-in. But, again, if you have problems with that route, then send me a message at webmaster@afvnvets.net and I'll help out. Since the afvnvets.net includes a lot of older audio and video engineers, someone might be able to give you a hand. You might enjoy looking at afvnvets.net because it contains a lot of information about the unit your father was with in Vietnam.

Best wishes, Jim White

Steven Paul Starnes

(Paul Starnes' son)

          There is an AFRTS Archive operated by Thom Whetstone in Minneapolis. He would love to borrow your father's tapes and digitize the collection for the archive. Simply Google "AFRTS Archive" and it would lead you to Thom. 
Brian Hartzell

Chair, AFKN Reunion Committee

Thanks Steven.

           What an exciting journey ahead.The recordings, photos, everything should all have clues. I just went through the same thing with the grandfather I never knew. It resulted in a joint publication of "Lusitania Diary," the ship he came to America on 107 years ago.

Rick Fredericksen

Steven, I was at AFVN Saigon the same time frame as your father, 69-70. I'm unclear which station he worked for or what his job was. I live in Iowa too (Des Moines), but Thom in MN is closer, plus he probably has the equipment. Although, just Google "transfer reel to reel to digital" and you should find professional help, if you need it. I'm an active reporter and would like to know what you have there, when the dust settles. Try to enjoy this unfolding experience--and thanks for YOUR service.

Rick Fredericksen​

          Come to find out that most of my airchex were 15.5  NO-GO for the old TEAC I bought.

Dick Downes

           Thanks for allowing me to join.  It is with renewed excitement that I have found you all and hope that you may be able to help me solve or find answers to a lifetime of mystery. 
          My father the late Paul W. Starnes was stationed in Dong Ba Thin (near Nha Trang). Because he spoke little of his time there my knowledge almost literally starts and stops there. The stories I received where from his photo albums are trapped into a collection I/we were warned as children to never touch. The collection being of a large cashe' of reel to reel tapes of the broadcasts of his station. Now that he has passed on I have this collection. I know there is a treasure trove of history that because I was never allowed to touch, I have no idea how to use. I would love to preserve this history to digital format before time destroys it and very willing to share it with anyone. I gave up on the idea that I would ever know much about his story in Vietnam as well as what is locked away in his tape collection. This group has renewed my hope that maybe I will now learn of stories...but more to the point meet up with an expert who can help me save and put into a modern format what he brought home with him. 
          Thank you again for opening up the door for me and hopefully learn from you. I am prior service Army Corps of Engineers & Signal Corps and currently Serving in the Iowa Air Guard as a Satellite and Wide Band Communications Tech....and yes...this old technology scares me.


          Honestly I am less clear now as I once was on Dad's station. Dong Ba Thin is the name that I recall him saying. ( My brother has his photos back in Kentucky so I will have to verify this later. ) I will work to get all the data reconsolodated so I can speak more intelligently on his duty. I always thought of Dad as a DJ. But we recently layed his mother to rest and a Silver Star award recommendation came to surface weeks ago which detailed actions he took as the station engineer...a account that mirrored some of the few stories dad told of having to ensure the station stayed up during attacks. But he talked of doing broadcasts as well. So I don't know if this means he like many of us today...had a specialty but he had to know and perform all duties or what exactly to make of all this. I also had a vision of a small OP with a small station and a small crew. The one thing you guys have impressed on me this weekend is...there was nothing small scale on your operations at all. Rick, I will keep you in mind as well as you aren't that far removed from me. Obviously I am very early in the stages of opening doors to Dad's past. You guys have been wonderful in opening them with me. I will be more than happy to share the story and experience with you or anyone as a reporter, servicemen or in my case a family who also wants to learn more. We as a family are just now swallowing the stories of my Dad's father who was a Purple Heart WW2 Vet who also never shared his stories until I got my assignment to Germany and my cousin his first combat tours. He opened up to us fortunately before he left this world. Again, thank you...and many thanks to all of you for leading me down the trail and lending you support. I have had a fortunate 18+ years of service and met many great troops over my tour...you guys joined the rank and file on my own service story.

Steve Starnes

          I forgot to add, "If he was a jock...". at the very beginning; we're on a first-name basis here, Steve (Steven Paul Starnes). 
          Glad you liked the commentary. It's the first I've written about it in a while but there are other stories in my "notes" section. If you can't get in send me a friend request.

Dick Downes

          I worked with Kroft at CBS. He is a DINFOS grad too.

Rick Fredericksen

Mr. Downes,

          ​You just added color commentary to many of the photos I have seen in his collection...including the Buffalo rush hour photos.

Greetings to all my fellow Signal Corps Fellows, 
          I am TSgt Steven Paul Starnes.  My father was the late SPC Paul Wayne Starnes of Detachment #4. 
          Let me start out with a belated welcome back home to all of you and thank you all for your services and blazing the path for those of us who followed your boot tracks. 
          I am eagerly requesting assistance in various areas in my road march into my father's past.  He was one of the ones who returned home and was largely silent with us on revealing the stories of his tour of duty.  His stories were told largely through his photo albums and military records that we are starting to uncover.  I am eager to meet with anyone who would have served with him who could start to reveal the man and period of events.  I would love to have color commentary added to the collection of photos. 
          But my search has a primary mission.  I have in my possession several of his reel to reel recordings that as a children we were never allowed to touch, hear and unfortunately learn how to use.  Today, I am afraid to try and use this technology left to me.  But I do want to preserve it.  I want to transfer it to digital and be able to share his collection.   I am hopeful to find someone who is willing and able to assist me.  I am eager to share this same collection with anyone and everyone who is interested. 
          I want t learn more about the man, and the mission and the duty day to day life.  I thank you all for allowing me into your family/group.  I thank you in advance for the enlightenment I anticipate I will be receiving. 
Respectfully Yours,

Steven Paul Starnes

Technical Sergeant Iowa Air National Guard Satellite & Wide Band Communications Technician

also Prior Service Regular Army Sergeant Corps of Engineers & Signal Corps.

          Depending on which shift he worked, he probably only did an hour a day of actual airtime. The rest of his shift was ensuring the network feed from Saigon was handled. He may also have some Saigon-originated material or other jocks at his Det.  I was a SP5 in Da Nang at the same time ('69-'70).  However my first tour ('68-'69) was as a combat correspondent out of Cam Ranh.   
          In Da Nang I watched the feed from 0100-0800, then did an hour of Top-40 from 0800-0900 (following Pat Sajak). The "Goooood Morning, Vietnam" line was well established by then.  I'd sign on with "Goooood Morning, Danang." Your dad probably did something similar (depending on his CO). 
          We switched to Country at about 1000, then our midday guy took over from 12000-1300. The net was back at 1300 and then we took it local again from 1600-1700 with more Rock 'n' Roll and local announcements.. 
          Nha Trang was the closest thing to a city and we'd make the 30-60 minute trip (depending on water-buffalo traffic) on the occasional weekend. I'm sure your dad did the same. 
          Nha Trang is a beach town. At the time, there were overnight accommodations and a press club. I think a steak dinner with all the trimmings was less than a dollar. Drinks were 25 or 50-cents. 
          Unless he kept an audio journal, the tapes will probably be what we call airchecks. The entire hour he was on-air, complete with music, PSAs (Public Service Announcements) & local activities. This was interspersed with anti-clap [venereal disease], and other basic safety PSAs. We got a 33RPM disc from AFRTS weekly. It had the newest hits on one side and a half-LP on the other. We also had an Oldies library. 
          I recently hunted down a R/R Tape Deck and dusted off my old tapes. It was pretty much what a small-town DJ would sound like on a local station duriing the '60s-'70s. I soon became bored. Though I went on to a long career in radio, at the time I was a rookie and not very good. There are a number of apps that will convert R/R-digital. Check your local Craigslist. 
          The photos may be a different story. If he was there in August of '69, Cam Ranh was seriously attacked for the first time. Mortar-fire led the way for sappers to get inside the wire and wreak havoc. If he got pix of the aftermath, they could be pretty gory. 
          There are many stories but, like your dad, I don't talk about it much. 
Good luck and welcome. 
Dick Downes

Request Sent.

          Yea, I am sure there is more to be revealed about why he was at Dong Ba Thin once I start finding guys from Det 4 during that time. It seems like this must have been a tumultuous period for you guys in particular from what I am reading and learning and seems like this was a period of moving and shaking...which also would explain the indications of direct contact I am starting to uncover as I go through his archives...which would possibly start to explain why he chose not to revisit on many of the memories. Hindsight being what it is, I wish I had found you guys while he was still with us. I think it would certainly had a profound effect on him. For sure he would have been able to read what I have and learn what the Bigger Picture was that he was part of. I think we all suffer as servicemen of the not really knowing where we really fit into the Big Picture and our affect on it because we are so busy making sure our roll day to day was being accomplished. That said, I think this is the appropriate time for me to thank you all for your service and what rolls you played then and the rolls you are now playing for me and the services you are providing for me now today.

​Steve Starnes

          Awesome Brian!  Thank you.

Steve Starnes


          Here's a couple of interesting links for you: Video of Dong Ba Thin Airbase in 2007
          As I remember, the AFVN-Cam Ranh was actually located in Dong Ba Thin, across the bridge linking the mainland with the peninsula.

[The rest of the message is on Dick Downe's Photos & Stories page.]

          When I did hometown interviews it was all on cassette Ca: 1969.  I carried a cassette recorder, Leica & .45 Colt. No M-16, until later in my tour.  It was too much to handle, so my CO let me take his side-arm while he stayed in Cam Ranh with flush toilets and A/C (smile).
​Dick Downes

Steven, how big are these reel-to-reels?

          If they are the smallest ones, approx 3.5 inches in diameter, these are probably personal audio letters home. It was not unusual for servicemen to own small recorders to tape audio letters and exchange them with family back home.

           Did we ever use those small reels at AFVN guys?

Rick Fredericksen

          11 5" reels which I believe to be the broadcast/recording collection, 1 4" & 3 3" which I am going to tend to agree were probably the recorded letters to home you speak of. Not sure I am fully prepared to hear that...but maybe they weren't as wild and crazy as their son.... Yea right    

Steven Starnes

[Sizes are as given by Steven.]

​         P.S.  Oh and his sound gear...it should be noted that I wasn't joking about being raised not to touch this stuff. I am a pretty hard nosed trooper...and still felt the need to look over my shoulder as I went through this stuff. Ha!