I became interested in the American Forces Vietnam Network totally by accident. Growing up in the 50s and 60s in California, radios (transistors and otherwise) were very much a part of every kid’s daily existence. Long after mom and dad had gone to bed, with a flashlight under the blanket, I’d listen to rock n’ roll records cued up and spun by local deejays like B. Mitchell Reid, Sam Riddle, Humble Harv, Wink Martindale, all on L.A. stations like KFWB, KHJ, and KMET-FM.
In the early 70’s, my dad was invited to a dinner where announcer, KMPC’s Roger Carroll, was one of the guests. Knowing of my budding interest in radio, my dad mentioned me to Roger. “Have him call me at the station,” Roger told dad. Which I did. One weekend later, there I was hanging out with Roger Carroll when he was on the air. The fire to get into radio was kindled.
Between records, Roger told me that he had only had three jobs in radio: a station in Frederick, Maryland; at KMPC, and the third one for the Armed Forces Network.
It was from Roger that I learned that AFN, and its co-network AFRTS (the American Forces Radio and Television Service) broadcast to American military bases all over the world.
My own radio career took off from there: board operator at KCRW-FM Santa Monica, a National Public Radio station (In the States, NPR is the closest thing to the CBC); country disc jockey at KDOL-Mojave, where my salary was a whopping $2.50 an hour and the boss was so cheap that when you went to work for him full time, he lowered your salary to $2.00 an hour!: “Rip and Read” newsman at KNTF-Ontario (California); and finally, remote broadcast producer at country music powerhouse KLAC, in Hollywood.
At KLAC, one of the disc jockeys whose remotes I produced was Gene Price. Like Roger Carroll, Gene had a show— “Gene Price’s Country World”– on AFN which was broadcast all over the world.
1992 was the year I got into military journalism. One of the magazines I wrote for, American Veteran magazine, assigned me a piece on, fortuitously, the history of AFN and AFRTS.
For that piece, I drove out to the AFRTS headquarters at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California. I got to interview two of it’s biggest names, actress Chris Noel, and Pat Sajak, host for the US network ABC-TV game show “Wheel of Fortune.” Both Chris and Pat had had shows during the Vietnam War on the American Forces Vietnam Network. Chris from Hollywood, though she often journeyed to Vietnam to entertain the troops. And Pat from AFVN Saigon. The same AFVN that was the subject of the film “Good Morning Vietnam”, starring Robin Williams.
Three Vietnam War books later, while wracking my brains for what to write next, I remembered my interviews with Chris and Pat, whom I also profiled for Vietnam magazine, and a lightbulb went on. “Why not an entire book about AFVN?” I asked myself.
Not long after that, I was introduced to the AFVN io group blog, and my path was solidified.
One fascinating story after another came my way when I announced my intention to write about the disc jockeys and newscasters of AFVN. One interview in particular caught my attention because the person really had a deep knowledge of the history of the network. There was no way that Rick Fredericksen would NOT be my co-author of the project. We are both excited as Hot Mics and TV Lights: The American Forces Vietnam Network marches on toward publication this fall. And I, in particular, am very pleased to be working with the team at Double Dagger Books, which will finally make the book a reality. I hope you all will enjoy the book!
This article was contributed by Double Dagger author Marc Phillip Yablonka.