RADIO IN KOREA
American Forces Korean Network Provides Security,
Information, Education, And Entertainment
Pacific Stars & Stripes, April 25, 1953
by PFC John Sack, Pacific Star & Stripes
TEN-THOUSAND MEN were listening to the radio a few
months ago when it went off the air. "We are going off the air," said the
announcer. "We will be back in three hours." Then he picked up his
mikes, discs, "pets," tapes, and antennnas and threw them all in a van, and
moved lock, stock and barrel five miles down the road.
"It was the damned artillery," he explained
later. "Kept jiggling the phonograph needle."
Thus did station Gypsy, one of the nine voices of
American Forces Korean Network, live up to its name. AFKN's first station moved
around so much that they called it Kilroy (they still do); it broadcast from an olive drab
van in the smoking ruins of Seoul, two days after the United Nations liberated it.
The next station was also rather itinerant, and got the name Vagabond; but Pusan looked
like it was here to stay and the one there became Homesteader. The others are
Rambler, Nomad, Mercury, Meteor, and Troubadour. Together they reach nine out of
every ten men in Korea, whose receivers vary from earphones on hospital ships to R-100
radios in the bunkers (every platoon gets one), some of them tuned in 24 hours a day.
OUTSIDE VIEW OF STATION VAGABOND, one
of the mobile stations of the American Forces Korea Network (U.S. Army Photos)
At AFKN's headquarters in Taegu there's a poster on the
wall with the words, "Our Mission: (1) Security." Last week an old packing
crate hid the rest. "That's what most people don't know," says Capt.
Charles Hunter, the commanding officer. "Security is the main reason we're
here." AFKN can go on the air at a moment's notice for typhoons, floods, or
anything else; and with thousands of soldiers tuned in there's nothing faster.
"Entertainment" is only the number-four mission (the others: voice of the
command and voice of I&E) and Hunter describes it as "fill"; yet curiously
there's more entertainment on AFKN than any other station in the world. For AFKN
has the pick of the networks. It airs the best shows of National, Columbia, Mutual,
and American, flown from the States on black transcription platters; and the commercials
never even reach the Pacific (they're cut in Los Angeles, and music is spliced in).
INSIDE ONE OF THE AFKN VANS looks like
this. A compact studio in miniature, it is complete with all required apparatus for
broadcasting, even to the racks of recordings on the right.
"That's just one advatage we have," says PFC
Jim Maurer of Kilroy. But radio in Korea has its problems too, he adds. Planes
keep buzzin the studio. "Also, we never know what's going to happen next; lots
of times we're getting a football game on shortwave and suddenly it goes dead. We're
always ready to fill in."
"Okay," I said, "prove it. The
ball is on Notre Dame's seven-yard line, ladies and gentlemen; Prizzlewicz snaps the ball
to umpf fzzzzz urk....."
"Due to technical difficulties beyond our
controk," said Maurer without hesitation, "radio station Kilroy will not be able
to continue with the Michigan-Notre Dame football game at this time. We will return
you to the game when reception improves. Meanwhile, here's the United States Army
Band with some march music."
"Where did you get them from?" I asked.
"Brother," said Maurer, "we had them
ready all the time."
MORE REQUEST numbers coming up as Pvt.
Larry Buck brings up a pile of platters for station Gypsy announcer PFC S. A. Tels.
The American Forces Korean Network today works out of
four quonset huts on a muddy hilltop in Taegu, with a staff of enlisted men from every
service. "For heaven's sake," says Capt. Hunter, voicing a pet beef,
"it's the AMERICAN Forces Korean Network, not the ARMED Forces." Even so,
AFKN broadcasts in French, Turkish, Flemish (that's what the Belgians speak), Greek, and
Dutch -- news from home for the foreign battalions. This comes short-wave from Tokyo
and is aired all along the front, even if there are no Frenchmen (or Turks, or Hollanders)
in a hundred miles, so the Reds won't learn thier whereabouts.
A TAPE IS READIED for broadcast by
announcer S/Sgt. Calvin W. Wilson, Pensacola, Fla., at the Vagabond station in Seoul.
Short-wave is one source of AFKN programs.
Transcriptions from the States is another. Each station has 20 or 30 thousand
records too, for disc jockey shows. "Mail from Home," incidentally --
where people in America request songs to be played in Korea -- is the network's most
A RECORDING IS MADE for the AFKN
network by members of the 748th Air Force Band. The leader raises his baton as the
engineer signals "you're on" to the announcer.
But AFKN has the most fun making programs of its own.
PFC Bert States, head of production, has carried his tape recorders from orphanages
to the frontlines and once, for a story on VD, hid a microphone in his field jacket while
a street-walker took him in tow. Pvt. Kemal Kasem [note:
better known today as Casey Kasem] has been working one month on a jet pilot
documentary. Kasem used to appear in "The Lone Ranger" before he joined
the Army (a sample sppeech, in husky, sinister tones: "OK, if you know who the
masked man is, we'll get it from you. If you don't know, we'll find out for
ourselves."), but last week he was interested only in getting his sound effects down
New Antenna Aids Radio Homesteader Audience
Pacific Stars & Stripes, April 5, 1953, page 7.
HOMESTEADERS -- Perched along the lower
portion of the 187-foot transmitting antenna they erected for radio station Homesteader
are nine men of Company A, 34th Engineer Contruction Battalion. On the left (top to
bottom) are PFC George Portlock, Cincinatti; PFC Howard Goodman, China Grove, N.C.; PFC
Donald Swope, Wexford, Pa.; Sgt. Carl Shoemaker, Cleo Springs, Okla.; Pvt. Lowell Jarrels,
Minnie, Ky.,; and 2d Lt. Blaine Miller, Parkersburn W. Va. On the right (top to
bottom) are Pvt. Douglas Penn, Trenton, Mich.; Cpl Ervin Wilson, Idaho Falls, Idaho, and
St. Felix Gonzales, New York City.
HQ KCOMZ, Apr. 5 -- Radio Homesteader, of the American Forces Korea Network, is bringing
better radio reception to an increased listening audience, thanks to the new 187-foot
transmitting antennna recently erected at its station in Pusan.