FEN - Korea





American Forces Korean Network Provides Security, Information, Education, And Entertainment

Pacific Stars & Stripes, April 25, 1953

by PFC John Sack, Pacific Star & Stripes Korea Bureau

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.

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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).

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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."

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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.

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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 popular show.

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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 perfect.

New Antenna Aids Radio Homesteader Audience Reception

Pacific Stars & Stripes, April 5, 1953, page 7.


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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.

The towering non-directional antenna, obtained for the Far East Network and built by men of the 434th Engineer Contruction Battalion, replaces an old transmitting antenna of the doublet type and provides a stronger signal and easier turning [sic:  tuning]  for a greater number of radio listeners.

Resting on a small, cone-shaped, porcelain insulator base, the steel mast -- taller than a 13-story skyscrapter -- is secured by a complicated cobweb of guy-wires that prevent swaying or collapse.

EVEN FOR A GROUP of professional riggers, the piecing together of structural steel to such a height would be a major project.  But the men of the 434th's Company A, under the supervision of 2d Lt. Blaine M. Miller--though without any previous experience along this line--completed the 187-foot tower in record time.

Similar antenna installations are planned, to boost the power and range of other AFKN stations, as soon as structural material is available from the Far East Network in Japan.

AFKN has a great website including a unit history at this link.

There's also a Yahoo message board group at this link.


This page last modified on Friday, 30-Jul-2004 21:30:30 EDT



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