Comm Equipment Used In The Corps

Today, this 79 year old Marine was reminiscing about the old days and wondering what type of communication equipment the Marine Corps uses now days, its got to be high tech. In the mid-fifties we used field radio equipment like the AN/PRC-8, 9’s and 10’s and the AN/GRC-9 which used a hand cranked generator for power to transmit. Cranking that thing was fun, not. We even had the AN/PRC-6 (walkie-talkie) in our inventory but don’t remember using it. For mobile comm we had the MRC-6, the MRC-38 and other vehicles depending if you ere infantry, artillery or armor. For the old timers I stand to be corrected.

As a CW radio operator I remember using what was called a knee key (J-45), to tap out messages in Morse code while in the field. To me it was fun but sometimes on the other end of the radio net you would run into a operator who we called a “s–t fist” (A person who needed a lot more training in the use of a telegraph key).

It was a little difficult trying to decipher what the radio operator was trying to send but if you got part of the word you could figure it out. The attached picture shows me, a Pfc, using a knee key at Camp Lejeune in 1956. The other picture shows Marines using the AN/GRC-9 in the Philippines on a NFG (Naval Gun Fire) training and shoot in the early sixties. If you look closely you can see a Marine with the generator and I’m sure some of the old timers have tales to tell about cranking that thing.

In 1965 and ’66, when I was with 2/9 in Vietnam we were still communicating with the P—k 10 and don’t remember when the Marines started receiving the AN/PRC-25. And I wasn’t the wireman MOS 2511 who worked along side of us and were an important part of Marine Communications. That’s all. I’m just an old fart thinking about the good times in the U.S. Marine Corps.

GySgt G.R. Archuleta
Never Retired, Always A Marine

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37 thoughts on “Comm Equipment Used In The Corps”

  1. Hey Gunny! Once a Marine,always a Marine! Some things still remaine the same! The technology may change but it’s still our ability to adapt to the situation that and carry on the mission that sets us apart! We’re still using duct tape and parts and equipment from wherever we can “appropriate ” them! And “old farts” just get sweeter with age”! God bless you and Semper Fi!

    1. We would use green duct tape ever since I can remember to waterproof equipment before going shipboard. But we called it “100 mile-an-hour tape.” Don’t know why or where about the origin of that term, but I was surprised to find a roll in the Quantico PX marked as such when I was out there a few years back. So, I bought some just for the hell of it. Semper Fi!!!

    2. I’m an old fart also US Navy 62/66 radioman served on Guam as a ship to shore operator all CW then on the USS St Paul CA-73 a heavy cruiser. Taught CW to fleet strikers and I still use CW in amateur radio. Thanks for your service.
      Al Allen RM-2

      1. Ahoy Allen, I also served aboard ship as a CW operator. I was part of a 16 man Marine Comm Detachment aboard the USS Pocono AGC-16 in the years I believe was 1957 or ’58 to the early part of 1959. It was a good tour, enjoyed it and gained a lot of experience operating with the Navy. We stood radio watch alongside the radiomen in a compartment called Radio 1.
        I wrote a article in Sgt Grit a few years ago about a funny incident that happened aboard the Pocono during a huge storm in the Mediterranean Sea. Wish I kept a copy. I still remember the ship’s call sign. Thank you for serving.

        1. Hey Gilbert – There is a search box to the right at the bottom of all the blogs archives. Try searching your last name or another key word to see if is the article is still on file. On all of the ships that I was aboard, I was always amazed by how the Navy could retain frequency separation and no bleed over with all of those antennas on a chunk of steel in the middle of the ocean. Especially, the LCC’s like USS Blue Ridge and USS Mount Whitney. Amazing!!! Semper Fi!!!

          1. MSgt Prothro, I took your suggestion about searching in the search box and found the article I wrote. It was in the Newsletter dated August 27, 2009 and titled “Middle of the Sahara Desert.” If you or any one else is interested, there it is. Semper Fi.

          2. Great, glad it worked out. I go and look-up that one. Semper Fi!!

    3. Hey Gunny: I was one of those S-t Fist. I received 5 hours of training by the comm sgt E-4 and then they put me as a CW operator 2533. Never went to radio school. spend time as a switch board operator in Camp Garcia and we put all the telephone poles up in the Island, also on the job training lineman in 63. How we survived?

      Semper Fi
      PFC Raul Ramos

  2. I am a former Marine Staff Sergeant. I taught field telephone and switchboards (MOS 2811) at the C&E Schools, MCB 29 Palms. What we had back then was TA-1, TA-312, EE-8, SB3082s – all handcranked generators and the phones were single pair field telephone wire.

  3. Going through Radio Telegraph School in San Diego in 1966 we used the PRC 10s but in Vietnam in the end of 1966 we used the PRC 25 exclusively

  4. I hate to nit-pick, but if you are 79 now that means in 1956 at Lejeune you were 15 years old! Were you like 13 or 14 when you enlisted? Interesting story though. In 68 we used both the PRC/10 and PRC/25 Short range we used the 10.Long range, up to 25 miles, the 25. Sometimes we could get a bounce and get some longer range without having to relay. Did not always have a regular radio guy, so we had to share radio duty. Liked getting on the BS freq late at night. My call sign was “Farmer” thanks for the memory. Nick 0311

    1. Nick, the story you read was published years ago when I was 79. I am now 83 years old and still kicking. Apparently this is a reprint. Semper Fi!

    2. Nick – When did you become such a great mathematician (LMAO)? Doubt seriously that you got any “bounce” from a PRC-25 which is VHF/FM and not powerful enough nor capable of doing so. But, really wouldn’t expect a non-communicator to know that. Most range you could expect from a 15′ whip antenna would be 7-10 miles on flat, unobstructed terrain. Only way to extend the range would be to use an RC-292 antenna (maybe 15-20 if y0u’re lucky), or if you’re really good, rig a long-wire antenna which may burn out the B+ if you’re not careful. That’s why we had communicators, but understand that they weren’t available on all nets. Roger, Farmer, Out here! Semper Fi!!!

        1. Hey Bruce – How could you ever forget the old reliable SB-22 switchboard. We always referred to all SBs as Son-of’a-Bitches. Semper Fi!!

        2. OK, I’ll buy that. In the fall of 1971 we were setting up a teletype shot between Cherry Point and Bouge Field using a MRC-83/TRC-75 HF/AM radio carrier, but we kept getting interference on the voice side before we could switch to TTY. After negotiating with the other end for about an hour, we found out it was an Army unit a Ft Gordon GA on the same freq. Figure it could only have occurred because there was a big rain system all up and down the east coast, and we were getting a ground wave. But, you would have to have a grounded system for that to work. Strange things do happen. Semper Fi!!!

          1. If you were getting interference on a TRC-75, you should have switched to SSB. AM carrier transmission on that one radio is the least efficient mode of operation. What I liked about the MRC-83 was that big ol’ 3 phase alternator that was good for 2.5 kW to drive that TRC-75 up to the kW+ output.

      1. Don’t count out a whip antenna!
        I had one on a TSC-15 (TRC-75 radios) and at night I could hit the East coast of the U.S. on the 10 meter band.
        I used to pick up a ham operator and run phone patches home for the troops.

        “CQ. CQ. CQ. This is KJ744 Maritime Mobil operating in the South China Sea”
        Everyone wanted a QSL card but I told them that I was out having more printed when I got to port. LOL

        Did that until they put in a MARS station
        Fun all gone out of it then. I still bootlegged it now and then but the MARS guys were always bitching about “interference close by “ – damn those all direction whips.

      2. While at Liberty Bridge we used a “Prik 25” to send and receive messages to and from Camp Love that was located about 10 miles north of the Da-Nang air field. Not real sure but It was between 15-20 mile distance. Harry 1371

  5. Radio/Telegraph School (2533) – Class RT-19 – 1964 – MCRD San Diego.

    5th Communications Bn – Vietnam ’65-’66
    “You can talk about us, but you can’t talk without us”

    Oh, that “Angry-9″…pressed into service when the “new stuff” crapped out (battery life on everything sucked). Luckily, as a 2533, I got to send/receive while a 2531 did the cranking.

    … . — .–. . .-. / ..-. ..

    1. I was in the 5th Comm S-3 in 66-67. Funny story: I encountered Col. Wesley Fox (MOH) at a gun show. He asked me who I was with in RVN and I told him he’d probably never heard of us, the 5th Communications Battalion. When he admitted that he hadn’t, I said, “Colonel, were you ever in deep s**t and were screaming on your radio for dust-off, the cannon-cockers, the zoomies, and anything and everything that could help you out of that mess – and your f*****g radio didn’t work?” He replied, “Oh, yeah!” I jerked a thumb toward my chest and said, “Well, that was us!” Fortunately, he thought it was s funny as I did.

  6. We used the PRC-10, PRC-41, and PRC-47 When I was with Forward Air Control with 2/9 in 1966… We started receiving the PRC-25 when we moved to Phu Bai late August 1966… We did not take the PRC-47 out very often because it was a two man pack radio that weighed near 100 pounds… The PRC-41 was bad enough at forty-eight and a half pounds but it was UHF ground to air… Charlie knew it was air control and had a $500 reward on the radio or operator… I stared out with Hq. Co. 9th Marines as a 2533 Radio-Telegraph Operator, but never used a key after graduating from comm school in San Diego. RTOC-6 day in 1965..

  7. Hey Gunny, good to read your story. I was with 2/9 in 1977 as a message center (2542) Marine. My best friend was Robert Ahern radio Marine or glorified grunt (2531). Real good to hear from you!
    Larry D Thomas MSgt.

  8. Boy did this bring back memories.I was in Comm.Co.3rd Mar Radio Relay.I forget all the nomenclature,but we had vans that pulled a trailer witjh two generators. Arrived on Okinawa in 1957.We supported the entire division so we spent a lot of time in the field. I actually did two tours and enjoyed it.

  9. “Echo 2 Echo 2 this is Echo Actual over. Echo actual this Echo 2 over. Echo 2 what is your posi? Echo actual Echo 2 posi is half klic Sierra Whiskey the Lima Brovo along the blue line over. Rodger Echo 2, Echo Actual out “. What did I just say! 52 years ago this past March! Hells Bells! Paul

    1. I’ll take a stab at it. 500 meters southwest of some where along a river or stream. You were E-Co 2nd Battalion of some regiment. Harry 1371

  10. Great post, Gunny, even if it is over 4 years old. I sure wish Grit would indicate the original posting date. You can always tell it’s a reprint if it says Sgt Grit originated it. I’m another 2/9’er “Hell in a Helmet” but was the Message Center Chief in 1975-76. Are you familiar with the 2/9 Network? Try: it’s a great organization with some really good people who meet each year in DC around the birthday. Semper Fi!!!

    1. Hello Top, I am member of 2/9. My name is listed for the years 1965-’66. Semper Fi.

  11. I was a 2532 radio relay operator at Hue Phu Bia. we used the AN GR62 and63s.Good for about 25 miles. It was mounted on 3/4 T truck with trailer that had 2 generators in it. Call sign was Beach Boy Alpha. We talked to Monkey Mountain”Beach Boy”. Good Com most of the Time.

  12. I was a 2847 radio-crypto tech with HQCo 26th Marines in Vietnam “68-69”. We were about 10 miles west of DaNang, near 1st MarDiv HQ. Saw plenty of prc-25s, and prc-47s. Always had a problem with the wet cell batteries for the 47s and 41s. Ky-8s were the main crypto gear before they came out with the Ky-38. We always had to scrounge/trade/steal spare radio parts from the Army! They always had more than enough. Brought back some good memories! Thanks, Paul

  13. I posted the other day before any comments were made but I guess I did not enter it Anyway lots of good comments and by the way you comm guys sure can talk!

  14. Hi Gunny:

    Your post brought back memories. In 1957, after Parris Island and Camp Geiger, I was sent to radio school at N.O.B. Norfolk. By the time I graduated I was copying 26 wpm. Of course that was sitting at a typewriter–utterly useless in the field where we copied with a stick and a pad of paper. And there was no way to send at those speeds with the key on the knee clip either. Most of the time our nets were voice, not CW, but we used it occasionally on nets linking us back to regimental HQ. I never served on board a ship, so all that high speed training was largely wasted on me. I haven’t used CW since, but it’s still in my head. I guess you never forget it. We used Pr–k 9s and 10s but I mostly used an AN/GRC 9 (we called it an “anger 9”). Mine was mounted in my jeep. I was in 4th BN 10th Marines, an artillery regiment, so we moved on wheels. Having it on my jeep spared me from having to crank up the power by hand. I didn’t like hanging around the command tent so I’d drive my jeep a little ways away and set up there. I’d run some slash wire to the command tent and attach a EE-8 at either end, so that the officer(s) that needed to communicate on the net I was maintaining could reach me at a moment’s notice. One additional recollection. As you pointed out, the range of PRC 9ers or 10s was limited. Every now and then, though, you’d get a bounce off the atmosphere from somewhere far away. I remember one night hearing a television crew in London, England talking to one another. I went to college after my tour in the Corps, missed Vietnam, and have had a good life since but the most important and influential years in my development were unquestionably the time I spent in the Corps. Thanks for the memories, Gunny.

    Semper Fi.

    Cpl. Austin Sullivan

  15. Ah…the days of “Bens best bent wire”!! RTO School, San Diego, Dec65 – April 66.
    Semper Fi to all.

  16. Hi Guns, 2533 at Marble Mountain Mag-16. August 1966 to May 1969. 2and tour to try to save my brother from the Nam…Didn’t work

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