|WEBY's Mike Bates with Harry Simons|
The Pensacola News-Journal reports WEBY talk show host Mike Bates has been working with real Marine Corps DJ Sgt. Harry Simons on a documentary featuring historic tapes from the American Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN).
"The idea initially was play it for an hour, talk about," Bates said. "Very simple. But the more it evolved and the more I listened and the more I talked to other veterans about the historical importance of these recordings, the more I realized that to do this justice, we've got to do a full blown serious documentary. And so that's what we've done."
Over the past six months, Bates and Simons have digitized the old radio reels, interviewed Vietnam veteran listeners impacted in some way by the AFVN and even traveled to Saigon back to the original site of the AFVN station in Vietnam, where Simons was a DJ.
Simons and his sister have had the 100-plus reels of studio quality mastered historic tapes for almost 50 years. While he admits to avoiding the tapes for a long time, he realized the historical value and wanted to share it with fellow veterans.
"I really didn't want to go back to listening to them," Simons said. "It stirred up negative memories of my service in Vietnam that I just didn't want to have to recall. And playing these tapes was just way too close."
It's taken him the past three years to digitize them because he's had to keep walking away but he finally got it done.
The 10-hour, five-day tribute documentary will also include broadcasts from other AFVN DJs — such as Army Spec. Pat Sajack of "Wheel of Fortune" — personal stories from Vietnam veterans who were avid listeners of AFVN and, of course, the cherished music troops depended on for a taste from back home.
For the 3.4 million Americans who served in Vietnam and the surrounding theater during the war, AFVN (American Forces Vietnam Network) was the soundtrack of their lives while in Southeast Asia. AFVN disc jockeys, newsmen, sportscasters and special program hosts brought the sound of home to Vietnam. American servicemen, servicewomen, civilians and even South Vietnamese citizens regularly listened to AFVN for music, news, entertainment and other important information. AFVN was heard everywhere: on bases, aboard ships, in cockpits, and in the fields of battle. AFVN was with our troops on demand 24 hours a day throughout Vietnam and several other countries in the region. (AFRTS Archive)
WHEN: 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 26 through 30 and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
WHO SERVED: Click Here for Roster of those who served with AFVN. (Note: this roster contains names of most, but not all, military personnel assigned to the Military Assistance command Vietnam MACV who directly oversaw the operation of AFVN. Many others, especially upcountry, were AFVN Broadcasters though not actually assigned to MACV.)