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Tales of Ramasun

Author: Burton, M H Set In . . .
 Asia, Thailand, Laos, Vientiane
Genre: Historical Fiction
Time Frame: 1960-1970s
Published: 2012
Description: "Tales of Ramasun" is a different kind of Vietnam War story. The kind of war story you may not have heard before, the story of the secret war, the war behind the curtain, the war whose soldiers were sworn to silence. Now is the time for it to come out, before all of the old spooks and spies who participated in it are gone. It is not a 'blood and guts' war story. There were no Rambos at Ramasun. It is a story of brains not brawn. Smart young men...linguists who rode their typewriters into battle, radio men who fought wearing headsets, not steel pots, intelligence anaylsts who teased the secrets our enemies did not wish us to know out of mountains of raw data. Young GIs, most of them dragged unwillingly from civilian jobs, college campuses, or fresh from high school, to fight a strange "Top Secret" shadow war in Thailand, a country most had barely heard of and which was infinitely more remote and exotic then than it is now.

Talk about culture shock! The Thailand of the 1960's was tourist destination to no more than a handful or well-heeled world travelers and a somewhat larger number of hippie wanderers in search of cheap dope and cheap sex. Few of either ever made it beyond Bangkok. Ramasun was definitely not Bangkok. It was 300 miles northeast of Bangkok but it could just has well have been 3,000, in Isaan (ee-sahn), the poorest, most backward, most remote part of the country...a place no guidebooks mentioned, a place the Thai government in Bangkok did it's best to ignore...near the tiny village of Non Sung. Home of the 7th Radio Research Field Station. "Radio Research"? A vague euphemism, a 'cover story' for spying, espionage, and electronic eavesdropping. On who?, you might ask. On everybody. Our enemies the North Vietnamese, the Soviets, the Red Chinese. Some puzzling neutrals, Prince Sihanouk's Cambodia and Burma. Our allies, Thailand and Laos. We spied on them all at Ramasun, the air waves were full of their radio communications and we had everything we needed to do the job. Translator/Interpreters, 'lingies' in Ramasun jargon...Thai, Lao, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Burmese, Chinese, Russian...Radio operators, 'ditty boppers' at Ramasun, and 'TA's', traffic analysts to keep track of who was sending what to who....not to mention all the techies needed to keep out state of the art equipment running.

So now you have the clinical description of Ramasun. The sort of thing you would put in a military unit history. But what of the people behind those cold facts? They were a wild, wacky, rambunctious crew. Never was a military unit short of the M*A*S*H 4077th less military than the 7th. It was not a 'by the book' operation and any officer or NCO who tried to make it one was in for trouble. The 'chain of command' was largely irrelevant to the mixture or Army, Airforce, Marine, and even a few civilians, who staffed Ramasun and whose respect for authority was limited to those who could demonstrate that they knew their specific trade regardless or rank. Clueless Colonels were ignored while Spec 5's who knew their stuff were listened to. All 'lifers' started with two strikes against them. By regular Army or Air Force standards the 7th was a nightmare. Sloppy on the parade ground, hopeless in drills, bad in attitude, but when it came to the mission you couldn't beat the 7th. It got the job done. It may not have looked good while was doing it, but it always got the job done.

A surprising number of men, and even a few women, served at Ramasun during its 10 years of operation between 1966 and 1976. I was one of them from 1968 to 1971. The nine stories in this book are based on my own experiences and on tales told to me by others. I cannot say that they are all strictly true. Fact or fiction I have tried to capture the essence of Ramasun the way it really was, with all the warts on. By the way, Ramasun is the Thai thunder god. It was officially a Thai Base (another 'cover story')
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