Chapter 9 – Part 3

That afternoon I got a phone-patch from Rocky. He was somewhere he wouldn’t identify but he told me that the local repair guys could extract the T-R switch from the totaled radar and I could expect it in a few of days. It had to go to Da Nang before it could come here. By the time it got here my two weeks would be almost up so we’d have to make sure to have everything else assembled and waiting.

By noon the girls had nearly completed the cleaning and I had a stack of it to inspect. In an ideal world there would be no dust and a bright light. This was not the ideal world. “Welcome to the real world,” I had been told repeatedly on finishing training by fellow instructors at the Signal School. They didn’t know Jack Shit. I could take the waveguides outside into the bright sunlight. But what to do about the dust?

I walked over to the now partially disassembled radar set that was still running. There were still two full jerry cans of 80/87 sitting on the pallet with the empties. The generator had a fuel pump and was sucking out of a 55gal. drum. I kicked the drum and it echoed and moved slightly. Gas was low. I upended the two jerry cans into the drum and made a mental note to tell Capt. Fiori that I needed another 10 cans.

The blowers were still blowing as though the transmitter cabinet was installed and as noisy as ever. The filters showed red from the dust and the built-in manometer showed some restriction. One reason the unit hadn’t been maintained was that supplies were not readily available. I had brought spare filters and desiccant but the unit needed to be shut down and serviced. That included the generator.

Since there was no one else to do it I set about to service the generator. I’d tackle the radar when we reassembled it. The Army had done a good job of specifying the generator. It was the same model the ARVN had supplied us in Saigon but this one ran, and ran, and ran. Except for changing the oil, the unit could be serviced without shutting it down and even then you could pour oil in the top at the same rate it ran out the bottom and end up with cleaner oil. The oil filter was an ingenious centrifugal device that spun the dirt out as it whirled around driven by oil pressure. I never saw another one until I serviced logging trucks years later. To service it you shut two valves, one for “in” and one for “out”, disassembled it, cleaned out the crud, put it back together and turned on the valves. The air filter was the usual oil-bath type with a dust separator on top that filled a mason jar with dust about once a day. I had seen them on farm tractors. On the bottom was an oil reservoir that caught lighter dust that escaped the mason jar. Undoing a wing-nut would allow you to dump the oil— all over if you slipped, which I did.

While I serviced the generator I had been thinking about how to keep the dust out of the waveguides. I had a plan. If I left the far end of the waveguide open with the filters in place and the blowers going what little dust accumulated while I inspected would be blown out the end by clean, dry air.

About the time I finished, yet another AA C-47 thundered down the runway on its way in. I hadn’t heard any gunfire so the Montagnards must be doing their job keeping the VC at bay. If they could be counted on all the time maybe the radar wasn’t such a big deal. A big if when there are planes coming in every 30 minutes or so. I walked back to the warehouse to check on progress there and was met by Halftrack pushing the door open.

“The Aussies aren’t coming up here after all. They want their sugar delivered to Bangkok.”

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