New (1987) NPR show about Vietnam Radio

Someone sent me this NPR broadcast about radio broadcasting during the Vietnam war. It includes interviews with veterans, show programmers from the era with an emphasis on pirate radio. Audio 2015.

The below written by Bruce Portzer and used with permission from

It was originally aired as part of NPR‘s “All Things Considered” on Veteran’s Day, 1987. Narrated by John Hockenberry, it’s all about US soldiers in Vietnam and the radio they listened to during the war.

It opens by talking about the Armed Forces Vietnam Network, the military’s official radio voice during the war. AFVN’s role was to entertain and inform our troops, bringing stateside-like radio to the Republic of Vietnam. Quite a bit of attention is paid to AFVN’s controversial news censorship and the banning of certain songs.

As an alternative to AFVN, some troops set up unsanctioned pirate stations and they too are discussed here. Operating with home-built FM transmitters or military field radios, the stations aired popular but very much unsanctioned music and commentary.

Finally, there is a segment on enemy propaganda broadcasts. Surprisingly, many troops listened, if only for the music and news that wasn’t readily available on AFVN. There are many first-hand accounts by Vietnam era troops and broadcasters, adding some sense of realism for those of us who weren’t there. There are also a few program snippets from AFVN, Radio First Termer, and Hanoi Hannah.

There is also a new source of Radio First Termer. It is an edited show, the songs have been removed. 17 minutes long. Also on the Audio 2015 page.

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