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OPS SERIES, VILLAGE & HAMLET RADIOS, SYSTEM, & THE MAN THAT DESIGNED THEM
OPS SERIES, VILLAGE HAMLET RADIOS;
THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXTRACT FROM A LETTER I WROTE TO KEITH MELTON IN RESPONSE TO HIS INQUIRY ABOUT A HALLICRAFTERS TR-20 THAT HE WAS GOING TO ACQUIRE FOR HIS COLLECTION. I THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE INTERESTING TO THE GROUP, & OFFER SOME EXPLANATION TO MY INTEREST IN PARA-MILITARY RADIO TYPES. & AS I'VE RECEIVED SEVERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE VILLAGE & HAMLET RADIOS. HOPE YOU ENJOY.
The TR-20 is part of a family of equipment referred to as the (OPS series), and model numbers on these are usually presided by that prefix OPS/TR-20.OPS stands for the "Office of Public Safety".This organization is known to have been a front for the CIA operating at least in South Vietnam(more latter)from approx 1962-1972.
In approx 1962 (official documents state 1964, but OPS equipment is known to have been built as early as 1962)an engineer then working for Radio Industries(at that time a division of Hallicrafters) named Paul Katz was sent to Vietnam under contract with the OPS. His assignment was to inspect local terrain, conditions, & requirements in order to design a radio system & the equipment to be used in it. This system, called the"Village & Hamlet" radio system, was intended to link all the small isolated communities providing both an early warning system & a means of communication for their "irregular" forces as well as the US Special Forces Teams assigned to them (as we know, these teams of US Special Forces were under the direct control of the CIA). The TR-20 was a portable set officially ment for use by the larger"Hamlet"in this system.
Mr.Katz was presented with several design requirements for the radios that were to be used in this system:
Mr.Katz worked for the OPS for quite some time, after the war he was a communications consultant for local government around Hawaii.Presently, as of a couple of years ago, it's reported he is back at work for the State Department. Though I had a line on him, & wished to make contact, this opportunity has faded. He has turned over all his personal papers to CMH, a though I'd love to have a copy of them time has not allowed me to pursue it.
As stated, the OPS is only known to have operated in South Vietnam, however in the parts list contained in OPS series equipment manuals, the dual language stickers for the front panel controls were available in Vietnamese, Spanish, Tia, Cambodian, Arabic, & Hebrew. This lends suspect to influence in other parts of the world.Particularly as only very few examples of latter HF versions "might" have been sold commercially, & after the war (& the demise of Hallicrafters) only some HT-1's, HT-2's & some boards for FM-1's were ever surplased, these from bankrupt Hallicrafters inventory.
It seems that after the war, most if not all of the OPS equipment found use in other US Government organizations with the possible exception of the Village & Hamlet Radios. Examples in my collection show use by US Forestry, Coast Guard, Navy, & ANCSA.The Village radio's may have been exempt from this duty as their band & mode were not compatible with any other service (this the only known gripe of the Green Berets) I/E 30-42mc"AM".
More information on the TR-20, it's companion radios, & the "Village & Hamlet" radio system can be found in Military Communications A TEST FOR TECHNOLOGY The U.S.Army in Vietnam, by John D. Bergen, published by the U.S.Army Center of Military History (CMH PUB 91-12) & available from the Government Printing Office.
As stated earlier, it's ironic that you should inquire of the TR-20. This because some time ago I wrote you wishing to discuss the possibilities of clandestine "Tactical" radio equipment. I/E the radio an agent might use to communicate to another agent with, in the field.It has been reported to me by a retired CIA instructor, that old Motorola "Dispatcher" series portable VHF FM lunch box type radios were use for training purposes in the early late 50's-60's. This might have been because of the limited range of the sets, thus suited for classroom/field instruction. However we must also note that these are voice only equipments, thus not suited for strategic, logistic, communications, or any type message traffic. And too the Motorola Handie though by todays standards was gigantic, in the late 50's it was possibly the smallest thing made. This same radio is known to have been adopted and used in other US Government organizations as the PRC-59 & PRC-61.
I mention the Motorola set here only because it lends support to use of other equipment of similar type, however improved with time & technology. Inter the OPS series. It is known that Paul Katz designed the Village & Hamlet radio system & it's equipment. It is also known who he worked for. It's however not known how deep his involvement with the CIA was, or if it extended to more than just the OPS. I do know after conversations with Mr Katz's old friends, that the OPS was not all, & that he was at least responsible for the selection of other types of radio equipment both commercially available & customized types for particular applications.We will refer to all these sets as OPS Series as we know of it's existence & the Paul Katz connection, but we do not know the extent of either influence or authority. Remember this while reveiwing the list of Known OPS equipment below & the "Suspect Types".
OPS series radio equipment is known to have been built, acquired, & distributed in large quantities by the CIA to various countries in an under the table fashion (thus the multi language labels on radios not commercially available). These radios were in most all cases intended to perform in a tactical role at a minimal expense (in comparison to other military/paramilitary equipment). Besides the marked & identified OPS radios listed, several other types were selected, only Motorola name has been identified by several sources so we can only make educated guesses as to wich ones.
OPS/HT-1, 30-42mc AM handheld, 1.5*. Part of Village &
OPS/HT-2, same as above with the addition of a second band(VHF aircraft)*
OPS/PC-230, VHF highband, FM backpack/vehicular/base.circa 1974*
OPS/TR-5, backpack 5 watt, companion set to HT-1.circa 1964
OPS/TR-20, simi portable station, companion to above sets.circa 1964
OPS/TR-9, HF AM/CW backpack radio.circa 1968
OPS/FM-1, 150-170mc, FM, 2 watt handheld simi to HT-1.circa 1972*
OPS/FM-2, 30-42mc, FM, 2 watt, identical to FM-1.circa 1972*
OPS/FM-5, backpack version of FM-1.circa 1972*
OPS/FM-7, backpack version of FM-2.circa 1972*
OPS/FM-10, FM-20, known to exist.
OPS/SBT-22, 6 channel, HF SSB/AM/CW 20 watt backpack set.circa 1970*
OPS/SBT-22-18, same as above except 18 channel, circa 1972.*
OPS/SBT-100, 100watt simi portable, HF AM/SSB/CW transceiver.circa 1972
OPS/HC-100, (Hallicrafters Ham Command 2 meter handheld FM)circa 1971.
Suspect OPS series;
Motorola SA-211, HF/SSB/CW backpack set, 2 channel Xtal contr.circa 1969.(no commercial sales ever encountered, Motorola denies existence.)*
CAI CA-32, identical to above.*
Motorola HT-210, VHF FM HT, identical to commercial HT-220 except is Black.
US Government sales only, known to be used in South Vietnam, circa 1970-80.Possibly replaced by MX-300R a member of the commercial MX-300(S)series circa 1980
THERE MUST BE MORE! Many Para-Military type radios have been encounter by, me or are in my collection that meet with Mr.Katz's original design parameters, & have no history of commercial sales.These however I've neglected to list here do to insufficient proof or suspicion.(*) denotes equipment in my collection.
A special note on the Destruct Switch present only on early modles of the OPS equipment.The SOP of the various irregular forces provided with these radios, was that if radio communications were lost while on patrol they must return to base. As few persons on these patrols wished to be there, the destruct switch provided a convenient way to lose communications. This switch reversed the polarity across the modulater, thus disabling both transmit & receive & destroying the board as it presented a dead short to it's circuits.
Dennis Starks military radio collector/historian
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