SIDNEY – Pr’Line (pronounced prie-leen), is a jungle-filled peak that emerges above the clouds in the morning in the central highlands of southern Vietnam. Located near the town of Dalat, the Pr’Line hill station was built by the United States in the late 1960s to serve as a communications base, and for those entrenched there, it offered more picturesque views. close to the open sky as the sniper. filled tree line a mile below.
The military used both Pr’Line’s height to send tropospheric scatter microwave communications – microwaves that bounced off the atmosphere and then descended back down to the ground – as well as its strategic geographic location, which placed at the center of the networked Tropo sites (in the cities of Saigon, Nha Trang and Pleiku, Lang Biang Mountain). Each site could send critical, coded “Top Secret” messages to US forces at any other Tropo site in that triangle without having to rely on line-of-sight transmission.
Equipment (rather than people) encoded and decoded messages, transmitted them and then received them using satellite dishes. This prevented anyone who would attempt to intercept the message as it traveled between sites (what we now call a “man-in-the-middle attack”) from deciphering it.
Robert L. Menz served at Pr’Line Mountain alongside 34 other members of the U.S. Army Signals Corps who made up the 362nd Signal Company of STRATCOM in the 73rd Signals Battalion within the 21st Signal Group of the First Signal Brigade. His latest book, “In the Clouds: Voice of Pr’Line Mountain, Vietnam”, published by Hellgate Press in September 2021.
The first 30 pages of “In the Clouds” are available for free reading at https://www.hellgatepress.com/product/in-the-clouds-robert-l-menz/. (You can finish reading it for $ 10.95). In these, Menz describes his introduction to military life and his work as a signal operator at Pr’Line.
After being recruited, Menz credits how his father’s work as an electrician rubbed off on him and paid off. His electronics test results enabled him to study at the United States Army Signal School at Fort Monmouth in Oceanport, New Jersey, for advanced training in “equipment installation, maintenance, operations and repair. communication and cryptography complexes ”, the kind he would later encounter in Vietnam.
As soon as he got off the plane, he set foot in Cam Ranh Bay, where he noticed the women wearing trousers with oven legs and large cone-shaped hats. After a week he started hiking up to Pr’Line Mountain along a narrow road made up of hairpin bends. When he arrived, he noticed that the faces of the men around him were tanned and their fatigues were faded and tattered, in stark contrast to military protocol. He was assigned a “hooch” (a personal living space), but was warned that living in the middle of a jungle, he would be filled with insects and snakes. Two particularly deadly snakes on the mountain were the Cobras and the “Three Steps,” which earned the nickname because, when bitten, most people die before taking three steps. Living in the jungle, Menz realized, things were going to be different.
In November 2019, Menz and some of his fellow Tropos comrades held a reunion in Indian Lake, Ohio.
“During the reunion, as we shared stories, it sparked my desire to write the book. It covers not only the events that occurred in the early 1970s, but some of our reactions to the experience that persist to this day, ”Menz said.
“There are actually seven contributors. To separate my story from others, when they added to the story, I included their name and contribution in quotes. On the last Sunday of each month during the two years of preparing the book, there were about 16 of us meeting via Zoom. We told a few stories from Pr’Line, we talked about our situation, our families and our grandchildren. While I didn’t run into any issues when I returned to the US, there is a chapter called “The Stigma” and as an author I was inspired by some of the stories they shared. on how they were attacked after returning from Viet Nam. Said Menz.
Menz says in his book that the process of talking years later is a healing process. “When we left Vietnam, we disengaged, divided by circumstances and dismembered. Now, after reconnecting, we are engaged, united in spirit and remembered! “
Besides collecting their oral histories, Menz conducted additional research. He researched the companies serving on Pr’Line Mountain, other than his own, as well as the history of Pr’Line, to ensure the historical accuracy of his book.
“Whenever inspiration hit me, I would sit down to write with paper and pencil. When I remembered a story from that time, I wrote. But the stories were all there, because I had told those same stories over and over again to my children and grandchildren. For this reason, it was the easiest book I had ever written because at that point, the story was essentially writing itself.
After the draft manuscript was completed, Menz then had to select an editor. But why Hellgate Press?
“There’s a very famous canyon in Oregon called ‘Hellgate’, and the publishing house is located on the canyon, so they keep the regional title. When I was trying to find a publisher, Hellgate Press had a reputation as the premier publisher for everything military-related, so I felt they had experience in marketing the military books that I needed.
The publisher has provided free bookmarks for marketing purposes, and Menz is currently planning a program to travel for author autographs and interviews to market his book.
Menz holds a Bachelor of Science in Education and Science from the University of Southeast Missouri, a Master of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Seminary, and a Doctorate in Ministry in Counseling from Southern Baptist Seminary. Menz is a certified retired employee assistance professional, educator and pastoral psychotherapist. From 1991 until his retirement in 2014, he worked as an employee advisor for Sidney Emerson-based HVAC company Climate Technologies, which Dun & Bradstreet says is a nationwide company that generates $ 1.1 billion in revenue. business per year and operates with 4,877 employees in total. at its various locations.
His previous books include: “A Memoir of a Pastoral Counseling Practice” (Haworth, 1997), “A Pastoral Counselor’s Model for Wellness in the Workplace: Psychergonomics” (Haworth, 2003), “Changing Society: A Social and Spiritual Vision for the Year 2020 Beyond ”(University Press of America, 2009),“ Divine Entreaty: Prayers for Public and Diverse Settings ”(Balboa, 2014) and“ Theo: The Circle of a Transcendent ”(Balboa, 2016).
Menz lives in Sidney with his wife Ruth. They have four children and six grandchildren. He plans to continue to stay in touch via Zoom with his Tropo brothers.
A view of the clouds from the Pr’Line mountain.
Dismantling of a satellite dish at the Pr’Line station.
Tropospheric scatter microwave communication equipment.
Vietnamese women wearing cone shaped hats while washing clothes in the river
Menz with a pet monkey, “Mai”.