WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Charlie Austin was a boy living on a farm in southeast Kansas before his enlistment would bring him around the world.
“And, my uncle finally said you know, I’m really thinking you’re going to Japan,” said Vietnam Veteran Charlie Austin.
At the age of 19, Austin departed for the land of the rising sun. He was stationed at Fuchu Air Base in Tokyo.
“It was a new world for me,” said Austin. “You could see Mt. Fuji from our air station.”
The air station served as the headquarters for U.S. forces in the Far East and Japan. It was the main hub of communications for the Pacific during Vietnam.
“We relayed stuff out of coming from the U.S. went through Japan and then we sent it to, you know, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, the Phillippines,” said Austin.
During his time in the Vietnam war, Austin jumped from base to base to maintain communication equipment.
“We had Coast Guard sites, we had Navy, Army, and Air Force,” said Austin. “We maintained about 1,500 pieces of teletype.”
A teletype is an electromechanical device considered a precursor of the modern-day keyboard.
“The operators in those comm centers could actually pick the header up on that tape and read those punchlines like it was reading a, somebody’s handwriting,” said Austin.
The maintenance process involved strict protocols, given the number of top-secret messages sent and received.
Austin said, “You can’t just walk into a comm center, you had to have authorization.”
“Food was brought in. They had brought in cots and stuff, and you basically weren’t allowed out of there,” said Austin. “‘Cuz they ran all the time.”
Austin had maintained machines at every single base in Japan.
“We maintained, you know 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said Austin. “And that was your routine for two years, I never, it never changed.”