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Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage

Article about: My wife and I just visited a unusual attraction in Thailand, a former US signals intelligence HF direction finding station used during the Vietnam war and commonly referred to as an "El

  1. #11

    Default

    My dad was a air traffic controller for the airfield and also filled in as
    an electronics guy on a couple AC130 missions.
    gregM
    Live to ride -- Ride to live

    I was addicted to the "Hokey-Pokey" but I've turned
    myself around.

  2. #12

    Default

    Another photo I've discovered showing the Ramasun station from the air, date early 1970's.

    Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage

  3. #13

    Default Some Relevant Newpapers' Articles.

    Greetings all,

    Thought it would fun to see what newspapers' articles would come up reference this base. Allow your arrow icon to hover over each article and you can view the Newspaper's Name and the publication date.

    Njoy ;-)

    V/r Lance

    Double click on the individual articles to enlarge each.


    Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage

  4. #14

    Default

    Thanks Lance, those a very helpful additions to the thread. The news reports are surprisingly accurate. One mentions a Staff Sgt Wallace being re-assigned to "Chicksands RAF base, England." Of course at Chicksands, (which was US run, not RAF) they also had an "Elephant cage" installation. It closed in 1996.
    The comment that the staff of the Ramasun station were encouraged to stay on base, was probably true. But they were not forced to. A photo on display at the museum I visited showed a photo of the Taxi rank at the base, with at least 20 taxis waiting to drive off duty officers to the "R & R" delights of Udorn city.

  5. #15

    Default

    I find that very interesting as my dad was in England just before being sent to NKP, Thailand.
    gregM
    Live to ride -- Ride to live

    I was addicted to the "Hokey-Pokey" but I've turned
    myself around.

  6. #16

    Default

    That is interesting Greg. Not at Chicksands was it? One thing you notice at Ramasun is the use of both Army and Air Force personnel. In the photo on first page you can see the Air force barracks are separate from the Army "H" shaped ones.

  7. #17

    Default

    A few more photos of the Ramasun Station in the early 1970's

    Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage

    Aerial shot showing some of the on base entertainment including tennis courts, swimming pool, Mess Hall, games room and movie theatre (air con of course). And an aerial view of the Operations building from a different angle.

    This really was a luxury base. Just down the road Marines were camping in tents in the early "70s and contending with dirt and mud when it rained.
    Last edited by Anderson; 11-30-2018 at 12:17 PM.

  8. #18

    Default

    Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage

    Three photos from the 1990's showing the Army barracks (still used), old NCO club and the Senior NCO barrracks, now stripped of windows, air con etc. Notice the sidewalks and concrete road. Unknown in the village beyond the gate in 1970's.

    This area is not currently able to be seen on a visit to the museum. But I have heard that the museum is planning to include a guided drive past around the streets for visitors perhaps using a bus.
    Last edited by Anderson; 12-03-2018 at 01:44 AM. Reason: more text

  9. #19

    Default American Cryptologist's historian's view of the Ramasun Station's Closure.

    Greetings All,

    Here are the un-redacted portions of the declassified American Cryptologist’s Historian’s views on the closure of Ramasun Station. They are extracted from (pages 34 through 36) American Cryptology during the Cold War, 1945-1989. Book III: Retrenchment and Reform, 1972-1980.

    Thailand

    During the years of war in Southeast Asia, NSA had used Thailand as a principal base of cryptologic operations. The original ceiling of 1,000 cryptologists, while being a nice round number, soon ceased having any relationship to reality, and over the years NSA had brought more SIGINTers into Thailand, taking care of the increases with post*facto authorizations by the Thai government. After the 1973 Vietnam cease-fire, a large slug of displaced SIGINTers entered the country, to be officially authorized by the powerless Thais.

    With the fall of Saigon in April of 1975, the end of the American presence in Southeast Asia was only a matter of time. U.S. forces began leaving the country soon after, and the formidable base structure that had come into being during wartime quickly imploded. So where did that leave the cryptologists?

    The cryptologic presence in Thailand was only partly related to Vietnam. Moreover, there was still a requirement to monitor the new communist regimes in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

    Negotiations with the Thais consumed the whole of 1975, but with no resolution. The Royal Thai Government would clearly have been relieved to see the last of American forces, which by late in the year was made up of the cryptologists and virtually no one else. The American embassy was on the side of the Thais, since the loss of the last American military forces would remove a thorn in the side of American-Thai relations.

    But in the end it wasn't enough. The Thai government was getting fierce diplomatic pressure from the PRC, with whom they were negotiating an improved relationship. Moreover, the Thai military-run government was being squeezed by an internal communist insurgency in the bush and an urban leftist student movement emanating from the universities. With the communists victorious all across Southeast Asia, everyone, it seemed, wanted to be on the winning side. America did not appear to be the winning side.

    Udorn, the nearest large town to Ramasun Station, had a university, and it was full of restive students. In 1975 they got a cause, the infamous Leuchai incident. Leuchai, who managed the officer's club accounts, got into trouble with the base commander over the disposition of some monies and was summarily fired. But Leuchai had friends, and they brought out the students from the university. The base commander at Ramasun was confronted with daily demonstrations at the main gate. One day the military police, apparently thinking that the base area was sovereign American territory, arrested Leuchai, and the demonstrations got larger. In the end, Leuchai was released, the American ambassador was upset, and the Thai government, with newly stiffened spine, was ready to order the Americans out of Ramasun.

    The order to leave did not come until March 20, 1976, but in the intervening months the diplomatic game went back and forth several times. Operations at Ramasun became chaotic, as stop orders were followed by start orders. So when the order finally came to get out in four months, NSA and ASA were ready for a scorched-earth evacuation. The operation was shut down that very day, and the first transports began arriving at Ramasun within eighteen hours of the order. Operators took up wrenches, and the entire operation was torn down, to the last nineteen-inch rack. Everything that could be carried off was loaded aboard C-141 transports which were arriving in waves from Clark Air Base.

    Within days, 33,000 pounds of equipment had been airlifted to Clark. The FLR-9 was rendered useless, and the station was turned over to Division Six as a gutted shell. The only things salvaged for Division Six were ninety-nine R-390 receivers. Although AFSC officially accepted the station, the idea of using it for SIGINT operations was ludicrous. The bill to run the diesel generators for a month was higher than the entire Division Six annual budget.

    The SIGINT redeployment plan specified that the mission of USM-7 would be reconstituted at Clark Air Base, home of USA-57, and that is where the people and equipment went. Unfortunately, no one thought to tell the American ambassador, William Sullivan. When he found out, all hell broke loose in Manila, because the evacuation from Thailand had caused the cryptologic ceiling in the Philippines to go through the roof, so to speak. But Sullivan needn't have worried. There wasn't room for the Ramasun equipment on the operations floor at Clark, nor were there logistics facilities to handle the flood of people. Just as germane, the Ramasun mission could not, by and large, be heard from Clark because of the vagaries of HF propagation. (This had been known for many years by operators.) So the equipment wound up at Vint Hill, Virginia, and the people scattered to various SIGINT sites around the globe. Clark Air Base picked up only fragments of the Ramasun mission. The FLR-9 electronics were never used again.”

    I thought the inclusion of the “Leuchai incident” was a pretty interesting tidbit
    Best,

    V/r Lance

  10. #20

    Default

    Thanks again Lance that provides an excellent summary of the last days of Ramasun station and the political reasons for the hasty closure. It rather confirms what I had heard in that the destruction of the Operations building was largely by the Americans themselves in their drive to strip the building of all electronic equipment. No doubt structurely weakened it imploded and the bones picked by the scrap scavengers in later years.

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