Before I start sharing personal accounts of the war, I guess I better explain a little about what my job was. My M.O.S. (Military Occupational Specialty) was a Field Artillery FireFinder - Radar Operator. Field artillery radar operators are responsible for the installation, orientation, and operation of field artillery radar equipment. They prepare the radar equipment, power generator and associated equipment for movement and operation, lay communications wire, install and operate field telephones, perform preventive maintenance, construct field fortifications, and camouflage and protect the equipment position.
Once basic training is complete, the Marine will go through extensive training on this $1.5 Million piece of equipment for a period of six weeks at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Additionally, they must have a Secret security clearance. The information and operations of the AN/TPQ-36 could cause serious damage to the national security if it was leaked.
How Does It Work
Radar teams are tasked with finding enemy artillery positions so they can be taken out. The Marines used the AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder Radar (pictured left), a lightweight, small, highly mobile radar set capable of detecting weapon projectiles launched at any angle within selected 90-degree azimuth sectors over 360 degrees of coverage. The AN/TPQ-36 can locate simultaneous and volley-fire weapons. Upon projectile detection, the weapon location is computed and is used to direct counter-battery fires. We were known by the name Target Acquisition Battery, or the more popular name during the war was Counter Battery Radar.
Once enemy positions were detected, the radar operator would calculate their coordinates and call in a fire mission to take out the enemy's fire power. It worked to perfection! I'm told that our radar units accounted for nearly 80 percent of all artillery targets acquired during the ground war, as well as a great number of target acquisition prior to the ground war.
It's maximum range is 15 miles. That means, in order to find enemy positions, the radar team must be within a 15 mile radius of enemy positions without being detected; and radar sites are a prime target for the enemy. We must maintain noise and light discipline at all times. We must set up a perimeter of security and take turns on "fire watch," which is basically standing watch during the night. And we must dig ourselves fox holes for protection. You never wanted to sleep above ground because of the exposure. I'll be sharing more about the dangers we faced on February 23rd, the day 1 radar site was destroyed.