How Many Phone Patches Did
Lenore Jensen, W6NAZ/A6NAZ (sk)
Run During the Vietnam War?
Cliff Cheng, Ph.D.
AC6C --at-- ARRL --dot-- com
© 2008, Cliff Cheng, Ph.D. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
It is highly unfortunate but there are inconsistencies amongst accounts of how many phone patches Lenore made during the Vietnam War for MARS. Also there are no records of her non-MARS patches. Published sources report a figures ranging from 30,000 to 68,000. The question of how many phone patches Lenore ran during Vietnam will probably never be satisfactorily settled. All we can do, 15 years after her passing, is summarize the contradictory sources of information.
Previously Published Sources. The highest previously published figure of 68,000 phone patches was published in QST (Dec. 1987). Paula Place, N1DNB, author of the QST article told us that she sent Lenore a list of questions and Lenore replied with 68,000. QST repeated this figure in their obituary of Lenore in July, 1993 (pp. 76). (1) In turn Amateur Radio Newsline (May 18, 1993) cited QST. Newsline which is sort of Associated Press for amateur radio news, obituary was reprinted in amateur radio club newsletters the world over, posted on multiple websites, and repeated on untold numbers of nets. This information was also posted on MarineMARS.com, a popular, unofficial, Vietnam era MARS website (http://www.marinecorpsmars.com/CIV%20OPS/sk_jensen_lenore_usac.htm).(2)
In his book, Paul Scipione, AA2AV (1994:116) quotes Lenore as saying ""Bob and I became very active in running phone patches from Sherman Oaks, along with Bob Burns, N6ZH and others and had a total of nearly 40,000 Vietnam phone patches over the years." It is unclear from this quote, who is covered in the 40,000; Lenore only, both Jensens, both Jensens, Bob Burns and others? Paul clarified and wrote - "Between early 1966 and late 1972. Lenore and her husband completed nearly 40,000 phone patches for our troops in RVN" (Republic of Vietnam, South Vietnam)(1994:116). However, then Paul wrote - "In her five years of phone patching, Lenore has completed over 30,000 MARS overseas phone patches!" (1994:131). Finally Paul again wrote, Lenore ran "nearly 40,000 phone patches for GIs in Vietnam" (1994:132). We contacted Paul for clarification. He said the figures he cited were told to him by Lenore. 40,000 is a combined total for both Jensens. 30,000 is her solo total according to Paul.
As one can see the range the published sources place on Lenore's MARS totals are between 30,000 and 68,000. The difference is a ratio of 1:2.27.
Logbooks. Let us inquire about documentary sources that would be helpful if they were someday found. Lenore's step-daughter Cindy Wall, KA7ITT stated that Lenore's logbooks are unavailable. A day or so after Lenore died someone from MARS came and took her logbooks. In the confusion after her death and the 15 years which have passed, Cindy does not recall who this person was.
We contacted U.S. Army MARS Hq. and spoke to Chief of Operations Grant Hays, WB6OTS on August 27, 2008 to see if they have her logbooks. Grant said it is not MARS policy to take its members' personal property, such as logbooks. He says they have no records from that era, let alone any records on Lenore. He added they are not permitted to keep records more than a few years. It is very unfortunate that as much as Lenore did for Army MARS they have no record of her or the other MARS volunteers.
Official Certificates of Outstanding Service. There are two Army MARS Certificates of Outstanding Service which confirm part of her phone patch activities (see certificates posted on this website). These certificates thank Lenore for "dedicated effort and unselfish contribution of talents and time in providing radio telephone service between Southeast Asia and the United States. This invaluable service in behalf of the military and public interest constitutes a significant contribution to the morale of U.S. Forces away from home."
The first certificate covers November 20, 1967 to September 7, 1968 in which Lenore is officially documented as having run 5,121 phone patches. This first certificate covers 9.5 months. If we multiple 9.5 by 30, which are how many days in a typical month, we get 285 days. If we divide 5,121 by 285 we get 17.9 patches per day. If we multiple 17.9 times 30, we get, 539 patches per month. If we then multiple 539 by 12, we get the yearly figure of 6,468.
Calculating the hourly rate is problematic due to band openings and previously published reports. Paul, AA2AV stated during 1969 the 20M band was opened 10-12hrs. per day. The NBC employee newsletter Newsline (no date), said Lenore worked 5-7hrs. per day, every day of the week. Bob Burns, N6ZH said Lenore worked whenever the bands were opened. If the bands were not open, they worked zero hours that day, although they stood by for there to be an opening. Bob reports band openings working 15 hours a day.
We nevertheless can calculate a range, between 5hrs. per day and 15 hours per day. At 5hrs. the hourly average is 3.58 patches. At 12hrs. the hourly average drops to 0.84 patches. Let us examine the second certificate before commenting on the averages of the first certificate.
The second certificate covers November 20, 1967 to April 24, 1970 in which Lenore reportedly ran 16,590 phone patches. The second certificate covers 30 months. If we divide 16,590 by 30 we get 553 which is how many patches this certificate says Lenore made per month, or 6,397 per year. If we divide 553 patches per month by 30 day in a month, we get an average of 18.44 patches per day. We then divide the daily average of 18.44 by the range of hours, 5-15hrs., worked we get 1.23 to 3.69 calls patched per hour. There is not a significant difference between certificate one and certificate two. All the data in certificate one is incorporated in certificate two.
Let us consider the data in the official Army MARS Certificates of Outstanding Service. The sources we conferred with agreed that MARS phone patches in Vietnam lasted on average 3 minutes. Sometimes the calls would go to up to 4 minutes by the time the MARS finally got the parties off the phone. The performance of 1.23 to 3.69 patches an hour if those calls lasted 3 mins. or so, is hard to justify. It certainly does not speak well of a ham's competency if the band was open and there were soldiers in Vietnam lined up to make a phone patch, that they could only make 1.23 to 3.69, approximately 3 min. patches an hour. We shall revisit the hourly rate the issue following sub-sub-sections.
Vietnam based Army MARS Operator Dennis Vernacchia, N6KI, says Army MARS Certificates of Outstanding Service were not issued at the start of the MARS operation in Vietnam in 1965, when Lenore started. There may not have been earlier certificates than the ones Lenore's step-daughter Cindy Wall, KA7ITT found.
There also are no certificates to cover the end of Lenore's MARS service beyond April 24, 1970. As mentioned earlier, Paul, AA2AV, has reported two end dates for Lenore's MARS service. He twice said it was 1973 and after (Scipione, 1994:116, 123). Then Paul twice says late-1972 (pp. 130-131).
Adjusted Official Average. In cases where data is missing, it is a generally accepted statistical practice to fill-in missing data by averaging the data that is available. Before we do this we need to know the start and end dates of Army MARS in Vietnam and then resolve the problem of how many years Lenore made phone patches for MARS during the Vietnam War. Army MARS's Grant Hays said they did not have the start and end dates of their involvement in Vietnam; those records do not exist anymore. They also do not have any records of Lenore. We have asked Paul, AA2AV what the exact start and end dates of Army MARS in Vietnam were and are awaiting his reply.
We will use June 1965 as a start date for it is in the middle of the year Paul, AA2AV reports as the start of Army MARS in Vietnam. Lenore's ending date is problematic. Bob Burns says she continued to patch after American forces left Vietnam in 1972; running patches for American troops in Laos and Cambodia. Most MARS stations closed in 1972 according to Grant Hays. Grant Hays suggested using June 1973 as Lenore's ending date; given she continued patching after the Vietnam War was over. If we use June 1965 to June 1973 as Lenore's years of MARS participation, we get 7 years. We already have 6,397 as the official confirmed number of phone patches per year. If we multiple this figure by 7, we get 44,772 patches. This figure is a floor given under-counting.
Eyewitness Account. Besides Lenore herself, there probably are only two people who had intimate knowledge of her MARS activities. Both of them are named Bob. Her husband Bob Jensen, W6VGQ is a silent key and there are no known documents of his to help us determine the quantity of Lenore's phone patching during Vietnam. The second Bob is Bob Burns, then WB6KPR, who is now N6ZH. Bob Burns was a ham neighbor and close friend of the Jensens. Lenore later recruited him into MARS shortly after she started in 1965. He arranged his work schedule so he could work the early morning shift as a CBS-TV Video Tape Editor so he could come home and relieve Lenore so she could eat lunch. Then the two of them would work into the night. He also was her dinnertime relief operator.
Bob Burns has introduced several pieces of new information. Lenore and he often did not check-into the Saturday morning Army MARS administrative net to report their weekly totals. The policy was that if they had propagation, they were to run more phone patches. This is what they did on most Saturday mornings. This means any figures on MARS documents are under-counted.
In the profile Lenore wrote about Bob Burns for WorldRadio (July 1, 1988, she reported Bob had made 17,000 phone patches during Vietnam. The figure of 17,000 is an approximation from Bob's logbooks. Bob says the one certificate he got from Army MARS confirms only 8,867; which is 19.17% of 17,000. Per every one phone patch counted by Army MARS, Bob made at least 4.4 patches. Given this information, which we take at its face value, we at best should regard Army MARS Certificates of Outstanding Service as incomplete.
Bob says Lenore "did far more than I did." (3) He points out that while he was at work, she was making phone patches. It is reasonable based on the hours worked per day, to consider Lenore was a full-time civilian volunteer MARS operator. That after the band had closed for him at his lower elevation, she was still had a band opening.
Also Bob Burns, N6ZH, says both Lenore and he, ran phone patches for hospital ships stationed off of the coast of Vietnam, The Sanctuary and The Repose. According to R.J. Williams, retired Marine MSgt, who was a Navy-Marine MARS Area Coordinator, 1970-1971, the hospital ships had amateur radio stations on them operating in the ham bands. R.J. said they did not use MARS frequencies for those were regarded as military frequencies. If a hospital ship used those, it might provide an excuse for the Communists to target them. Since these patches were not on MARS frequencies, these patches were not counted in Lenore's MARS totals.
Adjusted Official Average. If Lenore's official total was similarly under-counted as Bob Burns' were, then we ought to multiple the adjusted official minimum of 44,772 by 4.4 and we would get 196,996 as an approximation.
Daily and Hourly Estimates. Bob Burns, N6ZH, says Lenore averaged about 80 phone patches per day, if they made 3 or so minute long patches. Longer patches would decrease the average of 80. Bob noted that much of the time the patches were less than 3 minutes each, thus 20 or more patches could be made per hour. Bob recalled some patches, the intended receipt was not home and someone took a short message, i.e. "SGT Smith will be coming home on the Wed. noon flight." Short messages such as this increase the count.
Dennis, N6KI said, if the band was open, and the phone company operator was efficient, they could make 10-12 patches per hour. If they worked 6-8hrs. a day, they could make 60-80 patches.
In Paul, AA2AV's survey of MARS operators in the U.S., the respondents indicated they made an average of 149.9 phone patches per week (Scipione, 1994:45). The range was 5 to 550 (Scipione, 1994:45). Paul told us he sent out about 500 questionnaires. He had about 400 completed questionnaires returned; 4:5 response ratio. About half of the respondents were military operators station in Vietnam and half were civilian hams in the U.S. Most were associated with Army MARS.
At the rate of 80 patches per day. Lenore made 560 patches per week. It is unknown if Lenore took part in Paul's survey. Paul, AA2AV told us with favorable band conditions that 12 phone patches could be made an hour. This assumes there were 4 Vietnam stations on with calls ready to go per one stateside MARS stations and a well-trained phone company Long Distance Operator.
The NBC employee newsletter, Newsline (no date) , reported she spent 5-7hrs. everyday of the week phone patching; making 30-35 patches per day if she made 4 minute patches.
Summary. We can not end the issue of Lenore's volume of phone patches during Vietnam with the data available. We can however summarize. The range of reports place the number of patches between 16,590 to 68,000. Estimates go as high as 196,996.
1. In Sept. 2008, we attempted to contact JIm Cain, K1TN who wrote the obituary of Lenore for QST and await his reply.
2. We attempted to contact http://www.marinecorpsmars.com/ in regard to the volume issue, other information about Bob and Lenore and we wanted to request they link to our memorial for Lenore. Their contact email address bounced back our query. We used our other contacts who were Vietnam era MARS operators in an attempt to contact the website owner. We were told the owner has medical problems and no one else has access to the website.
3. For a brief period, Aug. to Sept. 2008, Bob's recall was he did over 70,000 phone patches. We reported this figure in version 3 of this webpage until he told us that this figure was not accurate. As we stated throughout, we can only report the different accounts of Lenore's volume.
© 2008, Cliff Cheng, Ph.D.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED