HISTORY OF PROJECT JENNY
1960-1962 (?) Under contract to US Navy, A NorthWestern
US University builds and tests the first airborne TV broadcast test platform
using an R-5 (DC-5) aircraft and VHF broadcast frequencies. This effort becomes
the "Proof of Concept" for future Project Jenny efforts.
NOTE: The intent of this section is to document the OFFICIAL
as well as the UNOFFICIAL - BUT MORE FUN aspects of the History of Project
Jenny. Please provide any stories to Steve Robbins at firstname.lastname@example.org A
great deal of information is missing about the real history of Project Jenny,
and most of the unofficial stories remain to be told.
All articles posted in (red) are not necessarily
backed up by written history. For instance, the 1960-1962 entry comes from
information provided by Mr Neil Vanderdusen, RCA Project Manager at RCA Camden
during a briefing that he gave to the 1st tech crew in training in early
1965 and is dependent upon the memories of the author.
All articles printed in (black) are backed up by official written material
from the 1960's such as squadron papers, Official DOD AFVN History, etc etc.
All articles printed in (blue) are the Unofficial -
But More Fun type stories told by crew members as filtered through the years
of fading memories and possibly a few Bah-Mui-Bas' at the time of the incident.
1962 US Navy temporarily installs RCA radio/TV broadcast equipmentin two
R6D (C-118) aircraft with the intent of using the capabilities during the
Cuban Missile Crises. Installation not completed in time to use, but aircraft
put in storage for use at a later date. Aircraft were assigned to VR-1 and
were nose numbers 611 and 429.
Late 1964 (?) DOD formulates plan to develop airborne radio/TVbroadcast capabilities
to be used in the Southeast Asia conflict in Psychological Warfare Operations.
Nov/Dec 1964 Navy Capt. George Dixon recalled to active duty to become Project
Manager. Capt. Dixon had previously retired from The Office of Director of
Naval Communications and was functioning as a Vice Presidentof TMC Corp.
in New York. Capt. Dixon was an ex navy RM and WW II enlisted pilot who was
commissioned (but not in the aviation field) after crashing a seaplane. He
went on to become one of the founding fathers of the current naval communications
system. Capt. Dixon holds discussions with RCA concerning the feasibility of
building Project Jenny. RCA states that the project is probably not feasible,
but that they will provide equipment and technical expertise to support project
completion. Initial plans are developed to start the project with technical
assistance from TMC and RCA but primarily using navy enlisted crews to build
Jan- 1965 Construction of the first Blue Eagle aircraft started at (? - Andrews
AFB, Lockheed JFK or NAS Patuxent River). Blue Eagle I (BUNO 131726) provided
by the AEWTULANT Pax River becomes the first project aircraft and is configured
to do only radio broadcast missions (AM, FM and SW). At the same time two
R6D's (BUNO's 131611 and 131429) provided by VR-1 Pax River, temporarily configured
as TV Test Platforms are used to test the design of various TV broadcast antennas.
Initial fabrication efforts for Blue Eagle I were provided by enlisted ET's
and SK from Naval Communications Systems HQ and by aircrew members from AEWTULANT
and VR-1. Footnote - looking for info on exactly where the first birds were
built and names of the crewmen who were involved. Those remembered are ADRC
George Orlandi, ET1 Bruce Parett, ET2 Herbie Braun, AT1 Kelly Goode, SKC Jim
James, ATC Doug Naylor
May 20 1965 Technical training begins. Two groups of navy personnel are ordered
to factory schools to train as crew members for ProjectJenny. One group of
6 EM's and EN's are assigned to the TMC plant in Alexandria VA to learn the
diesel generator that was initially used as a power source aboard the aircraft.
One group of 6 officers and approximately 20 enlisted were assigned to go
to broadcast engineering school at RCA CamdenNJ/RCA Meadowlands PA. Of the
officers selected, two were Intelligence types from the Naval Security Group
in DC and 4 were NFO's from VW-4. The enlisted selected to attend broadcast
engineering school were primarily ET's mostly from the Nuclear Power School
at Groton CT, 3 RM's who had commercial FCC licenses and 2 navy photographers.
Footnote: all orders were issued on a 24 hour notice. The crew going to RCA
Camden received orders to"Report to Mr. Neil Vanderdusen on the corner of
Front and Cooper streets, Camden NJ prior to 0800 the next morning" No other
info was given on the orders, and by 0800 the next morning there were a bunch
of very confused sailors standing on a street corner in Camden NJ. The officers
decided that they didn't like not knowing what was going on, so Lt. Harris
(from theSecGru) immediately turned over control of the group to ETC Lucas
who was the senior enlisted. During the whole training period the crew was
not told why we were learning broadcast engineering, however given the labor
mix, we rapidly determined that we were going to be flying spy missions on
a nuclear powered aircraft. The project mission was explained the day we graduated
from the school on 13 June 65, and our inital estimate of what the mission
was to be was not toooooo far off.
June 14 1965 Initial schooling completed and crews report to VR-1 at Pax River
to begin operational training and flight testing on the two R6D's that are
configured as temporary broadcast platforms. Local PaxRiv area flight testing
begins supported by RCA Tech Rep Mr. Bill Daugherty.
July 1 1965 AEWTULANT becomes OASU (Oceanographic Air Survey Unit)
July 1965 Pax River tech crews detached from VR-1 and report to NAF Andrews
AFB to commence work on construction of Blue Eagle II(BUNO 128444) and Blue
Eagle III (BUNO 131641). Equipment is stripped off the R6D's to be repackaged
for installation on BE II and III. Crewsa re transferred to OASU, TDY to Andrews
Sept 1965 Blue Eagle I ordered to NAS Roosevelt Roads Puerto Rico to fly PSYOPS
missions in support of the revolution going on in the Dominican Republic.
BE I flys' radio broadcast missions when the radio station in the country
is taken over by rebels. Aircraft on station for approximately 2 weeks and
then returns to Andrews AFB
Oct 1965 Blue Eagle I ordered to Saigon to fly first broadcast mission (broadcasting
the world series) out of Tan Son Nhut AB in Saigon RVN in support of AFVN
operations on Oct 6 1965. Footnote: not sure if BEI returned to the US at
the end of this broadcast mission...or whether it stays in Vietnam to commence
the DaNang Psyops mission.
Oct 1965 Aircraft BUNO 313 is used to fly the tech crews from Andrews AFB
to RCA Meadowlands Pa to observe transmitter construction techniques. The
PPC lands at the wrong airport outside of Pittsburgh PA and sets a record
for the only 4 engine aircraft to land at this small airport.
Nov 1965 Fabrication of Blue Eagle II complete and first test flight of a
TV mission takes place. WRC Channel 4 Washington DC goes off the air at midnight
and the remaining reel of a black and white film is broadcast from BE II flying
an orbital path around the DC beltway. During the test flight the 4 channel
VFTG Teletype equipment is also tested in a termination with NSS (NavComSta
Dec 1965 Blue Eagle II departs for Saigon to begin operations. Problems occur
when the Vietnamese govt. changes the frequency allocation for TV Broadcasts
and the TV transmitters have to be retuned. ET2 O'Donnell is dispatched to
Saigon to help with the conversion and becomes known as "Shaky" O'Donnell when
he is badly burned with RF while working on the TV transmitters.
Jan 1966 Fabrication of Blue Eagle III complete and aircraft departs for Tan
Son Nhut. On 21 Jan 1966, OASU Det Westpac is officially established at Tan
Son Nhut AB in the Republic of Vietnam. First test flight of a Blue Eagle
aircraft (BE III) in Vietnam occurs on 23 Jan 66. LCDR E.C. Henderson becomes
the first OIC.
Feb 1 1966 (approximately) Blue Eagle III moved to TSN base operations building
to tape the opening broadcast message from Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, US Ambassador
Lodge and Gen Westmoreland.
Feb 7 1966 First successful dual channel AFVN and THVN TV broadcastis completed.
Blue Eagles are on the air. Blue Eagles II and III flying TV broadcast missions
in South Vietnam and Blue Eagle I flying PSYOPS missions in the Gulf of Tonkin
over North Vietnam.
April 13 1966 First mortar attack at Tan Son Nhut AB. Blue Eagles I and III
receive minor damage from shrapnel, however Blue Eagle II receives two direct
hits, one above the aft cargo hatch going directly into the GTPU that powered
the broadcast systems and one in the aft vertical stabilizers. Blue Eagles
I and III are repaired within days...and Blue Eagle II completes repairs within
the next month. Three officers and one enlisted receive purple hearts for
wounds received during attack.
May 11 1966 All Blue Eagle repairs completed and full broadcast schedule resumed.
Oct 25 1966 AFVN and THVN Ground Stations in Saigon become operational. Blue
Eagle TV broadcasts are shifted from the Saigon Area South into the "Delta
April 1967 Blue Eagle I (BUNO 627) returns to Vietnam from PAR at JFK airport,
shifts their base to the Naval Air Facility at DaNang airbase and VXN-8 Det
DaNang is established with LT Gidge as the first OinC.
July 1 1967 OASU redesignated as VX-8 (Air Development Squadron 8)
Jan 31 1968 Vietnamese Tet offensive starts. AFVN Station at Hue under attack
for next 4 days by North Vietnamese Regulars and VC.
Feb 4 1968 AFVN Hue is overrun and CO and four enlisted are taken POW and
two enlisted are executed by VC. VOA/USIA broadcast station in Hue also
destroyed with many employees taken POW. Additional damage was received at
the DaNang AFVN station which received over 800 hits putting it out of commission.
Northern AFVN/THVN TV operations now off the air and are rapidly replaced
by Blue Eagle TV birds flying broadcast missions in the I Corps Area. Footnote:
I recently had a conversation the ex CO of AFVN Hue and he and his 5 troops
were all returned when the POW's came home.
Jan 1 1969 VX-8 redesignated VXN-8
Sept 30 1970 Blue Eagles fly last regular TV broadcast
missions Note, according to information received from Mr Jim Andrews, AFVN
Broadcast Engineer 1970-1971, Project Jenny personnel stripped off some of
the broadcast equipment, and left it in Saigon for AFVN/THVN use. However,
one aircraft was left behind to support contingency operations. This may have
been Blue Eagle VI, however am not exactly sure. Disposition of the aircraft
left behind may have been to turn aircraft over to US Air Force and it eventually
became a part of the Air Force Project Coronet Solo, the forerunner of Project
Commando Solo (the 193 Special Operations Wing the PA Air National Guard)
that provided PSYOPS radio broadcast services in Afghanistan.
updated 26 Feb 02