Quin Allred can rattle off his family history, and yours as well — if you are an Allred.
“Their great great-great-grandfather and my great-great-great grandfather were brothers,” he said. “James Allred was a Joseph Smith bodyguard and the first Allred into Utah.”
Quin Allred’s grandfather Ephraim Allred had 14 sons. James Allred also had 14 children.
“And that is where all the Allreds in Utah came from, was from James Allred,” he said.
A bit of a family history buff, Allred, an Army Specialist 5, can just as ably recall his personal history during the Vietnam war.
Military notice sent
Drafted after his Mexico mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1967, he returned home to have his dad hand him a conscription notice for a physical exam and an induction into the military.
“If I’m going to go into the military I’m going to be something I want to be, not what they want me to be,” Allred said.
He walked into the Army recruiter’s office and took an aptitude test.
“He told me I finished really high in languages and was 10 points higher than I needed to apply for Officers Cadet School,” he said.
According to Allred, the recruiter then told Allred about the Army Security Agency, a signal intelligence group that was not allowed in Vietnam according to an agreement made in Paris.
“He told me not to worry, the ASA was not in Vietnam,” Allred said.
Not going to Vietnam and possibly traveling to Europe appealed to him, but to become an Army spy he had to enlist for four years. He signed on as a linguist to go to language school.
Spying on Russians and Chinese during the Cold War was more appealing than jungle warfare. Allred didn’t know the ASA was running covert operations in Vietnam for Radio Research.
His family didn't know
Like other intelligence agents during that time, Allred signed a nondisclosure agreement that only recently expired in 2011.
“Everything I did while I was in Vietnam was under an agreement that I had — well, every soldier who served in the Army Security Agency — had to sign a 40-year-nondisclosure agreement,” Allred said. “That we did not disclose anything that we did or where we were at for 40 years.”
His family wasn’t told what he really did during the Vietnam era.
He became a Morse Code high-speed intercept operator, who found recorded enemy communications, discovered enemy locations and operations, and jammed enemy equipment. His work in addition to the work of other Radio Research men saved thousands of lives in Vietnam.
“My kids all thought I was a truck driver,” Allred said. “They knew I belonged to the Army Security Agency, but they had no idea what that was.”
More than 6,000 covert ASA soldiers were assigned to Vietnam in the late 60s and early 70s. In 1977, the ASA was merged with the US Army's Military Intelligence component to create the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command.
Partially declassified, several memoirs, books and records have been published as agreements became void. Allred was able to tell his family what he really did in Vietnam.
“They all know now,” he said. “My grandkids are mesmerized by it but my kids, eh,” he said. “It’s ancient history to them. The Vietnam War was over before they were born.”
Germany orders changed
Allred received his security clearance he needed for ASA while he was training.
“They sent me to Monterrey to learn Spanish and I already knew Spanish,” Allred said. “I’d been to Mexico.”
Eventually, his instructor would ask him if he was bored with the language.
“No offense mam’ but I can speak as good of Spanish as you do,” he said. She sent him to take the final exam and he got a perfect score.
He was sent to voice intercept training but a new session didn’t begin for six more months.
“The military being what it is — I had scored high in Morse Code — which is another language — so I was assigned to go to Morse Code Intercept Operator School,” Allred said. “That was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. I finally passed that after 27 weeks.”
Next they sent him to learn special radio detection techniques or triangulating signals for location, and radio fingerprinting.
“We could actually match a transmission with a radio unit,” he said. He finished his training in 1968 and received orders for Bad Aibling, Germany.
He took leave to visit his family before he left for Europe. While at home, he received a telegram notifying him to get ready to go to Vietnam.
“I left Lehi for California and from there I was to be assigned a Radio Research Troop in Saigon,” he said and then chuckled.
“If I hadn’t gone on leave I would have probably been in Germany,” he said.
His Vietnam service
After his arrival in Vietnam, he was eventually stationed at Engineer Hill in the mountain of Pleiku, home of the 330th Radio Research Company.
“All of our bases were always on top of a hill on high ground,” he said. His typical day was spent in intercepting intelligence at a radio with headphones on his head.
“We were loaded up in a three-quarter ton van backed up on a ramp with six on one side and six on the other,” Allred said. “It’s 115 degrees and 95-100 percent humidity outside and you are in the inside of an un-air-conditioned van with your T-shirt on and sweating your head off.”
They did that for 12–16 hours a day, then got off shift only to go on guard duty manning the machine gun towers for three hours.
“Or you went back to your barracks and tried to get something to eat and get some sleep,” he said. “You did what you had to do to keep the mission going.”
Allred said they could also eat C-rations while they worked between communications.
“Most of the C-rations we had were canned in 1933 and we were eating them in 1968,” he said.
Later out in the field he would intercept enemy Morse code.
“Sometimes I would take my headset off and I could still hear the clicking of the Morse code keys,” he said. “We would not engage them. We would go back and then these tanks would go up and fire point blank into their positions and take those ground forces out. Make sure they would not ambush anyone.”
He carried a weapon but never engaged in hand-to-hand combat or a fire fight.
“The average life expectancy of a radio man in Vietnam was 30 seconds, more than a soldier in a fire fight,” he said. “I was just lucky.”
More than 100 missions
Besides intelligence gathering, Radio Research soldiers contributed to countermeasure operations and towards the end of his service, he flew more than 100 missions in Operation Left Bank.
“While I was flying in a Mohawk one time, we weren’t supposed to be in Laos or Cambodia but we were there every day during the war in Vietnam,” he said.
They would find enemy radar and jam the radar so they couldn’t lock on to allied or American jets. The Mohawk was on such a flight.
“All of a sudden my head hit the window on the side of the aircraft and I could feel the G forces and a real hard bump and I asked the pilot what the heck going on,” Allred said. “’Look up,’ he said and I looked up and I saw what looked like a telephone pole that had come up out of the canopy. It went up 4,000 to 5,000 feet more and then it exploded.”
He said they were lucky they were so low and the missile hadn’t armed itself yet so they could survive the near miss. He really enjoyed flying, helicopters and fixed wing, he said.
The radio research soldier would tell the pilot to bank left or right in order to find signals and the enemy radio operator. If you went too low, you would get shot at, he said.
To this day, he said he remembers a pilot who gave them a thumbs up because they had jammed an enemy radar signal for him so he couldn’t become a target.
Allred’s work in Vietnam was done by 1969 and he returned stateside to complete his commitment to the military.
His humor is dry and wry and an undercurrent in the stories he tells.
“If you didn’t have a positive outlook it could be a very depressing time in your life,” he said of Vietnam and chuckled.
And then he makes another quip.
“I never got married until 1970,” Allred said. “I didn’t want to leave a widow.”