The King and I

Submitted by Bill – W1UUQ – Seldom in ones lifetime do we get very close to royalty. Outside of a small group of like professionals I try to avoid any political event or pomp with any head of state. That is until I served in the upper NE corner of Thailand on the Laotian border in the mid 1960’s. On a few occasions the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, made visits to NE Thailand for official ceremonies. As part of the Military Advisory Group (MAGTHAI) I would have access to official Thai events and invited to attend as a foreigner (falang) with the military. The King was granted HS1A in 1989 but as far back as the mid 1960’s we knew the HS1A call sign was always reserved for the King. During the mid-sixties ham radio was out of bounds within the local population except for a small number government officials and ex-pats, mostly Americans. As Fred Laun, K3ZO, points out in the ARRL release the King would get on 2 meters only. I operated as HS3WT (my initials) along with a handful that kept ham radio going even though it was not recognized by the ARRL. The war in SE Asia was in full swing as the US built up the Thai regional forces supporting US Forces in Vietnam and the so called secret-war in Laos. Radio was always viewed with great suspicion by local officials regardless of affiliation so it was best to have close contact with local military officials. But as Americans if you had an official US military or government connection it made the process much easier. There was no reciprocity with the US during this period.

The King and I were both about the same age and both of us were born in Massachusetts. If I ever had the opportunity to speak with the King there was plenty to talk about. Usually I would team up with Don Riebhoff, K7ZZ/HS3DR, (now deceased). Typically a local ceremony in this region was void of any press or foreigners although a US Embassy official would be represented. These events were strictly for the Thai people and it was best to simply remain unseen in the background and stay quiet. The King in military uniform and his wife Queen Sirikit would usually arrive in his Avro twin at the UdonThani Royal Thai Air Base then helicopter to the local event. Udon RTAFB was a joint operation of US military and the CIA supported Air America group. I never got to meet the King personally but was granted close access to get some rather interesting pictures. King Bhumibol was a most revered King and loved by the people while ruling a Constitutional Monarchy. Thailand emerged out of the Vietnam War unscathed thanks to the US presence under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and the handful of special ops teams at MAGTHAI. Today, after 40 years, the Thai military can hold its own along with a regional commitment by the US. However, periodically Thailand erupts into chaos be it the military or civilian leadership over control. King Bhumibol was always able to settle issues. It is now problematic if Thailand will remain stable as internal forces within the royal family and challenges by the political and military leadership will realign itself and shape the future.

Enclosed are just a few of the many pictures I took during visits by King Bhumibol of Thailand. Note how the people must be at a kneel and solemnly quiet. All this appears like a storybook setting of pomp or a movie production.


Bill Talanian, HS3WT

Click here king-bhumibol for photo album

King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej, HS1A (SK)

Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), HS1A, died on October 13,
after a long period of declining health. Born in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, while his physician father was at Harvard University,
the king, whose name translated as “strength of the land,
incomparable power,” was 88.

According to noted DXer Fred Laun, K3ZO/HS0ZAR, the king “was never
very active on the air, and, to my knowledge, the only QSOs he ever
made were from a handheld on 2 meter FM.” He said HS1A was often
“pictured using a handheld.” He also was pictured with a camera, as
photography was one of his passions, and he was a jazz enthusiast,
who played the saxophone.

The Radio Amateur Society of Thailand (RAST), the country’s IARU
member society, said on its website that the king was “presented the
call sign HS1A by the Ministry of Communications at Chitrlada
Palace” in 1989 in a ceremony witnessed by RAST officers. He was the
ninth monarch of the Chakri Dynasty, having ascended to the throne
in June of 1946, and was the world’s longest-reigning monarch.

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About Brian K6BPM

President, Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club 2016-Present

2 Responses to The King and I

  1. says:

    Great pictures, Bill. FWIW, the king and I were born at the same hospital in Cambridge, MA.
    73 de Paul W1PR

  2. K6RQVK6RQV says:

    Great story Bill.
    Just goes to show you never know about people’s personal history.

    Michael K6RQV

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