Vibroplex "Original" Bug
left-handed model, Ser.# 234150 (built in 1963)





You can hear me quite often on the amateur radio bands operating this beauty. In June 2016 my FOC friend Benny Owens, K5KV, informed me about a left-handed bug offered on ebay. I key with the right hand, but reversed: dashes with the thumb, so I need left-handed bugs which are very rare. Ebay said the seller would not ship to Germany, but Benny was so kind to buy the bug for me and to ship it, taking all the trouble with the post office and customs. I completely disassembled the key, cleaned / polished all parts and reassembled it, replaced the circuit closer as usual (we radio amateurs don't need it ...) with a dummy screw and supplied the damper with a smooth rubber o-ring to make its operation less noisy. Please see the result on the above picture. When it arrived, it looked fine but a little bit different (the fingerpiece was removed for transport):



My vintage Vibroplex "Original" belonged to Jim Spooner, who served with the 5th Special Forces in Vietnam in 1966 and who told me the following story ...

... I "inherited" it during my tour with 5th Special Forces in Viet Nam. I was a (left-handed) radio operator in a unit called Delta Project (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_DELTA ). Apparently someone left it behind in our radio shack and being a left-hander, no one had any interest in it. I had never used one, so I thought I'd see if I could learn to use it. I became fairly proficient with it even though I could only use it when at our base camp and when at our forward base. It wasn't practical on operations of course, so I had to revert to my leg key. It's been packed away in a box for the last 50 years until I decided it was doubtful I'd have a further use for it and decided to sell it on eBay ...
I'm happy to hear that you're able to put it to good use. I didn't realize that CW was still being used these days with all the new advanced commo technologies. When I was in the army, and due to our particular missions in VN, CW played an effective role in our commo. With the exception of our base camp in Nha Trang, we used low power transmitters (15W) and were able to operate in remote areas thru a lot of radio traffic. On one occasion when our unit was doing recons for the Marines around Da Nang, I was assigned as a liaison to their base. I was prohibited from using my radio to transmit to our forward base because they feared my little 15W radio would interfere with their extensive HQ commo operations. I was able to clandestinely set up a long wire antenna and make my desired transmissions. As it turned out, our forward operating base (30 miles away) had trouble contacting our base camp in Nha Trang (320 miles), so I was able to receive and retransmit their messages ...
Your mention of the Vietnamese locations triggers fond memories (and some not so fond). I never made it to the Mekong Delta, but "visited" many places north of there including Saigon, Cam Ranh Bay, Nha Trang, Dian, Bien Hoa, Chu Lai, Bong Song, Ban Me Thuot, Phu Bai, Quang Ngai, Khe Sanh and Hue ... and many more that I don't remember.
I'm not an amateur radio operator.  Although I'm originally from California, I now live in Langston, Alabama on Guntersville Lake (my passion is bass fishing).
Jim

This picture shows Jim Spooner in 1966, operating a Collins KWM-2 shortwave transceiver in the 5th Special Forces base camp in Nha Trang - and the key he is using is the one I now have. We use to travel a lot in Asia and in 2013 we made a journey on the Mekong river from Siem Reap (Angkor) / Cambodia down to Saigon (Ho-Chi-Minh City) / Vietnam, where we arrived when "Tet" (Vietnamese new year) was in full swing. We immediately fell in love with Saigon and of course we also had a drink in the rooftop bar of the legendary "Hotel Rex", where the military press briefings called "five o'clock follies" were held during the Vietnam war. Then we took a plane to the former US Air-Base Cam Ranh and spent the last days of our journey relaxing in Nha Trang, where "Project Delta" was established in 1964 - What a coincidence !
I am happy that I got the opportunity to buy this very special vintage bug key and to bring it back to the airwaves after 50 years ...


Nha Trang, February 2013