Shortly after 11 a.m. on July 1, 1970, Capt. Bill Williams, commander of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, and two radio telephone operators with AN/PRC-25 radios jumped from their Huey helicopter. They immediately drew fire. The North Vietnamese Army placed a high priority on destroying the radios or killing their RTOs.
Developed in the late 1950s as a replacement for the Korean War-era AN/PRC-10, the AN/PRC-25, or “Prick 25,” incorporated pioneering solid-state circuitry. Additionally, it was water resistant, simple to operate and easy to maintain. Its 50 Hz “squelch feature,” muting routine background noise when a strong signal wasn’t detected, simplified tuning.
The radio had two antennas, a 3-foot standard antenna for most missions and a 10-foot long-range antenna carried in a canvas bag attached to the radio’s side. U.S. Special Forces and long-range reconnaissance patrols developed improvised “jungle antennas” that extended the range even farther.
The AN/PRC-25 pack consisted of two metal cans. The lower can contained the battery pack; the upper the transceiver. The radio proved to be almost “soldier-proof” in the field. The handset, however, was vulnerable to moisture.
Most RTOs pulled the battery pack’s clear plastic wrapping over the handset, securing it with a rubber band. The batteries were good for two to three hours of heavy use and could last for several days if used sparingly. The radios also could run off a vehicle’s power supply. The battery packs had to be destroyed when expended since the NVA used them in booby traps.
The “Prick 25” entered Vietnam in 1965 and was carried on virtually all land vehicles, riverine craft and aircraft. Gen. Creighton Abrams, deputy commander and then commander of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, called the Prick 25 “the single most important tactical field item in Vietnam.” Adopted by more than 30 U.S. allies, the AN/PRC-25 remained in service well into the 1980s.
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