How 50 years ago this week WIXY 1260 helped to bring local troops in Vietnam a little closer to home

Posted at 6:00 AM, Nov 28, 2019

CLEVELAND — In the late 1960s, WIXY 1260 was a force in Cleveland AM radio and Larry "the Duker" Morrow a key part of the radio station's lineup.

"It was nothing to get 10,000 teenagers to come down to Public Square for a promotion," recalled Morrow. "But the advertisers were saying WIXY 1260 was nothing but a kids radio station and we knew different, we knew that adults listened, so we wanted to do something that would be something that would touch the hearts of our audience."

And so one day in 1969 Morrow got a visit from the station's program director. "And he said 'well Larry how would you like to go to Vietnam?' And it was the height of the war and I said why would I want to go to Vietnam?"

"He said 'We have an idea, we have 220 Cleveland area kids over in Vietnam and we thought it would be a great idea if we can get you there, to go to Vietnam and interview these kids, bring the interviews home and we'll play them on the air for Thanksgiving and Christmas."

As a former Marine, Morrow thought it was a great idea, but he didn't think the station would ever get permission from the Pentagon to go. "Because in those days unless you were service personnel you couldn't get over there ,and so we got turned down everywhere."

Morrow and station brass went to the state's congressional delegation who wrote letters on their behalf, but to no avail. Then one day, Morrow recalls getting a phone call from a colonel at the Pentagon.

"He said whether you know it or not President Nixon would like an end to the war. He said your request has come across my desk and we're going to send you over to Vietnam and you'll be able to interview all of the Cleveland area kids and at the same time you have to ask each and every one of them how they feel about the war," he recalled with the request by the colonel to make a confidential report back to him when he left Saigon.

When his paperwork arrived it was addressed to Major Lawrence Morrow, which surprised him because the highest rank he had reached before leaving the U.S. Marine Corps was corporal. "So I called the Pentagon back and said you've made a terrible mistake." He was told the reasons for the rapid rise in rank would be explained when he arrived in Saigon.

He was told since he'd be going to numerous bases across the country to do the interviews they were protecting him in the event he was captured by the enemy. "They said if you're just an enlisted man and they capture you they'll probably shoot you and kill you, but if you're an officer they'll keep you and then they'll negotiate to get you back."

He no sooner arrived at the Tan Son Nhut Air Base when he remembered immediately being recognized by a someone from Cleveland. "He walked up to me and said 'Oh you're the Duker Larry Morrow from the world, what are you doing here?' That's the way military people talked about anything away from there, the United States was referred to as the world."

Morrow said he ended up doing around 55 interviews during his time in Vietnam, which he then brought back to Northeast Ohio to air over the holidays on WIXY. In a story on News 5 in 2018, he recalled how he made each of those he interviewed a promise that when they got back, lunch was on him, and that while he remembers many of those lunches, he never forgot about the few that never got the opportunity — men who were killed in action.

So when the Vietnam Memorial Wall was dedicated in 1982 , Morrow was there.

"And I reached up and touched their names and I said I'm here for our lunch, I kept our agreement," he said.

Not long after that story aired last year, News 5's John Kosich got an email from a Vietnam Vet by the name of Jim Vocaire who said he was not only one of the 55 Morrow interviewed on that trip, he was the first because he was the man who happened to recognize Morrow at Tan Son Nhut.

"Well it was a complete shock," Vocaire said, recalling the meeting. "Although I ran into guys I knew, I never expected to see the Duker sitting there. A famous disc jockey from home sitting there looking for people to interview it was like wow, this is crazy."

Vocaire's father would clip an article out of the paper he'd save for his son announcing the names of the service members Morrow interviewed and the times those interviews would air. By chance of their meeting, Vocaire's interview would be the first with the schedule listing the air dates as November 27, 28 and 29, exactly 50 years ago this week.

The two gathered last week at News 5 to share their memories, Morrow showing him the scrap book he keeps of the trip which included the initial rejection letters. "This was my note from the Congress saying we cannot get you there," Morrow pointed out. To which Vocaire, deadpan, replied: "I didn't have any problem getting there." The two shared a laugh and the beginning of a new friendship that started half a century ago, half a world away.