4:51 | Can I cut the mustard? Tom Agnew was apprehensive on the way to Vietnam and wondering if he was up to the task. He was assigned as a medic in a helicopter evacuation unit, known as Dustoff. On one of his first missions, he learned not to triage the wounded too quickly. (Caution: coarse language.)
Keywords : Tom Agnew medic Vietnam Chu Lai I Corps Americal Division Montagnards Harry Newling Graham Bose John Dilman Jimmy Powell check ride Dustoff
Tom Agnew was an Army brat who always wanted to be a soldier and a hero. When it was his term to serve, Uncle Sam decided he would be a medic. He was apolitical, so it didn't bother him that he may go to war in Vietnam. He would be going to try and save lives.
You could get a lot of ground fire when you were going in to land at a hot LZ. Medic Tom Agnew remembers a lot of them, especially the one which he departed dangling from the end of a cable. While he was out there, a tracer round went by his head and made him angry, so he took out his pistol and fired back, which must have greatly amused his antagonist.
After a huge typhoon devastated Chu Lai, Tom Agnew was sent to a different Dustoff unit at Da Nang. The job was the same, medical evacuation. This late in the war, it was more often ARVN troops.
Something good can still come out of a bad war. Modern EMS was borne from lessons learned in Vietnam by combat medics such as Tom Agnew. He passed on those lessons while training emergency medical personnel in his postwar career. First he had to deal with protestors and a tendency to hit the deck when he heard a loud noise.
He was setting booby traps on the Ho Chi Minh trail when John Overcash stepped on a punji stake. The wound didn't seem bad but the next day, it was apparent that he had blood poisoning. After he recuperated and had a quick visit with his family in Okinawa, his commander had a new assignment for him. He was to lead a recon team into Laos. Part 1 of 2.
Lt. Clebe McClary told his dad that running Recon patrols was a lot like hunting back home. It could be deadly, though, especially if you were the point man. He describes two of his men, one of whom he's still close to and one who was destined to save his life.
When you're in danger of being overrun, you fire flechette rounds. Artilleryman Sammy Davis learned early in his Vietnam tour how effective they could be. They were rounds packed with small, sharp darts which could cut through the enemy or through the brush if you needed to clear out a little jungle.
Before they met in Vietnam, Carol and Stanley Rosenberg were both drawn to the medical field. She wanted to be a nurse since the eighth grade and he felt the calling to be a doctor. They both also felt that the troops being drafted and sent to Vietnam deserved a little help.
The sergeant was only 27 years old, but he was a mean, old sergeant to Sammy Davis and the crew in the artillery battery. His mom had sent some fishing gear and he and his buddies caught fish in the Mekong and traded them in town for whatever young men go looking for in town.
There was plenty of hunting, fishing and sports for Clebe McClary growing up in South Carolina. He wanted to enlist in the Marines right away, but was persuaded to go to Clemson. After a time as a football coach, he saw an American flag burned and that was it. Straight to the recruiter he went and during basic training, he was selected for OCS.
Sammy Davis had made a big impression in boot camp, so big that the drill instructor pulled him aside and told him he had a lot of potential. After artillery training, he was off to Vietnam, where he experienced a memorable first night.
Recon was a dangerous business when you were moving through the bush in Vietnam. Clebe McClary and his men once got caught in a crossfire between the enemy and their own side. Another time, he became separated from his men for three days.
When the producers of the movie Forrest Gump decided to use film footage of Sammy Davis receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor, he became known as the real Forrest Gump. This was a great way to introduce himself to students as he traveled the country speaking at schools.
Sammy Davis was recovering from serious wounds when a visiting General Westmoreland told him he had been put in for the Medal of Honor. He had rescued three wounded comrades during a furious NVA assault, but to him, he was just doing his job.
It was round after round of surgery for wounded Marine Clebe McClary after several hand grenades worked him over. He was a white lieutenant from rural South Carolina, and a black man from Charleston saved his life at the cost of his own. The blood is red and the uniform's green and the rest doesn't matter.
The conditions in Vietnam did not make for an easy time being a photographer. Frank Heiny describes having to go out during monsoon season, Colonel Lynch, and his efforts to find a water buffalo.
Gary Lawrence decided that, if he was going to go into the military, he was going to be a frogman. He'd been an excellent swimmer on his high school team and that sounded like the place for him. He nearly was washed out at the first screening because of a problem with the grading on punch cards.
Artilleryman Sammy Davis was assigned down in the Mekong Delta, where it was just a lot of rain and water. This had spurred the innovation of a battery on pontoons that could be deployed on water. The locals were friendly and he considered them his friends. After all, they were the reason he was there.
Only one helicopter pilot was killed in Jim Smith's unit, but it wasn't for lack of trying that there weren't more. He describes the incredible amalgamation of ballistic seats, flak jackets and armor that he and his fellow Huey pilots utilized during hot operations.
It was just like the show MASH, says Army doctor Quinn Becker. He served as a surgeon at an evacuation hospital in Vietnam where it was not unusual to operate for eighteen hours straight. There was also a tremendous physical and mental strain on the young nurses, who had volunteered to come help take care of the troops.
Doc Edwards was the unit's medic and whenever there was a spare moment, he was training the men in the artillery battery on life saving techniques. This paid off when the position was nearly overrun and everyone in the unit was injured. Sammy Davis woke up in a hospital in Japan after saving three wounded comrades despite being seriously wounded himself.
On Thanksgiving day in 1968, Huey pilot Thomas Gipson spent all day delivering meals to various camps and bases. When he saw what his own holiday meal consisted of, he felt a little neglected. It was dangerous operating in a dense jungle and he recalls an incident in which another aircraft was shot down.
Jim Smith tried not to make close friends with anyone in Vietnam. You never know when they might get killed. He flew missions for MACV, the advisory group which had a lot of special forces assigned to it. These men had to be trained on triple canopy extractions, a tricky business.
The group of new pilots was split up for the flight to Vietnam and Jack Swickard was on the first plane out. He was a little miffed that he was on the way while the other guys were partying in San Francisco. When he reached Honolulu, an engine failure gave him his revenge.
It was not as tough as being in the infantry, but being a helicopter pilot in Vietnam had its own hazards. Huey pilot Jim Smith describes the life of an aviator in the first helicopter war. He fondly recalls the music on AFVN, the American Forces Vietnam Network, which was immortalized in the movie "Good Morning, Vietnam."
Quinn Becker was the medical battalion commander but he was also a surgeon. He describes a heart wrenching experience in the operating room regarding a man he had sent to the field earlier in the day. A lot of the injuries treated there in Vietnam were caused by booby traps and there were also a lot of gunshot wounds through extremities.
Not every assignment was about the soldiers, some were about the Vietnamese people they had been sent to protect. Frank Heiny remembers some of the other stories from his time in Vietnam and the effect of what he witnessed there.
Carol Rosenberg barely talked about her service in Vietnam outside of her family. The societal baggage was just too much. Stanley Rosenberg had one positive effect from his tour. It gave him the confidence he needed as a doctor, something he was lacking out of medical school and basic training.