5:58 | One night, while Laurie was eating dinner, the USS Sanctuary got a call about a plane crash. She vividly remembers the patients coming aboard, and the aftermath of this incident, including one boy who was MIA. However, as difficult as this experience was, this was nothing compared to the Tet Offensive. They had new wounded coming in constantly, and trying to care for all of them at once was emotionally exhausting. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the Military Heritage Museum- https://freedomisntfree.org/.)
Keywords : Laurie Druyor Vietnam USS Sanctuary Da Nang Vietnam helicopter crash patients Tet Offensive injury/wound plane crash
Laurie Druyor grew up in Methuen, Massachusetts. Her dad was a mechanic and her brother was in the Navy before her, so joining herself didn't seem like a bad idea. After joining, she began her orientation for the Navy Medical Corps and went to Great Lakes Naval Hospital. When it came time to choose where she wanted to go, she chose Vietnam. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the Military Heritage Museum- https://freedomisntfree.org/.)
After her medical training for the Navy, Druyor went aboard the USS Sanctuary Hospital Ship to Da Nang, Vietnam. While in Da Nang and on the ship, she cared for a cluster of badly damaged patients, some were even burned from nasty landmine explosions. The worst part for her was that many of the patients were also children. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the Military Heritage Museum- https://freedomisntfree.org/.)
Druyor talks about what it was like working aboard a sizable hospital ship rather than a hospital on land, and expands on seeing the awful effects of war on the children. At a few instances she would go into Da Nang to operate remotely on patients, but those times were few and far in between. Fortunately, she and the other medical personnel experienced no close calls while they were doing their jobs. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the Military Heritage Museum- https://freedomisntfree.org/.)
After her year in Vietnam was up, Laurie Druyor went back over to the United States to Key West, Florida. She was lucky enough to meet her husband, who was also helping serve in the Vietnam war as a helicopter pilot. She gives her closing remarks and reflections about her experiences in war and what she hopes everyone watching will take away from this. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the Military Heritage Museum- https://freedomisntfree.org/.)
He was apprehensive, of course, especially after somebody told him he wasn't going to last because of his height. Al Copeland entered Vietnam as a replacement and began to learn the art of the ambush. After dealing with the mosquitos, he had to deal with the booby traps.
Tom Reilly felt the call to serve and dropped his deferments to let the draft take him. After basic, he was offered a slot at Officer Candidate School, but, to him, that was “the sorriest thing I ever saw in the service,” and he declined.
His first stop in Vietnam was the "Repo Depot," the replacement center where your assignment would be decided. They sent Frank Aiken to an artillery battery near Bong Son in support of a Special Forces group and a Montagnard civil defense force. In addition to the big guns at the base, they had mobile weaponry to protect them on the roads.
Mac Armstrong remembers time during training as they prepared to go over to Vietnam. While flying over the jungle, Armstrong and his partner had a hairy encounter that was resolved by some quick thinking on his part.
The new guys rotating in told Joe LaBranche about the antiwar protests back home, but he had no idea how serious it was until his tour was over and he entered college. He tried to just avoid the protestors on campus until one fateful day when a girl confronted him in the student union. More so than any wound from Vietnam, this caused his life to begin a downward spiral.
Back in a Stateside assignment after his first tour in Vietnam, Frank Aiken knew it wouldn't be long before he was sent there again. He was a veteran sergeant and they were sorely needed. In a headquarters battery the second time instead of a firing battery, he saw much less combat. The snakes were just as poisonous, however, and the rats just as aggressive. And latrine duty is eternal.
Lam Son 719 was an ill-fated operation that involved using South Vietnamese ground troops in an incursion into Laos. Forward Air Controller Charles White, Jr. describes the fiasco and how he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in Desert Rat, a twin operation nearby.
There was a series of mistakes made during the ill-fated march to Landing Zone Albany. Jim Lawrence muses over the mindset, the lack of tactical movement and other problems as the column of soldiers moved through unknown territory. When company commanders were called forward, he gave the men a break. Two big mistakes. Part 2 of 5.
Doug Garner describes fighting in the urban environment near Saigon during the Tet Offensive, the process of sweeping Viet Cong out of the area, and how devastating a blow it was for Viet Cong troops.
Bill Cunningham recalls his friend Gene Brady, who always beat him at gin rummy. The two Marine helicopter pilots commanded sister squadrons in Vietnam. Once, he was Brady's co-pilot and that turned out to be a memorable mission. Another memorable mission involved a rig called a jungle penetrator.
He was a new pilot but there were no pilot positions open so Bill Person became a weapons controller and intelligence officer. When he got to Vietnam, he noticed right away that "we gave them an opportunity to beat us every time we got a chance." For instance, he knew that the North was playing tapes with Russian voices to ward off attackers, who were not allowed to attack Russians.
Through his four tours in Vietnam, Special Forces Team Leader Jim Wilson got very good at his job. It helped that he loved the country and the people, even taking a Montagnard girl for his bride. He developed a healthy respect for his main adversaries, the North Vietnamese Army.
A sense of humor could get you in a little trouble in Vietnam, says Rick Marotte who painted some questionable things on the helicopters. Back home, he managed to avoid the abuse suffered by some returning veterans and concentrated on graduate school and his family. After thirty years, the men from his unit began to find each other.
Out of a sense of patriotism and duty, and with a strong desire to learn how to fly, Robert Goddard joined the Navy during the Vietnam War and entered flight school. Taking the helicopter path, he volunteered for the Sea Wolves, a special unit flying Huey gunships.
While he was chaperoning reporter Peter Arnett around Vietnam, Owen Ditchfield got to hear the exciting story of a soldier who lost his rifle during an ambush and had to rely on his knife. He was also there when Martha Raye invaded the colonel's trailer. The reporters he hosted ran the gamut from celebrated author Joe Galloway to guys who wouldn't leave the hotel in Saigon.
In Vietnam, Ernest Washington saw the Viet Cong a lot, mostly running away. "They weren't cowards," he says. "They were setting us up." When he was moved further North, he couldn't see the NVA regulars, but he was pinned down a lot by their accurate mortar fire.
Banasau and his team struggle with questionable orders from an inexperienced, egomaniacal company commander. Later, they come across what sounds like a massive army, and are forced to take cover... only to discover their ears have deceived them.
The officers and their wives were a close knit group, having lived and trained together. Bob Babcock was grateful for that and he was grateful for Sergeant Frank Roath, who told him, "There is a reason they call me a senior NCO and you a junior officer." He was also grateful that when they were operating in Vietnam, there were no racial issues, thanks to good soldiers like Willie Cheatham.
The 1st Cavalry's artillery was highly mobile and used quick air assaults to move where they were needed. For some reason, says Bob Ballagh, a new commander increased the number of rounds each battery had to keep on hand and that slowed things down considerably.
He was an ARVN advisor in the Southernmost part of the Mekong Delta. There were no American units in the area, recalls Kenneth Moorefield but he did have air support. They were so far down the supply chain that during the Tet Offensive, his unit was running out of ammunition.
Vietnam was an experience he will never forget, says Frank Aiken, and he hopes we never have another situation like it. Thirty five years old when he deployed on his first tour, he thought it would not affect him like it affected younger soldiers, but it did. Back home amid widespread hostility to soldiers, he was still in the Army and had two more stops in his career.
Some of the Forward Air Controllers in Vietnam were Australians and Larry Jordan laughs as he recalls one who came to visit just to see "what you guys do here on the ground." He shared a fire base with a Korean unit and was curious when he saw one of them laying on the ground at attention. Every time the old sergeant walked by, he would kick him.