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/.)
Barry Howard just missed an appointment to West Point, "Thank the Lord!" Instead he went to the Naval Academy where he got in trouble more than once with pal John McCain. Then it was on to pilot training in yet another branch, the Air Force.
Dasher Wheatley was out on a search and destroy mission, and he and his men quickly found themselves outmanned and outgunned. Butch Swanton, who was on the mission with Dash, was hit, and Dash ordered everyone else to retreat while he stayed with Swanton to get him evacuated.
Helicopter pilot Fred Mills was "really busy" flying medical evacuations in Vietnam. When trees prevented a landing, he dropped a chainsaw to troops, and he used a map with no borders to evacuate from Cambodia. It was "the dirty part of the war."
When the battle of Ia Drang started, reporter Joe Galloway flattened until he heard Sergeant Major Basil Plumley bellow, "Can't take no pictures laying there on the ground, Sonny." Galloway not only got up, he was a player in the biggest battle of the war, with Custer's old outfit in a river valley surrounded by a vastly larger number of hostiles.
Freddie Owens has maintained contact with his fellow veterans from Vietnam, sometimes talking them out from under the bed in the middle of the night. His own healing was incomplete when he saw the Twin Towers fall on 9-11 and that became a turning point for him.
New Marine officer Frank Cox and his friend Jack Swallows admired the beauty of the mountains and landscape of Vietnam as they approached it on the troop ship. They didn't know where they were going, but soon they knew what knowledge they were lacking, and that was how to avoid booby traps, how to avoid friendly crossfires and how to relate to people who weren't really on your side.
Terry Sater joined the Navy in 1966 with hopes of avoiding going to Vietnam. His initial deployment was aboard the USS Enterprise stationed off the Coast of Vietnam. After failing Electronics School Terry was assigned to the Mobile Riverine Force Training in California.
Freddie Owens reveals his most vivid memory of Vietnam, the desperate run of Capt. George Forrest right through the middle of an ambush. He also talks about the best and worst days of his tour.
Dennis Haines was assigned to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam. The only brigade not attached to a division, the light infantry was so-named because they could move out on a mission at a moment’s notice. He describes the execution and fear of a frontal assault.
Initial contact had been made with the enemy at a site known as Hamburger Hill. Two days after Gordon Roberts arrived in the A Shau Valley, the battle began to grow, and lasted ten days as a vast bunker complex was discovered and taken. The main lesson he took from this fight was to press hard after initial contact so the opposition can't set up and execute their plan.
Richard Nixon gave them six weeks to get into Cambodia and get out. Greg Camp got there and then had to deal with an ad hoc company of cooks, clerks and malcontents he was given. As their deadline approached, he tried to help a West Point classmate who was nearby with his own company and a severely wounded soldier. His only hope was the Jungle Penetrator, a rescue rig that could be lowered from a helicopter.
It was better to put men in the field and leave them there. That was the philosophy of Battalion commander Ralph Puckett in Vietnam, where some commanders inserted and then quickly withdrew their troops. When the operation was over, the reward was beer and steak and ice cream. Being prepared was very important to him and he illustrates that principle with a story about some soldiers who were not.
The new concept of mobile troops using helicopters was used extensively in Vietnam. COL Walt Russell was aboard one when he felt an odd sensation. Reaching up, he felt where a sniper round had blown a hole in his head “the size of a cigarette pack.”
Vietnam veteran Al Lipphardt has an instant connection with other veterans of any conflict. He says to truly understand a combat veteran, one must have been through combat because the experience is overwhelming.
Ron Mastin's first stop at the Hanoi Hilton was an area known as Heartbreak Hotel. One day he heard an American voice, the first he'd heard. "Do you know the tap code?" Once he had this, when he was near others, they could communicate. He still did not see another American until he got his first roommate.
Frank Aiken found his Montagnard allies to be somewhat lawless and wild, though he says they were good fighters and they were lucky to have them. The enemy was everywhere, trying to get through the wire at night and taking potshots at them on the roads. He joined the locals for meals, though he says you couldn't be sure what you were eating.
After a variety of Army medical jobs, Fred Mills had a final task. Planning operations for the Gulf War. After retiring, he recalls the harassment when he returned from his 2nd tour in Vietnam. Some sore bar patrons and scared Hare Krishnas also remember.
Platoon leader Ron Christmas was a stickler for training, even on his first deployment, and all his men who were up for promotion passed their test. From the Mediterranean, he went to the Caribbean, where a beautiful sunset changed his life.
Freddie Owens says they paid no attention to news from home while in the field in Vietnam. They were trying to survive a war and didn't need the distraction. He certainly paid attention when he got home and there was a mob outside the airport.
As three Marine companies advanced on a decidedly non-friendly village, the forward observer called for artillery support. Frank Cox was the artillery liaison officer and, finding the commander asleep, he gave the fire order himself, a move which had repercussions. A CBS news crew was embedded in the operation and they captured a famous image which had major repercussions back home.
Joe Galloway was right in the middle of the Ia Drang battle and witnessed the withering artillery and air power that felled so many thousands. Later, Galloway asked North Vietnam's General Giap what he thought about losing so many men. The answer surprised him.
Bruce D'Agostino did well in business following his service in Vietnam. One thing he didn't do was have much contact with fellow veterans, but that changed in 1987 when he met a POW/MIA activist at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He began loosening red tape, and eventually made back channel contact with the Vietnamese government.
The Battle of Ia Drang Valley had raged for hours when Henry Dunn's unit was moved in for support. They listened all night to the sound of the fight and then advanced the next morning. They immediately manned the perimeter and Dunn began his work as Forward Observer, calling in areas of concentration for artillery fire. Part 1 of 4.
Dasher Wheatley taught Lowe many important lessons and he was always prepared for whatever situation befell the men. One day Dash filled up his canteens with water, added the purification tablets, put them away, and then drank water straight from the stream. Confused, Jim asked what he was doing, to which Dash responded in a way that proved just how valuable a soldier and great a friend Dash was to Lowe.